Many channel executives had virtual meetings with producers on Tuesday night and on Wednesday to get updates on the status of content generation and also with their top advertisers to inform them about the supply pipeline, ET has reliably learnt.
While the top four networks – Star & Disney India,
, Sony Pictures Networks India and Viacom18 – have one to three weeks of fresh episodes of shows in their banks, the smaller networks or independent channels don’t have more than three episodes ready, according to officials.
“One of the good things that the top broadcasters learned from last year’s lockdown was the importance of having fresh content available,” said a top TV executive. “Gone are the days when we used to get the tapes of the shows on the day of the telecast. Now everyone insists on 10-15 episodes in advance.”
Most of the top channels currently air 8-10 shows during prime time (7-11 pm). Weekends are usually for films and reality shows, while repeats of prime time shows are run during the day.
“Many of us will have 10-15 fresh episodes of at least six-seven shows. So we will manage for another two-three weeks. Problem will be if Covid doesn’t get into control and the lockdown/ban extends. Then it will be a problem,” said another TV executive who did not wish to be identified.
However, even with a few episodes ready, one week of repeat telecasts will make advertisers withdraw ads or ask for heavy discounts, said an ad sales executive.
Meanwhile, some broadcasters are assessing various options, including taking shooting crews outside Maharashtra, which may not be viable for everyone.
Star & Disney India has a full setup in the south, whereas Zee has a studio facility in Jaipur. Some shows are already being shot in the National Capital Region.
“While shooting on location outside Maharashtra may look as the only option right now, it’s not a viable one for TV producers, where show budgets are still very low. Moreover, taking the entire cast and getting them tested will be very costly,” said a producer.
Meanwhile, the Indian Film and Television Producers Council and the Federation of Western India Cine Employees are preparing to make presentations to the chief minister, asking for permission to shoot.
“The situation is very bad right now and is beyond control, so we very respectfully are standing by the CM. But we are also preparing some long-term plans to present to him,” said JD Majethia, chairman – TV division, IFTPC. “We will write to CM that when people are stuck at home, entertainment can work like medicine. That’s why we are also essential service and call ourselves frontline workers.”
According to Majethia, most channels won’t have more than eight episodes of their shows.
However, a senior film producer said it makes no sense for the industry to seek resumption of shooting when there is a rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases,.
“Everyone needs to understand the situation. Next 15 days we have to wait and watch. Shoots are neither logical nor feasible at this time,” he said.