New Delhi: The genre may have just one hit to its name in eight years but India’s general entertainment channels, or GECs, which offer a mix of programming with a bias towards soap operas, are convinced that game shows hold the key to eyeballs and advertising revenues.
And so, most GECs have either launched or are in the process of launching game shows yet again.
Big push: Khan hosts Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hai. The game show was launched after an aggressive marketing campaign on which Star is said to have spent around Rs10 crore. (Photo: Hindustan Times)
Star India Pvt. Ltd, the News Corp. company behind Star Plus, launched Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hai (Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?) on 25 April. The show is hosted by Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan, features prize money of Rs5 crore, and was launched after an aggressive marketing campaign on which the company has, according to a media buyer who didn’t wish to be named, spent around Rs10 crore. Star has gone ahead and slotted the show during the same time bracket, 8pm to 9pm, as matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL). IPL is being telecast by Star’s rival, Sony Entertainment Television (SET) on its SET MAX channel. And although the initial response shows that Paanchvi Pass did miss out on expected viewership because of IPL, Star India is not ready to give up yet. The network will now also be running reruns of the show on time bands when there is no clash with IPL to ensure maximum viewership, as first reported by the Business Standard on 8 May. “We want everyone to sample the show and with reruns, people who are watching IPL can catch the show at a later time,” said an executive from Star India, who did not wish to be identified.
News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal with which HT Media’s Mint has a content partnership.
In a bid to outdo Star, SET will soon be launching 10 Ka Dum (The Power of 10), a game show hosted by another Bollywood actor, Salman Khan. This show boasts prize money of Rs10 crore and is backed by a high-decibel marketing campaign. SET will launch the show only after IPL ends on 1 June. “The idea is to shepherd IPL viewers to 10 Ka Dum,” said a SET spokesperson.
9X, the new Hindi GEC from INX Media Pvt. Ltd, a company launched by former Star India head Peter Mukerjea, claims to be bringing in a popular American game show to India but isn’t ready to provide further details. “We have already secured the rights of a very successful international format,” is all Indrani Mukerjea, chief executive of 9X and co-chairman of INX Media, is ready to divulge for now.
The rush for game shows is reminiscent of 2000 when, emboldened by the success of Kaun Banega Crorepati (Who Will Become a Millionaire?), or KBC, on Star Plus, all GECs launched game shows, though most failed. Even Star wasn’t able to recreate the magic, not even with subsequent editions of KBC, the last of which features Shahrukh Khan.
“Compared to KBC which got us record breaking television ratings as high as 27.3, the TRPs’ (television rating points or the percentage of viewers watching a programme at a given time) of other shows remained below 6-7,” said a Star spokesperson.
Shows launched by SET including Jeeto Chappar Phaar Ke and Deal Ya No Deal in 2004 flopped. Zee TV’s Sawaal Dus Crore Ka (A 10 Crore Question), launched in 2000, never really took off and the show’s TRPs hovered between 3 and 4. Another Zee show launched in 2005 titled Kam Ya Zyada? (More or Less?) remained unsuccessful too. “It failed to give us TRPs and we pulled it off air in three months,” recalls Tarun Mehra, senior vice-president, marketing, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd.
Television executives are convinced they will do better this time.
“We want the show to appeal to masses. That’s why we’ve got Salman Khan as host. He’s got a mass appeal,” said Rohit Gupta, president, network sales and revenue management, SET. According to Gupta, viewers tired of soap operas will find game shows refreshing. “Poeple are tired of watching soaps and serials. Reality game shows will bring in a freshness and will appeal to everyone,” he added.
Even advertisers seem ready to turn a blind eye to the past. Despite Star and Khan’s poor performance on KBC last year, advertisers such as Bharti Airtel Ltd, LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd, Havells India Ltd and Tata Sky Ltd have invested heavily in Paanchvi Paas. Airtel has paid Rs50 crore to be the presenting sponsor of Paanchvi Pass and rival Vodafone Plc. has paid SET and Filmy approximately Rs3.5 crore each to be the sponsor of their game shows, say media buyers close to the deals who do not wish to be identified. And the ad rates for Paanchvi Paas, at Rs3-3.5 lakh for a 10-second ad spot, are higher than that of IPL’s initial rate of Rs2-2.5 lakh per spot.
“Game shows are an opportunity for instant customer connection. They provide a medium for instant interactivity,” said Harit Nagpal, marketing director, Vodafone. Adds R. Chandrasekhar, head, brand and media, Airtel: “Reality game shows are ubiquitous, cutting across various consumer segments. Paanchvi’s concept had a synergy with the Airtel brand.”