Home / News / India /  COVID-19 impact: TV industry braces for loss as production stalled

NEW DELHI: Viewers of Hindi entertainment channel Star Bharat were taken aback on Friday when some of their favourite shows were halted with a promise that they would be back soon.

With the spread of Covid-19 and various government advisories to avoid crowds, several film and television industry bodies have called for cancellation of shooting and production activities, leading to a crunch in episodes for daily shows. This includes shoots for films, TV programmes and shows for digital formats.

"Some fiction makers do have some bank of episodes to last for the next week or so but after that, the re-runs will start," said Abhishek Rege, chief executive officer at production firm EndemolShine India, adding that the losses for the broadcast industry will be huge even if people watch re-runs.

The postponement of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will mean further loss of advertiser interest. The last time viewers saw re-runs of episodes was in 2008 when TV workers and producers had sparred over higher wages and better work conditions.

The bigger hit, however, will be taken by the non-fiction genre on TV that will not run beyond the weekend of 20 March. Apart from Fear Factor that Endemol shot last August and had kept ready, the company has shut down all its reality shows like Bigg Boss Malayalam on Asianet and Mujhse Shaadi Karoge on Colors TV. While 18 March was the last stipulated day of shoot, 20 March will be the last day for post-production after which broadcasters will also shut offices, Rege said.

“Everyone is panicking but the situation is beyond our control. We have made all reasonable efforts to put together a bank of episodes but we can’t ask the cast and crew to work 24 hours," said Sumeet Mittal of Shashi Sumeet Productions that runs shows like Shubharambh and Barrister Babu, both on Colors TV.

Mittal said losses for individual producers are minimal compared to the global health crisis staring at us at the moment. However, each company is likely to lose anything between 10 lakh and 15 lakh on a show depending on fixed set rent, electricity, maintenance and employee salaries.

The biggest impact will be on advertising revenue for the TV industry that is likely to see a 70-80% pullback given that broadcasters will have no new content to show beyond the end of March and will subsist on re-runs.

Prathyusha Agarwal, chief consumer officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd said the company is witnessing early signs of a consumption uptick with the average time spent on TV increasing sharply with more and more audiences staying back at home and tuning in.

"We are geared up to provide the entire family with the most engaging entertainment from across our strong movie library and television content portfolio," Agarwal said. ZEE, however, did not elaborate on the content strategy that will play out over the next few weeks given that no shooting is taking place.

Broadcasters like Sony and Colors did not respond to Mint’s queries.

“What is scarier is that there is no timeline for when this is likely to end. So we don’t even know what we’re looking at," Rege said.

Anita Nayyar, CEO of Havas Media, India and Southeast Asia, said advertising is always seen as an expenditure, not investment and advertisers will definitely get cautious about TV now.

“Advertising is always the first thing that gets impacted. Even though it’s a great time to grab eyeballs given that people will be home watching TV, advertiser purse strings will get tightened," Nayyar said.

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