Vietnamese TV: A cut-throat business

Television is a “hot” commodity, with many businesses wanting to enter the industry. However, it is a sector fraught with risk.

Vietnam Idol is co-produced by HCMC TV and a private company (Photo: SGGP)

Around tens years ago, there were few public stations and channels but today 63 provinces and cities have their own TV stations, with some having multiple channels, such as VTV with six and VTC with five.

Stations usually have specific plans for each channel but day-to-day needs to make profits often result in plans much different from those originally designed.

HCMC TV had set clear ideas for each channel, HTV1 as a public information channel, HTV2 is sport, HTV3 for children and HTV4 science and education.

Today, only HTV1 remains in its original format, with the other channels mainly broadcasting Korean films productions.

A senior businessman in the industry said it is easy to spend a lot of money creating programs and just as easy to lose financially. It is not certain a program will be profitable.

Within the last decade the number of businesses willing to invest in TV has declined, such as FPT Telecom which used to have a stake in TV but give up. However, the remaining production companies are able to make profits. 

In order to get quick profits, some stations are willing to cut advertising costs and broadcast insipid films.

In the past, television stations used to make programs in-house but now buy their programs from outside production companies.

Uneasy marriage between public TV and privately companies

The first advantage for TV stations is that production costs are lower and fees can be paid in kind, for example, if a film is broadcast during peak hours, the station will provide four thirty-second advertising slots to the film distributor.

If the film attracts a lot of viewers, many businesses want to advertise their products during the film. As such, advertising can end up lasting longer than the film.

However, television stations still face major risks in losing money.

Television stations are also suffering from staff leaving to join private production companies, with remaining workers unable to get adequate training in and access to communication and television technology.

Aware of the difficulties in television, privately owned-production companies have invested more in equipment, machines, infrastructure and human resources.

With the financial and technological muscle production companies have, large television stations can lose control of content, a leading TV station executive said.

A representative of a private company disagreed and added that unlike publicly owned TV stations, where if something goes wrong an official will be dismissed, private companies run the risk of bankruptcy. 

Private production companies are not just in the TV industry to make profits but for their love of the medium. As such, they are always willing to improve their skills, the representative said.

The Government is concerned about the lack of regulation between TV stations and privately owned companies. It has drawn up a policy that will clearly define responsibilities in the production of programs. 

By staff writers –Translated by H.Mien

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