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Wednesday, 30 August, 2000, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
India's battle of the airwaves
Amitabh Bachchan with family
Amitabh Bachchan hosts Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
India's main satellite TV channels are gearing up for a ratings war using the hugely popular format of Who wants to be a millionaire?

Zee TV has announced it is to launch a new show which promises participants a chance to win $2.3m (100m Indian rupees) in a night.

The as-yet-untitled show will hit the screens in October and is believed to be Zee's answer to the version of Who wants to be a millionaire? which airs on Rupert Murdoch's Star TV.

Star TV's show
Airs Monday to Thursday
$224,000 cash prize
Host - Amitabh Bachchan
Zee TV's show
To be aired 3-5 times a week
$2.3m cash prize
Host and format unknown
In a little over the two months that it has been on air, the immensely popular show has turned round the fortunes of the Star Plus channel.

Apart from attracting viewers with the promise of a $224,000 (10m Indian rupees) jackpot, the show has won over some of the biggest advertisers in India.

It is based on the successful British original and is hosted by one of India's most popular movie stars, Amitabh Bachchan.

Reports suggest that it dominates the prime time 2100-2200 (local times) slot on the four days it is broadcast.

No panic

But Zee TV's chief executive RK Singh was quick to clarify that his new gameshow "is not a panic reaction" to Millionaire.

He said Zee's show had been developed in-house and offered viewers lots of excitement.

This crackerjack of a show provides the participants and the viewers the thrill of the chase and excitement of a lifetime

Zee TV's RK Singh
"This crackerjack of a show provides the participants and the viewers the thrill of the chase and excitement of a lifetime," Mr Singh said.

Apart from the new gameshow, Zee is banking on other new shows to win back the viewers it has lost to Star TV.

These include a mega-soap called Sansar - which has been shot across five continents and tells the story of several generations of an Indian family - and Jai Ganesh, a religious Hindu epic.

Zee claims a viewership of 27 million in Indian cable and satellite homes, but rival Hindi channels - Sony and Star Plus - are fast catching up.

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See also:

31 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Indian cinemas are Millionaire losers
11 Jul 00 | South Asia
Bachchan: India's comeback kid
19 Apr 00 | South Asia
Bollywood star lands Millionaire show
06 Jun 00 | South Asia
Bollywood stars turn to TV
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