Post lockdown, appetite for content has gone up across the board: Ravish Kumar 

In a conversation with e4m, Ravish Kumar, Head- Regional Entertainment (Kannada and Marathi Cluster), Viacom18, talks about current consumption trends emerging in Marathi and Kannada markets

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Mar 15, 2021 9:12 AM
Ravish Kumar, Viacom18

The pandemic has changed a lot of consumption habits during the lockdown. The biggest change, say broadcasters, is that viewers are staying up late and watching television more till midnight. This change has led broadcasters to extend original programming and also introduce devotional slots in the mornings. Viacom18 regional channels, both in Marathi and Kannada markets, are witnessing similar trends.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Ravish Kumar, Head- Regional Entertainment (Kannada and Marathi Cluster), Viacom18, talks about current consumption trends emerging in Marathi and Kannada markets, extending original hours of programming, content strategy and much more.

Excerpts:

What are the current consumption trends that you have witnessed in both Kannada and Marathi genres?

GEC viewership has stabilised and reached pre-COVID levels if not higher. During the lockdown, we saw a shift from GECs to movies and news channels, which took place in the absence of original programming. Later, as the balance shifted and original programming returned in July, the viewership slowly picked up. As mentioned earlier, we are back to earlier levels. Also, the viewers have returned in a big way. 

In terms of consumption patterns, the biggest change is that people are staying up late. So earlier, the original programming was till 10-10:30 pm; but now, the 11 pm slots too are getting viewership. This applies to morning and afternoon slots as well. The appetite for content has gone up across the board. The final thing, I would surmise, is that television is no longer female or male; it has become a family TV. 

What are the changes brought in the content strategy post lockdown?  

We are seeing an increased appetite across slots. As broadcasters, we are seeing a lot of us adapt to that as well. Many of us are putting original programming in the late evenings. It usually starts at 5.30 pm, which has been moved up to 6 pm, going all the way to 11 pm or 11.30 pm. Moreover, depending on the market, channels will have morning content. 

A prime example is ‘Bigg Boss Kannada,’ starting at 9.30 pm and going on till 11 pm. We wouldn’t have put it there otherwise. The appetite for it continues to be strong. When we launched ‘Bigg Boss’ on Sunday, it was a five-hour event, with every single half-hour receiving the same reach and viewership. Moving forward, we will also be doing the same in Marathi. We already have shows, which are being telecast at 10 pm or 10:30 pm; we will continue to keep it that way. 

In the Maharashtra market, Colors Marathi has maintained its third position. Is it fiction or non-fiction shows that is driving viewership for the channel? What is your take on show adaptations as a strategy? 

At Colors Marathi, our biggest shows currently are both in the fiction and mythological segment. ‘Raja Rani Chi Jodi' is a top-rated fiction show. It's largely fiction shows that are driving the channel.  Even socio/ mytho/ devotionals/ religious shows are working well.

With regards to adaptations, it’s just a  strategy that started small but picked up momentum because everyone was looking within for shows and ideas. If we look across the markets (Kannada, Marathi, or Southern), two to four out of five top shows tend to be remade. The strategy is really immaterial to the viewers because they don't look upon it as a remake. As far as they are concerned, it's a new refreshing story that they're seeing for the first time. All this is underscoring a fundamental fact that good content is language agnostic. As long as you have a good story, you can set it across markets. 

Last year, we saw some new channels in the Marathi genre. How do you see this space growing? 

At the moment, we are content with our current channels. We have seen a few launches in the market but they are all stuck in the roughly 40 to 60 GRP zone. They’ve not gone beyond that. Everyone enters the market, thinking it is big and attractive. In reality, it's not easy to grow from there. So, are we likely to see a new entrant? Absolutely, we are. The question is will any of them achieve critical mass? I don't foresee (a lot of) that happening. The current incumbents have a strong lineup. If the audience is already getting the best of what they want, the hunger to consume content elsewhere becomes much lower. There are no unserved needs in this market. 

How has been the growth journey for Colors Kannada, Colors Super, and Colors Kannada Cinema post lockdown? 

In our journey post lockdown, Colors Kannada had slipped to the number four position, but we are now back to number two. We have refocused ourselves on our flagship channel Colors Kannada whereas Color Super, and Colors Kannada Cinema will be complementary channels. We have a full stack of programming lined up for the next six months. Hopefully, we look forward to reclaiming our number one position (for Colors Kannada). Meanwhile, on the other two channels, we will continue to offer as much as we can to the viewer.

What is going to be your key focus area for both Marathi and Kannada markets this year? 

Our focus is going to be on doing things bigger and better. We are not holding back anything in both the markets; we have a slate full of reality and new fiction shows. We've added more hours of original programming. In the Kannada market, we are looking at adding afternoon programming. We've already experimented with morning devotional slots so we will continue to add hours of programming and newer forms of content.  

We will also experiment with new non-fiction formats. The goal will be to create our own IPs to try and put a little more excitement into the reality market. At the same time, we will continue to do a lot more on-ground activation and events. In short, we have a busy year for both these markets. 

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