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War of reality shows on TV

July 13, 2009 15:37 IST
Hindi entertainment television channels have opened the sluice gates for reality shows. Beginning Monday, a slew of new non-fiction shows will hit the idiot box.
If Sony from Multi Screen Media will air Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bacchao with 10 celebrities in a Malaysian rainforest, Star Plus plans to put common people on the hot seat for Sach Ka Saamna. The programme is based on Moment of Truth, a popular Fox Productions reality show which has been licensed to several television channels across the world.
On July 11, UTV's Bindass launched the second season of Dadagiri, while Rakhi Ka Swayamvar on NDTV Imagine has completed two weeks. Colors plans the second season of its popular reality shows, Khatron Ke Khiladi and Bigg Boss, in the next few months.
Of course, different channels have different reasons for pushing reality TV. For Star, the new financial year begins in July and it has a fresh, unutilised programming budget to tap in to.
Besides, the channel needs to prop up its declining gross rating points as well as reclaim its lost leadership position (last week, the channel was placed third after Colors and Zee). At 10.30 pm from Monday to Friday, Sach Ka Saamna will challenge Colors' successful fiction show, Uttaran. Sony's reality show is a part of its revamp plan which saw it unveil a host of fiction shows earlier.
The sudden attack from rivals on the 10 pm and 10.30 pm bands hasn't bothered Colors CEO Rajesh Kamat who said that reality shows bring in new audiences and do not dent the loyal viewership of fiction shows. Still, reality shows do create a buzz around the media brand.
"If done well, they also draw in a disproportionate number of audiences and, therefore, advertisers," Kamat said. Little surprise, Colors plans to start the second season of its blockbuster reality shows only when advertisers decide to loosen their purse-strings closer to the festival season in September.
Star Plus is banking on Sach ka Saamna to shore up its advertising revenue, which has dropped by 10 to 15 percent. Star India Executive Vice-president (marketing) Anupam Vasudev did not divulge the numbers but admitted that revenue is under pressure.
The new programme, produced by Synergy, is "Star's experiment with a new genre of adult entertainment," said Vasudev. Sach Ka Saamna features people who have to answer 21 questions ranging from the simple to the complex, exploring their deeply personal relationships and thoughts, before an audience including their family members. If the questions are answered truthfully -- there's a polygraph test to ascertain that -- the contestant wins Rs 1 crore.
Vasudev said that unlike Moment of Truth, the questions have been designed keeping Indian sensibilities in mind.
"Some questions will be edgy though. The Indian society is at the cusp of change and it can take such entertainment," he said.
Agreed Shailaja Kejriwal, head of programming at NDTV Imagine: "It's good to see variety in reality TV. It's a pleasant change from the song and dance shows which have gone on for too long."
Though entertainment channels appear to focus more on non-fiction, the fact is that of the programming on a TV channel, reality comprises barely 10 to 15 percent of the total.
Also, channel and programming heads said that unless a reality show uses a top star (Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan), the cost isn't too high. "Though it is shot in Udaipur, the cost of producing Rakhi Ka Swayamvar is tightly under control," said Kejriwal.
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