The seven season itch

The daggers are drawn and the battle field is set for what promises to be one of the most closely watched fights in recent television history.

We’re talking about the ensuing tussle between two of the small screen’s hottest properties: Sony Entertainment’s Kaun Banega Crorepati season seven vs. Colors’ Bigg Boss season seven.   

While there really are no guesstimates as to which among these two shows will succeed in grabbing more eyeballs (... and TVTs), both Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) are more than ready for the kill.  

Sony is betting big on the seventh season of KBC which comes to drawing rooms beginning 6 September, in a new and improved avatar. Not to be outdone, Colors is kick-starting Bigg Boss season seven - The ‘Wow’ and the ‘Aow’ barely nine days later i.e. 15 September.

We identify our strengths and weaknesses, and then see how we can complement our strengths with new shows, says confident Raj Nayak

Rechristened Saptakoti Mahadhani... Kaun Banega Mahacrorepati, KBC will be aired every Friday to Sunday at 8:30 pm. whereas Bigg Boss season seven will be telecast Monday to Sunday at 9:00 pm.

So what is the USP of this particular season, which the GECs are banking on?

KBC aims to create a platform of opportunities for Indians across ages, genders and socio-economic groups, and has had a makeover in terms of its format and prize money, which is now a whopping Rs 7 crore, among others.

Bigg Boss, on the other hand, arrives with a novel theme of heaven vs hell - The ‘Wow’ associated with the former and the ‘Aow’ with the latter.

A quick look at what’s new in both the shows:

KBC’s money tree will now comprise 15 questions and it will boast a brand new lifeline called ‘Power Paplu’ to aid those who seek to revive an already used lifeline. ‘Flip the question’ (Alat Palat) will replace ‘Ask the expert’ while ‘50:50’ will replace ‘Double Dip’.

In the entire game play, a hot seat contestant may now use only four of the five lifelines on offer.

A new feature ‘Play along’ has been introduced for the Fastest Finger First contestants who do not make it to the hot seat.

Well, competition is a reality. Within the very aggressive, competitive market, you have to differentiate the niche, says N.P Singh

Using ‘Play along’, they can play with the hot seat contestant and the one who answers the maximum number of questions in the minimum amount of time gets to win one lakh rupees at the end of the episode.

Additionally, the time limit for the ‘Phone a friend’ lifeline has been increased from 30 to 45 seconds. What’s more, audiences can win by playing the Ghar Baithe Jeeto Jackpot.

In contrast, Bigg Boss promises to be a roller-coaster ride for audiences, what with the heaven vs hell theme.

Of the 14 contestants, seven will be new names residing in a separate heaven themed house while the remaining seven will be old members, staying under one roof in another hell themed house, who’ve already been members of the Bigg Boss house during the last six seasons. The contestants from both the houses would be pitched against eachother in a series of tasks.

Among the newbies entering the Bigg Boss house are Shekhar Suman, Vatsal Seth, Suraj Pancholi, Kushal Tandon, Pratyusha Banerjee and Sonarika Bhadoria. The seventh newcomer is still to be identified.

Blast from the past: Hellcat Pooja Mishra is among the old members who will continue to occupy the house. Other members are still not confirmed.

There will be some amount of competition and fragmentation between the two shows, says Deepak Netram

Apart from programming frills, the channels themselves seem super confident about their respective properties. Moreso considering Bigg Boss has had a successful run last season with an opening of 4.0 TVR (television viewership ratings); ditto for KBC’s last season which opened with 6.1 TVR.

Colors CEO Raj Nayak says the channel is very clear and conscious in its strategy to be a complete household entertainment channel. “Today if you do a FPC (Fixed Point Chart) check across all channels, you will see Colors has the maximum variety. While strategy is one part, everything we do involves risks. But when I say risks, we take calculated risks. We identify our strengths and weaknesses, and then see how we can complement our strengths with new shows. If we succeed, they become better. If not, we keep trying,” he exults.

Asked if Sony has any particular strategy to beat the competition, SET chief operating officer N.P Singh says, “Well, competition is a reality. Within the very aggressive, competitive market, you have to differentiate the niche. Sony in its last 17 years has always run shows which are different from the rest and that has set us apart and we continue to follow that strategy.”

Since it is the seventh season, both shows have a great following and it will be very hard to choose one, says Ashish Bhasin

While Lodestar UM vice president Deepak Netram agrees there will be some amount of competition and fragmentation between the two shows, he is quick to point out that they cannot be compared. “They are unique in their own way. From the past what we have seen is KBC ratings have been there year on year. So we hope to maintain that. Bigg Boss on the other hand is looking bigger; the promotions are really huge and have happened way in advance. So it will be interesting to see how this pans out,” he observes.

Aegis Group plc chairman India and CEO southeast Asia Ashish Bhasin echoes Netram’s sentiments saying it will be a tough call between two very established properties. “Since it is the seventh season, both shows have a great following and it will be very hard to choose one. What viewers always believe in is content. If the content is of the viewers’ interest, people will definitely opt for that. The main competition will be when something else comes at that time - say a big movie is being launched by another channel or any big news event - which show loses out in that instance is going to be more interesting to watch,” he opines.

peaking from the point of view of advertisers, Bhasin says this particular slot is becoming increasingly attractive to them as it is also the hub of reality shows. “Advertisers will go where the eyeballs are and choose the most cost-effective way to get them. That’s how pricing will be done. And that can vary depending upon what the market rates are for that channel around that point of time. I don’t think finding advertisers for any of these shows will be an issue,” he says.

On his part, Nayak maintains Colors’ non-fiction shows generate more traction from advertisers than its fictional shows and Bigg Boss gets some of the biggest brands. However, he adds that it works as a loss leader and the channel has been investing in it because it is a cult show. This apart, it generates a lot of buzz. Estimates are that it is in the region of Rs 15-20 crore.

Most advertisers across categories agree that since both KBC and Bigg Boss are big properties and have local audiences across age groups, they cannot afford to ignore any one of them.

"Who would not want to take advantage of these shows to reach out to their target group? People are waiting for the shows to start and with festivals coming up; no one would be a fool to favour one over the other. Maximum eyeballs give us maximum reach," says an advertiser who didn’t wish to be named.

As things stand, both the shows have gone viral on various digital platforms. Bigg Boss seven’s official Facebook page boasts around 1.8 million likes and more than 30,000 people talking about it. KBC Seven is not far behind with 1.6 million likes. Both are popular on Facebook but don’t seem to be trending that much on twitter.

Whether Big B’s charisma will work or Salman Khan’s swagger, only time will tell...

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