kbc1In a few months from now, television viewers in India may be in for a surprise when they get to watch Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) on the Hindi entertainment channel Sony, after Star Plus held the rights for eight years. Multi Screen Media, formerly Sony Entertainment Television, has bought the rights to the game show format Who Wants to be a Millionnaire? for an undisclosed sum from Sony Pictures Television, the Japanese company that now owns the rights. It is learnt that Star India — which hired Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan to host three seasons of KBC — did not renew its contract with Sony Pictures to make the game show.

“For us, it did not make sense to do a fourth season on KBC. We owned the rights for eight years but we feel that the market has moved on and the show is past its prime,” said a senior Star India executive. Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, Multi Screen Media, declined to comment on the deal but a senior Sony executive, on condition of anonymity, said the channel has received the licence to make KBC though the host for the game show is yet to be finalised.

In a related development, Multi-Screen Media has also bagged the satellite television rights to the English and Hindi versions of Slumdog Millionnaire from Fox Star Studios India. The Oscar-nominated film captures the story of a young slum-dweller who wins the big prize money in a KBC-like television quiz show.

In fact, there is speculation that Sony may have actor Anil Kapoor, who plays the anchor in Slumdog, as the anchor for the real-life KBC. A Mumbai-based media expert said that Sony is probably using the film and the show as an attempt to ramp up viewership which is way behind that of the top two channels — Star Plus and Colors.

The Sony executive said the channel will first air the film and then exploit the popularity of the film to launch its version of Kaun Banega Crorepati. Speaking to Business Standard Kunal Dasgupta admitted that the company had bought exclusive television rights to the film Slumdog Millionnaire for five years.

“But we are allowed to air the film only after six months,” he said. Dasgupta refused to divulge the price Sony would pay for the film but an entertainment industry expert pegs the deal at Rs 5 crore.

Though KBC turned around the fortunes of Star India and pushed it to the number-one position when it first launched with Amitabh Bachchan in 2000, its popularity during the third season (2007) with Shah Rukh Khan diminished. A Star India executive said how Sony exploits a show so closely associated with Star Plus remains to be seen. “It is an upscale show and we have already used the best stars to host it,” he said.

Reporter – Suchi Bansal