afaqs!

Zee TV: Third time lucky?

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | December 18, 2012
The channel's earlier attempts to create and grow the acting-based reality formats with Cinestars ki Khoj in 2004 and India's Best Cinestar in 2006 could not strike root. Will its third attempt at the format finally work? afaqs! explores.

Zee TV, which takes pride in creating original non-fiction formats, has had many firsts to its name. Be it Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Dance India Dance or Antakshari, Zee TV has consistently tasted success with its non-fiction originals in a market dominated by internationally acquired formats (read Bigg Boss and Kaun Banega Crorepati or KBC).

Cinestars ki Khoj

Zee's first attempt with Cinestars ki Khoj, an acting-based reality show, in 2004, did not work. The channel did try to experiment with the format one more time in its second season as India's Best Cinestar (in 2006); that fizzled out too.

This time, Zee is approaching the format using the children's route. The channel will launch India's Best Dramebaaz in January and this will explore and showcase the acting talents of kids on screen. Scheduled to be placed on a weekend primetime slot, the show is slated to run for more than 20 weeks.

Elaborating on the reason for the show, Ajay Bhalwankar, head, programming, Zee TV, says, "Acting is not restricted to just movies, theatre or television shows. It is a day-to-day ingredient of life. When kids throw tantrums for not having milk or when parents tell them stories while feeding, it's all a part of expressions, voice modulation and hence, acting. This is the insight that works behind the show.With kids on board, this will be the most innocent form of talent."

Ajay Bhalwankar

P M Balakrishna

Rajit Desai

The show will follow the regular mentor-student format (used in Dance India Dance and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa), wherein teams guided by mentors will be pitted against one another.. Bhalwankar proposes that the whole series will become an acting workshop for the kids.

Interestingly, Zee TV has been tweaking its reality shows, with kids as the contending participants (read Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L'il Champs and DID l'il masters), and the tweaking has undoubtedly helped the channel grow its viewership. So, will the tweak in its latest acting-based format help Zee to create one flagship property for itself?

There is a strong belief amongst marketers that the format will be very tempting to kids and hence, parents, too, might tune into the show as passive viewers. However, many top media executives feel that it will be very tough for the channel to attract initial sampling.

P M Balakrishna, COO, Allied Media, says, "To see kids imitating is really enjoyable, but it's a big issue to incorporate that acting in a reality show; it is a little tricky and it greatly depends on the treatment given to the show."

Acting Vs Singing/ Dancing

For a viewer, judging the talent of a singer or a dancer is easier because the content is familiar. However, when it comes to acting, the content is completely new.

"That is why it is tough to judge an acting performance," says Rajit Desai, vice-president, Lodestar Universal. "Acting is very subjective. Also, it is inappropriate to equate the different themes of acting or different people acting on different subjects, especially when it's kids."

Adds Balakrishna, "A singer or a dancer successful at an average level can still be recognised in the industry but being a mediocre actor is like no existence at all in that space."

However, marketers unanimously believe that the show and format will be a great change from the current clutter of reality show formats on TV.

Participant-audience connect

A major part of the show's viewership will also depend on the connection that the participants and their stories are able to create with the audience. It's not an easy currency to keep. The participants may get on to a movie or a television show, but it will take a long time to evaluate their work till the time the movie is out or the TV series has tested grounds.

"When participants perform on singing and dancing reality shows, the audiences tend to get connected to them and hence follow their stories, but as far as acting is concerned, it would be tough for the viewers to feel the same way," says a top industry executive who does not wish to be named.

He further adds that though there will be a lot of buzz around the show and the concept is powerful, it really has to be seen if the channel replicates the treatment of DID or Sa Re Ga Ma Pa.

Desai seconds this by saying that Zee is capable of pulling it off, though each concept needs time to prove itself. Even DID and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa took their own time to get established.

For the record, Zee plans to invest heavily on the promotions and marketing stunts of India's Best Dramebaaz. The spends are expected to be at par with DID; the auditions of the show will also be telecast in episodic format.

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