More than just 'Idol' talk

The countdown has begun. Armed with a huge promotional blitz, Sony Entertainment channel?s ?big one?, which makes its bow on the small screen Thursday (28 October), is an ambitious project that threatens to challenge viewing habits of the telly loyals.

Be it a lack of a hit since Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahi, or the obvious threat posed by the ?youth-oriented? focus of several other general entertainment channels, SET has a huge amount at stake with the desi version of Fremantle Media?s Pop Idol.

It is a show aimed at making television viewers forget everything. Armed with the tag line Sab Kuch Bhula De!, mega budget show Indian Idol is Sony Entertainment Television?s bid to fortify its youth viewer base.

The move comes in the wake of a slew of channel launches in the youth and lifestyle genres that could grab away Sony?s core audience that straddles the age group of 15-35.

"We are bringing the choicest of programming to satiate the monumental hunger for talent that exists in the country," says Sony Entertainment Television executive vice president, programming and response Tarun Katial.

Presently, of the many hopefuls who turned up from every corner of the country to showcase their talent, about 136 aspiring Indian Idols have auditioned their way to Mumbai. India?s number two general entertainment channel is all geared to unfold the drama that ensued from tomorrow at 9:30 pm.

"Indian Idol is all about real people and their real emotions," Katial says.

Undeterred by the slew of reality talent hunts, SET has been charging ahead with its ambitious plans. "Ours is a reality show, it is as real as it gets," says Katial. "Also, the majority of reality hunts are not a singing talent hunt like ours," he adds.

Can you woo the masses with reality?

Are talent hunts a workable proposition, especially since viewers haven?t really lapped up such content? Sony has an additional problem: barring Jassi... none of the recent adaptations have worked for the channel. But Katial begs to differ. "We are working on a format show that has tasted nothing but success elsewhere. Barring the exception of adaptations of Russian Roulette (Sony?s Bachke Rehna) and The Weakest Link (Star Plus? Kamzor Kadii Kaun), the rest all have done wonders. Look at Who wants to be a Millionaire? (Star Plus? Kaun Banega Crorepati).

The industry, however, is a little wary about the chances of success of another format show. But Katial has another argument the offer. "All the format shows that haven?t worked well with Indian audiences either have a negative undertone or play on bad blood between players. But Indian Idol is all about hunting for exceptional talent and celebrating success."

In a bid to endear itself to the masses, Indian Idol has adapted quite a few changes to the basic format. One of the most pivotal adoptions: doing away completely with the sarcastic undertone. "All the three celebrity judges - Farah Khan, Anu Malik and Sonu Nigam - are just being themselves. In fact, the move seems to be towards humour. Not that there isn?t any constructive criticism offered but it is in keeping with the Indian milieu," says Katial.

Charting the programming route:

In its debut week, Idol will air thrice (Thursday to Saturday). While on Thursday the programme will air from 9:30 to 10:30 pm, on Friday and Saturday it will air from 9 to 9:30 pm. In the second and third week, Idol will air on Thursdays for an hour. And from week four of launch, a half-hour ?Winners Special? will air Fridays at 9 pm.

While the judges will be pivotal in the initial rounds, after the final 30 are zeroed down, it will be completely an audience choice. The selection will be based on the basis of votes each candidate manages to garner. Talking about the technological aspect, Katial offers that the viewers will be reminded about the popularity of the characters and their numbers through a bug on the left side of the screen. In addition to that, SET will be ushering in a hoopla of promotional tools.

First Take:

During a sneak preview of the talent hunt, what came through was the humour and the understated element of sarcasm. Adding the Indian hospitality feel to the show were the presenters Aman Yatan Verma and Mini Mathur, who took on the roles of mentors and friends, pumping up contestants and sharing their tears and smiles all the way.

The blue look and feel (on the sets and everywhere else) and the easy banter of the judges clearly indicates that the show targets youth. A move that weaves itself in with the channel?s current youth focus in programming.

The big ad push:

After an elaborate pre-launch campaign, Sony will now push the show through cross-channel and on-channel promotions.

The count down to the ?big? launch has already been initiated on the channel via an animated bug that appears on the lower one-third of the screen. The channel has created some interesting 30-second promotional ads for the show as well. "The promotions either chart the emotional journey of the candidates that have actually made it or the funny moments on the show. It is targeted at the heart strings of the viewers," says Katial. So be it the struggle of a school sweeper or the grit of a blind singer or simply the audacity of a wannabe, the effect is heart warming.

Although ?youth? in feel, the makers hope that the show will also be an aspirational watch for the interiors and the regional markets. The next round of promotions is planned for the regional media.

Katial claims that the promotional tours like Aap Jaisa Koi and channel specials like Dhoom machade have been lapped up by audiences across the board.

Will the gambit work for Sony? That?s the million rating question...

Here is the programming flowsheet:

Episode Time
Episode Details
28 October Thursday 9.30-10.30 pm The first three episodes will take you through the frenzy and excitement that 'Indian Idol' created as the crew scoured the nation for true talent. Watch enthusiastic participants from every nook and corner of the country and every walk of life turn up in huge numbers for their big chance to instant stardom.
29 October Friday 9.00-10.00 pm
30 October Saturday 9.00-10.00 pm
4 November Thursday 9.30 -10.30 pm Meet the deserving 136 finalists that the judges have chosen from hundreds and thousands of hopefuls across the country
11 November Thursday 9.30 -10.30 pm 136 finalists?Only one

'Indian Idol'!

Watch who gets through and who loses out?

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