Reality shows on TV have persisted as a genre over two decades, in spite of rising clutter. Today, there are close to 30 reality shows across Hindi general entertainment channels. If we also look at regional language channels, the number crosses 50.Some shows such as the hugely popular Kaun Banega Crorepati touched eight seasons last year and currently, Nach Baliye is running its seventh season on Star Plus. Across three seasons, Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate has continued to grab significant audience attention.
On Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs), according to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India data, singing reality shows are trailing dance shows, with significantly lower ratings. Family game shows and action/adventure shows are also popular. Jhalak Dikhala Ja (Colors) and Dance Plus (Star Plus) are the key competitors for eyeballs currently. On regional language GECs, game shows dominate.
Cluttered and with only a few successes, the reality TV space still sees new launches. Are audiences interested?
Arjun Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone on the sets of Kaun Banega Crorepati.
With the large variety of spinoffs that mimic successful formats, there is fatigue, said Anupama Mandloi, MD, Fremantle India, which produces reality shows for channels. "It has become a far greater challenge to refresh, innovate and execute existing and established brands. Those who are able to do so successfully manage to keep the format alive," she said. "Other shows, unable to sustain beyond a season, add to the clutter," she said. And yet, Dance Plus, a new show, is drawing significant viewer interest.
"Some of the top rated reality programmes reach out to an average nine-10 million viewers per episode," said Raj Nayak, CEO, Viacom 18.
Disney's Bindass TV took a break from reality shows for two years. "We took a pause to realign ourselves, take into account what we were hearing from consumers and their evolving tastes, and reassess our ability to drive impact in this genre," said Vijay Subramaniam, VP - content and communications, media networks, Disney India. After much incubation and development, Bindass Naach, a new format dance show, was launched on August 16.
Himanshoo and Amruta, the winners of Nach Baliye Season 7.
According to a Star India spokesperson, reality shows are a good way to add variety for viewers, but the category has not seen enough innovation - there is a strong need for disruption.
"Every new show or season is seen through a lens of what is new or unique, and the taste or need gap it can cater to. The mix is critical," said Nayak.
Most reality shows are clustered in the weekend prime time. BARC data shows that channels garner maximum eyeballs in the weekends.
Aamir Khan with a guest on Satyamev Jayate.
According to Pradeep Hejmadi, ZEE TV business head, weekends are ideal for family viewing, which is when Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L'il Champs Season 5 was aired earlier this year, at 9 pm. But to appeal to kids, during early evenings on weekdays, ZEE captured and showed the behind-the-scenes of the contestants in Suron Ka Safar.
As reality shows are marketed with big names, high spends and positioned very high up in scale and deliverables, when they fail, the crash is resounding. The reason they have not been wiped off the face of Indian television is simply because of the few shows that do deliver, create high impact for the broadcaster, bring in new viewers, premium advertising revenue and provide high visibility and profile for the channel.
Read: Jhalak gets ‘reloaded’, only to crash even harder