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Is TV drama industry overreacting to Turkish soaps blitz?

Published Dec 20, 2012 12:14am


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On a cool mid-December night, Karachiites had flocked at a popular recreational spot along the waterfront to watch the screening of the last episode of the Turkish soap Ishq-e-Memnu.

Initially, mainstream entertainment channels and TV production houses did not pay heed to the rising popularity of the soap, touting it as a temporary fad. But when they began to observe the ascending rating of Ishq-e-Memnu, even overtaking last year’s biggest hit TV serial Humsafar, they finally sat up and took notice.

Express Entertainment went to the extent of shelving an ongoing serial and replacing it with an Urdu-dubbed Turkish drama. “After airing eight episodes of my serial Do Naina that I penned for Gold Bridge productions, it was stopped and replaced by a Turkish play,” says Samina Ejaz, the screenplay writer of Do Naina.

Other mainstream entertainment channels have also offered to air dubbed Turkish soaps; Geo has decided to air dubbed Turkish soap Noor on its prime-time slot twice a week.

Babar Javed of A and B productions is appalled by these developments. “What is upsetting is that our dramas are being shifted from prime-time slots to non-prime-time ones. Our industry was growing in terms of quality, employment opportunities and technical competence. Now is the time to support us rather than bring in direct competition that may take down the drama industry from which we may never recover,” he says.

Humayun Saeed of Six Sigma Entertainment says, “If channels want to show foreign content then by all means they should show it but by subtitling it in the national language. When Star Plus serials appeared on our TV screens viewership base shifted and some came back because we raised the quality of our dramas. However, Star Plus serials continue to be shown albeit illegally on cable channels and it has never been completely eliminated.”

Farhan Shehzad, marketing director of Express Network, explains his channel’s perspective for showing Turkish plays. “One must understand that for upcoming entertainment channel like ours we have to compete with the big players in the market. Urdu1 would keep repeating Ishq-e-Memnu throughout the day and this led to an increase in their ratings.

One must understand that the channel’s revenue comes from commercial advertising that is strictly linked to ratings. We held back the drama Do Naina because it was a tactical move on our part. If we wanted to we could have taken off our other local content but because they are getting good ratings and generating advertising revenue hence we did not remove these plays.” Besides revenue matters, quality of storylines is another contentious issue between channels and production houses. The channels argue that the content quality provided to them is substandard hence they are looking around for foreign content whereas production companies claim that their product is by no means inferior and is at par with international standards. “The viewers gave their judgment when Ishq-e-Memnu got the highest ratings.

They have rejected the monotony of themes and actors that was being show in the local content. Also production houses think we will take whatever they provide us because we had no other choice,” says Iqbal Ansari, PTV veteran and now director special projects at a private TV channel.

“I can give you names of several sitcoms and serials that have been massively successful which indicates the superior quality of our product. For instance my sitcom Kis Din Mera Vyah Hoga has been repeated three times,” says Javed. As far as protectionism for the industry is concerned that is being demanded by the drama industry, Faraz Ansari, the CEO of Urdu1 says, “Protectionism did nothing for our film industry as it didn’t stretch its creative boundaries.”

Hum Network has so far resisted the temptation to air Turkish soaps stating that their plays are receiving above average ratings and hence have no plans to succumb to the temptation. “Not only are we getting good ratings for our dramas but we are also dubbing our plays in other languages and exporting them,” says Athar Viqar Azeem, senior Vice President, Hum Network.

According to industry insiders, the drama fraternity is needlessly panicking and this phenomenon will last merely for six more months at the most and viewers will revert to Pakistani dramas.


