MUMBAI: Whatever the geopolitical differences between India and Pakistan, television is something the two countries have in common, as Pakistani networks are the biggest buyers of Indian content.
"The thumb rule is – almost everything that works in India, works in Pakistan," Jerjees Seja, CEO, of Pakistan's ARY Digital Network, told the Times of India.
That is reflected in the that fact that Pakistan buyers account for almost one quarter of the Rs 170-180 crore syndication revenue generated by the mix of reality shows and soaps that India sells around the world.
Pakistan TV currently spends around Rs 40 crore across seven or eight channels and that amount is reported to be growing at 10% a year.
Indian content has obvious advantages for Pakistani viewers in that it does not need to be translated, dubbed or subtitled. But Pakistan's networks range far and wide in their search for suitable material.
At entertainment channel Geo Kahani, for example, Indian content forms 15-20% of its output while the rest is either local or from Turkey and Egypt. "We are also exploring Japanese and Korean content lately," according to Asif Raza Mir, COO at the parent network Geo TV.
Both Mir and Seja source content from the leading Indian general entertainment channels, including Zee, Colors, Sony and Star Plus, each spending upwards of $2m.
But Mir noted some important differences around production values and subject matter.
Where Indian producers tend to base themselves in studios, for example, their Pakistani counterparts prefer to shoot on location.
"Our content is more issue-based rather than politics in the family," Mir added, "so we pick up subjects like CID [crime drama], Bhoot Aaya [drama-doc about the paranormal], though there are some love stories that stand out as well".
What works in entertainment has little bearing on other matters however. Plans to revive the sporting rivalry between the two nations, with the first Indian-Pakistan cricket series in eight years, have run into problems over broadcast rights as well as political opposition.
Data sourced from Times of India, Khaleej Times; additional content by Warc staff