When one talks about the English entertainment genre on TV in India, there are a few players; Star World, FX, AXN, Zee Café, Comedy Central, Romedy Now, NDTV Good Times, etc. When one scans these channels, almost 90 per cent of the content is imported. Be it fiction, sitcoms or even reality shows most of the content is predominantly from the USA, UK market.
Channels in this genre compete with each other for playing shows close to the US premieres. Star World recently launched Star World Premiere HD which claims of screening shows ‘with America’. The subscription fee of the channel is Rs 60/month. An obvious question that comes to light is why is most of the content imported and not made in India?
Is it consumer demand or is it reluctance on the part of channels to invest and make English content in India. Experts we spoke to and market conditions reveal that it is the latter.
Market experts reveal that most of the English entertainment channels in India do not have the patience to wait for RoI on their investments. Most channels we spoke to on this topic came up with an almost similar explanation. Arpit Mankar, Programming Head, AXN said, “The production value, effort and work required for such shows is extremely high. We need to put that many things at work. Market needs to evolve too. We have done some shows which are made in India, but presently the conditions need to evolve a bit more for us to reach to that level. The audience of this genre is global. We need to also match that quality.”
Shubadarshi Tripathy, Business Head, ZeeQ said, “We are very good story tellers, but when it comes to patience in recovering money on huge investments in mass media, we are not good. Essentially, the stakes are high and unless we don’t gather that much potential where returns are ensured, there will be reluctance from channels. Imported content gives quick returns.”
Arati Singh, Business Head, NDTV Good Times said, “It is cheaper to buy content rather than create it. Making content in India for the English genre could be a gamble. With the kind of budgets we have, it is not easy to maintain the quality of programmes as the expectation of audiences is very high.”
Analysts believe that almost all Indian English entertainment channels are American prototype. There is no originality. In an era where people download content globally and the rate of download is very aggressive, what is the uniqueness of such channels? Like in sports genre, channels in the English entertainment genre completely depend on who acquires which content. The channel which gets rights to highly acclaimed property globally is at a better position than another.
“One cannot blame the channels completely. Indians usually have more confidence in products made outside India. TV is no different, as most channels in this genre capitalise on the global success factors of a show or how the show has fared in its domestic market. They don’t want to make an effort, as honestly, they feel they won’t be able to match up the quality. This is not about the quality of the visual but the quality of the content. Channels do not want to make an effort, as acquisition gives quick buck,” said a CEO of a media planning agency in Delhi.
Experts have regularly been vocal about the fact that scope of innovation in English entertainment is confined to positioning and marketing. One cannot experiment with content unlike the Hindi genre. This is one prime reason why the scope of advertiser investment is even less. If the content is made in India, it would also attract viewership and involvement from non-regular English viewer as well.
In the era of massive piracy where a show can be downloaded the very next day it is premiered anywhere in the world, domestic English entertainment channels need to think what they wish to showcase.
Lack of appointment viewing
Some section of analysts also feels that most of the series, sitcoms and reality shows on English screens in India have already been seen by the audiences. “When one talks about audience with global taste, they should also realise the fact that such audiences don’t wait for a show to be shown on any channel. They source it through internet, friend peers, etc. People enjoy shows on channels too but that is not appointment viewing. One cannot ask a person to sit and watch a show only at a particular time. He would download it and watch at his convenience. Watching an English show again on TV becomes a sort of ‘time-pass’. A Hindi GEC audience might go for an appointment viewing of English shows, but that rate is small. This time-pass or fun viewing is the reason that the share of advertisement on English entertainment genre is less too,” said Amit Patil, Media Analyst, Angel Broking.
‘Made in India’ content is not a solution, but it could definitely help gain more traction, cite experts as the target audience of this genre is evolved and would appreciate intelligent programming.