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Reality/format wave hits again: Concept matters, says media

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Reality/format wave hits again: Concept matters, says media

They do keep coming back – the reality and format shows. While Sony Entertainment Television is set to unleash three new formats later in the year, Sahara One and Endemol have lined up ‘Super Stars’. ‘Fame Gurukul’ returns in its second season, which is expected to be on SAB this year, as does ‘Nach Baliye’s second season on STAR One. Overdose of shows in the reality and format genre? Definitely, but media fraternity doesn’t mind, as long as some concerns are addressed.

Format shows aren’t new to Indian television, the earliest being in the form of ‘Antakshari’ on Zee and ‘KBC’ on STAR Plus. Reality television goes back to ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ on Zee TV. But the genre really took off when Sony Entertainment Television introduced ‘Indian Idol’ in October 2003.

‘Indian Idol’ opened the gates for a whole host of reality-cum-musical talent hunts and Indian television appeared to be moving on from traditional soaps and series. However, almost three years have passed and no such thing happened. ‘Saath Phere’ and ‘Kasamh Se’ are throwing good numbers, while STAR Plus’ K-brigade continues to deliver.

On the contrary, ‘Indian Idol’s second season didn’t deliver as its predecessor had done, same with ‘Fame Gurukul’. Shoes like ‘Deal Ya No Deal’ on Sony, ‘Kam Ya Zyaada’ on Zee TV and ‘Heartbeat’ on STAR One didn’t even take off.

So, is it sensible to have so many reality and format shows again? Interestingly, the media fraternity thinks in the affirmative. Arpita Menon, Vice-President, Lodestar Universal, said, “It is programming of a different kind and Sony has proved that there is audience for this kind of programming. Let’s not forget that STAR One was brought to tap that kind of target group that is metro-centric, male skewed. True that the shows that followed didn’t take off with the Indian audience, but that doesn’t take away this kind of audience.”

Menon believed that there was space for these shows but “concept is important”. According to Navin Kathuria, Business Manager, Opitmum Media Solutions, “Everything boils down to concept. The shows have to offer some kind of differentiation.” When pointed out that the concept of the earlier attempts at reality and format like ‘Fame Gurukul’ and ‘Deal Ya No Deal’ had some novelty in them, he said, “By the time ‘Fame Gurukul’ was on and then the second season of ‘Indian Idol’, there was on overdose of musical reality shows – you can’t have too much of a good thing.”

Agreeing with him, Carat Media’s Manoj Malkani said, “Concept is key. ‘Deal…’ and ‘Kam Ya Zyaada’ didn’t work because there was no takeoff for the audience from the show. There was no involvement or a pull like a superstar celebrity.”

Dinesh Singh Rathore, Director-Investments, Starcom, saw the failures in the genre as a reason why new shows made sense. “People have seen how these efforts pan out and what works or doesn’t work with the audience. As long as every show brings differentiation and the concept is the kind that clicks with the Indian audience, we have nothing to worry about. In fact, it is good news.”

Explaining further, he pointed out that advertisers had examples now to see how a show would work and the various ways in which a brand could associate with the show. “Brands that missed the chance to experiment with the genre last time can do so now. Channels are more experience to deal with these shows now,” Rathore added.

Evidently, the media fraternity is only too glad with the options available. Replying to what the points were that the media would see in choosing a show, Kathuria said, “There has to be some kind of a pull like a celebrity participant and there has to be scope to attract audience involvement.”

Malkani added, “The channel is also very important. Right now, for Sony, it may be a good idea to undertake these initiatives and get back in the No. 2 slot, but as a channel I’m not too sure if I would jump at a Sony show, because their delivery has slipped. Likewise for STAR One – ‘Nach Baliye’ has done well, but not STAR One as a channel.”

Rathore felt that it had to be the whole package of how serious the channel was in promoting the show and what were the different things that could be done with the show.

It may be noted that since March 2006, SET is on a launching spree and this time the attention is on format/reality shows. How does the channel intend to treat all the shows at one go? Anupama Mandloi, Senior VP, On-air Programming, Sony, replied, “We have announced all the shows in the same time window as they have all gone in production at once. However, they aren’t going on air at the same time.”

She informed that ‘Jhalak Dikhla Ja – Dancing with the Stars’ would be the first to go on air by August-end or early September. ‘Big Brother’ would be next, followed by ‘Extreme Makeover’ that may go on air this year or early 2007. Even though various details hadn’t been tied around the shows, she divulged that all would occupy primetime slots with the objective to increase the time band, implying that no show was expected to end to accommodate the new properties.

Reality check – it would be indeed interesting to see if the media has learnt from experience.


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