Saturday, June 30, 2007

After Spiderman, a Bhojpuri TV channel

MUMBAI: Sri Adhikari Brothers, which recently concluded a public issue for its 100% subsidiary, Broadcast Initiatives (BIL), is gearing up to launch India’s first Bhojpuri channel in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Bhojpuri is currently a high-growth regional market, and BIL hopes to duplicate the huge success of Bhojpuri cinema in the television arena. Speaking to ET, Markand Adhikari, vice-chairman and managing director, SAB, said, “There is currently no Bhojpuri entertainment channel, and through a concentrated effort in specialised content, there is a huge opportunity. Being a dialect of Hindi we are confident of grabbing a good marketshare and are equipped to take the first-mover advantage.”

With regional markets accounting for more than 24% of the total television advertising pie, there is a concentrated effort by the group to target these markets by launching a Bhojpuri channel to the Marathi entertainment channel Mi Marathi.

Most of the other regional markets today have at a choice of about 6-7 regional language channels. BIL has two channels, a news and current affairs channel Janmat and the Marathi general entertainment channel Mi Marathi.

The company is in the process of investing in equipment and technology for the news channel Janmat and the new revamped avatar will be visible in July, it is learnt. Mi Marathi, meanwhile, has managed to gain a strong foothold in the Marathi market in Maharashtra and is currently second in terms of reach after Zee Marathi with 33% and marginally ahead of ETV’s 31%, according to Tam Media Research.

Sri Adhikari Brothers, earlier this month issued foreign currency convertible bonds aggregating $7 million, with a greenshoe option of $3 million. The funds raised will be invested for expansion. The company plans to build a state-of-the-art television studio in the next one year, and is in the process of acquiring land in Mumbai.

The Bhojpuri market received a boost in 2006 with 76 films produced in that year alone, a 100% increase over 2005. They also account for 7% of the number of films produced, marginally behind Malayalam and Kannada, according to the Central Board of Film Certification data.

The demand for Bhojpuri content is not restricted to eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but goes much beyond to cities like Mumbai, which have a large number of migrants. The films are doing well in Jallandhar, Ludhiana, Panipat, Kurukshetra, Noida and Gurgaon, which have a sizeable population of the migrant labour from Bihar.

There is an estimated 40 lakh Bhojpuri-speaking people in Mumbai, 18 lakh in Punjab and about 8 lakh in Delhi. Bengal and Nepal are also emerging as the next big markets.

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