If you wanted to follow the entire circuit of a temple car or get a virtual tour of the latest fair in town; if you were keen on calling up experts for advice, be it the entrance-exam type or the bad hair day sort, then local cable television channels were pretty good options – until recently.
The 12-14 hour power cuts in the city have dealt these channels a double whammy. First, revenue from advertisements has crashed with advertisers unwilling to pay big bucks for commercials that have fewer chances of being watched. Secondly, all attempts to launch new shows or reinvent existing ones have wilted. Between registering revenue losses (from ads) averaging around Rs. 2 lakh a month while spending more than half a lakh on generators for back-up, the channels are left with little to lure audiences in the limited hours of power supply.
Local cable channels have a distinctive city flavour and offer a platform for local talent that may be denied in satellite channels. “We promote talent in schools and colleges by showcasing projects that students come up with,” said a proprietor of a city-based channel.
“In a way, we encourage other students to come up with some feat by showing such efforts will not go unrecognised.”
Several hours of power cut mean such shows now reach a meagre audience with lower viewership during prime time. That most of the channels have regrouped or launched only six months ago after a fresh tender was announced meant the beginning was grim.
“This should have been our time to peak and launch reality and outdoor shows. But even promos on new programmes do not reach the intended audience due to power cuts. How will they tune in to watch them?” says the channel owner.
Any attempt to go beyond the typical song-clipping-comedy fare has proved futile says a partner in another local channel.
“We are seriously thinking of discontinuing a popular live call-in show where viewers can interact with educational experts on preparing for UPSC exams,” was a marketing executive’s comment. “Hardly any calls are coming in and even if we have to air the programme during an hour there is power in one area, the other areas do not have power.”
While some business houses have asked channels to suspend broadcasting their commercials until the power scenario improves, others are willing to pay only 50 per cent of the usual rates.
“The real crunch will hit us only two months later,” said a local channel owner. “For now we are surviving on backlog payments of commercials aired six months back.” Winding up the business after an initial investment of Rs. 40 lakh for studio and equipment made six months before is an option they hope they won’t be pushed to exercise.