How Kaun Banega Crorepati revived Amitabh Bachchan's career and Sony TV's ratings

Sunil Kumar Dhavala

Oct 16, 2017 19:12:36 IST

On a late summer evening in 2000, a group of senior executives in the Star TV India office huddled around the conference room.

A few of them were busy coordinating with the technical team in Hong Kong, uplinking facility; other think tanks began a countdown as if they were at the Kennedy Space Centre. The air was thick with emotion, commotion and tension.

The Cable and Satellite distribution team was still liaising with the Cable guys, while the people from ad sales were busy connecting to their Gods and Goddesses, aka ad agencies and sponsors. The entire office was a bustling hubbub of activity.

12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

The pilot episode of Kaun Banega Crorepati was aired on Star Plus on 3 July 2000. By the end of the first episode, the very atmosphere of STAR India offices across the country was thick with sensation, euphoria and fruition.

The living rooms of Indian households were filled with jubilation and effervescence. The audiences did not merely discover a quiz master in their matinee idol, they also approved of his new avatar and admired the debonair genteel and suave persona of the angry young man of yesteryears.

How Kaun Banega Crorepati revived Amitabh Bachchans career and Sony TVs ratings

Amitabh Bachchan as the host of KBC. Youtube screengrab.

The format of Kaun Banega Crorepati was quite a game changer for the media and entertainment industry; it changed the way Indians consume television. Kaun Banega Crorepati explores and offers emotions, sentiments, family drama, comedy and knowledge — it's one all-inclusive package. Heart-wrenching stories, soul-stirring conversations and gripping narratives made audience glued to their television sets.

The host, Amitabh Bachchan never failed to amuse the audiences, be it ear-pleasing poems or his witty one-liners. Every detail and aspect of what we saw in the program was a result of painstaking team effort. Bringing Britannia on board and subsuming its brand 50:50 under one of the lifelines fifty-fifty, brought an evocative image.

The idiot box swiftly turned into the wisdom box, and a window to the world, as Indians are known to place a premium on general knowledge and current affairs. During the pre-economic reforms period, parents always encouraged children to take aptitude and general knowledge tests ranging from bank exams to civil services. Star India's decision to rope in somebody as hallowed as Siddharth Basu to mastermind Kaun Banega Crorepati was another coup de maitre. Basu, colloquially known as "Father of Television Quiz shows in India", has mastered the art of making the mundane magnificent.

The show has been able to captivate the whole country from all walks of life and engage everyone ranging from children to nonagenarians. Amitabh Bachchan strikes his Deewaar again, a solid one (sans Binani cement), albeit on the small screen. No one can host the show better than the Septuagenarian. He attracts constant attention with his style and elan on the screen and off camera.

KBC helped him win eminence, rediscover his form and reposition himself from bankrupt to billionaire. STAR has received much praise for its knightly deed, introducing a UK based format into India during the early days of private television. KBC not only changed the fortunes of Star TV and Sony India, but also made careers and created employment in the media & entertainment sector. The success of KBC instilled a sense of hope in the industry outlook and provided sizable opportunities for foreign companies, which invested heavily after the increase in FDI limits in Broadcasting, Production, Digital, Cable Networks, DTH.

Amitabh Bachchan sitting next to the hot seat of Kaun Banega Crorepati. Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Amitabh Bachchan sitting next to the hot seat of Kaun Banega Crorepati. Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Kaun Banega Crorepati, Indian Idol and Big Boss have been ruling the TRP ratings and were adopted and reproduced in several regional languages in India. The stupendous success and multiple versions were not what mammoths of the production industry B&B Endemol and Fremantle aspired and envisioned while creating the original British formats, Who wants to be a Millionaire, Big Brother, and Pop Idol respectively. Perhaps, this is an incidence of fortuity.

In 2010 after Star India's abnegation of the license, on cue, Sony India quickly took the opportunity to snowball its viewers and revenue. KBC, in fact, helped Sony aggrandise its status, ratings and revenue. Each season brings a new wave in line with the ever-changing contemporary audience's preferences. Sony, before the commencement of KBC season 9, was at the sixth spot in all India market TRP charts in week-35. Barely one month after launching KBC's season 9, Sony reclaims the top slot in week-40. That's the magic and power of KBC. Isn't it? KBC and the host, are still ruling the prime time charts, albeit on a different channel.

KBC season 9 has left the audience awestruck by the adoption of technology. In a bid to support the Government's digital initiative, KBC forsook the practice of writing cheques and adopted the digital transfers. Phone-a-friend, one of the lifelines, when first introduced in KBC 1, had minimal mobile penetration and subscribers in India; this was a time when incoming and outgoing tariff pegged at Rs.16/- per minute.

In 2000, possessing a Nokia or Motorola phone was considered luxurious. On the other hand, the Internet with two dominant players, VSNL and Sify, was still in its nascent stages in India.

In the 80s, there were a couple of state-owned national channels with a rationed three-hour slot. Television was privatised only in 1992 in India, and since then the Indian media sector has come a long way. There were 80+ TV channels in the year 2000. India with 300+news channels & 500+ channels in various genres such as  Entertainment/Sports/Regional/Kids, are what we boast about today.

India's Television history can be broadly divided into two eras. Pre-privatisation and post-privatisation. Pre-privatisation can be further divided into two-phases:
i)Pre-asiad games ii) Post asiad games. Post-privatisation can be further divided into two-phases: i)Pre-KBC ii) Post-KBC

Today, India is one of the fastest growing Media & Entertainment markets with the growth rate of three percent during the year 2000 to 10.5 percent CAGR in 2016, as compared to the world average of 4.2 percent.

Seldom do we come across such formats. Nothing can supplant Kaun Banega Crorepati.

Updated Date: Oct 17, 2017 12:37:21 IST

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