Time for Reality Reload?

02 Jan,2019


By Sanjeev Kotnala


My favourite show ‘Bigg Boss Season 12’ climaxed on December 30, 2018. In the end, there were three types of audiences. One who will never watch Bigg Boss. Two, people who watched Bigg Boss and loved it. Three, the set of people who watched Bigg Boss Season 12 and said it was all over for them. And this is all about the third type of audience.

Another big ticket popular reality show on the channel ‘Kathron Ke Khiladi’ (KKK) which starts on January 5. And trust me, when it ends there will be these segments of the audience.

It is true for any reality and reality-talent shows. ‘India Got Talent’ (IGT) won hearts with wonderful magician ‘Javed Khan’ winning the show. Deepika winning, Sreesanth reaching finals or Deepak losing made many viewers promise not to watch season thirteen.

Talent and reality show dominate Indian TV screens. Nowadays they also provide huge content for viewers on OTT.



‘Super Dancer’, ‘Dance Deewane’, ‘Jhalak Dikhla Jaa’, ‘Boogie Woogie’ and ‘Nach Baliye’ for dancing talent. ‘Indian Idol’,  ‘Rising Star’, ‘India Raw Star’, ‘Jammin’, ‘India Raw Star’and ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ for music and singing.  ‘Splitsvilla’ and ‘Roadies’ for the new generation with attitude.

‘Bigg Boss’, ‘Survivor India’, ‘Pati Patni or Woh’ ,“Wife Bina Life’, ‘Hear Me Love Me’, ‘Zindagi Ka Crossroads’, ‘Emotional Atyachar’ ‘Saach ka Samana’, ‘Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao’, ‘Raaz Pechale Janam Ka’ and ‘Bindass Beg Borrow and Steal’ for the drama. ‘Ace of Space’, the new reality show by Vikas Gupta on MTV, has found new takers. It is a compressed claustrophobic BiggBoss in many ways.

Kaun Banega Crorepati for the brainy ones. ‘Dus Ka Dum’ for the lucky ones. ‘Master Chef’ for people who take cooking seriously.  ‘India Next Super Star’ and ‘India’s Best Dramebaaz’ for the star power. ‘Comedy Circus’ for the laughter. Not to count the long tail to the list of existing and faded reality shows.

Reality Shows must be good business. Most of them are the leading tent-pole property for the channel. Many times, the bottomline is a function of success or failure of these shows. So, the TRP, controversies and drama do matter.

The viewer has options nowadays. There are many more ways the content is cut. There is cut-uncut, edited, unedited, behind the scene, repeat telecast, a library of episodes across the years and extra dose all available on click of a button.

That should be good news for both sides. The content is expected to always win. But, is the engagement and involvement of video first viewer guaranteed?

He or she is consuming a lot more content. The accessibility, availability and affordability of data have improved many times. The viewer now has a choice and chance to flirt and fall in love with the other screens.


The reality show can be broken down into a few essential elements.

The concept. The pre-show build-up and auditions. The judges or the host. The time slot and day of the telecast. The show duration. The contestant quality and background.  The process of their elimination. The final winner.  The extra content and buzz the season generates during its lifetime. Equally important is the ability of the show to polarise the already segmented audience on the region, language, social class or religion. Most of these have remained unexplained and unmonitored.


Viewers appreciate new formats with important differentiation and enhanced audience interaction. However, the format gets jaded with time unless the creative team is able to tweak the format.

Sadly, this is happening to my favourite show Bigg Boss. The commanding personality of Bigg Boss has softened with the season. It no longer shows that strong control of the house. There is a rampant visible bias of the show controllers towards some contestant.

The host is still able to hold attention on the weekend. But the teams must think of alternate. Akshay Kumar and Ranveer Singh could be the top replacement choice.

The tasks are so repetitive that the audience gets disengaged. The partiality of propping up only the celebrities in promo has alienated many viewers.

In cases like Khatron Ke Khiladi, it’s simple for the viewers to see the winner emerge. It’s as per the performance in the task. In others like India’s Got Talent audition round, it’s transparent as only judges are pushing the lever. It’s different that the audience still has not understood how does Kiron Kher define talent!



The problem comes with audience voting.

The channels may not be ready, but the audience definitely wants to see data on votes pooled in. There is a huge potential to suddenly changing the shape of the genre.

Think about getting data on the screen like any other sports. It could do wonders for viewer’s engagement.

What if like the count of Sixes and Fours in cricket, there was a live count of number of times Sreesanth says ‘I want to leave’ in Bigg Boss. What if people are asked to predict the final tally?

What if there was an exciting ‘Extraa Innings’. If and only if we could see what was the lead or margin of defeat for the nominated contestants. And know how Deepika was performing.

What if the ‘Weekend Ka Vaar’ was the real battle and not dominantly skewed film promotion?

The reality shows need to be recharged after some seasons.

How far the channels will go to rejuvenate them depends upon how the audience is interacting and engaging. But it’s time that every format needs a makeover.


The above is the result of discussion with viewers across the nation and is no reflection of BARC weekly results. And though the examples refer to Bigg Boss, please see them as representing the genre on screens.


Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior strategy consultant and trainer. He writes every Wednesday on MxMIndia. The views here are personal



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