With the announcement that “Bigg Boss” would drop on OTT first before moving to television next season, the creators have thrown a googly on the Indian home entertainment track. If the digital domain has consistently emerged as a disruptor over the last few years, the movement is bound to change a few basic rules of home viewing habits.
After all, “Bigg Boss” has been defining successful programming on Indian television for years now. It has been one of the last remnants of consistent success on the tube, guaranteeing secure ratings through the seasons.
For the uninitiated, the upcoming season of the show will play on the streaming platform Voot for the first six weeks after the premiere and will be known as “Bigg Boss OTT” before the kickstart of season 15 on the Colors channel.
OTT streaming of “Bigg Boss” is an idea that has been gradually picking up in recent years with Voot streaming bits and pieces of exclusive action as well as making entire episodes available in the digital space in recent seasons. The difference this time is that the show first drops on OTT and streams for six weeks before the season starts on TV.
Industry watchers feel the decision could be a kind of “soft launch”. If the idea clicks, who knows, season 16 next year may immediately fall on OTT maybe start simultaneously on OTT and TV.
OTT looks like the perfect platform for a show like “Bigg Boss”. A medium that thrives on individual viewing habits on phones, tabs or laptops – as opposed to television, which has traditionally been associated with the living room, family viewing – would be the appropriate platform for a reality show that caters to the guilty pleasure of voyeurism.
The nature of the content is the main reason why the show was considered to be the right one for the mature audience, and Colors has had to settle for the well past prime time at. 22.30 on weekdays. Repeated broadcasts on television were worse – well past midnight. (Of course, there are the Weekend Ka Vaar episodes on Saturday and Sunday, which of course play out at a better timing. However, these are more about letting the show host and Bollywood superstar Salman Khan play the course).
There is no primetime on OTT, nor is there any mechanism for censoring content (at least not yet). Like any other program on streaming platforms, the hour-long episodes of “Bigg Boss OTT” would come with the great advantage of being available at the consumer’s will, anywhere and anytime.
But there is one major benefit that the OTT version of the show promises to offer. Digital streaming is used aggressively this time around to push interactive participation of fans. In turn, the interactivity of some of the fans will now extend beyond the routine practice of voting for one’s favorite candidate.
“Bigg Boss OTT” introduces a fully interactive 24 × 7 live feed that can prove a game changer for the show. This is something that could never be implemented on TV.
As part of the interactive setup in the reality show’s OTT version, there will be the ‘janta’ factor, which gives the average man the unusual power to choose participants and their time in the house as well as tasks and leave the show.
For a show that primarily knocks on the audience’s voyeuristic streak, it would give fans a kind of interactive advantage only to make the game more complex. ‘Voyeur’ would now have power over what he wants to see and how much of it he wants to see.
Globally, interactive entertainment is still in its infancy. In India, we have got a glimpse of the genre at OTT, but most of it has been available thanks to fictional content. If the creators of “Bigg Boss” manage to crack the code on disseminating interactive content by leveraging the OTT benefit, there is a goldmine waiting to be tapped on a show of this kind.
–VED VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY