In June 2000, when Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) was launched, STAR could afford to gamble. For, it had nothing to lose. According to a prominent business weekly, just three months before KBC happened, when Rupert Murdoch, the 70-year-old chairman of News Corporation, was shown how STAR channels then rated with Indian audiences, he'd exclaimed, "Oh! my Gawd, I don't want to ever see this again!"
He never did.
Now, with its dominating lead in the television industry, STAR can again afford to gamble. And even lose a few.
The challenge that faces STAR is to develop a wide range of programming to replace the power of KBC that signed off on January 9 in the crucial 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm slot - the most crucial in Indian television programming. According to industry figures, the 8.00 pm to 10.00 pm prime-time slot is when 80 per cent of the television advertising money is spent.
STAR is coming up with a whole host of programmes, of which, the new show Kamzor Kadii Kaun (KKK) - the Indian version of BBC's The Weakest Link - on air from December 25 (Tuesdays at 9.00 pm), is the one most closely associated in the viewer's mind with KBC.
The show, hosted by Neena Gupta, is about a set of strangers who have to work together as a team to win prize money of up to Rs 25 lakh. Only one person gets the money, while the others walk away with nothing, as round by round they are pitilessly voted out by their teammates. Sort of a Survivor, but with the setting being urbane. Siddharth Basu directs KKK, which is produced by BBC Worldwide, in association with STAR India.
But, first, how is the show doing?
Pretty well, if one goes by the TRP ratings of the first two weeks of the show. According to ORG-Marg Intam Ratings for all C&S homes from December 24 to December 30, 2001, the show has a TVR rating of 5.3. And according to AC Nielsen's TAM Ratings for all C&S homes, between December 23 to December 29, 2001, the show has a TVR rating of 6.11. It is among the Top 10 shows on C&S television.
Good enough, but the big question is: How much of this is the novelty of a new show on air? Over the show hangs the question: How will Indian audiences react to the host? For, in both KBC and KKK, the show is not only about a game. It is about the host as well.
Naturally, Neena is being compared to Bachchan. Amitabh Bachchan. Suave, urbane and smooth. Very alive in the minds of the audience. Neena Gupta, right in front of their eyes, with her "in-your-face" attitude.
Of course KKK, as STAR avers, is a different show altogether. "In comparison with The Weakest Link, Neena is mild. In any case, this is an entirely different show. It will take a few episodes for the show catch on," says Yashpal Khanna, senior vice-president, Corporate Communications, Star India. KKK might be a different show, but so are cultural attitudes. To many Indians, used to a slower rhythm of life, the abruptness of the host smacks of rudeness. In fact, informed sources do say that the channel has asked Neena to 'tone down' a bit.
And, if past experience is to go by, niche shows that are hugely popular in the West, do not go down very well with the Indian audience. AXN's Survivor, a show that beat Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (on which KBC is based) hands down in the West, flopped in India. STAR's own Ji Mantriji, based on the hugely popular Yes Minister!, too failed to cut much ice and notched up an average TVR rating of 2.8.
Analysts say KKK too risks falling in a slot. "Unlike KBC, which had an universal appeal that cut across all categories, KKK, after the initial hype, is likely to appeal to only a niche audience," points out Jasmin Sohrabji, senior vice-president, Mediacom, the media division of Grey Worldwide.
However, the problem is not about KKK alone. Since June 2000, STAR's 9.00 pm weekly slot was straddled by Bachchan and Computerji. Though the show did seem to dwindle over time, when Amitabh Bachchan signed off after the last episode of KBC, with his trademark "lock kiya jaye", on January 9, he left an aching void. "The real strength of KBC was Amitabh - his charm and his great personality. It was that, rather than the format of the gameshow, that was important on KBC," points out Sohrabji.
STAR has been able to keep the lead it achieved with KBC, with constant innovation. New soaps. New themes. New genres. It is the only way to keep the pampered Indian television viewer, who gets a bouquet of 70 to 80 channels for as little as Rs150 to Rs 200 per month, constantly interested. In a way, the stark difference between Neena and Bachchan may even be deliberate. "Viewers get charmed only if you keep them guessing. Viewers have to be pulled in. And the key to that is innovation. Breaking the mould with a very rude host is also a kind of innovation," points out Atul Phadnis, media director, Starcom India.
In fact, by innovating, for good or bad, STAR is keeping to the first rule of savvy marketing - hold on to the attention. KKK is scoring high on two points - word of mouth, good or bad, and in bringing newer audiences to the programme. And, together, these two produce high ratings for the channel, which still dominates all the Top 15 shows.
So now, a year-and-a-half after its first gamble with KBC, STAR, perched right at the top of the rickety ladder of television ratings, can again afford to gamble. With a whole new range of programming coming up in the 9.00 pm slot, with its commanding lead, the troubles of its rivals, and its stranglehold over the top slots, STAR is throwing the dice once again.
Just like in June 2000. © 2002 agencyfaqs!