Non-Fiction sets new Benchmarks with Bigg Boss 13

07 Feb,2020

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Next week, the longest-ever season of Bigg Boss finally draws to a close. And it’s been the longest one for a very good reason. Bigg Boss 13 has turned out to be the most successful season of the show ever. The weekday episodes are rating at par with some of the top-rated fiction shows, despite the show’s late 10.30pm slot, with episodes ending well past 11.30pm on most days. The weekend episodes lead other weekend shows, including the hugely-popular The Kapil Sharma Show and Colors’ very own Naagin.

In general, Bigg Boss seasons find a viewership pattern in the first month, and then growth in viewership is minimal post that, limited to 20-25% at best. This season has seen growth nearing the 40% mark on the weekdays and the 50% mark on the weekends, if you compare the first half of the season to the second. The first half rated at usual levels of sub-2 TVR. But as the show progressed and the principal characters began to emerge more sharply, the surge in ratings followed. Bigg Boss, with strong support from repeat airings too, has taken Colors to the No 1 position in Urban HSM, now past the 200-GRP mark, a rare feat in the Hindi GEC category these days. Add the digital viewership, conversations and impact, and Bigg Boss 13’s success is even more significant.

The content has definitely been more edgy this year than before. Relationships, of the romantic variety in particular, have been presented without much sanitisation, and public display of affection on the show is given a lot of prominence in the episodes on air. At times, conventional Hindi GEC understanding would make you question how such content can ever get traction. But that’s where the fascinating audience insight lies.

If a Hindi GEC fiction show was based on a theme that explores love in a way that’s not ‘Indian’ enough (eg getting attracted to someone despite no formal breakup with one’s existing partner), it would get rejected at the onset itself. Such a fiction show would be seen as propagating negative ideas, and would simply not fit the idea of television and why it’s watched.

But change the context from fiction to non-fiction, specifically Bigg Boss, and the rules change. Over the last four-five years, Hindi mass audiences have warmed up to non-fiction more than ever before. The low-commitment, short-duration content is a welcome change from the long-running fatigue machines that most fiction shows have come to be seen as. This acceptance of non-fiction has also come with an understanding and acceptance of the idea that ‘rules’ for fiction and non-fiction are different. Fiction is for wholesome family entertainment, delivered through relatable yet aspirational characters, while non-fiction is entertainment in a dialed-up version.

Barring KBC, which stays true to its original idea of being a wholesome entertainer, most other non-fiction shows that have done well have tweaked their content to give frontal status to their entertainment value. On Indian Idol, for example, less than 30% of the action or talk between any two singing performances is about the performance (or music, in general) itself. There is a running joke about the host wanting to marry the female anchor, and it works. Two weeks from now, Khatron Ke Khiladi, another show that has used entertainment as a weapon of audience expansion, will play on the same quotient.

Bigg Boss 13’s success may be difficult to repeat every year, but non-fiction is here to stay… and grow. Now, if only they aired more of it on the weekdays.

 

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