Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the show that was first launched in 1998 in the UK, has travelled across the globe to more than 100 countries. In India itself, six regional versions of the format have already been launched, with ETV Marathi announcing the launch of the seventh (Marathi) version of the show. Called Kon Hoeel Marathi Crorepati, the show will be on air by June, 2013.
ETV Network has bought over the rights of the format from Sony Pictures Television for the regional market. The show is already present in Hindi (Star Plus in 2000 and now on Sony), Bhojpuri (2011- Mahua TV), Bengali (2011- Mahua Bangla), Kannada (2012- Suvarna), Tamil (2012- Star Vijay) and Malayalam (2012-Asianet). All the versions in India are produced by Big Synergy, which will also produce the Marathi version.
In the Malayalam market, the show appeared on Asianet when it was the leader, while in the Kannada market, the show appeared on Suvarna, in an attempt to challenge the then leader of the market, Udaya TV.
Industry people also add that when Star Plus got the Hindi version on-board, it wasn't the leader in the space. The show has consistently proved to be a key driver of channels' viewership. For ETV Marathi too, experts suggest that regaining its top position must be a reason behind the acquisition. The development comes barely a year after ETV's buyout by Network18.
It may also be noted here that the production costs of the format are very high as the quality of production is maintained in the regional versions. The upcoming Marathi version is apparently made with almost similar investments as the Hindi version.
Basu explains that as far as cost is concerned, the southern market was more viable since the same office of the production house (in Chennai) produced three shows. However, he suggests that the production in Maharashtra for the Marathi edition may cost the channel more. Mumbai, however, has advantages such as favourable unions and the working (and shooting) environment.
Also, the only major recurring cost in production is the payment to the celebrity who anchors the show; the set and the camera set-up are one-time costs.
Explaining the importance of the show for the channel, Amit Phalke, non-fiction head, ETV Marathi, says, "The show is a game changer, as it goes beyond the realm of entertainment and enters into a space that changes people's destiny."
For the record, the original format was owned by Celador, which sold it to 2waytraffic, along with the complete British content library of the company, in 1996. Two years later, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased 2waytraffic, ultimately owning the format, too.