Are regional channels the best bet for advertisers post NTO?

Industry experts believe lower costs and higher reach are giving advertising in regional content a push

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy & Moumita Bhattacharjee
Updated: Sep 11, 2019 12:58 PM



Regional content is the buzzword in television today. There has been a significant rise in its viewership in the last couple of years. As per 2017 (week 18-32) vs 2019 (week 18-32) BARC data, Hindi has grown by only 9 per cent, while Bhojpuri has seen a growth of 171 per cent in viewership followed by Gujarati (100 per cent), Marathi (72 per cent) and Bangla (39 per cent). Clearly, the Indian television audience has taken to content in their respective languages in a big way.

In fact, after TRAI introduced the new tariff order, while many GECs saw a decline in viewership, KPMG report ‘India’s Digital Future: Mass of Niches’ suggested that the uptake of regional pay channels, especially top GECs and movie channels, has remained firm in regional markets, particularly in south. 

Speaking about the massive growth in Bhojpuri viewership, Joy Chakraborthy, CEO, Enterr10 media, says, “This market has grown year on year, and post Feb 2019, the GRPs saw an exponential growth. There is a huge population base and therefore the market also sees keen advertiser interest. Almost all categories have contributed to the growth, led by FMCG.

“Seeing the advertiser interest, even the broadcasters have given a good content push that has contributed to the growth. Content such as world television premiers, festival events like Chaath Puja, Saavan and Holi, devotional programmes and movie songs have helped build this huge base for the Bhojpuri market,” he shares.

However, Shyam Malekar, Business Head, Fakt Marathi, doesn’t think the growth in viewership is just the impact of NTO. “It's just not the post NTO phenomenon. The credit of our success goes to proper distribution of channel as well. Fakt Marathi is available on all DTH & major MSO platforms,” he stresses. 

Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network, points out that regional channels have benefitted overall. “Due to NTO, people have started choosing their channels. Hence, we are seeing a difference in the viewing behaviour in the markets irrespective of the language. But preference within genres is directly correlated to the content of the channel,” he explains.

“Further, with the introduction of NTO, broadcasters have seen spikes in subscriptions & viewership during festive periods, vacations etc. Because of this, regional channels have benefited on an overall basis more than others, though some regional niche channels have also seen a drop in viewership.”

Is the hike in viewership translating into a hike in advertising revenues?

TAM Adex data of H1 2019 suggests that the ratio of advertising on regional & national television channels is 63:37. Clearly, advertisers are also finding regional markets a great proposition for increased sales.

Bhadkamkar asserts that what works in the favour of regional channels is that they are providing reach at a much lower cost. “With continued performance demonstrated by regional channels, advertisers have seen a better response, and so have started investing more in regional channels. It has been giving more viewership and targeted audiences at a much lower cost.” 

Seconding it, Sudhir Kumar, Director Offline Media, DCMN India, said lower costs and higher reach is giving advertising in regional content a push, leading to the growth of the segment.

“The cost of advertisements in regional media or regional content is lower compared to Hindi or English. This contributes to the growth majorly. Any major brand that comes out with a TVC or an advertisement looks for a language cut because brands always benefit from regional spice if they have to reach out to micro markets," he adds.  There are plenty of examples of brands, like Ghari detergent, Masti condoms and Fena detergent, of brands targeting the regional crowd. Even bigger brands advertise for their small key units in these markets.

Bhadkamkar is hopeful that the festive period will see a double digit growth. “Normally, we see festive period advertising spends in the range of 30-35 per cent of total advertising spends. And historically, the festive quarter sees a 15-18 per cent growth. However, current year has seen a reduction in advertising spends due to weak economic conditions. But the brands would be spending during the coming festive quarter, albeit at a slower rate. Still, the channels can expect a double digit growth, around 10-12 per cent in these quarters.”

Steelbird International, a company that manufactures automotive components, counts on regional media advertising because that is where its product has the maximum traction. 

“With regional media, brands can communicate effectively and turn their messaging into effective sales as the people easily relate to the brand when the message is in line with their sensibilities, traditions and lifestyle. It is always the demand which creates the business, and the same is happening with the regional media,” said Manav Kapur, Executive Director, Steelbird International. 

“Initially most of the demand was in the metropolitan markets but the scenario has changed and the tier 2 and tier 3 markets are playing the volume game attracting the advertisers’ attention. More importantly the quality of regional content has shown a lot of improvement. The content option no longer is only daily soaps, which has increased their viewership thus serving the purpose for advertisers. We are a new brand trying to establish a place for ourselves and regional media is where the masses are making it our strong focus point. We channelise hundred percent of our advertising budget on regional media,” says, Prithvi Singh, Founder, GamesKraft.

Is focusing on vernacular content the way forward?

Bhadkamkar suggests, “As regional viewership increases, the demand for regional content is also expected to increase and drive the growth of television in coming years. In line with this, there will be increased investment in generating further relatable vernacular content for the viewers.”

Jyoti Kumar Bansal, CEO, PHD India, believes it's the availability of content and options that is making regional channels relevant to viewers. "Culturally, we have always been a nation that revels in our language. Availability of quality content and options has increased viewer engagement. In times when marketers are looking to sharp focus their communications and media budgets, regional television provides the opportunity to reach relevant audiences in a more cost-efficient manner to geographically concentrated segments," she explains.

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