Television

Endemol looks at more formats; eyes fiction

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MUMBAI: A year has passed since global television format creator and distributor Endemol set up shop in India. Buoyed by success the company is looking to bring in more formats in India.

As far as the fiction side is concerned India head Rajesh Kamath says that Endemol is evaluating the scene. By May it will have decided whether it wants to buy a stake in a production house or go on its own. In fact, before coming into India it had weighed the possibility of acquiring a production house in the fiction space. However it decided to enter the country as a production outfit rather than simply sell formats. It will kick off its fiction slate towards the end of the year.

Says Kamath, "We are delighted at the success of Bigg Boss, Fame X on Sony and The Great Indian Laughter Challenge on Star One. We produce all three shows and it has been a learning experience.

"Certainly shooting Bigg Boss day in and day out has been a challenge in terms of keeping the 100+ crew members motivated. They become like one family as the show becomes their life as it were for the shooting period. Earlier there were doubts as to whether the show would work as it was seen to be niche. However the success shows that if the format is unique, the participants are broad based and the audience understands the concept it will work. The Metro viewers were the early adopters as data from the Tam Elite Panel shows. Bigg Boss and Fame X get over next month.

"We might bring one or both of them towards the end of the year. The temptation might be to do Bigg Boss immediately seeing that it has fared so well. However in the format business you have to create a sense of anticipation on the part of the viewer. So we wait for at least nine months before bringing a format back on air. I am confident that the second season of Bigg Boss will se more people particularity from the small towns jumping on the bandwagon. On the flip side Deal Or No Deal did not work but it is to be expected that not everything will work. Fame X is on an upward curve. As the number of participants goes down the involvement of the viewers goes up."

The question arises - what is next? There are two formats that Endemol is looking to sell and produce in India. Right now discussions are on with different broadcasters including Star and Sony. One format is called 1 vs 100. This is already airing in the US on NBC. Here you see one contestant pitting his knowledge against 100 others. It works like this. One contestant is in the hot seat answering a question. The 100 others are the audience members who also answer questions. The studio in fact has 100 screens and one answers by pressing one of three buttons.

Each of the 100 contestants has a value say Rs 1000 in addition to the value of the question. If the contestant gets it right and say 30 of the audience members get it wrong then he gets that much money. For the next question the value of each audience member goes up depending on how many are remaining. If the person in the hot seat answers incorrectly he goes out and one of the audience members is randomly chosen to replace him. The catch is that if the person in the hot seat answers correctly and so do all the audience members then he gets no money for that question as nobody got eliminated.

So it is a question of judging whether one should ask for an easy question or a difficult one. There are different genres one can choose from. A difficult question increases the chances of audience members and the person in the hot seat getting it wrong. The viewer at home can also participate through SMS. In some countries the person in the hot seat can choose to discontinue playing and walk off with what he has won. In other countries he must keep playing. The audience members in the US come from different walks of life and are segmented. So you could have five sports people, five businessmen etc.

The other format is called Set For Life. This was recently introduced by Endemol globally. Here there are 15 buttons half of which are red and the other half are white. If one presses a white button one wins money and goes to the next stage. If one presses a red button one goes back a level. The logic is the same as the Snakes and Ladders board game explains Kamath. The prize money keeps increasing. Four red buttons and one is out.

However there is a family member in an enclosed room who can see what is happening. This member can choose at any time to stop the game though the contestant keeps playing. So the contestant can win Rs one million when in actual fact the family member pressed the stop button when he had won half a million. It is a question of trusting the participant's ability and also luck. So a contestant can press four red buttons and feel that he has lost when in actual fact the family member had pressed the stop button earlier.

The firm is hoping to have at least one if not both these shows on air sometime in August- September. Kamath hints that 1 vs 100 has a better chance of making it first. It is also going to produce the second season of Fear Factor for Sony which it is is hoping to put on air sometime in June. This will be shot in South Africa or Malaysia. The production house is looking to increase the level of stunts involved. It is examining the possibility of having a boot camp where participants are put through a series of tests. It is thinking in terms of categorising the show as Extreme Fear Factor.

Before all this though it is looking at a participation television show. This is where viewers call in to answer questions on a show. They pay for this privilege. Endemol is working on the business model of a show like this in terms of the technology platform, how the revenues are split, where does it come from? To what extent does it come from advertising? It will be aired either in early primetime that is at 7 pm or in the afternoon that is at around 1:30 pm or at midnight.

It is hoping to put in a participation call TV show on air within a couple of months time either on Star or Sony. BrainTeaser is a possible format here. This is a word based show and has different variants. For instance one might be given the letter H as the start of a word and then clues. One has to guess the word. Then there is the scramble variant where words of eight or more letters are partitioned into four or five pieces, rearranged and presented. One has to unscramble them.

It is also talking to kids channels about a kids format. However Kamath was loathe to discuss further details. He is also further down the line looking at a sports based format The Match which is a celebrity based football match. In the UK proceeds went charity and aired on Sky. Interestingly Endemol is looking to produce all formats that it sells in India. That is because of the success of Bigg Boss, Fame X and The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.

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