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Crime pays - for channels

Crime-based shows on general entertainment and news channels have viewers coming back for more, even though they are neither glamorous nor do they have happy endings. Himani Chandna Gurtoo writes.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2012 21:20 IST
Himani Chandna Gurtoo
Himani Chandna Gurtoo
Hindustan Times

These shows on television are not glamorous or sophisticated. And they mostly don’t have happy endings. Yet viewers keep coming back for more. What is it about crime shows, whether on news channels or on general entertainment channels that keep viewers’ interest going?

CID, launched on Sony TV in 1998, is still going strong, with an average TVR (television viewership rating) of 3.84%, according to TAM Media Research. Adaalat, also on Sony, launched in 2010, averages a TVR of over 3%. Any show on general entertainment channels (GECs) that delivers TVRs over 3% is considered successful.

Zee TV’s India’s Most Wanted, which was launched in 1999 and ran 65 episodes over two seasons, also drew viewers. And it is unlikely that those who watched the carrot-chomping Karamchand, launched in 1980 on Doordarshan, have forgotten the crime serial.

“CID is the most watched crime show,” said Danish Khan, senior vice president and head of marketing, Sony Entertainment Television.

Industry experts say that crime shows are an economically viable format – no huge sets, no major actors, no hospitality expenditures on contestants, no glamorous outfits or expensive judges.

News channel viewerships are lower than those of GECs, and their crime shows’ TVRs reflect accordingly within the news target viewership. So Sansani on Star News, ACP Arjun on India TV and Vardaat on Aaj Tak, have been successful shows.

Some news channels run pretty exaggerated, over the top content in this genre. Yet people watch. Why?

“Crime is not just about stabbing with the knife. The format is full of human interest content. It tickles a sense of anxiety – what went wrong and how it could have been averted. It involves and makes viewers think,” said Subramaniam S Iyer, series director, Crime Patrol, a crime show on Sony.

“Humans are fascinated by their darker side and want to explore it. We have found the crime format aligning with this urge,” said Ajit Thakur, general manager, Life OK, a GEC.

“I spend my weekends with Sony which runs shows such as CID, Crime Patrol and Adaalat at primetime. They give us chance to understand the circumstances and witness the pain, especially of some super hyped cases such as baby Falak’s and Priyadarshini Mattoo’s murder. I feel involved,” Veena Johar, 52, a customer executive with a multinational company, said.

“I appreciate the learning that certain crimes could have been averted if the victim or the family had paid heed to the initial symptoms,” said Shivani Verma, 30, a human resource executive.

The large youth viewership also responds well to crime shows. Channel V launched a teen crime show, Gumrah. “Star Plus is running the same show, after seeing how successful it has been. Crime has emerged as an important genre for every channel,” said Prem Kamath, vice president, Channel V.

Channel managers say that crime-based content is abundantly available, with criminal incidents on the rise. However, they add, much more effort goes into the script as compared to other formats. “I read over 25 newspapers in a day to find viable stories. We speak to the families and show their version as well,” Iyer said.

What about authenticity? “We file Right to Information (RTI) applications to tie up the loose ends or for our basic understanding of crime and law. The police workforce is also helpful while collecting stories and doing our investigations to maintain authenticity,” said the content writer of a popular show, on condition of anonymity.

Advertisers are also responding well, though brand integration with the crime format is yet to happen. “Advertiser participation has grown due to the decent TVRs but the advertising rate is neither premium nor discounted,” Navin Khemka, managing partner of media agency ZenithOptimedia, said.

The Indian adaptation of the American anti-terrorism TV series, 24, from Star-Fox, the rights to which were bought by Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor who will also essay Hollywood actor Kiefer Southerland’s role in the Indian version, is to be launched soon on Star Plus. Star bought the rights of 24 from Anil Kapoor for Rs 85 crore. Given the huge success of the original show, it is possible that the so-far elusive advertiser integration will finally happen with the desi version.

First Published: Jun 10, 2012 20:58 IST