Hit or miss: reality shows search for magic formula

Updated: Nov 28 2006, 08:45am hrs
Soaps or reality shows Which does the viewer prefer More importantly, which rakes in the moolah The Indian television industry has not carried out a structured audience reaction on this, but the popular perception among television producers and channels is that reality shows grab eyeballs and make money.

Reality shows made an entry in Indian homes through the mother of all shows: Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). It not only changed the fortunes of Big B and Star Plus, it also revolutionised the face of Indian television.

But KBC was not a home-grown show. It was a famous copy of a foreign show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Talk of current reality shows on Indian television and the one that has become a major point of conversation is Sony TV's Bigg Boss, modelled on Big Brother. Endemol, the format owners worldwide of approximately 1,000 reality shows, has now turned producer with Bigg Boss , the Indian version of Big Brother . Big Brother has had seven successful series in the UK and six in the US.

It is really working,agrees Rajesh Kamath, MD, Endemol, which has a presence in 24 countries worldwide. So should we expect some more foreign reality shows to bombard us in their desi versions Though Kamath can't divulge the details now, he admits Endemol is working on two more formats that will be on air in the next three months. Getting a foreign reality show, localising it and ensuring celebs are part of it are only the smallest of worries, say producers of TV reality shows. Reality shows are high cost ventures, says Kamath. According to Nikhil Alva, CEO of Gurgaon-based Miditech which produced the successful Indian Idol and MTV Roadies, The total amount varies as per the format. A format fee is to be paid to the owner which is about five to 7% of the total production cost. At times, the format owner can negotiate for the telecom rights and home video rights as well. They play the role of a watchdog while the show is in the production stage. How big are the budgets in comparison with daily soaps Typically, the budget of a reality show in India would be in the range of Rs 15-25 crore or at times more than Rs 30 crore, says Kamath. The channel reimburses the production house.

Once the format is bought, the show is produced more or less in the same fashion as any other TV show. So what is the formula for a super-hit reality show There does not seem to be one as yet. At least that is what the producers say. Channels are investing in the format, says Alva. But the success hugely depends on the way it is adapted to the local culture. Indianisation is the key. For, that brings the acceptability factor in the audience. Agrees Sandip Sikcand, creative head, Sony, It is generally perceived that once a foreign format has been acquired, the major portion of the work is done. But this is a wrong perception. In fact, the hard work is just about to begin.

The real challenge is to localise the content. Celebrities on a reality show hold the key to its success to a considerable extent. Roping in celebrities is a safety factor, avers Kamath. Celebrities ensure a set number of eyeballs. Audiences tend to have more patience with them. Sikcand believes the song and dance formula is a sure shot combination. It worked for us with 'Jhalak Dikhla Ja. Sony TV has the distinction of importing the maximum reality shows, though not every one has been a success.

Sony got American Idol to India and called it Indian Idol. This one catapulted the channel to fame and its participants became household names too. Remember Abhijeet Sawant He became a singing sensation and a celebrity, thanks to the show. Industry experts believe that Sony hit the jackpot with Indian Idol but failed to replicate the success with another reality show Fame Gurukul, based on the Spanish Operation Triunfo.

This time around, though a male and female singer became the Fame Gurukul jodi, it did not do anything for their careers. Indian Idol 2 flopped too. Commenting on the fiasco, an industry expert says, The shows needed to be spaced out. You can't have reality shows one after the other. The novelty factor wears off otherwise. According to experts, the next big format to hit the small screen will be makeovers. Talent shows along with celebrity reality shows will keep happening, informs Alva. The next big format coming to India will be about makeovers -- be it people or homes.

So hold on to that remote. You just dont know what youll get to see crying celebs, their houses being done up and even extreme makeovers. Ah, did someone say 'what's that

Well, keep watching.