Cellcast to simulcast Bid2Win on Sony, Sahara, Zee Punjabi and Zoom

MUMBAI: An attempt is being made to push the television programming envelope. Even if it is coming in the form of simple game show.

Come this Sunday, viewers of Sony, Zee Punjabi and Zoom TV will all tune into a single programme at 12 midnight: Bid2Win.

Before that viewers of SaharaOne will have already sampled the show at 11:30 pm. Based on the reverse auction principle it will run 365 days of the year, and will offer participants, who bid the lowest, prizes ranging from notebook computers to fridges to microwaves to LCD TVs to iPODs to home theater systems, to digital cameras to camcorders.

Produced by Sparkle Works for UK company Cellcast Interactive, Bid2Win will be hosted by Veer Das, Taraana, and Yudi. Says Cellcast Interactive India CEO Pankaj Thakar: "It's a compelling interactive format for a mass audience. In a reverse auction, instead of prices going up and up and out of reach, prices stay so low that everyone can participate with confidence. It is a show with high production values and high energy anchors offering high aspirational products at extremely low price."

Adds vice president business development Rajeev Dhal: "We plan to simulcast the show on many other channels as the days goes by. This is probably amongst the first major initiatives to push an audience particpatory show."

Basically, the three hosts will offer the products on screen and whip up a frenzy among viewers as they either shoot their bids via SMS or IVR. The bids will pop up on screen via graphical interfaces. The lowest bid will stand to win; duplication of a price point by two or more viewers will immediately lead to the bid becoming redundant, reveals Dhal. The auction will continue till the next day with the winner being announced in the following programme. Each SMS has been priced at a premium level of Rs 10 in its tie up with Airtel. Other sign ins with mobile telcos such as Hutch and Idea are likely to follow.

The half hour show has Prabhu Azgaonkar as the online editor with Asim being the director of photography and Shikha Azgaonkar,the scriptwriter.A four camera set up is being used to bring out the show daily and and an entire operation has been set up to manage the backend for the SMS management and to decide the winner.

Cellcast Interactive India has bought the telecast slots from the four broadcasters and will not be selling any sponsorships or airtime around the show. Around 10 promos a day are planned to pull in the audience, apart from a SMS push from Airtel.

Bid2Win is an evolution of a highly successful format pioneered by Cellcast. Reverse auctions first gained popularity on the Internet, and Cellcast developed the concept as a live SMS-driven interactive television show with Star TV in India in autumn of 2004.

The resulting show received over 6.7 million bids, becoming the world's largest interactive reverse auction, says a corporate release. In December 2004 a similar format was launched with Lebanese partner Future TV, and proved so popular across the Middle East and North Africa that the show was extended beyond the Ramadan holiday, it adds.

Will Bid2Win find takers? Will audiences pick up their phones and shoot across SMS and calls? Home shopping companies have been running a successful business by telecasting programming blocks on TV hawking everything from weight loss tools to exercise machines for some years now. Cellcast will probably have to do a lot more to push the concept at viewers; reverse auctions or forward auctions are unfamiliar concepts for the general viewers - a small section of which has been buying goodies shopping at home through television. Additionally, care will have to be taken to ensure that the prizes/bid items are alluring enough.

If Thakar manages to pull off his plan of roadblocking Bid2Win across 15 channels all over the country, and pushes the telecast time aggressively enough, he might end up making it a success.

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