More 'real people', TRP-dictated content for Indian TV

By Ruchika Kher (10:47)

Mumbai, March 22 (IANS) Indian television will see more reality shows with real people instead of celebrities as contestants, says Myleeta Aga, general manager and creative head of BBC Worldwide Productions India. She also believes TRPs will continue to be an important factor for content.

"In the coming time I think there will be more interest in reality shows with real people. Our audiences for the last few years have been looking at basically celebrities doing reality shows. Now they are starting to say, 'I want to see me on screen'," Aga told IANS in an interview.

BBC Worldwide Production India, which is part of the BBC group, has produced shows like "Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa", "Wife Bina Life" and "Pati, Patni Aur Woh" in the country.

"In the coming years, more shows with real people as contestants will be on air. That's already happened but it will increase. People respond to seeing someone who would be their friend or neighbour all the more than anyone else," she added.

However, Aga does stress the importance of a big star as the host or judge of a reality show.

"It has been instrumental in getting TRPs. You can say that audiences expect big celebrities somewhere in the show to give it a certain amount of credibility and a certain amount of glamour and to some extent even a certain amount of relatability because an unknown face, as opposed to someone being known through films, gives them a certain comfort level," she said.

But then why do certain shows, in spite of boasting of big Bollywood names, fall flat and fail to garner the expected TRPs for the channel, as was the case with Shah Rukh Khan hosted "Zor Ka Jhatka", inspired by the international show "Wipe Out"?

"The audience can come to a show for celebrities and the show can get a first stamp of approval but eventually television is about content and if your story or your content is not working for your audience, then regardless of the celebrity they will move on," explained the creative head.

"That risk is borne by the channel because it's the channel that brings the celebrity on board. However, it's risky not to have a celebrity also because then you can't get people to come to the programme. So it's the balance. You have to find the right celebrity for the right concept; only then it pays off," she added.

Some reality shows that have the common man as participants are "Dance India Dance", "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa", "Indian Idol" and "Chak Dhoom Dhoom" among others.

According to a joint report released by FICCI and KPMG in 2009, the Indian television industry is projected to grow at the rate of 15 percent over 2010-14 and reach a size of Rs.521 billion in 2014.

Aga, who will be speaking at the upcoming FICCI Frames this year on the topic, "Changing trends in consumer taste in television", also listed genre diversification as one of the changes that will mark the industry soon.

"I can see genre diversification. I can see a lot more happening in that space because more and more niche channels are launching as the market gets bigger and DTH penetrates and all of that happens," she revealed.

Aga agreed that TRPs were the most important factor for content in the Indian television industry.

"I really believe that because of the structure of the industry. You look at countries like the US, a mature market, where 70-80 percent of the channel's revenue comes from subscription fee; now because we don't have that format and in fact channels are paying carriage fee here, they have to rely on advertisement to generate income and as long as they have to focus completely on advertising, they will necessarily have to deliver TRPs," she said.

So what would be considered a good TRP rating for a channel?

"It depends on the channel and it depends on the time slot. I think a niche channel will be happy with a one rating, but for a general entertainment channel (GEC), one is a flop. Obviously prime time ratings are the most sought after," she informed.

(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at ruchika.k@ians.in)

television2.jpg