television channels today are star struck. We have Bollywood stars judging song and dance reality shows, making special appearances in a daily soap and, lately, hosting reality shows on television. Broadcasters are spending humungous amounts of money to rope in a celebrity to host a show in the hope of grabbing eyeballs.
A big name or a known celebrity is a definite way of ensuring sampling. Ravina Raj Kohli, chairman and managing director, Sundial Creative Media, believes that a celebrity cannot guarantee sustained viewership. "While having a celebrity generates top of mind awareness for the show on a channel, after a certain point, there's nothing for the audience to stay clued in," she says.
Viacom 18's GEC Colors has Fear Factor - Khatro Ke Khiladi as its flagship show, featuring actor Akshay Kumar. This is the second season of Fear Factor, an Endemol format. The first season, which featured on Sony Entertainment Television, failed to generate the desired viewership. However, with Kumar, Colors hopes to make a grand entry. "Akshay Kumar is not the host of the show. He is an integral part of the format," clarifies Rajesh Kamat, chief executive officer, Viacom 18. According to him, Kumar is synonymous with action and is the best fit for a show like this. The channel has made a few changes in the format by getting 13 Bollywood starlets as participants, to up the appeal of the show.
For a new channel, it is a risky gamble to bank on a celebrity for its launch, but Kamat is confident. He says that this show is not just a programming initiative, but also a marketing initiative for them. "It will help us a great deal in breaking through the clutter," he states. Kumar is reportedly being paid Rs 1.5 crore per episode.
Can a celebrity popularise a weak format? The answer is no. The format is as important as the host. A celebrity cannot carry a show that is weak in format. In the past, attempts made by television channels to attain viewership with a known face as host, haven't met with success. There are many instances of such efforts having gone kaput.
In 2002, Sony Entertainment Television launched a marriage reality show, Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai, with leading Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit as the host. The show, which had Dixit play matchmaker to a boy and girl amidst both their families, fared miserably. Perhaps, the concept, as some say, was way ahead of its time. While the format wasn't right, the host was perfect.
Another important factor when roping in a celebrity to host a show is the credibility of the host. 'Is the host capable of questioning the contestant?' is a question that can play in the minds of the viewers. Perhaps, that's why quiz shows such as Jeeto Chhapar Phaad Ke with actor Govinda didn't go down well with the audience.
Viewers can brace themselves to see Bollywood stars in their living rooms almost every day now. Sony's Waar Parrivar, hosted by Urmila Matondkar, is already on air. Coming up in months to come are Dus Ka Dum (Sony), hosted by Salman Khan, Rock n Roll Soniye, hosted by Juhi Chawla on STAR Plus, and, of course, Fear Factor with Akshay Kumar.