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Mumbai/New Delhi: Advertisers are betting big on celebrity-driven reality shows to be aired this festival season.

Over the next three months, a clutch of telecom, auto, banking and consumer goods and durables firms will spend Rs400-500 crore to sponsor television shows hosted by Hindi movie stars Priyanka Chopra, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. The shows are to be aired on channels such as Star Plus, Sony and Colors.

Media buyers say title sponsorship for high-decibel celebrity shows—such as Bigg Boss anchored by Khan on Colors and Kumar’s Master Chef India, on Star Plus—will alone fetch Rs15-20 crore.

Associate sponsorships are being hawked at Rs7-8 crore and 10-second spots at Rs1.2-1.75 lakh. Brand placement deals cost Rs2-3 crore, according to Satyajit Sen, chief executive of Zenith Optimedia Pvt. Ltd, the media buying agency of the Publicis Groupe.

Celebrity-backed shows can earn hundreds of crores in advertising revenue. Kaun Banega Crorepati 4, or KBC 4, to be hosted by Bachchan on Sony, is expected to earn Rs70-100 crore in ad revenue, according to several media buyers.

As Bachchan is the brand ambassador for Cadbury India Ltd, the confectionary firm has bought the presenting sponsor rights for the quiz show, said a spokesperson for the firm.

Idea Cellular Ltd, as KBC 4’s telecom partner—the quiz allows participants a telephone call to friends or relatives for help with an answer—has a range of activities planned around the show, a company executive confirmed. Tata Motors Ltd said it will promote its mini truck Tata Ace on KBC 4. Axis Bank Ltd is also considering associating with the show, a bank spokesperson said.

Multiscreen Media Pvt. Ltd, which runs Sony, has not decided the number of episodes for KBC 4, said Danish Khan, vice-president (marketing).

Media buyers estimate Master Chef’s 22 episodes to generate Rs50-60 crore and Bigg Boss (with a 14-week run of about 80 episodes) to rake in Rs130-150 crore.

Edible oil brand Saffola from Marico Ltd is the associate sponsor for Master Chef, said Sameer Satpathy, the firm’s executive vice-president and head (marketing). “Saffola as a brand has always participated in newer engagement formats, be it TV, radio or new-age media. We are keen to look at seamless brand integration in every association we undertake," said Satpathy.

Another mix of brands such as Garnier Men Deodorant, Vodafone, Micromax Mobiles, Tic Tac (from Italy’s Ferrero Group) and Sony Bravia are riding on Chopra’s Khatron Ke Khiladi (KKK3)—a stunt reality show, said Simran Hoon, national sales head at Colors, run by Viacom18 Pvt. Ltd. “A lot of sponsors have done repeat purchase on more than one reality show on Colors," she said.

Telecom brand Vodafone, which advertised on Bigg Boss last year, has switched to KKK3 this year, as has Sony Bravia.

Why are brands so keen to advertise at premium rates on these shows?

Richa Singh, marketing head for Garnier, L’Oreal India, said though the cost of associating with celebrity format shows on general entertainment channels (GECs) can be steep. “It’s a gamble which could yield high returns."

Garnier Men Deodorant chose KKK3 because “the show is about high action and adventure and it went with our brand promise," Singh said.

Pratik Seal, head (marketing), at Micromax, a home-grown mobile phone company, said celeb-hosted shows build immense mileage for brands. Micromax is expected to be one of the key sponsors of Master Chef and other sponsors could include Amul, Adani group and Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), said a senior executive at Star Plus who didn’t want to be identified.

HUL, Adani group and Amul did not respond to email queries sent on Monday.

Sejal Shah, vice-president, India Media Exchange (IMX), a media buying agency, said spot rates for shows backed by celebrities could go up to Rs3 lakh for 10 seconds. “The channels make a lot of money on sponsorships, sale of commercial time and other associations. But I am not sure if they break even on costs."

Anand Shah, an analyst at Angel Broking Ltd, said most celebrity-packed shows are loss-making projects for channels and the losses can sometimes run into crores. “It’s mostly driven by a herd mentality. One channel brings in a celebrity show and then another has to follow suit in order to save its turf and hang on its GRPs (gross rating points). These are not money spinners," he said.

GRP is the total of television rating points (TRPs), which reflect the percentage of viewers watching a programme at a particular time. Ratings for shows such as Khatron Ke Khiladi in previous seasons averaged between 3 and 4, said media buyers. That’s a rather average rating. Another analyst, who did not want to be identified, said putting together a single episode, especially given the high cost of production in such shows, could cost up to Rs1 crore.

For advertisers, viewership fragmentation may lead to poorer returns on investment, but firms such as Micromax aren’t worried. Seal said the risk factor isn’t overwhelming as channels make up for losses by offering free airtime benefits.

But Abdul Khan, head (GSM marketing), at Tata Teleservices Ltd, said, “In the practical world, these performance-based models are just not implemented."

Still, celeb-driven shows are believed to possess a drawing power of their own. Basabdatta Chowdhuri, chief executive of Madison Media, an arm of marketing communications group Madison Communications Pvt. Ltd, said: “These are important shows to be aired during the festive season. They have their respective USPs."


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