The last two-three years saw the launch of several new general entertainment channels (GECs) resulting in an increase in the content volume in the genre. While the number of shows may have gone up, TV producers say their revenues have not increased as much because the ad revenue is not growing satisfactorily.
“It's important to note that for a TV channel, maximum revenue comes from advertising. Revenue for producers is not growing, but the volume of work is," says Ranjeet Thakur, Co-founder of Frames Production.
"If ad revenue is not growing, what is the point of increasing production costs. The investment on TV shows is currently declining or remaining stable. At the current rate, it is comfortable enough to work because if it goes higher, the viability will suffer,” Thakur explains.
Balaji Telefilms, one of the biggest TV production houses, saw a decline in revenue per hour. The production house posted a revenue as high as Rs 38 lakh in 2018-2019, but it came down to Rs 26 lakh in 2021-22. The company produces 863+hours of TV content.
Sandiip Sikcand, writer & producer who gave shows like Dhai Kilo Prem, Kahaan Hum Kahaan Tum, Mehendi Hai Rachne Wali, believes that investment on television shows is growing only for certain shows and channels. “The effort should be more towards creating creative content. Investments are growing, but only for certain shows and certain channels that have a strong hold in the market.”
Talking about the new channels that have come up, Sikcand, shared, "Viewership runs the channel. Many channels have come up, but I doubt anyone is watching them. There is no assurance that these new channels will survive because it is challenging for even an old channel to sustain in the present times.”
Adding to the problems of the medium is the shift of viewers to OTT platforms. While the audience was exposed to a wide variety of content across digital platforms during Covid, experts believe the shift from TV to digital channels only accelerated after the pandemic. People now are not only watching various types of content on OTT, but they are also watching TV content on OTT, which has resulted in a decrease in viewership across Hindi general entertainment channels.
Said Sikcand, “Viewers have seen a lot of international shows as well as shows from the south. They understand what constitutes good or differentiated content. To be honest, TV channels are attempting to provide audiences with unique content, but I still believe TV lags far behind the rest of the medium. To provide such content to the audience, we must work even harder.”
“Having said that, I don't think the audience is unhappy with TV content either. While the decline in viewership is concerning, there are shows with ratings of 2 TRP and 3 TRP, so people are content,” he opined.
Sikcand also shared that producers may be afraid to experiment with the content. "I believe we are content somewhere. I don't believe anyone is attempting to push the envelope, which we should be doing."
Beyond Dreams Entertainment founder Yash A Patnaik, believes that the pressure to create good content will exist regardless of the medium. Though he agrees that there has been a shift from TV to digital, Patnaik claims that TV content is different from OTT content because it is intended for family viewing, whereas OTT content is more personalised. "OTT content is more experimental in nature, whereas for TV content, experimentation occurs on the outskirts of popular lensing."
He also opines that the size of the audience on television cannot be matched with OTT. “It's much larger than the OTT audience.”
In terms of investment in content, Patnaik stated, "Every year, new channels are launched, so the content volume in television is increasing. But I am not sure about the investments because there hasn't been much appreciation in the cost of television content in the last eight to 10 years."
He went on to say that 10 years ago, the average cost of one episode of show was around Rs 8-9 lakh, and that this is still the case today. In fact, it is sometimes less than that. "In terms of per episode cost, I don't see much growth in terms of revenue for producers," he added.
In terms of TV content, Thakur stated that the audience has become far more selective in terms of what kind of daily soaps or weekend shows they want to watch. They've been completely devoted to it.
"Sometimes, as content creators, we are unable to create the type of content they want to watch because it takes time. There have been some hit-or-miss cases, but that has always been the case with creative people. Overall, I believe that TV content has a bright future because it is evolving and improving. It may not be in the OTT zone yet, but it's evolving.”