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Ekta Kapoor on owning IP rights, TV content and ALTBalaji

MUMBAI: Television content producers owning intellectual property (IP) rights to the shows they create is a difficult proposition, says Balaji Telefilms joint managing director and creative director Ekta Kapoor.

Private TV networks in India pay the production house for the show and keep the IP. The production house works on a cost plus margin basis.

“It is difficult for production houses to retain IP rights. It needs several producers to come together and take up the issue. Lots of producers are looking to make decent enough bottom-line revenue to survive rather than fighting to own IP,” Kapoor said.

“The television economics is such that if you own the IP, your own monetisation will become minimum as you have only one show to sell. Channels have several shows to see in bulk and monetise it way better. Now, if they should share that profit with the producer is definitely a debate we should start. But to own IP considering the volume of shows we do on television may not really be the best thing. So, as the debate of owning IP continues, we are in the process of having our own app where we own our IP,” she said.

ALTBalaji, the OTT arm of Balaji Telefilms, has plans to launch 5–6 new shows this month.

The platform, which is currently showcasing six shows, has firmed up plans to launch 32 new shows in various Indian languages such as Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati and Punjabi.

Kapoor reveals that she wants to work with some of her favourite actors. However, her plan is not to advocate a certain issue or progressive idea through her digital content. Digital shows, she says, cater to individual viewing, so the content of ALTBalaji will target each and every individual and their individual tastes.

“The device is in your control and you can make the choice whether you want to watch youth-centric content, political dramas or edgy content. But with TV it’s a different ball game, as it’s no longer just about your choice,” Kapoor says.

Over the years, the producer has often received criticism due to the content of her daily soaps such as marital rape, murder or on-screen kissing. Kapoor states that with digital content it is easier to push edgy content, which cannot be done easily on television.

“On television, you can’t create questionable content; you have to create content that is acceptable by everyone. It should be in the realm of family viewing. We do show progressive content, but the moment it becomes a lit bit radical where it questions age-old values, then it becomes problematic. Two thought processes have to go simultaneously. I may not want to watch radical thought with my parents, but I try to push that thought in the world,” she explains.

It took more than a year for Kapoor to get familiarised with the working of the digital world. Having been a TV content producer for more than two decades, creating content for digital was a whole new struggle. However, ALTBalaji has received positive feedback from audience. The platform reported three million downloads in the first five weeks.

Despite the positive response, investment has been a challenge. The recently launched web-series ‘Test Case’ hit a glitch due to lack of funds to produce new episodes. “Creating content is a pricey business. With ‘Test Case’, we ran into monetary troubles, but we will start producing a new episode in 10–12 days,” she adds.

In terms of budget, Kapoor says that her company is charging much less than what it used to. One of the reasons for this drop in budget is the channels’ ratings. Nowadays the ratings of channels are more or less similar, which is why the channels set the budget accordingly.

“It is a constant struggle to make your show work; sometimes it gets sacrificed and sometimes it survives because it adapts. With BARC penetration in more rural areas, the need for adaptation increases. Some of your shows may have an urban thought, but when BARC enters rural areas, that thought needs to evolve into a simplistic idea for more people to understand. If it fails to do so, the show needs to be sacrificed,” Kapoor states.