Can telly newbies score with biggies around?

30 Sep,2011



By Dhara Salla

Whenever one thinks of Antakshari on Zee TV there is only one face that comes to mind: Annu Kapoor. Or it’s Sonu Nigam for Sa Re Ga Ma. Fast forward to today, and the story is much the same – the big faces on television have always helped audiences to connect and reinforce the recall value. Today, all the channels have either celebrity hosts or celebrity contestants, be it the Big B Amitabh Bachchan in KBC, Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt in Big Boss, Akshay Kumar in Khatron Ke Khiladi, Mithun Chakraborty in Dance India Dance, Madhuri Dixit in Jhalak Dikhla Jaa… and the list goes on. In the reign of big faces, the question to ask is, what is the scope for newcomers and can a new face create the same magic?

Ms Anita Mookerjee, GM, Mediacom, said, “It depends on the newcomer and the format of the show. However, a big name is most often successful. In most of the cases the celebrity, along with the mass appeal, also has the ability to engage and enthrall the audience. Amitabh Bachchan is an icon, a legend people can’t get enough of.” She further adds, “Salman Khan has a unique mass appeal, he was media elusive for a long time and it was the fact that the audiences were getting to see a more personal side of him which worked to the advantage of the show. Akshay Kumar took Khatron Ke Khiladi to a different level; the same show as Fear Factor didn’t really click.”

Mr Jamnadas Majethia, MD, Hats Off Productions, says, “No, I don’t believe a newcomer can create the same magic as the big stars. The life of a reality show is limited to about three months or 12-14 episodes. So it would take time for a newcomer to get established. By the time they reach the third or fourth week the viewers would have already shifted their loyalties. The pull that a Hrithik or any celebrity like Madhuri can give, nobody else can give.”

Industry pundits’ views seem to reflect that a newcomer cannot create the same magic that big names and faces can. An established celebrity with an X-Factor, hence, can add more to the flavour of the show than a newcomer can. Having said that, the success of reality shows depends on influences such as the celebrity quotient, programme promotions, the channel on which the programme is telecast, controversies and PR, and lastly the concept.

We may remember that Shahrukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Genelia D’Souza and R Madhavan were also hosting shows which did not do well and were taken off air, so the success of reality shows depends not only on the celebrity but also on other things. There is more to it, as Rajendra Dwivedi, Vice President, Starcom Worldwide, Mumbai, explains. “Emotional stakes are more valuable than financial stakes. A real life credible drama or story of the participants works better than prize money. The format has to be engaging and good talent scouting should be undertaken. Then the celebrity host can build on these factors.”

On Indian television, where there are celebrity hosts there are also celebrity participants on the other side. Examining the question of which one works better, Ms Mookerjee says, “Celebrity participants definitely work; we see spikes in episodes with celebrity participants.”

On the contrary Mr Majethia says, “The shows with celebrity anchors or judges work better but not really the shows with celebrity participants. Celebrities should be there as they add a lot of value to the content. There is a lot of fresh talent, and because of these celebrity hosts they also get some mileage.”

When almost all the reality shows currently on television include celebrities, then how does the TG differ? According to Mr Dwivedi, the TG of the reality show depends on the format of the show. Hence, for KBC it will be all individuals but for Emotional Atyachar it will be youth and for Khatron Ke Khiladi, it will be males.

The big faces have been ruling the roost on the small screen for a long time in the reality show format. What is more interesting, however, is that the emotional storytelling and the HSM focus has added to the success of shows as it helps with audience connect. That’s something for media planners to note.

Photograph: Fotocorp

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