Three big-budget celebrity reality shows that will hit the idiot box this festive season are expected to garner over Rs 270 crore (Rs 2.7 billion) of advertising revenue -- nearly 10 per cent of the total revenues that Hindi general entertainment channels normally get in a year.
The three are Kaun Banega Crorepati 4 on Sony, anchored by Amitabh Bachchan; Bigg Boss 4 on Colors, starring Salman Khan; and Masterchef India on STAR Plus with Akshay Kumar.
Hindi GEC channels, according to an Ficci-KPMG study, garner Rs 2,200 crore (Rs 22 billion) of ad revenues annually.
The channels have together forked out a little over Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) just to get the celebrities to anchor the mega programmes. For them, the success or failure of these will determine who is on the top in viewership.
Which will depend on whether these stars -- who have not always set viewers on fire in anchoring earlier programmes -- can show their earlier magic.
Amitabh Bachchan, hosting KBC 4, is charging around Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million) per episode, according to industry sources.
At 36 episodes, he would pocket Rs 54 crore (Rs 540 million) from the show.
Akshay Kumar, donning the cook's cap in Masterchef India, would make around Rs 30 crore (Rs 300 million) from the show, at between Rs 1.2 crore (Rs 12 million) and Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million) per episode.
Salman Khan in Bigg Boss 4 will earn Rs 17 crore (Rs 170 million), at Rs 1.2 crore (Rs 12 million) per episode of appearance. While Bigg Boss 4 will be on air for 96 episodes, Salman is expected to make only 14 appearances.
The three stars have not only raised their fee but also swapped channels this season.
While Bachchan will be seeing completing his multiple channel tour with Sony (he had earlier appeared in STAR Plus and Colors as show host), Salman has moved from Sony (where he hosted Dus Ka Dum) to Colors.
Akshay Kumar has moved to STAR Plus from Colors, where he hosted Khatron Ke Khiladi.
The fees of these three have jumped by almost 50 per cent since they made their TV debut. When KBC was launched in 2000, Bachchan used to get Rs 75-80 lakh per episode; it went up to Rs 1 crore each for KBC2.
When he hosted Bigg Boss last year, he charged Rs 1 crore per episode. Akshay Kumar made his TV debut with Rs 80 lakh (Rs 8 million) per episode for the first season of KKK, which went up to Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) in the second season of the show.
Salman Khan charged Rs 80 lakh per episode for the first season of Dus ka Dum, which went up to Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) per episode in the second season.
However, the TV ratings of the shows have not grown in proportion. During the first season in 2000, KBC clocked an average TVR of 9.8 and the second one of 10.6 -- a feat not repeated on Indian television.
The third season, with Shah Rukh Khan as host, recorded an average of just 6.8.
Considering that a show with a TRP of 5 is considered a hit today, due to the increase since in the number of channels, there is still steam left in the show, say industry observers.
Salman Khan's Dus Ka Dum had seen a fall in ratings from an average TVR of 2.35 in the first season to 1.96 in the second one.
Fear Factor I, hosted by Akshay Kumar, had an average TVR of 2.48 and the second season scored a higher one of 3.3.
Madison World's chairman and managing director, Sam Balsara, attributes the drop in TVRs to the growing fragmentation in TV space.
"As the number of channels available to viewers has gone up manifold, there has been a general downward trend in ratings," he says.
Media planners said for advertisers there will not be a viewership fragmentation, as these shows will be aired on different timings.
Master Chef will be aired on Saturday and Sunday at 7 pm from October 16. KBC 4 will be aired from October 11 at 9 pm, Monday to Thursday. Big Boss 4 begins on October 3 and will be aired at 9 pm.
Industry sources say 10-second ad slots for KBC 4 have been sold for Rs 350,000 each and ad time on Colors and STAR Plus have been sold in a similar range.
"Although Salman Khan is pitted against Amitabh Bachchan, there will not be a fragmentation in viewership, as both stars have a huge fan following," a media planner said.