Over the years, television has spawned a slew of successful non-fiction franchises which in turn have given birth to a riot of sub-franchises that are equally popular if not more.
In our quest to find out why sub-franchises have mushroomed when there are enough and more franchises to provide entertainment and whether franchises are mightier than their off-spring, Indiantelevision.com spoke to a cross-section of industry to get to the bottom of the matter.
In 1995, Zee TV created a home-grown music-based non-fiction format titled Sa Re Ga Ma Pathat went on to capture a country’s imagination.
What started back then under the aegis of Gajendra Singh, went on for 16 seasons till 2004 when the brand name was changed to Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge and audience interaction was incorporated through a voting system. It was in 2011 that the channel infused kids’ participation to revisit the show as Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs.
Recalling the journey of the show, it was post 2001 that it became a brand, giving talented, albeit anonymous singers a platform and giving Bollywood much of its current talent including Shreya Ghoshal, Kunal Ganjawala and even Sonu Nigam, who was relatively unknown back then.
In 2009, Zee created another big non-fiction property, this time in the dancing space, called Dance India Dance (DID). Till date, DID has seen four successful seasons while also giving birth to four sub-brands: DID Super Moms, DID Tashan, DID Doubles and DID Li’l Masters.
What made Zee launch sub-franchises in the first place? “The key for any broadcaster today is to create for viewers an umbrella brand and then do a lot of exciting things under that,” says Zee TV programming head Namit Sharma. “It was a chance that Zee took and it worked. The audience at Zee is always hungry to watch new and fresh talent. Each of these shows has its own type of audience. There is a core DID audience and additionally, a different audience for each of the sub-franchises.”
Sharma believes only successful shows make for franchises and franchises work on three things: firstly, how successful the original brand is; secondly, how innovative the creative team is; and thirdly, how receptive the audience is. Speaking of the many seasons of DID, he says the beauty of it is that with every season, the look, feel and talent can be sharpened.
Explaining the need for sub-brands, he says, “It is fuelled by two things - one is the desire to keep doing well to want more viewership. So you know, if you are doing a DID sub-brand, it might get you more audience than a fresh show. Two - the audience enjoys it, so why not? Three - every sub-brand is actually like a new show under a mother brand. So these are all different shows. They are under one umbrella.”
Sharma feels Zee is lucky to have two strong franchises that allow the channel to attract very good talent and showcase it in the best possible fashion.
“There was a desire to fulfill in the singing space with Sa Re… and in the dancing space,DID took over and fulfilled that desire for talent to have a platform and the audience to watch that platform. So DID completed that wish. One of the challenges I have as a new person is to create more such franchises in different spaces,” he says.
While Nitin Keni of Essel Vision Productions that produces DID feels that offering the same product to viewers back-to-back might erode brand value. “One is not happy about doing it back-to-back, but if audiences are seeing it as a different show altogether, then there we win. But if audiences start feeling a sense of fatigue and see that we are doing the same thing, then it loses value. So far from the ratings, it does not feel so, but yes, as a producer, we should not be repetitive,” he says. Besides, a whole lot of work goes in with every season.
“Conceptually, every time some new twist is given to the show, we use it as a USP. There are creative people who work on it. Also in terms of finding talent, one has to scout around and find talent across the nation, which is another big task,” he adds.
In 2010, Star Plus produced MasterChef India, Colosceum Media’s cooking reality show.
Star Plus senior vice president – programming (non-fiction) Ashish Golwalkar, who, during his earlier stint with Zee, created sub-franchises like Sa Re Ga… L’il Champs and DID L’il Masters, opines that creating a sub-brand helps a channel to leverage the popularity of the parent brand without killing it unlike adding an indiscriminate number of seasons. “Sub-franchises play a major role if you want to use the strength of the brand without overkill. For viewers also, it is easier. They are watching a bit of the same without over killing the particular kind of content,” he says. “When you go out into the market, if it is a successful sub-brand, advertisers who have earlier had a good experience with us and the brand, will be more than happy to associate with the brand again.”
Golwalkar gives the example of MasterChef India, where Amul was the title sponsor of both the mother brand and the sub-brand, MasterChef Junior.
So what distinguishes the sub-brand from the parent brand? “We have to understand the elements wanted in common with the original brand and those that will be brought new to the sub-brand. But there has to be a limit to it. Sometimes, channels just get carried away by doing five versions of the same brand,” says Golwalkar.
