Imagine sets ambitious target for 2011; to be among top three in Hindi GECs

With the New Year around the corner, Sameer Nair, CEO, Turner General Entertainment Network, leads Imagine into a new phase of financial and creative firepower. Shah Rukh Khan has been chosen as the host for ‘Zor ka Jhatka’, a “hilarious and wildly entertaining” reality show starting January-end 2011. Nair speaks to exchange4media on the plans ahead.

e4m by Fatema Rajkotwala
Updated: Dec 20, 2010 7:30 AM
Imagine sets ambitious target for 2011; to be among top three in Hindi GECs

It takes a bucketful of gumption to make a comeback, be it a superstar outshined or a brand that took a hard blow. Friday, December 17, 2010, saw the official coming together of two names – Imagine TV, which has slipped down the ladder from the No. 3 position to No. 6 in the Hindi general entertainment space this year, and an ever resilient Shah Rukh Khan, who has been wooed once again by Sameer Nair, the channel’s CEO, to host their newest offering – ‘Zor Ka Jhatka’.

After the somewhat silent end to 2010, despite programming like the ‘Swayamvars’, ‘Rakhi ka Insaaf’ and ‘Raaz Pichle Janam Ka’, Imagine is now all set to win over its audience with a complete change in taste. ‘Zok ka Jhatka’ is the Indianised version of ‘Wipeout’, a successful US sports entertainment reality adventure show that boasts to be the ‘world's largest obstacle course’. The show is currently being shot in Argentina and will be aired by January 2011 over 16 episodes over four weeks as Imagine’s primetime show. SRK will act as the host and commentator, taking a band of 28 popular television actors through a range of obstacles to surpass with a healthy dose of fun and entertainment. The winner stands a chance to bag prize money worth Rs 1.5 crore, including a mega cash prize of Rs 50 lakh for the winner of the finale.

At the press meet, the first look of the show was revealed and while SRK’s presence won many over, the risk element and apprehension regarding the alliance was undeniable. This was SRK’s third round at television, a medium that did not seem to favour him. ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati 2’ on Star Plus opened with good numbers, but then slipped off the charts. Season 4 saw the channel re-opting for Amitabh Bachchan, which said enough. The final blow was ‘Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hain’, a show that fared poorly. Imagine as a channel was not oblivious to this, as was evident by a short audiovisual where SRK traces his past hosting experiences and argues why this time he is the right choice as the show’s anchor.

“I feel healthy and fit, and this show is exactly in tune with my current state of mind. After recovering from my back injury, I am now here to do what I do best – to entertain. Be it any platform, I believe I am an entertainer and this is what I enjoy doing. My kids have watched the show and have loved it. Hope you all enjoy watching this show with your families to,” said SRK.

In conversation with exchange4media, Sameer Nair, CEO, Turner General Entertainment Network, puts many doubts to rest and raises eyebrows to what remained…

‘Wipeout’ may be successful in 22 countries in the US, but we have seen how international formats are not always necessarily well received by Indian audiences. Why will this work?
Emotions are universal all over the world. If someone slips over a banana peel, it may be unfortunate, but you will laugh at the moment. Some formats such as a quiz show like ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ travel well. We have had a look at the episodes shot so far and they are wildly entertaining, driven by a host and commentator like SRK. I have a good feeling about this one; this will reopen the belly of primetime.

Is this the single largest investment made by Imagine so far or the first of many more to come?
This is Imagine’s biggest investment since launch and the first of many upcoming large investments.

Keeping in mind SRK’s last stint at KBC 2 and then ‘Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain’, one wonders if he really clicks on the small screen…
Of course, he clicks on the screen. This show is designed for him. It is a really funny show and even if you take a look at the international version, ‘Wipeout’ is the sort of show people love to watch. Our idea in this has been that SRK is probably, the most popular star. He draws a diverse audience, which is not restricted to only a particular group; he has a family audience; guys, girls and kids love him. This show is comparatively over-the-top in its league and he makes for a funny host, commentator, wisecracking journeyman through and through.

From the first look of the show, this is a family show… Yet, ratings prove that Pamela Anderson scored over Amitabh Bachchan and other shows like ‘Emotional Attyachar’ are highly popular with the audiences…
This is a very clean show. And, when one looks at numbers, all sorts of things rate well on TV. If you look at it carefully, the highest rated show on television right now is ‘Pavitra Rishta’ with a title like that. To be realistic, families watch television in their single TV homes and Shah Rukh is the kind of a host that attracts that audience.

Imagine began as the number three channel and currently stands at number six. What are the expectations and deadlines set for the channel now?
More than a strict target, we have set ourselves an ambitious goal this year to be among the top three channels in the Hindi GEC genre. We need to make a series of moves to get into that rung. I must say that the competitive environment has become extremely fierce. What we were lacking last year was that while we had many incredibly good ideas, they were lacking scale. Now with Turner and Time Warner, the one thing we are empowered with is incredible scale. We have the budget, the money and the ideas. So, that’s what we are going to do.


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