Television

TV9's Mumbai-centric Hindi news channel to convert into Marathi

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MUMBAI: Associated Broadcasting Company Limited (ABCL), which runs a clutch of regional channels, is converting its Mumbai-centric Hindi news channel into full-fledged Marathi.

The decision to make TV9 Maharashtra a local regional-language news channel comes in the wake of losses from the city-specific Hindi news channel. "We are changing it into Marathi as it is the only loss-making channel in our entire bouquet. Earlier being in Hindi, we were not attracting any state government advertisements. Going local would also mean that we get more connected with people outside Mumbai," said ABCL vice president operations KVN Murthy.

The channel's operational loses are estimated at close to Rs 300 million a year, according to market estimates. TV9 officials, however, declined to comment on the extent of these losses.

TV9 Maharashtra has begun the process of transitioning into a full-fledged Marathi news channel as part of its strategy to go local. The news bulletin and the other prime-time shows have already made the shift to Marathi with the exception of the Entertainment bulletin which will eventually go Marathi.

TV9 Maharashtra head Srinivas Reddy said that 90 per cent of the content is in Marathi while only 10 per cent is in Hindi. "We haven't decided any date on when we want to become a Marathi channel completely. But that is the way we are moving."

ABCL had made its expansion into the Hindi language with the launch of TV9 Mumbai in 2009 focussed on local news. However, TV9 Mumbai was last year rebranded as TV9 Maharashtra to widen the viewership base. But language turned out to be a major impediment since Marathi is the most widely spoken language in Maharashtra.

"Marathi is the language of the common people in Maharashtra. We thus decided to become a Marathi news channel," Reddy said, talking about the shift to Marathi language.

TV9 Maharashtra, which will have to compete with established players like Zee 24 Taas, ABP Majha (earlier Star Majha) IBN Lokmat and ETV Marathi, is betting on local content to drive viewership.

"If you look at other Marathi news channels, they are covering more of other news rather than news of local relevance. We will be focusing only on local news. In fact, TV9 Maharashtra will have 90 per cent of local content and maybe 10 per cent of other content like sports," he averred.

TV9 Maharashtra has around 100 part-time and full-time journalists across Maharashtra and around 15 anchors. While most of the team is in place, the channel will hire new employees for its output division.

The Marathi news broadcaster also has offices in different cities of Maharashtra including Nagpur, Nashik and Pune.

So will there be a sizeable retrenchment because of this makeover exercise? ?We are not sacking anybody. In fact, a lot of our employees were already Marathi speaking and we are also training existing employees in our output division in addition to hiring new people for output division.?

However, Indiantelevision.com has been made to understand that the broadcaster has already told certain employees to look out for a new job as part of its resturcutring excercise.

In addition to TV9 Maharashtra, ABCL runs four regional news channels including TV9 Karnataka (Kannada), TV9 Gujarat (Gujarati), Indiavision (Malayalam), Kolkata TV (Bengali), besides an English news channel News9. It also has a niche channel in Telugu devoted to Entertainment and News called TV1.

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