Quiz shows appeal to Indians

'Millionaire' version hot program

NEW DELHI, India An Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” called “Kaun Banega Crorepati” (KBC), hosted by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, is the biggest and most talked about TV program in India. The show, produced by Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV, reportedly cost $18 million and was promoted throughout India for $4 million.

Host Bachchan, who is largely credited for the gameshow’s raging popularity, received a $3.5 million fee for the first 135 shows of “KBC” and is reported to have been offered $15 million for 365 more.

The show is attracting 600,000 phone calls a day from wannabe contests since its launch in July on Star Plus. The net plans to make “KBC” a daily instead of a four-times-a-week show and has regional-language versions with stars in the works.

According to Amit Khanna, vice chairman of Reliance Entertainment, “KBC has altered the game plan for all TV channels — it’s war.”

Rival channels have attempted to reproduce “Millionaire’s” success and the closest contender is “Greed,” to be aired by Indian national broadcaster Doordarshan during primetime.

Nine-Broadcasting India, the Indian arm of Oz media mogul Kerry Packer’s company, is wooing Bachchan to do its show.

Also in the game fray is Zee TV, which launched the Zee Maalamal. It recently bowed a mega-gameshow with potential winnings of $2.2 million — nearly 10 times that of the “KBC’s” $250,000 top prize — a night.

“If big money is the name of the game in terms of viewer expectations, then that is the game to be played,” says Zee CEO Raj Kamal Singh.

The network will begin its frontal assault on “KBC” in the first week of October with three to five shows per week.

In a bid to compete, Sony Entertainment TV too has joined the game with “Ek Crore, Bangla aur Gadi,” which roughly translates as “$250,000 Plus House Plus Car.” It will be hosted by film star Govinda.

And newly launched B4U network has announced a gameshow with young movie star Shah Rukh Khan.

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