BBC Worldwide's factual entertainment successful in India

BBC Worldwide’s Factual Entertainment and Entertainment genre director Tracy Forsyth

MUMBAI: Once in a blue moon or so, a television programme comes along that transfixes a nation and changes the daily routines of its viewers. The Great British Bake-Off is one of those. It airs once a week at 8pm on BBC One.  And every week UK residents rush home to watch whose puddings have got saggy bottoms. In last season’s final episode, 14.49 million viewers tuned in to watch the 30-year-old Nadiya Jamir Hussain take home the crown of the best baker. That episode, on 7 October last year, was the most popular programming in the UK, apart from the sport of football.

GBBO is a sign of the times. One of the Beeb’s most successful innovations in recent times - though it will be moving to Channel 4 in the next season as its producer Love Productions has struck a deal for it with the former  – it indicates how British and European audiences are lapping up what we in India may call rather tedious factual TV shows  as they deal with more mundane everyday matters. BBC Worldwide has been at the forefront of driving this change with hits such as GBBO.

Says BBC Worldwide’s Factual Entertainment and Entertainment genre director Tracy Forsyth:  “The audience here is more inclined to enjoy factual entertainment shows about perfecting a hobby or skill. The success story of The Great British Bake Off is a good example of this.”

This  BAFTA-winning British television baking competition that first aired on BBC Two in 2010 is already on to its season seven this year

Extreme sports have also emerged as a favourite in other European, American and Australian markets. “Shows like Special Forces - Ultimate Hell Week, SAS: Who Dares Wins on Channel 4, are doing exceptionally well," says Forsyth.

She notes that imbibing digital and social media into storytelling has added new dimensions to factual entertainment content leading to BBC Worldwide taking chances with several experimental formats.

“In Stupid Man, Smart Phone’ we asked the simple question - Can we survive the most remote locations in the world using only our mobile phones? Apart from this we have also roped in YouTube stars in our shows to leverage their fan base in the social media,” Forsyth explains.

Being a pioneer in the sector globally puts BBC Worldwide is in a comfortable position to leverage its rich international format library and devise relatable local content off it for the Indian market.

Forsyth’s Indian counterpart, BBC Worldwide India SVP and General Manager Myleeta Aga has been pushing the UK powerhouse’s fortunes in the Indian market. To date, the production house has produced innovative factual formats like the three seasons of Asian Paints HarGharKuchKehta Hai or ‘The House That Made Me ‘for Sony Entertainment Television and ColorsTV,  two seasons of Epic Ke Dus  on Epic TV, Inside Out for Discovery Channel, My Big Decision on Channel V and Wife Bina Life (The Week The Women Went) on Star Plus. Most recently BBC’s show Real Two States Couples featuring the best selling author Chetan Bhagat has aired on new factual entertainment channel FYI.

While keeping an eye on global trends helps understand where India stands in terms of content consumption behaviour, Aga reinforces the fact that the key to getting more eyeballs and ad revenues flowing in the genre in India is to catch the pulse of local content.

“Ours is a local content market - audiences want to see content that is relevant to them,” she states, confident of her team’s skill sets to meet the market’s ever growing need for quality content.

“Factual entertainment is just a step away from pure factual content where BBC Worldwide is a global leader,” adds Aga. Barring the genre leaders like Discovery, National Geographic Channel and HistoryTV18, newer channels like Travel XP, FYi, Insight Channel, Living Foodz have popped up in BARC India's infotainment category. Additionally, channels like Sony BBC Earth are also waiting to launch and further expand the genre, as reported earlier by
BBC Worldwide India SVP and General Manager Myleeta Aga

Going by the FICCI KPMG M&E report 2015, the genre commanded a viewership share of 1.3 per cent of the total market, higher than both English Entertainment and English News, while it's AdEx share stood at two per cent of Rs 175 billion. Since then the sector has seen an upward trajectory both in terms of volume of content produced, and advertising revenue earned. 

“While Infotainment in India represents a mere 1.25 per cent of the viewing share, this is still larger than English Entertainment and English Movies. This share of audience has been pretty much stable since 2012 but with platforms offering packaging by content genre there is scope for growth,” points out Aga.  “Factual/infotainment should also index better with advertisers as share of audience grows and we are able to more accurately measure viewership. Well made locally relevant content will be key to growing this category,” Aga said.

Drawing distinction between factual entertainment with the essence of drama and entertainment in it, and purely informative factual content Aga states that India has a demand supply gap in the latter category, which the production house intends to fill with its high quality content.

The Indian market provides a great playing field for the content producer in its regional languages as well. “Regional language dubbing makes factual content more accessible.  And because it is often content without ‘dialogue’ it is easy to dub.  However you still need to make an effort to give direction to dubbing artists just as you would to actors in a drama.  Because they are the storytellers,” Aga points out.

Executives who dabble with content assert that there is a large audience in Tamil, Telugu and other regional languages which respond positively to factual entertainment content being dubbed and provided to them.

This directly translates to a sizeable business opportunity for content creators and BBC Worldwide India backed by its rich experience of is already on it to make the most of it.

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