And I feel very proud to say that good Pakistani TV content are of a comparable quality, at times even better, as any other. Also, I find that good quality TV contents are not very common.
Some people may but I don’t have any reservations in accepting the fact that I am a Pakistani male and I am very fond of watching movies and TV shows. And I don’t need to limit myself. As much as I like and watch Pakistani content, I like and watch content of other countries and in other languages. And I am not referring to only Turkish and Hindi. I have watched, and still do, TV shows from Korea, China, Japan, Philippines, Middle East, England, Canada and of course USA, or may be few more. And I have been doing it for years. The reason I am explaining so much about my own TV and movies watching habits is to gain some authenticity and so the readers can appreciate that the input is from someone who may be qualified.
Every country’s lifestyle, culture, customs, language and attire differ and so do their TV shows accordingly. The differences get noticed right away but it takes few episodes to observe the similarities. And when one is past that stage, which also is not very long, one can start comparing one against the other. Well, I do that. I note the differences, I note the similarities and I compare the quality as well. And I feel very proud to say that good Pakistani TV content are of a comparable quality, at times even better, as any other. Also, I find that good quality TV contents are not very common.
Why am I saying what I am saying?
Over a period, Pakistan has been able to gain a critical mass of directors, writers, producers, actors and other supporting skilled professionals that together are able to produce, and have been doing so, very good quality TV shows. These shows are very popular within Pakistan and among the Pakistani diaspora world around, who by the way are watching these more neutrally. Another key factor is that production and delivery of these great quality TV shows in not limited only to a couple of production houses rather there are several competing leaders closely followed by several strong contenders. It has almost become a TV shows, or as they call in Pakistan “TV Drama”, industry. There seems to be a continuous stream of new players getting into the industry as budding directors, music directors, producers, actors, writers, script writers and technical professionals providing cinematography, recording, editing, lighting, set designing and other supporting services.
All above means that Pakistani TV Dramas are doing great domestically and are in a take off position for the international arena. Yes, these dramas are already watched world over but only by Pakistanis living in other countries, not by locals. It is high time these dramas to be properly promoted, presented, marketed and exported for the masses in other countries. The beauty of media sale and export is that targeting more people and more countries does not mean any new production cost. It’s almost the same production cost weather it is watched by few in one country or by hundreds of thousands across the globe. It is net new profit at marginal additional cost of marketing.
Are we ready for export though? Partly yes and partly no.
Our TV Drams are almost ready to be exported to, and are expected to do good, in south Asian countries where Urdu or Hindi is spoken and understood. An example is India where, despite all political hurdles and tough competition with their film and tv industry, Pakistani TV Dramas have been very successful. As the marketing gurus say, to gain confidence and strength, try to grab the low hanging fruits first. Since the culture, lifestyle, values and language is similar in several other south Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Mauritius, our TV dramas can be initially introduced there comparatively easily. Similarly, in several middle eastern countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistani TV drams may have an easier acceptance initially with Arabic subtitles and then with Arabic dubbing.
For other countries though we must work more. To prepare better following steps should be taken by the overall TV Drama industry:
- Explore new, more interesting and more exciting stories
- Encourage writers to focus on more diverse topics
- Include target countries storylines and characters
- During recording in other countries plan marketing events also
- Include prominent actors from other countries in the dramas
- Invite key media influencers of target countries to TV Dramas award shows
- Make our OSTs catchier and more appealing
- Include multiculturalism in the plots
- Include characters that belong to diversified lifestyle and different faiths
- Include plots involving target countries
- Get all TV dramas with English or other languages subtitles
- Setup dubbing facilities to prepare for bigger and promising markets
- Cultural Attaché’s overseas to be made accountable to introduce and sell Pakistani TV Dramas
- Offer dramas for free for an initial period to develop taste for the same in other countries
- Setup TV Drama festivals in target countries
- Engage media analysts and critics from target countries and hold premier shows for them
- TV Drama industry to establish an TV Drama Export Board
Things do not and will not happen overnight, but if we continue improving the quality of our TV Dramas, the way we are doing, and continue making a targeted and concerted effort to promote the same in other countries’ local population this may prove to be a great new and profitable foreign exchange revenue stream for the TV Drama industry but also for overall Pakistani economy. And the most interesting part is that media is a creative and labour-intensive industry. Not only Pakistan has lots of population but mostly young who generally are more creative. Developing more markets will encourage more production which means more employment opportunities too. So, it’s a win-win situation.
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May 08, 2020
The writer is a professional marketer and engineer with good work exposure to governments, and businesses and industries in the private sector in several countries. Idea is to take the first step in adding value to anything that one gets exposed to instead of just complaining about the same.