Never before has greed found such a pride of place in middle-class Indian homes. "Greed is good", says a hoarding for Godrej's repackaged drink, Xs, outside the Bandra (a Mumbai suburb) railway station. "Life means more", three of India's top celebs tell avid television viewers talking for Home Trade. "Dil maange more", says one of them again, this time for Pepsi. You may turn to KBC and the resultant media hype for exciting copy writers at Xs' agency. But it was amply supported by small-screen predecessors like the Antaksharis and what's-the-price equivalents. Contemporaries including JCPK and SDCK fuelled it further. Star's Khulja Sim Sim is readying to whet your greed afresh, starting later this month. Amidst all this, a new channel was launched recently to bring lottery results to the small screen.
It is called Southern Spice. If the name arouses some ulterior thoughts, keep them aside for now. The lottery-channel, if we may, is the brainchild of Chennai-based Fortune Media. Despite four e-mails and two telephonic requests, the company's managing director, Ramesh Babu, refused to participate in the article, expressing his reluctance to share anything with the press at the moment. This article was prepared with help from industry observers, including distributors.
Fortune is said to be beaming 12-hours-a-day as a free-to-air, digital channel from Intelsat-703. The programming mix comprises live telecasts of lottery draws, interspersed with film and popular music. The lottery draws come courtesy Martin Lottery Agencies of Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), the company that is learnt to be behind Fortune. Martin Lottery, run by S Martin, has been the chief distributor of various state-run lotteries for over three decades. As of now, it distributes and operates lotteries for the governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim and the Royal Government of Bhutan. They run under names like Sri Ganapathy, Tamillaxmi, Coral, Iris, Kanchenjunga, Bhagirathi, and the like.
For now, the music component comprises South-Indian songs, thus the name Southern Spice. Observers say that the company is planning to launch another feed soon by the name of Northern Spice, which will carry the same lottery-draws content, plus songs from Hindi films (perhaps regional too). One source points out that even a game-show may be in the offing on Fortune's twin channels. In a country that reveres cricket, movies and music (and accompanying celebs), quick-money shows surely seem an ideal accompaniment.
To date, JAIN TV is perhaps the only channel on Indian television that broadcasts lottery draws. It has been religiously telecasting live draws of the Arunachal Pradesh lottery in the 3.00-3.30 pm slot every day of the week. It is anyone's guess how it fares considering both the popularity of the channel and the awareness of the programme. In fact, calls to JAIN TV's Delhi and Mumbai offices were treated so cautiously that almost everyone feigned ignorance of the lottery-draws slot. One insider did reveal that JAIN TV has only recently won an advertiser or two and is keen to expand the time slot for this programming genre. Unfortunately, JAIN TV was working with Martin Lottery on this. The contract may no longer be in effect after Martin decided to launch his own channel. How JAIN TV operates on this slot now remains to be seen.
It also remains to be seen therefore, the progress this genre can make in India. It has its loyalists abroad. In the UK, for instance, BBC1 broadcasts the National Lottery draws. According to a MediaGuardian report of March 26, a National Lottery broadcast (at 7.40 pm) on BBC1 pulled in 8.4 million viewers (38 per cent share of the viewership). On a more interactive, and broadened tele-betting scale, British Sky Broadcasting and Ladbrokes, the bookmaker owned by the Hilton Group, formed a joint venture recently to operate interactive televised betting services on BSkyB's digital sports channels, according to a report in the Financial Times of July 2001,
It is uncertain if full-scale gambling - from buying tickets to betting - will proceed to television in India. In a way, the phone calls to KBC or to JCPK for its SOTC-sponsored world tours is a form of interactive gambling on television. Indian surfers routinely play lotto or similar lotteries on the Internet. Worldwide, the desire to accumulate wealth by luck, not effort, has gained wide acceptance, as explains Philip Coggan in his book, Easy Money.
In India, the scenario is no different. The stock market is not appetising; returns on even fixed-account investments are nowhere close to leap-worthy. Wannabe dot-com millionaires have burnt their fingers…
So? Pick a number…err, channel.
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