Dead end for daily soaps as production houses run out of money to shoot

The production firms of Hindi GECs is estimated to have incurred a 20-30% rise in production cost

daily soaps production cost, daily serial production companies, covid-19 second wave, coronavirus impact on daily tv serial industry,
The cost of production for a TV serial currently ranges between Rs 8-15 lakh, sans talent cost.

As the country battled the second wave of Covid-19, TV or daily serial production companies relocated to other states such as Gujarat, Goa, Hyderabad (Telangana), Rajasthan, and Punjab among others. For instance, the production team of Ghum Hai Kisikey Pyaar Meiinn and Anupama, which are currently being aired on Star Plus, moved to Goa, among others, while Sony SAB’s Kaatelal & Sons opted for Valsad in Gujarat. “As long as locations are available, the opportunity to shoot is available. However, now there is a lot of uncertainty as a lot of alternate locations are under lockdown and many of the shows’ crews have had to come back due to either cancellation of shooting permits or contraction of covid,” Jehil Thakkar, partner, Deloitte India, told BrandWagon Online.

With the new locations, cost of talent fee as well as the bio-bubble, the cost of production for the TV serials have increased by 20-30%. Moreover, some of the production houses are being supported by broadcasters to help them manage the rising cost. “The rise in cost has been because of locations and travel. Most networks have been very supportive of this and whatever the rise has been, the broadcasters are analysing it case-to-case and helping the producers mitigate those costs with reimbursements,” Abhimanyu Singh, CEO, Contiloe Entertainment, said. Contiloe Entertainment produces Kaatelal & Sons and Vighnaharta Ganesha which airs on Sony SAB and Sony Entertainment Television, respectively.

The cost of production for a TV serial currently ranges between Rs 8-15 lakh, sans talent cost. Add to that the cost of talent. For instance, popular actors like Shaheer Sheikh charges between Rs 1.5-2 lakh per episode while BARC TRP list topping Anupuma’s lead actor Rupali Ganguly is reported to take home Rs 60,000-70,000 per episode. While the networks are helping producers mitigate cost as of now, this is a short-term solution. Whether networks can sustain to absorb production costs for a longer period is up in the air. “Depending on the broadcaster’s kitty and the popularity of the show, production houses will continue to receive financial aid. The production firms have fairly thin margins and will only be able to sustain this as long as broadcasters pony up,” Thakkar elaborated.

It is to be noted that the Maharashtra government has extended the lockdown till June 15, 2021.

Meanwhile, production houses that haven’t received any help from their broadcaster are trying to balance the rising cost by themselves. As per industry analysts, big production firms are incurring nearly a 50% hit on the profit margin. Smaller firms, on the other hand, are able to retain only 10-20% of their profits. Further, some production houses have cut down on talent fees to keep the cost under control. Industry experts believe that under these circumstances, production firms won’t be able to last for long and will have to wrap up shooting. “At some point the production houses will have to stop filming with the mounting cost. I don’t think the production houses will be able to sustain this if the lockdown goes on for the next two-three months,” Nivedita Basu, head of content, BiiggBang Amusement Pvt. Ltd., explained.

Jay Production, on the other hand, has opted to stop filming for the safety of its cast and crew and is currently airing the re-runs of its show Madam Sir. “We are benefited by the fact that our show is episodic in nature and does not have any linearity. Therefore, we can run any storyline, anytime,” Kinnari Mehta, content producer, Jay Production. While Mehta could not answer on sustainability of this format, she did however hint that this won’t be sustainable for long as it will inevitably affect the ad revenue.

Read Also: Audio Game On!, says streaming platforms yet revenue remains a challenge

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