Kalanithi Maran-owned Sun Network has decided to venture into new regional markets.
It will launch new Marathi and Bengali channels and roll out a second Tamil general entertainment channel (GEC) (in Tamil Nadu) and a second Telegu GEC in Andhra Pradesh in the current financial year.
Sun had disclosed its expansion plans to analysts in a recent investor call, but did not specify timelines. Sources said the work on the new channels was in full swing.
The Tamil channel is expected to be launched in the festive season, but the Marathi channel may take longer, sources said. Analysts at brokerage Motilal Oswal say Sun’s foray into the Bengali entertainment genre, which has a market size of Rs7 billion, could cost the market Rs1.5 billion annually, translating into a 3-5 per cent loss in profit before tax. "However, it should expand Sun's target market and earnings growth potential," analysts said.
The challenges in Marathi entertainment are also expected to be similar, said experts, where Sun has no programming experience. But the network is believed to be looking at growth prospects as its home turf of Tamil entertainment gets increasingly competitive.
With a 48 per cent market share in Tamil Nadu through its flagship GEC Sun TV, the network is looking to reposition its music and movie channel Sun Life into the second Tamil GEC. In Andhra Pradesh, the second Telegu channel is expected to help it strengthen its position in the list of GECs.
The launch is also expected to help Sun ring-fence itself from recent launches by rivals such as Zee, Star and Colors, that have been grabbing viewership with movies and big shows like Big Boss Tamil (on Star Vijay).
Sun TV bounced back to levels of a 45-46 per cent market share in the April-June period after losing share to the above-mentioned rivals. The 48 per cent is the latest share for the month of July and is expected to continue moving up as Sun TV gets aggressive with its programming, launching 3-4 new shows over the next two to three quarters, Motilal Oswal analysts said.
In Andhra Pradesh, Sun's Telugu channel is third in the pecking order of Telugu GECs. The second Telegu channel by Sun is expected to help it strengthen its position in the list of GECs, targeting people between the ages of 18 to 30 years.