Making sense of the loss-making Bigg Boss

MUMBAI: Love it or hate it but you just can’t ignore it! Which is what not just viewers but also television channels have been doing ever since Endemol India introduced Bigg Boss.


First presented by Sony Entertainment Channel in 2006 with Arshad Warsi as the host, the ever popular reality show started off with a bang only to end with a whimper when the channel was forced to relinquish the loss-making show.


Though that didn’t stop a five-year-old Colors from taking up where Sony had left, the channel continued to lose a lot of money over Bigg Boss even as the show became more and more popular.


Intrigued by Colors’ determination to hold on to such a loss-making property, posed the question to CEO Raj Nayak in an earlier interview, to which he answered: “I do it because it is a cult show. People wait for it. Advertisers want it. If you speak to ‘Streax’, the owner told me two containers were bought in Afghanistan because of Bigg Boss. That is Bigg Boss for you.”


He further said: “We generate PR worth Rs 15-20 crore when Bigg Boss is about to start. That’s the kind of cult image the show has - 100 days of non-stop entertainment during prime time, like an IPL match. We will not stop doing those things as the viewers want it. So, as long as it matches my bottom P&L, I am able to manage it, I am fine.”


Indeed, one of the reasons to continue investing nearly Rs 120 to Rs 130 crore in Bigg Boss is the kind of buzz it generates well ahead of the launch. The contestants, their choice of clothes, their language and mannerisms, the controversies around them – constitutes fodder for endless discussion and hence, nothing to be unhappy about.


Also according to Nayak, Bigg Boss gets the best advertisers by virtue of it getting the best ratings. Fact is while fiction is Colors’ staple food, advertisement rates for non-fiction shows are higher. Then again, walking the tightrope between fiction and non-fiction is of essence.


Yet another reason for continuing with Bigg Boss is the rub-off it has on ‘Brand Colors’. “When you go to a restaurant, there will be many dishes (Chef’s specials) that will be expensive. They don’t make money on that but they keep it because some people keep coming for those dishes. And yet, these people eat other stuff as well,” explained Nayak.


The show was high on viewership throughout the season; however it was its finale episode that added a cherry on the cake. It had all the makings of a ‘masaledaar’ blockbuster including power-packed performances by the contestants and the host Salman Khan himself.


“The season seven has been the most watched, most buzzed and most trended season of all times,” believed Colors’ weekend programming head Manisha Sharma.


Bigg Boss seven debuted with 7,711 TVTs on its opening day and continued to have a successful run for several of weeks.


The spill-over effect of the popularity of Bigg Boss was felt on shows Colors airs before and after Big Boss. For example, in week 44 of TAM TV ratings, viewership of Madhubala rose to 4,441 TVTs from 4,305 TVTs a week earlier and that of Uttaran jumped to 4,299 TVTs from 3,722 TVTs.


For Lodestar UM vice-president Deepak Netram, Bigg Boss is the kind of show which is an investment for the long term for the channel.


A senior media planner said while Colors is seeing a 10 to 15 per cent year-on-year increase in the cost of producing Bigg Boss, the show continues to have a loyal set of viewers and continues to deliver on ratings.


“It’s like you are making a product but not getting the right price for it. But does that mean you will stop making the product? Obviously, you will continue making the product. The problem you have is in terms of sales,” he said.


Yet another planner opined the channel wouldn’t give up on the show. “If the show is making losses, it does not mean it won’t happen. Some other channel will pick it up and make it. So, they will sell it to their competitors. And the show has its audience; they will lose the viewers.


So, to not lose those viewers, Colors will have to make the show. To get the right value, you’ve got to get sales active,” he rounded off.

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