As originally published in Synergyzer Issue 2 – Annual 2017 – ‘Abracadabra’

Synergyzer takes opinions from entertainment channel heads about PEMRA’s restriction on Indian content, content production in the current scenario and cutting down on sensational content.

SEEMA TAHER KHAN

CEO
Airwaves Media (TVOne, NewsOne & Waseb)

PEMRA has restricted Indian content time to 6%. What are your opinions on this?

I’m very grateful to the PEMRA chief for that because while I don’t have any bias against Indian content, I have never really been in favor of telecasting. In the beginning, people found soaps interesting and exciting. Later on, they started impacting our society and culture, and we began creating similar stuff. That was damaging for everyone, in terms of the foreign exchange paid out, the effect on social norms and practices, cultural relevance, and the influence on our less exposed classes.

The only benefit we had, as a channel, was that buying an Indian soap cost less than one produced in Pakistan. So, perhaps, the channels that had just started out and were struggling, or wanted to establish themselves; benefited more from the affordable Indian content.

How much of the content aired on your channel is produced by the channel? How is it impacting your return on investment (ROI)?

We never went beyond the specified percentage so we were never really dependent on Indian content. When the deadline was given to replace it with our own, we carried some reruns and produced new shows so it never became an issue for us.A channel needs so much content that even if we want to, we can’t produce everything ourselves. We need to engage independent producers and external production houses to fill the requirement even though it does impact our profit. 20 to 30% of our content is created in-house; with live shows raising the percentage. At the moment, we have many local production houses that are commissioned to generate content for us.

A number of TV producers, such as Humayun Saeed and Yasir Nawaz, are allotting their time to film production. How does that impact TV drama production?

The impact has not really been felt so much now, but it definitely will in the future. Humayun Saeed’s production team, for instance, is creating software for television independently while they work on films. The scenario currently is that writers are being engaged for films, and actors are refusing to do television as they opt for cinema. But cinema has not yet come of age. A lot more work is still needed.

A sizeable part of our population consists of urban youth aged 18-35 who are avid consumers of foreign content. They may not be entirely aligned with the mass-oriented content that usually projects certain stereotypes. Do you plan to cater to this particular niche especially as the numbers are expected to grow in the future?

You’re talking about SEC’s A and B. The standards they expect of local shows would be the same as the standards of the foreign shows they watch. It is not yet possible to match the production values, artistry, research, strong storylines, and fabulous locations of a show such as, say, Game of Thrones. It’s hard to match even the Turkish shows whose stories resonate with Pakistani audiences. But look at their production values — we cannot match those. To create content for this 25% of urban youth is virtually impossible right now, no matter what anyone says. It is too costly, and the return will not be there because the viewership is not large enough.

Viewers in this segment have YouTube and streaming. They are multi-screen users. They don’t abide by time — primetime, pre-primetime, post-primetime – doesn’t matter to them; if they have time at 3 in the morning to watch something, they will watch it.

 

TAJAMMUL SHAIFTAH

Chief Marketing Officer
ATV & A-Plus

PEMRA has restricted Indian content time to 6%. How are you dealing with this situation?

I appreciate PEMRA for restricting Indian Content. The restriction will and has begun to empower our own electronic media industry, which had started relying on cheaper and below par alternatives from across the border.

Producing content in Pakistan opens up avenues for our own talent. Writers, actors, directors and producers as well as production houses, talent management companies and the media industry in general benefits from this, which has already started happening. To deal with the restrictions, we have strengthened our in-house production team. It was also expected that financial cycles will be disturbed, so we addressed that immediately by adapting a business model that will minimize any impact and it has worked well for us so far.

How much of the content aired on your channel is being produced by the channel? How is it impacting your return on investment (ROI)?

We try to rely on our own production, as we have a capable team that includes renowned names. However, in order to deliver a balanced program lineup, we do acquire content from the local market, keeping audience requirements in mind.

While producing in-house content does have a downward impact on our ROI, we are willing to carry it on for the greater cause of benefiting our industry. Having said that our business teams and business partners have responded well, and we have been able to minimize the impact. This might not be the case with all channels, but in my opinion our industry has thus far adjusted well to the anomaly.

A number of TV producers such as Humayun Saeed and Yasir Nawaz are allotting their time to film production. How does that impact TV drama production?

I don’t think that the cinema industry is succeeding at the cost of TV production. While Humayun Saeed and Yasir Nawaz are missed, it is not like that the TV industry will not be able to grow without them. I am certain other producers will step up and take control, setting even higher standards in productions.

A sizeable part of our population consists of urban youth aged 18-35 who are avid consumers of foreign content. They may not be entirely aligned with the mass-oriented content that usually projects certain stereotypes. Do you plan to cater to this particular niche especially as the numbers are expected to grow in the future?

This particular audience is a rather small chunk of the population and has irregular tendencies. Although planning for this set is rather complicated, we have taken a few basic measures. Firstly, we have made content available that appeals to this segment. Secondly, we have provided it to them outside of a fixed timeslot, i.e. made it available online so that they can view it as and whenever they want to. Thirdly, to interact with this audience, we have stepped up our efforts on digital media. There is no doubt that the numbers for this urbanized youth are bound to grow, and we have planned our transition so that we are able to carry it out seamlessly.

SYED ABBAS ALI SHAH

Director Sales & Marketing
APNA GROUP (Abbtakk News, Apna TV, 8XM, Jalwa)

PEMRA has restricted Indian content time to 6%. How are you dealing with this situation?

We have been promoting Pakistani content that has high production value since long. While Bollywood content has more following and better production value, and there is a massive gap due to PEMRA’s restriction on Indian content, our channels 8XM and Jalwa, have exclusive music partnership rights to Pakistani film releases from 2016 and 2017. Due to this, our library of music content includes songs from the movies Maalik from which we started our partnerships, then Ishq Positive, Teri Meri Love Story, Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai, Thora Jee Le, Actor in Law, Life Story, Jeevan Hathi, Balu Mahi, Raasta and other upcoming movies of 2017.

How much of the content aired on your channel is being produced by the channel? How is it impacting your return on investment (ROI)?

We invested heavily in purchasing Indian blockbuster soaps, award shows and different other programs for two straight decades especially for our music channels, 8XM and Jalwa, as well as for Apna, our Punjabi language channel. Yet once the PEMRA directive was issued, we replaced the content with high-quality Pakistani content for our mass viewership.

A number of TV producers like Humayun Saeed and Yasir Nawaz are allotting their time to film production. How does that impact TV drama production?

Due to this new trend of seasoned directors venturing towards filmmaking, TV dramas and shows have gone down in quality since lesser experienced directors, producers and writers are now at the helm, and unfortunately they are all working on similar storylines like divorces, extra-marital affairs etc.

Meanwhile, I would also like to point out that now; very few films which are technically and aesthetically sound are being produced as the treatment they are receiving is very TV drama-oriented.

A sizeable part of our population consists of urban youth aged 18-35 who are avid consumers of foreign content. They may not be entirely aligned with the mass-oriented content that usually projects certain stereotypes. Do you plan to cater to this particular niche especially as the numbers are expected to grow in the future?

As far as foreign content in the English language is concerned, only 5% of our total population demands it. The rest are more into Bollywood content, hence our focus lies on providing them just that through 8XM and Jalwa. Also, we have ventured towards digital with the launch of the website, BestSongs.pk, which has a library of around 5,000 100% legal music albums.