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Sun continues to shine on its namesake broadcaster

Sun continues to shine on its namesake broadcaster

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BENGALURU: Television penetration is high in South India about 95 per cent as compared to the national average of about 65 per cent. A little less than forty per cent of television viewership in India is from South India. According to a Sun TV Network investor presentation, the addressable television advertisement market for South Indian television broadcasters, which comprises national, regional and local level advertisers, is pegged at Rs 6,000 crore.

The four major South Indian languages are (in order of populations of the major territories they are spoken in) Telugu in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana, Tamil in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, Kannada in Karnataka and Malayalam in Kerala. Besides, there is a global diaspora from South India that speaks one or more of these four languages. The largest regions in terms of population is Andhra Pradesh and Telangana combined, followed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. In terms of television households, Tamil Nadu leads because of its higher television penetration, followed by Andhra Pradesh/Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala in that order. There are about 225 channels spread across the four South Indian languages that beam into India, besides many more that beam South Indian language content into other geographies.

Networks, be they regional or pan-India, have been trying to attract as many eyeballs in these regions to their channels as they can. The focus in new channel launches seemed to be Telugu and to some extent Kannada in 2018. Though channels were launched in Tamil and Malayalam languages by major networks, it seemed more as efforts to enter these spaces, rather than to consolidate further.

Among the major networks, Star India, Sun TV Network, Viacom18/ETV and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) have channels that cater to the viewership pleasure of speakers of at least three of the four languages. All of them would like to lead in each of the four languages. The Sun TV Network has channels across genres such as GEC, movies, music, kids and comedy in all the four languages. The network also has news and ‘life’ channels in Tamil and Telugu.

As things stood, until 2018, only Sun TV Network and Star India had major channels in all the four languages. Zeel launched its Malayalam GEC Zee Keralam on 19 November 2018 and completed its quartet. The network had catered to only the Telugu, Tamil and Kannada audiences until then. With the launch of Zee Keralam, Zeel had five channels for South Indian viewers – Zee Telugu, Zee Kannada, Zee Tamil and Zee Cinemalu, a Telugu Movies channel.

The major GECs from the Star India stable included Asianet for Malayalam, Star Vijay for Tamil, Star Suvarana for Kannada and Star Maa for Telugu. Besides, Star India has been wooing sports viewers in South India -it now has 3 sports channels in South Indian languages – the last one to be launched near the end of 2018 – Star Sports 1 Kannada. Earlier, on December 7, the network had launched Star Sports 1 Telugu to join Star Sports 1 Tamil. The launch of Star Sports 1 Kannada took the Star Sports channel count to 15 with 10 standard definition and five high definition channels.

Another national network, Network18, through Viacom 18 and ETV, has also been making rapid strides to catch up with its peers in the South Indian space. Earlier in the year, on February 19, Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd (Viacom 18) had launched Colors Tamil. The company followed it up by launching a Kannada movies channels – Colors Kannada Cinema. Viacom 18 also started the Kannada feed of two of its kids’ channels – Nickelodeon and Nickelodeon Sonic. Through the ETV brand, the Network 18 group launched ETV Pus HD, ETV Life HD and ETV Aburichi HD, ETV Cinema HD were launched on December 27, 2018.

As many as nine HD channels were launched by two pan India networks in South India. Seven of the new HD channels were Telugu– five GEC and two movies and one each GEC HD channel was launched in Kannada and Malayalam. Network 18 through Viacom 18 and ETV launched five, while Zeel launched four HD channels. Zee Kannada HD was launched on 3 November 2018, while Zee Telugu HD and Zee Cinemalu HD were launched on 1 January 2018. Zee Keralam HD was launched on 5 December 2018.

2018 saw elections in a number of states in the country. It also saw launch of regional news channels in the south. NewsX Kannada, a Kannada news channel was launched in 2018, while in the Telugu News space, Thota Chandrasekhar who holds positions in actor-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party, launched 99 TV on 11 July, 2018. The Jana Sena Party also reportedly supports another Telugu News channel that started test runs on 24 October 2018 -Prime9 News.

According to a Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) presentation in April 2018, television viewership in 2017 grew by 32 per cent as compared to 2016. In South India, viewership of Kannada content led the growth, followed by Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam with 63 per cent, 33 per cent, 30 per cent and 16 per cent growth respectively. Comparatively, viewership of the largest language – Hindi, grew by 27 per cent.

The Sun continues to shine on Sun TV

BARC data for top 10 channels across genres NCCS All India 2+ reveals that the Sun TVv Networks flagship Tamil GEC Sun TV is the most watched channel in the country. In 2018, Sun TV headed BARC’s list of top 10 channels across genres for 48 of the 52 weeks of 2018. It was only during some weeks of the eleventh edition of the Indian cricketing bonanza IPL that channel lost its prime position in BARC’s list of top 10 channels across genres for four of the seven IPL weeks.

Among the 4 languages, it was Sun TV that topped BARC’s weekly ratings in Tamil, Star Maa that generally topped the weekly ratings in Telugu, Colors Kannada that topped the ratings in Karnataka and Asianet that topped the ratings in Malayalam during 2018.

Since week 1 of 2018, BARC has also started putting in the public domain weekly ratings of news channels in these languages – and there are more than forty of them spread across the four languages. Polimer News in Tamil, TV9 Telugu in Telugu, TV9 Kannada, and Asianet News in Malayalam were the regional news toppers according to BARC’s weekly list of top 5 news channels in each respective language during 2018.

From the financial aspect, the Sun TV Network has been one of the most profitable media and entertainment companies in India. The company has been rewarding its shareholders with dividends for at least three of the four quarters of a fiscal. Financial year 2018-19 or FY 2018-19 (period between 01 April 2018 to 31 March 2019) seems to be no different – the company has already rewarded its shareholders with dividends for the two quarters for which it has declared results so far.

Despite not having a number 1 position in BARC’s weekly lists of top 5 channels in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, the network’s channels have a huge combined viewership. The company claims in his investor presentation that about 29 per cent of the estimated Rs 4,500 crore television ad revenue and 60 per cent of subscription revenue of the four South Indian spaces accrues to it. The Sun TV Network’s revenue for FY 2018-19 was Rs 2,862 crore, profit after tax (PAT) was Rs 979 crore (36 per cent margin). Sun TV Network’s ad and subscription revenues for fiscal 2018-19 were Rs 1,172 crore and Rs 1,116 crore respectively.

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