MUMBAI: The future of the reality television genre is good, particularly with the emergence of digital media. However, the genre is a loss leader for general entertainment channels, despite the fact that it brings in audiences and helps accumulate GRPs (gross rating points). These were some of the points made at a session during the Fusion 2013 conference organised by IMC.
Actress Poonam Dhillon, who took part in Bigg Boss, noted that reality shows are not scripted but manipulated. She, however, agreed that reality shows gave people from small towns an opportunity to show their talent.
"They know how people will react after seeing them for two weeks, day in and day out. Drama, negativity and things that are not pleasant are looked for as channels feel that this is what drives eyeballs. We have to remember that youngsters watch these shows and therefore it is important to offer something that will inspire them," Dhillon said.
Indiantelevision.com Group CEO and Editor-in-Chief Anil Wanvari noted that while serials and soaps form the staple diet of Indian television, it is reality shows that give spikes in ratings.
"The reality shows accumulate GRPs. Youth targeted channels like MTV and Bindass also do reality shows. 'Roadies' has developed a cult following. Youngsters connect to real stuff. Reality also has sub-genres like talent shows and voyeuristic shows like 'Bigg Boss'. Situations are built into reality shows to see participants' reactions," said Wanvari, while speaking at the 'Reality Shows on TV: Beyond Entertainment and Voyeurism' session.
Wanvari noted that a quiz show like 'KBC' went into reality TV by offering back stories of participants which wasn't done before. He also pointed out that as a reality show goes through more seasons, the core audience sticks to it.
He bemoaned the fact that reality shows in India are toned down compared to what is seen abroad. "Bigg Boss was told to tone down or it would be in trouble," he averred.
People magazine editor Saira Menezes opined that reality shows are not actually real; it is hyper reality that people are put into. "People have to decide what reality they want to be put into. To succeed, participants have to figure out the object and intent of a show. With Dance India Dance, this is clear. With Big Boss a participant needs a storyline to standout and survive. Reality TV will grow. It is democratic and offers opportunities for people in small towns," she stated.
Actor Kabir Bedi who moderated the session, spoke about his experience in Italy doing 'Celebrity Survivor'. One thing he learnt was that people would do anything to win.
Dhillon concurred. "There is a lot of prize money at stake as well as adulation on TV. Reality TV can be cruel. Judges can put people down. Participants sometimes can get depressed," said Dhillon.
Wanvari said that TV is gaining from social media and the reality genre is no exception. "Social media allows you to tune into a show when you want to. It allows for interactive experiences. You could have short format content, clips on YouTube. Producers may cut content especially for the web. This is already happening in Europe and Asia and it will also happen in India," he added.