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With 96 being played on TV just 33 days after its release, all eyes are on satellite rights for Tamil films

Trisha’s tweet about her recent film 96 has created a stir in Kollywood. The actress tweeted — “it’s our fifth week and we still have an 80% occupancy in all theatres. We as a team feel it’s unfair to be premiering 96 this early. It’s our request to push it to a Pongal viewing pls @SunTV. Will be grateful.” Of course, as expected, the channel (the market leader among Tamil channels) went ahead with the telecast on prime time Deepavali day, despite the actor’s pleas. The channel is expected to garner record TRPs for this ‘super exclusive’ telecast.

The Vijay Sethupathi-Trisha-starrer 96 had released on October 4 and was declared a super hit all over the globe. The film had a slow start but word-of-mouth and critical acclaim made it a hit. The film was telecast 33 days after theatrical release, a new record for a hit film, which normally has a 60 to 100 days window between the theatrical and television premiere. It was purely a commercial decision by its producer — he is said to have been given two-and-a-half times the price he was offered before its release. The channel’s only demand was that the film should be aired on Deepavali. In short, 96 is a profitable film for the entire cinema chain, which includes producers, distributors, theatres, its satellite and OTP rights holders.

The satellite television market for Tamil films with commercially viable heroes is having a dream run.

A top producer said, “Today, Tamil satellite channels are cherry picking star-based films. There are 15 commercially-viable actors who have an appeal with channel viewers and only their films are selling. Every year, Tamil cinema produces around 200 films, but the channels want only the 30 to 35 films featuring these select artists. The rest have no buyers, unless they turn out to be theatrical hits.”

The leading channels in Tamil Nadu, including Sun TV, Vijay TV and Zee Tamil, are currently on an aggressive mode for hero-based film acquisition. After acquiring 96, Sun TV has now got Vishnu Vishal’s superhit Raatchasan. Vijay TV has snapped up Jayam Ravi’s Adanga Maru and Vijay Sethupathi’s Seethakaathi. Zee Tamil’s acquisition of Rajinikanth’s 2.0 and their Deepavali special interview with the superstar has them breathing down the neck of rivals in terms of popularity among the viewers. The big satellite channels are demanding all rights including OTT (they themselves are major players in the digital platforms). Recently, one of them acquired all rights of a hit film including overseas theatre distribution and cable rights. The three major players, who also have successful OTT platforms, are calling the shots and have virtual monopoly over big films. These big players are on a buying spree while other channels like Jaya TV and Kalaignar TV have virtually stopped buying new films.

A top advertising agency official said, “Our internal surveys on recent viewership pattern has shown that Tamil serials, which was till a few months back the number one for advertisers, is slipping while big hero movies on television with multiple telecast are finding advertisers including national clients. And with Tamil news channels getting a big pie of local advertisers, big hero films is still a safe bet for advertisers.”

Most television channel bosses agree that big hero films are a perpetual source of revenue and that they are always a good buy. Satellite rights negotiations for all top hero films sometime start even before the script is finalised. It is then no wonder that the 15 “saleable” actors in Kollywood find work, irrespective of how their films fare at the box-office.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 6:38:24 AM |

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