The Viacom18 EVP is bullish on ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’s third season, which goes on air from October 25 and returns on the channel after a gap of one year
Mayur Lookhar | Mumbai | October 19, 2015
Two weeks after the launch of ‘Bigg Boss Nau’, Colors Kannada (earlier ETV Kannada) is all set to launch the third season of the reality show in its Kannada version.
As is known, in 2012, Viacom18 acquired the ETV regional channels, where ETV Kannada, which until then was low in the pecking order, saw its graph shoot up with ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’. The regional channel was rebranded as Colors Kannada in early 2015 and since then it has witnessed impressive growth in the Karnataka market.
BestMediaInfo.com spoke to Ravish Kumar, EVP, Viacom18 and Project Head, Colors Kannada, Colors Bangla, Colors Odiya, who shared his thoughts on ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’, how the channel is planning to break even on the show this season, the rise of Colors Kannada to the No. 1 spot, plans for Colors Bangla and Colors Odiya and more.
Meanwhile, Bikash Kundu, Head - Sales, Regional Channels, Viacom18 Media, chipped in to talk about the sponsors and other business aspects surrounding ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’ and Colors Kannada. Excerpt:
The domination ‘Bigg Boss’ now extends to Colors Kannada as well. You must be delighted to have the show back on Colors Kannada. How did you pull that off?
‘Bigg Boss’ is a format that we’ve done successfully in the past. We introduced that format in the Karnataka market. We had a phenomenal season and it did very well for us. So, we’re proud to have it back. This year, we’ll be doing Season 3, which launches on October 25 in the prime time slot of 9-10 pm (Monday-Friday), while on Saturday and Sunday it will be aired from 9.00 pm to 10.30 pm.
There were reports that stated that the perhaps the high cost dissuaded you from pursuing another season...
No. I don’t think that cost has anything to do with it. We launched ‘Bigg Boss’ at a time when the channel was weak – it was the No. 4 player. Subsequent to the ‘Bigg Boss’ launch, it really generated a lot of awareness, changed the perception of the channel and from that point, we put a lot of focus on our fiction shows. Right now if you look at our fiction line-up, a lot of shows have continued to work very well. We reached a stage where we replaced a week day non-fiction show with a fiction show, which was working brilliantly for us. So we didn’t feel the need at the time to again exit the two shows and replace them with another season of ‘Bigg Boss’. That’s the primary reason why at that point of time we chose not to have a second season. Besides, we had moved to weekend non-fiction, so the timing didn’t work for us.
What’s the deal with Endemol Shine now?
Now the deal is for a period of more than a year. Earlier, we had it for a year but we had the first right of refusal. This year onwards it is more of a long-term association with Endemol.
We’ve learnt that there are plans to have ‘Bigg Boss Bangla’ too. When will we get to see the show?
That is something that we are thinking about and working towards it. We don’t have a finite time yet or any other details to share with you right now.
Apart from the language part, how does ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’ differ from its Hindi counterpart?
There are two things. One is obviously the difference in the time slot, where it is 9.00 pm, which is family viewing time. The other would be our approach towards it in Karnataka. We cast ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’ like we would replicate a traditional Kannadiga family. And that his how we choose the contestants. So, there’ll be a father figure, there’ll be a mother figure, there’ll be a responsible son (and an irresponsible son too), then we’ll have a girl next door. The dynamics between them is what makes it really fun and engaging.
Shooting the show in Karnataka not only adds to the regional connect, but I guess it is also cost effective as opposed to shooting in Lonavla, Maharashtra. However, at the same time, does constructing a set add up to the cost?
The highlight of this year is that it is the first time that ‘Bigg Boss’ is being shot outside the Lonavla location. So you have two seasons going on parallelly. Besides, cost was not a criteria in terms of doing the show, it was to do with the logistics around it. This time, we wanted to do the show in Bangalore because it allows us to do a lot more with the show from a PR perspective, from an on-ground perspective, from getting artists at a short notice, right down to even the anchor and the number of days that he has to commit to the show.
Thus, doing the show in Bangalore gives us greater control, greater visibility and the possibility of greater customisation. Even from our sponsors’ perspective, they can run a lot of dealer contests and consumer engagement programmes.
‘Bigg Boss Nau’ launched on September 28, 2015 and now ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’ is launching on October 25. Though the time slots are different, do you think this is a double bonanza for viewers in Karnataka or will this turn out to be an overdose of ‘Bigg Boss’?
I think the viewers are very distinct. The following for ‘Bigg Boss’ (Hindi) or for Hindi channels in southern markets is not very huge. What I’m offering is a version which is in many ways superior to what is being offered in Hindi. It has contestants who are known faces, it has an anchor who is the biggest star, and the fact that it is being shot in Bangalore. So, if I were a viewer nationally, I would gravitate towards the Kannada version. We are not worried about cannibalisation, our point of view is put it out there, let the viewer select. All I can guarantee is that whichever version they choose, they’ll be very happy.
How many sponsors have you got for ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’?
Bikash Kundu: We have five confirmed sponsors – Olx is the presenting sponsor, Gemini Cooking Oil (Cargill Foods India) is the powered by sponsor along with Eastern Spice. These are part of the logo buy unit. We have Winnie Cosmetic as an associate sponsor and we just got confirmation from one of the Unilever brands as a powered by sponsor. We are likely to have one more sponsor on board before we go on air on October 25.
