Benita Chacko

What's the secret behind KBC's magical run all these years?

1,000 episodes, 13 seasons, and 21 years later, the show still has advertisers vying for space. Media experts unravel the enduring charm of KBC.

As the iconic theme music of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) played in the background at 9 pm on Friday (December 3), families across the country gathered around the television set to watch the 1000th episode of the quiz show. After a successful run of 13 seasons, the show, that began on July 3, 2000, had touched the four-digit mark.

Just as families across the country gathered to watch the show, a family came together to play the game show. The family of the host, Amitabh Bachchan, joined him in the celebrations as the show completed 1000 episodes. As part of the Shandar Shukravar episode, his daughter Shweta Nanda and granddaughter Navya Naveli Nanda were on the sets and his wife Jaya Bachchan joined him through a video call from Delhi.

During the show Shweta asked her father how he felt on the completion of 1000 episodes. An overwhelmed Bachchan with tears in his eyes shared how he came to be a part of this show. Speaking of his unfortunate circumstances back in the 2000s when he had no film offers, he said when the show was offered to him he wanted to see the shoot of the original ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’. It was after he watched the shoot in London that he agreed to do the show on the condition that the channel (Star TV) creates the Indian version on the same scale. The rest, as they say, is history.

Vanita Kohli Khandekar, in her book The Indian Media Business narrates this history. In the late 1990s, as Star TV struggled to make a mark as a 24/7 Hindi entertainment channel, it was Sameer Nair, then VP, programming, STAR Plus, who thought of bringing the show to India. The show was initially intended to be ‘Kaun Banega Lakhpati’, with Rs 1 lakh as the final prize money, and was to be a half-hour weekly show. Rupert Murdoch, the media tycoon, egged the India team to bet big and upped the prize money by about a hundred times and made it an hour-long daily show. Convincing Bachchan for the show was the next challenge.

The show premiered on July 3, 2000 and within the first week it had a rating of 10. By August it had crossed 18. Advertisers were pouring in money. The average rates for a 10-second spot on KBC went to Rs 3 lakh, while it varied between Rs 1 to 2 lakh for the other popular shows. Besides brands were sponsoring everything on the show- from cheque book to the computer.

Until KBC launched, Zee and Sony were ruling the rating charts. Now Star gave them a run for their money. KBC changed the fortunes for the channel. However, during the second season Bachchan fell ill and couldn’t complete the schedule. Shah Rukh Khan was brought in for the third season, but despite all his efforts the show’s ratings declined. Star felt audience fatigue had set in and the show’s success run had ended. Sony took it up for the fourth season. In its 13th season now, all the seasons since then have been hosted by Bachchan on Sony TV.

While the show doesn’t enjoy the kind of ratings it did 21 years back, it still sees brands vying for sponsorships and advertising spots on it. While there have been some constant categories that have been advertising on the show for years- like electronic goods (laptops and mobile phones), financial services, telecom operators, every few years the trending categories of the season also bet big. Currently it is Edu-Tech, Pharma-tech and other emerging categories.

Moreover it has different sponsors for television and OTT. This season on television is co-presented by BYJU’S and Cadbury Dairy Milk. It is co-Powered by Hyundai Motor India Limited, Asian Paints Royale Glitz, Ultratech Cement and Zydus Wellness Ltd – Complan. The associate sponsors are CERA, PharmEasy, IDFC FIRST BANK, LIC of India and Bharat Matrimony. Reserve Bank Of India is the Special Partner on the show. Meanwhile on SonyLiv it is co-presented by Acko Insurance and Vimal. Welspun Flooring, Abbott and Maruti Suzuki are the other sponsors.

Sujata Dwibedy
Sujata Dwibedy

The show is also slightly premium in comparison to the other reality shows. “Advertisers like it because of the opportunities the format offers, in terms of brand integrations and visibility. And yet, it's so subtle, that the audience wouldn't really mind having those brands on board. The show has a massive reach in the Hindi Speaking Markets. It is a show that the entire family can watch together. And finally, brands do like the fact that Bachchan is hosting the show,” explains Sujata Dwibedy, Group Trading Director, Amplifi India.

Vanita Keswani
Vanita Keswani

Vanita Keswani, CEO, Madison Media Sigma, says, “It is the stature and personality of the show that makes it stand out. Amitabh Bachchan, the brand and the format bring these aspects to the show. There are hardly any other shows in the GEC space that have this kind of stature. Moreover some brands would not like to associate with, say a comedy or a song and dance show. KBC, then, provides them that niche option, where they can take a more serious route than a fun route.”

BARC data reveals that the show doesn’t enjoy high viewership anymore. Some of the episodes in October had less than one rating by audience. However, it is not KBC alone, but all reality shows on television are now witnessing a dip in their ratings.

“Normally reality shows are not only evaluated on ratings but also for the buzz they create. It is known for the surround, conversations it generates, shareability on social media, but unfortunately, this does not get reflected on ratings. People are also watching it on Connected TV through OTT in the urban areas. These are still not getting measured," Dwibedy explains.

While it is still a matter of pride for brands to feature their ad during the show, the dwindling ratings has also been a matter of concern. For example, Maruti Suzuki has only put their money on OTT and not advertised on television. “Our investments are obviously related to the ratings. And this seems to be on the expensive side, even for Maruti. But we would do that in case there was a launch or some special campaign. But this year, there was no such campaign at that time. Moreover, there was an overlap with the IPL and the T20 World Cup,” said Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director at Maruti Suzuki.

Shashank Srivastava, executive director, sales and marketing, Maruti Suzuki India.
Shashank Srivastava, executive director, sales and marketing, Maruti Suzuki India.

This has created an interesting scenario where Hyundai advertises on television and the Rs 1 crore winner also takes home a Hyundai car, while its rival Maruti Suzuki advertises on OTT.

“From the broadcaster’s point of view, they have been able to sell the two mediums separately. But I think over a period of time, advertisers will start saying that they will advertise on the television provided OTT is not given to a competitor. That has not yet happened,” he adds.

Speaking on the show’s demand amongst advertisers, Srivastava also feels that its reach, the brand safety it provides, its relatability and lastly Bachchan’s presence is what makes the show special. “Watching people like us win money gives a different kind of thrill. So though there’s no horse riding, jumping from a helicopter or gunfights in this show, it has this ‘clean thrill’,” he says.

So has there been no audience fatigue in all these years? After all, 21 years is a long time for a show.

“The format is such that fatigue cannot really set in. Each episode has different contestants and new questions are asked. They bring in newness in each week with celebrities, kids and many such special episodes. Most importantly, you have Amitabh Bachchan hosting it, he pulls the crowd with his charm. The quiz format also brings in the competitive spirit. There is an emotional story in the background with people coming from smaller towns and their stories. There is always something new to look forward to. This has made it successful, and it will continue to be successful even in the coming years. However, the host must be Bachchan,” Dwibedy adds.

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