Alokananda Chakraborty

On-air film and music promos: A case of sour grapes?

If combined efforts of the film and music industry bears fruit, television channels could well be on their way to losing a sizeable portion of their revenues

"Channels are living off us and killing us," says a rather harried film producer when questioned about the business of film promotions on television.

The issue revolves around the recent step taken by the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) along with three other producer bodies, The Guild, Western India and Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) to safeguard the interest of producers who allot a certain budget for the promotion of their films on TV and consequentially feel massacred by the repeat telecast of film and music clips (read promos) on television. "It is affecting our business interests because they (channels) extract the software from us and in turn charge us for it," he claims.

Explains Pahlaj Nihalani, president of the AMPTP and renowned Bollywood producer, "There is no regulation guiding the entire process. They (channels) generate revenue out of the whole exercise and we have to deal with the after-effects of over exposure. I think it is high time that the channels started paying up for the software they use." Nihalani claims that the industry bodies are in talks and a combined decision, also involving a parallel organisation called the Indian Music Industry (IMI), will be arrived at shortly.

On its part, the IMI is also pursuing the matter with its various channel partners. Its involvement comes as no surprise, since the body comprising music companies such as Crescendo, Universal and Tips among others would singularly stand to benefit through a positive verdict. Incidentally, these companies heavily promote their albums on the tube. As Suresh Thomas, managing director, Crescendo Music and member on the Managing Committee of the IMI puts it, "On an average, we spend Rs 10 lakh on making a video and an additional Rs 10 lakh on TV advertising."

In the case of films, the promotional budget could be anywhere between Rs 70-80 lakh for big budget movies with the smaller ones incurring an expense of Rs 10-20 lakh to put their package on TV. Movies such as Lagaan and Devdas would average a promotional expense of Rs 1.5 crore. Thus, given the high stakes, the film and music fraternity obviously expects a sizeable ROI (return on investment), which, they claim, is undercut due to overexposure and high advertising rates.

"Till only a few years ago, we used to gross Rs 15-16 lakh on an average from the sale of cassettes of a single film. Our sales are now down to Rs 2-3 lakh," claims Aarti Poddar, general manager - Marketing, Tips Music.

Apart from movies such as Raaz (the only movie declared a hit so far this year; Devdas was released on July 12, hence outcome is awaited), which grossed Rs 50 lakh in music sales, most other music tracks suffered badly. "The problem is that entertainment comes cheap today," states Poddar. "Considering that we give at least two to three hours of content per week to the channels, we really get nothing in return from them. To top it all, our cassette sales have been hit quite badly due to overexposure," she adds.

Moreover, almost all channels not only "aggregate" content from producers and music companies but also invite advertisers to advertise during certain promo-based shows thereby amassing quite a fortune for themselves. "Well, Indian channels are definitely at the greatest advantage at this point and let me tell you this is a bad precedent because world over, just the opposite happens. I think we first need to discipline ourselves mainly because producers play one company against the other resulting in escalation of budgets. We have to regulate ourselves to check this practise and eventually, of course, demand that channels pay up," reiterated Thomas.

Analysts, however, seem skeptical about the entire exercise terming it as a "non-issue". "The IMI actually negotiates rates with various channels on behalf of its members and mind you these rates are absolutely dirt cheap," points out a senior media analyst based in Mumbai. "In my opinion, this is nothing but a negotiation tactic by these companies to try and air their promos for free. There is no question of rooting out the system because it is a great way of advertising," he adds.

Channels, on their part, seem to be having the last laugh. "Promos form a sizeable source of revenue for music and film channels, though not so much for the general interest channels," states Priya Raj, vice-president - publicity, promotions and public relations, Sahara TV. "How many promos are to be aired is decided by the producer. I think they need to take a long, hard look at their promotional strategy before anything else," he opines. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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