Maa TV in revenue share deal with 12 Telugu producers

MUMBAI: In a major strategic shift Telugu channel Maa TV has entered into a revenue sharing arrangement with Telugu film producers to telecast the latest blockbusters. This is in a market where acquiring a blockbuster costs over Rs 10 million per film.

The channel, which is placed in the fourth position in Andhra Pradesh, is adopting a strategy where it plans to hit rival networks with a Thursday premiere movie. Market leaders Gemini and ETV telecast popular soaps during that prime time slot.

Maa TV has so far remained underdogs in the market with a weak mix of programming; primarily musical, chat and news, and current affairs shows. The channel has stayed away from soaps as a strategy.

"In Telugu, Gemini serials are very strong. To break this daily serial sequence, we wanted something different. We are relying on blockbusters and latest movies to give others a fight," says Maa TV executive director Rajendra Prasad.

Prasad says Maa TV has signed a minimum guarantee agreement with 12 Telugu film producers. The agreement is valid for a period of two to five years and the channel pays the producer Rs 2 to Rs 6 million, depending on the movie and the time period.

"Once the agreement expires, the producer can either renew the contract or go out of it. But if they decide to sell the movie rights, we have the first right of refusal," says Prasad, adding that the channel has also acquired perpetual rights to some movies.

According to Telugu film market sources, approximately 150 movies get released every year. The cost of TV acquisition rights to a blockbuster movie ranges from Rs.10 million to Rs 15 million. For an above average box office performer, the cost varies from Rs 4 million to Rs 7 million and a normal movie costs in the range of Rs 2.5 million to Rs 3.5 million.

Sun Network acquires a majority of movies released in Telugu every year to telecast in its two channels Gemini and Teja, followed by ETV.

Maa TV claims that its experiment to telecast new movies in the Thursday prime time slot (7 pm to 11 pm), which it launched on 13 January, has already met with success. The channel says its telecast of the blockbuster movie Satya on 27 January got top ratings during that time slot, ahead even of Gemini.

Maa TV is expected to telecast 20 new movies including blockbusters in the coming weeks. Some of the big movies the channel has lined up include Dhanu51, Radha Gopalam, Yevadi Gola Vadide, Manasu Maata Vinadu and Anand. Among these, Radha Gopalam and Manasu Maata Vinadu are slated for release this month.

To improve its position in the market, Maa TV is also betting on events. The channel is conducting the 2005 edition of its mega star event Tollywood cricket trophy on 13 February. The channel has roped in Lifebuoy as main sponsor and Head & Shoulders, IOC and Andhra Bank are co-sponsors. It expects to rake in Rs 15 million as profit from the event on an expenditure of Rs 35 million. The channel has also lined up a Ms Andhra Contest for the third week of March. On 10 April, Maa TV is celebrating its third anniversary with a star night event.

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