New Delhi/Mumbai: It was touted as the most expensive show produced for Indian TV, it starred one of India’s biggest Bollywood stars, one known, more than anything else, for his dancing ability, and it was all about dancing, something that many Indians like to do, or, at the least, watch.
Yet, Just Dance, the talent show on Star Plus that marked the television debut of Hrithik Roshan and which costs Rs4 crore an episode, has seen its ratings fall consistently since being launched on 18 June.
By the 14th week, in September, the show had TVRs (television ratings) of 2.4, down from the 3.7 the first episode got. TVRs reflect the percentage of viewers watching a programme at a particular time.
Those numbers are far below what advertisers expected, and Anita Bose, vice-president, VivaKi Exchange, the media-buying arm of Publicis Groupe, says as much. One issue, she adds, was the format, with Roshan coming in after several episodes. VivaKi bought air time for its client Samsung on the show, but when ratings didn’t look up even after Roshan’s entry, it pulled out, according to Bose.
Even Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, the main sponsor of Just Dance, admits that the firm expected the show to do better.
“We had expected the show to do around 2.5 TVRs for our target group, but it is doing around 1.9,” says Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager (marketing). “The show is still on and the final episodes are still to come. We’ll wait to see the final ratings before we discuss any compensation.”
Neither Star Plus nor the companies have publicized the sponsorship money involved, but Mint reported in June, based on estimates from media and advertising professionals in the know, that the show’s title sponsorship was being hawked at Rs9 crore and associate sponsorship at Rs3.7 crore.
The ratings are reflected in the spot rates for the show as well. According to media buyers, the rate for a 10-second spot has fallen from Rs2.5 lakh, when the show launched, to around Rs1.5 lakh currently.
Still, while a media report in Mumbai’s Mid Day newspaper said the show will end three weeks ahead of schedule, senior executives at Star and its production house deny that the show is a flop.
“I don’t know about media buyers but the consumer connect with the show has been fantastic. The grand finale of Just Dance will be a two-and-a-half hour packed performance where the winner will perform with Roshan,” says Nitin Vaidya, business head for Star India’s Hindi channels, including Star Plus, Star One, Star Gold and Star Utsav.
The producer echoes that sentiment.
“We had planned 30 episodes and we have stuck to our original plan. As for the response to Just Dance, we are happy that it has done well,” says Fazila Allana, managing director of SOL Productions Pvt. Ltd, the company that produced Just Dance for Star Plus.
Other television executives, many from channels and production houses that compete with Star Plus and SOL, don’t agree.
Rajesh Pavithran, director of Born Free Cine Paradise Ltd, a production house, says the channel could have used Roshan more and got him to do what he does best—dance. “Hrithik should’ve been on the stage, not the dais.”
The show also suffered from “duality of communication”, according to Shailaja Kejriwal, content consultant with Imagine, the Hindi general entertainment channel of Turner General Entertainment Networks India Pvt. Ltd. If the aim was to leverage Roshan’s star quality, then the channel didn’t do enough, she says. For instance, it didn’t air the exclusive music videos shot for the show and featuring Roshan often enough. Then, she adds, Roshan was there sometimes, and not there at others. “There was no clarity for audiences on when Hrithik was to be present on the show. It was vague.”
Allana admits that details of when Roshan would be there, and when he wouldn’t, could have been communicated better. “Though Hrithik was supposed to be present only on Sundays it was something that may have confused the audiences. We could have communicated it better to the audiences.”
Allana adds that, in retrospect, the set for the show could have been better. “The stage design was a little too large. A smaller, more intimate stage would have helped, but these are learning experiences.”
Sanjay Bhatia, set designer for shows such as Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil Champs, Dance India Dance and Bigg Boss, says: “If the stage is too large, it can make the contestant look insignificant, if it’s too small, it can’t be captured on camera.”
He adds that designing a set for a dance show is challenging because it has entry points, and more elements such as slides, tunnels and raised platforms. “The stage is usually cluttered but cannot look so on television screens,” he adds.
The channel could have done all of this and the show may still not have worked, say some television executives. Just Dance, they add, may have suffered from audience fatigue given that singing and dancing shows have been around on Indian television for years.
“It’s critical for talent shows today to have a “wow” factor. Merely increasing spends is not the answer. Engaging audiences with contestants, their stories and compelling them to become loyal to your programme is very important,” says Ashish Golwalkar, head of non-fiction programming at Zee TV.