Television

Adding oomph to MTV ‘Splitsvilla’ Sunny Leone style

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MUMBAI: Oodles of oomph marked the launch of MTV Splitsvilla. After six seasons of what is easily the channel’s hottest property, MTV is all set to raise the bar with the upcoming season to be hosted by VJ Nikhil Chinapa and sex-siren Sunny Leone.

As MTV EVP and business head Aditya Swamy puts it: “Our job is not only to entertain, but to lead young people.” Advertisers are only too happy to invest big bucks in season seven, given the popularity of Splitsvilla thus far. Brands such as Killer (title sponsor) and Manforce, Fogg and Karbonn (powered by sponsors) have already come on board the show.

This time however, viewers are in for something different. Twenty hot and happening girls including lingerie model Scarlet Rose and former Miss Goa will be seen vying for the attention of seven male celebrities including Ayaz Ahmed, Abhishek Malik, Ashwini Kaul, Mayank Gandhi, Mayank Pawar, Rishabh Sinha and Shravan Reddy. “In the previous seasons, we had fresh faces, but this time round, we have seven male celebrities who know each other because they are from the TV industry. That is the biggest format change and is going to create its own chemistry and set of equations in the villa,” explains Swamy. It’s as if he went out to sell the first season of Splitsvilla just yesterday. “I can’t believe seven years are over,” he adds.

Swamy informs that five episodes of season seven have been canned till now at the Samode Palace near Jaipur, where the entire unit will be stationed for another 30 days.

For MTV India programming head Vikas Gupta, Splitsvilla is the second project after Jhand and he is quite happy with the way the new season is shaping up. “When we thought of bringing SV back, our first thought was to make it more real, credible and bigger. I wanted it to go to Jabalpur, Dehradun and Kanpur,” he says.

Replying to a question about the choice of Leone, Gupta says, “Yes, Leone came into the picture because earlier, we had a great partnership with her. People will come to watch Leone and sample it, but then what next? What next for people to continue watching the show?”

That’s when MTV thought of roping in celebrities. “MTV is a small channel, why would any celebrity come just like that. Most of the celebrities are big enough to be daddies today, married. So the choice of celebrity was very important. We might have had some very popular celebrity, but they were not of the right age nor MTV material. So we thought, met, shortlisted, borrowed, beg, stole and everything that we could to get the final seven boys,” says Gupta. Surprisingly, there were no auditions and simply “A lot of coffees, dinners and meetings happened with the boys,” confesses Gupta.

However, the girls went through a lot of interviews, tasks and other things to get into the top 20. Revealing how difficult it was to get the right people on the show, Gupta says, “Usually, people want to come to such shows to become famous. The intention was not just to get hot models.  In fact in this season of SV, there is a girl who weights 135 kilos. Why can’t an overweight girl find romance…?”

“When I was discussing with my team, I told them I want a girl who is next door to find that prince charming and can a celebrity go beyond the look and find people with whom he/she can actually connect. Who will get married after the show? I hope someone does,” laughs Gupta.

Speaking about her association with MTV Splitsvilla, Leone says, “With the show all set to launch, I’m more excited than ever. Having watched MTV Splitsvilla in the past, it’s a great experience to now be a part of it. I’m really happy to be associating with MTV once again, this time to be the host of MTV Splitsvilla and I look forward to a great time and hope that this season, contestants find true love as that would be the real win.”

Indeed, there’s a lot more heart in this edition of SV if sources from the channel are to be believed. “Yes, this season, there is someone actually falling in love. We are talking about love generation right now,” reveals a source.

The team working on the show has more than 25 people from the channel and more than 100 people on the production side.

Marketing and promotion

This time, the theme is fairytale romance and hence, MTV is marketing the seventh edition in much the same way, whether it’s promo shots or activations across markets. The idea is to connect not only to people in metros but in non-metros as well.

“We are doing a digital activation called ‘Spilt-snapper’, which will give one winner a chance to be in the villa and shoot all the behind-the-scenes pictures as the photographer of the show,” informs MTV India head of marketing and insights Sumeli Chatterjee.

There will also be ‘Break-a-berries’ to profile contestants. It will tell viewers what each of the contestants is expecting from a relationship. Apart from this, there will be a lot of radio integrations with Leone. An industry source reveals that the show is a huge property for the channel for which it would be spending anywhere between Rs 4-5 crore.

Expectations

Consumer feedback is very important for the channel, says Swamy. “What they like and what they don’t like, what they expect… we start planning with all that knowledge,” he adds.

A lot of work goes into the making of a reality show like SV. There are three to four benchmarks and ratings are an important element. “What people say on social media gives us a lot of real-time feedback and for us, we are fine if people hate the show or love the show. If they hate it, that means they are watching the show,” laughs Swamy.

“People hate us and love us, both are good to have and you have to learn to live with both. A lot of the channel’s content is also consumed beyond television. What happens on the channel’s websites, YouTube, mobile app, is a big benchmark for the channel that triggers steady viewership for the channel. People share, like and comment and that is a kind of earned media,” he adds.

Recalling the first season, he says, “Casual dating was not accepted in India when SV started. We are trying to say casual dating is fine. You have to understand your opposite sex, and that is why SV was born,” Swamy signs off.

The 13-episode series will hit the television screens from 14 June, every Saturday at 7pm.

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