Bengali TV industry witnesses an uptick

MUMBAI: West Bengal has been one of the strong bastions of the film and TV industry in India. While fears of the regional industry facing tough financial times are not unfounded, Bengal’s TV industry is well and truly in the black despite the speculation that viewership of TV shows is dipping.

Both local and national names have set themselves up in the state. Viewership allows them to rake in the moolah to survive. Moreover, top brands and advertisers choose regional TV channels to reach particular audiences.

Bengali dramas aren't immune to the age-old mix of shows and the saas bahu sagas reign even today. Despite content experimentation, soap operas continue to thrive because of their ability to pull viewers and, in turn, advertising revenue.

For instance, many shows such as Bhutu, Icchenodi started with the promise of different content but soon kitchen politics took centre stage. A popular show, Ganer Opare, also succumbed to family politics despite being committed to the main idea. The dramatic element can be termed as a necessary evil as they can bring in good viewership that channels desperately need. If producers don't agree to change the story's plot, there are several instances of being moved to a different time slot. 

Giving a tough fight to family dramas, however, is the highly popular Kusum Dola, Rasmoni, a periodic drama and Saat Bhai Chompa, a fantasy drama, topping many viewership charts. A Bengali show named Taranath Trantrik has even been dubbed for an Odia channel.

Other than dubbing, many Bengali shows are being remade in several languages. "Almost 8 of our shows are being remade in different languages.  Star Plus next big launch "Kulfi Kumar Baajewala is a remake of one of our path breaking show on Star Jalsha “Patol Kumar Gaanwala”, SVF Entertainment's director and co founder Mahendra Soni commented when he was asked about Bengali content's potential to be marketed to other regions. 

The Bengal entertainment industry has a large number of production houses. The big production houses are SVF, Magic Moments Motion Pictures, Surinder Films and Raj Chakraborty Production House which invest for both films and television shows. SVF invests 2.5 lakh per episode for a daily soap from the house. " We have done shows at as high as 4 lakh per episode too. In fact our last limited series “Mahanayak” was costlier," Mahendra Soni said.

However, few players have a good control over the industry. The medium level and small production houses are not able to compete with the biggies and sometimes the big production houses buy a slot for whole year.

Over the top (OTT) has taken hold of people's imaginations in West Bengal as well. Everyone is trying to catch the young audience by investing in web-series. In a short time, Hoichoi, and Addatimes have gained a good amount of popularity. New shows are constantly on the launch. Many theatre groups are starting to enter the OTT industry with their own content.

With the ongoing changes in the entertainment industry, regional players are also embracing new technology and new media content. The TV industry in Bengal, despite facing a potential threat from OTT platforms, has gained viewership in spite of all the odds.

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