By Varada Bhat
After a tiring day at work on Friday nights, 35-year-old Amit Pande is thrilled by ACP Pradyuman’s investigative skills and dialogues. He has been watching CID, the longest crime serial in India’s television history (produced by Sony), for the last 14 years.
Pande’s tribe is growing, which explains why primetime slots and almost all weekend specials on several channels are dedicated to crime. And advertisers have been tuning in too. “Advertiser participation has grown due to decent TVRs (television viewership ratings), and the advertising rate is neither premium nor discounted,” says Hiren Pandit, managing partner, Group M, a leading media buying agency.
Although the small screen has been dominated by CID and Crime Patrol, which are the new weekend chart toppers, other crime or thriller shows making an impact or being launched are Life Ok’s Savdhan India, Chhal- Sheh Aur Maat on Colors, Channel V’s Gumrah - End of Innocence and Police Files on Big Magic.
Enthused by their success, actor Anil Kapoor has bought the rights of the Indian adaptation of the American anti-terrorism TV series, 24. The show will be launched on Star Plus, which bought the rights for Rs 85 crore.
“The appetite for such shows is growing among audiences. It’s impossible to sit back and rest. These shows have a simple narrative which connects well with audience and the story-telling style is also not complicated,” says Sneha Rajani, executive vice-president and business head Sony Entertainment Television.
Although crime was earlier seen as a rare genre on TV in competition with the saas-bahu saga, a lot of it changed after CID was launched in 1998. The number of crime shows that are being launched proves that the Indian audience is ready to adapt to such dramatisations of actual and real-life crime.
CID is still going strong, with an average TVR of 3.7- 4, according to TAM data provided by the channel. Then Zee experimented with India’s Most Wanted by Suhaib Ilyasi in 1999, the first-of-its-kind true crime show which gained immense popularity. Crime Patrol averages a TVR of over 3.
“Even after 15 years of success, CID refuses to fall out of the viewers’ list of favourites. When the show was launched, it was so successful that everyone felt it is the best crime show ever and till date it is the most watched one,” says BP Singh, CID producer/director. The channel now airs the show thrice a week than just Friday and Saturday as was the practice earlier.
Not just mainstream general entertainment channels, even the large youth viewership 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,” says Prem Kamath, vice president, Channel V. The channel, which dropped music from its programming, is betting big on the teen crime show which depicts crimes committed by youngsters and the larger issue or factors that lead to such impulsive actions. The weekly show has now become a daily on the channel and is also running on Star Plus.
“Our main concern is youth and the happenings around them. We are showing crime which is not minor in nature but is committed by first-time offenders and people like you and me,” says Kamath.
Most industry officials feel it is the human psyche that makes these shows popular, “Crimes and criminals always carry an intriguing element. The dark world with no laws, morals or ethics always fascinates people, whether it is books, movies or TV shows. The format is full of human interest content. It creates a sense of anxiety about what went wrong and how it could have been averted. It involves and makes viewers think,” says an analyst.
Apart from 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 and content is also easily available though newspapers.
Even news channels, whose viewerships are lower than those of GECs, have had successful shows like Sansani on ABP News, ACP Arjun on India TV and Vardaat on Aaj Tak.