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Bhojpuri channels & Covid2019 viewership challenges

Ad volume in Bhojpuri market is 30% lower than the pre-Covid2019 level

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NEW DELHI: With shooting and other production activities kept on hold during the three-month-long lockdown, Bhojpuri channels resorted to innovative content strategies until shootings finally resumed. Now, the sector is finally seeing a revival.

“Overall, as an industry, and specifically talking about Zee Biskope and Big Ganga, everyone in the team pulled themselves up and reacted to it and implemented new ways of coping with this situation both in terms of content and marketing strategy,” Zee Biskope and Big Ganga’s business head Amarpreet Singh Saini says. “Within the Bhojpuri cluster, we saw a huge increase in viewership, about 30-40 per cent increase during the lockdown. Zee Biskope gained leadership position and we benefited a lot during this period.” 

Saini also reveals that Big Ganga viewership suffered due to repeated content. “There was a setback. However, like every other platform, we also quickly got into getting original content. We did a lot of shoot-at-home content, like the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa- 25-year celebration. The idea was to tell viewers that we are here to entertain you with original content despite the limitation. Our strategy to bounce back will be to offer a bouquet of fresh shows on topicality and innovation.”

Bhojpuri channels are pulling all the strings to keep viewers glued to their television sets. Zee Biskope is treating its viewers with a host of monsoon memories by showcasing film festivals: Sawandaar Somwar Cinema & Aaaya Sawan Choom Ke. Big Ganga, on the other hand, is entertaining viewers by presenting a bouquet of five new offerings for its viewers. 

Comparing the share of GECs in H1-2019 with H1-2020, the share came down from 49 per cent to 46 per cent, according to the recently released BARC data. The comeback of fresh episodes will mean stronger growth in viewership especially during primetime and improvement in both ad volumes and revenue.

Some of the advertisers including health brands and universities started advertising heavily during this period. Saini adds, “Apart from regular sponsorships and activity-based revenue, we are also looking forward to showing integrations and getting the brand closer to the consumer through showcasing the value proposition of the brands.” 

Saini also highlights that indoor shootings and lesser number people on the set were challenging. “In the initial few days, the output has been lower. But now as people are becoming accustomed to it. As you start doing it day in and day out, it becomes normal.” 

B4U Bhojpuri associate vice president Sandeep Singh states that the only problem with Bhojpuri channels is that the audience that consumes Bhojpuri content also consumes Hindi content. And the recent challenge that the Bhojpuri channels are facing is the return of three big broadcasters (Sony Pal, Star Utsav and Zee Anmol) on DD Free Dish.

“One of our biggest challenges will be to keep the numbers steady even after the pandemic. To bounce back, we have to keep innovating and working on the content. Due to the three broadcasters, we have seen a sudden drop in the GRPs, because they are also somehow taking our share but the good news is that we still have scope by offering good content. In the last few years, Bhojpuri market has evolved exponentially becoming one of the biggest markets. We wish to understand our audience better,” says Singh.

The channel is currently conducting World Television Premium to keep the viewers hooked. Every week B4U Bhojpuri is offering new movies from Chotki Thakurain, Mili Ta Mili Na Ta Jai Siyaram, Raja to name a few. A genre like family comedy, emotional drama and action drama works best for Bhojpuri audiences, Singh shares.

To reach out to more people, B4U Bhojpuri is also trying to gauge the audience through WhatsApp. “We have a Bhojpuri community on Whatsapp. It’s a medium to reach out to more people and update them about what’s new on the channel. We are focusing heavily on digital,” shares B4U senior marketing executive Siddhanth Shetty. 

Vizeum India senior vice president (west) Kaushik Chakraborty mentions that a significant drop in ad volumes during the initial days of lockdown was noticeable. However, in June, there has been an improvement. As per the latest estimate, overall ad volume in Bhojpuri market is still 30 per cent lower than the pre-COVID2019 level. 

However, Chakraborty says that the return of Sony Pal, Star Utsav and Zee Anmol on DD Free Dish is a piece of encouraging news for this market. “These channels with differential content will attract a newer audience to this genre driving significant viewership growth. Simultaneously, this will bring in a new challenge to existing players like Dangal and Big Ganga to counter the nature of the content,” he states. 

As the lockdown eases, has there been an improvement in advertiser sentiment? Chakraborty said, “We feel there is optimism. However, it all depends on how the situation emerges in the coming days. But, since this pandemic is beyond anyone’s control, there will be volatility and we need to be watchful. With the start of shoots, original content will be available to GEC players, in turn, helping increase viewership for the genre.”

Out of home (OOH) mobility has started but people are cautious, only venturing out for work-related requirements or grocery/medicine shopping. “With low clutter level, innovative OOH approach will help in enhancing brand visibility. OOH near residential clusters, grocery centres, workplaces and key arterial routes will stay relevant in the interim. Digital OOH inventory in and around these will see an uplift,” he adds. 

With festivities around the corner including ‘Saavan’ and ‘Chhath’, Chakraborty feels that one can expect a revival from September onwards. 

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