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Reality shows buoy covid-hit TV industry

Channels are further building on the digital appeal of these shows, like Viacom18 premiering Bigg Boss on VOOT in advance (Actor Salman Khan is the host for Bigg Boss 7 )Premium
Channels are further building on the digital appeal of these shows, like Viacom18 premiering Bigg Boss on VOOT in advance (Actor Salman Khan is the host for Bigg Boss 7 )

  • Last year, reality shows didn’t cut much ice with audiences as they coincided with the Indian Premier League. There was a 50% decline in viewership ratings for properties like Bigg Boss and Kaun Banega Crorepati around November

NEW DELHI: Broadcasters are betting on tent-pole, non-fiction shows to help minimise the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the television industry over the last year-and-half.

In July, reality shows like Dance Deewane and high profile Khatron Ke Khiladi, both on Colors, made their debut. Colors also have quiz show The Big Picture hosted by actor Ranveer Singh and the new season of Bigg Boss towards the festive season starting September when Star Plus will bring new seasons of Nach Baliye and Dance Plus while Shark Tank, Kaun Banega Crorepati and India’s Got Talent on Sony will vie for audiences’ attention.

To be sure, covid 19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have led to a decline in advertising on television. According to the Ficci-EY report 2021, television advertising had declined by 25% in 2020 because of the pandemic. However, a June 2021 report by Edelweiss had estimated a 20-25% revival in ad revenues for broadcasters as things normalize.

Last year, reality shows didn’t cut much ice with audiences as they coincided with the Indian Premier League. Mint had reported a 50% decline in viewership ratings for properties like Bigg Boss and Kaun Banega Crorepati around November.

Even as channels launch their big shows between now and October, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has already announced that the suspended IPL matches will resume in the UAE on 19 September.

Yet armed with big budgets to the tune of 3-5 crore per episode, and big star hosts, the shows are expected to bolster both viewership and advertising, especially, brand integrations. Channels are further building on the digital appeal of these shows, like Viacom18 premiering Bigg Boss on VOOT in advance.

“From a channel perspective, reality TV brings new eyeballs to our platform, so while loyal viewers tune in (for fiction shows) on weekdays, new ones come in on the weekends that we can later drive back to fiction and make it a wholesome entertaining package," said Nina Elavia Jaipuria, head - Hindi and kids TV Network, Viacom18 Media Pvt Ltd that expects the festive quarter to deliver a blockbuster.

Jaipuria added that the company plans to launch at least one or two more shows this fiscal year. The covid-19 pandemic and lockdown have strengthened the trajectory on the digital front but TV continues to be the primary screen of the household, she said, that brings families together.

That said, companies like Viacom18 want to make content available across screens and platforms and since shows like Bigg Boss have always managed great traction online, it will premiere on VOOT six weeks in advance this year.

Deepak Dhar, founder and CEO, Banijay Asia, that will co-produce The Big Picture said the appeal of non-fiction lies in the fact that viewers want their regular dose of entertainment with celebrities each weekend, especially as many people continue to stay home. The content studio has tried to keep the production of its popular property The Kapil Sharma Show going for a large portion of the pandemic.

Aradhana Bhola, managing director, Fremantle India that will produce India’s Got Talent, said the seasonal nature of non-fiction shows has worked well. A certain lot of cast and crew come together and offer viewers something new and while some aspects remain the same others such as the contestants, change. "This mix of something familiar and something new has proven to be very attractive to the viewers who then develop loyalty for their favourite non-fiction shows. Brands get built. Sponsors follow," she said.

However, Shekhar Banerjee, chief client officer and head, west, Wavemaker India said overall some pull back on investments is anticipated due to an increase in input cost for most advertisers. He expects them to be selective about properties in the build-up to the festival season. "This makes the choice for non-fiction shows very tough given the clash with IPL and T20 World Cup. The rating of non-fiction shows is likely to suffer when pitted against cricket," Banerjee added.

Kaushik Chakraborty, senior vice-president, iProspect, a dentsu international-owned media agency, said that though non-fiction shows deliver 10-15% higher ratings than popular fiction shows, their ratings were impacted last year due to IPL, more so on weekends. Yet channels are better prepared this time in terms of show logistics management and multi-touchpoint promotional plans. Also, with easing restrictions they may explore having studio audiences back as per approved guidelines, he added.

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