Business, Entrepreneurship, Strategy

Of Reality and Reality shows!

Reality shows have been a constant subject of discussion, even amazement in the Indian context, for most of this decade. Right from Kaun Banega Crorepati – the Indian adaptation of Who wants to be a Millionaire to the immensely popular Sa Re Ga Ma, to Indian Idol and most recently Rakhi ka Swayamvar- the reality shows have captured the nation’s imagination in more ways than one. This post tries to summarize the reasons for success of reality shows.

03kbc2While Indian reality shows like Antakshari, Sa Re Ga Ma, Snakes and Ladders were extremely popular before as well, ‘Reality show era‘ on Indian Television was started by Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). The show was truly pathbreaking in many ways. What really pulled the audiences to this particular show was:

  • Huge money at stake ( 10 mn Rupees is a huge amount)
  • The greatest Indian superstar (arguably) as anchor – Amitabh Bachchan
  • The positioning as a prime time daily show

The show was chiefly instrumental in Star Plus catapulting Zee TV to the Number 1 slot in the Indian TV market. After this, there was a steady stream of reality shows. Some shows I can remember fondly are Boogie Woogie, indian_idol_4Great Indian Laughter Challenge, Indian Idol . The Indian Idol, I must say reached and touched tens of millions of Indian hearts and was an extremely profitable show for SET India – the channel which hosted the show. The format in itself was extremely endearing and  audiences voted in droves to keep their favorite contestant on the show. This format was adopted by almost every show after Indian idol. It was this innovative way of connecting with audiences that increased the popularity of Indian idol.

So, whats the real reason for the popularity of these reality shows?

For one, they manage to strike an emotional chord with the audiences.At the end of it all, audiences are emotional beings. If you get them hooked to something that is refreshingly different from the fiction dramas,  ( Saas Bahu serials in Indian parlance) they are bound to respond in a positive manner. Every singing competition – be it Sa Re Ga Ma or Indian Idol, did just that and the results are there for one and all to see.

Secondly, they involve real people – someone the audience can relate to. The audiences can laugh, cry, get delighted or disappointed with the contestants on the show.The audiences get surprised even shocked to know how talented people really are. Shows like MTV roadies and KBC became instant hits because of this.

Thirdly, the whole ‘ What could have been‘ conjecture. This is probably an extension of the last point, but its equally important. This conjecture is perhaps the reason why there is such involvement in the reality shows. How often have we heard of statements like ‘Had I been in his place, I would surely have won double the money!’ or ‘I wouldn’t have sung this song at such a critical juncture in the show’ . Clearly, the shows have succeeded in making the audience believe that everyone watching the show has a star hidden in them. That feeling is what pulls the audience to the reality shows in my opinion.

Fourthly, the blending two sides of the same coin – fantasy and reality . For more than 90% of population, earning 1 million in an year is a dream. The reality shows give you reasons to dream. When you see an IAS aspirant like Harshwardhan win 1 crore on television, the 100 crore population got reasons to dream, dream big. It took the audiences into a world of fantasy, where they could live ‘happily ever after’. The mere possibility of that happening is enough for most audiences to keep watching these shows.

And finally and most importantly, quality content. The shows are responsible for bringing to light many great talents. The world of singing in particular has been indebted to the reality show for ‘glamorising’ it. The content is so good on reality shows, that its almost compelling for any discerning viewer to watch it.

The future is indeed promising for this genre on television. But now, TV is literally inundated with ‘reality’. The shows in future should be different, innovative and find newer ways of engaging with the audiences. Shows will have to exploit newer media of mass communication- the internet, the mobile, even 3G to remain cutting edge in this ‘real’ world!

PS: from tomorrow we are starting the quiz contest. Do read the rules of the quiz contest here – Quiz Contest .

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9 thoughts on “Of Reality and Reality shows!

  1. I agree to your point that reality shows do bring in good talent.But I have a point of contention here.And that is the audience voting process.How much weightage should be given to the audience votes?In many cases very talented contestants have lost out from the show just because of lack of sufficient audience votes.It sometimes also erodes the faith of the people in these shows.In many cases judges have also expressed displeasure over public opinion.A recent example is Shalmali sukhtankar losing out from sa re ga ma little champs on zee marathi.

  2. AT_korvus says:

    Nice article. In my opinion, our vicarious natures as human beings contributes a lot to our attraction to these shows, and in fact, most of these shows market not the actual competition, but the controversies (best example: Roadies). We watch a show to see what happens next to our favorite contestant, how the judges tear him/her apart and how they fight amongst ourselves. Fact is, we are all vicarious vampires, and these shows simply feed us what we want.

    However, I guess a distinction needs to be made between Game Shows and Reality Shows. KBC and Snakes and Ladders are game shows, and their ilk have been around since forever, however, Reality TV Shows are quite a recent phenomena, which snowballed with Survivor.

    I wouldn’t call the earlier versions of Sa Re Ga Ma, Antakshari etc as Reality Shows, however, with more and more audience interaction, the lines between Game Shows and Reality Shows are blurring fast. One of the best examples of this would be Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, which is a celebrity dance contest, with elements of reality shows mixed in.

