U.S. shows redux in primetime

Dispatch

JAKARTA — Following a seven-year hiatus, American series and films are making a slow but steady comeback in Indonesia’s primetime.

The first commercial channel, Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia (RCTI), began broadcasting in 1988 and drew audiences with veteran shows like “Bonanza” and the more contempo “Friends” and “The X-Files.”

By 1998 the country had 11 commercial stations, but they had mostly relegated U.S. content to daytime or latenight slots.

Budi Darmawan, public relations manager at Surya Citra Televisi Indonesia (SCTV), says the phenomenon was due to the skyrocketing rate of the dollar against the rupiah — from Rp 2,500 to Rp 12,000 — which made new U.S. shows too expensive for local webs, and the rising popularity of sinetrons (locally made half-hour comedies and one-hour dramas).

The relatively stable dollar and the fact that sinetrons are gradually losing auds have brought about a change in programming.

According to rival web Lativi’s acquisition manager, Antariksawan Jusuf, the average one-hour price of a sinetron is between $21,000 and $42,000, vs. $8,000-$15,000 for a moderately strong import.

RCTI, SCTV, Indosiar, Trans TV and Metro TV each have at least one weekly slot for American fare.

RCTI comes up with “American Idol” and “Fear Factor” on Saturday night.

Metro, considered to be the CNN of Indonesia because of its news-heavy sked, screens classics such as “Ben-Hur” on Sundays.

TV7 makes American films its daily 9 p.m. menu. Lativi gets content from Nickelodeon and Animal Planet.

Other popular imports include series and films from Latin America, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand.

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