Entertainment channels going with reality shows, are they playing safe?

Published: August 26, 2019 6:18:26 AM

Multiple reality shows in the same genre is a trend most GECs are following. Easy fix or strategic programming?

The song and dance routine will continue to be a fixture on GECs, experts say.

By Sonam Saini

Non-fiction programming on Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) seems to be following the same pattern as the saas-bahu spin-offs that were all the rage once upon a time. More than one reality show in the same genre on a Hindi GEC is not unusual today. Sample this: Sony Entertainment Television (SET) has Superstar Singer on air currently, and the 11th season of Indian Idol slated to launch later this year.

Similarly, Star Plus has two dance reality shows — Dance Plus, the fourth season of which concluded in February this year, and the currently on-air Nach Baliye. The broadcaster also has two singing reality shows in its programming roster — The Voice and Dil Hai Hindustani, both currently off air. Meanwhile Colors has had two shows in the comedy genre: Khatra Khatra Khatra, which is a mix of action and comedy, and Entertainment Ki Raat.

Evidently, broadcasters are playing it safe. But is the over-reliance on the singing-dancing-comedy reality genres a sound strategy?
Spot the difference

Singing, dancing and comedy reality shows have been the ‘evergreen’ formats for broadcasters ever since the formats were imported. But not all of them have been fail-safe. Sony learnt this the hard way when it launched a comedy show, The Drama Company, alongside its already-existing The Kapil Sharma Show. The former failed to garner desired viewership and was taken off air within five months of launch. “We haven’t repeated the mistake since,” says Ashish Golwalkar, head – programming, SET.

Colors experimented with airing two comedy shows back in 2015-16, namely Comedy Nights with Kapil and Comedy Nights Bachao. But it hasn’t done so in the recent past. Nina Elavia Jaipuria, head of Hindi mass entertainment and the kids TV network at Viacom18, says that the channel tries to schedule shows in similar genres differently, so that they don’t eat into each other’s audiences. “There’s no point putting shows from the same genre together. For example, we will not slot Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and Dance Deewane together,” she shares.
When channels have more than one show in the same genre, innovation and differentiation are crucial. When Colors launched its singing reality show Rising Star in 2017, the channel introduced live audience voting. Similarly, India Banega Manch, its talent hunt show launched in 2017, was shot on ground, unlike India’s Got Talent which is based on the in-studio format.
Advertiser appeal

Compared to fiction content, reality shows are expensive to produce — a show like Dance Deewane or Superstar Singer could incur a production cost of `70-90 lakh per episode. However, they fetch much more in advertising revenue than fiction shows — almost thrice as much. Typically, an hour-long reality show has 1,320 seconds of ad inventory; and a 10-second ad slot on such a show costs `1.5-2 lakh.
Ashish Pherwani, partner, and media and entertainment leader, EY India, says, “Fiction programming, which involves usually low-cost, high margin content, generates a lot of stickiness and increases the time spent on channels. On the other hand, reality shows starring celebrity judges help attract new audiences.”

How do advertisers decide which property to put their money into? K Srinivas Rao, national director – buying, Mediacom, says a well-established show based on an international format with a strong celebrity line-up is the holy grail for any marketer. Aspects such as how old the franchise is and which channel is airing it are also considered.

The song and dance routine will continue to be a fixture on GECs, experts say. “The audience is always looking for fresh content. As long as channels are experimenting with the formats and bringing in new talent and themes, reality shows based on these genres won’t go anywhere for a few years,” says Sujata Dwibedy, EVP, head of buying and trading, Amplifi India.

A parallel can be drawn with fiction shows of the past, where a hit theme/storyline became fodder for a whole clutch of similar shows for various broadcasters, but eventually, only a few remained. “Just like fiction, a saturation point will be reached when rationalisation will take place and some of these similar-themed reality shows will die a natural death,” says Vineet Sodhani, CEO, Spatial Access.

Furthermore, he says, broadcasters are currently using reality shows as some sort of an edge to reduce the migration of consumers from TV to OTT, as the latter is mostly associated with fiction shows. “This is an attempt to stem the shrinking Hindi GEC viewership,” he adds.

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