Home >Industry >Media >Streaming platforms bet big on non-fiction shows for 2021

NEW DELHI : Even as fiction properties, both web shows and movies, dominate Vido-on-Demand (VoD) screens, a bunch of streaming platforms and content creators are laying their bets on non-fiction, local Indian content in the coming year.

Telugu streaming platform aha Video has launched a chat show with actor Samantha Akkineni called Sam Jam for the Diwali weekend while production house EndemolShine--which makes Bigg Boss, Khatron Ke Khiladi and Masterchef in India --is looking to adapt some of its international formats for the country.

VOOT sees much traction for its TV content including exclusive snippets from reality shows like Bigg Boss, Roadies and Splitsvilla while Amazon Prime Video wants to build on its comedy slate with the Tamil version of Comicstaan besides a sports docu-series Sons of Soil: Jaipur Pink Panthers. Platforms say the level of engagement and interactivity is always deeper for non-fiction especially with younger audiences who are looking for believable figures to connect with.

Globally, non-scripted content including Queer Eye, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and The Final Table on Netflix, Temptation Island on Disney+ Hotstar and Top Gear on HBO Max have emerged as success stories. In fact, Netflix’s take on the Indian arranged marriage rigmarole, Indian Matchmaking stirred much controversy earlier this year.

“We know that Indians love reality TV- - be it a talent hunt or a music and dance show or even shows related to travel and adventure. So, adapting that concept for a digital service seemed like the smart thing to do," said Aparna Purohit, head of India originals, Amazon Prime Video. Purohit was referring to the platform’s early takes on non-fiction titled Unscripted Amazon Originals such as music reality show The Remix and a music series titled Harmony with AR Rahman, both released in 2018.Comedy is a huge ecosystem in India and Purohit said Amazon’s slate of stand-up comedy specials have taken what was an urban phenomenon to tier-two towns. Comicstaan was amongst the top three most watched Amazon Original Series in the year of its launch and participants of the show are now touring the country for shows.

Unscripted content helps audiences build a deeper connect with participants as they often become emotionally involved in their lives and enable interactivity as voting and polling activities prove, versus a lean-back approach, said Gourav Rakshit, chief operating officer, Viacom18 Digital Ventures.

“That two-way communication is something the Internet affords anyway so non-fiction is a really powerful property," Rakshit said adding that the company is in the process of finalizing more marquee titles that should be announced in the first quarter of 2021.

“The inherent issue (with non-fiction on VoD platforms) that there has been a lot of debate around is whether people will simply skip to the finals," said Abhishek Rege, CEO, EndemolShine India. While non-fiction has potential in genres ranging from dating to reality contests that the firm is looking at options in for 2021, Rege said it would be a challenge to see how episodic content is released and themes for individual episodes evolved so that the interest level is sustained.

Ajit Thakur, CEO, aha Video, said it is still early days for non-fiction in India but it is only a matter of time before it catches up.

“Non-fiction, complemented with social media can always help involve viewers deeply. And there is great generational relatability among the 18-24 age group that wants to witness the trials and tribulations of other people as long as it’s not make-believe or fake," Rege said.

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