The regional general entertainment space has been witnessing a plethora of activities with the players focusing on developing content for their regional viewers. Regional content has got a further boost with prominent networks today introducing regional channels to their network bouquet.
One of the interesting trends in recent times is the introduction of regional versions of well-known reality-based format shows that are telecast on the Hindi general entertainment channels.
‘KBC’ today has six regional versions, including the Hindi version, on channels such as Mahuaa TV, Mahuaa Bangla, Asianet, Star Vijay, Suvarna, with ETV Network having bought the rights of the format from Sony Pictures Television. Recently, ‘ETV Marathi’ has announced the launch of ‘Kon Hoeel Marathi Crorepati’, the seventh version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’, and has partnered with Big Synergy to produce it for Marathi viewers.
Similarly, the Bengali version of ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’, which is telecast on Colors, has been launched on ETV Bangla. Zee TV’s ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ and ‘Dance India Dance’ have their regional versions on Zee Marathi as ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa - Marathi’ and ‘Dance Maharashtra Dance’, respectively. Endemol India also announced the regional versions of ‘Bigg Boss’ in different languages, starting with the Kannada version on ETV Kannada.
Though earlier we had seen regional channels launching regional versions of awards shows, and in some cases fiction-based series as well, players in the regional space today are keen on launching reality-based format shows in different markets in a larger way.
The driving factors
One of the significant reasons for the adoption of such formats in the regional space is the fact that regional content is successful in breaking across the language barrier, since language sensitivity is a significant aspect for regional markets. According to PM Balakrishna, COO, Allied Media, the regional trend has been on the rise since the last four to five years, with marketers trying to reach Tier II and Tier III markets. Regional channels cater to regional sentiments and it makes sense in terms of financial returns as well. Due to this, regional channels are able to garner a significant amount of viewership from the individual markets, and in some cases more than the viewership numbers garnered by the Hindi GECs.
Secondly, post-digitisation there has been a huge amount of fragmentation in the broadcast space owing to the introduction of new channels. Earlier, 80 per cent of the viewing was happening in 20 channels, which has now gone up to 75 channels. Hence, it makes sense for the networks to extend the popularity of these properties to the regional markets as well so as to increase their share of the pie.
Elaborating on the same, Anil Cheriyedath, Business Director, Maxus stated, “For a production house it makes sense for them to be not limited to only one market and enter bigger markets such as regional markets, which have a lot of potential. Also, for the regional general entertainment space, it makes a viable proposition. Reality format shows are introduced every quarter by the Hindi GE channels as part of differentiated offering, in addition to their regular fiction-based series. The same is being adopted as part of the content strategy of regional GECs, since the content is popular and is growing, thereby helping in garnering more GRPs.”
Monetisation and Advertising revenue
However, though the regional GEC space has undergone a phenomenal change, the monetisation aspect still remains a subject of debate.
According to Cheriyedath, everybody is evolving from one market. Regional channels have worked very well in the South market, which has also been the strongest. The overall viewership of Bengali and Marathi channels has also increased. Also, there has been an overall increase in terms of number of channels as well. Apart from the aforementioned markets, there are other markets such as Oriya and Bhojpuri, which are observing a lot of investments.
With the introduction of regional version of the format shows, channels are all set to garner advertisers and brands, since the content provides a good platform for them to showcase their brands through in-show product placements, sponsorship deals, etc. “Today, advertisers are also leveraging on the regional GEC space for added weight as well as to build traction,” added Balakrishna.
Also, brands today are keen on partnering with the regional versions of these shows since it helps them attain more eyeballs and benefits from promotions as well. Since these are well known across markets, brands are able to garner more visibility through the large scale marketing promotions and campaigns undertaken for the shows.
Today, with creativity going national and the boundaries blurring, adapting content from the Hindi GEC space and vice versa may be something which will define the way forward for the players on the broadcast space. Though there are various challenges in terms of ownership, distribution, freedom of expression, monopolies, etc., which exist on the space, quality and efficient programming strategy would be one of the key elements that would be instrumental in driving viewership and help change the perception of how the regional space is viewed today.