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Comments (32) Closed

Hassan Nasir Dec 20, 2012 07:49am
i think every channel has right to air whatever they want to. The industry don't need to panick if they think our dramas are better. Asking for balance is something else but a complete ban on anything, whether local or international cannot be justified in anyway. The channels do however need to show ethics by sticking to commitments, it is not good gesture to shelve or shift existing dramas to different timelines. Moreover, i do see that the Pakistan dramas need to be more creative as there is lot of similar content; there is need to think beyond now. Appreciate Hum TV as always, as they stick to principles almost always; have delivered and hence are revered with a dedicated fan following and ratings.
Shehzad Zafar Dec 20, 2012 11:57am
I liked beautiful actors in this drama :)
Tanweer Dec 20, 2012 01:14pm
The customer is always right!
Tony Dec 20, 2012 03:03pm
There are 10 lead actress and ten actors and there are about 50 serials a week.Looking at the same actors again and again makes me sick.Its about time for a change.
Faiza Dec 20, 2012 08:42am
For most Pakistanis, the only window to the places outside Pakistan is television...I think the main reason for popularity of foreign daramas is that they provide a view of a different country and in case of Turkish plays, very beautiful actors as well.....Pakistani dramas are still good changing the story lines and the stock of actors should be their top priority....Its become sickening to watch the same actors repeatedly
Alizah M. Bashir Dec 20, 2012 01:34pm
awsome drama but its ending was very dangerous tremendous .....:o
Atif Dec 20, 2012 12:42pm
The local but powerful production houses are crying because now their huge profits are a victim of target killings by these soaps. If they are so good, people will return to local drama/plays after this small fling with turkish serials.
pakiboy Dec 20, 2012 01:49pm
nobody worry about the public out cry about the immoral content of drama .. TV industry ki fikar lagee hoee hay sirf ..
Shoaib Dec 20, 2012 07:55am
Pakistani TV Drama will look like our film industry, so sad :((((
russianroullete2 Dec 20, 2012 06:37am
Reblogged this on russianroullete2 and commented: If local TV industry does not encourage new talent in every aspect of dramas; from actors, actresses, experts in cinematography, writers who introduce new ideas and concepts, people are bound to watch those shows which are fresh and different. The local TV industry have tried to monopolise on the fact that other channels have banned in Pakistan. But this is a compromising situation. The TV channels have to return the favour to the government by not doing which it is against its policies. This protectionism only diminishes the overall quality of the dramas. The same people appears in every drama and every other show meant for entertainment. No one is prepared to do something completely different.
Faisal Dec 20, 2012 09:36am
Indeed, there is no need for the Pakistani drama producers to panic --- they should strive for even better quality. In this day and age, the viewers should not be denied the wide variety of choices available on the TV screen. As in any other industry (e.g., consumer goods, automotive, food, etc), the entertainment industry ought to compete rather than cry for protection. Also, the argument of "cultural invasion" is ridiculous and loses any semblence of logic when we see the type of "culture" and "lifestyle" that is shown on the Pakistani plays.
Amjad Dec 20, 2012 09:46am
I do not know what the fuss is about? Why cannot pakistan drama industry accept competition? In the west in UK, dramas from america are shown, even in india, dramas from america are shown yet they do not cry. I mean if pakistan is not able to make dramas that will compete with the world then maybe it is best to pack-up and give up and just watch dramas from abroad! The artistes are saying our ROZI will be gone but its hardly they are getting "sawaab" from making dramas maybe they can choose a different profession!
Saman Dec 20, 2012 10:38am
When something is good it is received well. I never glued to my screen for Ishq-e-Mamno but the quality of our content has been falling but then again that is the natural order of things. COMPETE that is the key word. It is just fuss for nothing
SHH Dec 20, 2012 10:39am
