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International format shows: Customisation works for TRPs in India

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | January 28, 2010
Several international format shows have been imported from across the world. But only a few tasted success

The last decade has been witness to hordes of international format shows being imported to India to satiate the viewers' desire for fresh and innovative content. Among those which were aired, only a few were able to hit the jackpot, while most others had to settle for lukewarm responses.

A few shows, such as Kaun Banega Crorepati, Khatron Ke Khiladi and 10 Ka Dum, have managed to rake in viewership at par with their international counterparts, namely Who Wants Be A Millionaire, Fear Factor and Power of 10 respectively. For instance, 10 Ka Dum, got an average rating of 3.1, according to aMap, while Power of 10 rated 3.3 in the US, as per Eurodata.

& #BANNER1 & #Meanwhile, shows such as Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hai, Sach Ka Saamna and Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao could not match up to their international originals Dancing With The Stars, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader, The Moment Of Truth and I'm a Celebrity -Take Me Out Of Here, in that order.

The telecast of Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader garnered a TVR of 9.3 in the US, while the Indian adaptation on STAR Plus managed to fetch a TVR of 4. Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao on Sony got a rating of merely 1.6, whereas the UK version on ITV fetched a high TVR of 11.8, as per Eurodata.

It may be worth introspecting why a format does not elicit the requisite response among Indian viewers. Joseph Eapen, chief executive officer, aMap believes that there is merit in looking at international practices to understand how a certain show was viewed. "One can gauge why a format failed in one country but worked in others, see launch and subsequent ratings, check the life span of a programme, audience profile and audience decay," he says. aMap has a partnership with Eurodata to provide international TV ratings in India and also to disseminate Indian show ratings in the world.

Production house Endemol tracks markets such as Argentina, Spain and Indonesia to gauge audience trends and positioning of shows in those markets as their audience profiles are similar to India's. But largely, Deepak Dhar, managing director, Endemol India says that most formats come with a pedigree. "A lot of our decisions are based on instinct," he says, adding that there is no specific yardstick to pick the right format.

Success is a factor of how the format is adapted within the Indian context. A case in point is Fear Factor. Worldwide, Fear Factor is an episodic weekend show where common people participate, with some occasional celebrity participants. The first season of Fear Factor, aired on Sony, was a learning experience for Endemol as it was the replication of the international one.

For the second season on Colors, Endemol changed the name to Khatron Ke Khiladi and in order to connect with the core GEC (general entertainment channel) audience - women - roped in thirteen known women contestants and the format was restructured to feature the same participants throughout the season. "It's imperative to adapt the format and not just replicate it," Dhar states.

Sudha Natrajan, president and chief operating officer, Lintas Media Group says that it's not just about the origin of the content but the platform and the level of 'Indianisation'. While the host and the choice of celebrities played a big role, the strength of the Colors platform and the quality and intensity of the promotion played a bigger role.

The Indian adaptation of Moment of Truth, called Sach Ka Saamna, met with a lukewarm response, although it was being hailed as a big milestone in reality entertainment. A lot of buzz was generated due to the nature of the show but it also caught the I&B Ministry's ire. "The show had a good connect with viewers but issues such as shift in time slot led to fall in TVRs," says Keertan Adyanthaya, general manager and executive vice-president, STAR World and STAR Movies.

To this, Natrajan says, "Tweaking the content to suit Indian sensitivity and to ensure that the policy makers and public interest groups are kept in mind when the content is bought is important." Clearly, customisation keeps controversies at bay. She cites the example of McDonalds, which has a completely different set of menu for Indian audiences.

Media planners bet their monies on shows on the basis of the strength of the platform on which it will be aired, their track record of delivering successfully on format shows, the marketing plan and the network strength, and the added elements (celebrities, changes) that make it interesting and potentially viable.

There is an interesting trend emerging, too. According to statistics from Lintas, four out of the Top 10 reality shows in 2009 were new formats. Among them, a majority (seven out of 10) were home grown, such as Rakhi Ka Swayamwar, Aap Ki Kachehri and Dance India Dance, indicating that home grown formats are getting increasingly popular among viewers.