Shah Rukh Khan isn’t as good as Amitabh Bachchan. That’s what television ratings say. The opening episode of KBC2, or Kaun Banega Crorepati, Dweetiya, earned television ratings of 19.75% in August 2005. In January 2007, the opening episode of KBC3, earned ratings of 12.33%. Advertising and media professionals do not believe the comparitive ratings are any measure of the popularity, or charisma of the two anchors, Bachchan for KBC2 and Khan for KBC3.
New cable television distribution regulations have kicked in, with several parts of the country moving to a system (it’s called CAS or conditional access system) that requires viewers to install a set-top box and pay more to watch popular channels such as Star Plus where all editions of KBC have been aired. The show, modelled on ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire, may also be losing favour with audiences. “The whole format is a bit jaded and you could see that in the last weeks of KBC2 itself when the rating dropped to 10%,” says Lakshmi Narasimhan, the national director of Group M Media, a media buying firm. TAM, the agency that measures ratings, enlarged its sample base from 1 January and some media planners claim that this has lowered numbers even further. The underlying message they are trying to send out is: don’t compare apples and oranges; don’t compare Khan and Bachchan. The first edition of the show which premiered in 2000 opened with ratings of 10.59% but the number was based on a different methodology, and calculated by a different measurement agency, INTAM.
Officials from Star India, the company that owns Star Plus, claim the show’s popularity is unprecedented. Ajay Vidyasagar, the executive vice president of Star India, says that any comparison with the previous year’s ratings are factually incorrect. “The 2005 ratings are based on a completely different audience panel of TAM,” he says. A press release from the company states, “The first KBC3 episode reached 23.3 million (people). This was 5 million more than the reach of the launch episode of KBC2. ”
KBC3 premiered on January 22 with a music video starring Khan, and won rave reviews for its energy and contemporariness. It was the most watched show that day but by the end of the week, the ratings had started to drop. Ratings for the second week of KBC3 are expected next Thursday. “Expectations were quite high from KBC3 because of Shah Rukh Khan and the past performance of the show,” says Sunder Raman, the managing director of Mindshare, another media buying firm. That could hurt the show’s prospects of becoming a money-spinner for Star. “New deals will be worked out on the basis of the efficiency of the show rather than Shah Rukh’s or KBC’s brand equity,” he adds.
Star India was counting on KBC3 to help its cause; although still the market leader in the general entertainment genre, it has lost share to rival Zee TV in recent months. It has also seen its two senior most executives, Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair resign. The first edition of KBC did just that for the channel, helping it move from number 3 in the genre to number 1.
KBC3 has started off well in that regard. The week before it aired Star Plus’ share of viewership was 37.7% and Zee’s 37.6%. In the week it aired Star’s share rose to 55.9%; Zee’s to 21.5%.