What Does the Future of Indian Television Look Like Post COVID-19?
TV producers itching to go back on sets for shoot cite huge losses to the industry as everything’s on a standstill.
When a nationwide lockdown was announced on 24 March to curb the spread of coronavirus and all film and TV shoots were suspended, most people in the TV industry didn’t expect the lockdown to extend for two months. With no steady source of income in the past months and consistent costs to bear, television producers are in and out of multiple zoom calls and meetings trying to figure the way forward. And they all have one thing in common to say - “We have to start at some point, this can’t go on.”
With Mumbai being the entertainment hub, and with the COVID-19 cases recording a new high every day, the question is - how do you get back on set? Top producers from the industry joined in on a webinar with Anil Wanvari of IndianTelevison.com to shed light on TV production in the future.
A New Set-Up With Lesser People, Can TV Sets Change?
Though it’s difficult to work out a concrete figure, television producers are suffering losses worth crores with each passing week during this lockdown. In a normal situation, a set has the camera team, light team, spot boys, makeup team, actors, the crew that services the sets, the on-call writing team and set designers for minor changes.
Now, with social distancing becoming the norm, producers are proposing SOPs that can reduce the number of people on set. Rahul Kumar Tewary, producer and MD of Swastik Productions who made the 2013 version of Mahabharat, says that they are looking at creating sets where they can have the whole crew in one place. “Going forward we have to create spaces that are self-sufficient and we have the whole team working from there. That’s one possible SOP that we are suggesting,” says Tewary.
Tewary also shared how one of his colleagues succumbed to COVID-19 and that it was a huge loss. But he feels that the businesses have to go on and we cannot be in lockdown any longer.
Asit Modi, the producer of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma says, “TV production is like a 24-hour medical shop where the production is hands-on and we will have to assess the situation. It’s early to say what the sets will look like though we are proposing all possible measures.”
Aradhana Bhola, Managing Director of Fremantle India Television Productions that produces shows like Indian Idol, said that the finale of the 18th edition of American Idol was a huge success despite being shot on 120 iPhones from 20 different locations.
She says, “The lives of the people are important but we have to revive business and try different ways to find solutions. I think this is the time to reset and the time to find ways to do it creatively.” She says that for non-scripted shows like Indian Idol etc, production houses will have to come up with a hybrid studio setup for producing content remotely.
Can Animation and VFX be the Future?
In the film space, we have heard the news of VFX being used to save projects. TV makers also believe that VFX could be of use for scenes where crowds need to be shown, but that comes with increased cost on the production end and is also a time-consuming process. Abhishek Rege, CEO of Endemol Shine India that produces Bigg Boss, says, “When working with VFX we have to find a new way of remote working. We can’t have 100 odd people working from under one roof like it’s the case with VFX studios. We will be risking a huge deal if a case comes up, we will have to shut down the whole studio. We will have to adopt remote working.” Rege also emphasised that the demand for animation will increase.
In the advertising world, companies have started turning to animation for ad films and with each passing day, we’re seeing more brands open to the idea of animation. Abhishek Rege says that animation is a great opportunity to be explored.
Will Producers Look at Owning the Intellectual Property?
With the whole COVID-19 situation at hand, some producers in the industry also fear being kicked out of shows. This has put a big question mark on broadcasters owning the intellectual property rights for most TV shows.
As we know that a large part of Indian TV viewing is in the form of reality TV shows like Bigg Boss, Indian Idol, Dance India Dance etc. While some producers are of the view that owning IP costs a huge sum of money the others say that it could be the way to go in the future.
Will the Viewing Pattern of Audiences Change?
Will the shows you have been watching re-start? Will content makers begin with episode one? Will they have to abandon the shows in production completely? The makers don’t quite know how they will revive content in TV space either. Abhishek Rege says that nobody has a clarity on how to restart. “People have been watching content online in the past few weeks where they have a certain number of episodes when they begin and they like to binge-watch. It is possible that the viewing patterns have changed and we will have to take that into account,” says Rege.
Asit Modi told The Quint that the bigger challenge for makers will be on the creativity front. “In the post-COVID world, it’s a question mark on what kind of stories will work with the audiences. On the creativity front, we are facing a huge crisis. Added to that -when the mind is not in a positive frame, how can you write a fun show? Will fun shows work? These are things that need to be figured as we move ahead,” said the maker of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chahshma.
The Producers Guild Of India has requested the Chief Minister’s Office (Maharashtra) to consider requests from the film & television industry to resume work safely. They have also shared a detailed action plan to maintain hygiene and take all precautions when shoots resume. The industry is hopeful that they will hear some good news in the coming week.
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