Given the immense success of Nepal Idol and Himalayan Roadies, it is likely that other international reality TV brands will also enter Nepal to entertain and delight audiences here.
--BY DWAIPAYAN REGMI
Sean Dash, producer of non-fiction TV series like Discovery Channel's "Bering Sea Gold" and "Deadliest Catch" once said that he does not care about producing stars. According to him, such shows are all about the business game. The popular TV reality singing franchise “Idol” was expected to only get into real profit after 2016, at the time of initiation. And that is the point where audiences go wrong. Like KFC or like Ncell, these reality shows are doing business too. Customer satisfaction is the ultimate motto of any business, so audience satisfaction is what these businesses seek in the end too.
A Forbes magazine report has highlighted the business aspect and high earnings of some of the most popular reality TV series:
Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian iteration of the international TV quiz series Who Wants to Be Millionaire?, gives a glimpse into how the generated profit is shared between the various stakeholders of the popular television franchises. In 2016, Sony Entertainment Television (SET), the owner and broadcaster of the popular TV series, was estimated to have earned INR 1,353 crore each month from the advertisement revenue of this show.
Similarly, Mukesh Ambani’s Jio, the title sponsor of this year’s series, has similar standing. For instance, even if one percent of India’s 1.4 billion population sends an SMS to participate in the show, the number of mobile text messages will amount to 1.4 million per episode ultimately giving a huge earnings boost to the mobile service provider. Meanwhile, Siddartha Basu and Amitabh Bachhan, respectively the director and host of the show also make huge sums of money in the process.
Reality TV shows put ordinary people in unexpected situations making them ‘extraordinary’. As a result, such people start receiving attention from audiences. Subconsciously, such shows divide the viewers on the basis of geography, demography and other aspects which the organisers actually expect to profit from.
The investment and finance portal Investopedia had stated that reality TV shows aren't low cost to produce. According to the entertainment news portal E! News, the per episode production cost of a 30-minute reality show ranges from USD 100,000 - 500,000 which is higher compared to a scripted show. This is why producers don’t to expect bumper profits from such shows. Similarly, reality TV shows are not just making some ordinary people 'extraordinary', they are also providing jobs for many in the entertainment industry.
Meanwhile, Nepali TV channels have been airing their own reality TV shows including Nepali Tara, Nepal Star, Ko Banchha Lakhpati? and Dareventure. Nevertheless, their charm has gradually declined in the face of international brands like Idol. The norms and set of predefined codes along with effective marketing and promotion strategies have played a significant role in the rising popularity of international reality TV shows in the country.
It is certainly a positive sign to see that Nepali TV viewers are getting a new taste in terms of TV viewing. It is again interesting to see that Nepali TV channels are competing in order to deliver the best shows. Ultimately, it’s the audience who will benefit in the end. Be it AP1’s Nepal Idol or Himalayan TV’s Himalayan Roadies, the shows have successfully attracted a notable number of viewers. Likewise, the Nepali music industry too is seen as a beneficiary in this regard as these shows have presented wonderful career opportunities to many participants besides promoting the talents.
Obviously, like Dash’s remark, it is all about business in the end. So, whoever wins, that barely makes any difference for the organisers. Rather, they benefit from those thousands of instant messages, advertisements and yearlong contracts. This competitive environment has now compelled Nepali channels to move away from the traditional TV programmes such as interviews or comedy series to come up with some reality television shows.
Given the immense success of Nepal Idol and Himalayan Roadies, it is likely that other international reality TV brands will also enter Nepal to entertain and delight audiences here. Media reports suggest that the popular Indian dance TV show Boogie Woogie and an international brand Got Talent seem to be on their way here. However, it's yet to be seen how they will operate and be received.
It should also not be ignored that not all reality TV shows succeed. For instance, the Indian shows including Jeeto Chappar Fadke and Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain, were commercial failures as they could not gain any huge attention. So is the fate of the latest season of Nepali singing TV show Nepali Tara which all went unnoticed casting a shadow of doubt on the sustainability of the television show.
One important lesson that reality TV shows provided to aspiring entrepreneurs is- if you are looking for a business idea, everything old will be new again. Wasn’t American Idol too old? Or Indian Idol too classic? But they were still given a new touch in Nepal. While American Idol had direct connections with Coke back then, Oppo has gained similar benefits from Nepal Idol here in Nepal. Huge promotion and brand positioning activities were successfully carried out by the Chinese smartphone brand. It is a fact that it is not an easy thing to do anywhere. And these reality shows have been facing tough times too. From becoming subject to harsh criticisms, to being dragged into court cases on some occasions. But in every difficulty there is an opportunity.
Aman Partap Adhikary, the director of Himalaya Roadies, or Laxman Paudyal, director of Nepal Idol, besides showing how money can be earned, have also set an example showing business is not all about selling goods. It is about providing services too. And the entertainment sector carries huge potential in this regard. Nepali audiences, however, are not mature enough to see the shows from a business perspective as they are still too emotional and the organisers appear as if they are trading on their emotions. This is the best time for them to earn maximum profits. Gradually, when the business becomes better understood, this strategy may no longer exist.
For now, people have been desperately waiting for the second season of Nepal Idol, waiting how Boogie Woogie is going to perform and how other media houses will compete with these expensive time slots. It’s important for the TV channels to succeed. Their success will foster the Nepali media industry, ultimately promoting Nepal in the international arena.
After all, it’s more than just a winner who wins the bike, car or cash prize. It has huge other implications too!
Regmi is a freelance writer and a blogger. He is currently a faculty member at Kathford International College of Management, Kathmandu and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org