Telugu films take over Hindi TV channels and streaming services, opening up new revenue streams for Tollywood

Hemanth Kumar

May 28, 2018 16:15:20 IST

The Telugu film industry has found a new ally in Hindi TV channels and streaming platforms, especially Amazon and Hotstar. While Hindi-dubbed versions of several Telugu films have been staple on TV channels like Sony Max, Zee Cinema, Star Gold, UTV Action among others for many years now, it’s only in the recent few months that the top TV networks have come forward to shell out big bucks to buy the satellite rights of the dubbed versions. In recent times, films like Rangasthalam, Nela Ticket, Saakshyam, and Ram Charan’s upcoming film in Boyapati Sreenu’s direction have been sold for huge amounts, much to the delight of the Telugu film industry.

Telugu films take over Hindi TV channels and streaming services, opening up new revenue streams for Tollywood

Stills from Rangasthalam and Nela Ticket. File images.

Nearly four years ago, there was a major lull in Tollywood when two out of the four prominent TV networks in Telugu stopped buying satellite rights of Telugu films. In the past, channels like MAA Tv, Zee TV, and Gemini TV were so aggressive in buying rights that most films recovered almost 40 per cent to 50 per cent of their budget from this. For low-budget films, money earned from the sale of TV rights was a major source of revenue, which encouraged several new producers to enter the industry. However, soon after TRAI changed its policy to restrict the time allotted to air advertisements to just 12 minutes per hour on TV channels, everything changed. Most TV networks took a cautious approach and only bought rights of few big budget films ahead of the release, and for the rest of the lot, they had to prove their mettle at the box office first before they were considered by the TV channels. Cut to 2018, things seem a lot different today, thanks to Hindi TV channels and distributors whose interest in Telugu films doesn’t seem to end anytime soon.

Trade analysts reveal that with some of the biggest South Indian films like SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali, Baahubali 2, and Rajinikanth’s 2.0, and Kaala being sold for a bomb, it has a had a trickle down effect for the rest of the industry. Although a select few Tamil and Kannada films are dubbed in Hindi, Telugu films lead the race by a huge margin. And quite clearly, action dramas and fantasy films are the most preferred genre when it comes to what the Hindi TV channels are likely to choose. “The first thing we are asked is how many action sequences a film has, and the price increases substantially if any given film has a high dose of fight sequences. Similarly, even films that have a heavy dose of visual effects can fetch a big price. There’s a certain universality to action dramas, which probably might not be the case with let’s say comedy or romance, which makes them the first choice,” a noted Telugu filmmaker said.

Most dubbed versions might not release in cinema halls, but in smaller towns and cities across North India, Telugu films have found a new set of audience who can’t have enough of them. During the shoot of Ravi Teja-starrer Raja The Great, when the team went to watch a film in Darjeeling, Ravi Teja was shocked when he realised hundreds of people recognising him instantly. “I had no clue that Telugu films had such a wide reach until that incident happened in Darjeeling. They might not know the original names of the Telugu films, but they do follow everything when it’s aired on TV. In fact, this trend has helped us to make inroads in tier 2 and tier 3 cities and towns across North India,” Ravi Teja said in an interview. He’s so popular among the Hindi-speaking TV viewers that his upcoming film Nela Ticket’s Telugu and Hindi satellite, digital and dubbing rights were bought for a staggering Rs 24 crores, which covered almost 80 per cent of its budget, as per reports.

Several other Telugu films in recent few months have made the most of this new demand for dubbed content. While Telugu TV channels themselves take a cautious approach when it comes to quoting a reasonable amount for satellite rights, it’s a completely different story when it comes to TV networks in the north, which seem to prefer a combination of satellite and digital rights. As per some reports, Bellamkonda Sreenivas and Rakul Preet-starrer Jaya Janaki Nayaka was reportedly sold for Rs 10 crore while Mahesh Babu and Kiara Advani’s Bharat Ane Nenu fetched Rs 16 crore. NTR-starrer Jai Lava Kusa got Rs 11 crore from Hindi dubbing rights alone. The trend isn’t just restricted to big budget Telugu films. A trade analyst, who has been closely following this trend, says, “Sometimes, even if a Telugu film bombs at box-office, it can still fetch a good price for its dubbing rights. Films like Hebah Patel’s Angel and Sakshi Chaudhary’s Suvarna Sundari which failed to do well in Telugu ended up getting more than Rs 1 crore because of this new trend.”

To give a gist of how popular dubbed content is, especially on Youtube, all you need to do is have a look at Goldmines Telefilms Pvt Ltd’s catalogue of films. True to its name, dubbed content has indeed become a goldmine for the company which boasts of jaw-dropping number of views for almost all its movies. In fact, the data from Goldmines Telefilms’ Youtube channel shows that Allu Arjun’s films draw the biggest crowd online. For instance, the Hindi version of Sarrainodu amassed 170 million views in less than a year, whereas Duvvada Jagannadham came second with 152 million views in just six months. Buoyed with such response for South Indian content, the channel has been beefing up its catalogue of movies and is expanding aggressively into Tamil and Kannada, and Malayalam markets as well. Apart from the TV networks and distributors, Amazon too, has been aggressively buying rights for South Indian films. In the last one year, the streaming giant has got its hands on films like Arjun Reddy, Rangasthalam, MCA, Ninnu Kori, Bhaagamathie, and several other Telugu films.

The success of Baahubali 2 has opened the floodgates for the entire South Indian industry to make the most of the increasing demand for regional movies. Of late, networks like Zee and Star have been buying Telugu, Tamil, and Hindi rights as a package deal, and the numbers are often more than Rs 75 crore, which is a massive number. Traditionally, Tamil TV channels like Sun TV, Vijay TV, and Kalaignar TV used to shell out huge money for satellite rights of Tamil films; however, the industry went through a slump few years ago. Compared to the numbers quoted in Tamil Nadu, money from satellite rights for Telugu films seemed quite less, despite its market; however, with the rise of demand for dubbed content, Telugu filmmakers and producers are laughing their way to the bank.

Updated Date: May 28, 2018 16:19:24 IST