The viewers deserve the best and they deserve choice. In the present shrinking world of communication, protection by banning foreign content will not work. Viewers will get them anyway and which will only result in loss of revenue to the channels and the production house which will in turn destroy our drama industry. This is the time for the channels, the production houses, the actors assocaitions, and the writers guild to put their heads togather and come up with a code of conduct for the content of the dramas-whether produced locally or imported. Like the films, the biggest threat to our drama industry is that the government impose different standards for local and foreign contents. That will be recipe for disaster. Let there be level playing field for all. The ensuing competition will bring the best out of our industry. Finally, our drama industry should not feel threatened. They have produced excellent plays in the past and are capable of doing so. Have faith in your talent and not try to hide behind psuedo-protection.
Sana Dec 20, 2012 11:01am
Honestly Pakistan dramas are known worldwide to be the best just like Indians are known best for their movies. It's sad thought that channels have to sccumb to this now. They should stop airing indian and other foreign dramas when we have good stuff here.
Mahnaz Dec 21, 2012 03:15pm
I reverted to watching Urdu/Pakistani drama serials after 'Dolly Ki Baraat'. While all the sequels and prequels were not as interesting, this one motivated me to watch a few others and then, I got glued. Even though I don't follow the lines, I like it the sound of Urdu reverberating in my house while I'm cooking or cleaning, after all I'm away from my home town and the dramas just keep me in touch with the latest goings-on in that part of the world, whether good or bad. True, most of them are of pathetic quality in terms of story-line and excitement but they are delivering something. Also, one can see the change in societal values, I mean, I didn't realise that infidelity was the norm in every household. Most of the dramas, I can't watch with the kids, the themes are too mature. The themes are getting to be a bit of a drag...please move on for heaven's sake! And, if the poverty scales need to be explored, please no more of poor girl marrying rich boy or very old man. Can't the producers/writers explore ideas from around the community, the scales don't have to be tipped, its not real, unless you join the underworld or drug mafia or land mafia. Another point is that when some social issue is taken up, there is't always a great solution offered. We have so many people in our midst whose exemplary lives can be made subjects of a drama serial, please give hope to people, do not spread dismay. They don't want that any more and hence, they enjoy the Turkish drama serials, nice faces, interesting themes, not only doom and gloom! I cannot watch the Turkish serials, I am no fan of it but if people are demanding it, then try to see what it is they expect. You don't have to replace all moral values and principles to produce something exceptional, explore your own potential. Its a wake-up call for all Pakistani directors/producers/writers. Seize the moment before you perish and we'll remember you as yet another fond memory.
Ali Dec 20, 2012 06:37pm
Dub everything, including american, French, British, Turkish soap operas.don't make it a fight between Turkish and pakistani or Indian or Pakistani. If you want to open, then open up everything, as it would boil down to a failr policy across the board.
Faqi Dec 20, 2012 06:38pm
Our media needs an issue to discuss. With the frequent electricity outages (even in winter), no Turkish drama is going to change the industry dynamics anyway.
naz Dec 20, 2012 06:45pm
mansoor Dec 20, 2012 06:46pm
This show what PK nation want in reality.
naz Dec 20, 2012 06:56pm
from november humtv disappeared from USA --can you give the reason.
abc Dec 20, 2012 07:48pm
"Honestly Pakistan dramas are known worldwide". can you please clarify, how many contries the WORLD of "worldwide" consists of. How many countries among your worldwide viewers regularly air any Pakistani dramas :)
Tim Dec 20, 2012 08:20pm
First some one should reason out why our public likes the foreign movies/serials so much. They have to have SOME substance that we lack! Why blame them in the first place. If they have more money and better expertise (they didnt steal it from us!) why are our actors and producers cribbing? Why shouldnt they pull up their own socks and start doing good. It is like buying clothes from a shop if one shop sells substandard stuff which no one likes no one will buy that. When our serials are seen worldwide then it doesnot amount to OUR cultural invasion into their culture but when their movies and serials become famous here then its cultural INVASION. What kind of logic is that? Why should the public not be given a free hand to watch what ever they want, or are we scared that we are not mature enough?
js Dec 20, 2012 08:34pm
