The battle for original Tamil TV content in Tamil Nadu

MUMBAI: Another South vs North battle is brewing in Tamil Nadu.

Over the past four years, a new secondary market has developed for top notch Hindi general entertainment fiction shows in the state. Tamil television networks have been picking up Hindi series, dubbing them into Tamil and putting them on air.

Among the Hindi shows that have got a Tamil home figure: Naagin, Ballika Vadu, Thapki Pyar Ki, Swaragini, and KumKum Bhagya, Udaan, and Uttaran, Na Aana is des Laado, Tu tu Main Main, Parvarrish – Kuchh Khattee Kuchh Meethi.

These have been shown on channels such as Polimer TV, Raj TV, Sun TV, and Vijay TV and have generated good ratings.

But that market is coming under threat on account of two developments - large networks such as Viacom18, Star India, Zee TV, are moving into launch their own Tamil GECs (either their first or second channels) and hence they are discontinuing the licensing of the dubbed Hindi shows – at least the more popular ones - to other Tamil channels.

On another front, the Tamil TV fraternity is coming up in arms against the increasing invasion of Hindi shows on the small screen. In fact, a day-long protest has been planned for 14 August at Valluvar Kottam, a monument dedicated to the famed poet Thiruvalluvar, in Chennai. Taking part in the protest will be small screen actors, producers, directors and technicians.

Estimates are that dubbed Hindi series account for 40 of the 80 slots for fiction on all Tamil television channels. The reason: the lower cost of acquiring the series and dubbing them. The production cost of a single original episode is anywhere between Rs 60,0000 to Rs 2.5 lakh; the acquisition price for a single ready dubbed Hindi series episode is anywhere between Rs 35,000-Rs 50,000 per episode.

The production values however are much higher in the case of Hindi fiction and the shows which are normally acquired already have a successful track record. Hence, Tamil TV channels have been banking on them. And over the past two years, more and more of these dubbed series have been attracting and retaining Tamil audiences.

This is what has got the TV unions’ goose; they say their members are losing employment. And the federation of small screen technicians says it is also going to write to Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha to help fight what it calls a menace.

However, broadcasters say it is all about business. Raj Television Network - which currently has Mann Vasanai (Ballka Vadhu), Poovizhi Vasalile (Udaan), Kanchana (Shastri Sisters), Indira (Thapki Pyaar Ki) running on its channel - vice-president programming and production vice-president Amit Bose points out that whatever is made in the north can’t be shown in Tamil; and Tamil GECs are not about all out dubbed content.

“But being a content creator if the content is working and getting good ratings for the channel then wouldn’t I bring in dubbed content?” he asks. “For us it’s an opportunity to bring content that suits Tamil audiences,” he adds.

According to him, both broadcasters and producers and technicians are right in their place. “They are protesting keeping their interests in mind,” he says. “But we are also right. They want employment and an assured income from their experience and knowledge and from my knowledge I want to have a fair say in how to run my business.”

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