YouTube has emerged as the dominant social media for entertainment.
Many people now say that they prefer to watch dramas on YouTube channels instead of on television.
The number of YouTube views has become the key factor for producers, directors, artists and sponsors of single-episode dramas.
TV channels now sell the one-hour slots of dramas to different production houses and advertisement agencies, which produce plays for airing in the slots, and selling to YouTube channels.
The owners of some agencies told our correspondent that agencies choose actors and actresses for their dramas by consulting YouTubers. The most viewed actors or actresses on YouTube are selected for the content.
Dramas, which are called content on YouTube, have little or no market value if they get few hits.
That is why actors and actresses who get more views on YouTube are the most in demand. They are Afran Nisho, Mosarraf Karim, Apurbo, Mehjabin, Jakia Bari Momo and Tanjin Tisha.
Dramas starring Tahsan Khan, Tousif, Jovan, Irfan Sajjad, Sarika, Tasnia Farin, Sarika Sabah and Payelia Payel are also popular on YouTube.
The schedules of most of the actors and actresses are booked till February.
Before the YouTube era, television channels had programme departments that were responsible for all the features of a programme, including drama. Directors and producers of plays used to submit scripts to TV channels, which used to fix the budgets for the dramas. After making the dramas, directors used to submit them to the channels again for previewing. The preview committee then selected the dramas for airing after screening them. But now most TV channels do not have preview committees.
Director Shihabi Shahin said, "Nowadays agencies and sponsors control everything in a drama production. Nothing is in the hands of TV channels."
The head of programmes at the TV channel Bangla Vision agreed with Shahin.
He said, "Some TV channels are still trying to uphold their own identities. These channels have their own YouTube channels where they upload content that has already been aired."
"TV channels now depend on their YouTube channels for generating income, and this is a shame," said Shahin.
However, Mohammad Ali Bashir, owner of production house Telehome, said the revenue of most TV channels has decreased, which is why they have lost grip over so many things.
An employee of such an agency said, "We bought a slot of a TV channel by paying a certain amount of money. In a one-hour slot, 50-55 minutes are dedicated for the drama and the rest is for advertisements."
Quality of plays
Nowadays, the quality and content of dramas is being questioned. Viewers discuss and argue about the quality of dramas in different Facebook groups on Bangla drama. A few days ago in a BBC report, Habiba Rahman, a teacher of the television, film and photography department at Dhaka University, commented, "The quality of scripts of our dramas are not up to the mark. The audience will surely welcome good programmes aired on TV. When television appeared as a medium of entertainment, it was thought that people would accept whatever programmes were aired. But this concept changed later."
Various Bangla drama groups on Facebook discuss and criticise dramas, including Bachelor Point, Bachelor Trip and Mission Barishal. These groups even criticised the use of vulgar language at the ending a drama.
In a Facebook post, Actor Shamim Hasan Sarker, who performed in the aforementioned dramas, apologised for the poor quality and said that he would never perform in any low quality drama again.
People have a perception that the audience will enjoy whatever content is posted on YouTube.
Some digital entertainment apps such as Bioscope, Hoichoi, iflix and BongoBd which allow subscribers to upload dramas, have appeared in the online market.
"Here, quality is being given priority instead of the number of views," said Director Mizanur Rahman Arian.
Budget for producing a drama
It takes fromTk1,60,000 to Tk4,00,000 to produce a one-hour drama. The cost increases during Eid or any other festival. The agency which produces the drama gets an amount from the TV channel which airs the play. Then, the YouTube channel which buys the content gives an amount to the agency.
The selling price of content is anywhere between Tk20 lakh and 50 lakh.