Points of View: Crime on TV - Fiction vs Non-fiction

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | February 28, 2014
We spoke to a few industry experts to understand which one - fiction or non-fiction - works better for the genre.

Crime has always been hot property for television channels. Along with a plethora of fiction crime series, shows that dramatise real life crime are also gaining a lot of traction. Star Plus' latest show, Ishq Kills, substantiates the growth of non-fiction, just as CID's run of 17 years justifies the popularity of fiction.

We spoke to a few industry experts to understand which one - fiction or non-fiction - works better for the genre.

BP Singh

Dhirendra Singh

Sushma Rajesh

Ajay Bhalwankar

BP Singh, owner, Fireworks Production (CID and Shapath)

Both work well, but there is a limitation with non-fiction. It can only last for a while because a large section of the audience doesn't want to watch such gory scenes, knowing that it's all real. Real life cases in such graphic details aren't really welcomed by all.

But with fiction (CID), we never have such scenes. We have found some formula that is entertaining. Our show is based on mystery, drama, emotion, action and detectives. It's a package that entertains the family audiences. There isn't a single scene that isn't fit for children. We always make clean shows without bloodshed. The very definition of fiction gives us the liberty to tell the story differently and make edits.

If we pick up a real life case, we have to show the graphic details and that's not acceptable. We don't touch cases that involve rape and child abuse. We have found entertainment in forensic sciences which requires a lot of research.

CID, I believe, is a crime mystery show.

Dhirendra Singh, AVP and Head, Planning, BPN

Earlier, audiences had an option to see fiction shows only. However, now people relate better to original stories and hence there is a plethora of non-fiction serials coming up. Fiction shows are dramatised to attract viewers whereas the heart of non-fiction shows are real stories. However, both have their own set of audiences.

Ultimately, it's the content that rules and decides the fate of the show - whether fiction or non-fiction. Crime shows generally have high affinity within the male TG. It becomes an effective vehicle to reach lower pop strata and SECs for brands targeting males.

The success of any programme is also a function of right promotional strategy and better scheduling.

Sushma Rajesh, programming head, Life OK

What works better is a very unfair question! There is a reason why a channel like Life Ok does both the types on crime shows. When it comes to Shapath, the target audience and the kind of viewer appetite that we face is very different from what we do with Savdhaan India. There are two different offerings in two different spaces. It's almost like more FPC. With Shapath, it's more dinner-time viewing, with kids around the house. Shapath is skewed to kids and we have done that gradually. But for Savdhan India, the show is for hardcore 15+ viewing. It is more of a reflection of the society and the heroes continuously emerging around us, ordinary people who do extraordinary things by just fighting back against evil. It is more suited to the elder age-group and hence is slotted on a later prime time slot. So, actually, these are two different pieces of content that we put out for viewers.

The right way to look at it is for whom the two sub-genres are created, rather than which (fiction or non-fiction) works better.

Fatigue is bound to creep in for any genre, but continuous innovation is what keeps it going. Genres don't die, we just need to keep innovating within each of them. That is where we, the broadcasters, have a role to play.

Ajay Bhalwankar, head, programming, Zee TV

If you look strictly at numbers, then non-fiction (dramatisation) has worked better than pure fiction. The only exceptions are CID and Adaalat, the two shows that have grown miraculously. The other fiction shows - Arjun, 24 or Shapath - have not gathered those kinds of numbers and none has been a sounding success. 24 was another big failure, it just didn't deliver.

India's Most Wanted in those days was a format that was absolutely original. It created a lot of awareness and the Zee received a huge number of calls for it.

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