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'Cricket, the biggest entertainment, stays with us'

Sneha Rajani, the business head of SETMax, the official broadcaster of IPL, says the channel loses nothing to rival, Colors.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2010 20:54 IST
Rachana Dubey
Rachana Dubey
Hindustan Times

As season three of the Indian Premier League kicks off on March 12, it is expected to see as much competition off the ground, as it will on the playing field. While eight private teams will fight for the No 1 spot, two TV channels will be battling it out to grab as many eyeballs they can.

While SET Max will air live telecasts of the matches, followed by a spell of Extraa Innings, Colors has signed a deal to take IPL from the stadiums into studios and eventually, to drawing rooms to interact with a generous dose of celebrity faces and cricketers.

According to industry sources, advertisers are still a bit unsure about jumping the bandwagon on Colors. Everyone is, allegedly, waiting to see the ratings of the shows conceptualised and executed by the channel revolving around IPL first. Meanwhile, Sneha Rajani of SET Max says that her channel will have all the entertainment.

Not afraid
“I don’t know what other entertainment is everyone talking about. Colors has a show called IPL Rockstars, which starts with the series and ends in 13 episodes. Cricket, the biggest form of entertainment, stays with us. So, we’re not afraid of any other channel taking away an ‘entertainment’ franchise,” retorts Rajani.

According to Ashvini Yardi, head programming Colors, “Cricket is like religion in our country. The idea was to turn IPL into a year-round property. It’s a three-year deal where we will produce cricketainment shows under the brand, IPL Tadka Maar Ke. Right now, we have four shows — IPL Rockstars, which will show IPL with a Musical Tadka, IPL Fear Factor Edition with a heavy dose of Khatre ka Tadka, IPL Awards with a glitzy and glamourous Bollywood Tadka and IPL Parties with full-on Fashion ka Tadka. The idea behind IPL Tadka Maar Ke is to bring out the mass appeal attached both to IPL and Colors. It’s about that distinctive touch that Colors will be lending to IPL to make it even more exciting than it already is.”

During the first season of the IPL, the matches started in the noon slot at 3 pm and the evening slot at 7 pm. The timings remained unchanged despite a changed venue to South Africa, in season two.

The timings remain the same even for the season coming up. “We can’t change the timings, because all the viewers seem pretty set with their schedules. It also affects ad revenues,” she says.

Bring up the comparatively lower ratings for season two and Rajani disagrees. According to her, the last minute shift of venue from India to South Africa didn’t dampen the spirit.

“We registered pretty much the same ratings, because the timings remained the same. We didn’t expect the on-ground and on-air response that we got. This time, I’m hoping we’re on target in terms of monetary returns and audience responses, because the venue is our home turf,” Rajani asserts.

Most general entertainment Hindi channels have decided not to venture out with new shows during this IPL season that starts earlier than the previous years.

According to a source from Zee TV, no channel wants to pitch any new show against the cricket tournament.

That’s probably the reason that NDTV Imagine’s new prime time shows like Jamuniya and Kashi go on air a week before IPL, and Zee TV’s show, Do Saheliyaan, goes on air 12 days before the IPL begins.

Glam quotient missing
All those who tuned in to watch Mandira Bedi analyse the matches on the Extraa Innings segment, on SET Max, will be highly disappointed this year, as the anchor-commentator-presenter is not a part of the presentation team anymore. Sneha Rajani from Max confirms and says, “We had set the trend of a female analyst on board with the male experts. Everyone copied the idea and there were a few good and several bad lady analysts on every channel for every sport. So, this year we’ve decided to change the idea and take it back to square one, where we have an all-gentlemen team. The commentators and the presenters will all be men this year.”

The presenters this year are Angad Bedi, Sameer Kochchar, Ayushman Khurana and Gaurav Kapoor. Mandira Bedi wasn’t available for a comment. Wonder if it would affect viewership negatively? “We kicked off the trend in 2003 with the World Cup. The viewership didn’t shoot up then. In fact, there was plenty of criticism and flak that came our way, but Mandira was accepted eventually. Now, when we’ve given her a break, I’m sure this will also be welcomed. And the viewership will not reduce. It’s the matches that draw eyeballs after all,” states Rajani.

