After TV, Bigg Boss rules on OTT
Why Bigg Boss OTT garnered massive viewership is a no brainer. Bigg Boss was free for all users of JioCinema. The reality show’s viewership base widened and deepened also because Viacom18 created a live, 24X7 digital feed from the house which could be seen any time by Bigg Boss fans
After gloating about its viewership numbers during the cricket Indian Premier League (IPL) streamed on its JioCinema app, television broadcaster Viacom18 seems equally chuffed about the audience it has drawn to Bigg Boss OTT that concluded this Monday.
On Wednesday, the company said its television reality show Bigg Boss’s OTT version, that made its debut on the service in June, attracted 100 million viewers during the eight-week season. While 23 million viewers watched the finale, the show hit a peak concurrent viewership of 7.2 million.
Speaking to HT, a Viacom18 executive said they were blown away by the audience response to Bigg Boss OTT hosted by Salman Khan. The TV show aired on Viacom’s Hindi channel Colors for nearly 15 years, is based on the Dutch format Big Brother that’s built around placing 14-15 celebrities in an isolated house monitored by live television cameras. The contestants or housemates are assigned tasks and challenges and must avoid being voted out to win.
This was the second time Viacom18 created Bigg Boss for its digital platform. The first was showcased in August 2021 when it streamed on Voot Select, a paid channel. Last year, Bigg Boss OTT was given a miss probably awaiting the launch of JioCinema.
Why Bigg Boss OTT garnered massive viewership is a no brainer. Bigg Boss was free for all users of JioCinema. The reality show’s viewership base widened and deepened also because Viacom18 created a live, 24X7 digital feed from the house which could be seen any time by Bigg Boss fans. “Unblocking viewer access to a premium property and the 24-hour live channel was a game changer,” the Viacom executive said.
Interestingly, a sizeable chunk of Bigg Boss viewership came from tier 2 and tier 3 towns possibly because some of the contestants were YouTubers like Manisha Rani from Bihar and Elvish Yadav from Haryana. Viacom executive said that free access to Bigg Boss may have drawn new viewers who relied only on free-to-air TV channels and free YouTube videos for entertainment. “The show has exceeded expectations on JioCinema because of its sheer reach and scale,” he said.
Yet others feel the format itself has everlasting charm. Sandeep Dahiya, founder and CEO of Brandquila, a branding and marketing agency, said its biggest appeal is voyeurism. “Also, a show of this nature instils FOMO (fear of missing out) as one cannot not know what’s happening in the house. Besides, with the launch of 24X7 live feed from the house, people start living with the contestants leading to more memes and more controversies. With influencers joining in this season, there’s a new wave of GenZ chatter on social media,” Dahiya said.
Bigg Boss’s continued attraction is based on people’s need to connect with something larger. “Old connections are lost. In today’s households we watch our own shows, eat our dinners separately…there’s no shared rhythm,” explained Sraboni Bhaduri, psychologist and consumer insight specialist. “There is loneliness in this isolation. Bigg Boss is a push back on that isolation and the show has succeeded on digital as consumers are perennially online. You want to be connected and this is what you are connecting with even though it is a bit twisted. It is your little world you carry on your phone,” she added.
The voyeurism theory doesn’t hold, said the Viacom executive. All content is about characters – fictionalised or real, he said. “When you watch a series, you are following characters and their stories. Bigg Boss is not any more voyeuristic than any other piece of content,” he added.
Now that the show has proved its relevance on OTT, the question is whether its upcoming season on TV, different from the OTT show, will be as appealing. “Since the TV show will follow soon, there may be some viewer fatigue since she has lived with the show online,” said a former Viacom18 executive on condition of anonymity.
He added that the show should have taken a different host for the digital version instead of Salman Khan who’s been part of the TV property all these years. “The channel may find it difficult to maximise its TV ad revenue since advertisers have paid a lower rate for Khan on digital. It is a cult show but also very expensive to make. The broadcaster will have a challenge on getting the Return on Investment,” he added.