Shreyas Kulkarni

Will the regional language boom on TV come at the cost of Hindi?

The second session of ABP News presents Languages Week powered by Colors Bangla discusses if the rise of content in regional languages will threaten Hindi content.

“The growth of languages has been a constant… the pace of growth has changed in the past few years,” remarked Vanita Kohli-Khandekar as she kicked off the second session of Languages Week, an afaqs! conference on the power of local languages in mass communication.

Khandekar, contributing editor, Business Standard was moderating a session on whether the regional language boom on TV comes at the cost of Hindi?

Her panellists were Ravish Kumar, head, regional entertainment, Kannada and Marathi cluster, Viacom18; Prathyusha Agarwal, chief consumer officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises. Representing Sony Marathi was its business head Ajay Bhalwankar, and there was Anand Bhadkamkar, chief executive officer, dentsu India.

As per Khandekar, from 2015 to 2020, the share of all languages across all genres in TV viewing has gone up from 36 per cent to 47 per cent. At the same time, Hindi fell by two per cent from 47 per cent to 45 per cent.

“Hindi happens to be spoken by a lot more people than other languages… but if you look at BARC data for the last four to five years, the most-watched channel across geographies is SUN TV, a Tamil channel,” said Khandekar.

Khandekar referenced the large varieties of languages under Zee and asked Agarwal how they balance the need to have more channels (helps in better distribution and advertising deals) and the need to customise each one much better to the local language.

“We don’t look at India as one country, we look at it like a composition of countries,” responded Agarwal and added that Hindi consumption, as well as the consumption of regional languages, is growing.

Viacom18’s Kumar was then asked about what changed in the last five years that “you are doing so much of a deep dive?”

Said Kumar, “Broadcasters diversify their portfolio… spread their growth and risk across many markets.” The second point he made was today you can have “content firing in multiple markets that can easily work in other markets as well.”

Adding to this, Kumar remarked there was a lot of “advertiser appetite… In the first wave, you saw ads go regional, it was but logical for programming to go that way… Money was there, consumer need was always there, broadcasters wanted to diversify their portfolio, bring all three together and it sparked off the massive movement in regional in the last decade or so.”

Khandekar then asked Sony’s Bhalwankar about their focus on Marathi and “why now?” He agreed they’re a bit late to the game as the Marathi genre “has been there for the last 20-22 years” and added, “Maharashtra has been a strong market for Sony and build those bonds further and so a Marathi channel does that”. That was the reason, he explained, to enter the Marathi genre.

He also spoke about the “national and regional terms we’re using” how they’re the legacy of Doordarshan and more to do with technology and not about language.

dentsu’s Bhadkamakar was asked about how advertisers and buyers (media) account for the overlap of the languages?

“Content is the major differentiator,” responded the dentsu CEO and said that as things have evolved over the years, advertisers know regional content and consumers will keep on being there and added that “segmenting and targeted has improved’ with the advent of regional content.

You can catch the rest of the session here.

Languages Week is presented by ABP News and powered by COLORS Bangla.


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