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Content war: Pak ban may hurt Indian advertising and broadcast industry

About 8-10 per cent of content on Pakistani channels is Indian, while 60-70 per cent of MNC ads for Pak market are made in India

Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | October 24, 2016

Pakistan-bans-Indian-TV-content

The Indian television broadcast industry is expected to bear a loss of as much as Rs 100 crore if the syndication of Indian content to Pakistan stops immediately. The possibility of cancellation of the syndication deals arose after the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) announced a ban on Indian content in that country.

Even the advertising industry is expected to take a minor hit because of the same ‘ban’.

While the world talks about a free, peaceful society, ‘bans’ still exist and are targeting the happiest of all communications -- be it art, business or entertainment.

As quoted by The Times of India in one of its reports, PEMRA said in a statement, "The ban will come into effect at 3pm on October 21, and radio and television stations which violate the ban will have their licences suspended without a prior show cause notice.”

One may feel it is a harsh step by the neighbouring country, but the ban is also seen as retaliation after Bollywood came together to boycott Pakistani actors working in the Hindi film industry and Pakistani content was pulled off air from all Indian channels.

Not just that, just three days before its inauguration, a 57-year-old Pakistani film, Jago Hua Savera, was pulled out of the line-up of the 18th Jio (Mumbai Academy of Moving Images) MAMI film festival.

Earlier this month, PEMRA had issued another notice that said Pakistani TV channels should air Indian content for less than six per cent of the total airtime.

Some of the currently running most popular Indian TV shows in Pakistan include names like Colors’ Bigg Boss Season 10, Sasural Simar Ka, Thapki Pyaar Ki and Naagin 2, Star Plus’ Silsila Pyaar Ka, Ek Hazaroun Main Meri Behna Hai, Saath Nibhana Saathiya and Yeh Hai Mohabbatein, Zee TV’s Qubool Hai, &TV’s Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain and Life OK’s May I Come In Madam and Mazak Mazak Mein.

Around 2007, when Indian content was made available to the Pakistani audience without any restrictions, a few shows became the hot favourites among viewers in the neighbouring country. These shows include names like Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Thodi Khushi Thode Gham and Ik Ladki Anjani See, among others. The channels that telecast Indian content in Pakistan include names like Urdu1, ARY Zindagi, Geo TV, Hum TV and Express Entertainment.

Even the on-ground events such as Mirchi Music Awards and Life OK Screen Awards attract significant viewership in the Pakistani market.

Rohit Gupta Rohit Gupta

“About 8-10 per cent of content on Pakistani general entertainment channels (GECs) is Indian. This means that a lot of syndication happens to Pakistan and yes, it is a significant number,” said Rohit Gupta, President, Network Sales, Sony Pictures Networks India.

Major content syndication happens from the Hindi GECs and all four major broadcasters -- ZEEL (Zee TV and &TV), Star India (Star Plus and Life OK), Sony (Sony and SAB) and Viacom 18 (Colors) -- put together and the industry will have to bear a loss of Rs 100 crore due to the ban, experts said.

Anuj Gandhi Anuj Gandhi

Anuj Gandhi, ?Group CEO, Indiacast Media Distribution Pvt Ltd said, “We will have to bear a loss of about 15-20 per cent of the network’s syndication revenue. There is a lot of demand for Indian content in Pakistan and the channels are speaking to PEMRA to find a way out.”

For Colors, a lot of its new and old content is syndicated to various channels in the neighbouring country. Gandhi explains, “The channels that can’t pay as much for the current shows buy older content. The affinity for Indian content is very high. Bigg Boss has been telecast in the Pakistani market for quite some time now. The ongoing season 10 was to be syndicated but now the ban has come.”

Gupta suggested Sony will lose syndication revenues in the range of 20-25 per cent. He added, “Other Asian markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and a few others are also very important for us. The broadcast association in Pakistan has appealed against the ban and we will have to see what happens next.”

Market sources suggest that ZEEL and Star India will each lose as much as 25-30 per cent of syndication revenues after the ban. Star Plus shows are very popular in Pakistan and have a very high viewership.

Vivek Bhutyani, VP, Star TV, refused to specify any number but said, “The syndication to the Pakistani market is significant. About eight to nine channels buy our content, including the older and the new shows. As Star, we syndicate content to about 75 countries worldwide, including the Asia-Pacific, Indonesia, Middle-East, Pakistan, Vietnam and Malaysia. We just give content to the other broadcasters and they dub it on their own.”

A lot of advertising for the Pakistan market is done from India by Indian creative minds. The latest advertisement by Surf Excel on the occasion of Ramadan was conceptualised and produced in India.

KV Sridhar KV Sridhar

“About 60-70 per cent of the MNC advertising for Pakistan Market is done in India. That’s not an issue, the MNCs can also do it from Dubai or other Middle-Eastern countries. Instead of shooting here in India, the production can be done in Dubai or Sri Lanka or any other country. The global companies will find a way out. But the problem will be for Indian companies that don’t have a wider reach. The independent agencies will be hit the most,” explained KV Sridhar aka Pops, an industry veteran and former CCO, SapientNitro India.

Anil Nair Anil Nair

Nair also says advertisements can be produced in Dubai or even Pakistan. “We can always fly the Pak artists to Dubai, book a studio there and shoot my ad. The Indian producers will lose some money.”

He explained that India will continue to be the regional lead, and some of the clients will keep making their creative work in India for the South Asia region. "But it is not about revenue generation from neighboring markets but a synergy that many global brands seek to ensure that the brand is presented in a homogeneous manner .so if the work comes to Indian agency for Pakistan, it is an added responsibility , ultimately for many network agencies India is the South Asia lead if not South east Asia . If an embargo of work happens between India and Pakistan, which I highly doubt, the brands will not be affected. A lot of brands have already linked Pakistan to the Middle East countries (MENA region which is Middle East and North Africa)  and manage it accordingly . In my humble opinion it is not very good for Pakistan because culturally, they are very different from the MENA markets and is closer to South Asia markets.Pakistan is capable of developing creative campaigns for brands but it is for production that they tend to reach out to other markets. In a global commercial environment you can’t say that ideation can’t happen in a particular country. Advertisements can be produced in Dubai or even Pakistan.The Indian ad film producers will lose some money but it's insignificant."
 
Nair says that even for TV channels, while we have about 100 actively watched channels, the number comes down to less than 10 for Pakistan. “For the content - both - TV and films, Pakistani audience will lose out on choice and variety. Revenue wise I don’t think it would hurt Indian channels much."

The two countries have been enjoying literature, music, content and art from each other’s heartlands. Consider how Coke Studio Pakistan is loved in India and Coke Studio India is equally popular in Pakistan. People do watch it on YouTube and it is difficult to stop this. You can’t ban YouTube because it has Indian or Pakistani content.

Coming back to advertising, Pops said an issue that may arise is how comfortable will people be to shoot out of India for Pakistan since it is a sensitive issue, and if artists and directors be able to work on anything that will go to Pakistan.

“It can be managed and that should not be an issue, but then the costs will go up and Pakistan isn’t a very big market as is India for the MNCs too. It’s not just the advertising agencies, there are other talent like production houses, directors, DOP, colour corrections, actors, models, technicians, editors, musicians,” added Pops.

While all the discussion is happening around TV content from GECs, movies will also have a lot of lose. If one scrolls down the schedule of Pakistani channels on their websites, one can see how their primetime thrives on Bollywood movies.

All experts we spoke to suggested that the ban is not a permanent phenomenon. The industry is now watching when the ban will be lifted.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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