labels: entertainment, zee group
Big screen turns to the small screen news
28 November 2002

Valsad: When Zee Telefilms last month telecast "Legend of Bhagat Singh", which had been released in cinema halls across the country barely two months earlier, other entertainment channels decided to wait for the TRP ratings for October. When these were released, there was good news for Zee. After a long time, the channel had a programme that figured among the top 20 programmes watched across the country.

Entertainment channels have figured that telecasting new films makes extremely good economic sense. Now Star India, Sony TV and Sahara TV have joined Zee Network to bid for new films.

Zee itself has lined up 16 films for its first season of movie premieres to be shown every Thursday. Analysts say that Zee acquired the 16 films at a total cost of Rs 30-33 crore, which will bring in estimated revenues of about Rs 70 lakh.

Zee Telefilms, Star India, Sony TV and Sahara TV are said to be selling 30-second spots for a popular new film at the rate of Rs 4 lakh. With 8 or 9 sponsors per film, these channels can earn about Rs 2.4 crore in advertising. So, even if these channels pay Rs 2 crore for a popular film, they can make money on the first screening itself.

Hit films with top stars are being offered in the Rs 2-6 crore range, while other films are in the Rs 40 lakh to Rs 1 crore range.

Moreover, television channels buy films for multiple screening, which ensures their profits even for the more expensive films.

The story on the side of distributors and producers is getting murkier by the day. When Zee announced its plans of acquiring new movies from producers, it triggered protests from distributors, who complained of being short-changed by producers desperate to recoup money from mega-movies that failed to make it at the box office. Targeting producers like Yash Chopra, they said he had violated a 1994 agreement barring the sale of telecast rights for five years after a film's release.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that almost every film released in the recent past has bombed. Whether it is Shakti - The Power, Gunaah, Road, The Legend of Bhagat Singh or Mujhse Dosti Karoge, the Hindi film industry has hardly seen any hits in the past one year. Trade analysts say the film industry has lost over Rs 650 crore (Rs 6.5 billion) in the last ten months alone.

Apurva Purohit, president, Zee Telefilms says producers are now looking at various avenues to maximise their revenues, whether through music rights, tapping international audiences or selling their cable and satellite rights.

Distributors and exhibitors are trying to fight back against this trend though much success. They have come up against the wrath of film producers. Recently, after film distributors decided to boycott producers who prematurely sold their films to satellite channels, four producer associations at a meeting decided to suspend the supply of movies to those territories that have obstructed or blocked the exhibition of any of the producer's films.

At a meeting attended by Smita Thackeray, president of Indian Motion Picture Producer Association, Yash Chopra, vice-president of the Film Producers' Guild, and Pahlaj Nihlani, president of the Association of Motion Pictures & TV Programmes, it was decided that the five-year bar on new movies, which prevents them from being sold to satellite or cable channels would be removed. It was also decided to waive the requirement of registering new releases with the respective distribution territory associations (there are six territories), and producers have been asked not to execute any declarations or affidavits of registration. Also, producers have also been asked not to pay any fines or penalties to distributor associations.

G S Mayawala, president of the Motion Pictures Association, speaking on behalf of distributors, said that concerted action by exhibitors and distributors would continue if they violated the ban on premature sale of movie rights to television channels. He said this action of film producers is because till last year they did not have to bear the losses of flop films. Distributors and cinema owners bore the major losses on account of minimum guarantee arrangements. Last year many producers have turned distributors and they have begun to suffer, he says.

He says that the sale of newly released films to television channels would, in the long run, ruin the movie theatres

There are some distributors who feel that only a certain group of distributors will be affected. Manmohan Shetty, chairman, AdLabs, feels the move will not affect theatres in A class cities, although it could hurt B and C class cities. This is because in A class cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, the major recovery of the films happens within the first three months.

This may not be the end of the story. Sources say that leading entertainment channels are busy negotiating with producers to telecast films simultaneously with their release, or a week after their release.

The major benefactors of all this are the television couch potatoes, who are now realising the power of their remotes.

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Big screen turns to the small screen