We've almost doubled our ad revenue since Sony Marathi crossed 100 GRPs: Ajay Bhalwankar

In a conversation with exchange4media, Bhalwankar, the business head of Sony Marathi speaks about the channel's three-year journey and the way forward

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Aug 31, 2021 8:58 AM
Ajay Bhalwankar

When it was launched in 2018, Sony Pictures Network India (SPNI)'s first Marathi GEC Sony Marathi was a late entrant in the market, which already had the players like Star Pravah, Zee Marathi, and Colors.

Despite which the channel's business head Ajay Bhalwankar ardently believes that it has been a good steady year-on-year growth journey for the channel.  It has been able to surpass leading players in the space within three years. The channel has managed an overall GRP of 101 in FY2021, which tripled from the initial 30 GRP in FY 2018.

"When we launched Sony Marathi in 2018, the market already had other channels which were a decade old, and existing channels were enjoying a sizable amount of viewership and impact," said the business head.  

It's worth noting that the channel was launched when other GECs were struggling. "We had to launch a new channel when most of the launches were not going well in HSM. However, Sony Marathi, in the launch week itself,  was at the 30 GRPs, and since then, we have now more than tripled in three years, which has been the biggest growth story for us."  

He said that the channel has grown by a sizable margin every year. "It just goes on to prove that if you give consistently good content, people will start sampling you more and more, and that's something has happened with Sony Marathi in the last few years."

Bhalwankar noted that Maharashtra is a unique market where the audience doesn't differentiate between Hindi and Marathi content because they enjoy Hindi content as much as it enjoys Marathi.

"Maharashtra has been an organized market, and the overall per capita income also is much higher in the state, which makes this market lucrative for advertisers," he added.

The number of connections is very high in the market with 23.7 million households. Evidently, Maharashtra becomes a critical market for advertisers and broadcasters.  

Talking about genre growth, Bhalwankar said that before the launch of Sony Marathi, it was a four-player market.

"The overall market was at 700-800 GRPs when we launched, and it has now crossed the 1000 GRP mark in the last couple of weeks. The genre has also expanded because there has been competition, and somewhere, Sony Marathi also has, in its own way, played a role of catalyst for the entire competition to heat up."

He added that in terms of both increased content offerings and the number of hours that have gone up in Marathi GEC result from a healthy competition that has been around for the last few years. "In the last three years, we have managed to get that critical audience said that is needed for a GEC to thrive."

The overall size of the Marathi genre is estimated at Rs 900-1100 crore, which contributed 5% to overall adex, according to the Pitch Madison Advertising Report 2021.

The Marathi genre, says Bhalwankar, has been on a growth train. "We've seen some steadiness to the Hindi genre to a certain extent. People are watching more television for many hours, but definitely, there has been a growth trajectory for the Marathi genre, whereas Hindi has stagnated."

Sony Marathi has been a brand that targets urban markets. Our concentration is not there as much on the rural side, although rural has also been growing for us. But the urban market has been our core target audience.

Currently, the channel has shows like Kon Honaar Crorepati in the non-fiction category, and Criminals, Tu Saubhagyavati Ho, Jijamata, Gaatha Navnaths, etc. in the fiction category.

Speaking about the lockdown impact, he shared that, unlike other channels, Sony Marathi managed to grow in the first lockdown because their content was new, whereas other channels were airing re-runs. However, he said that the second lockdown had its challenges that the channel faced.  Additionally, along with the viewership, the revenue also grew for the channel.

"With every increasing GRP, you will start seeing the impact on ad revenue growth as well. In the last three months, when we crossed the 100 GRPs mark, we've almost doubled our advertising revenue," said Bhalwankar.

He added, "We received a good response from the advertisers since the launch of the channel. For any GEC, FMCG clients become vital along with other clients in different categories. At the same time, it opens up an avenue for local clients to grow.  So both national and local clients, we've had growth consistently. Whether it's Garnier, Pepsi, or RBI, all the big clients have been on the channel to support us."

Since the channel is entering its fifth year, Bhalwankar aims to increase the impact on the genre. "We still have a long way to go, and fiction is critical for the success of any regional channel. Therefore, it's going to be our area of focus; we need to make fiction work and thereby grow."

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