Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Really? The Economics of Reality Television

Why do people watch reality shows? Why are they so hooked, mesmerised and addicted to them? Research has shown that some people watch reality because it deals with real people in real-life situations. Some watch simply because they like to see other people in painful, embarrassing and humiliating situations, and enjoy laughing at them. Some people seek catharsis, others seek sensation and seek the pleasure of being openly voyeuristic. The Uses and Gratifications theory states that the audience chooses the programmes that it feels gratified by, and discards or avoids other content in media.

The media, in turn, capitalizes on this behaviour and produces reality shows - simply because they sell, and earn the channels the much wanted revenue. But wait... there is also another important thing about these reality shows too. Generally, in a reality show, channels do not have to hire established actors or celebrities (apart from the judges). In many cases, there are no sets other than just one. Most of the action is uncontrolled and unscripted, doing away with script writer and directors. Overall, the cost of producing a reality show is quite often, much lesser than producing a scripted serial, series, or other scripted programmes. Even news production involves a massive team behind the newsreader, who is just the face of news.

Thus, it is a win-win situation for all. The audience gets its 'kicks', and the media provides the audience with what it wants (but not what it needs), while raking in the moolah. That is how the economics of reality shows works. And that is why understanding media and studying media is so exciting - quite different than any other sector. No other sector engages the audience, and hence the consumer of the goods that it produces, as the media does. No other consumer, other than the consumer of media is as involved with a product as a media consumer. Exciting, and fascinating, isn't it?

*Reality Shows image source: