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A time for reality on television

January 10, 2005 12:11 IST

Want to join the race to win the crown for India's hottest dancing couple? Like to don the mantle of India's best action hero? Desire to shed kilos of flab and get a perfect body? The idiot box will handhold you to your dream in 2005.

The reality shows are fast becoming a reality on Indian television. Why? As the number of channels increase by the day, there is a need for constant innovation. Reality TV programming is emerging as an answer to this need. No wonder, they are now an integral part of most of the TV channels' programming strategy.

Says Rajiv Vyas, CEO, Optimystix: "The reality format has caught the fancy of Indian audience. Globally, this has all along been a trend. Particularly in the US and UK, among the top 10 programmes, reality shows feature alongside script-based shows such as Friends and Sex and the City."

Vyas should know what he is talking about as Optimystix is currently co-producing Indian Idol for Sony Entertainment Television.

Cyrus Oshidar, senior vice president, creative and content, MTV Networks, says that the public is increasingly indulging in voyeurism. People are also greedy for their share of two-minute fame that the channels are offering.

In the reality shows, the TV channels find a vehicle of interacting with the people. Says AXN India's marketing head Rohit Bhandari: "Our research has shown that reality shows are a big draw in terms of viewership."

Broadcasters are leaving no stone unturned to mix and match international formats and Indian sensibilities. There are examples galore.

For instance, SET recently announced Dance Dance -- a show to find the country's best dancing couple. Sahara One would come up with Hero Honda Action Hero. Star One is looking at two shows -- Lakme Fashion House to find India's best designer and Figure it Out where obese people would sweat it out for 100 days.

Channel V has already started airing Super Singer while AXN plans to come out with Contender -- a reality show in search of the best boxer.

What's more, Star Plus may have a second run of Kaun Banega Crorepati this year while MTV is planning for a third round of Roadies. When it comes to cost of production, the reality shows are a big money guzzler.

Karun Prabhakar, director operations at Siddharth Basu-owned Synergy which produced KBC, says: "A reality show can cost above Rs 30 crore (Rs 300 million) -- an amount a channel spends for a year of programming."

However, the returns too can be attractive as the scope of advertising is enormous. These shows have scope for on-line, on-ground and on-air promotions -- too many avenues for the channels to recover their investment. Then, there is the advertisement revenue.

However, even a meticulously crafted financial plan can fall flat on its face if the creative concept goes wrong.

A hugely successful KBC or an Indian Idol cannot rub off the failures of the Govinda-anchored Jeeto Chappar Phad Ke (Sony) and Neena Gupta's Kamzor Kadi Kaun (Star) from the small screen. So, caution is the key word for any new show.

Deepak Saigal, executive vice president, content, Star Network India is frank enough to admit that it will be difficult to have a Temptation Island show in India.

More and more talent-based reality shows may make its appearance as this formula has clicked. Industry experts say there will indeed be some innovations but one will have to wait awhile to see a Survivor or a Big Brother on the small screen in India.
Aparna Krishnakumar in Mumbai