Sony Entertainment Television
Sony has three non-fiction franchises: Boogie Woogie, Indian Idol and Comedy Circus.
The channel launched Boogie Woogie in 1995 with Naved Jaffrey, Javed Jaffrey and Ravi Behl. During the time it aired, the show was very well received and provided a platform for unknown talent. Only recently, Sony telecast Boogie Woogie kids’ championship, four years after the last Boogie Woogie was telecast.
Speaking of the franchise model in general, Fremantle Media India managing director Anupama Mandloi, says: “The franchise model has worked globally and it is that success which encourages other territories including India to invest in the proven blueprint. It is like bringing in any other branded product into the country. There is a surround sound already built around the 'product', which enables an effective pre-sell.”
What about the sub-franchise? “The franchise has been built very effectively over the past 10 years in India. Most television viewers would be familiar with this property today and with the need to innovate and build the brand. A sub-franchise like Idol junior opened a new gateway of contestants, music and content. In fact, we have gone as far as creating another franchise called the Idol Academy, which provides a platform for learning and building music talent,” explains Mandloi.
The original brand, Indian Idol, launched in 2004, was a channel driver, with its opening episode garnering a TVR of 5.4. This raised expectations from the brand and it became imperative to innovate and introduce visible changes that would keep interest and loyalty alive.
“Idol has made several changes over the years, be it in terms of positioning, scheduling, changing the way the show is consumed, its approach to music, ranging from purist singing to performance and entertainment, different modes of auditioning and creating diverse touch points with the brand and the channel on-ground and various creative innovations in the journey of finding that one 'Indian Idol',” reveals Mandloi.
Season after season, there was a lesson to be learnt by every content creator. “Some of those innovations were received well and some were completely dismissed by the viewer. At the end of the day, the viewer decides and with every show that you put out there for consumption, there is a lesson to be learnt by every content creator,” says she.
After dancing and singing, it was the turn of comedy and the channel launched non-fiction property Comedy Circus in 2007. Not only did Comedy Circus see 18 successful seasons, the brand gave rise to tons of sub-brands including Comedy Circus -Kaante Ki Takkar, Comedy Circus - Chinchpokli To China, Comedy Circus 3 Ka Tadka, Comedy Circus - Maha Sangram, Jubilee Comedy Circus, Comedy Circus Ke Taansen, Comedy Circus Ke Ajoobe and Comedy Circus Ke Mahabali, among others.
Big Synergy director Anita Kaul Basu who has given new dimension to Indian television by producing Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) on Sony believes one needs to keep re-inventing to bring in the fresh perspective to the show. KBC never had a sub-franchise when it started in the Hindi space, but it brought a lot of changes within the format with each season. Whether it is in terms of format or creative, with every season it has enthralled the audiences with its content.
Basu explains: “For long running shows like KBC, which is a knowledge-based show, you need to bring in variations so that people don’t get bored of watching the same thing which has happened 10-12 years back. Every time you bring in a new creative, while the main show remains the same in terms of structure, but these are creatives that need to come in to bring in a certain amount of dynamics into the show. In KBC, we have introduced small changes, since it started in 2000, yet its core remains the same, because its format is incredible.”
According to media professionals, mother brands have worked better than sub-brands; some working wonders for the channel and others not. “Frankly, I don’t think any of the franchise models have worked. Indian Idol Junior didn’t do that well for the channel.Comedy Circus was variation, but more of, it was about making themes out of the show and as a viewer; it looked like a regular show. It wasn’t a separate franchise to that extent in its pure format. Dance India Dance is the only one which has done variations, but it is always the pure form that gets the maximum ratings. From a ratings perspective, I don’t think these shows have stood out like a typical franchise,” says Helios Media managing director Divya Radhakrishnan.
According to Radhakrishnan, a sub-franchise is just a placeholder so that the channel does not have to do the same thing over and over again. The channels have to keep the interest going for any show as a product. “You cannot run it like a daily soap for years and years. The channel has to keep the brand alive and for that, they have to always keep innovating. Then it makes sense for the channels to make a sub-franchise. The main property within that umbrella will always be an original show.”
Advertisers in India spend around Rs 20,000 crore on TV ads and almost a third of this money goes to Hindi GECs. Reality shows can never go wrong, reveals a TV executive on the condition of anonymity. Moreover, the channels also sell spots; a 10-second one could cost anything between Rs 3.5 lakh and Rs 5 lakh and the production cost of an hour ranges anywhere between Rs 80 lakh to Rs one crore.