General entertainment channels like Star, Sony, Zee, NDTV Imagine, 9X and Colors have directed their programming teams to begin repeat telecasts even on prime-time beginning November 10, causing panic among advertisers and media-buying companies.
Repeat shows on prime-time television will mean a 25 to 30 per cent decline in viewership, and media planners will have to re-plan advertising slots and rates.
Today's decision by broadcasters to allow repeat telecasts is the result of a shortage of fresh content for serials following an inconclusive meeting today called to resolve a two-month-old dispute between production houses and Federation of Western India Cine Employees.
The federation has been demanding wage increases and better working conditions for its employees, which include cinematographers, stage-setters and cameramen.
The FWICE has held a couple of meetings with production houses like the Film and Television Producers Guild to resolve the differences before as well.
"We had a conference call with the producers. They have not reached any consensus with the federation. So, in interest of all the channels, we have decided to repeat the programmes Monday, November 10 onwards," said Keertan Adyanthaya, EVP and M, Star Plus.
Broadcasters, on their part, have decided to stop paying commission for fresh episodes to put pressure on both parties to resolve the issue soon.
"A drop in viewership will create a strong position for advertisers to ask for rate cuts, which becomes more compelling in economic slowdown," added Mona Jain, India head, Strategic Investments, India Media Exchange.
"If the dispute is prolonged for more than a week, it will be a lose-lose situation for all. Broadcasters might lose advertisers, or advertisers won't pay the same rates for the repeats or advertisers will postpone their advertising on the channels," said Chandradeep Mitra, president and head, Mudra MAX.
"Consumers will move to other genres like news channels, music and movie channels for fresh content, and so will shift advertising. Within few days of repetition, advertising might shift. Bigg Boss will also benefit," Mitra adds.
Colors has, however, been allowed to air fresh episodes of Bigg Boss because it is a reality show and the housemates cannot be confined in the house for as long as the strike is on.
Tarun Nigam, executive director, Starcom MediaVest Group (North), said: "In India, such crises don't take long to be solved. Two years ago, the service tax issue took two weeks to be resolved. I hope it gets solved soon, otherwise advertisers will start pulling out advertisements and move to other media like print and radio."