The power of language: Southern states fire up the regional grid for M&E

South India has emerged as the focal point of interest for advertisers, movie studios, broadcasters, OTT players and gaming companies. Even as regional language content is the force powering media and entertainment businesses in the country according to the recently released report on Media and Entertainment (M&E) by KPMG, the balance of power in the language matrix rests firmly with the southern states.

Be it movies, TV or over the top (OTT) media, these states have demonstrated a near-insatiable appetite for content in the languages they speak, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. And this has made the region a magnet for content creators, producers and therefore, advertisers looking to peddle their brands along the rising viewership curve.

The South is a unique market, says Aparna Acharekar, Programming Head, ZEE5, adding “We have seen great advertiser interest, the market is growing at a rate higher than HSM (Hindi speaking markets).” She believes that original content is going to be the biggest differentiator and the group is exploring partnership opportunities with regional producers. “We plan to launch 24 Tamil originals and 24 Telugu originals, which will include both shows and films,” she elaborates. 

Language viewing cuts across traditional and new media. YouTube, which has around 265 million unique active users has reported that over 95 per cent of its users watched videos in a regional language in the country. And the maximum views by language is in Telugu followed by Tamil. Malayalam comes in at number four, according to the report.

For TV, the four markets together match Hindi in terms of sheer size with the average consumption per day in these languages at nearly two-and-a-half hours a day in FY19. Hindi language TV viewership was about 1.7 hours a day and   while advertising revenue for regional channels grew around 16-17 per cent, Tamil and Telegu GECs contributed about 10 per cent  and 6 per cent respectively of the total  revenue. 

For films, the South produced 45 per cent of the total content and contributed 42 per cent of domestic theatrical collection, followed by Hindi movies at 39 per cent. Other regional markets produced 35 per cent of the content; however, their contribution was only 7 per cent of domestic theatrical collection.

The South has higher Average Revenue per User (ARPU), says Abhinav Khare, CEO, Asianet News Network who believes that the market is more than just a numbers play. “In India you can either play volume game or a high margin-high end products. For high end products, South India will be attractive and will continue to grow. The brand spend would be more from the premium products for South India,” he said. He sees the region as different from other regional markets because of its high percentage of literate population. This gives the market and companies such as Asianet an advantage over the rest, he believes. 

The South is not just a geographical categorisation for M&E companies. Investment in language content for the region results in a much wider reach and appeal, given the large diaspora. According to KPMG estimates, around 40-45 per cent of consumption across OTT platforms is from regional content libraries while the cost of creating such content is around 30-40 per cent lower than that in Hindi. Acharekar says, “The approach in acquiring the South Indian subscribers is truly global. We have an elaborate global plan to tap this promising market.”


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