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How to grow regional-language television
MUMBAI: While there is an emerging opportunity to invest in the regional space for content, it also needs to match the sensibilities of the audiences in each region and not just be limited to a mere remake or a dubbed version of the original format.
Some of the content that has seen a regional adaptation from Hindi and is doing substantially well in the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Marathi markets include ‘Mahabharat’, ‘Mahadev’, ‘Satyamev Jayate’, ‘Bigg Boss’ and ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’.
On the other hand, there is also content that has crossed over from regional to Hindi general entertainment channels. This includes non-fiction show like ‘Dance India Dance’ and fiction shows like ‘Pavitra Rishta’ and ‘Saubhagyavati Bhava’.
But, for content to be successful, the respective shows also need to be tweaked according to the audience’s understanding and sensibilities as per geography within the country. India being a diverse country with different cultures and sub-cultures, audiences, too, have varied tastes and acceptance towards content.
Explaining the point, Viacom18 Regional executive vice president regional Anuj Poddar said, “You can take a show to regional markets, but you have to make it relevant to the audiences there. ETV Kannada has a Kannada version of ‘Balika Vadhu’, but with some tweaks. Similarly, ETV Marathi runs a remake of ‘Uttaran’ with Marathi sensibilities. You may call it a remake, or an inspired-by, but the fact is that until you make it relevant to the region, it will not work.”
In fact, when Viacom18 did a Marathi version of ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ as ‘Kon Hoeel Marathi Crorepati’ (KHMC), it was not a new show for Marathi viewers. The format had already seen seven Hindi seasons of on Hindi GECs, but what made it different and fresh was that the questions were based on Marathi culture and history, which resonated with the audiences in the region.
Big Synergy COO Indranil Chakraborty also said that regional markets have grown in a big way and they are no longer treated as the poor second class. However, all the content which is being taken from national to regional markets has to be redefined to make it relevant.
But sensibilities are not the only challenge when it comes to taking content to regional markets. Costs and IP rights are also matters of concern for production houses and broadcasters alike.
FremantleMedia India MD Anupama Mandloi stated that they would like to take some of the formats they own including ‘Indian Idol’ and ‘India’s Got Talent’ to regional markets but some limitations prevent them from doing so.
Shows like ‘India’s Got Talent’ cannot be made into a regional show because of high costs as they involve extensive travelling across the country. On the other hand, a show like ‘KBC’ doesn’t have that problem as there can be as many number of episodes as required to recover the costs.
Besides, in India, the problem is that except for the format shows, the IP rights remain with the broadcasters, so the property remains within the network which poses another limitation.
“Other format shows, like ‘Got Talent’, which may not stretch above certain episodes, will be very expensive. However, we are looking at taking ‘Idol’ to regional markets sometime this year,” she added.
An easy way out for many broadcasters here is dubbed content which is much easier and cost saving than a remake. But Poddar felt that dubbed is not the right way of doing the programming.
It did work in the case of one of the most expensive shows recently like ‘Mahabharat’ due to commercial reasons, as regional channels could not afford to spend as much on the mega-budget show.
Refuting this view, Asianet MD K Madhavan stated that the dubbed version of ‘Mahadev’ was performing much better down South than ‘Mahabharat’.
“It is not always about quality, it is also about resonance,” he said.
Speaking at the ‘TV Content Ecosystem: Adapting and Amalgamating the Regional and the National’ session at the 15th annual FICCI Frames convention, the diverse mix of panellists also highlighted the growth of the regional ad pie which is steadily growing to catch up with the national ad pie.
A challenge in this way of doing things is high carriage fee which needs to be sorted out. Another major worry for regional broadcasters could be the 12-minute ad cap regulation.
Madhavan here added that the top two players will be able to raise ad rates to make up for the loss of inventory.
He further mentioned that Sun TV has increased rates by 50–60 per cent, whereas Asianet has managed a 20 per cent hike. By and large, rates of regional channels, which used to be less than one-tenth of the national channels, have now grown to almost one-fourth.