The discussion centred on the fact that there are a few regional markets that still haven't taken off. The market experts reasoned from both the creative and the business perspectives.
While everyone is talking about regional being the new national for a country like India, it is observed that a few markets are still not able to pull up their socks and start moving smoothly. Which markets lag in the race, and does this reveal lack of money or a lack of initiative? Also, are these markets satisfied without a customised offering? These are some of the questions discussed by the panel on the second day of TV. NXT, an event organised by afaqs!.
Sadanand started off the discussion by asking Thakkar, "How big is the Gujarat market?" He replied that while the Maharashtra television market is somewhere around Rs 50 crore, the Bengali market is about Rs 100 crore and the Punjabi market, too, is picking up fast, the Gujarati market is around Rs 34 crore and is stable at the number for quite some time.
Sadanand then moved on to reason with Chakravarthy about the local content on the regional channels, Reliance being the owner of regional channels in two major markets in the country. "How would you describe the percentage of dubbed content and the original content? How do the two types of content work in the regional space? How do you decide upon the original content?" he asked.
Chakravarthy said that the network had launched Spark Punjabi with a lot of international dubbed content. "Then we realised that to cater to the local consumers, we need the local content and hence, now, there is about 80 per cent of original content on the channel. These are creative shows based on local insights. Also, from the business perspective, the basic question is what are the advertisers looking forward to? They have national GECs already catering to these audiences."
He explained that consumers want to see the content that is closer to their own lifestyle, while the advertisers look for a property that has a larger impact and better connect with the audience. From both these perspectives, the regional content has to be in place. That's why Spark Punjabi made a conscious shift in content and included more original local content.
About the selection of a particular show for a market, he cited the example of Punjab and said, "The Punjab market is closer to the western culture. Each house has at least one member staying abroad. Plus, they have a loud lifestyle. That is why we chose the Punjab market to be experimented with the eight shows that we had picked from the international market. We tested, verified and sampled the shows in the market and then started dubbing."
The discussion then turned towards the calculation of the effectiveness of the deals for the advertisers. Jain stated that currently, the national channels cater to these markets. The moment they start advertising there, a little spill over happens. "Due to these, they get enough GRPs. Having said that, the content doesn't really come in parody with the national channel, but if you get your viewership and hence, GRPs, why will you try to go after the other channels?" she reasoned.
Sadanand then diverted the discussion to the creative angle of show production. She asked Majethia, "As a producer of the show, why do you think Gujarat is a market which no one has been able to penetrate well?"
He replied that the Gujarat market is very diverse. "When one walks down the lane, every few kilometres, the dialect and the culture changes,"
It's tough to understand the diversity of the state and culture. One has to get out of the universal understanding, to be able to cater to Gujarat. "We must remember why the Gujarati film industry died. Even the Gujarati TV industry wasn't doing well and finally, the actors started shifting to GECs and films. Then gradually, we started seeing a lot of Hindi shows with a Gujarati background, which started getting good number of Gujarati audience," he further added. Majethia reasoned that this was mainly because they found the familiar background. Also, the shows on Hindi GECs are of high production quality and have gloss and glamour. But when it comes to the local market, the gloss and glamour are lost due to the budget constraint.
The discussion then delved on the importance of news on the regional channel. "While the national shows work well in the market, what do you think should be done so that the Gujarat market can have its own customised shop?" asked Sadanand to Thakkar.
"Whatever Majethia has said from a GEC perspective, yes, it is true. I personally believe that we need a network with deep pockets which will be able to get a Gujarati channel that can be set up with an expected break even period of four to five years," he responded.
He added that it is tough for general entertainment content to work alone. However, with a combination of news content to it, a channel will have higher sampling. "Also, for a regional channel, FMCG plays a very important role. Plus, there are big spenders who spend a lot in print. We can tap those advertisers too," he further added.
Jain mentioned that the regional channels are comparatively cheaper in terms of advertising. "FMCG is always looking for numbers. If the content of a channel is good, the CPRP goes up and the viewership goes up, too. A local channel is a low cost entry; if one gets the numbers at a much lower cost than a national channel, one will go for it."
The fact that Gujarat has an amazing theatre background was also mentioned. Continuing with this, Majethia said, "The entire industry is star-led. Right now, because Gujarati theatre was doing good, most of the good Gujarati actors are in Hindi cinema. Even if the money is here, nobody will pay those stars in accordance with their pay scale in the Hindi cinema industry."
He was optimistic that the Gujarati regional market could create its own stars, which will take a lot of time. Even if a Gujarati film or TV show is made, he said that there is no channel to take it.
Once the analysis was satisfying, the discussions turned towards the Bengali TV market. It was mentioned that there is a kind of herd mentality observed, when the Bengali GECs started off with the typical saas-bahu shows. Thakkar commented that when Alpha Bangla and Alpha Gujarati were launched around 2000, the performance was not very good. But gradually, Bangla got acceptance and the only reason was language. Hindi and Bangla are very different, while Gujarati people very well understand Hindi.
"For the first few years, the channel grew at 30-40 per cent, but when other player like STAR Jalsha came in and put down good money, the growth rate fell, too," he said.
Sadanand then asked Chakravarthy about the basis for selection of local programmes. He answered that Hindi, too, gradually changes with regions. The western UP dialect is way different from the eastern UP dialect. "For shows with real life relevance, we ensure the stories are shot in the relevant region and belong to the local region," he said.
"You act as a real local channel. Anything that you do will evolve on-ground to make sure that it is relevant to the audience. However, while shooting for Khul Ja Sim Sim, we realised that it is impossible to connect through a dialect all the time. There has to be a common language, which is Hindi," he revealed.
Sadanand then questioned whether it is true that we often tend to look at the regional markets differently when it comes to the advertising part. Jain disagreed and said that it's all about content. "If a regional channel is able to put up good content - not necessarily having high investments but content with powerful plots, then it can attract good numbers. Surprisingly, most of them are very well accepted by the CDE audiences," she said.
She also mentioned that it is a vicious circle and one has to put a certain amount of money and make good content to reap the benefits from the advertisers. "If a channel is not able to garner revenues, then it is clearly unable to put across good content," she concluded.
This was the third edition of TV.NXT, an afaqs! event presented by ABP News.