It's the women who control television remote in a household on an India's evening. The soaps run one after another on general entertainment channels. Male members or the young of the house generally give it a skip. Non-fiction or non-scripted content, popularly known as reality shows in India, manage to break the pattern, believes Nina Elavia Jaipuria, Head, Hindi Mass Entertainment and Kids TV Network, Viacom18. She believes that the entire house watches reality television sitting together because it appeals to everyone.
The number one paid Hindi general entertainment channel, Colors, just premiered the finale of its marquee property - Bigg Boss, and is gearing up to air the Indian version of Fear Factor, Khatron Ke Khiladi. While Broadcast Audience Research Council of India is yet to declare the final viewership numbers of Bigg Boss, Colors has declared that the 2019-20 edition has been the format’s best so far.
Reality television is an expensive proposition in India. While general fiction programmes cost broadcasters around Rs 10 - 12 lakh per episode and Rs 25 - 30 lakh for VFX, heavy supernatural ones, when it comes to reality shows, the investment goes up manifold. If the sources are to be believed then Bigg Boss costs Colors around Rs 150 crore for the 105 episode project while for a 20 - 26-episode Khatron Ke Khiladi the channel dishes out Rs 60 crore. If the project cost goes up then so do the ad rates. For the number one show in paid GEC, ‘Kundali Bhagya’ Zee TV charges around Rs 1.2 lakh per 10 - second - slot, whereas during the weekend episode of Bigg Boss featuring Salman Khan, Colors ups the ad rates to Rs 3.5 lakh to 4 lakhs. Jaipuria believes that these premium ad rates make reality television profitable.
In a chat with afaqs! she talks about the advantages of non-fiction programming, how advertisers react to it and the implications of the economic slowdown…
Why is it essential for you to have a good portfolio of non-fiction programmes considering the risks attached to it?
We take the risk, we experiment and we bring newer formats to the platform. What happens as a result is that we encourage newer eyeballs and this makes the platform very robust and fertile. The moment you have a lot of viewers on your platform, what you do as your strategy? What you do, is that you promote the fiction stories that are there on the channel as well. This eventually gives you a great weekday strategy because your prime time starts getting sampled and if you are telling very different stories with enduring characters, then you are able to deliver to your viewers the 'Dal Chawal' which is Monday to Friday fiction shows and reality over the weekend.
How do you make business sense out of it?
Reality television today is expensive and it demands a lot more investment, but it pays off. It delivers in two ways - one is by getting incremental viewership on the channel and secondly, it pays off by making Colors the preferred brand. In an NTO scenario when there was so much ambiguity, Colors remained the preferred brand and it forced viewers to make sure they subscribe to the channel at the very beginning. Also, to my mind, advertisers are willing to put in their money if you have big winning properties. Bigg Boss, Khatron Ke Khiladi, IPL (Indian Premier League) are winning properties. Advertisers keep aside budgets for these winning properties. If we take Bigg Boss as an example, almost all the sponsors, in the beginning, continued to be with us till the end despite the extension.
The format itself attracts many viewers, it attracts families, the hardcore soap and fiction viewers - not necessarily just women.Nina Elavia Jaipuria,
Is it because reality shows open up the opportunity for brands to integrate in the show that they express their interest?
It is one of the reasons not the only one. The format itself attracts many viewers, it attracts families, the hardcore soap and fiction viewers - not necessarily just women. It attracts youth of all age groups and that is what the advertiser is looking for. Beyond integration, it is also about getting all the eyeballs, it is about delivering a message through a property which is popular not only on television but on digital and social media. Bigg Boss had two billion video views on social media. It had 1.5 billion video views on VOOT. So it is about associating with a brand which is beyond TV. Reality shows give brands an ROI which is beyond a 30-second-slot.
Given that you have limited inventory as they are all finite shows, how do you ensure you are making profits?
By charging a premium. Impact properties sell at a higher price as compared to the normal - 30 - second FCT rates. Eventually, Bigg Boss had over ten sponsors and each of them gave us a certain amount of money which made it profitable for us. Also, you are bound to make more money if your last season is better than before. Khatron Ke Khiladi last year, was the number one show and therefore we already have three sponsors. We are glad to have Maruti back as our presenting sponsor.
Do you think you will manage to make Khatron Ke Khiladi profitable too?
We already have three sponsors and by the time the show goes on air, I am sure we will get a few more. Bigg Boss was profitable for us and I am sure Khatron Ke Khiladi will be the same. It runs across. There is FMCG on one hand, there are smartphone marketers, e-commerce, automobile. It is an eclectic mix across a wide range of brands.
For a show like Bigg Boss or Khatron Ke Khiladi, how important is the rooster you create, how much of an effort goes into it?
Any reality needs a lot of curation. It takes a lot of time to make and deliver something like a Bigg Boss or Khatron Ke Khiladi and that is exactly why these are expensive properties. That is why, it is important that you get your pound of flesh and make sure that the property is making business sense for the channel. In Khatron Ke Khiladi this time, we have a mix of contestants where someone is from Radio, another one is a dancer and there are few from TV...
Economic slowdown is the elephant in the room. How is it impacting your business? has it forced you to change your plan?
There is no denying that there is pressure on the business. The top line is sluggish and we did not have a great season. Having said that, this quarter has been very good for us because we had Bigg Boss and the Bigg Boss Finale, where there were many brands willing to be onboard. Now, while the slowdown is there, will that affect what we do on air? Certainly not. We are a committed brand, which is here in the long term, and we will continue to deliver stellar entertainment no matter what. If we have properties that are winning properties, then it makes business sense.