News broadcaster Zee Media Corporation is all set to launch the digital versions of four South Indian news channels: Zee Tamil News, Zee Telugu News, Zee Kannada News and Zee Malayalam News this Tuesday (25 January 2022). The channels will be inaugurated by Dr. Subhash Chandra, Chairman of Essel Group and founder of Zee Media Corporation, at 10 am.
Initially, the four channels will broadcast in digital form, as a live-stream on YouTube and other digital platforms, as well as on their respective websites. It has also been planned to launch satellite versions of these channels in the coming months, which will pose a stiff challenge to existing news broadcasters in an already crowded regional news media landscape. These channels’ social media pages were originally known as Zee Hindustan Tamil/Telugu/Kannada/Malayalam, but now that they are shifting to dedicated news channels — even if only digitally for now — they are getting their own brand names.
These launches will greatly augment the nationwide reach of Zee Media Corporation, which has a vast presence in North, West and East Indian states but thus far lacked a presence in the South Indian market. News channels such as Zee 24 Taas (Marathi), Zee 24 Ghanta (Bengali) and Zee Punjab/Haryana/Himachal have been established for many years, often over a decade, but Zee Media was yet to taste that success in South India. In fact, Zee had launched a Telugu news channel in 2009, Zee 24 Gantalu, but it had to shut down in 2013 due to continued losses.
More competition to the crowded South Indian news media world
Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are known for being especially competitive markets, with over 15 news channels per language vying for a slice of the market share, but only a few being successful. The Tamil news scene is dominated by Polimer News, Puthiya Thalaimurai, Thanthi TV and News 7 Tamil, while in Telugu, TV9 Telugu, TV5 Telugu, NTV Telugu and V6 News are the most popular channels. Meanwhile, in Kannada, the news channels with the strongest brand reputation tower above all others: TV9 Kannada, Suvarna News and Public TV. Zee’s new digital news channels are being launched just two days after a new Tamil satellite news channel called News Tamil 24×7, which went on air on Sunday (23 January).
As for Malayalam, there are not as many news channels, owing to the stronghold of the two largest news media companies in Kerala: Asianet News and Manorama News have enjoyed dominance for years. There are several other well-known news channels such as Mathrubhumi News, Media One and Twenty Four from Insight Media City, which also runs Flowers TV, a popular Malayalam entertainment channel. However, the competition here is not as intense as in the other states.
Only a few national news broadcasters have managed to be successful in South India, most notably Reliance Industries’ TV18, which launched three News18-branded channels in South India (excluding Telugu) in the mid-2010s. Moreover, Hyderabad-based TV9 Network has been growing as a major national player in recent years, as it expanded from a few regional states to a national presence in the form of TV9 Bharatvarsh (Hindi) and TV9 Bangla, with TV9 Tamil also planned for some time. However, other well-known names such as ABP Network and Zee Media have so far avoided South India, though ABP launched two digital news channels in 2021: ABP Nadu (Tamil) and ABP Desam (Telugu).
Only time will tell whether Zee Media’s new South Indian digital news channels will be able to sustain the continued competition on all fronts. It remains to be seen whether they can ride the wave of digital media consumption and advance to launching satellite versions of these channels, in order to reach the widest possible audience.
Note: Zee Media Corporation is the news broadcasting division of the Essel Group. It is fundamentally a separate entity from Zee Entertainment Enterprises, which is undergoing a merger process with Sony Pictures Networks India that was formally approved in December 2021.