Perspective | Reality shows - Overcooked Plot or an overlooked thought

Television has become an important part of people's life as a source of information and entertainment. It has become a daily dose of supplement in the form of entertainment in our day to day life.  From watching Mahabharata, Fauji, Malgudi Days, to Sa Re Ga Ma, we have always been hooked on to Television for our entertainment. But with time, television evolved and people got jaded with watching the same old soap operas which dealt with human emotions. People started looking out for light hearted entertainment which they can just watch and forget about. During the time when soap operas were ruling the TV screen, a new trend that hit the viewer’s screens was a format called, ‘Reality Television’ which gave us shows like was Boogie Woogie, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Antakshari. The shows evolved the Indian television industry and introduced non-fictional genre for our television industry. 

Following the suit, television industry witnessed the plethora of shows like Indian Idol, Kaun Banega Crorepati, MTV Roadies, Nach Baliye, Dance India Dance and a lot more mushrooming in the television industry and these shows undoubtedly came as a welcome break and shifted the viewers from the habitual saas-bahu shows.

'Indian Idol' which was the first season of ‘Reality television’ got a great response from all over the country. Non-fictional genre has always been one of the challenging spaces for the broadcasters and the past few years have marked the change in the Indian TV industry with channels reviving their content strategies in the non-fictional genre.

As we all know, consumers today are un-predictable..! They demand innovation and newness in the shows that they watch hence today maintaining loyalty is the most challenging task for the broadcasters. Shows like Indian Idol, Dance India Dance, India’s Got Talent, Nach Baliye, Dancing Superstars etc. which marked their foray as trendsetters in the non-fictional space, with never ending seasons, have kind of reached a fatigue level and have lost their sheer charm.  With the same kind of concept which has been sold to the viewers time and again has now reached a saturation point for the people. And since the consumer has an erratic approach towards everything, they easily get bored of watching the same program with no change whatsoever.

The past few seasons of some non-fictional shows like Dance India Dance, Indian Idol, Entertainment ke liye kuch bhi karega etc saw a downward curve in terms of viewership and acceptance while a show like Raw Star on Star Plus which couldn’t garner desired numbers though but came out to be one of the most acclaimed show by the critics. The show innovated the music reality/talent show genre.

We at Adgully, to dig deep with our thought that whether broadcasters need to revive their content strategies or are reality shows losing their sheen is a hypothetical notion, spoke to industry veterans like Sukesh Motwani, Founder, Bodhi Tree Productions; Namit Sharma, Programming Head, Zee TV; Shailesh Kapoor, CEO-Ormax Media; P.M.Balakrishna, Chief Operating Officer, Allied Media and Mohit Joshi, Havas Media; who have directly or indirectly worked closely on/for non-fictional properties. Though we tried reaching out to few broadcasters too but unfortunately could not.

While Motwani believes that non-fictions show are not only facing crisis in India but around the world. He said, “The non-fictions shows rather need to be innovated instead of retiring. Undoubtedly the shows have reached their peak hence the viewership has kind of gone down;” Kapoor opined that these shows now need to take a back seat as audience demand new content which is fresh and entertaining.  Balakrishna strongly believed that reality shows are here to stay for long as they are quite well accepted for their one-of-a-kind appeal and unique content which is different and clutter-breaking.

Mohit Joshi added a different twist to it by saying, “Not necessarily. There is a long tail of viewership today. You get new viewers each year (one who has not seen the earlier seasons)- however as you mentioned these shows need to keep innovating. There is too much of the same thing happening across channels. Also since viewers today have an ocean of content at their disposal (given the YouTube), they are even more demanding.”

Sharma said, “Shows like DID have always been demanded in the market and hence we had extend these brands to DID super moms or DID Lil Masters. The properties have differentiated content for the viewers. These shows have certainly not lost their charm because if they would have then we wouldn't have launched extensions and so many seasons.”

On asking about whether broadcasters need to revive their content strategies, Kapoor said, “No, if broadcasters innovate the content a bit the formats will surely work, as these are well acclaimed formats nationally and internationally and we surely have a set of audience which demands shows like Indian Idol, MTV Roadies, Jhalak Dikhlaja and more. Also if you look at the fact that the brand extensions of Indian Idol and Dance India Dance, Indian Idol Junior and DID Super Moms respectively have garnered really good numbers and have been well accepted by our audiences.”

So having said that, Kapoor meant, “If innovated well, the formats are here to stay and can work well in the favor of the broadcasters.”  Also Motwani here opined that like you rightly mentioned Raw Star was a new and innovative property but unfortunately couldn’t garner desired numbers but it was well accepted by the audiences and the marketers. Motwani said, “Broadcasters need to rightly innovate their non-fictional properties keeping in mind fragmentation of viewers.”

Balakrishna strongly opined that broadcasters need to add a twist to make these shows re-acclaim viewership and acceptance in the space.  He said, “Reality shows have not lost their charm but since there are too many of them and viewers certainly can't follow all, is what is making them lose out on few shows. But there's always a lot of variety available which would attract people.”

While Joshi spoke about the importance of content strategy. He stated that, “While marketing will get the viewer to sample the show, it's the content which will make him stay there - else he/she will move on.”

Sharma strongly believed that innovation is the key to success. He said, “Keeping in the mind the fragmented audience preferences we have always innovated Dance India Dance may it be in the form of changing judges or re-locating basis.”

During the launch of Raw Star, Gaurav Banerjee, GM, Star Plus said, “But in last few years, music-singing reality shows as a genre have not done too well. We observed that the all these music-based reality shows were based on similar line of concept/standard format. We wanted to break the format at every stage. So, keeping this in mind, the first step was to do digital audition where contestants sent their recorded files, without having to travel to different locations and struggle in the long ques. Second was not having a three member judging panel as the audience will judge the talent; third was not to have funny hosts together to add humor, and thus the choice of Gauhar Khan instead. Also, contestants are not copies of any of the playback singers; instead they all are talented individuals for whom music is there passion. Lastly, there will be no weekly eliminations so for the first five weeks all the 10 contestants will get a chance and there will be a leader board to tally the performance.”

“A lot of singing shows that other GECs had to offer in the past haven’t particularly done so well. So it is certainly a challenging space to be in, but the fact is that the crowd is thinning from a while now. I think primarily singing shows; on Star too have not been differentiated as they could have been. So, it was important to come up with something that is high on innovation,” Banerjee added.  Mohit suggested that the viewer’s demands are unlimited. He said that, “it is not just important to get TAM viewership, it is important to get viewer engagement - this to some extent is getting captured by the social buzz a program generates. A case in point is Satyamev Jayate - which creates so much of positive social buzz each year.”

Kapoor also believes that handling and producing a non-fictional property is an expensive and tricky step and broadcasters are doing their level best to entertain their viewers. 

It is well said, ‘Too much of anything is not good’...! The proverb fits well in this case too. Probably non-fiction properties are well set and are still going to rule the TV screens but after listening to the above mentioned comments and thoughts, it’s a fact that viewers need freshness and may not a newer format but the broadcasters need to dig deep to find out what exactly the viewers prefer and also if the 'long-running' properties need innovation at some point, the broadcasters should think towards doing the same. Also we believe that since viewers have plethora of dance/voice/reality/talent based shows, many shows are not able to garner desired viewership numbers and are probably facing danger. They have transformed into the overcooked broth which has now turned dull and monotonous and difficult to gulp down.

While we tried finding out what can help break the droning that has become a constant in our lives, what will really bring in the change? Is this the time for all the repetitive concepts to finally retire and make way for something more stimulating ?

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