Why is reality content big business on TV?

The glamour and glitz provided by reality shows is helping broadcasters garner newer audiences, rake in the moolah, as well as beat the TRP game

e4m by Synjini Nandi
Updated: Mar 5, 2013 6:57 PM
Why is reality content big business on TV?

Non-scripted or reality-based programming content has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Today, all the first rung Hindi GECs have their own reality-based format shows, which have become synonymous with the channels, such as ‘Nach Baliye’ for Star Plus, ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ for Zee TV, ‘Bigg Boss’ for Colors, ‘Indian Idol’ for Sony Entertainment Television, to name a few. Recently, the second Hindi GE channel from STAR Network, Life Ok also launched its first reality-based series ‘Welcome’.

Fiction shows have forever been the bread and butter for Hindi general entertainment channels, with players in the broadcast space experimenting with various genres such as crime, drama, comedy to bring across fresh content for their loyal viewers. But though fiction shows have managed to garner loyal viewership over the years, non-scripted or reality-based content off-late has been creating quite a buzz. They have been successful in garnering a lot of attention, if only for a limited amount of time. Also, apart from the players in the Hindi GEC space, the youth or the music channels have also introduced something new by launching hardcore reality-based series such ‘MTV Roadies’, ‘MTV Splitsvilla’, ‘Dare to Date’ and ‘Get Gorgeous’ on Channel V, ‘Emotional Attyachar’ and ‘Big Switch’ on Bindass, etc.

Given the fact that the production cost for a typical Hindi GEC show would be around Rs 7 lakh to Rs 10 lakh per episode for half an hour programming, whilst the cost for an hour episode of reality show would be around Rs 40 to Rs 50 lakh – which might even go higher if taken into account the celebrities involved – the sustenance of such shows becomes even more critical and nerve wrecking. Hence, what has driven the recent spurt of these shows is the question.

What makes non-scripted content an attractive proposition?
An effective programming mix for a channel would constitute a mix of different formats, concepts and genres of content which would offer its target viewers with their choice of entertainment.  According to Manisha Sharma, Weekend Programming Head, Colors, “Audience is now ready to experiment with their entertainment needs and is looking at something different to satiate their weekend appetite. The programming mix is relevant to today’s evolving viewers who have a deep rooted desire to escape to their fantasy world, while still remaining within the realm of reality.”

The second reason that makes non-scripted content attractive is the buzz that surrounds the shows owing to different elements such as celebrity judges, formats, etc. This leads to channels incorporating reality-based content as a part of the staple diet of the channels once in a quarter.

Nikhil Gandhi, Executive Director, Youth Network, Disney UTV media Networks believes that for a Hindi GEC, a reality-based series adds spice to the channel from the ratings point of view. Reality-based content generates eyeballs, which then leads to high ratings as has been observed in case of many shows earlier.

The third reason is the fact the buzz that surrounds these shows also helps in creating newer audiences. This helps in reaching across to a newer audience set apart from their already existing loyal set of audiences and hence, further extending the reach of the channel. “The scale of reality formats includes many stakeholders – sponsors, production house, format owners, etc. and hence, the opportunity to collectively garner RoI is high,” added Sharma.

From the monetisation aspect, non-scripted content presents varied opportunities which can be explored by the players in the broadcast space. According to broadcasters, today, the number of hours of programming for reality content has increased with the ratio of fiction content to reality content being 70:30. This is has resulted in far more opportunities than before. Though the cost of production for reality shows is much more than that of fiction content, there are significant elements that work in their favour.

According to Abhishek Rege, COO, Television, Endemol India, “If the product is right, then affordability becomes less of an issue. Selling is perception-driven and brand packaging is of high significance. Monetisation of such shows happen through associating with advertisers who are also keen on partnering with powerful shows.”

Also, apart from associating with big brands for advertising opportunities, there are in-program integrations and product placements which create monetisation opportunities. Another significant aspect is the fact that most of the brands that associate themselves to such shows do so to not only get numbers but also to be associated in terms of perception.

Reality talent shows vs. hardcore reality television series
Initially, what was pure talent hunt has extended to hardcore reality TV series with the advent of both, homegrown as well as international formats. Hindi GECs have undertaken more reality talent hunt shows such as Indian Idol, Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, DID, to name a few. On the other hand, youth and music channels telecast shows that are more of hardcore reality TV series such as Roadies, Big Switch, Dare to Date, etc.

According to Rege, there are different markets for non-scripted content. The reality shows on Hindi GECs are primarily targeted towards women and hence, the core fundamentals that are kept in mind are how relatable the show is to its target market and how would it fare in terms of family viewership. Youth or music channels have younger viewers, who largely connect with reality-based series. This makes such shows a significant part of the programming mix for youth GECs.

Elaborating on the same, Gandhi stated, “In the Hindi GEC space, the common man is a smaller part of the show as compared to the celebrities who grace the show. While on the youth or music channel, contestants make an integral part of the show.”

Though broadcasters in the Hindi GEC space have broken away from their regular scripted content and are now introducing newer formats as part of their programming content, hardcore reality series is something which would take some time to catch on with their target viewers.

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