When KBC was introduced on Star Plus in the year 2000, it paved the way for reality television in India. Since then, various channels have launched a slew of reality shows ranging from game shows to talent hunt shows such as dancing and singing, progressing to bolder concepts over time.
Broadcasters are not hesitating to experiment with newer formats of reality shows. Nikhil Madhok, Head, Marketing and Communications, Imagine, noted, “What we are seeing on TV now are genuine reality shows. The singing and dancing based shows are more of talent based shows.”
However, the cost of putting up a reality show varies from concept to concept. While the overall amount of investments from the channel’s end has increased, a reality show with a celebrity would cost more as a large chunk of the episode’s budget comprises the celebrity’s fees.
Shubha George, Chief Operating Officer, South Asia, MEC, shared that the channels were investing more, both in terms of the number of shows and the cost of production. “With better quality production and celebrity participants and/or judges, the overall cost spirals upwards,” she added.
It is possible that such varied formats of shows would definitely draw a varied advertiser interest. Nikhil Gandhi, Business Head, UTV Bindass, explained that sponsors were concerned about the number of audience for a show as opposed to the content of the show. “It eventually boils down to the section of the audience that the channel is catering to, and if a channel is placing core focus on the youth, it is easier to draw advertiser interest, at least for certain brands,” he pointed out.
However, one cannot miss the absence of advertiser funded programming (AFP) in this space. Imagine’s Madhok said that while it might not be feasible for a lot of brands to be associated with a show, such a concept had worked for certain shows such as ‘Hero Honda Roadies’ and ‘Dettol Surakshit Parivar’.
According to George of MEC, “AFPs require a medium to longer term perspective, which oftentimes we lack. This, coupled with a committed investment that needs to be signed off upfront, makes advertisers uneasy. The other big reason is that we have not developed strong enough metrics to assess the success of AFPs. Not just in terms of the programme’s success, but most importantly on how the AFP impacted brand metrics.”
UTV Bindass’ Gandhi maintained that they had quite a few AFPs running on their channel and would be launching 4-5 more AFPs by the end of this year. The channel is also planning to launch approximately 6-7 shows over and above the AFPs. ‘The Chair’ is one of the shows that the channel is planning to launch in the next couple of months, which will deal with issues such as paranormal activity.
Going forward, one can expect shows across a range of subjects and concepts. Madhok of Imagine said, “The singing and dance shows will continue as that is a very inherent part of our culture.” Agreeing with him, George of MEC said that globally successful formats that were tweaked to suit Indian taste would be the future of reality shows.
While youth/music channels as well as mass channels are both experimenting with reality shows, George said that mass channels catered to a wider audience and this was reflected in their reality shows. “Music channels, on the other hand, have a very tight core audience and their reality shows are very clearly targeted to suit their audience,” she added.
While the destiny of reality shows will remain unknown for the time being, it is only natural that there will be experimentation with the formats, which is likely to get bolder.