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Reality shows, celeb chitchats prove to be big draws on OTT, grab top billing

After having stagnated in viewership and brand interest on television, non-fiction is emerging as a new draw on video streaming platforms.

Thirteen Indian non-fiction shows had a viewership of more than five million in India in 2023, according to media consulting firm Ormax. In 2021, there were only four shows.

Over the past few weeks, shows like Koffee With Karan, Temptation Island India and MasterChef India have been topping viewership charts.

Not only are some of these shows cheaper to produce and put together than fiction, but brand interest is also strong in terms of integrations, and the genre offers a break from the routine for viewers.

In Ormax’s latest report on top streaming originals in India in 2023, the second season of Bigg Boss OTT on JioCinema is the most watched Hindi-language unscripted web show across platforms with a viewership of 19.5 million. It was followed by the eighth season of Koffee With Karan (15.4 million), Temptation Island India (13.5 million) and Dance + Pro (8.8 million).

This is quite unlike not too long ago when the weekly list of most watched OTT originals in India was dominated by fiction shows. The trend changed in the last quarter of 2023 when three or four non-fiction shows made it to the top five list for several weeks.

“Unlike linear television, where non-fiction shows can be at least four to five times more expensive than fiction shows on a per-episode cost comparison, the picture looks quite different on OTT. Some of the bigger fiction shows on OTT can cost upward of ₹2 crore per episode, making non-fiction shows a more cost-effective proposition,” a recent Ormax report said.

In general, reality shows have a higher new user-to-returning user ratio compared to fiction, owing to their wider appeal and limited supply of non-fiction shows on OTT, Ormax said. Further, they provide more avenues from an advertising revenue perspective, due to brand integration and sponsorship possibilities.

Unlike fiction shows, which have six to eight episodes in a typical season, reality shows have seasons of 30-60 episodes. This means higher ad inventory for AVoD (advertising video on demand) platforms and a stronger potential to drive subscriptions for SVoD (subscription video on demand) platforms, whereby such shows can lead to at least two if not three, monthly renewals.

Tanya Bami, series head, of Netflix India, said unscripted is a format the platform has been investing in since it began programming in India. While its documentary The Elephant Whisperers won an Oscar, Vir Das’s comedy special bagged an International Emmy.

“Audiences are genre-agnostic. They are looking for a story or an experience that engages them deeply, and it is on us as the creative community to deliver the freshest, most distinct stories. Non-fiction is an integral part of our slate. We are always looking for stories and ideas to take this genre wider, quite like the approach for our fiction series,” Bami said.

She added that this year, the company will diversify further by bringing a show with Kapil Sharma and his team, along with new offerings in the documentary space, and the third season of the Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives.

In a recent interview with Mint, Saugata Mukherjee, head of content at SonyLIV, also referred to non-fiction as a big focus area.

“Non-fiction is a big part of our digital expansion plan and one where we’ve already tasted success. We may not be looking at many unscripted shows. Still, they will all be high-quality titles,” Mukherjee had said, adding that reality programming on SonyLIV has remained ad-supported all this while without seeing any dip in viewership. Shows such as ‘MasterChef’ will now see Tamil- and Telugu-language versions.

Non-fiction had played a big role in building TV viewership in its early days, and will see a thrust from OTT going forward, said Barin Mukherjee, co-founder and chief executive officer at Digital Refresh Network. This content solutions company is working on shows in the infotainment space. “Unlike fiction, which requires greater commitment, this is often snackable content where the viewer can tune out and come back easily,” Mukherjee said. LiveMint

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