NEW DELHI: India's broadcasters are utilising regional feeds to reach significantly more viewers and offer them a better viewing experience, with sports leading the way in this area.

The clearest evidence so far of this trend comes from Star India's coverage earlier this year of the ICC Cricket World Cup, when, in addition to Hindi and English feeds, it offered Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Bengali options and garnered 653m viewers, making it the highest viewed content on Indian television.

More importantly, the regional feeds contributed over three quarters of the total viewership, the Financial Express reported.

Jai Lala, head of trading and partnerships at media agency GroupM, observed that this was the future for not only cricket but other sports. "The broadcasters know this is the way forward and have started the process with the sport of the nation – cricket," he said.

"Operational and technical challenges have delayed it for a while, but henceforth, regional feeds will rule the game," he added.

MSM trialled regional feeds in 2014, broadcasting FIFA World Cup games from Brazil on Sony Aath, its Bengali channel, and has taken that a step further with its India Premier League (IPL) coverage this year, offering Tamil, Telugu and Bengali options in addition to Hindi and English.

The two broadcasters have taken different approaches when it comes to advertising, however: Star sold ad spots for the Cricket World Cup to regional brands as a separate package but MSM is not doing that, yet, with the IPL.

Lala thought it might prove difficult for the network to get local advertisers for all its feeds in year one, but expected that situation would change by next year when the viewing numbers were in.

"Till then, it's safer to block ad inventory for advertisers which have pan-India presence," he said.

Broadcasters will be keen to offset the additional production costs involved, with separate studios and commentators required for each feed.

"It is an investment," said Prasanna Krishnan, business head at MSM's Sony Six and Sony Kix channels. "But right now we are looking at improving the viewers' experience."

Data sourced from Financial Express; additional content by Warc staff