Shailesh Kapoor: KBC: Welcome The New No 1

22 Sep,2017

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Seventeen years and nine seasons. Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) is, in many ways, the pivot around which the history of India’s entertainment television in the post-liberalisation era can be written. The programme itself has had a checkered history though, with not all seasons being equally successful. But the ninth season, which marks the return of KBC after three years, is a runaway success already. It’s the No 1 Hindi GEC show in Urban India in its third week, and has shown healthy week-on-week growth in its viewership.

In today’s times of ever-reducing attention spans, keeping the audiences engaged for 90 minutes, five days a week, is no easy task. But KBC has managed this in no small measure. Here are some reasons why a show, which was once thought to be a dead horse which no channel should flog, is back to the top:

Three years: A wait worth it

In 2010-2014, Sony aired five seasons of KBC. While they had somewhat different positioning attempts, there was a sense of KBC fatigue in the last two years of that period. KBC seemed to be on air perpetually. In a way, it lost its exclusivity or its premium feel, making it one of the several non-fiction shows that come and go every year. The three-year hiatus has worked very well, creating a sense of anticipation and novelty.

No social agenda

Past seasons of KBC have had social themes, which reflected not just in their communication, but also in their content. The themes ranged from women empowerment to providing a life-changing platform to the poor and the underprivileged. While the idea worked initially, by the 2013 season, KBC had become an emotionally-draining show to watch, with contestant videos showcasing misery that one would rather not watch on prime-time television. This season is free of any such agenda. It has an eclectic mix of contestants across the socio-economic spectrum, and engages purely at the level of knowledge and entertainment. Social messaging is all around us today, be it films, TV or the social media. KBC didn’t need to join that bandwagon, and it hasn’t. Even the little Friday touch, called Nayi Chaah Nayi Raah, is social awareness served in a light and frothy entertainment pack.

More engaging game-play

There haven’t been any major tweaks in the format, but the few that have been done have worked well. Integration of ‘digital’ aspects like video calling for the Phone-A-Friend lifeline and the supposed online transfer of the prize money, which we are repeatedly told is fast and safe, may look gimmicky to many of us in the media business, but work at a fairly simplistic level in an India that’s still in the courtship period with the Internet.

 

Fiction content struggling

The timing of the latest season’s launch couldn’t have been more apt. Fiction content has been struggling for the last year or two, as has been covered in this column repeatedly. There have been very few options on weekdays, however, to challenge fiction’s monopoly, despite the escalating viewer dissatisfaction. Bigg Boss, the only other weekday non-fiction show, airs late at 10.30pm. At 9pm, KBC has attacked fiction at the heart of the primetime. And it’s worked!

 

 

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