Home / Industry / Media /  Top reality TV shows yet to recover viewership after pandemic blues
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Top reality TV shows such as Kaun Banega Crorepati and Bigg Boss are yet to fully bounce back after the 50% dip in viewership they saw in 2020. Even this year, the two premier shows on Sony and Colors, respectively, are lower by 25-30% in terms of viewership, according to media buyers and entertainment industry experts.

Television monitoring agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India and channels such as Sony, Zee and Colors did not share viewership numbers or comment on the dip in ratings.

Reality TV shows were impacted by tentpole sports properties such as the second half of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament that resumed mid-September after a break because of the coronavirus outbreak and the T20 World Cup that took place from mid-October to mid-November, said broadcasters and media buyers. The live sports events coincided with the telecast of these shows on TV.

The Big Picture, a new show on Colors hosted by actor Ranveer Singh, also lost steam after its debut in October, said a media buyer on condition of anonymity.

“Most of the non-fiction franchises telecast during 2020-21 have seen a drop of 25-40% in ratings from their pre-covid seasons. The second lockdown and the postponement of the IPL both years has had its impact on the non-fiction cycle, but most franchises have not been able to match the pre-2020 performance," said Keerat Grewal, partner at media consulting firm Ormax.

The reality TV genre may be suffering from high costs, limited returns and minimal experimentation, media experts said. “There is no formula for success; there are leading channels that have brought reality shows which did not work," said Sujata Dwibedy, group trading director, Amplifi India, the media investment arm of Dentsu. Ratings will only drop, irrespective of how much channels may invest in non-fiction, given the undeniable emergence of the digital medium, Dwibedy said.

“The shift to connected TV and over-the-top platforms is a reality that is being seen in metros, non-metros and even the smallest towns. Audience fragmentation has been at its peak as people are consuming content across various mediums and platforms. There is good and original content available everywhere," Dwibedy said.

She pointed to the behavioural change leading viewers to give up their cable TV connections and direct-to-home subscriptions, a phenomenon known as cord-cutting.

Fiction shows have either come back to their pre-covid levels or delivered better, but not non-fiction, said Chandrashekhar Mantha, partner at Deloitte. “One reason could be the overlap with sporting events but there could also be a content angle to it. These formats have been around for long and perhaps broadcasters need to revamp them to keep audiences engaged," he said.

Fiction, on the other hand, has a loyal fan base and audiences usually develop connections with individual characters whose journeys they want to follow. At the same time, the dip in ratings could mean the viewership has diversified, and that the target group for non-fiction has shifted to a second device, he pointed out.

It is likely that some viewers watch these shows on streaming platforms and connected televisions, but these are not measurable yet.

That said, a look at the packed advertiser and sponsor list indicates the draw and might of non-fiction shows that command nearly twice the cost per rating point of fiction shows, said Mansi Datta, chief client officer and head, north and east at media agency Wavemaker India.

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