India’s most famous one-man brand will come out of the shadows in October to relaunch TV’s biggest game show. Will Sony’s prime time gamble work?
“Namaskar. Main Amitabh Bachchan bol rahaa hoon, Kaun Banega Crorepati se...”
A decade back, India went to bed every night after listening to its most famous voice. The one-man brand – then a fading superstar – needed a platform to relaunch his career. And a general entertainment channel (GEC), which was then going 24 hours and all-Hindi, needed a leg up. Together, Bachchan and Star Plus created one of India’s biggest brands – a game show based on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The show rewrote television ratings.
It was in July 2000 that KBC was born, helping Star Plus to capture prime time and become the channel of choice. However, Star repeated Big B in 2005 with less inspiring results and then replaced him with Shahrukh Khan in 2007, with disastrous results.
Sensing that brand KBC may have outlived its utility after eight years, Star did not renew the rights to telecast the show, paving the way for the entry of Multi Screen Media, formerly Sony Entertainment Television, which bought the rights.
Bachchan is reportedly being paid Rs 1.6 crore per episode of KBC 4, which is slightly more than around Rs 1.5 crore he got from Colors for Bigg Boss 3 last year. But will Bachchan, 67, be able to recreate the magic of the brand and deliver for Sony what he did for Star Plus, specially when the initial novelty is gone and there has been a flurry of celebrity game shows on TV since KBC made its debut?
Going by the buzz surrounding KBC, it seems there is still enough steam left in the game’s format to attract audiences.
Madison World CMD Sam Balsara says KBC changed the fortunes of Star Plus and can do the same even now as people still have fond memories of the show. During the first season, the show had average TV ratings (TVR) of 14.1, a feat that has not been repeated on Indian television, not even in the subsequent editions of the show.
But many disagree, saying while the first season of KBC ran for 270 episodes, the second had only 60. There has been a fall in average TVRs since the first season as the second edition got an average TVR of 11.1, according to data from TV audience monitoring agency TAM. The ratings worsened in the third season when Shah Rukh Khan hosted KBC. The show then managed average TVRs of just 6.8 over only 53 episodes.
TVRs represent the percentage of a TV audience sample that watched a programme for a stipulated time period.
Balsara admits that the ratings of the show had fallen due to a huge fragmentation in the television space. “As the number of channels available to viewers has gone up manifold, there has been a general downward trend in ratings,” he says.
But Sony is in no mood to listen to all this. To begin with, the channel will limit KBC to only nine weeks (36 episodes) since anything more than that will kill curiosity. The show will be on air from Monday to Thursday for an hour in the prime-time slot. “We have innovated and there will be some changes in the show,” says Ajit Thakur, business head, Sony Entertainment Television.
The number of questions will also be reduced to 12 from 15. There will also be a timer for the first 7-30 seconds to answer or the clock stops you. There are some innovative options for phoning a friend for help. There will be three experts from various fields on call and you can talk to them as options for an answer. They will appear on TV live as opposed to a voice.
The production house, Big Synergy, is currently assessing all the changes and innovations in the format globally and is likely to put together a fresher, reworked format to appeal to audiences and overcome any viewer fatigue for the show.
This season, the modes for participating in the show have also increased. From the limited low-cellphone density of early 2000 when landline phones were the lifeline for participants to come on the show, this season audiences will have the option of landline phones, mobile phone calls, SMS and IVR.
And to top them all, viewers will get to see a much leaner Bachchan with new designer spectacles.
The first set of questions for the contestants will go on air in August and with host, Bachchan asking one question on Sony TV for 10 days between 9 pm and midnight. The launch of the show on Sony will coincide with Bachchan’s birthday on October 11 this year.
Sony, sources say, has received good response from advertisers and has already sold 50 per cent of its advertisement inventory. “We will be signing in eight sponsors, half of which have already come on board,” says Rohit Gupta, president of Multi Screen Media. He says that ad slots for the show will be sold at a much higher premium.
Media buyers say that while Videocon and LG have signed up as associate sponsors, Idea Cellular and Cadburys have also joined. They say that a 10 second ad slot is available for almost the same price as the earlier seasons, in the range of Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh.
According to media planners, when the show started in 2000, a 10-second advertisement slot was priced at Rs 60,000 but after the high ratings, Star sold its inventory at a huge premium and slots were sold at around Rs 2.5 lakh per 10 seconds. The slots fetched almost the same amount to Star Plus even in the second and the third season. Will it change this time?