Although i am from the media industry, i fully support the foreign dramas being aired on local TV channels. The reason is that, we do need fresh stuff, and our present media "professionals" must bring up their production level to international standards. These people have formed a monopoly by the name of UPA(United Producers Association), and feel threatened by not just foreign competition, but also by the fresh local talent emerging in the industry. UPA's overreaction to foreign dramas, would be like Lollywood overreacting to Hollywood movies(God forbid that ever happens). It should not attract any attention whatsoever. The monopoly just wants to stabilize their income. They think of the Pakistani audience as their turf, and that no one else is allowed to cross the paths. They are forgetting that the audience is king, and they are nothing more than a jester, who has to entertain. Another reason i fully support these foreign dramas, is that such foreign dramas, are also subtly introducing the much needed liberal elements to the average households. Our society does not "allow" "certain elements" in the form of local productions. Ever since Zia's time, the society has become very conservative. By introducing liberalism to our audience, we are moving a step forward. So maybe, in 50 years time, Pakistan can be as liberal as Turkey hopefully.
Omar Dec 20, 2012 10:03pm
I agree with Sana 1000%. I have argued for years that the Indian TV drama industry and the Pakistan film industry should be shot and obliterated. They both do not deserve to exist. I do not watch Indian movies either but I do accept it is a successful industry. The very reason Pakistani drama industry had a slump from the mid 90s till mid '00s was because they wanted to follow the Indian TV drama model. Thank God they have revived.
Iqbal khan Dec 20, 2012 11:10pm
Pakistanio wake up.Stop being looser in every field.Stand up on you feet and face the world.
ahsan7979 Dec 21, 2012 03:26am
Why do we need dramas from other countries when we have enough produced in our country. Like always GEO acts against Pakistani interest trying to setup a trend and destroying the drama industry of our own country. Its time for people to reject such actions and stop watching such dramas. if you have enough sense, quit watching it no matter how good it is. Stop being na
Karachiwalla Dec 21, 2012 03:28am
Free market in cultural things is leading to cultural invasion by foreign countries. Stop this foreign influences.
SHK Dec 21, 2012 04:05am
I honestly think that the only thing removed should be Indian dramas from our TV channels as well as the Indian movies from the Pakistani cinemas.Why only target the Turkish soaps !,to me Idian soaps are just as much as equal to the Turkish ones
Dr. Wahab Dec 21, 2012 05:58am
I'll second you here Atif, the war is on who has the best drama or which channel captures the eyeballs (ratings). Honestly except for the dressing, the subjects of our local dramas are pretty vulgar too. Every other married girl in our local dramas is having an extra marital affair or a single girl is involved with her brother in law! In no time, few pathetic writers will incorporate incest as part of their storyline! For money our nation can do anything no matter even if it
Abbas Khan Dec 21, 2012 05:59am
Having seen some of our dramas, with exception to a few good ones - rest were all bollywood like masala stuff (all centered on love stories and shaadi viyaah stuff). I can't remember the last time I saw a Science Fiction or Suspense Thriller or even Horror Dramas ever since the good days of PTV passed (with the advent of cable tv spreading all over Pakistan). If you look at the educated teenager's TV choices currently - Mostly every university student has turned to watching American TV. TV Shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad, Heroes, Prison Break, Six Feet Under, Roswell etc - our local writers have never thrived to match such level of deep writing on topics like SCI-FI / Thrillers etc. It's a wake up call for local production houses. I'm just glad that people have voted and at least watch dramas (foreign) ones that have far superior stories than our current breed. If there were dramas like Dhuwaan, Angaar Waadi, Raahein, Waapsi, Alpha Bravo Charlie etc still being aired, it'd be another story. Sadly, All our writers/channels have settled down on lame love stories 24x7. With the internet use rising all over Pakistan. I won't be surprised if ALL our teenagers/techy moms/girls move to internet based foreign TV. And those channels do deserve our time more than the B-grade content we're being provided currently on geo and all other channels alike. Not to mention the damned 10mins ads every other 7 mins is massively annoying. For now, I refuse to watch the excessive ad-filled low-quality content on any local channels. Oh, and I'm gonna watch an episode of Sopranos without Ads and then probably an episode of MadMen on NetFlix (Thanks god PTA hasn't considered NetFlix against our beliefts yet and isn't banned yet ;) unlike youtube)
Aj... Dec 21, 2012 06:01am
P.S most of them are involved in tax evasions as it was reported by FBR last month. Karma baby !!