Marathi news vies for a larger share of the pie

MUMBAI: It's a small rise, but a significant one for regional channels out to prove their mettle in an increasingly crowded market.

Despite the rise in the number of news channels in the last one year, Marathi channels have managed a slight growth in viewership shares during the time news bulletins were aired.

While the increase may be a negligible one per cent from a 77 per cent share in the last quarter of 2003 to 78 per cent in the first quarter of 2004, it has come at the cost of prominent players like Aaj Tak and Star News.

Alpha Marathi, which stepped up its news coverage from mid 2003 has gained the most - from a nine per cent share in late 2003, it has grown to 12 per cent, while ETV Marathi, the pioneer in the hourly news bulletins, has in fact, lost a tiny share by slipping to 28 per cent share from 29 per cent. DD Sahyadri, which continues to command the largest viewership for news bulletins in Maharashtra, too lost share - from its commanding position of 39 per cent share to 38 per cent.

Interestingly, although the state is yet to spawn regional news channels unlike in the south, regional news takes the largest chunk of viewership. The remaining 20 -22 per cent of news viewership is shared by Hindi news channels, among whom only NDTV India has picked up share in Maharashtra - from 3 to 4 per cent and Zee News that has picked up from 2 to 3 per cent.

Among overall channel shares, however, the Marathi channels have a long way to climb. In spite of slicked up programming, reigning entertainment channel Star Plus has held its own and increased its channel share from 44 to 46 per cent in Maharashtra, when compared with Marathi channels in Q1 2004 as against Q4 2003. The losers have been Sony Entertainment Television which fell from 18 to 16 per cent and Sahara Manoranjan that lost channel share from seven to four per cent. The Doordarshan run Sahyadri has not benefited from the general good fortune favouring Marathi channels however, and has stayed steady at a five per cent share in the two time periods compared.

Interestingly, even though viewership of Marathi channels did dip during the India Pakistan cricket series, the loss of viewership, even though it indicates a fondness for the sport among Maharashtrian viewers, was not very significant.

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