Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) is a popular Hindi-language television game/quiz-show which is the official Hindi adaptation of the British franchise, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”. It has been hosted by Amitabh Bachchan since its inception in 2000, except for during the third season in 2007, which was presented by Shah Rukh Khan. The programme aired on Star Plus for its first three seasons from 2000 to 2007. From 2010 onwards (since the fourth season), it has been airing on Sony Entertainment Television. The contestants, once selected, are required to answer multiple choice questions, and are provided with lifelines to aid them in moments of uncertainty. Season 14 (the latest season) premiered on 7th August, 2022.

Image courtesy: Amitabh Bachchan, and N.P. Singh, the MD & CEO of Sony Pictures Networks, at the launch of the latest season, Season 14

KBC was the vision of Sameer Nair, a media executive and business professional currently serving as the CEO of Applause Entertainment. Back in 2000, he was the head of Star TV. At the same time, Amitabh Bachchan was going through probably the darkest phase of his professional life, sinking in millions of debts. The megastar who rose to immense fame in the 1970s enjoyed superstardom till the late 1980s. Bachchan emerged as a popular figure in Indian politics too. However, after 1988, his popularity as an actor began to wane. These career fluctuations caused him to take a sabbatical, a self-imposed retirement from acting in films. During his temporary retirement, he decided to turn producer for films.

Around 1996, he founded a production, distribution and event-management entertainment company of his own called Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited (ABCL). The production house delivered back-to-back films that were failures both financially and critically. It is alleged that he ran into debts as large as 90 Crore INR. Creditors would often gather outside his residence and howl abuses at him. 55 cases were running against him. In the midst of this, Sameer Nair appeared at his residence to convince him to host KBC.

Before hosting the game-show, Amitabh Bachchan had never appeared on television. It was considered disgraceful for a popular superstar like him to appear on television. However, Sameer Nair’s pleas and Amitabh Bachchan’s own financial crises compelled him to host the show. The revenue earned from KBC, along with Mohabbatein in the same year, helped Amitabh Bachchan rise to prominence again. He eventually paid off all his debts. He was assisted by Anil Ambani who helped him liquidate the massive chunks of money he owed. Such is the story of how Amitabh Bachchan himself emerged as the first Crorepati from KBC, not by participating in it but by hosting it!

How does KBC mint money? How are the contestants paid their cash prizes? How is Amitabh Bachchan paid his salary? How does Sony Entertainment Television generate revenue from broadcasting KBC? 

Image courtesy:  The official logo of Kaun Banega Crorepati

Fun fact: KBC earns revenue, though minimal, from users who send SMS! When viewers or potential contestants (while registering) send messages to an assigned number, KBC charges a nominal amount which is usually 03 INR per SMS.

Numerous companies pay huge sums of money to KBC’s production house to run the show successfully. These companies are called the presenting sponsors. Asian Paints Royale Glitz, UltraTech Cement, Hyundai Motor India Limited and Gowardhan Ghee were among the title sponsors. LIC of India, Association of Mutual Funds in India, Kotak Mahindra Bank and RC Plasto Tanks and Pipes were among the co-sponsors. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was a special partner that provided approximately 400 Crore INR in funding! 70% of the proceeds from sponsorships went to prize money and the host’s compensation fee. According to reports, Amitabh Bachchan charged a whopping sum of 4-5 Crore INR per episode for the latest season (season 14)!

Advertisements during commercial breaks help KBC garner the maximum amount of money. It is common knowledge that before leaving for a break or before resuming the show after a break, all the sponsors and cosponsors are enlisted. Roughly five or six commercial breaks are aired (in one episode) during which companies can showcase or telecast their products and services to the target audiences. The sponsored brands pay a fee to the show in exchange for the show promoting their products during the breaks. In accordance with reports, KBC earns nearly 4 Lakh INR for an advertisement that lasts for ten seconds.

The telecom industry provides approximately 100 Crore INR to the show. KBC receives huge sponsorships from telecom industries as the show relies much on public relations. The telecom partner plays a pivotal role in sustaining the show, from selecting the contestants (by conveying the correct answers to the contestants via SMS) to assisting the contestants during the course of the quiz (by using the network to call the contestant’s helpline). Lifelines such as ‘Ask the Expert’, ‘Phone a Friend’ and ‘Audience Poll’ are linked to the cellular network and display the strength of the network. For instance, Idea Cellular paid 35 Crore INR to the show in 2010. The latest telecom partner of KBC was Vi (unified Vodafone and Idea into one brand).

In 2017, KBC crossed the threshold of television and entered a fresh platform in digital. Amitabh Bachchan announced in his booming baritone that Jio, KBC’s then telecom partner, has been roped in as the show’s presenting sponsor on SonyLIV. With KBC’s launch on SonyLIV, there has been a rapid increase in its digital viewership. Viewers can also access the feature of “Play Along” on the app while watching the episodes on their television sets. Thus, SonyLIV (another Crorepati) mints massive revenue from KBC!

KBC, along with IPL (Indian Premier League), have the highest TRP (Television Rating Point). TRP evaluates a television show on the basis of the number of views it gets per second. It also determines how popular the show is with the audience. Since the TRP of KBC is the highest, Sony Entertainment Television (broadcasting television channel) earns the highest profit from it. This also yields high rates of advertisement. Sony TV charges a fee of 3-4 Lakh INR for an advertisement of ten seconds.

Image Courtesy: Achin Narula and Sarthak Narula in Season 8 won 7 Crore INR, making them the first and the only bumper Crorepatis till date.

In the latest season (season 14), KBC managed to boost its sponsorship and advertisement rate by 12.5% (approximately) compared to the previous season, according to the broadcaster, Sony Entertainment Television. Sony Entertainment Television anticipated 450 Crore INR (revenue from advertisements alone) from KBC. Thus, it is none other than KBC’s broadcasting television partner (Sony TV) that emerges as another major Crorepati from KBC, second only to Bachchan!

KBC delivers value and builds reach the way no other reality show can. Besides, the show relies much on the stature of Bachchan. Hindi-speaking markets are lured by how the charismatic Amitabh Bachchan has been presenting the show for more than two decades. The way in which Kaun Banega Crorepati, India’s favourite television game-show, mints money, is truly fascinating!

-Reneeka Chatterjee

F.Y. B.Sc. (2022-25)

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