'Saare jahan se achcha… is the anthem of the tournament'
Most teams out of the eight competitors don’t plan to have any new music videos this year. Barring one or two, none of the others have any anthems or theme songs either. When asked if she was aware of the move from team owners, Sneha Rajani from Max, said she was not. “I just know that Rajasthan Royals will have a team anthem. I don’t know if the other teams plan to retain their old tracks, have new ones or just drop the idea of an anthem. You can check with the team owners on this.”

However, Rajani says that since the IPL series returns to the home turf this year, after a break of one year, the entire series will have one anthem. “Saare jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara… is our anthem this year and it might continue for the years to come. It gives out the correct vibe, the spirit of the series and the enthusiasm to have it back on home grounds.”

Last year, three IPL teams, Kolkata Knight Riders, Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals produced expensive videos to promote themselves. This year, everyone seems to be citing issues like budgetary constraints to come up with promotional songs, given that the budgets for some videos went over a crore.

KKR’s video ‘Too hot, too cool’ was shot at Film City’s helipad area with the team and Shah Rukh Khan.
The Kundras hired an airplane, shot the video in Jaipur with the team and the song was sung by Sunidhi Chauhan.
Preity Zinta and Ness Wadia’s team anthem Dhoom Punjabi was helmed by Daler Mehndi and Zinta.

This year, Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla’s KKR are expected to continue with Korbo, lorbo jeetbo re. Shilpa Shetty-Raj Kundra’s Rajasthan Royals has minutely altered its previous year’s video and Preity Zinta-Ness Wadia’s Kings XI Punjab wants to continue with their original song as the signature tune.

No cheerleaders show this time
A year ago, buzz was that Knights and Angels, the show on NDTV Imagine that was supposed to select cheerleaders for the Kolkata Knight Riders, was expected to have a season two this year. Last year, the show judged by team captain Saurav Ganguly and the team players, was received moderately.

The ratings for the show plummeted further after the venue was changed from India to South Africa, and none of the winners actually made it to the grounds in their team uniform.

This year, Shailaja Kejriwal of NDTV Imagine says that there is no likelihood of such a show coming back. “It was a one-off show. There has been no talk from our side or theirs on having such a show on board. But there are still two weeks for the series to go. You never know,” she says.

IPL Matches to have a live music reality show
If you thought that the Twenty20 cricket action was entertainment at its best, be ready to be surprised, as the Indian Premier League has more in store for fans across the country this season three.

Scheduled to take place between March 12 and April 25 this year, lakhs of spectators will witness a live musical reality show, called the ‘IPL Rockstar — Musical Tadka’, before some of the matches begin, which will be judged live by celebrated singers, Sukhwinder Singh and Kailash Kher.
The idea behind the show is to liken the IPL matches to America’s Super Bowl, the championship game of the National Football League, which has some of the top US musicians performing live. The reality show will air on Colors, IPL’s Entertainment Partner, along with the other three shows — IPL Fear Factor, IPL Nights and IPL Awards (see boxes), under the property called ‘IPL Tadka Maar Ke’.

IPL Rockstar will feature 14 former music reality show contestants, including Amit Paul, Meiyang Chang, Sandeep Acharya, Antara Mitra and Harshdeep Kaur. Apart from the two regular judges, one of the eight IPL franchisee owners will be a guest judge during different match days, while rapper Hard Kaur will anchor the show.

“It’s an exciting concept and I immediately agreed to take up the show. It would give a kick to the contestants, as well as to us judges, to see the audiences react to the singers. It is an opportunity of a lifetime for these singers,” says Kailash Kher.

While Sukhwinder Singh adds, “I’m sure I was taken on as a jury because the show producers knew about my passion towards sports. In fact, I had two career options as a teenager — one, a runner, and another, a singer, since I was quite good at both. I’m excited about getting to be part of a singing show, happening on a sports ground.”

Both judges admit that their judging criteria will include audience reactions to the singers as well. “We are part of a democracy, after all,” smiles Kher. “We will definitely consider the unsaid verdict of the audience. If the singers manage to get the crowds on their feet and get them to sing along, that will be a sign of success.”

“It’s a live show in the true sense,” agrees Singh. “The reactions of the crowd will be instant. And since the contestants are all winners from various other reality shows, the level of performances will also be much better.”

Only the first few episodes of the show will be aired live on Colors, while the others will be aired at different time slots, which are yet to be decided.

-Nikhil Taneja

First Published: Feb 25, 2010 13:16 IST