Will Star-Aamir Khan magic work

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Apr 25 2012, 15:13pm hrs
A top broadcaster and a top film star come together to host Indian televisions arguably most ambitious reality show ever, and take on a few challenges. Will the experiment on Satyamev Jayate, Aamirs debut on the small screen, work If it does, it will set new trends in TV watching, on timings, rating and content

Star India and Aamir Khan are pulling out all stops to make a success out of Satyamev Jayate, the reality show that will be the Bollywood A-listers first foray into television, starting May 6. The broadcaster and the film star, who are one of Bollywoods best creative and marketing minds, have worked closely for nearly two years to bring a show that will break through the clutter of the intensely competitive general entertainment space in the Indian television industry.

With Aamir Khan following in the footsteps of his peers and senior colleaguesShahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, all having had successful stints on the small screeneveryone expected him to try something different. And both Star and Aamir Khan have thought out-of-the-box to promote a reality show like never before, and taking risks unheard of in the film business. Will they be successful Theres no easy answer to that, because it is an experiment that hasnt been tried out in the Indian television space before, say experts.

So, for instance, breaking a well-established trend of film stars appearing during the evening prime time on the small screen, Aamirs debut TV show will air on Sunday mornings at 11 am for 13 weeks. Admits Gayatri Yadav, executive VP, marketing and communications, Star India, This is a unique time slot, not unlike the nostalgia of Sunday morning family TV viewing of shows like Ramayan and Mahabharat in the past. This allows the family to sit together and watch the show without distraction. Viewers have for long asked for more diversity of content on weekends and this seeks to cater to that need. But as industry watchers know, the Sunday morning time slot isnt rating-friendly at all, with shows barely getting a television viewer rating of one. And Aamir Khan has big shoes to fill, with Amitabh Bachchan hosted-Kaun Banega Crorepati on rival network Sony garnering a prime-time rating of seven last season.

But, as Geetanjali Bhattacharji, CEO, SA-2, Spatial Access, a media analytics and audit firm, says, Intuitively, the show has great potential of recreating a time band, a new prime time if you will. The more involvement and engagement it builds, the greater will be its success. Given the way the sentiment is flowing, it has all the makings of becoming Star Plus next channel driver. Going against the tide is part of Aamir Khans strategy, as well as an interesting channel initiative to garner viewership and develop a new time band, says Bhattacharji. Rajni in the same time slot years ago drove ratings through the roof, but in a completely different TV environment, she adds.

Says Harish Bijoor, brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults, Sunday mornings are really not a great time slot to use. However, if Aamir is able to captivate viewers with his show, who knows, he just might create a whole big viewing band with ratings that match an evening slot.

Suresh Mohankumar, national planning head, Dentsu Communications, says, Aamir is one of the greatest actors India has seen, yet you get to see so little of Aamirone movie in maybe two years. He always leaves the audience wanting more. Therefore, naturally there is a tremendous interest in his TV debut. Aamir and Star are just capitalising on this truth. It is the right thing to do.

In another attempt to push the envelopeor as an analyst said to push up the numbersStar will telecast the show across its networks, Hindi, regional (dubbed in Telugu and Tamil) and Star World, and has also struck a deal to air it on Doordarshan, which will guarantee a higher viewership.

Star has spent a lot on the campaign itselfR6 crore and upwards, according to sourcesand Aamir Khan travelled the length and breadth of the country, from Kashmir to Kerala, to bring out stories of ordinary people. The promos are refreshing, the theme song a chart-busterboth creating a lot of buzz in the e-world.

The broadcaster, now ruling the Hindi GEC space, having thwarted off competition from its rivals Sony, Zee and Colors, is banking a lot on Aamir Khans ability to move the masses with his experimentation as he has shown with his films in the last decade, from Lagaan to 3 Idiots. Says Yadav: He doesnt venture into anything if he is not convinced about it, which speaks volumes about our coming together for Satyamev Jayate. Star India is doing the show with Aamir Khan to reinforce the same agenda of creativity, to push the limits of programming and come up with something that will be enormously impactful and engaging.

Though rival networks refused to comment on Stars trend-breaking show, everyone is watching and waiting for May 6. Sony, which earned around R200 crore with KBC 5 with a record number of people viewing the show, is set to announce dates for KBC 6, usually aired in August.

Advertiser response

With Star offering to simulcast the show on all key channels of its network and on Doordarshan, there has been a good response from advertisers despite a premium tag. According to advertisers, the cost for a 10-second slot is, at least, three times a regular show. A 10-second spot for a popular show, example the IPL, is around R4 lakh. The 13 episodes, too, would have cost Star a packetsources say around R4 crore each episode. So the higher ad rate is justifiable, say analysts. Satyamev Jayate offers sponsors an unparalleled and universal platform to reach India. In addition, Star is giving sponsors category exclusivityand there will be no competing brands on the showoffering an uncluttered and universal platform to connect brands and consumers, says Yadav.

The lead sponsors are Airtel and Aquaguard followed by Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Skoda, Axis Bank, Berger Paints and Dixcy Scott.

A host of other brands, including Parle, are in talks with the channel to come on board as the show progresses. It is going to be a wide-reaching show and, hence, there is a premium attached to it, says Mayank Shah, group product manager, Parle Products. It looks like it is going to be an interesting show catering to a certain audience. But since its also an experiment, we have to be prepared for all outcomes and whether it will be well-received.

Says Mohankumar, Advertisers would be betting on the Aamir magic being recreated on TV. It has a lot going for it. It is a new format on social issues, hosted and produced by a person who is involved in such issues. If the product is good, which it is likely to be, then the financials will take care of itself.

Bollywood on the small screen

While most top stars of Bollywood have dabbled in the small screen, few have been able to sustain the ratings throughout the season (except for Amitabh Bachchan with KBC). Says Bhattacharji, Except for KBC, none of the other stars, despite being in the prime-time band, managed to draw the crowds. According to Spatial Access data, while Shah Rukh Khans Jor Ka Jhatka had a season average rating of 1.3, Hrithik Roshans Just Dance had an average rating of 2.3 and Salman Khans Dus ka Dum 2.8.

But the industry is betting on the fact that Aamir Khan will bring credibility, intelligence, debate to the show and thus draw in audiences. Says Mohankumar: Probably this will push the industry to go beyond tried and tested formats. And convince them that audiences are more intelligent than what they had assumed. Its happening in the film industry, why not on television

* Rs. 6 crore spent by Star on Satyamev Jayate campaign

* Rs. 200 crore is what Stars rival, Sony earned with KBC 5

* Rs. 4 crore: cost to Star per episode