In its ninth season, Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) is cutting out the frills from the quiz show. No movie promotions, no celebrity participants, no song and dance, just an hour of questions and answers with Amitabh Bachchan as the host and the hot seat as the star, is how Sony Entertainment Television (SET) is reimagining its tentpole property; taking it back to its original format and hoping thereby that this will help the show buck the general decline in viewership for reality shows.
“Over the past few years, reality shows, existing ones more so, have seen some stagnation or decline in viewership. A reinvention is always a good idea for properties irrespective of ratings anyway,” said Danish Khan, EVP and business head at SET. He says that they have been studying viewership patterns quite rigorously since KBC’s last appearance on television in 2014.
Sony holds the licence for KBC, which is an adaptation of the British show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ that first aired in India in 2000 with Star India. Sony bought the licence to the show in 2009 that soon gathered an enviable fan following, big enough to rival a movie star and even inspired an Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire besides several regional versions.
Growing popularity drew brands to the show. But that also led to the inclusion of a host of ‘sponsored’ promotions and elements to KBC, adding scripted melodrama to an unscripted format. Whether this impacted viewership is not clear but this year SET is doing away with the trappings. It is also trimming the season to just 30 episodes, from 54 in the previous season and each episode will be an hour-long instead of running on for an extra half hour as it did in 2014. More important, during the episode, the focus will be on the game rather than the contestants’ interaction with Bachchan, celebrities and other diversions says Khan. “This time, we are putting the focus on the hot seat. So in one episode, around an hour long, there will be around 10 questions. Last year, around 7 questions were asked over almost one and a half hours,” explains Khan. Also the format has been tweaked to increase the risk element says Khan, after 15 questions the participants have the option of a jackpot question, an all or nothing deal for which there is no lifeline.
All of this along with an increase in the prize money to Rs 7 crore from Rs 5 crore is expected to woo the crowds, especially the young. Khan elaborates that research showed that the audience that watches TV has changed with younger members becoming key targets for advertisers and hence, he and his team set about making the show crisper and more tightly packaged.
SET says that the number of registrations for the show has zoomed, it was opened up in June for seven days and the channel received 1.98 crore registrations. This is a huge jump from 78 lakh registrations over 14 days in 2014. Khan believes that the numbers reflect the channel’s digital thrust. He says that mobile internet and the availability of regional language (mainly Hindi) interface on phones have helped the near-threefold increase in registrations.
SET has locked in nine sponsors so far. The main sponsors are Jio, Vivo, Datsun and Ching’s and five associate sponsors include Raymond, Axis Bank, Akash Tutorial, Big Bazar, and Quick Heal. “We’re looking at a couple more sponsors and then we’ll have spot advertisers. The response has been as expected and we’re happy with it. What is interesting with KBC is that it casts a wider net for viewership which means that it attracts male viewers during prime time on a GEC (general entertainment channel). So we have some sponsors like Axis Bank, Raymond, and Vivo that usually advertise on sports, on board as key sponsors,” Khan says.
If the channel is going for a more action-packed KBC for younger audiences, why did it not opt for a younger anchor? Khan explains that while Bachchan is not a youth icon, he is recognised by people of all ages. “KBC has three aspects around it: knowledge is a great leveller, the under-dog story and its appeal in smaller towns. Bachchan is the only personality who ticks all three boxes,” he adds.
The campaign for the upcoming season is currently on air and has been conceptualised and directed by Nitesh Tiwari (director of Dangal) and Nikhil Mehrotra. And instead of focusing on the winner on the hot seat (as several past campaigns have done), it zooms in on potential participants, depicting them as people who have been written off by their families, friends and colleagues. Redemption, the ads seem to imply, lies with the show’s all-inclusive format and its star host. But only if one has the answers.