New Delhi: Watch out private television broadcasters, in 2015 Doordarshan is entering the soap war.
DD, the host of shows such as Buniyaad, Hum Log and Nukkad in prereforms India, had long lost the ratings and advertising game for serialised TV dramas to private channels.
But under Modi Sarkar, it is firming up plans to commission and broadcast quality serials. And the process has begun in earnest with a recent meeting chaired by Arun Jaitley, who, apart from heading the finance ministry, also holds the information & broadcasting portfolio.
The meeting presided over by Jaitley also had I&B junior minister Raghavendra Rathore, senior Doordarshan officials and senior executives of TV production houses in attendance. Among production companies represented in the meeting were Balaji Telefilms and Hats Off productions, outfits that have produced some of the longest running soaps on private channels.
More such meetings are planned over the next few weeks. Officials at the broadcaster hope new shows and a new look for DD’s entertainment section will be in place early 2015. Officials familiar with DD’s new plans spoke on the condition they not be identified.
TV production executives are learnt to have assured Jaitley that they will soon send pilot shows to DD. And I&B ministry and DD are learnt to have assured executives that complicated bureaucratic procedures DD is typically associated with will no longer apply.
Crucially, the ministry and DD told production houses that the sarkari broadcaster will work on an “incentive model” that will reward shows that do well. DD has accepted that its revenue sharing model will need to be changed to make doing business with the public broadcaster more profitable for producers. DD will also be revising its guidelines and will seek producers’ inputs before issuing new rules.
“We want to revive producers’ trust in DD,” one I&B official said. The meeting also discussed issues such as budget constraints, decision-making time, production timelines (producers complain DD offers shorter contracts than private channels) and revenue generation.
TV show production houses were enthusiastic about DD’s new efforts. “Daily soaps are Indian TV’s main revenue earners. It is encouraging that DD is looking at shows but DD needs to be revived first,” said Sunjoy Waddhwa, CMD, Sphereorigins, which produced the hit show Balika Vadhu. Waddhwa said his team is ready to work with DD. “Udaan on DD was a memorable serial. We are in talks with our writers to come up with something that can reflect the aspirations of a new India.”
JD Majethia of Hats Off Productions said the mood of the meeting was optimistic and that all production houses were invited to make suggestions on improving DD. “At least top officials are interested in reviving DD’s old glory,” he said but also pointed out what DD needs to do: “Better telecast technology, simple systems and better offers than others.” Another issue flagged during discussions was the Delhi-Mumbai problem — DD’s headquarters and bosses are all in Delhi while the talent hub for TV productions is Mumbai. Private TV channels are Mumbai-headquartered. Uplinking shows for Delhi-based DD is therefore more expensive.
But I&B ministry and DD officials are optimistic all problems can be solved as DD is serious about becoming the king of TV soaps again.