Production budgets increase by 20-25% as TV shoots move outside Maharashtra

From ensuring additional safety and hygiene measures to covering the cost of logistics, broadcasters bear the additional expenses despite ad revenue going down

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Jun 2, 2021 10:00 AM
Television industry

When the Maharashtra government decided to halt shoots for television, web series and film in the state, the decision pushed broadcasters and producers to move shooting to cities outside Maharashtra.  

Mumbai has been a hub for film production. Therefore, shifting the production base wasn't exactly a cakewalk for both parties. But it was the only choice they were left with, resulting in a surge in the production costs.  

According to several television producers and programming heads of the channels, the production budget has gone up by 20-25% (cost varies for different shows) in just the last 30-40 days. 

They have been bearing the cost of safety and hygiene measures since the onslaught of the pandemic last year, and now they have to cover the cost of logistics too. But broadcasters are willing to go the extra mile, spending more on shoots despite facing a decline in ad revenue. 

In a Q4 earnings call of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), Chief Financial Officer, Rohit Gupta told the investors that ZEEL is trying to minimise the impact of lockdown on their programming. "We are happy to spend more on content on account of change of shoot locations, maintaining bio-bubble, and taking other safety precautions."

Locations like Daman, Silvasa, Wapi, Jaipur, Delhi, Rajkot, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, etc, have become the home for many TV shows for the last few months.  

Asit Kumarr Modi, Founder and Managing Director of Neela Film Productions, said that the show must go on despite everything. Modi said, "We are trying our best to continue shooting. It's difficult to shoot outside because the entire infrastructure, team, crew, technician, and labor are in Mumbai. We are somehow managing the shoots with a limited force." 

The producer of a popular television show - Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma (TMKOC), is currently shooting at a resort near Vapi (a city in Gujarat). "Mumbai is a hub of media and entertainment industry, the kind of facility we get there, no other city will get us that except South film and TV industry. Also, maintaining SOPs, infrastructure, travel, and stay, which is not easy, will definitely increase the cost." 

Adding to Modi, Ranjeet Thakur, Co-founder of Frames Production, also shared that the last year when the shoots resumed, they had to cover the cost of sanitisation, bio- bubble, conducting RT-PCR/Antigen tests on the entire crew, and maintaining other SOPs." This time apart from all these additional costs, now we have to manage travel, outdoor shoot, food, and stay, adding to the production budget."

Thakur is hopeful that by mid-June or July, they should be back in Maharashtra for the shoots.  

Another TV producer whose reality show is on air on a leading Hindi GEC shared that the production budget has increased by 20% in the last 30-40 days. And it may increase further as lockdown has been extended for another 15 days.  

Last month, the coordination committee of the Media and Entertainment Industry issued a letter to Maharashtra CM highlighting the fact that shifting locations resulted in a substantial loss to them.  

"After the 'Break the Chain' announcement in April 2021, many shoots were re-located to Umbergaon, Silvasa, Daman, Varanasi, Lucknow, Delhi, and Hyderabad. We have the pleasure to inform you that the Covid cases are not yet reported from these locations under Bio-Bubble. The shifting of sites entailed substantial cost to us yet, we pursued the same with the sole intention of providing livelihood to more than 10,000 families in these difficult times," read the letter.   

The producers appealed to Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray that the M&E industry should be allowed to restart shooting in Maharashtra under Bio-Bubble.

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