Benita Chacko

Big to Bigger: What is driving the growth of big budget reality shows on television

The first panel discussion of Colors Cineplex presents Television Week 2021 looks at the compelling logic of big budget shows - and why they continue to grow.

Since the time Sa Re Ga Ma aired on Zee TV in 1995 to the launch of The Big Picture on Colors TV recently, reality shows on TV have only become grander. Not only have their budgets become bigger year after year but they have also travelled across the country featuring in various languages now. The first panel discussion of Colors Cineplex presents Television Week 2021 looks at what is so compelling about these shows that TV networks set big budgets for them and how it works for TV networks from a business perspective.

Moderated by Sreekant Khandekar, co-founder and director, afaqs!, the panel comprised Abhishek Rege, CEO, EndemolShine India, Megha Tata, MD, Discovery Communications, Nina Elavia Jaipuria, head- Hindi Mass Entertainment & Kids TV Network, Viacom18, and Prathyusha Agarwal, Chief Consumer & Data Officer, ZEE.

Agarwal shared her views on how the role of the reality show has changed. She said that the shows are no longer limited to being just a content format but are now legit brands on their own.

“While launching Zee Keralam, the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa brand is bigger than the channel’s to start with. People know this brand first and hence the recruitment of the audience is driven by these known long-format long-term IPs,” she said.

Further, she believes that these non-fiction shows are very useful for a network in taking the audience across all three mediums- television, social and OTT. From the consumers’ perspective, they have started demanding a larger spectacle. “From a country which propagated restraint we have moved to demand a better and bigger life. And these become markers of that delivery,” she said.

From the advertiser’s point of view, it's a big win for them to be in that safe environment and target consumers in an interactive gamified fashion across three screens.

Jaipuria said that these marquee properties give Colors a very distinct identity and help them bring in variety.

“It works from many more angles from a network perspective as well because it seamlessly integrates the new normal, which is TV and digital proposition, in a beautiful way- driving viewership and subscribers. Some of these shows, like Big Boss and Khatron Ke Khiladi have achieved cult status. Success of the format in one language has a ripple effect on other regional markets and regional languages as well. It's the advertisers darling and therefore, our darling. As they are big ticket items, we get a significant part of our top lines from these properties,” she said.

Two factors make them the advertisers’ darling. One, they are able to communicate with their viewers in a clutter-breaking manner as they have the ability of integrating and customising product messages in an unconventional manner making the brand salience stand out. Therefore brands come into the consideration set of viewers much better than they would have in a vanilla 30-second spot. Second, these properties bring in newer audiences on the weekend, thus helping deliver the kind of reach that advertisers want for their brand.

With the new eyeballs on the weekend, the channel is also able to sample its weekday wares to the audiences on the weekend to entice them to come on to the weekdays. “And that gives us a fabulous seven day strategy and sets us apart as a brand in the GEC genre,” she added.

Discovery Communications has really redefined the idea of reality shows, in the sense that earlier it would largely be considered a GEC format. But with shows like Man vs Wild (where our Prime Minister Narendra Modi featured) and Into the Wild, it made it into a niche format as well. What also worked for the property is that it’s meme worthy and the memes on social media helped the franchisee.

“For a niche player to play the big game was a risk, but it was a calculated risk and it paid off. The way we made the dent into this huge market was with our first episode with PM Modi. It was eye opening for our genre to be competing with the big daddies and that's really set us to success,” Tata said.

Bringing in an international perspective, Rege spoke on the presence of celebrities in reality shows. He said that the reliance on celebrities to take the shows to the next level is a global phenomena. But the key difference in the West is that they can make shorter seasons as their dependence on advertising is lesser.

"The scale of celebrities and the jury internationally has been increasing. The big difference between us and the West largely is that they can spend that much to make just about 10 episodes so that the impact is far more than what we can afford to. But we have our requirements as our dependence on advertising is a little higher. So we do need exposure over an X number of weeks so that the brand gets the right value,” he said.

Watch the full discussion here:

‘COLORS Cineplex’, a premium Indian movie destination for great cinematic experiences, is the first-of-its-kind film channel launched by leading media conglomerate Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd. Launched in May 2016, the channel provides its viewers with the ultimate movie-watching experience while delivering Viacom18’s promise of showcasing enriching, engaging and entertaining content to the viewers. Through its tagline of Filmein MUST Hain, ’COLORS CINEPLEX’ features multi-genre films including the latest blockbuster hits from Viacom18’s wide library of choicest films.

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