The Mumbai lockdown is driving up the programming budgets of television producers and broadcasters of Hindi general entertainment channels by 25% as they are having to schedule their shoots outside Maharashtra to locations in Gujarat, Goa, Telangana and West Bengal.
At a time when the Indian Premier League is grabbing eyeballs, the channels are also trying to sustain viewership and advertising by taking extreme precautions to finish shoots, bring fresh episodes on air and avoid re-runs like last year as they grapple with the responsibility of the health of their cast and crew.
With over 3.2 million average minute audience (AMAs), Star Sports Hindi was the highest-rated TV channel last week, shows the latest BARC data. AMA is defined as the number of individuals of a target audience who saw an ‘event’, averaged across minutes.
Television advertising had declined by 21.5% in 2020 with ad volumes falling by 32% during the peak of the lockdown alone, according to a recent Ficci-EY report.
“We’re trying to do the best we can. The idea is to put out as much fresh content as possible because where TV is concerned, people love characters and watching them on a daily basis is like a habit. If that breaks, there will obviously be a fear of viewership decline,” said Sumeet Mittal, founder-director, Shashi Sumeet Productions. He is shooting two shows, Barrister Babu (Colors) and Kyun Utthe Dil Chhod Aaye (Sony TV) in Surendranagar and other parts of Gujarat.
An executive of a broadcast company, seeking anonymity, said many broadcasters shoot storylines in advance and keep a bank of at least eight to nine episodes ready and this has helped them. “Many production houses have moved to shoot-friendly places to continue programming,” he said, adding that the strategy may not work for all shows and some time slots will have to see re-runs.
Viacom18 and Star declined to comment. Zee and Sony TV did not respond to Mint’s queries. However, experts said all top-rated daily soaps, including Star Plus’ Anupamaa, are moving locations.
“Once re-runs start, the IPL could become the epicentre of content consumption, with a strong skew towards news and movies,” said Shekhar Banerjee, chief client officer and head – west at media agency Wavemaker India. An accelerated adoption of subscription VoD services with local and global content and more time spent on gaming could be expected. “Advertising will take a hit… non-essential categories will move slow and advertisers may decide to delay their spends,” he added. Live Mint