Entertainment has finally done a 180-degree turn on the electronic media. The year 2014 will go down as the one when entertainment found its true purpose, as channels discovered that overgenerous game show hosts and ridiculously easy-to-win prizes have as great a pull as the mean mother-in-law and weepy bahu that populate Pakistani drama serials.
The game show trend began in earnest with the launch of Inaam Ghar on Geo Entertainment at the start of 2014. Hosted by the inimitable Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain, Inaam Ghar picked up where a popular segment in Geo’s 2013 sehri offering, Amaan Ramazan left off. During the Qurani Loh segment in Amaan Ramazan, viewers who participated in the religious quiz had a chance to win big prizes. This was Hussain’s modern take on the legendary Neelam Ghar, hosted by Tariq Aziz and which was PTV’s longest running show ever. Thus the Qurani Loh segment became a precursor to the popular game segments during Ramzan transmissions and then upgraded to Inaam Ghar, the first in the series of full-fledged mega game shows that are ruling the primetime airwaves from Thursday to Sunday.
When Geo was banned by PEMRA in May last year and Inaam Ghar went off the air, rival ARY launched their game show, Jeeto Pakistan, and by the time Ramzan came around in June 2014, the show had become so popular, it was aired every day in the post-iftaar slot. In February 2015, Inaam Ghar, reincarnated as Inaam Ghar Plus, was launched with Hussain at the helm once again. At the same time, Hum TV launched Jeet Ka Dum with actor and host Faisal Qureshi, while Samaa launched its own twist on the genre – a game show hosted by Sahir Lodhi that bypassed the primetime competition by airing twice a week in the morning show slot.
According to Maimoona Siddiqui, SVP – Programming, Hum TV, “In 2014, we saw franchised game shows, like MasterChef Pakistan and Pakistan Idol doing well, so this is a trend that has been in the making. We have reached our capacity in terms of drama; the competition is huge and it is very difficult to keep up the supply. At the moment six or seven channels are showing about 10 serials at one time. So there was space for this genre of game shows.”
Ask producers about the appeal of game shows, and it is uncanny how rivals Jerjees Seja, CEO ARY Digital, and Siddiqui use the exact same words – “People love watching other people win.”
It takes very little to win big on these shows. Unlike shows such as MasterChef Pakistan and Pakistan Idol, local game shows do not require any display of talent or skill, and therein lies their mass appeal – merit barely figures as a factor in upping one’s chances of winning. Apart from the quiz segments which do require some general knowledge, whether it is Inaam Ghar, Jeeto Pakistan or Jeet Ka Dum, if you can bounce a balloon around the set, ask the host to open a door, throw a ball into a bucket, hop around on a holographic landmine, you can win big prizes like a car or gold, and sometimes you can even ‘win’ a lawn suit, a pack of diapers or a mobile phone, just because the host spotted you in the crowd or likes the colour of your shirt.
No surprises then that public interest in participating in these shows is immense. Viewers can register by calling the IVR number, texting their details or logging on to the show’s official website. Registration also ensures a place in a lucky draw and if you are picked, there is a protracted wait – for example, according to Seja, people who registered for Jeeto Pakistan in August 2014, will participate in March 2015.
Relatively new on the scene, Hum TV’s Jeet Ka Dum, is still finding its feet with the support of some expedient BTL activity. According to Siddiqui, “Although people can register through IVR and text, our team has been visiting apartment complexes, schools and colleges to encourage them to watch the show. We select people on the spot through a lucky draw. We have also tied up the programme content with social media.”
An important aspect of building a following is the host. Actors Fahad Mustafa and Faisal Qureshi as well as Aamir Liaquat are not only widely recognised, they bring endless reserves of energy to these three hour live marathons, maintaining an engaging connection with the audience.
Speaking about choosing Mustafa as host for Jeeto Pakistan, Seja says that “with Nachley (a TV dance competition), he brought a lot of energy to the show. He had the potential and the right attitude and he has grown with every show; he has become so adept at what he is doing that he is on automatic mode.”
About Hum TV’s choice of Qureshi as host, Siddiqui says, “He has a huge fan following; he is spontaneous, witty and connects with people.”
Week after week these ringmasters conduct show segments that are reminiscent of birthday party games, with exhilarating names such as Jeet ki baazi, Jeet ka funda and Chappar phaar ke. Conceived with a single-minded focus of capturing eyeballs, ironies abound, such as the introduction of the Chittiyan kalaaiyan segment (named after a hit Bollywood number) on the vocal anti-India hawk Hussain’s Inaam Ghar Plus.
The flexible format of these shows allows them to evolve quickly. Just when you think you have seen it all, your favourite game show is likely to move to the next level in the race for TRPs. As the flamboyant hosts take jibes at anchors of rival shows, the search for bigger and better prizes continues and the venues become bigger and better. For anyone who thought that it couldn’t get bigger than giving away cars and gold, sponsors Makkah Builders recently started giving away plots of land as prizes on Jeeto Pakistan. All this is happening as ARY is gearing up to take the weekly circus to Dubai.
Packed with product placements and brand integration, family entertainment game shows are a godsend to advertisers and audiences alike. Brands such as Maggi, QMobile and Voice Mobile have had entire segments dedicated to launching and promoting their brands.
“One of our most memorable brand integrations was a segment we built around Voice Mobile. We asked women from the audience to mimic the village girl who surprises everyone by speaking in English in the Voice Mobile commercial. It was a great success and the recall was huge,” says Seja.
Siddiqui says these shows have greatly benefited the unconventional advertiser. “Eighty percent of the advertisers on these shows do not usually advertise during commercial breaks. It is much cheaper to give away your product as a prize; furthermore the product is seen on-air and the brand name is called out several times making game shows a cost effective medium for such advertisers.”
By fusing brands with content, channels have succeeded in creating a virtual three-hour collective commercial that links with the actual commercial breaks. Such initiatives are a step up from product placements and a great solution for advertisers frustrated with viewers who switch channels during commercial breaks. Although the brand integration is being done in a very literal and sometimes clumsy way, one can safely say that for now, given the public’s interest, the formula seems to be working.
Shahrezad Samiuddin is a pop culture junkie and an aspiring screenwriter. email@example.com