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Colors will not tweak content for rural India, says CEO Raj Nayak

MUMBAI: While BARC’s rural data reveal that the free-to-air (FTA) channels are gaining big in comparison with the mainline Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs), Colors remains unperturbed and is unveiling one big property after another. After launching ‘Bigg Boss 9’ and announcing the second season of ‘24’, it has now unveiled the seventh season of ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’.

Colors CEO Raj Nayak says, “Our focus is on urban and LC1 markets, not on rural India. We want to remain India’s leading premium Hindi entertainment channel, so rural is something that is really not bothering us.”

Tata motors fear factor khatron ke khiladiThe seventh season of ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ will mark the debut of Bollywood actor Arjun Kapoor on the small screen and will be shot in Argentina. The channel plans to launch the show in the first quarter of 2016.

According to Nayak, a big challenge concerns scheduling the new shows. “We can’t afford to wait; we have to keep doing the shows. Finally, the problem of scheduling will take over.”

With most of the channel’s big-ticket non-fiction properties mainly targeted at urban markets, the question is if there would be a change in the content strategy to attract more rural viewers.

Raj_Nayak_COLORS (9)But Nayak is quick to add that the channel will not be tweaking content. “If rural happens by default, it’s great, but we can’t tweak content for two Indias. It can be either urban or rural; one can’t do both. We are not going to change our strategy, as we have to focus on what we are good at. I don’t want to be niche—I want to be mass, but I also want to be upmarket,” he asserts.

It does not mean, however, that the network will completely sideline the rural market. Its second Hindi general entertainment channel Rishtey (FTA) will focus on rural and the programming will be attuned to the needs of rural viewers.

“At the end of the day, we are running a business, and I am not here to say if I’m No. 1 or 2. I am here to say if I’m running a profitable business. Advertisers spend maximum in LC1 and urban areas. Rural is still a very small spend.”

Nayak believes that the line between urban and rural will diminish in the coming days. Rural India will also start accepting shows like ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’, but it will take time because they are yet to be exposed to it. So, they will first consume the lowest common denominator.”

Explaining the same through an analogy, Nayak says, “I used to sell sports and initially when we launched ESPN Star Sports in India, people said they only watched semi-finals and finals of tennis and the India playing cricket matches. This was because DD used to show only these matches, so people never got a choice. Similarly, rural people have not watched shows like ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ because nobody has shown them such shows.

“The data still needs to stabilise, but the fact is people watch entertainment content. I don’t think there is something that’s specifically urban or rural—the divide is changing so fast.”

With Arjun Kapoor as the host of the big-ticket show ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’, the channel aims to not only attract youngsters but also an audience base comprising middle-aged and older women.

Arjun Kapoor, Raj Nayak and Deepak Dhar with the Khatron contestants at the launch of Khatron Ke Khiladi

“The theme this time will have a fun element. Arjun is fun loving and endearing, and even middle-aged women will like him. He is young and can be moulded, and shows like ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ and ‘Big Boss’ have a lot of young viewers,” he mentioned.

For the show, the channel has roped in Tata Motors as the presenting sponsor. It is in the process of roping in the powered-by and associate sponsors.

The month-long shooting will be done in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the theme ‘Kabhi Peeda, Kabhi Keeda’.

Commenting on the change in location, Endemol Shine India MD Deepak Dhar said, “We had the US, Argentina, Malaysia and Cape Town, all of which are stunt friendly and have hosted the shows many times in the past. These are where ‘Fear Factor’ is shot, so we have done one season in Malaysia, one in Rio in Brazil, and a lot of seasons in Johannesburg and Cape Town. This time, we thought of trying a new destination.”

The 14 contestants of the upcoming season who will face their fears are Bollywood starlet Tanishaa Mukherji, TV actors Sidharth Shukla, Vivan Bathena, Sana Saeed, Aishwarya Sakhuja, Tina Dutta, Himanshoo Malhotra, real-life TV couple Jay Bhanushali and Mahhi Vij, model Parvathy Omanakuttan, Indian hockey player Yuvraj Walmiki, and dancers Faisal Khan, Mukti Mohan and Raghav Juyal.