Times are changing, so are the rules of business. For the longest time in the television broadcast business, other than Doordarshan, the intellectual property (IP) rights for a piece of fiction content has always rested with the broadcaster. The rules of the game are changing now, and Sony’s upcoming show Porus has become the first show where the rights for the property are with the production house.
The show is launching on November 27 at 8.30 pm.
Produced by Swastik Productions, the show is set in 350 BC when India was known to be one of the most developed and most prosperous nations in the world. With a vast canvas to show, most of the shoot of the show is outdoors, right from Thailand to Gujarat. None of the parts of the show are set or shot in Mumbai.
Termed as the most expensive show on television and rumoured to have cost close to Rs 400-500 crore, the production house has made this huge investment in order to keep the rights with themselves. By doing so, the production house can now generate money by licensing it to the anchor broadcaster, which is Sony, and through other deals, syndication of the show in other regional languages, foreign telecasts and digital telecasts.
To start with, Sony owns the licence to telecast the show for unlimited number of times on its own platform. When asked why Sony, Siddharth Kumar Tewary, Founder, Chief Creative, One Life Studios and Swastik Productions, said, “Sony is really getting aggressive and they are ready to take this risk and try the new model. They haven’t had fiction as their forte for a long time now, but their aggression and passion to grow in fiction is huge now.”
Planned to have 266 episodes and to run for a period of one year, the show is being distributed through One Life Studios, which is also owned by Tewary.
Speaking more about the show, he added, “Porus is our best foot forward. The most ambitious series I’ve ever made. A series of this magnitude has never appeared on TV before. It will answer a lot of questions from the 350 BC. How was the world when we were the most prosperous? How was the country then? We didn't believe in attacking and taking else’s property. We were content with what we have. We did not do business for money, but for cultural exchanges. About two years of research has gone into making of this show.”
Considering that this is the first time a production house is owning the IP, the risk is all for them to take. Also, Porus is the most expensive show on television of all times, by Tewary’s own admission. Why then did he take the risk of owning the IP with such a big show?
He answered, “No cuts, no glory. When I was dealing with the broadcaster Sony, there’s only a certain amount of money that can be invested in a property, but if I had to make something bigger, I had to do it on my own. I thought to myself, ‘Let’s try and push to boundary and give the viewers a premium product.’ It’s time that Indians should get premium content.”
For Mahabharata too, the production house got the syndication revenue from Star Plus, though it didn’t own the IP then. Even that was first-of-its-kind arrangement. Generally, the fiction show are made and telecast on TV channels through a commissioning model when the channel puts in all the money and owns the IP of all the shows.
Tewary explains the difference, “In old DD days, the content creators owned the content and hence, everyone keeps talking about the great content in those days since the creators were conscious about what content to put. This model has sharper accountability, as you are not a vendor anymore, but a partner. Great content has a longer shelf life and hence, revenue can be generated over a longer period of time. If the content is not as good, returns will be challenging.”
Tewary is expecting to break even with Porus in a span of two to three years.
This was also the first time when an Indian production house had a booth at MIPCOM, since this is the first time a production house had something to offer. Normally, it’s the broadcasters who showcase their library there. One Life Studios went to MIPCOM this year with 40 handpicked shows from Arre and TVF, which have a distribution deal with them and Porus.
Tewary said Porus got a good response at the content festival. “We have already sold the show to Thailand and are in talks with many other countries, especially South East Asia, Africa and Latin America who generally, buy a lot of Indian content. The US, UK markets are more for shorter formats. Indian regional markets are also in talks with us. We should be able to finalise soon.”
Mythological and historical dramas are a regular on the Hindi GEC genre be it Maharana Pratap, Chakravartin Ashok Samrat, Jhansi Ki Rani Laxmibai and many others.
Ashish Golwalkar, Senior Creative Director, Sony, said, “Basically, there are two types of period dramas, one is that you know of and you watch the story come alive like Maharana Pratap and second are subjects that you have half knowledge about, something like Sikandar Porus, which you have heard about, but you don’t know the story.”
Golwalkar believes that it is the characters that ultimately keep the audience glued to shows. “For the first episode sampling, the awareness of the story helps, but after that, it is completely dependent on the character and story and how engaging it is. Porus is a very engaging story, written by good writers, classic story structure. Also, nationalism is at an all-time high right now. Bharat was ‘sone ki chidiya’ is a much-heard phrase. But nobody knew how things were when India was truly prosperous. While the whole world was developing, we were completely developed with a robust education system, wealthy people and good civilisation,” added Golwalkar.
He is sure the audience will come aboard the channel to watch the show and the magnificence and vastness of the show will hold them.