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Video-streaming platforms build on non-fiction shows

Video-streaming platforms in India are building on the non-fiction category, traditionally considered the mainstay of television. Reality TV is a genre that Viacom18 has taken to its digital platform Voot with the launch of Bigg Boss. Netflix is launching a comedy contest Comedy Premium League this month, apart from a dating show, IRL: In Real Love, the second season of The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, and a bunch of documentaries.

Telugu language streaming service Aha Video has recently premiered a celebrity food show, Bhojanambu, while Disney+ Hotstar will have a dance reality show Dance+. Though still nascent, reality TV on streaming platforms may attract the fence-sitters to sample digital content through such tentpole shows, media executives said. The trend would be in line with linear television, where several new viewers start to tune in on weekends when unscripted content is on offer, they added.

“Non-fiction programming in the streaming industry is beginning to unfold as compared with scripted series. We are always looking for unusual stories, captivating worlds and compelling subjects that are on a par, if not more surprising than the plot of your favourite scripted drama or thriller. We definitely believe that fact is stranger and sometimes much more riveting than fiction,” said Tanya Bami, director, international originals at Netflix India. “And in line with that, our endeavour is to find stories from all parts of India that will drive audiences to discover these unique stories.”

The platform’s unscripted slate encompasses three sub-genres of non-fiction – reality, comedy and documentaries. “We are diversifying the unscripted content offering in India with our foray in these genres and tapping into scripted reality, true crime and comedy formats along with stand-up specials,” Bami added.

The viewing for non-fiction series on Netflix in India grew more than 250% in 2020 from the previous year, with Indian Matchmaking and Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives emerging as the most popular titles. International shows such as The Last Dance, Love is Blind, Tiger King, The Social Dilemma, The Ted Bundy Tapes also gained traction. Next on offer is a project with Kapil Sharma, a show called Social Currency and docu-series such as Crime Stories: India Detectives, which follows major criminal investigations by Bengaluru city police and House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths, which is based on the Burari murders and Indian Predator, about Indian serial killers that will be out next year.

Up until two years ago, OTT platforms may not have commanded the kind of viewership that would be deemed lucrative to bring an IP like Bigg Boss to the web, said Mehul Gupta, co-founder and chief executive officer at SoCheers, an independent digital agency. “Now a lot of people have moved from TV to digital, and the consumption has become so dynamic that a prime-time show can be streamed 24×7 online. It fulfils the needs of those who are already on OTT and love the drama of non-fiction and can also convince those sitting on the fence (to subscribe),” Gupta added.

Interestingly, the unscripted genre also lends itself to brand integrations. Hungama Digital Media is planning two shows in the unscripted genre, one of which falls in the beauty and make-up category. Sanjeev Lamba, executive producer at Hungama Originals, said unscripted shows see tremendous brand interest with many agencies cropping up to negotiate with platforms on their behalf. Live Mint

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