To the dismay of most single TV households, there's not much that television channels are willing to do to reduce the daily clash between reality shows and fiction drama during prime time.
Suneeta Nanda, a working woman, says she is missing out on the storyline of her favourite soaps thanks to reality shows. "Of late, there are so many reality shows on TV that my husband and children want to watch only those. In the bargain, I lose out on the soaps that I like watching. I have to end up shooing them away if I want to watch the soaps," Nanda, a mother of two, told IANS.
Thirty five-year-old Akanksha Paliwal too is in a similar situation. "I loved watching 'Bidaai' and 'Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlaata Hai' on STAR Plus, but nowadays my children and husband watch 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' on Sony. I can't even watch the repeats," she cribbed.
While Colors and Sony air "Bigg Boss 4" and "Kaun Banega Crorepati 4" during 9 p.m.-10 p.m., Zee TV and STAR Plus schedule their popular shows at that time.
According to Nitin Vaidya, COO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises and business head of Zee TV, viewership remains more consistent with fiction shows compared to reality shows.
That is also a reason why they launched fiction property, "Preet Se Bandhi Ye Dori Ram Milaayi Jodi", at a time when other channels were busy announcing projects with stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan.
"Zee doesn't formulate strategies based on non-fiction with film celebrities as they are a short-term phenomenon. Non-fiction shows mostly do not impact the serials beyond a point. The top 10 shows across general entertainment channels (GEC) remain high on loyalty and any impact is only short-term," Vaidya said. Zee has strengthened its programming through fiction shows like "Choti Bahu", "Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo", "Ek Veer Stree Ki Kahaani - Jhansi Ki Rani" and "Pavitra Rishta", with only "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Singing Superstar" in the non-fiction space.
However, Danish Khan, vice president and marketing head of Sony Entertainment Television, says it is important for every channel to live on a "judicious mix of fiction and non-fiction content" for viewers.
"From the business as well as viewer point of view, it is important to give a mix of everything to maintain stability and loyalty from viewers," Khan told IANS. He points out that Zee may be flourishing on fiction content, but it also has to its credit two of the most popular reality shows "Dance India Dance" and "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Singing Superstars".
"Non-fiction content boosts the channel reach and helps in drawing a large number of youth and male audience to sample the channel and its content. They are a great gateway to grabbing a new audience. The rest depends on the programming team of each channel," Khan added.
According to Namit Sharma of Wizcraft Television, the programming mix is a very personal decision for each channel. "Every high profile launch with big stars like Priyanka Chopra, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan or Akshay Kumar will give bumper ratings on the first day or week. Then ratings drop and start stabilising through the weeks," Sharma said.
"But since TV soaps are watched by many over a long time, their ratings are mostly consistent and they experience high TRPs only during certain high points. It isn't really about what is better between reality shows and fiction - it is about whatever works with each broadcaster," Sharma said.