Shephali Bhatt
Nov 09, 2011

Double Standards: Do region-specific channels have an edge?

Shephali Bhatt questions a channel head and a media buyer to find out which gets more traction, region-specific channel or dubbed feed of a national channel

Double Standards: Do region-specific channels have an edge?

Rahul Johri (L), senior vice president and general manager, South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific and Narendra Alambara (R), vice president, Starcom Worldwide , Chennai

Do region-specific channels meant for a niche audience hold a significant edge over a national channel dubbed in the regional language? Please elaborate.

RJ: Discovery Channel Tamil is not a niche channel. With its customised product offering especially for the Tamil-speaking viewers, the channel caters to mass audience across genres and age groups. It’s a first of its kind - a factual entertainment channel for the viewers of Tamil Nadu. With customisation becoming the key factor, reaching the specific markets in their own language has become vital. But Discovery Channel Tamil’s programmes are not two Chinese people talking in some foreign language. The programmes are mostly narrative based and the content is locally relevant, bringing for its viewers the best offerings from across the globe.

NA: At an overall level the launch of a region-specific channel signals the commitment of the network / channel in the market they are focussing on. While the outlays and investments required to start up and sustain the region specific channel is higher, it will be better placed to offer more localised content and thereby hopefully generate higher revenues for the network.  National channels with dubbed feeds, while relatively cheaper, only provide the regional markets with better traction. However, I’m not sure if the consumer makes the distinction between the two yet; it is currently more relevant for the channels themselves and the advertisers / agency.  Since this phenomenon is currently restricted to niche offerings – kids, infotainment genres, etc – the overall impact cannot be evaluated at length yet. Furthermore, both type of channels do not operate in the same genre yet to make a direct comparison.
How is the cost-to- advertising ratio different in both types of channels?
RJ: Every local market believes in providing quality content and we are no different. I believe the cost-t o- advertising ratio depends on the content and we offer our very best in that segment.
NA: With a dubbed feed of a channel, the ad campaign is not restricted to the region and flashed across the entire channel footprint .  Advertisers are likely to pay the cost of advertising even to markets they might not have a presence,  just to ensure higher traction in a market. But with a distinct feed, the region-based channels can charge and realise better pull from advertisers with far more focussed inputs and minimal wastage. Again, since the cost of advertising is relatively cheaper, it would be difficult to make distinct comparisons.
How do advertisers perceive the two in the same market? Which is easier to attract advertisers?
RJ: The regional television market is increasing in folds.  Discovery Networks’ launching a channel especially for Tamil viewers is a step forward in this direction.  It offers a great platform to advertisers as it is a localised channel per the taste of viewers. With channels like Discovery Channel Tamil, advertisers get opportunity to reach out to targeted and quality audiences.
NA: Since these available options are not operating in the same genre, hence attracting different audiences; there is not much for advertisers to make a choice or distinction yet. But over time it is likely that the region -specific option would gain better traction compared to a dubbed feed option.

Does one’s viewership eat into the other’s pie? How can that be dealt with?

RJ: The viewership completely depends on the quality of the content of the network. The viewers are more discerning now for their choice of content on the channels and have preference for more meaningful content.  Constantly keeping pace with the changing interests and preferences of our viewers has been the key driver behind the network’s success in India.

NA: They are not really competing with each other in that sense, like I explained earlier. That’s because they operate in different genres. 

What kind of impact does introduction of localised content bring to the channel?

RJ: Over the last few years, our brands have evolved progressively acknowledging requirements of our audiences. Discovery’s programmes are locally relevant to everyone in any part of the country. With our India commissioned programmes, we tend to bring for our viewers the best possible entertainment. Discovery Channel is popular for their genres of programme from adventure to science to technology. With regular outflow of strong programming pipeline, new production ideas and unique programming, I see Discovery Channel Tamil building onto its offerings and getting acceptance across varied groups, age and gender.

NA: These initiatives will further the cause of ‘glocalisation’ and bridge the best of both worlds. That world will combine sensibilities of a worldwide network coupled with the programming strength one gains in creating content that is distinctly local and closer to home. Superior production quality in showcasing the local content will add value to every stake holder in the chain - the viewer, the channel and the advertiser.

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