Perspective | TV is the new mecca for filmmakers!

Our country has always had a rich story telling tradition whether through a fairy tale or a soap opera. Initial era of Television saw luminous shows like hum Log, Ramayana, Mahabharta, Fauji, Waghle Ki Duniya etc which notched up the record of viewership numbers. People used to wait for “Vyomkesh bakshi” to hit their TV screens. The era then took a twist and audience witnessed the entrance of ‘soap operas’. Initially it started with people being hooked on to shows like “Shanti” which changed over the years and the television industry has since come a long way from epic shows to soap operas and now to ‘Finite series’. The game that started from one screen has shifted to multiple second screens and from big screen to small screen too. 

With the changing dynamics of TV industry, the consumers’ demands and needs have also progressed to get better content year on year. Earlier Ekta Kapoor was known for producing epic ‘saas bahu sagas’ for our audiences which were undoubtedly highly acclaimed ones but today along with the ‘Saas Bahu Queen’ Ashutosh Gowariker, AR Rehman, Sanjay Leela Bansali, Amir Khan, Anurag Kashyap etc have also joined the bandwagon.

If we take a glance at the popular and most talked about shows on our television channels these days, we see a clear dominance of big producers/directors and their production houses which were, few years ago, synonymous to big screens.

With shows like Everest on Star Plus, produced by Ashutosh Gowariker and music given by AR Rehman, Pukaar that is starting on 24thNovember on Life OK is directed and produced by Vipul Shah; Saraswatichandra which is now off-air but was produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Yudh which is again off-air now was created by Anurag Kashyap and Satyamev Jayatey on Star Plus was produced by Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, the evolution of the television industry can be witnessed quite literally.

As mentioned above, such names symbolize with creativity and high – production quality which is a undoubtedly a benefit for the TV viewing audience but at the same time isn’t it a bane for the channel custodians as costs go high therefore high advertising and marketing budgets and not only for the channel and the show creators but it is an expensive game for the marketers too. This point caught our attention and Adgully decided to explore the thought much more deeply with custodians like Ajit Thakur, EVP & GM, Life OK; Vipul Shah, Ace Director and Producer; Ranvijay Singh, actor and TV anchor;  Priyanka Dutta, Business Head, Zindagi; Anita Nayyar, ‎CEO India & South Asia at Havas Media, Ramesh Chembath, Head marketing and Modern Trade, Godrej, Sudhir Mishra, Film Director and Sanjay Tripathy Senior EVP – Marketing, Product, Digital & Ecommerce, HDFC Life

Thakur said, “It is not about a big producer or a small producer but it is all about opening up your arms and widening your horizons. We have eminent producers and directors like Ekta Kapoor who has been producing great shows and concepts but what matters is the fact that if one needs to widen its horizons and diversify its content one need to move beyond its regular set of clients.” 

Giving a media view point, Nayyar said, “Today every space has become competitive. More importantly the quality of programming has improved and TV screens have become big in terms of both content and reach. With an aim to diversify, the channels are getting big producers to small screens that are pleasantly catering to the ever changing needs and demands of the consumers. Today consumers have moved far ahead of ‘Saas bahu Sagas’ and are choosing great content like Everest, Yudh etc.”

Dutta opined, “I think when you are a creative person, you want to create a good content and TV is the medium that reaches to crores of people in one go. So there is no reason why they would not want to be on TV. I feel more so why a broadcaster may be looking at a film producer moving towards this side is maybe the TV producers that you have so far don't have the expertise to create such a large scale thing. That is what I meant by when we were talking about Pakistani serials. If you see their style of functioning, it is very similar to our Indian film industry. They do a lot of outdoor shoots like Indian films. The Pakistani film industry is really bad so all your cream of talent is in TV doing dramas. If you see their sensibility, they are very equitable. Gradually I am sure even the Indian producers will look at it and create stuff like that.”

Gowariker said, “Well, to start off with, my career began in Television with a series called Kachchi Dhoop. All the while after, I didn’t have a story to tell for TV, as the format for movies and TV are quite different. In a film, you have two halves, you have a first and second half and you have a hook at the end of the first half for the people to come back in the second half, the story is finite and it ends. In television, you need to have a hook at the end of every episode and normally, when you write a show, you write for a few episodes and then you wait for the audience's reaction. Based on the reaction, you make changes and write the rest of the show. But for 'Everest' I had to write the entire show at one go, so for me it was hard to pen down this story at one go.”

Gowariker believes that one needs to keep audience interested every 10 minutes otherwise they will not come back. “And that is very tough. It needs immense talent for that kind of story narration. People like a show when they are engaged and that is if it is great writing. For this story, I needed a television format, which a film couldn't have done and decided to make it as my first TV production given that it was a story that I liked and was a space that I wanted to get into. There are many sides to this story, which I wanted to tell, as each character has its own tale,” he added.

