Day One of the FICCI Media & Entertainment Business Conclave (MEBC), being held in Hyderabad, saw a panel discussion on ‘Is Regional TV the ‘New’ National TV’. The panellists comprised Ajay Vidyasagar, COO, Sun TV Networks; Sharrath Marar, Director and CEO, Maa Television Network Ltd; Vikram Sakhuja, CEO, South Asia, GroupM Media India Pvt Ltd; Nitin Vaidya, former COO, ZEEL and Business Head, Zee TV; I Venkat of Eenadu Group; and Barun Das, CEO, Zee News Ltd. The session was moderated by Vijayanand Kondapaneni. The panel discussed various facets such as monetising issue, quality of regional content and the challenges.
Taking a contrarian view, Vikram Sakhuja said, “Regional TV is here to stay, but to say that it will become pan Indian and a national channel is wrong. In fact, it’s not about language per se, but about unlocking the value of local ethos. We have seen that many times a national channel, who have used some regional themes in their Hindi programme, have taken away viewership from regional players.” He pointed that while there had been growth in the number of regional channels, in terms of viewership these channels had not really grown in the last 4-5 years.
Sharrath Marar noted that as time went by regional TV would get more share. He further said, “The action is no more restricted to the metros and has trickled down to Tier II and III cities. These channels are slowly and steadily gaining ground and soon advertisers too will follow.” On an optimistic note, he added, “In days to come, it won’t be surprising to find regional TV foraying into niche beyond news and movies into travel or health and even cater to sub-regional content.” He concluded by saying, “If you are not regional, you are not national.”
The panel agreed that regional TV could not be ignored even if it was not the ‘new’ national and added that it had huge potential. Nitin Vaidya cited the example where Zee Marathi and Zee Bangla had seen increased viewership along with huge jumps in the revenue, barring the last two years, where in general the GEC market had witnessed an upheaval.
On the other hand, I Venkat maintained that regional could never be the ‘new’ national. He brought to fore the dichotomy of the Hindi market, where in print Hindi had higher reach but low revenues as compared to English, where even though the circulation would comprise 20-25 per cent, the revenue was much higher. But in television, the game changed, where Hindi channels commanded high revenue as compared to English channels.
Barun Das broke down the subject further and said that the discussion was essentially about consumption of content and the influence by the delivery platform. He noted, “Regionalisation is fragmentation, and somewhere in between convergence of screen is happening, which would essentially be a journey towards fragmentation.” He also talked about consumption of products spreading wings and the proliferation of media.
Ajay Vidyasagar of Sun TV made a valid statement when he pointed out that until the advent of regional media, the aspiration of people where based on what one saw in Bollywood. Regional TV in many ways was responsible to break that and in the real sense reached out to Indians and India, which actually stood for plurality. Talking about the next big challenge for regional TV, he said, “There is no more sympathy for the regional channels by the consumers, hence the challenge is to elevate the content that’s rendered to the people.”