Jaya TV stirs up rights market for Tamil films

11 Jul,2012

By Sangeetha Kandavel


Jaya TV and a few other rivals of Tamil television leader Sun TV are making a hitherto-unseen charge toward bagging the TV rights for big-ticket Tamil movies, for long the preserve of the Kalanithi Maran-owned Sun TV. This has not only opened up the market but also pushed up rates.


Jaya TV, the mouthpiece of the ruling AIADMK party and a distant rival to Sun TV, has virtually stirred up the market in the past few days by bagging two top titles. Last week, it acquired the rights for the upcoming Rajnikanth-starrer ‘Kochadaiyaan.’ On Monday, it bought another big-ticket  movie – the upcoming Suriya-starrer ‘Maatraan.’


The previous Rajnikanth movie, ‘Endhiran,’ was produced by Sun TV, which had then called it the costliest Indian movie ever made. Jaya TV was never known to indulge in the buying of TV rights, something that’s a key part of Sun TV’s content strategy. But KP Sunil, vice president of Jaya TV, said that after a lull of six years the channel has started looking at Tamil movies aggressively. “We are looking are acquiring more such movies and it will be a mixture of big and small ones,” he added.


The onslaught by Jaya TV and others comes after what has been a challenging year for Sun TV. Once she came to power last May, chief minister J Jayalalithaa floated a government-run cable service called Arasu to counter the ground distribution support that Sun TV enjoyed through another Maran-owned company. Cases were also filed against the then Sun TV COO Hansraj Saxena on charges of defrauding producers while purchasing movies for television.


Maran and his brother, former Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran, have been under the lens of the Central Bureau of Investigation on allegations that Aircel’s former owner C Sivasankaran was arm-twisted to sell his company to Maxis founder T Anandakrishnan, who in turn invested in Kalanithi Maran’s Sun DTH.


For those reasons, a challenge in the market for TV rights of movies has been expected for more than a year now. It’s only now that Jaya TV is in “full swing,” as a top official of a rival Tamil channel, wishing anonymity, put it. Executives at Sun TV and Star Vijay could not be reached for comment.


The challenge isn’t confined to Jaya TV. Star Vijay has since last year has picked and chosen key titles it wants to buy. It has ended up with movies such as ‘Avan Ivan’ (directed by National Award winner Bala) and even ‘Nanban’ (the remake of ‘3 Idiots’), for which it is said to have paid record sums.


Even Zee Tamil, a relatively late entrant in the Tamil entertainment market, has got onto the movie buying bandwagon. It has acquired the rights for the Simbu-starrer ‘Vettai Mannan.’ A Ficci-Deloitte report pegged the South Indian media and entertainment market in 2011 at Rs18,740 crore, 70 per cent of it coming from the Tamil and Telugu markets. TV accounted for Rs10,630 crore and films Rs2,110 crore.


Political commentator Gnani Sankaran puts the trend down to clout. “Whichever party has political clout, they tend to bag satellite rights. When the DMK were in power, Sun Pictures was doing it,” he said. It isn’t as if Sun TV is struggling to buy anything. Being the TV network with the deepest pockets, it is still lapping up movies, being by far the biggest acquirer of movie rights. It recently got the rights for ‘Naan Ee’ as also the much-awaited Ajith-starrer ‘Billa 2.’ Sun TV has announced it will spend Rs200 crore on its movie library this year (this includes all languages in which it has a presence). This is a steep in crease from Rs80 crore last year. One reason for the significantly higher allocation, two industry executives said, could be because it anticipated competition to push up prices.


Source: The Economic Times

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