South Indian GECs push fiction to include Saturday

Television viewing has always been about appointment viewing - catch up with your favourite shows on a particular day at a particular time.

While airing fiction shows from Monday to Friday and comedy and movies over weekends has been somewhat the norm, a clutch of channels down South, particularly in Karnataka, has taken a shine to fiction shows spilling over to Saturdays as well.

Asianet Suvarna, Star’s GEC channel in Karnataka, took this route about six months ago when it started airing fiction shows for six days a week.

Star’s Malayalam GEC Asianet followed suit with a few prime-time fiction shows extended to Saturday.

Recently, Sun TV, the Tamil GEC from the dominant Sun Network, joined the fray with its prime-time fiction shows replacing a movie and a game slot on Saturday.

Not to be left behind, Sun Network’s Malayalam GEC Surya TV added Saturday to the telecast of the crime thriller Satyameva Jayate and its Kannada GEC Udaya TV also traversed the same path.

So, what prompted these GECs to include Saturdays in their fiction line-up? Apparently, the channels believe airing soaps on a Saturday is more profitable as compared to airing movies, which they used to earlier. “Producing a half-an- hour fiction serial would mean investing about Rs 70,000 to Rs 80,000 whereas acquiring a movie would mean spending at least Rs 2-5 crore depending on the movie,” says Asianet Suvarna business head Anup Chandrashekaran.

Another factor is that while Tamil Nadu is probably and arguably the best movie market in the south, the Karnataka film industry isn’t prospering too much, according to many channel executives. Hence, neither advertisers nor the revenue from Kannada movies is consistent as compared to that from shows. Again, movie repeats depend on the premiere performance. A good movie can fetch anywhere between Rs 40 lakh to Rs 60 lakh  as ad revenues from its first telecast. This means that for recovery it has to be telecast several times but repeats don’t get the same value.

It also states that the number of films certified from Karnataka has dropped from 162 in 2008 to 128 in 2012. Whereas, the number of films certified from Tamil Nadu has grown from 175 to 262 in the same time span.

A month ago, Zee Kannada too joined this elite club with fiction shows between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm extended to Saturday. “Production of Kannada films has come down and for a movie to premiere on TV takes nearly a year unlike Bollywood where the gap between the theatre premiere and TV premiere is just two or three months,” says Zee Kannada nonfiction programming AVP Balaraj S.

Balaraj says that Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are better off since movies do well there

The Deloitte report also stated that though Tamil and Telugu films are adopting better technology to match Hollywood standards, the same is lacking in the other two markets.

It also highlighted that since the beginning of this year, broadcasters in Karnataka and Kerala have become selective in acquiring rights of small budget movies due to the use of low quality digital cameras resulting in poor visual appeal on TV.

ETV Kannada, which was the first GEC to extend its afternoon and evening fiction shows to Saturdays nearly two years ago, has seen better viewership since because most people are at home over the weekend.

“It is a cost effective way of managing your Fixed Point Chart (FPC) or else you have to invest in movies or events. Fiction shows have appointment viewing and time spent on them is very high,” says Viacom 18 EVP and business head –Kannada, Bengali and Oriya- Ravish Kumar.

For showcasing movies, the channel makes use of its existing bank rather than relying on new ones. Kumar believes that by the time the movie gets premiered on TV, the interest in it has already faded.

Balaraj feels that the only good thing about premiering movies is a better sampling of viewers while Chandrasekharan says it is easier to get advertisers locked for six days rather than approach new ones every week for a Saturday.

Ravish feels that having shows on Saturday gets more viewers due to it being a holiday for most

So will this trend catch up with other states as well? Balaraj feels that it won’t affect Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh since the film community there loves producing and audiences gorge on movies. New Generation Media Corporation CEO RBU Shyam Kumar, who heads newly-launched Tamil GEC Pudhu Yugam, feels it is too early to speculate. “A movie acquisition runs into crores of rupees and recovery time is long and most channels have a separate movie channel as well,” he says.

While the Deloitte report said of the total revenue of Rs 2,680 crore from the South Indian film industry in FY 2013, the lowest was from Karnataka with just Rs 150 crore as compared to Rs 1,190 crore from Tamil Nadu and Rs 1150 crore from Andhra Pradesh, the silver lining is that the report also estimates that the Karnataka market is set to grow at a CAGR of 18 per cent by FY 2017 to reach Rs 250 crore, the highest of all four.

TV advertising market in south India was pegged at Rs 4000 crore during FY 2013 with Karnataka contributing Rs 710 crore. So clearly, television stands at a better position than film.

The media planners we spoke to feel that as long as serials get good viewership, brands won’t have any problem advertising for an extra day in the week and Saturday anyway gets better viewership since it is the beginning of the weekend.

Be that as it may, the weekends look to have rung in the end of weak and expensive movies on TV in Karnataka, and the dawning of cheaper fiction shows. 

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