Who or what rules at the box office might not apply to the small screen, as ratings of shows with popular Hindi film stars indicate. Sony’s Dus Ka Dum, hosted by Salman Khan, has failed to make it to BARC India’s top 20 shows two weeks in a row across Hindi speaking markets (HSM). This despite the channel spending over RS 1 crore per episode for the new season of the game show, which airs twice a week. Opening with 3.3 million impressions, the show is languishing at the bottom of the hierarchy across genres. This is not the first time an expensive proposition has failed to attract viewers. Historical drama Porus is also struggling, having opened on Sony with 4.2 million impressions, which remains its best performance till date. “We knew we would not get high ratings as Porus is a premium show made for an audience at the top of the pyramid,” explains Swastik Pictures’ founder and creative director Siddharth Kumar Tewary. “One can’t compare a historical show with a weekend filler or a family drama.”
However, the urban-versus-rural argument may not hold water, as data for the urban market does not feature Porus in the top 20, while Dus Ka Dum’s Race 3 Special episode finds place on the 20th position.
In fact, Naagin Season 3, which is currently the top programme in the GEC category across HSM, tops urban market ratings, signifying very little difference in consumption behaviour across the
Another case in point is Star Plus’ recent experiment with TED Talks India starring Shah Rukh Khan, which bombed as well. The eight episode series at its peak garnered 1.9 million impressions. For perspective sake, Naagin 3 on an average fetches 16.5 million impressions. Star Plus has clearly not learned from its mistakes. Last year, the channel roped in Bollywood director Nikhil Advani for a remake of Israeli drama Hatufim (Homeland) for Indian audiences. The Gideon Raff drama was reproduced in India as P.O.W: Bandi Yuddh Ke starring Bollywood actor Purab Kohli. Its best performance was 1.9 million impressions. Colors, too, struggled with the Anil Kapoor-Anupam Kher starrer 24, which on an average garnered one million impressions after 24 episodes.
Despite repeated failures, broadcasters continue to invest in expensive concepts, with brands backing them as sponsors. “There are brands that want to buy impact properties and shows like Dus Ka Dum, Bigg Boss or the world television premiere of movies,” says Vineet Sodhani, CEO, Spatial Access. Beyond ratings, brands want to make an impact in the trade space; associating with a weekend reality show makes sense in order to target, say, a retail store owner who is more likely to watch them as opposed to a Kumkum Bhagya on a weekday.
A regular fiction show costs a broadcaster around Rs 7-8 lakh for a 30-minute episode; for a VFX-heavy supernatural show, the cost swells up to Rs 12-15 lakh per episode. Non-fiction reality shows are more expensive compared to regular fiction shows and they cost thrice as much. In addition to the production cost, there is a hefty star fee attached to the show. In terms of monetisation, a Naagin or Kumkum Bhagya commands around Rs 1.5 lakh for a 10 second ad slot while it goes up to Rs 3.25 lakh for a weekend episode of Bigg Boss. Sony started selling Dus Ka Dum at Rs 2 lakh per slot, but has dropped it to Rs 1.5 lakh after the show’s poor performance in its initial weeks.