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Star: The language of market expansion

Advertisers and broadcasters are turning their focus on regional markets in search of growth

When the advertising fraternity talked about televised entertainment till, say, about two years ago, it usually referred to the Hindi general entertainment space. But there's a huge market out there, outside the Hindi entertainment space, that seem to be turning the tables and fast catching up with the numbers that the 'Hindi' general entertainment space boasted of.

The writing is on the wall: The next battle for eyeballs will be in the regional TV space.

That was the topic of discussion for a panel of experts gathered last evening (February 10) at The Lalit, near Connaught Place, in Delhi. The speakers included Jagdish Kumar, president, south India, Star India, Ravish Kumar, general manager, Star Pravah and Jalsha, Tarun Deep Kumar, executive director, India-north, Starcom, Somil Sharma, head, lifestyle marketing, Spencer's Retail, RPG Group, and Rajiv Gopinath, COO, Madison Media Infinity. The idea was to discuss the implications of the march of the regional media and to give regional or 'non-Hindi' TV its due.

What came out clearly from the discussion is the growth of the regional media is unstoppable. In terms of sheer demographics, literacy is on the rise, and regional publishers and channel managers are realising their own potential like never before. Like other more evolved consumer markets, regional media has realised it's all about building the brand and having the right connect with the target audience, said Jagdish Kumar, president, south India, Star India. He demonstrated with statistics from TAM Media how the potential audience base in the Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have grown exponentially over the last five years, thanks largely to innovative programming from existing players and the entry of new ones. Star, for example, expanded the network's footprint to cover all of South India with the acquisition of channels in Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu.

South India is home to 45% of the cable and satellite homes in India, he pointed out. Among its portfolio down south, Asianet is the leading channel in Malayalam, Star Vijay changed the rules of the game in the Tamil genre, in Kannada, Suvarna is fighting pitched battle with competition, and in Telugu, Sitara is still taking baby steps.

The next speaker, Ravish Kumar, general manager, Star Pravah and Jalsha, reiterated that in the coming years, the balance will shift more to regional. Given that tailor-making one's product to deliver within a target group and working on brand image are important. He cited the examples of Star Jalsha in Bangla and Star Pravah in Marathi that launched with the agenda of changing the face of local entertainment and made a quick impact with disruptive programming. Jalsha, for example, launched a year-and-a half-ago with 90-plus GRPs has raced to the top with 500 GRPs.

So what are the factors that are driving this growth? Number one, regional channels do not require the same kind of massive resources needed to start a general entertainment channel or a news channel. Programming costs are also lower. Then, advertising tariffs on regional channels are much less than those charged by GECs. The rates are affordable for local advertisers and extremely attractive to national advertisers

Tarun Deep Kumar, executive director, India-north, Starcom, made a very interesting point, to follow up on the point made by Ravish Kumar on advertising on regional channels. He said, while television was the first choice for advertisers, brands would do well if they used localised activation to spread their message. He cited the example of P&G, which used the idea behind the 'bhabi' of an Indian family to speak to Tier 2 and Tier 3 audiences one-on-one and instill confidence in them while promoting its brands Head & Shoulders and Tide.

Somil Sharma, head, lifestyle marketing, Spencer's Retail, RPG Group, agreed with other panelists that the regional segment is far more open to content integrations and branding opportunities. These channels cater to markets that have a huge array of brands that are completely local and are waiting for platforms to advertise their brands. The low entry barriers make regional channels an attractive proposition for both network broadcasters and small entrepreneurs.

She said the industry she represented, that is retail, is a big believer in the power of the regional media to be with the audience "at the right place, at the right time, with minimum spillage."

Vernacular channels also offer a great opportunity to national and international advertisers to communicate their region-specific offers which they can't do via a national campaign, she said. These channels are "strategically" important and as an advertiser, she said, a Spencer's Retail, which has embarked on an aggressive expansion plan in the lifestyle segment, can't afford not to be there.

Rajiv Gopinath, COO, Madison Media Infinity, rounded off the evening's discussion with a crisp presentation of 10 sets of facts about the regional media and their implications. Among the points he made were that the new middle class will bloom to 41% in the next 15 years, and that consumption will quadruple, that tier 3 towns have almost as many middle and upper class citizens as tier 2 towns, which will mean a huge opportunity for local media, dialect channels. He said that while programming investments currently are in favour of national players, channel proliferation at the regional level is a vindication of the market for localised content.

He said that while relevant and quality regional content will always have a market, Maharashtra and west Bengal are prime examples where breakthrough programming has brought new viewers to local channels-forcing a switch from English and Hindi networks.

In sum, good content could spur regional chauvinism, making local GRPs more productive.

The event was organised by afaqs!

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