Aishwarya Ramesh

Regional language content and its impact on TV, OTT

On Day 3 of Languages Week, a panel discussed the impact that the popularity of regional language content has on televised content.

A discussion about the role of regional language content began with Sreekant Khandekar, co-founder and editor, afaqs!, taking a moment to acknowledge the rise of regional language content on television. He recalled that in the 1990s, the growth of television was driven mainly by Hindi programming and content, but eventually, regional language content took the reins to drive growth, in the last decade or so.

“From 2010 onwards, we can say the decade of regional channels, especially GECs (started). We’re attempting to look at how it all came together,” said Khandekar, the session’s moderator before the discussion began.

The panel on Day 3 of Languages Week yesterday (Wednesday, October 28) included Megha Tata, managing director, Discovery Communications India; Ravish Kumar, senior executive vice president, Viacom18; Amit Shah, cluster head, North, West and premium channels, ZEE; Kevin Vaz, CEO, regional entertainment channels, Star India; and Mona Jain, chief revenue officer, ABP Network. The presenting partner of the session was ABP Marathi, and the powered by partner was Colors Marathi.

Regional language content and its impact on TV, OTT

Discovery’s Tata began the session by saying that there had been a rise in viewership and viewing minutes of regional language content between 2016 and 2019.

“Approximately 60 per cent of overall advertising revenue comes from regional content. Languages like Tamil, Telugu and Kannada have grown in double digits. These are the three languages that have catapulted in terms of viewership in the past few years.”

Tata added that the viewership of Discovery Kids grew by nearly 392 per cent as soon as the channel added Tamil, Kannada and Telugu language programming... “We realised there was a white space for entertainment in regional languages, which was not cheesy. That’s when we launched D Tamil, which is an indigenous channel from our network. We’ve grown 114 per cent since last year.”

Star India’s Vaz said regional viewership was a clear outcome of innovation and we’re seeing that not only on TV, but also in the movies space. He took the example of the Telugu movie ’Baahubali’, which was well received in all parts of the country.

“IPL (Indian Premier League) is a classic example of people wanting to view content in their own languages. A few years ago, we had IPL only in Hindi and English. Suddenly, over the last 3-4 years, we have seen that the IPL commentary is now available in every language. IPL’s viewership has been growing 20-30 per cent every year because of this regionalisation.”

Vaz opined that this trend of regionalisation of content was not restricted to GECs or news or infotainment, and that the entire content ecosystem was changing.

Regional language content and its impact on TV, OTT

He added that better monetisation in the regional markets over the last 3-4 years has allowed for continuous investment in them (regional markets). Every big national network has a presence in regional markets, which has led to more innovation, more investments coming in and also, bigger international content formats have now come to regional languages.

Vaz said that because the southern market sees a penetration of 90-95 per cent, it has led to the habit of watching TV for a long time. He added that Tamil and Telugu channels program nearly nine hours of original content in a day, which leads to a consumption habit.

“If there’s a supply, there’ll always be a demand. Regional channels have a consumption rate of about 26 hours a week. In the case of Tamil and Telugu markets, it could be as high as 28-29 hours a week.”

ABP Network’s Jain mentioned that 55 per cent of all content on TV is regional, and on OTT platforms, 50 per cent of the content is regional. “GEC has been the mainstay, but a major contributor to the popularity of regional content is news and movie channels, which have taken up a good number in terms of viewership ratios.” Jain added that local news channels have mushroomed, as much as GECs specialising in regional language content.

Viacom18’s Kumar said that in the south, there has always been a high level of viewership, but its other (language) markets, like the Gujarati, Marathi ones which normally had low penetration, that is now seeing a massive surge in viewership.

“This is a fiercely competitive market, which is bringing out the best in all channels. They are offering more hours of original content, targeted original content and so on.” Kumar added that factors like rural electrification and smartphone penetration have also added to the popularity of regional language content in the last few years.

Watch the full discussion here.

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