The early 2000s saw the launch and entry of big ticket, international super formats into India starting with Who wants to be a Millionaire (Kaun Banega Crorepati) followed by music, dance, variety entertainment, adventure and cookery formats.
The early 2000s saw the launch and entry of big ticket, international super formats into India starting with Who wants to be a Millionaire (Kaun Banega Crorepati) followed by music, dance, variety entertainment, adventure and cookery formats. India had never seen entertainment so scaled up, larger than life and dialled up with massive doses of Bollywood stars, high-pitched marketing and premium advertising. Some of these international formats tanked while some formats went on to become successful and established brands in the market. Over the years, there have been several indigenous ‘me-too’ formats as well as some smart adaptations that succeeded in providing the same shot in the arm for broadcasters but at half the cost. Regional channels came up with their local versions that were substantially cheaper. As the viewership of television gets increasingly fragmented, more and more broadcasters are feeling the pressure to reduce the cost of these big-budget non-fiction shows to justify the visibly lower ratings. As for the international formats, the license fee and ancillary rights take away another sizeable chunk of the show budget. Eventually, it boils down to the business. There will be a few notable developments in this space:
There will be many more locally-created formats that are budget-friendly and still deliver the marketing and brand positioning for broadcasters
International format companies will be forced to reassess pricing to survive in the high pressure and competitive market
The current international formats will need to evolve, innovate and bring in drastically new elements to sustain their viewership
New formats will need to be highly interactive and enable digital spin-offs to bring in new viewers and thus pave the way for data mining —very crucial for any brand today
There will be the new non-fiction in the guise of finite, upscale and concept-driven fiction. This content-driven fiction will help build the digital arm for broadcasters, and also enable international distribution and adaptation. These shows will be rich in local folklore and Indian ethos to provide a connect for local viewers and a window to the exotic unknown for international viewers
Content that can be platform agnostic will curry favour with commissioners because the race is now for aggregating viewership to the best and most efficient business advantage for each of the networks
Non-scripted shows will always have to deal with their lack of repeat value and to compensate, will have to be increasingly live and interactive in their offering
Talk shows will find their way in as high-voltage, celebrity-studded, contemporary and entertaining takes on the socio-cultural and political environment
There is an immense fatigue in the content space and it is poised for a revolution. New entrants and surprises await the naysayers, as well as viewers who are increasingly seeking an alternative to old, repetitive and recycled content.
The author is an independent media professional and content consultant