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.
Star India Pvt Ltd launched Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hai (Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?) on April 25. The show is hosted by Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan, features prize money of Rs 5 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 Rs 10 crore.
Star has gone ahead and slotted the show during the same time bracket, 8 pm to 9 pm, as matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which are being telecast by rival, Sony Entertainment Television. And although initial response shows Paanchvi Pass did miss out on viewership because of IPL, Star India is not ready to give up yet.
The network will now be running reruns of the show on separate time bands. “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.
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,” said Indrani Mukerjea, chief executive of 9X and co-chairman of INX Media.
The rush for game shows is reminiscent of the year 2000 when, emboldened by the success of Kaun Banega Crorepati (Who Will Become a Millionaire?), 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 featured Shahrukh. “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. Another Zee show launched in 2005 titled Kam Ya Zyada? (More or Less?) remained unsuccessful too.
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 him, viewers tired of soap operas will find game shows refreshing.
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 Rs 50 crore to be the presenting sponsor of Paanchvi Paas and rival Vodafone has paid SET and Filmy approximately Rs 3.5 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 Rs 3-3.5 lakh for a 10-second ad spot, are higher than that of IPL’s initial rate of Rs 2-2.5 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.”