Star wars

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Nov 23 2011, 09:12am hrs
As Sony Entertainment Television celebrated the unprecedented success of Kaun Banega Crorepati Season 5, hosted by Amitabh Bachchan, the question doing the rounds was, what after KBC The Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire ended last week, drawing huge audiences, not least, as the channel heads admitted, due to the pan-Indian appeal of Mr Bachchan. Even as KBC ruled the general entertainment channel space, prodding Sony to number two up the ladder, behind Star and ahead of Colors and Zee, Star India announced it had managed to rope in Aamir Khan, a TV recluse so far, to host a show about India and its stories.

Star is keeping details of the show under wraps, but some of the teasers its dropping are that the show will be a journey that will connect with people across class and geographies. Incidentally, on KBC-5, the show managed to tap people across class and geographies, and the episode where a struggling teacher from Bihar won R5 crore garnered a high rating of 8 plus, unheard of for a non-fiction show.

Filmstars, from Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan to Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan, have hosted shows for television in the past couple of years, but not all have met with success. The DNA of the celebrity has to match the DNA of the show, says Danish Khan, senior VP, marketing, SET. It worked for us on shows like Jhalak Dikhla Ja with Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan with Dus Ka Dum, he points out. But its KBC that has been a revelation. It has done wonders for the channel. Thanks to the real-life stories of the participants and Big Bs pan-India appeal and his ability to connect to people, we have got a huge viewership. Big B is the greatest superstar we have, both on the big and small screen, and he proved it with KBC. We also used the KBC platform to promote/announce new shows, he adds.

And yet, filmstars come with a price and when the show doesnt take offneither SRKs Zor Ka Jhatka on Imagine nor Hrithik Roshans turn in Just Dance for Star garnered high ratingsthe broadcaster takes a hit. On KBC, though the channel wont put forth any figures, industry insiders say Sony paid R1 crore per episode to Amitabh Bachchan, twice the amount it paid him last year. Roshan, too, was paid R1 crore for the episodes he appeared for Stars Just Dance.

Analysts say a rethink is already happening on whether TV should rope in stars at such high prices. A TV channel executive says getting filmstars used to be a good bet a few years ago, but not anymore, though it does have a positive rub off on the channel if the star is big and the show is a success. Incidentally, Star launched Masterchef Season 2 in India without Akshay Kumar, season ones host and crowd-puller. Sony has been touting Salman Khans Dus Ka Dum as a success, but hasnt announced it this year yet. After the failure of Zor Ka Jhatka, SRK hasnt been seen on TV.

But Ashesh Jani, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, says Bollywood actors are increasingly realising the potential of the reach of television in India. With the remotest village in India now having access to television via the DTH, the potential to influence and be visible is immense, he adds. This is probably one of the reasons that prompted Aamir Khan, who resisted TV for long, to join hands with Star. Khans films are a great success on TV, with 3 Idiots garnering ratings of 10 at its television premiere on Sony and getting a huge viewership even in repeat telecasts.

Watching ones favourite stars in theatres is a two-hour affair, while watching them on television adds up to many more hours per week. This, the actors, are just beginning to realise. Hence, there is a spurt of signing-ups on various shows, right from reality to dance to game shows. Some shows have become brands themselves like the KBC. Being visible as a host or as a participant may add to the image of the star and also push up ratings, says Jani.

But with ad spends already tight and slowdown signs imminent, the TV industry will have to tighten its belt further and filmstars will have to correct prices to be able to make appearances on the small screen. Analysts say the process has already begun and that broadcasters are taking their time to announce big shows with big stars. After KBC, the only prominent show with a Bollywood A-lister now on air is Salman Khan in Bigg Boss, but ratings havent matched up with KBC. All eyes are now on Aamir Khan and the show he launches with Star, with Sony upping the stake with KBC Season 5.