Cadbury India is already on board as the presenting sponsor of the fourth season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), to shortly open on Sony Television. Idea Cellular has signed on as the telecom partner. Sony expects KBC4, being anchored by Amitabh Bachchan again, to bring in viewers and revenues — the expectation is around Rs 100 crore, say reports. It has even put its other successful reality show, Dus Ka Dum, anchored by Salman Khan, on the backburner.
Season repeats of popular reality shows seem to have found traction with TV channels across the entertainment spectrum. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa has had the maximum number of repeat seasons and is still going strong. Other shows such as Khatron Ke Khiladi, Bigg Boss, Emotional Atyachaar and MTV Roadies are into various repeat seasons in their next runs.
What makes such shows tick, even when their repeats mostly show declining viewership ratings? With celebrity payments shooting upwards, how long can the broadcasters sustain pressure to generate revenues through a mix of advertisements, brand integration, promotions, SMS and other routes?
“Ten years back, reality shows were viewership-driving monsters. Now they have become revenue-driving Goliaths. As of now, TVRs (television ratings) have been replaced by revenue and the reach has definitely gone up,” said Sunil Lulla, MD & CEO, Times Now, who has previously had an unsuccessful attempt at running Real — a reality-based channel.
Reality and contest/game shows have become a staple diet for every general entertainment and niche channel. And repeats are even more common.
“Daily soaps comprise the major chunk of programming for most GECs. Reality shows are one more way of offering a wider bouquet of content. These shows help as the content is exclusive from soaps and has the power to get the entire family together. Besides, for the channel, these shows are good marketing and promotional tools,” said Ajit Thakur, EVP and business head, Sony Entertainment.
The journey started almost a decade ago with shows such as KBC, Indian Idol, and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. KBC and Indian Idol have become the big daddies of repeats. KBC4 is being seen a big winner already for Sony (KBC 1, 2, 3 featured on Star Plus). Khatron Ke Khiladi will begin its third run on Colors. The 15-year-old Sa Re Ga Ma Pa will begin its next season on Zee TV this month. Bindass’ Emotional Atyachaar will begin its second run soon.
In a rapidly fragmenting media scenario where reality and game-based shows are constantly emerging and evolving, almost every such show registers a decline in average TVRs for the subsequent season. Analysts, however, point out that although the TVRs may decline due to viewership fragmentation, the absolute viewership numbers may be going up since the overall TV viewers are growing.
“The fascination or voyeurism on reality shows has decreased. No longer are they the top three programs on TV. Yet, they seem to have a higher hit rate than normal serials. Advertisers are interested in the eyeballs and the engagement a programme provides. The reality shows pie itself has grown and often the channel finds it difficult to break even on such properties. So they use them to tie up larger deals,” said Nandini Dias, COO, LodestarMedia.
As the reality genre grows, there’s fragmentation of interest even among them. Based on their interest, audiences vary for game, adventure, music and dance, quiz and laughter shows.
“Reality shows are a refresher from the usual grab of serials. They help gather decent eyeballs and ask for a lot of audience involvement. There is a lot of audience interaction and the possibility of brand involvement is high as films and in-show brand placements are done through this route. It’s tough to repeat the best and the first season is the deciding factor for any reality show, as the re-launch is not as good as the launch,” said Anita Nayyar, CEO, India and South Asia, Havas Media.
She added: “Freshness is never the same in a re-launch. Even then, the re-launch continues to gather the advertisers’ attention because of the ‘assured viewership’ that these shows bring in. Some popular reality shows have reached their peaks and are stabilising. In the US, such shows continue to thrive but in India the market is completely different. A few more years and the decline for such shows will begin.”
With the pressure on the channel to recover costs getting higher constantly, how sustainable are these shows in the long run? “Content has one habit — it keeps evolving. There will be fragmentation but not decline. We have still not reached the stage where there are multiple TVs at home. Imagine when that happens — fragmentation will reach its peak. As of now, reality shows continue to bring together a family,” said Lulla.
However, Jehil Thakker, head of media & entertainment, KPMG, pointed out: “There is predictability associated and even if there is a flat line, or for advertisers it means reaching out to a wider audience, overall the format is not new anymore. Certain shows that cross the five-year mark seem to be reaching a viewership maturity.”
Not all first-season-successful shows have seen the same run — Imagine’s Swayamvar is struggling to find its next central character, UTV Bindass’ Dadagiri season on terror readiness and combat training got a lukewarm response — channels are still willing to bet on reality show repeats.
UTV will now roll out the second season of Emotional Atyachaar, targeted at youth.
“We are back because there is a loyal following. A show such as this is bound to get a better spike in viewership,” said Santosh Nair, CEO, UTV television.