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Tamil Nadu market is underpriced by national advertisers: Zeel's Siju Prabhakaran

He also highlighted how the industry has been transforming with the entry of new players.

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Chennai: The first edition of Indiantelevision.com’s Tele-Wise Tamil saw Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd EVP & cluster head- south business Siju Prabhakaran have a tete-a-tete with Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO, editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari. He revealed that although Tamil is the second largest language market after Hindi GEC with a vibrant local retail advertiser base, it is underpriced by national advertisers. 

Sharing his views on local advertising, Prabhakaran said, "We all know that Tamil Nadu has a great and vibrant retail advertiser base and that’s something that we all take pride in. But the fact is that within south, Tamil Nadu is very different from other markets because of its retail ecosystem. When it comes to the retail advertising base, it is not only based on ratings but they also have their own mechanism to see the trending shows in the market."

He further said, "This is the only market where every quarter has some sort of high point for retail advertisers. Some of the national advertisers do not understand the whole phenomenon. So for even a very small brand we have seen that they believe in the power of advertising and TV advertising, in particular, is something which people have taken to."

Enunciating the reason for the parity in price, he said, "Retail advertisers are ready to pay the premium price because they are closer to the content. National advertisers can only justify with the number but the local advertiser see what a show is doing beyond ratings and so they are able to give premium pricing beyond ratings," he added. 

Answering to Wanvari's question about what kind of solution does the channel provide to retail advertisers, Prabhakaran said, "We ask advertisers to come and be a part of the content ecosystem. There is a brand solution team which works with some of the retail advertisers on a regular basis so that they get a good touch and feel of what we are doing."

Speaking numbers, Prabhakaran added, "For us around 30 per cent comes from retail but still we are under-indexed when it comes to retail advertising. My sense is that the Tamil Nadu market should be closer to 36-37 per cent from retail advertising."

At Tele-Wise Tamil, BARC India also revealed that Tamil Nadu's TV viewership has grown by 21 per cent in the last two years and is in line with local consumption.

Sharing his views on the impressions, Prabhakaran said, "People who have been working in this market are dealing with this number on a weekly basis. When BARC comes and presents in this form and in comparison with the other market, it’s fascinating and I think that’s where the Rs 2000 crore market is residing. For any regional market to flourish, language is the biggest part and Tamilians take pride in their language."

Wanvari also inquired on whether the impressions are been acknowledged by the advertisers in Tamil market. Prabhakaran answered, "If we look at the impressions in thousands the whole pricing is under-indexed and there is huge scope. If we look at the FMCG segment, their price from south for their product in maximum and when it comes to media for the same, the media is under-priced in Tamil Nadu. There is a paradox when it comes to FMCG who use the media but are not willing to acknowledge the price. At the same time, advertisers are ready to acknowledge the reach that some of the shows get but we still have a long way to go when it comes to correcting advertising. While it’s a Rs 2000 crore industry with nine per cent of the population giving 12 per cent of the viewership, there is a gap which we need to cover."

Films form an important part of both content creators and advertisers here. "The thriving film market is always a great part. If we look at all over India wherever the film market is doing well, television follows that and keeps pace with it. We saw that 350 hours of original content minus the films is what all GEC put together creates. That’s 50 hours per day of original content. It’s a great sign with so much of original content and regional consumption habit, almost 90 per cent of consumption is happening in Tamil language. That’s what any regional market would aspire to have and we are lucky to cater to this audience base," he opined.

Wanvari also asked him about the challenges face by the Zee group as a late entrant compared to others in the market. Prabhakaran replied, "Though we have been here for more than 10 years now but it is a tough market. If we look at it, almost 80 -90 per cent of viewership was split between two channels when we entered. Intuitively, one would think that it is the best market to enter as the concentration is between two players but at the same time it is a very habit-driven market because television meant one particular channel for a very long time to audiences. So to break that sort of habit is not easy. The fact that it has a very tough distribution system is not an easy thing. For almost eight-odd years we were running under tremendous loss but post digitisation the content ecosystem opened up and we saw opportunities coming our way."

Tamil television market is highly driven by fiction content. Prabhakaran said, "Fiction is something that we take pride in. Zee Tamil has been able to break into the very strong fiction ecosystem which was there in this market."

Speaking on the challenges faced today, Prabhakaran said, "For starters we are the competition now and the best part is that it is an advertisers’ delight from a planning point of view. There is a basket which is looking at a few channels and that’s always a good situation to be in."

He further said, "We see the content ecosystem having evolved with new players coming in, with better production that we are seeing all around television. The pace of storytelling has evolved from what it was maybe 5 to 6 years back. The big change I feel is there are new creators that have come in because the production ecosystem in Tamil Nadu is not as limited as before. The new players have helped to expand the whole content ecosystem. It’s a great time for Tamil television where good, vibrant content is there."

Addressing the topic of good TV script writers, Prabhakaran said, "It’s not just the problem of Tamil market. Across the country there is a lack of writing talent because young writers get swayed by OTT or films. It is the responsibility of the broadcaster to make TV more attractive. There is an urgent need for young writers and other technicians to come to TV."

In terms of pricing of content, Zee Tamil produces very cheap as compared to others like the Hindi language belt. Explaining the reason behind it, Prabhakaran said, "That has to do with being a new entrant in any market. When we are entering late, there is some cost that we have to pay and beyond that new entrants need to create some sort of difference - it could be in terms of scale, creative execution, casting etc there is a great opportunity there."

He further added, "Now when we see Tamil Nadu market in last two-three years, big sets are being made, better technologies are used to create content. These are all steps in the right direction,” he concluded.

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