Dec 30, 2008

Business - India;An year of ups and downs for TV industry

If 2008 made viewers stick to the idiot box with 'Bigg Boss' and 'Khatron Ke Khiladi', big players of the small screen industry were made to run for their money after the prime time was snatched by the IPL championship for almost 40 days coupled with a three-week period of no fresh content on air.

Perhaps for the first time, the three-week period of no fresh content on air cast a shadow over the efforts of the television industry to ensure more viewership with the launch of general entertainment and regional channels.

No fresh content was aired during the period after the broadcasters got together against workers and TV producers for a face off over payment of wages.

The broadcasters' refusal to admit fresh episodes of the shows resulted in shoots come to a standstill.

"It benefited none. The workers did not get the hike they asked for. Producers had hard time bearing the cost of standing sets and incidentals. Channels lost viewership and incurred cost of infrastructure while viewers had no entertainment," Keertan Adyanthaya, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Star India said.

"Everybody lost in this unfortunate period due to vested interests," Adyanthaya added.

Ashwini Yardi, Head of Programming, Colors, said the losses were momentary and after the strike, it was business as usual.

The three "K" serials, longest running soaps on TV -'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi', 'Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki' and 'Kasauti Zindagi Kay' - come to an end this year.

Adyanthaya said the economic meltdown has also made an impact on the television industry. There is pressure on the channels and investors are raising issues with regards to the break even point, rate of return and financial viability of projects.

There was also a surge of Bollywood stars hosting reality shows on television - Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Shilpa Shetty - and they managed to attract many.

However, Shah Rukh Khan's 'Kya Aap Panchvi Pass Se Tez Hai' failed primarily because it was telecast during the IPL season and the 'Badshah' himself felt that the format was not appealing to the audiences.

Adyanthaya said the IPL gave sports marketing a shot in the arm.

The year saw the launch of three new General Entertainment Channels (GEC) NDTV Imagine, 9X and Colors.

Yardi said the launch of new players ensured that there was variety in content and growth in viewership. "This was also a signal to GECs that viewers don't take them for granted as there are other choices as well," she said.

Adyanthaya said non-native Hindi-speaking markets like Bengal and Maharashtra watched regional channels more than the Hindi GECs after which Star launched "Star Pravah" for Marathi and 'Jalsa' for Bengali markets.

Yardi said Colors has designed its shows to bring variety in terms of subjects and looks. "Audiences who have stopped watching Hindi GECs have come back to Colors. We knew our risks would pay off but the success of the channel has come as a wonderful surprise," she said.

This in turn affected a lot of channel placements for many players. The spending plans of many new channels are on hold whereas it has not been so much of an issue with the older channels, he said.

But Yardi said the meltdown has not resulted in budgetary or revenue cuts for Colors. She said advertisers had backed her channel in the present financial crisis.

Adyanthaya said in 2009, GECs will have to learn to operate on low costs and maintain lean business. "It is about running a tight ship without spending profligately. Similarly, the need of the hour is to look at the franchisees which will stand the test of time," he said.

The Star India GM also said fiction fared better than non-fiction during the year. "Top two shows on every channel are fictions," he said.

Yardi said GECs have to note that big budget shows do not necessarily yield profit. 'Balika Vadhu is not an expensive show. But, we are getting revenues," she said.

On plans for 2009, Adyanthaya said the channel was working on quiz formats. Yardi said Colors was working on starting its afternoon slots and upgrading weekend slots.

Zee TV said 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' was the most watched non-fiction show on Indian television. A spokesperson of the channel said Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif appearing on the show for the first time together skyrocketed the popularity of the show to newer heights.

The world TV premier of 'Taare Zameen Par' made it the highest rated movie on Indian television till date with 5.3 TVRs.

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