Benita Chacko
The Planner’s Special

“Returns are much better in associating with regional shows than national shows”: Madison’s Dinesh Singh Rathore

An interview with Dinesh Singh Rathore, CEO, Madison Media Omega. This article is part of a series that looks to capture the goings on in the world of media planning and buying.

Reality shows in India have come a really long way. Back in the 1990s there was only Sa Re Ga Ma on Zee TV. But now every channel has its own tentpole property and the audience is spoilt for choice. From Kaun Banega Crorepati on Sony TV to Bigg Boss on Colors, these shows have only gotten bigger and grander with every season. Newer formats and subjects are also entering the space. Some years back there was MasterChef India that brought a cooking reality show to India and now with Shark Tank it is a business show.

While the shows are becoming bigger- both in budget and reach- the ratings for these shows have been steadily declining over the years. Yet we see brands jostling for brand integrations and advertising space. In the second interview of our series on media buying trends, we speak to Dinesh Singh Rathore, CEO, Madison Media Omega, to understand the world of reality shows on television.

Over the years the reality shows have become bigger- both in terms of the budget and reach. How has their role changed and have brands expectations changed?

Yes. Most of these reality shows are almost live or live. Second, they are not fiction. So there is a lot of drama and unexpected things that you can't predict. That is the thrill of watching a non- fiction show. Also the anchor has a fan following, there is a lot of loyalty for that drawing in audiences. With reality shows it doesn’t have to be followed from start to finish. If you miss one episode you're not missing anything. From the advertiser’s point of view, the reality shows are the mainstay for the channels. There's a lot of effort that goes in behind that show and any advertiser associating with it obviously gets the benefit of that. The opportunities to do branded content in fiction shows are very less. A lot of the episodes are shot well in advance, making it difficult to time a market strategy. Nonfiction shows allow that flexibility. The celebrity anchor also in a way endorses your brand. For example through the contests.

While the number of shows and the channels have increased, we see the ratings have declined in the last couple of years. What are the factors at play?

There is fragmentation. Today every channel has big shows and everyone is trying to come up with new innovative content. There are four or five shows which are the mainstay for all of the channels. Earlier, one season would be around 12-13 weeks or even shorter. But now, because it brings them a lot of audiences and gives them loyalty, that stickiness gives them better ratings. All the channels try to expand that viewership and continue to engage with that audience over a longer period of time. KBC goes on for 15-16 weeks and if the viewership continues, they dont mind extending it further, subject to availability of the celebrities that are associated with it. Similarly with singing and dancing shows, they cut off elimination in between, bringing in a twist or a new element to make it more interesting. They do all this so that they don't lose the audience to another channel.

In terms of absolute ratings, yes, they are delivering around 1.5 or 1.8. But we have to look at it in terms of the reach and the value ads that the channel gives the advertiser. It's a win-win for both. For example, the amount of integration and contests they would have done. Like on KBC they engage with the audience by ‘Play Along’.

Many of these reality shows have now moved to regional languages. Are they more attractive and what do they offer to brands that Hindi shows can't?

It's not only about reality shows. Overall regional content is growing. A national client may not have the wherewithal to do multiple shows in the HSM market because there's a certain entry cost to it. But with a fraction of that investment, he can reach a certain market if he knows a particular show has worked. There is an opportunity for a lot of people. If they can connect with regional shows then they don't have to invest in a national show. The returns are much better. When you are looking at the HSM market, it may deliver in Delhi but it may not deliver in Ahmedabad and Pune. It may overdeliver in UP but underdeliver in Bihar. Whereas if I make something for the Tamil, Kannada or Telugu audience I can specifically reach out to them.

Has the audience profile changed?

The audience profile definitely would have changed in terms of time spent. There has been a lot of fragmentation. We find the younger audience not associating themselves with these formats. Also whenever they associate themselves on TV they watch only certain content. The advantage the younger audience has is that they are not slotted like we were. For example, when I was growing up, 8.40 pm used to be Doordarshan news. Nine o'clock was for English news. We were prone to a certain mindset where, if you are watching a GEC the best show is always at nine o'clock. This audience is not slotted as per time. Whatever they want to watch they want it here and now. The younger generation is not watching television as much as before and they're watching only certain content.

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