Format shows have limited spectrum on Indian TV

MUMBAI: Roshan Abbas flagged off the session on 'TV format- A boon for Indian Production?' with an introductory speech which began taking one back to the times when there were no format shows at all.

"Those were the days when this concept was alien to India at least. But when things happen, they happen fast. We made a mark with Family Fortune which bagged the Screen Videocon award for that show," he began with a smile, but quickly added, "We are not here to see what my show did and did not. We are here to look at some grey areas, precisely two:

a) Does an international format work in Indian environment? b) Like we did in Antakshari and Sa Re Ga Ma, why can't we format more shows in India?

Phil Trelease, Action Time joint MD, took over and spoke about formats that could be budgeted to the demand and the need of the hour. He explained, "For example, a show Alphabet Game was made on a low budget for UK, but the same show was extravagantly formatted for Spain, France and Portugal. The budget is very flexible."

Summing up, he said, "Don't think that I am here to sell international formats. I have met many creative people from your country. I am looking forward to take away formats from here."

The second speaker, Manish Popat, COO UTV, was not much for format shows. He cited, "This format craze all began when Kaun Banega Crorepati proved to be a major success. But why do you forget that there were many factors going strongly in its favour?

a) Presence of Amitabh Bachchan whose charisma remains unparalleled till date

b) Availability of a prime time slot

c) Excellent prize money.

When other such format shows came up with Govinda, Manisha Koirala and Anupam Kher, those bombed. Didn't KBC TRP ratings drop too after the euphoria had died down? Another format show Knockout was knocked out by Doordarshan simply because some people objected to the government promoting gambling on its own channel.

In this perspective, format shows have limited spectrum. Importantly, they have to be presented in such a way that the sensibilities of the nation do not get hurt or even disturbed, he said.

At this point, Roshan intervened to agree with Manish. He said, "Yes. I remember that my Family Fortune was earlier titled Family Feud. Before the first episode, the title was changed. Else, it might not have worked."

Sunder Aaron who looks into the network perspective of format shows said, "These format shows are often going to be a bit in excesses, over the top type. You have to excite the audience."

And then began a barrage of questions from the audience. The main ones were: Was KBC a case in isolation? The reply was, "Not really, but format show makers must remember that format shows should not be restricted to gaming only. Another one was: I have worked with a production house. TV channels are very finicky. They keep asking us to change the format every now and then. The reply was, "Channels need to do a lot of research."

No firm conclusion was drawn. The forum lived up to the question mark at the end of its title!


The session: TV Format: A boon for Indian Production?

Moderator: ENCOMPASS ESP managing director Roshan Abbas

The speakers: Zeal TV Director of International Television Ed Sharples, Action Time Director Phil Trelease, UTV COO Manish Popat, Antakshari director Gajendra Singh

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