While Tripathy said, “With the satellite boom, new and fresh content has become important. Movie stars have always been a big draw on TV shows and infact TV revived the careers of many fading movie stars. KBC led the fray, which proved that a daily show does not necessary mean fatigue or over exposure of a celebrity. Viewers wanted to see more of them. Over time the production quality of Indian TV shows is improving and more film directors see an opportunity in this medium today. It’s a way to move beyond the restrictions of the 3 hour story-telling to a much larger canvas for them.”

“However, while big names guarantee initial interest and a first few views, it is the quality of content and understanding of the audience and medium that helps it sustain over a period of time. So far most of these shows (especially fiction) have not delivered well on TVRs,” he added.

Mishra on the other hand strongly believes that television is shifting. He said, “I don’t really know what prompted them. If you were to ask me that, then I would go back to television, or rather I am planning to go back to the television only because I know there are certain things. In fact I had read a book, it is not a famous one, and it is a personal book written by my grandfather. I’m talking from a perspective to make a series out of it. Television is a good medium to do everything and these days television is changing.”

Mostly such shows are finite ones and expensive ones too. Sharing his view point on the same, Thakur said, “Yes, they are as people like Vipul Shah come with wider horizons but a channel takes a limited and calculated step towards expanding upon a property. Like with Pukar, we will first see and judge the response and then think of getting into an extension of the show.”
Dutta strongly feels that what really gets all advertisers is good content. It means if anything one puts on air which appeals to their audience will get them the money.

Shah said, “Doing something for TV is a bit challenge as it demands much more hard work but at the same time it is an opportunity to do something new and innovative to reach out to the masses. The demands of the audiences have changes and evolved quite literally in our industry and being the custodians it is our duty to fulfill those demands. We can take more chances in TV and it allows us to tell story which a three hour movie limits us to do.”  

On asking about the marketers and advertiser’s response as costs go high therefore high advertising and marketing budgets, not only for the channel and the show creators but it is an expensive game for the marketers too. Thakur said, “It takes time to convince and prove them that the show is a big game and opportunity for them. And we prove our fact with a short pilot which makes the advertisers understand the quality and opportunity they would get after tying up with show.”   

According to Nayyar the biggest challenge lies on the fact that these shows are not grabbing desired eye-balls. She said, “Yes, the acquisition cost is really high and the shows are quite expensive ones but the fact is that, inspite of good quality production and newness of the content these shows are not able to garner desired eyeballs hence the clients are not ready to pay easily. This is a big disconnect which leads to a challenge of getting sponsors.”

“These shows are definitely more expensive so a marketer has to consider brand fit and gauge the potential of the show basis their understanding of content. Imagery of the show and the value of such an association could be another driver of choice. For example, Cadbury tied up with Yudh since Amitabh is their brand ambassador and hence, it was a strategic fit for them. The show may not have done well but there was sufficient hype and leverage for the brand. There is also a huge scope for integrations and engagement for the brand, and if the show does well, it is a potential long term property for the brand,” Tripathy adds.

“Every medium has limitations. It depends on the artists who use television more or the writer’s medium. But these days it is has all changed, we’re talking in the limits of our knowledge and our experience, whether you can watch something with a pair of glasses or with your seat back in your small one room hall, then everything changes. We’re talking in the limits of everything we know now,” Mishra added.

Dutta here said, “If you talk about the Pakistani directors or how they produce shows, their style is very different. For example - in our serials, you do a studio set and you erect a set there & the set is on for months because you have to shoot everyday. So you have to pay to the studio person for the set, electricity.

How they do is that they have shorter span so even in the days they are not shooting you are still paying for the set. In Pakistani serials case there will a lot of outdoors so you just have 10-15 days schedule & then it's done. It is a very different style of functioning.

Chembath while giving a marketer’s view precisely said, “It all depends upon the channel and the numbers that the show is garnering. If the show is promising and gives good numbers we do not mind spending. And spending high costs is a challenge but at the same time it becomes an opportunity too.”

Ranvijay who has been a part of both the screens opined that small screens are far much better than big screens as it allows the directors, producers or actors to explore and showcase the story much more immensely. “It’s both an opportunity and a challenge to be on television to make a long series or a finite one. I could never make a never ending one. But if I were to do a finite series I would like to do something like “House of Cards” or “Breaking Bad”,” Mishra said.

Well, with time, the small screen has made its mark and its getting acknowledged. It is attracting a lot of eyeballs and has currently become an affluent market for producers and directors to invest. Even though it is becoming an expensive industry to invest but if the opportunity is worth taking, the marketers would not step back..!! | By: Aanchal Kohli | Twitter: @aanchalkohli



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