Creative Eye looks to private channels for succour

Creative Eye has shelved its plans of making programmes for all of national Doordarshan's 13 regional channels.

The Dheeraj Kumar promoted production house had earlier this year aimed at entering the southern regional market by producing prime time soaps for all DD's language channels. "DD's regional channels have no visibility", says Wing Cdr D Dass, executive director of the company, citing the reason for pulling out. In effect, Creative Eye has distanced itself from DD and has moved towards satellite channels, which will provide increased margins. The company's earlier 60 per cent dependence on DD will be cut down to 30 per cent in the coming months, he says.

The dubbed Telugu version of Om Namoh Narayan, which was aired on DDK Hyderabad earlier this year, was pulled out after a 10-week run. The plan for a Malayalam daily soap for Doordarshan has also been shelved.

Its second quarter results are nothing to write home about, and Creative Eye squarely blames DD for all its woes. Its income from operations continue to slump (Rs 33.4 million) compared to previous years' figures, and projected revenues at the end of this fiscal are expected to touch just RS 300 million. The company came out with an IPO late last year but has not been able to live up to investors' expectations - its profits will not be more than Rs 40 - 50 million this year, according to Dass.

The company, however, is not in maintenance mode, he insists. Says Dass, the company is spending Rs 30 million to upgrade and add the additional facilities to the existing studios, one in Kailash Plaza and another, Swati Studio, which the company has taken on a 19-year lease contract. Plans are in the pipeline to invest Rs 20 million to set up another studio, he adds.

The company has posted a net profit of Rs 3.6 million and a total income of Rs 38 million. An amount rather negligible for a company that's backed by a history of providing bankable properties comprising mythological serials and social drama and boasts of a library that Pricewater House values at Rs 340 million.

The production cost of software has decreased, indicating lowered investments in software projects while the cost of software, staff costs and other expenditure has been reduced to Rs 28.4 million, compared to the first quarter figure of Rs 33.8 million.

Creative Eye's problems with DD began in March last year, when DD made policy changes and hiked its rates, forcing producers to buy additional spots at higher rates when the market was not ready for it. Along with several other producers (Cinevista posted losses of Rs 120 million last year), Creative Eye pulled out Rangoli, Jap Tap Vrat and Om Namah Shivay. Up until then, the company had been one of DD's favourites, having started in 1986 with Kahan Gaye Woh Log on the lone channel then.

DD revamping its policies in July this year has not helped much, says Dass, until DD adopts a 'single window' strategy for marketing. Currently, only four hours of programming every week is reserved for DD, the rest is spread out over satellite channels. The viewership of Sach, a serial based on superstitions, suffered after it was shuffled around three times, but continues at 11 am on Sundays on DD1.

Creative's stock-in-trade - mythologicals - are currently on Sony (Shree Ganesh) at 8:30 am on Sundays, on Star Vijay (Om Namah Shivay) on Mondays, on Sahara (Om Namoh Narayan) on Saturdays, and on Star Plus (Jap Tap Vratt) at 9 am on Sundays. It is persevering with a daily soap on DD1, Jaane Anjaane and a daily serial, Banna, on DD Kannada.

Creative Eye has also initiated outsourcing the production of its serials, in an effort to boost creativity. While a large part of Jaane Anjaane's scripting, editing and directing has been outsourced, many of its pending pilots (Insaaniyat - a daily soap awaiting scheduling by DD -, Kya Beti Paaraya Dhan Hai and Tulsi Mere Angan Ki) have also been outsourced.

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