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Tinseltown in your living room

They may still be larger than life, but these days they’re no longer that large to be unable to fit snugly into the small screen. A host of Bollywood superstars—a few who are at their peak, along with a few who’re set to peak out and a few who peaked out some time ago—have begun gravitating towards television and are pocketing big bucks in the process. Anusha Subramanian reports.

Anusha Subramanian        Print Edition: June 29, 2008

They may still be larger than life, but these days they’re no longer that large to be unable to fit snugly into the small screen. Of late, a host of Bollywood superstars—a few who are at their peak, along with a few who’re set to peak out and a few who peaked out some time ago—has begun gravitating towards television.

 

Salman Khan

Channel - Sony Entertainment Television

Programme - Dus Ka Dum

Take-home: Rs 72 crore (for 90 episodes over three seasons)

On June 6, Salman Khan took a bow on the idiot box, as the host of Dus ka Dum: India sochega percentage Mein, a game show on Sony Entertainment Television (SET).

It has been adapted from internationally popular Power of 10, and comes with a winner-takes-home jackpot of Rs 10 crore. Whether any participant will bag that bonanza is an imponderable; what isn’t is the stash Khan is laughing all the way to the bank with—a cool Rs 72 crore for 90 episodes over three seasons, a sum he’s unlikely to make signing films over that period.

Khan isn’t the first tinseltown jack flash to jump out of the silver screen onto the smaller counterpart in homes. Amitabh Bachchan was the first to take the gamble—it was exactly that for the ageing star as well as for the broadcaster, STAR India—with Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). Shah Rukh Khan took the cue and jumped on the KBC-3 bandwagon, though not as successfully as the Big B. Khan is back on STAR with another format called Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain? Now, it’s the turn of some other big stars of Bollywood to be lured by television.

Action star Akshay Kumar will debut as a host on Viacom 18’s new general entertainment channel (GEC) Colors. Fear Factor: Khatron ke Khiladi, the show that Kumar will host is likely to go on air from July. (This is not Kumar’s first brush with television. He had earlier done a seven-part series called Seven Deadly Arts on National Geographic Channel.) Other artistes who’ve been convinced that small is indeed big include Urmila Matondkar, who is hosting a music show on SET called Waar Parriwar.

 

 Shah Rukh Khan

Channel: Star Plus

Programme: Paanchvi Pass

Take-home: Rs 1 crore per episode (72 episodes over two seasons)

Television currently has several Bollywood stars either hosting or judging reality shows. There is Zee TV’s show Rock N Roll Family, which has Ajay Devgan, Kajol and Tanuja as judges; 9X’s Chak de Bachche has Raveena Tandon; and Shatrughan Sinha is one of the coanchors on the Great Indian Laughter Challenge on STAR One.So, why are the supermen of cinema invading your living room? Experts point out that this wave may have actually been triggered by broadcasters in the highly-competitive GEC space, which had at least 10 channels at last count, all attempting to grab eyeballs.

Points out Siddhartha Basu, Chairman & Managing Director, Synergy Adlabs, which has produced shows like Mastermind and Kaun Banega Crorepati: “When the battle for eyeballs is as hot as it is right now, stars become the most coveted nukes in the arsenal of broadcasters. They help create the buzz, heat up the hype, bring in buyers and ensure sampling.” Broadcasters, for their part, point out that it is a mutually-beneficial relationship. Says Albert Almeida, Executive Vice President, Business Head, SET: “Television is going to grow bigger than cinema and the gap between the two has reduced considerably. The reach and the repetitiveness of the medium make it attractive for stars.” That television makes stars look more approachable—set as they are in an environment that requires them to interact with ordinary people—also helps drive viewership. SET will be looking to Salman Khan to maintain its ratings after the resounding success of the recently-concluded Indian Premier League.

 

 Urmila Matondkar

Channel: Sony Entertainment Television

Programme: Waar Parriwar

Take-home: Rs 7.5 crore (for 51 episodes)

The memory of what KBC did for STAR Plus is still fresh in broadcasters’ minds. That’s why, for instance, mint-new channel Colors is relying on Akshay Kumar to stand out in the clutter. Rajesh Kamath, CEO, Colors, says: “Our strategy of roping in a celebrity like Akshay Kumar has two aspects. One is marketing and the other is content. From a marketing perspective, we are looking to break free from the the clutter and get noticed. As for content, we have chosen a super-successful show. As a new channel, we need to make the viewers aware of the show. Akshay Kumar will get us on the radar and tuned into the TV scene.” Clearly, the channel is willing to pay big money for the kind of impact it intends to make on the viewers (Akshay Kumar is estimated to be taking home Rs 1.5 crore per episode). As Tarun Mehra, Business Head, Zee TV, points out: “Because there are so many new channels, each one of them is buying eyeballs for a very high price.”

 

Akshay Kumar

Channel: Colors

Programme: Fear Factor: Khatron ke Khiladi

Take-home: Rs 1.5 crore per episode (16 episodes)

Getting big stars on the small screen has meant huge spikes in the budgets of reality shows. Industry insiders indicate that the big starbacked shows like Paanchvi Pass and Dus ka Dum have budgets of nearly Rs 4 crore per episode. Is the advertising support keeping pace? A 10-second spot on a popular soap saga at prime time sells for Rs 1.50 lakh on an average. In comparison, superstar-backed reality shows could command an even higher rate, of between Rs 2 and Rs 3 lakh, say media planners. They reveal that a 10-second spot on Dus ka Dum is going for Rs 1.75-2 lakh and a similar spot on Paanchvi Pass is commanding Rs 2.5 lakh. SET has roped in seven big advertisers, namely Vodafone, Samsung (phones), LG Notebooks, L’Oreal (Garnier), J&J, P&G (Gillette) and ITC Foods for Dus ka Dum.

There is no title sponsor. All these brands are looking at integration with the show. STAR Plus has roped in 11 sponsors and is estimated to earn about Rs 150 crore from ad revenues from the Shah Rukh Khan-hosted game show. Says Mona Jain, Executive Vice President, India Media Exchange (IME), the consolidated media buying arm of Starcom MediaVest Group and Zenith Optimedia: “The channels ensure that the advertisers get their worth. They come up with different packages for the advertisers as well as brand integration within the show to increase saliency of the brand.”

At the end of the day, it’s a battle for television rating points (TRPs). But when it comes to deciding rates for spots, advertisers obviously are willing to shell out more to broadcasters with a higher viewer share. For example, media buyers say STAR Plus is able to command a higher price for its show than SET as its channel market share is higher. Between January and April 2008, STAR Plus had a 31.5 per cent share of viewership in the GE space; SET is still way behind with a share of a mere 8.25 per cent for the first four months of 2008. As STAR Plus, KBC and Bachchan demonstrated eight years ago, it takes just one show to make a channel a winner—and the star a superstar once more.

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