Serials ‘must deliver ratings for cable TV cash'
HCM CITY — Saigontourist Cable Television's decision to only pay studios if their serials top a certain rating has left the latter bewildered.
|Who's watching?: A scene from the series Chuyen Xu Dua (Story of the Coconut Village), which attracted a viewrship rating of 1.6; enough for SCTV funding.
SCTV, Viet Nam's first cable TV network (1992) and owned by Viet Nam Television and Saigontourist, has said it will only pay for serials broadcast on its cable channels if they achieve a viewership rating of 1.5 as measured by international market research company TNS.
In return, SCTV will itself find advertisers for commercials during the films, and studios no longer have to do so.
But if the ratings are higher, it will pay proportionately more – VND100 million (US$4,760) if it is 1.5 to 1.7, VND160 million for a rating of 1.8 to 2.0, and VND170 million for 2.1-2.3.
Hoang Map, owner of Hoang Than Tai Studio, said it cost around VND3.6 billion ($171,400) to make 33 episodes.
Hoang Map said the new system, which has been incorporated in contracts since the beginning of this year, is causing studio executives to lose sleep.
Four of total 12 films SCTV broadcast this year had ratings of less than 1.5.
SCTV has two channels – 7 and 14 – screening new serials, and, since SCTV14 shows two episodes every day, quickly runs through them.
Nguyen Tan Khoa, head of SCTV's planning and investment division, said since studios did not have worry about finding advertisers any longer, they could "concentrate on making interesting films".
"Our ultimate goal is to simply get the best films for showing," he said.
However, since studios have worked at getting advertising for long and have close links with companies and advertising agencies, they can continue to do the job for SCTV for a commission.
More choices for audiences
But it is not uniformly gloom and doom for studios.
Hoang Map explained that for small studios like his "it is hard to work with big television stations like HTV and VTV, because with our capability and relationship we could not secure advertising".
"We can [now] work single-mindedly on our films."
Besides, the fact that SCTV has spelled out its rates is also a relief to many studios.
However, Nguyen Thi Truc Mai, director of M&T Pictures, a studio that has made many successful films for SCTV, said: "The method brings a lot of risk to film studios.
"Any studio that intends to make films should know exactly where they stand."
Dang Luu Viet Bao, director of Chuyen Xu Dua (Story of the Coconut Village), a film that achieved a rating of 1.6, said: "The ratings are affected by a lot of factors.
"On weekends, when TV stations present reality shows, the number of viewers diminishes remarkably."
TV viewers now have too many choices, he added.
HTV and VTV have for long followed a system of having studios secure a minimum amount of revenue from commercials to broadcast their serials.
For instance, they pay a studio around VND180 million for an episode, and in return the latter has to get the channels a certain amount of money from advertising during the serial.
The two have recently switched to buying serials outright from studios. — VNS