Shailesh Kapoor: Reality Shows: Trendy No More?

23 May,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


When KBC first launched in 2000, the term “reality show” was not a part of this country’s lexicon. The long-running Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (1995) was then referred to as a singing talent show, not a reality show. But by end 2004, reality shows were emerging as a formidable force, fuelled by the launch of Indian Idol and India’s Best Cinestars Ki Khoj that year.


The amount of activity this category saw in 2004-08 made one believe that its share of viewership would continue to rise year-on-year. But the reality shows genre in India has flattered to deceive. In 2008, 21% of viewers named a non-fiction show as their favorite GEC program. In 2014, this number remains in the 20-25% range, and that includes Comedy Nights With Kapil, which contributes to more than half the share.


Why did the category stagnate? This summary of 2014 tells a story:


1. Khatron Ke Khiladi Season 5 (arguably the best season of the show since season 1) ends this weekend.


2. Dance India Dance, currently airing in the Li’l Masters variant, is into its ninth cumulative season, if you could the main show (4 seasons) and variants such as Li’l Masters, Super Mom and Doubles (5 seasons).


3. Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Season 7 is slated to launch this June.


4. KBC 8 is calling for entries currently, and is slated to launch around August.


5. As an aberration, only the second season of Zee TV’s Cinestars Ki Khoj is scheduled for a mid-year launch, coming back after a decade.


6. Bigg Boss Season 8 should go on-air around October, like every year.


7. Being an annual fixture, India’s Got Talent is likely to be on-air this year too, in what will be Season 6.


You get the trend? All these properties are at least five years old.  All, barring one, are into their fifth to ninth seasons. We have fallen into a pattern. And the viewer is not exactly pleased with this turn of events.


Except the two Zee TV formats, all other formats are imports. Four out of seven are talent show formats. Clearly, India’s ability to create original, homegrown reality show formats is highly suspect. Many attempts have been made, but have been largely unsuccessful. Imagine’s unofficial adaptation of The Bachelor got good attention, especially in the first season with Rakhi Sawant. But overall, it has been a tough ride for the industry.


Doordarshan and Zee TV have been creating reality show formats even before the imports descended upon us. From Meri Awaz Suno in the 90s to Saanp Seedi, Antakashari, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and DID, these channels had a lot to offer, though most of it was in the talent and games show space. When the industry showed growth and the market became ready to import foreign formats, it emerged as a low-risk option to go for. In the process, the homegrown formats began to get step treatment from most channels, in terms of attention and budgets provided to them.


Today, the reality shows genre is facing imminent decline. The audiences who grew up watching these formats would have recently got married or are likely to get married soon. The impact of marriage on TV content preferences can never be overstated. And no young generation likes to inherit what the “oldies” liked. They want to create their own trends, their own hits.


With a culture and heritage as rich as ours, we should be bursting at the seams with reality show ideas. The time can never be more right!


TV Trails is a weekly column written by Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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