Regional news channels on a high with growing viewership & ad revenues

With recent political developments in states leading to higher viewership, regional channels have emerged as new favourites among advertisers, say experts

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Dec 10, 2019 12:52 PM

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Going local has been the mantra for broadcasters this year. Regional channels have been on the growth trajectory both in terms of viewership and ad bills in 2019. Riding on the growing prominence of Tier II and Tier III markets, regional television has emerged as the new favourite for both viewers and advertisers.

Close to 40 per cent of ad billings for major news broadcasters, experts say, are coming from regional offerings by networks.

According to Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer, ZEEL, “In our bouquet of 11 channels, 8 are regional. Languages have gained prominence in the last two years with corporate looking at hyperlocal advertising and state governments also showing interest in regional news for their own communications.”

According to Sehgal, Bengali, Bhojpuri and Marathi are the three best performing languages when it comes to regional. Nearly 40 per cent of ad bills for Zee News come from regional channels, he said. For Sehgal, the pie is only getting bigger in the times to come.  

If we look at ratings for Week 48, the top rated Marathi news channel clocked 144173000 impressions and its Bengali counterpart garnered 32874000 impressions. Both numbers are way higher than the English channel on top that recorded 755000 impressions in the same week.

According to media expert Anita Nayyar, “Given the slowdown advertisers have been cautious about where to put their money in and news as a genre has had high viewership in 2019 given the political situation and elections. States like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have been on the forefront in news and it has not gone unnoticed by advertisers.”

Nayyar further said that regional news has offered almost guaranteed viewership to advertisers with sectors like automobiles, jewellery and real estate being upbeat about regional news this year.

Broadcasters are also of the same opinion.

Karan Abhishek Singh, CEO, Languages Cluster, News18 Network, said: “The ratings for regional channels have seen a steady growth over the year with the regional news cycle being on an upswing. Elections, heightened political drama, changing government dynamics and natural disasters, all occupy mind space and hence contribute towards healthy numbers across the regional markets. The ability of the regional channels to deliver differentiated content and local stories provide the viewer with news of one’s use.”

News18 is not an isolated example though.

According to Avinash Pandey, CEO – ABP News, “There is a lot of news happening locally and the locals have an appetite for such news. Giving the viewers the local flavour has been important for ABP. While it is expensive to maintain local resources at every news centre, the success of regional news this year has made it worthwhile. ABP Ananda (the Bengali offering from ABP News) is our best performing regional property and we see a lot of scope in other regional properties too.”

On content being key for the growth in viewership of regional channels, Jyoti Kumar Bansal, CEO, PHD Media, says: “While the number of channels has proliferated, the quality has been maintained only by a few. Also, true to its regional characteristic, the genre has no one network as a clear leader across all markets. Large national advertisers will only support a handful of channels that add to their plans. The rest of the genre allows regional advertisers to mark their presence on TV.”

A parallel space is burgeoning in the digital format where the growth of internet connectivity in smaller towns will fuel regional news consumption and find support from advertisers, Bansal added.

Networks have also tried new formats to help bring in additional viewership. “Docu- dramas that debuted on our channels showed us that the viewer has an appetite for documentaries that bring alive real-life events and present it as a well-packaged product,” says Singh.

When it comes to the best performers among regional markets, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Bengal emerge to be in the forefront. With viewers opting for specific channels in the MRP regime, they are looking to make informed choices and are going for channels that cater to their entertainment and information bouquet.

The regional offerings from broadcasters have also contributed to better revenues for brands as well.

Just like ZEEL, in terms of ad bills, according to Pandey at ABP the national to regional ad bill ratio earlier used to be 70:30 but that format is fast changing. “This year the ratio is 60:40 and the way it is going there are good chances that next year 50 per cent of ad billings will be coming in from regional,” he said.

In case of Network 18, Singh said, “While the overall English genres have been stressed - our English portfolio is growing by low double digits - our regional portfolio has shown robust double digit growth. Regional channels have the wherewithal to bring in customised solutions with extensive knowledge of the local populace, sensibilities and preferences.”

According to Singh, retail and corporate advertisers are now focused on channels that bring in efficacy for their media budget as against advertising with huge spillovers. Brands can also utilise regional channels to carve out specific and targeted messaging that reflect the nuances of the specific market and its challenges.

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