Mumbai: With 12 per cent of total TV homes, Maharashtra is the biggest market in India in terms of the market share. Even though the number of marketers and brands as well as the exclusive viewership and advertising have registered the healthiest growth since 2019, the Marathi AdEx doesn’t seem to be adding up, pointed out experts at the recently concluded ‘Tele-wise Marathi: The Power of Television’, a virtual summit organised by Indiantelevision.com to demystify the Marathi television landscape. The event was presented by COLORS Marathi.
During the session on ‘Media Planning and Buying for the Marathi Viewer,’ Mindshare COO - Amin Lakhani, Zenith CEO - Jai Lala, and Dentsu X India, managing partner (trading) - Vaibhav Jadon, tried to the address the fundamental question as to why despite its massive potential, the Marathi television market is still valued between Rs 1200 and 1400 cr as opposed to the over Rs 2000 cr South markets, and what needs to be done to accelerate growth in this direction.
The discussion outlining the challenges of communicating to the affluent yet discerning Marathi viewer who is not limited to any one media or language was moderated by Indiantelevsion.com founder, CEO and editor-in-chief, Anil Wanvari.
Beginning with the contention that the comparison between Marathi and South markets is untenable, Zenith’s Jai Lala said, “Unlike the South markets which were already regionalised probably two decades ago, Maharashtra is still growing, and the biggest challenge with it is that the audience speaks and understands Hindi in addition to the local language. This leads to a huge spill over. From a strictly numbers standpoint, brands can reach Maharashtra with national GECs and other channels. However, Marathi channels start making a lot more sense when the aim is to establish an authentic connect with the Marathi audience.”
Lakhani and Jadon joined Lala in defining the Marathi viewer as being “spoiled for choice” and “exposed to a lot more distractions than an average TV audience elsewhere.”
To put things in perspective, with 12 per cent of total TV homes, Maharashtra is the biggest market in India in terms of market share. It also has the highest share among the HSM. The state’s contribution to the overall TV viewership is 13 per cent, of which 5 per cent comes from the 25 local Marathi channels. There has been a 44 per cent swell in ad volumes over 2019 in Marathi channels alone, as compared to the total TV ad volume increase of 14 per cent. Even though the number of marketers and brands as well as the exclusive viewership and advertising have registered the healthiest growth since 2019, the Marathi AdEx doesn’t seem to be adding up.
Expressing confidence in the positive trends witnessed over the last 18 months, Lakhani said, “While Marathi AdEx, GRPs and other metrics are on the rise, and it will continue to be so, the money spent on Hindi channels within Maharashtra needs to be factored in because eventually it is also on the back of Marathi audiences.”
Defending the advertisers and planners on whether they are doing enough to catch up with the trends, he stressed upon the fact that the onus of growing a particular market/genre lies more with the broadcasters and content creators.
“The flow of advertising monies into any genre has always been commensurate with the eyeballs it generates, and not the other way around. Even though the Marathi market will always be faced with the challenge of national brands wanting to deliver at an overall level, with clients going increasingly granular in approach, regional is surely assuming greater relevance but only when backed by numbers. Maharashtra is an important market; not a choice anymore. All we need is great stickiness, great viewership, great time spent and great brand solutions.”
Lala agreed with Lakhani on the sequence of AdEx following GRPs being inviolable. “Content owners need to invest in getting eyeballs. Maharashtra did not exist as a media market ten years ago. It’s because of the networks investing in it that today we are in this space,” he remarked.
The five new Marathi channel launches last year notwithstanding, Jadon also believes that there’s huge scope for more channels, and hence more content which specifically communicates with the Marathi audience in their own language.
Discussing the role of media planning in furthering growth in Maharashtra, Lala shared that while planners have traditionally been taught to use a national first approach, Zenith has recently been experimenting with reverse planning which builds on a regional base instead. Elaborating on the complexities of the methodology, he noted, “Depending on the priority markets and budgets we have initiated this plan for select clients, one of them being Nestle. The approach is better suited if the priority markets are leaning towards Maharashtra and West Bengal, and not as much for a market like Delhi. It is also a little expensive, though the returns need to be evaluated in relation to the objective. If an advertiser wants numbers in terms of reach, frequency, GRPs etc. then this is not the solution he is looking for, but when it comes to building a connect with the audience, this could be the best approach.”
However, both Lala and Lakahni cautioned that these are simply two different schools of thought, and there’s as yet no data to ascertain or establish which one works better. Jadon too shared his experience of having used the regional first approach successfully for a big FMCG client. “Gone are the days when you would just need Marathi as a top up; it is an integral part of the media plan, but in what way, that is something we as planners, buyers and marketers must decide. Buying GRPs in Maharashtra alone is not economical. Due to the basic consolidation that has happened there are no quality reach drivers or GRPs that we can buy at lower values,” he pointed out.
On the buying side of the equation, Lala suggested having a different pricing strategy for the top-down and bottoms-up approaches in a manner which incentivises advertisers opting for the latter, as one of the ways of attracting more AdEx. Ruing the complacency that has already set in on the broadcaster front despite Maharashtra being a young and growing market, Lakhani opined, “even if a broadcaster is the market leader, it will have to be mindful of how its property is priced in relation to someone who can deliver the same kind of numbers through a national channel, failing which, it will never be able to catch the buyers’ attention.”
Jadon emphasised on the need for augmenting supply to encourage healthy competition among players, which will eventually lead to market expansion. Summarising the discussion, he said, “Maharashtra which used to be a single-channel market until a few years back, has now become a two-horse race with both of them charging similar prices because of which the advertiser ends up paying twice or thrice the price for the same GRPs. If I were to optimise my plan, I would instead buy more Hindi GRPs to reach the exact same viewer who is watching me on Marathi as well as Hindi channels. So, while there is enough demand from clients, my belief is that the market needs to expand, there needs to be a lot more channels and a lot more GRPs to be bought. That’s the only way Marathi AdEx can grow.”