TV shows battle for Bollywood stars

Top names parlay film fame into small screen deals

MUMBAI -- India's movie stars are moving from Bollywood to the small screen and laughing all the way to the bank as television channels struggle to woo celebrities in a competitive market.

A-listers like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra are all lined up to host reality shows on prime-time television, assignments that sometimes pay more than the movies.

Bachchan and Khan have switched shows and channels in the last two years, going on a merry-go-round of sorts with popular shows "Kaun Banega Crorepati" and "Bigg Boss."

Industry sources say Bollywood bigwigs could get paid anywhere between 120 to 500 million rupees ($3.33 million) per season of a TV reality show. Some may not get as much but may cut a deal for their films with the broadcast company.

"TV stars on reality shows is something that makes a lot of sense for channels right now because it gets them the eyeballs," said Sameer Nair, CEO, Turner General Entertainment Networks India Pvt. Ltd.

"However, it should only become worrying when that becomes par for the course."

Nair started the trend by roping in Amitabh Bachchan to host India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" a decade ago. Bachchan's second stint on "Kaun Banega Crorepati" was cut short when he fell ill with a stomach ailment.

Shah Rukh Khan, arguably India's top leading man, was brought in as the host for the third season but in the fourth season, Bachchan is back, albeit on a different channel.

Other Bollywood stars have followed suit, with Akshay Kumar also changing shows and channels. But experts say that doesn't affect either audiences or the TV channels.

India has around 500 million television viewers and as many as 460 channels on the airwaves.
Ratings have shown that while daily soaps still rule the roost, reality shows are slowly climbing up the ladder and proving popular with teenage and male audiences.

"We always sign single season deals with the stars so that we can work around with the format and deliver a fresh, new show every season to our viewers," said Rajesh Kamat, COO Viacom 18 Group & CEO, Colors.

"A new host brings novelty factor and helps build curiosity," he said.

Colors launched the third season of the Indian version of "Fear Factor," titled "Khatron Ke Khiladi" with actress Priyanka Chopra, who replaced Akshay Kumar as host. Kumar, for his part, has also moved channels and will be hosting "Masterchef India" on Star Plus.

"Right now, it's commerce. It is benefiting channels, it's helping the stars. I don't see anything wrong with stars moving channels or changing shows," said Anil Wanvari of Indiantelevision.com.
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