In 2000, Amitabh Bachchan and Star India heralded a new wave in non-fiction content with the launch of the quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). Until then, saas-bahu sagas ruled the roost with the occasional singing reality shows Saregama and Antakshari whetting the appetite for family viewing. Given that viewers today are spoilt for choice, one must be smart enough to understand their pulse and tweak the content accordingly, states Manisha Sharma, programming head, Colors. “A show like Bigg Boss has been on for 11 seasons; it is upon us to entice the audience with fresh thoughts each time.” Last year, the show tweaked the format to include commoners and became a hit. Likewise, for a serious stunt-based show like Khatron ke Khiladi, the channel infused some humour to bring in freshness.
Now, consider KBC. Running successfully for 15 years, the show hit a bump in 2015 when the format of question and answer failed to entice viewers. The show was forced to take a break for over a year and returned in 2017 with an interactive piece to engage with audiences, and it propelled Sony Entertainment Television (SET) to the top of the charts during the course of its airing. Ashish Golwalkar, SVP and senior creative director, Sony Entertainment Television, reveals, “KBC was almost dead in the last season and it did not work well in terms of monies or ratings. So we took a break and kept the core of the format the same and infused some fresh elements of interactivity. Strong formats don’t come with an expiry date if they are willing to change.”
Myleeta Aga, SVP and GM, South East Asia and South Asia, BBC Worldwide, highlights that audiences like two things — familiarity and difference. The familiarity of a format brings them comfort as you don’t want to work hard to understand it when watching TV, yet it should be fresh. For example, Dancing with the Stars just ran its 25th season in the US and 20th season in the UK. In other markets like Indonesia, Japan, etc there are shows that have been going on forever as well. “The challenge in India is that non-fiction has been in a bit of a lull. There is a need to reinvent formats,” she adds.
There is lot of clutter with too many non-fiction shows currently on air and most with similar themes. At the same time, different channels have tried introducing newer concepts but unfortunately, none of them have worked. When it comes to international formats — which are easier to sell to advertisers — formats in the song and dance space have survived but Indian versions of shows like Survivor, Bachelorette and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here failed to click with the viewers.
Though there is scope for newer genres to thrive, there is no sure-shot formula to make a show successful. Also, the kind of investments that are put behind these shows, it is imperative to make them successful, deliver ratings, so they can be properly monetised, which the long running formats continue to deliver. Thus, in terms of RoI, these older formats end up making more sense.