Sony set to make Rs400 crore on the back of KBC 9

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The ninth season of Amitabh Bachchan’s 17-year-old iconic show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) that returned to TV screens on 28 August is proving to be a money-spinner for broadcaster Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt. Ltd. The network is expected to earn about Rs400 crore in advertising revenue from the show, according to several brand experts and media buyers who declined to be named.

The quiz show, an adaptation of the British show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? that was last seen on Indian television in 2014, has mobile network operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd as the presenting sponsor. Reliance Jio has paid close to Rs100 crore for the deal. This is more than three times the Rs30 crore that chocolate brand Cadbury paid last season.

The rates for other sponsors have gone up as well. The “powered by” sponsorship deal is said to have cost Chinese mobile handset maker Vivo Communication Technology Co. Ltd and India’s Capital Foods Pvt. Ltd-owned brand Ching’s Secret Rs50 crore each, a substantial increase from the Rs10-15 crore that brands paid in 2014. Associate sponsors including brands such as Raymond, Datsun, Axis Bank, Aakash Institute, Big Bazaar and Quick Heal have come on board for around Rs10-15 crore each, again a rise from the Rs5 crore the show demanded for associate sponsorship last season.

Reliance Jio and Vivo did not respond to Mint’s messages and emails as of press time.

“A show like KBC is bound to not only create buzz within the trade but we’re also hoping for very high TRPs,” or television rating points, said Ajaay Gupta, managing director of Capital Foods, adding that the four-day response to the show had been stupendous but declining to comment on the deal size.

Sony is estimated to have spent around Rs200 crore on producing the show, nearly 60% of which is said to comprise Bachchan’s remuneration. Danish Khan, executive vice-president and business head of Sony Entertainment Television, the Hindi general entertainment channel of Sony Pictures Networks, declined to share numbers but admitted that it was a profitable venture for the broadcaster.

“One of the biggest challenges for any entertainment brand is to continue to find relevance in the same format,” said Khan. Sony got the KBC licence in 2010 and the show was aimed at catering to the aspirations of the common man. “The one insight we’ve always celebrated is that knowledge is a great leveller,” he said.

Saurabh Uboweja, founder and chief executive officer of brand consulting firm Brands of Desire, said, “As a concept and brand, KBC is now 17 years old, with Amitabh Bachchan, who is a brand in himself, building a lot of equity for the channel and concept.”

The reason brand association rates having more than doubled is that the reach of the show, including digital platforms, has increased consumer awareness and engagement. It is difficult to seek people’s attention when there is so much clutter and only a show like KBC can demand a premium.

“At this point you have telecom as a very dominant space, so Jio would probably pick the top five entertainment properties of the country, be it the Indian Premier League or KBC, and pay any money to be associated with them. Then you have something like a Vivo and Oppo, which are largely trying to grab market share in India,” said Uboweja. “It’s a high-profile show and sponsors get tremendous visibility.”

To be sure, the show has evolved with the times. To cater to a younger, faster-thinking audience, the one-hour weekday prime-time show will now incorporate 15 questions per episode compared to 2014’s average of seven. There will be no movie promotions or integrations unlike previous seasons and the JioChat application will allow viewers at home to play along with the show.

With the introduction of BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) India data that is more representative of the country, there is a greater effort to cater to small-town audiences, said Navin Khemka, managing partner at Maxus India, a GroupM India company. This is reflected in not just Reliance Jio—a mass brand that seeks a connect with the heartland— being positioned as title sponsor but also in the broad contestant profile and range of questions on current government policies.

When KBC was first introduced by Star Plus in 2000, it was a rare non-fiction entertainment show on Indian television. Seventeen years later, it fights a cluttered market.

“(We’ve stayed relevant) by sticking to the fundamentals that made the show work in the first place,” said creative producer Siddhartha Basu. “It’s not the kind of weekend snacking show where you can come on, see one particular item and go out. Traditionally, that’s what’s worked for the show, the family sits and plays together on one screen. It’s never been just another quick quiz show. It’s closer to drama. In the span of an episode, you can see a life changing in front of your eyes.”

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