    Also, on the issue of audience voting, IMO, its a horrible concept. I know it sells well and adds to the popularity of the show, but it then takes away from the talent part of performance, and turns the whole thing into a popularity contest. Earlier, game shows didn’t stoop to this level, but now you see more and more shows becoming charades, with much more talented contestants being thrown out, while contestants who received low marks from the judges are being saved the public (best example: The case of Hard Kaur and that soap actor on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa).

    A worrying aspect is the involvement of children on these shows, and how it will affect their mentalities.

  3. Nice analysis of how the shows hit the base with the public. I don’t think even producers would think of everything like you did. A good number of them just want to copy that was successful in US.

  4. Kaushik says:

    “It’s nothing new to television audience, scripted realities are a sad reality now. Hosts in this show suddenly get heated up, speak in severely foul language;the contestants are targets of the hosts’ angers. Specific issues are scripted for this kind of realities. BECAUSE, the show must go on, and mind you, a little extra from the rules of the game is what always fetches money for producers.

    The aim basically is to get the audience heated up mentally. When audience gets agitated, it automatically means show will attract some deeply agitated minds – because the inner psychology of humans is to protest against what they don’t like. In any case, audience cannot express, but they, in return, watch the show and keep arguing among themselves.

    Thus, maximum output target (in terms of money) is achieved, producers feel happy, and god bless the audience.”

    The above is taken from the blog of a reality show contestant. I would not name the show or the contestant – but this to a large extent seems the reality behind the “reality shows”.

    One good reason why shows like these survive is because they arouse the animals in us – especially shows like Big Brother and Survivors and Splitsvilla – we love to see the contestants abusing each other.

    The other day, it was shocking to see a 11-year old girl strip-teasing on stage (well, almost) while dancing to a popular hit number from a late-90s movie and a 8 year old boy in the same show making derogatory remarks about fellow female contestants on the same show.

    In the long run, these are pretty detrimental to the society at large – remember MTV Roadies got a warning from I&B ministry over the use of foul language?

    There should be a crackdown to keep the filth and disturbing elements in the shows to a minimum

  5. arjun says:

    One thing you can add. Different kind of reality shows belong to different genre of audience. Most of them are governed by market rules and according to the format tried and tested in foreign markets. Universally the urban youth oriented reality shows contains girls talking dirty. We know everybody is attracted by it esp. urban Indian youth. Some common interesting characters in these so called urban youth reality shows eg. an introvert boy and girl, few bad girls constantly abusing each other, one over-smart boy who takes pleasure in vanity. It is just like a movie. We have a hero, heroine, comedian and villains. Whereas melodramatic reality shows for middle class has lots of emotions, background songs. The story of participant’s parents economic struggle also make everyone nostalgic. These are not reality shows. These are drama with amateur actor playing the role of common man.

  6. Shah Murad says:

    I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance. ~Reuben Blades

    When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat? ~Chuck Palahniuk

    One of the misfortunes of our time is that in getting rid of false shame, we have killed off so much real shame as well. ~Louis Kronenberger, Company Manners, 1954

    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. ~Krishnamurti

  7. Shah Murad says:

    Our modern society is engaged in polishing and decorating the cage in which man is kept imprisoned. ~Swami Nirmalananda, Enlightened Anarchism

    Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the poor is Poverty; what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness. ~George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists

    Our democratic capitalist society has converted Eros into an employee of Mammon. ~Octavio Paz

    The first gold star a child gets in school for the mere performance of a needful task is its first lesson in graft. ~Philip Wylie, Generation of Vipers, 1942

    I think God’s going to come down and pull civilization over for speeding. ~Steven Wright

    There comes a time when a woman needs to stop thinking about her looks and focus her energies on raising her children. This time comes at the moment of conception. A child needs a role model, not a supermodel. ~Astrid Alauda, on the “hot mom” trend

    What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on? ~Henry David Thoreau

    It’s a sad and stupid thing to have to proclaim yourself a revolutionary just to be a decent man. ~David Harris

    We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    It’ll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers. ~Unknown author, quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs

    If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. ~Author Unknown

    The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. ~Lily Tomlin

    Natives who beat drums to drive off evil spirits are objects of scorn to smart Americans who blow horns to break up traffic jams. ~Mary Ellen Kelly

    Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependant upon popular opinion? ~William Lloyd Garrison

  8. Shah Murad says:

    Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. ~Bill Vaughn

    The time is ripe, and rotten-ripe, for change. ~Lowell

    Perhaps in time the so-called Dark Ages will be thought of as including our own. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

    The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that man may become robots. ~Erich Fromm

    We create an environment where it is alright to hate, to steal, to cheat, and to lie if we dress it up with symbols of respectability, dignity and love. ~Whitney Moore, Jr.

    When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home. ~Betty Bender

    Widespread caffeine use explains a lot about the twentieth century. ~Greg Egan, “Distress”

    People have become as processed as food. ~Astrid Alauda

    In these times you have to be an optimist to open your eyes when you awake in the morning. ~Carl Sandburg, New York Post, 9 September 1960

    Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money. ~Author Unknown

    Most of the change we think we see in life
    Is due to truths being in and out of favor.
    ~Robert Frost, “The Black Cottage,” North of Boston, 1914

    Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
    ~T.S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock

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