With the announcement that "Bigg Boss" would drop on OTT first before moving onto television in its upcoming season, the makers have tossed a googly on the Indian home entertainment pitch. If the digital domain has consistently emerged as a disruptor over the past couple of years, the move is bound to change a few ground rules on home viewing habits.
"Bigg Boss" after all has defined successful programming on Indian television for years now. It has been one of the last remnants of consistent success on the tube, guaranteeing assured ratings over the seasons.
For the uninitiated, the upcoming season of the show will play out on the streaming platform Voot for the first six weeks upon premiering, and will be known as "Bigg Boss OTT", before kickstarting season 15 on Colors channel.
OTT streaming of "Bigg Boss" is an idea that has been gradually picking up over the 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 the show will first drop on OTT and stream for six weeks, before the season takes off on television.
Industry watchers feel the decision could be a 'soft launch' of sorts. If the idea clicks, who knows, season 16 next year could straightaway drop on OTT perhaps launch simultaneously on OTT and television.
OTT would seem like the perfect platform for a show as "Bigg Boss". A medium that thrives on individual watching habits on phones, tabs or laptops -- as opposed to television, which has traditionally been associated with living room, family viewing -- would be the apt platform for a reality show that caters to the guilty pleasure of voyeurism.
Nature of content is the prime reason why the show was deemed right for the mature audience only, and Colors have had to settle for the well-past-primetime 10.30 p.m. slot on weekdays. Repeat telecast timings on television were worse -- well past midnight. (There are the Weekend Ka Vaar episodes on Saturday and Sunday, of course, that play out at a better timing. These, however, are more about letting show host and Bollywood superstar Salman Khan play the field).
There is no primetime on OTT, just as there is no mechanism to censor content (at least, not yet). Like any other programme on streaming platforms, the hour-long episodes of "Bigg Boss OTT" would come with the big advantage of being available at consumer's will, wherever and whenever.
But there is a bigger advantage that the OTT version of the show promises to offer. Digital streaming is being used aggressively this time to push interactive participation of fans. In turn, interactivity on part of the fans will now extend beyond the routine exercise of voting for one's favourite candidate.
"Bigg Boss OTT" will introduce a fully interactive 24x7 live feed that could prove a game-changer for the show. This is something that could never be implemented on television.
As part of the interactive set-up in the reality show's OTT version, there will be the 'janta' factor that gives the common man the uncommon power to pick contestants and their tenure in the house, as well as tasks and exit from the show.
For a show that primarily banks on the voyeuristic streak of its audience, giving fans that sort of an interactive advantage would only make the game more complex. The 'voyeur' would now have power over what he wants to watch, and how much of it he wants to watch.
Worldwide, interactive entertainment is still at a nascent stage. In India, we have had a glimpse of the genre on OTT but most of it has been available thanks to fiction content. If the makers of "Bigg Boss" manage to crack the code on disseminating interactive content by exploiting the OTT advantage, there is a gold mine waiting to be tapped for a show of this nature.