Popular reality shows could lose viewers, money at post 11 pm slot

By Anindita Sarkar , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | November 18, 2010
Industry experts believe that the shows will lose in ratings as well as money unless they do something dramatic and thus sustain viewership.

Trust history to know that reality shows on Hindi GECs in India are somehow destined to attract the ire of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry sometime or the other.

Standing tall as examples to support the statement are shows such as Pati, Patni Aur Woh, the Indian adaptation of BBC's Baby Borrowers (Imagine TV) and Sach Ka Saamna, the Indian version of the popular American reality show, The Moment of Truth (STAR Plus). Now, attracting the wrath of the I&B Ministry with same the vigour, are Colors' Bigg Boss and Imagine's Rakhi Ka Insaaf.

It is interesting to note here that Rakhi Ka Insaaf is a spin-off of Judge Judy, an American court show featuring former family court judge Judith Sheindlin arbitrating over small claims cases. The show will soon be aired on Big CBS Prime in India.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has asked both the channels to shift their respective shows after the 11 pm slot (between 11 pm and 5 am) after they received copious complaints from viewers and women outfit units about the shows' invading privacy patterns and their vulgarity promotion during family viewing time. While Bigg Boss Season 4 is aired every day at 9 pm, Rakhi Ka Insaaf is aired at 10 pm from Friday to Saturday.

The government has also asked news channels not to carry any excerpts of the two reality shows, while directing Colors and Imagine TV to carry bands showing 'not suitable for children'.

While both channels work to keep their flagship properties on their peak primetime bands, the question is 'what if' the shows are pushed to late primetime viewing.

According to a few top media executives, the move will certainly pull down the ratings of both the shows. While Bigg Boss could lose its viewers by at least 40 per cent, the impact on Rakhi Ka Insaaf will be even more if both the shows are placed on the same time band after 11 pm. This is because audiences will then choose to watch the "better content".

Speaking to afaqs!, Navin Khemka, senior vice-president, ZenithOptimedia, says, "With the pushing of the shows to beyond 11 pm, there are high chances that the ratings of the shows will drop until they do something dramatic. Also, Bigg Boss could lose viewership by 30-40 per cent, but initially, with Pamela Anderson coming in, the show could sustain itself amongst older audiences."

According to Punitha Arumugam, chief executive officer, Madison Media, the number of households that watch television during late prime time is lower than that of core prime time. "Therefore, since TV viewing drops during these hours, the show ratings should also drop. Thus, the channels will have to strive harder with the beyond 11 pm time slot to pull up the ratings."

Anita Nayyar, chief executive officer, MPG, meanwhile, believes that while the shift in the timings of the shows will not have much of an impact on their ratings, especially Bigg Boss, the challenge for the channels will be to find the right replacements for the shows at 9 pm, so that their overall viewership does not get slashed.

She says, "Currently, Bigg Boss holds a very loyal viewership base and those viewers will anyway follow it despite the time change because they want to keep pace with the story line. Also, the 11 pm band has its own set of loyal viewers and hence, the late night prime time band does have a decent viewership base of its own. Therefore, while the audience impact on Bigg Boss will not be much, the challenge for Colors will be to find a strong replacement because the 9 pm slot for the channel will weaken as viewers will move on to watch shows on other channels."

So, with the fall in the ratings, there shall be stress on advertising revenues, too!

Arumugam adds, "Advertisers pay based on a show's ratings. Therefore, with an impact on the ratings, the ad revenues are sure to get impacted - unless the channels are able to sustain the viewership."

Adds a top media executive on conditions of anonymity, "While channels like STAR Plus are looking at tapping into the late prime time viewership with shows like Kaali: Ek Agnipariksha at 11 pm and Maryaada ... Lekin Kab Tak? at 11.30 pm, the slot performance is surely less than primetime. So, unless the viewership of this slot increases to the same base, there will be stress from advertisers on similar rates."

Khemka notes that the 9 pm band is a high investment property. "Therefore, while initially advertisers will wait and watch, they will look at renegotiating if the ratings fall," he says.

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