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Malayalam GECs resume shooting, hopeful of ad recovery by Onam

Sectors including education, real estate and jewellery have already started advertising

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NEW DELHI: After months of standstill, GECs across some states have been permitted to resume indoor shooting of serials with strict guidelines. Regional channels are slowly treading the path to normalcy, Malayalam GECs being one. 

Malayala Manorama Television COO Satheesh PR shares, “Traditionally, most Malayalam fiction has been indoors. There are some arrangements through the government-owned Chitranjali studios to enable outdoor shoot in a controlled environment and we have a large studio floor of our own which will be put to use for non-fiction with all the guidelines being followed.

"MMTv has been fortunate to have been managing a profitable business with a fairly decent-sized team. While the entire industry is facing a cash crunch, I don't think the channel's focus being regional might alter the issue.” 

Zee Keralam too has resumed indoor and outdoor shootings of its programmes and serials from 1 June onwards, strictly adhering to Covid2019 protocols. The shooting is with minimal technicians and crew members following social distancing, wearing masks, gloves, shields and frequently sanitising their hands. The floors of the shooting studio will also be disinfected before and after the shoot.

Zee Keralam business head Santosh J Nair  says that the shooting unit has been downsized and the channel is giving priority to the safety of its team members. 

“Zee Keralam's shoots are happening with limited number of crew members (25 people), as permitted by the government. There is a daily temperature check for everybody and all members present on the shoot are compulsorily wearing masks throughout. Even the artistes remove their masks only for the specific shot. We try and finish the shoot with as less takes as possible to ensure banking of episodes and we bank as much footage as possible within the day,” he explains.

Surya TV has also resumed shooting with 20 people on set. Surya TV business head Reghu Ramachandran shares, “Surya TV is adhering to all government guidelines and having lesser people on the set has not affected the output in any manner.”

Ramachandran adds that  from the content point of view, it is not going to make any kind of adjustment in the quality of the content. "The content will remain intact. Our only aim will be to improve our  revenue share. As far as Surya is concerned, our ratings have gone up and it has become no two. That way our revenues should shoot up rather than coming down. We are also gearing up for some new launches next month and possibly by August, we will have some new properties up and running."

Flowers TV managing director R Sreekandan Nair shares that as a network, it has always focussed on developing in-house content. “Format shows have been our forte for a long time. So, now it will be indoor shooting with limited resources, continuing to develop innovative content to surprise and satisfy our viewers' appetite,” he mentions. 

Nair says that the methodology of programming and ad sales will change considerably. "Human interactions will be minimal and in this scenario, developing and nurturing business relationships will be a challenge. The comeback strategy for Flowers is simple - focusing on our strength, which is highly-engaging non-fiction content,” Nair further adds.

Madison Media chief buying officer Vinay Hegde says that the lockdown forced production shutdown, leading to a dearth of original content and hence, GECs had no option but to resort to repeats. 

"This, along with the shift in viewership to news, made things worse for GECs, where both viewership and ad rates took a beating. Some GECs used their movie libraries to try and retain viewership to whatever extent possible, though it didn’t help in attracting revenues. Y-O-Y GECs saw their revenues down by more than 80 per cent, due to low inventory sales and discounts," he says.

Satheesh shares that MMTv is witnessing greater traction in advertisers' demand in June for both news and GEC as it prepares for Onam in August.

After a two-month break, the serials of Zee Keralam started airing with new content. The seven serials that were already running successfully in the channel went on-air from 1 June. Nair reveals that the channel is seeing an increase in the numbers of advertisers thanks to the ease in lockdown.

The Media Ant co-founder Samir Chaudhary says, “Media Ant has experienced a drop of about 30 per cent in the Malayalam GEC business post-Covid2019. In June, there has been an increase in inquiries but has not translated to business yet.”

Flowers COO Anil Ayroor adds, "We can't change what has happened in the past viz floods, slowdown etc.  But we are very hopeful about the future. It is only a matter of time before the market becomes conducive and advertisers throng back to channels. As much as the media wants advertisers, the vice versa is also true and advertising is the only way to increase sales. And with the biggest festival in Kerala, Onam, coming in August, Kerala will be in a better position to bounce back to normalcy.”

Maitri advertising managing director Raju Menon says that some of the universities, schools, colleges, jewellery brands, real estate and umbrella brands have started advertising again since the ease of lockdown. Umbrella brands are aggressively advertising on GECS due to heavy rains.

Flowers senior vice president of sales and marketing Anil Devan reveals that due to the lockdown, a lot of businesses are under stress as the entire supply chain has been disrupted and advertisers don’t see a reason to advertise if it doesn’t translate into sales. So, it has impacted the entire media industry and Flowers is no exception.

He shares that special packages had been rolled out in order to lure advertisers.  "Now with our original content coming back, we are gradually getting there. Also, what matters to advertisers are the BARC numbers," he explains.  

Adding to this, Hegde says optimistically, "Changes in plans are already indicating that GECs will be back in demand as originals start coming back and week 22 (BARC) already shows the viewership starting to shift back to GECs. Originals will only make this more consistent. Channels estimate that they would be back to at least 60-65 per cent levels of pre-Covid2019 ad revenue by June end itself."

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