Survivor India premiered on Star Plus on 6 January 2012; we asked Niret Alva, co-founder, Miditech, and executive producer, Survivor India, and Nitin Vaidya, business head, Hindi channels, Star India, about the making of the show and its marketing:
CI: What made you bring the show to India after so many years?
Niret Alva (NA): Miditech was able to license the format from Castaway just last year. Before that, I presume they were trying to get it to India. To be fair, Star took a decision very quickly on it and had the guts to do it in its realness, roughness and rawness, which is really key. Survivor India needed this mix of production partner and broadcaster who understood it.
CI: What appealed about the show to pick it up?
Nitin Vaidya (NV): It was time for us to present another breakthrough concept on the Indian television and hence Survivor India is the perfect New Year gift for our viewers. The series will showcase a life-changing journey of 22 individuals battling for survival without basic necessities that we always take for granted, in a do-or-die situation. Viewers will live every moment of this journey with our participants as most of us like to be a part of such challenges ourselves. It’s the contestants’ need and fight for survival that will generate viewers’ interest and hold them onto their television screens.
CI: How is this show different from other action- or task-based reality shows?
NA: There is no other show like this because the action takes place across seven or eight different islands; it’s like a whole production universe across 40-50 square kilometres. The challenges move from island to island, the tribes are on two different islands. It’s pretty harsh there – rats and snakes passing through the camps and so on. It’s really the most authentic thing in terms of experiences.
CI: Has the show been softened for Indian audiences?
NA: The foundation of the show hasn’t been compromised which is that if you don’t win something, you don’t eat, except for what you can scrounge off the land. If that gets compromised, the show falls apart. The only compromise, at some level, is that the contestants have a few more clothes than they do in the international editions, simply because of the sensibilities of our audience. Other than that, there is the same scale of difficulty and drama unfolding.
When the French do Survivor, it’s based on the moral quotient; in the US it’s a pure strategy game; in Denmark and other countries, it’s done in terms of pure physical endurance. We were faced with the same question, because while Indians can be strategic thinkers, they do it in groups, with someone pulling the strings from behind. On the show, we were pleasantly surprised because the participants were much sharper than we expected, they could see what was coming, they were guarding themselves and making alliances brilliantly and the audience will see all of that.
CI: What has gone into the marketing of the show?
NV: Besides promoting the show through radio, print, outdoor and digital mediums, we have lined up innovations like the Survivor house at In Orbit mall in Mumbai with a view to bring alive the Survivor concept. One of the contestants of the show - Abhinav Shukla attempted to survive an entire day without the basic essentials for life at a shack created 20 feet above the ground at In Orbit. Other contestants, along with him, performed various show related challenges at the mall in order to help Abhinav win his basic necessities. We provided a live webcast on Facebook.com/starplus.in and Starplus.in of the same. Online viewers were able to help the contestants complete tasks and win prizes. The activity was hosted live on radio on Big FM.
Meanwhile Delhi saw participants from the show at various hotspots – mall, streets, restaurants, in their Survivor look.
CI: How has advertiser interest in the show fared?
NV: Garnier Fructis is the presenting sponsor of the show while Airtel and Sure Men are the associate sponsors.
CI: What are the learnings for Miditech from the production process?
NA: One, the broadcast partner is absolutely key and their understanding of the format. Casting is vital, because you can have the best production values but without the right kind of people who you can relate to and whose stories you want to follow, it won’t work. In today’s day and age, people don’t want to invest too much time in following stuff, so two hours a week is the right time. The last thing is to really be able to explain the format to people as they’re watching, it needs to be simple.
CI: What are your expectations from the show?
NA: While reality television is a genuine storytelling art, it has been destroyed and become a bad word. I’m praying and hoping people believe in the authenticity of Survivor India, and it brings back their faith in the genre.