By Yohan P Chawla
It’s time for the fiercest, feistiest contests and tussles, and also the fondest friendships. Not in the business of Media & Entertainment that’s always bristling and bubbling with such tussles for viewer eyeballs and advertiser spends, but on conventional and connected TVs and the mobile screens across India and the world. It’s BIGG Boss time, and in Season 12 too, this gripping Colors tentpole seizes the collective imagination of audiences across screens of all sizes will be hosted by India’s laadla, charming superstar, Salman Khan. Really, there’s no other way to describe his effect on the show, and how his calm and, when required, spiritedly angry demeanour disciplines erring contestants. After all, the biggest pull of this show, which has desperate contestants shedding all inhibitions and often even the last modicum of decency to try and grab eyeballs and votes, is just that – behavior that keeps the viewers hostage night after night, discussing the worst and the best, and telling one another to wait for the weekend when Salman will set them right!
This, followed by the withdrawal symptoms my entire family of television watchers has when the show ends, are testimony to the way Colors has built strong equity for BIGG Boss. That, if you ask any creative or business professional in the Television and broadcast business, is the most difficult thing to achieve. Even Raj Nayak, Chief Operating Officer, Viacom18, observed during a tête-à-tête in Goa on the sidelines of the launch of BIGG Boss 12, “The loyal fan base that BIGG Boss has is of the kind that exists for no other show. People have withdrawal symptoms after the season gets over! And the buzz it creates is massive!”
Indeed. Virtually the entire Twitter-verse seems to explode in conversations, comments, likes and retorts that, in their intensity, often reflect the brazen, ultra-direct behavior seen on the show itself, always drowning the small and occasion protests from outraged senior-ish citizen who bemoan the lack of decorum and values.
And now on the subject of profitability. When a journalist asked him how many sponsors he would be happy with, Nayak laughed and obviously not one to put a specific number to it, he said, “I’m greedy for as many sponsors as possible!” But the show is already backed by a slew of brands. “We have Appy Fizz, Oppo, Panasonic, General Foods and L’oreal, and hopefully we shall get a few more on board by the end of next week,” Nayak said, adding that over the years, “There’s been no category that hasn’t come on BIGG Boss — whether it’s FMCG, mobile phones, cars, television sets, or beverages…”
“Bigg Boss,” Nayak said, “was a big loss-making thing when we started 9 years ago, but now we have broken even and it has become profitable… not very profitable, but…” Not very profitable? Sure, he didn’t want to share any numbers, but sounded like an understatement, because this is a show that marketers and brand custodians have kept in their sights, at least over the past 9 of its 12 years when Salman Khan has been hosting it.
And now, it has only been growing to newer strengths. It has gone regional with BB Marathi and Kannada, which have been very successful.
Of course in the day and age of connected TVs and of course, burgeoning digital audiences, VOOT will play a huge role on the interactivity front with BIGG Boss Season 12. Nayak said, “Voot will be used as the voting platform. Apart from that, in case somebody misses the show on TV, they can catch up with it on VOOT. There is also the extra footage version which we make for VOOT and also telecast on MTV. We have complete episodes on VOOT too.”
Interestingly, the network should also make great marketing capital by cross promoting the massive new content it has announced for VOOT – 18 new shows upcoming, and 13 news channels. It will be a great cross promotional opportunity.
But will Colors use the opportunity to help BIGG Boss originals flow its captive audiences into building the next slot with something new or a good focus show that has great content but is struggling to stand up above the clutter and be seen and heard? Remember, the withdrawal symptoms that audiences suffer from after BIGG Boss is over, leave a huge opportunity to create and develop a pretty late slot after BIGG Boss on weekdays, and also for a different property on Weekends. What Colors needs to decide is what’s better – collecting numbers for the show with stripped repeats after the original telecasts, or whether it makes better business sense to use the next time slots for cross promotion and to build another property.
As the network cranks up marketing for BIGG Boss Season 12 across the entire network of its media verticals, millions of households across India will be glued to their television sets, watching a group of desperate individuals locked up in a fancy house and completely cut off from the outside world, fighting away, and making sure they take a ‘stand’ on every little activity, discussion to ensure it blows up in everyone’s face to give them mind space with the audiences. It will be desperate times dividing households and families over their favourites, but with the potential to unite audiences with a favourite late night viewing pastime across the season of BIGG Boss 12.