Sunday, November 13, 2011

Digging into the reality of Reality Shows: A Booming Marketing Platform

DEbasmita panja | IIMB

Digging into the reality of Reality Shows: A Booming Marketing Platform

Culture Reality shows have become a catchphrase in the Indian Television industry. Indian viewers’ mind set seems to have undergone a dramatic change. A significant fraction of the audience base have become bored of the never ending saga of family dramas and soaps and are switching over to reality shows. The Indian reality television, though in the nascent stage of its development, is growing at a phenomenal rate.
The international history of reality shows dates back to 1948 with the telecast of the first TV reality show Candid Camera by Allen Funt. The Granada Television Series Seven Up in 1964 was among the pioneers of reality shows that were broadcast in the United Kingdom. The industry earned global popularity with the revolutionary success of shows like Big Brother, Survivor and American Idol. Similar journey commenced in India in the 1990s with the advent of music reality shows like Meri Awaz Suno. The show became highly popular but at that point of time in the industry, there were not many players in this segment.
The scenario changed tremendously with the huge success of Kaun Banega Crorepati. The enigmatic presence of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan alongside the differentiated concept of KBC in terms of Indian viewers’ tastes and perceptions proved to be a successful venture and opened up opportunities for such reality shows in future. The rising popularity has given a new dimension to the business of television channels in India. It has broken the monotony with interesting scripts and innovative formats of reality shows. Perhaps one of the prime reasons for reality shows dominating the industry is the ability of audience to be a part of the shows and easily relate themselves to the characters. However competition in this segment of the industry is becoming intense due to its continued success in increasing TRP ratings. Channel executives have become keen in outdoing others with almost every channel broadcasting two to three reality shows in the same season.
In such a high growing, competitive industry, what strategies are being adopted by the various television channels to position their shows in the most favorable manner? How are the production houses trying to set themselves apart to pull the crowd? What marketing weapons are these players using? Primarily, the production houses are negotiating deals with television channels and launching various categories of reality shows like game shows, celeb-reality, prank-reality, talent hunts, adventure based shows etc. Such a varied offering keeps the audience hooked to their television screens without a feel of monotony. Production firms like Endemol International BV, BBC Worldwide Productions India and FreeMantle India Television Productions Pvt. Ltd. are frequently coming up with innovative concepts ranging from shows on cooking to biggest comedian hunt which are entertaining and are being widely accepted by Indian audience. The formats and ideas of the shows are being used by the companies as a differentiating factor. Endemol, for example, has signed a joint venture with a sports management firm for bringing in reality shows on boxing and cricket while others are conceptualizing reality shows on business for testing entrepreneurial aptitudes.
Though these reality shows seem to be entirely Indian products, they are often a result of deals with foreign networks. For example, the local station Network 18 and the media corporation Viacom collaborated to produce Big Boss. India is a comparatively new entrant in the reality show business. So such cooperation with highly experienced foreign companies adds to the competence of the programs. The production firms are also bringing in international formats for adaptation in India. At the same time, they are focusing on localized contents to tap the local audience. Deepak Dhar, managing director, Endemol India says, “We are planning to get a format called The Million Pound Drop for the Hindi audience and then extend it to south India and the Bengali-speaking market.”
Internet is also playing an important role in its growth. It has been used as a cost-effective and interactive tool for promotion of reality shows by several television channels. These companies have partnered with popular websites like facebook, YouTube, Orkut, rediff etc. for advertising their shows. Star Plus, for instance, has made use of social networking sites for initiating conversations on its show Master Chef. These channels have released web premiers for their shows and are popularizing them through online media posts. The channels are using blogs, launching their own sites and placing promos of their shows across video sites. A lot of popular reality television shows have profiles on well-accepted social networking sites. They are also creating websites for getting regular feedbacks about their shows, thereby creating awareness and excitement in the minds of the viewers. In addition to internet, channels are also using editorials in print publications for promoting the shows.
An evolving trend of cross-promotion of shows and promoting movies through reality shows have become quite successful. The television channels are working towards introducing a synergetic relation between film promotion and reality shows. This is setting up a win-win situation for all players in the business. Reality shows provide an efficient platform for movie promotion with minimum cost being entailed by the film producer. The appearance of celebrity actors in the shows captivates more people thereby registering more TRPs. The viewers are also entertained by the show and the celebrities.
Among the other tools that are being employed by the television channels are celebrity hosts and judges and this has been established as a very effective approach as the Indian viewers always have had a special connection with Bollywood. Anupam Vasudev, EVP marketing, Star Plus, said, "Celebrity-based reality shows attract new viewers. So, more people are sampling your channel when such shows come on. A number of them stay with the channel even after the reality show ends."
The increasing popularity of the reality shows is making it easier for the producers to attract higher sponsorship. Also most of the revenues are generated from text messaging and mobile interactions by the audience for voting purposes. There is effective utilization of content in a reality show shoot as almost nothing goes waste. “Even auditions and behind-the-screen happenings are shot, and broadcast before the actual show goes on air...controversies and fights between participants create frenzy and the show becomes a talking point in the press or on social media,” says a production team member of a show.
However what remains to be seen is whether this dynamic success of the reality television industry is sustainable or not. A lot depends on the ability of the industry to come up with further interesting concepts. Gavin Wood, director of production, India Freemantle Media says, "India has a great potential to produce its own formats. We may discover some formats that existed earlier and got sidelined or forgotten. We can work on them as well. Indian formats have the potential to go global as the passion and creativity in India grows in the years to come. This will drive the growth of the television industry in India."

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