ZEE-Turner to launch Reality TV in India

By , agencyfaqs! | In | January 29, 2003
With the launch of the channel on February 1, 2003, ZEE will make another attempt at reality television

Prisoners of War never saw the light of the day. Raah (a real-life adventure show involving five couples) managed a few shows, and was canned for life.

ZEE is trying its hand at reality TV one more time. In a strategic alliance with London-based international thematic channel producer and distributor Zone Vision, channel distribution conglomerate ZEE-Turner is ready to launch Reality TV in India. While the alliance was forged in December 2002, the channel will go on air on February 1, 2003.

The Reality TV channel broadcasts 24 hours a day to cable and satellite homes across Europe, the Middle East, Turkey, Israel and Africa, and was launched in the UK in October 2002. After the launch of the channel in India in 2003 and across the Asia Pacific region thereafter, Reality TV will be available to 27 million subscribers in total. In fact, the feed is fully cleared for broadcast across Asia, Australia and New Zealand where further deals are imminent.

While Reality TV is fully localised for its audience with subtitles or dubbed versions of the channel available across the broadcast region, in India it will telecast all the programmes in English. Talking to agencyfaqs!, Sunil Khanna, CEO, ZEE-Turner, said, "We are confident that Reality TV in India will be successful. Some of the reality shows on channels such as AXN and Discovery have been doing pretty well in India. Though these programmes have a very limited timeframe, they have an audience that is really interested in this kind of programming. In fact, Reality TV in some of the competitive UK markets, has gone ahead of channels such as National Geographic, Discovery etc in the 16-34 years age group." He added, "Most of these programmes have visuals with high impact and so language is secondary."

But are Indian audiences ready for reality television yet? Khanna believes Indian audiences are no different from the others in the region. "ZEE is present in the Middle East and so is Reality TV. We have received great feedback from our viewers in the Middle East." However, the programming line-up of Reality TV for the India feed is going to be different from the current line-up in the others markets. "Programmes suitable for the Indian audiences have been picked up from library," says Khanna. These would include High Impact, Cheaters and Natural Disaster.

Because of the phenomenal growth of Reality TV since its inception in 1999, Zone Vision has high expectations for the channel in the Asia Pacific Region. ZEE, of course, is also optimistic about the new venture. When Subhash Chandra, chairman, ZEE Telefilms, signed the deal last year, he had said, "The channel (Reality TV) brings a completely new genre of programming to our existing bouquet of channels and we are confident that viewers in India would be glad to subscribe alongside other channels being distributed by ZEE-Turner."

Yet, the fact remains, reality television in India has enticed many, and turned off many more. Take AXN's Survivor, with which Indian audiences had their first experience of reality television. "Survivor, in its 8-10 weeks of running, had a TVR of only about 0.3 or so," reminds a media planner. "Culturally, Indians differ from their western counterparts," he continues. "While a soap such like Kyunki would ignite the imagination of the Indian masses, a show like Channel 4's Wife Swap (which currently enjoys an enviable 5 million viewership in the UK) would be dammed as blasphemous. Stark naked reality is not appetising enough for the Indian viewers; it has to be blended with fiction." Which might explain why Sony's much hyped 'Shubh Vivaah' simply slipped down the popularity charts.

So, will Reality TV be able to lure the Indian viewers away from the endless saas-bahu saga on television? Only time will tell. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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