Guess who's laughing all the way to the bank, as TV programmes depend more and more on audience interactivity? It's cellphone operators and TV channels. They've discovered the quickest way to become crorepatis as reality TV shows like Indian Idol, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge and now Kaun Banega Crorepati - 2, invite viewers to SMS their winning options. These programmes are popular because they give the viewer the opportunity to be a part of the show. It gives viewers a feeling that their vote matters.
“Today, SMS is a crucial part of programming, because it guarantees spontaneous response from the audience, adding to the basic layer of entertainment,” says Ajay Vidyasagar, Senior VP, Marketing and Communications of a TV channel.
And Big B sure means big bucks. Says a Corporate Brand Manager of a mobile company, “A TV channel buys a four-digit code short (such as 2323/ 5454) from a cellular operator. This short code is exclusive to the channel. A deal is struck between the channel and the cellular operator, whereby 30 per cent to 50 per cent of the total income generated by these SMSes goes to the channel.”
Though the channels might flash a disclaimer specifying the SMS cost, which is more than twice the normal charges, just for a split-second on the screen, the viewer is way too involved to care about the SMS cost. “In the last two episodes of Indian Idol, I sent out nearly 15 to 20 SMSes. At the back of my mind, I knew that it was a lot of money. But with the ensuing hype that surrounded the show, I didn't really care about the money,” says 26-year-old housewife, Ketki Dandekar.
Not that the cellular operators are complaining. “A cellular operator charges anything from three to six rupees per SMS, depending on the deal,” informs Naveen Chopra, VP Corporate Marketing for a cellular services company.
As for the participation level, it just runs high. “In the first schedule of Kaun Banega Crorepati - 2, three crore votes have already been registered via phone calls and SMSes,” informs Vidyasagar.
Audience interactivity helps boost the TRP ratings for these shows. Indian Idol generated a 48 million viewership and the TRP ratings were as high as 9.7, while approximately 43 million votes were generated via SMSes and phone calls.
But Kaun Banega Crorepati made television history when its TRPs touched 25 in major metros like Delhi and Mumbai. And with the latest season of KBC waiting to make waves, no prizes for guessing who'll rake in the moolah!