Primetime saas-bahu family soap operas are gradually losing out to meaningful infotainment on Indian television, with young viewers in particular switching allegiance to intellectually stimulating reality shows.
As advertisers pump in more money into non-fiction shows, several channels are re-launching their old reality series with new editions while others are coming up with fresh programmes.
The History Channel is back with its second instalment of History Rocks, a showcase of the lives and times of the legends of rock music, on popular demand.
The channel is also planning three new exciting series in July-August titled the Warriors, The Jurassic Fight Club and the Monster Quest.
Warriors, says the Rajesh Sheshadri, vice-president of the marketing division of History Channel, will debut on the Friday night (9 p.m.) movie slot. It will trace the legends surrounding the greatest of warriors like Nepolean Bonaparte, Julius Ceaser, Cordelius and Richard the Lion Heart.
"Our traditional core segment is the 25-plus age-group, but now we are targeting children," Sheshadri said. The channel runs history classrooms for children on Sunday mornings.
"Non-fiction programmes are always popular. Our recent series, Dog Fights on the famous battles in history was a big draw," said the marketing honcho. According to a rough estimate by Sheshadri, the channel's popularity has grown by at least 25 per cent, courtesy its "extravagant" non-fiction series.
Non-fiction and informative capsules generally reach out to an evolved set, but a rise in the country's education levels and the dubbing of several popular non-fiction television series in Hindi have helped them penetrate deeper, Sheshadri said.
The number of reality shows, say industry watchers, is gradually overtaking fictional content on Indian television.
While serials like Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi have for long captivated family audiences with their dramatic family sagas, reality shows like MTV Roadies and Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain - featuring superstar Shah Rukh Khan - are very popular today.
Kaun Banega Crorepati, first hosted by the legendary Amitabh Bachchan, in many ways pioneered reality shows on Indian TV.
"It is easy for people to connect to the slices of reality being shown in the programmes than watching imaginary lives in soaps and family dramas, where they have to leave their brains outside. Make-belief content breeds a degree of detachment," Zubin Driver, creative head of CNBC, told IANS.
CNBC is reviving Through the Looking Glass, its cache of short films and documentaries, and a new global focus. Anchor Tanveer Gill will host the show.
Sony Entertainment Television, on its part, is starting a new reality series, Das Kadam June 10. Earlier this month, the channel launched a new reality show Naya Roop, Naya Zindagi, hosted by Mona Singh, that is giving a makeover to the lives, looks and destinies of 10 people with flawed looks and facial deformities, mostly victims of real-time tragedies.
The channel launched two interactive talent shows, Mr & Mrs Television and Waar Parivar: Sangeet Ka Naya Gharana in April.
MTV has roped in Justin Timberlake to host its new interactive game show, The Phone, while Discovery Channel's new reality show Factory Made which allows a peek into the world's most amazing factories premiered May 21.
One of the greatest triggers for the explosion of reality shows on television is revenue. Advertisers and sponsors chase eyeballs and the "non-fiction content generates maximum eyeballs," says Driver.
It accounts for the flush of advertisements for non-fiction shows, which in turn keeps the reality mill spinning.
The Indian Premiere League (IPL), arguably the greatest reality show on Indian television right now, speaks for the trend.
According to Driver, there is a new level of engagement, entertainment and information in reality and interactive television.
For instance, CNBC's redesigned bouquet of documentary films, Through the Looking Glass, is more interactive this time. It is targeting students and has more on ground activity.
"We are encouraging first time filmmakers who are still in college to showcase their movies on our show and involving local film clubs in a two-way exchange. We will acquire movies from them for screening and give them the ones we have shown," Driver said. The channel has also lined up several competitions for children.