How does this fare vis-à-vis the first season?
Bikash Kundu: For Season 1 we had four sponsors. Compared to that, we will definitely have more sponsors this time. Back then we were placed at No. 4 and that was our first big experiment with non-fiction. This is a tried and tested formula and we are now the No. 1 channel. As for spot buy rates, the increase would be approximately in the range of 300 per cent.
What’s the kind of revenue growth that you are expecting from ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’ this time?
Bikash Kundu: We are aggressively targeting break even on this show. Keep in mind this is only the second season that we are doing, and the channel is now the strong No. 1. So it’s a good time to monetise on that. It’s the festive season and hence, there is a lot of advertiser interest.
What is your inventory like?
Bikash Kundu: What we intend to do with the inventory on ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’, which commences on October 25 and continues till January 31, 2016, is that through these 5-6 sponsors that we have on board, we intend to sell out 70-75 per cent of the inventory. The remaining 25-30 per cent we would want to sell through spot buys, which, of course, will come at much higher premium.
What are the marketing plans that you have lined up for ‘Bigg Boss Kannada’?
In our first season, the whole focus was on educating the people about the format. Now that we are in Season 3 and people are familiar with the format, we are moving to the key tagline of the show, which is ‘There is no room for you to hide here’. We are also highlighting Sudeep as the show’s anchor. We are spending about Rs 2 crore on the marketing campaign that will cover print, radio, cross channels, and outdoor, including some hoardings that we are taking for round the year and not just for a week or two. They will be spread not just in Bangalore, but 8-9 other districts of Karnataka as well.
Apart from this, we are also branding inter-city railway stations and ticket counters and will also be using the Mysore Dussehra Mela, which has footfalls of 10,000 to 15,000 a day, to promote the show.
What has been the growth of Colors Kannada been like since the rebranding, and what has propelled this growth?
It is a gradual process that has happened over three years. During this time we have pretty much changed the entire programming line-up. We’ve introduced international formats, ramped up our production values, done innovations, and introduced new events, all of which have led to a gradual growth.
We have a very diversified portfolio in terms of where are the ratings coming from. If I go back to non-fiction from the days of ‘Bigg Boss’, we’ve moved to Indian, to ‘Dancing Star’ (‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’) to ‘Superminute’, which have worked excellently for us. The ‘Dancing Star 2’ grand finale rated a 1,464 (sum of 000s), which is the highest rated show in Karnataka for the last three years.
Please tell us about your top-rated shows in fiction.
Fiction includes a mix of both original and adaptation of Colors shows. Two of my adaptations from Colors are ‘Puttagowri Maduve’, which is a remake of ‘Balika Vadhu’. The show got a highest rating of 1,484 (rating in sum of 000s). Then we have ‘Ashwini Nakshtra’, which is a remake of ‘Madhubala’. Both the shows get very good ratings for us.
Then we have ‘Lakshmi Baramma’, ‘Agnisakshi’, and ‘Kulavadhu’. If you look at the top ten shows for the last four weeks in the market, then we have nine out of the 10 shows.
If you look at the GEC share, Colors Kannada is at 34 per cent, Zee is at 23 per cent, Udaya is at 21 per cent and Suvarna is at 17 per cent.
Bikash Kundu: Three years back we were placed at No. 4, and if you look at the year ended March 31, 2015, the growth has been approximately 400 per cent.
What about the growth post the rebranding in April 2015?
Ravish Kumar: We would be in healthy double digits, about 40-50 per cent year-to-date.
Bikash Kundu: In Q1 FY16, we grew by 40 per cent, while in H1 (half yearly) the growth would be approximately 42 per cent of last year.
Post rebranding has your distribution increased?
Our distribution has always been very good. So, we never had any huge gaps in terms of distribution. Since the pull of our shows is so high, even in areas where the channel is switched off, it’s actually the viewers who go to the MSO and demand it to be switched back on.
While it’s been a smooth sailing in the Kannada market, what’s the picture like for Colors Bangla and Colors Odiya?
There we have our work cut out for us. Bangla is a very tough market because we have two competitors who are four to five times our size. Unlike the Kannada market where you have 3-4 players who were within striking distance of each other, (including us), there is room for us to expand our way up. Here (the Bangla market) you have two goliaths, it’s a virtual duopoly right now. So, against the duopoly we tried to make a dent. We tried many things for which we’ve got a lot of credit for our efforts from both viewers and advertisers. We have moved significantly from where we were, but we still have a long way to go.
Any fresh plans to scale up those channels?
We’ve done a lot of innovative content. On Bangla, we have ‘Maa Durga’, which is one of our top rated shows. Besides, we were the first TV channel to do a show on ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’. We keep doing a lot of movie premieres. We just launched two new fiction shows. We did do a big rebranding campaign there (Bangla) in April as well, which got us a lot of attention, but we now need to take it to the next level.
Oriya is very small and discreet market. There are our efforts are more focussed on putting a core block of fiction programming and we are supplementing it with a lot of dubbed content from our Colors portfolio. But like I said, it is a small and finite market, therefore, our scale of admission and investment there is more modest compared to the Bangla market.