Joined: 29 September 2010
Life can take some unexpected turns. Ask ACP Pradyuman, who takes surprises in a matter of fact manner in the course of solving a new murder mystery every week - or you could ask Sony. In the middle of 2009, the struggling general entertainment channel (GEC) made an expensive effort to overhaul its programming. With its market share in the GEC space down to 7 per cent, the management decided to change the channel's look entirely and simultaneously, introduced six new serials and one reality show. It spent an estimated Rs 20 crore to announce the revamp.
The exercise didn't quite work out and six months later, all those newly introduced shows have gone off air. Sony has recently introduced another lot of new programmes for the weekend in a tie up with Yash Raj Films (through YRF Television). It is unusual for a feature film maker to produce TV software but Yash Raj Films hasn't had many hits recently and a predictable revenue stream from the small screen will probably provide a nice counterbalance to the ups and downs of its main business.
For all this turmoil in programming, Sony's viewership has been soaring. According to TAM, in Week 23 (week ending 6th June 2009, all data C&S, HSM, 4+years), Sony had recorded 90 GRPs (Gross Rating Points). In recent weeks, the channel's score has been on the rise, hitting a high of 198 GRPs in Week 46. The man behind Sony's resurgence, amazingly, has been ACP Pradyuman, whose CID appears for a one-hour episode every Friday at 10 pm.
Sony has been running CID over and over again in the recent months, taking the art of the repeat to a new level altogether. According to TAM data, Sony has been broadcasting CID for 40-50 hours every week over the past three months or so by showing one of the five recent episodes repeatedly. Since it is on to a good thing, it has also dived deep into its archives to pull out old hit episodes of CID to run them as Classics - they take up another 10-20 hours of programming every week. In effect, a programme that runs for an hour every week is being shown for an average of 50 hours and more every week!
Amazingly, it seems to be working. Between Week 41 and 48, CID's contribution to Sony's rising GRPs ranged between an incredible 44-66 per cent and averaged at 56 per cent.
Clearly, Sony is using this as a medium term measure to fill a hole in its programming line up and will use the CID booster shot to create a platform from which to showcase its forthcoming range of shows. All the same, CID's stunning success raises all kinds of interesting questions. Why is the audience continuing to lap it up - especially considering that the mystery genre has never been very popular? Does a repeat kill the prime time viewership - or does it raise interest? What are the limits to repetition? Does the rise of repeats point to the fragmentation of audience - different times for different folks? Or is it a comment on the fact that 97 per cent of Indian homes have a single TV set? Above all, should this lead to a reassessment of an archive's value?
Made by Fireworks Productions, CID is the company's second product after Aahat, a horror show which is also aired on Sony. Two well known minds in the business, BP Singh and Pradeep Uppoor, came together to form the company, thanks to the lead actor of CID, Shivaji Satam, better recognised as ACP Pradyuman. BP Singh looks after the creative and idea aspects, while Uppoor takes care of the production and execution.
Fireworks began by trying to sell CID to Doordarshan and Zee. Neither worked out and it fell into Sony's lap just as the channel was being launched. CID went on air on Sony in January 1998. In the earlier days, the show was aired once a week for half an hour. Five years ago, CID got a full one hour slot on Fridays at 10 pm.
Singh of Fireworks attributes a large amount of the show's success to the well etched out characters, three of whom have been a part of the show since the beginning. ACP Pradyuman is an extremely dedicated cop who would sacrifice even his family if duty demands it. Aditya Srivastava is a terrific detective, while Daya is the muscleman who can get people to talk. Freddie has been entrusted the task of easing the stress with a little humour and Dr Salunkhe is the sharp lab doctor who has all the answers.
Satam, the face of CID, is a well known actor who believes that the show is what it is today because of the sincere efforts by the team. "Each character has been created keeping reality in mind. Nothing is stylised or over the top. We are a bunch of tough looking - but not brash - and sincere cops with whom the audience can relate."
After having produced more than 600 episodes, BP Singh sure has mastered the science of creating a good pot-boiler. The objective is to create a complete entertaining episode which has all the ingredients - murder, suspense, thrill, comedy and drama. "We have turned dead bodies into a source of entertainment," says BP Singh. Even the corpse is never gruesome.
Others have tried shows on similar lines. Among them, some notable ones are Special Squad, Josh, D.O.N., Mr and Mrs Mishra and SID. CID has also faced competition from crime shows on Hindi news channels but none of them have been able to move the programme from its perch.
BP Singh, who never imagined that the programme would survive for so many years, is especially overwhelmed by how well the repeats are currently doing. He admits being sceptical initially, since he felt that so many re-runs would affect the viewership of the main telecast on Friday nights. The results have, however, been startling. "I don't know how it is working so well. It is a like a mini revolution in TV viewing," he exclaims, adding that it is boosting the viewership of the main telecast.
The main telecast of CID fetches an average TVR of 3.5. The TVRs of the repeat of the main telecast range from 0.6 (Week 49, Friday 2:30 pm) to 2 (Week 49, Sunday 5 pm), averaging about 1. Meanwhile, the repeats of the classic cases also get an average TVR of 1.
NP Singh, chief operating officer, Sony Entertainment Network says that the repeats are bringing in new audiences. "We have seen the age groups such as 4-14 years and 15-24 years, who are fresh viewers, savouring the repeats. These audiences were either very young or not even born when CID was launched," he observes. From his point of view, the repeats fulfil the objective of getting new viewers to the channel.
According to him, the greatest appeal of the show is its simplicity. The crime, the procedure of tracing evidence, interpreting clues, finding suspects and solving the case is done in a manner that makes the viewer feel part of the show.
While the main telecast of CID attracts the highest viewership from the 35+ age group, amounting to 33 per cent share, the repeats attract the younger lot. One third of the viewership for the repeat of CID comes from the 4-14 years age group. The show, TAM data suggests, is more popular among SEC D and E audiences.
Television has never seen re-runs of old shows garnering such traction. Atul Phadnis, founder, promoter and chief executive officer, What's On India, says that until now, this was seen only with mythological shows but even then, for a limited period because viewer fatigue soon set in. Another crucial fact that entices viewers to the show is its zero entry barriers. One does not have to know what happened in the previous episode - unlike other shows. Every episode has a new story, so audiences don't lose the link and can come onto the show midway and still enjoy it.
Nandini Dias, chief operating officer, Lodestar Universal says that the media consumption habits have changed. "Viewers are currently showing preference for shows which end in an hour's time as opposed to long wound serials which last for months together," adds Dias. Crisp formats such as CID, where a story is complete in one episode, have high repeat value compared to daily soaps.
Atrayee Chakraborty, planning sciences director, Lintas Media Group points to the limitations of what Sony is doing. It will not help change the channel's perception, imagery and appeal in the longer run, especially in this highly competitive market. "The plus point is that with such repeat telecasts at no additional production cost, it can come up with better CPRP (cost per rating point) deals by offering better performing bonus spots to woo advertisers," she adds.
Traditionally, Hindi GECs have refrained from repeating a serial more than once in the day, fearing that it would hurt its viewership at prime time. They typically had 30-40 hours of original programming a week. Colors came along in July 2008 with only 24 hours of new programming a week and chose to repeat its most popular show, Balika Vadhu, five times a day. It didn't damage the prime time run and strengthened the viewership.
Of course, Sony has taken repeats to another level all together and currently shows about 15 hours of fresh programming a week. Considering that a high quality production on a Hindi GEC would (conservatively) cost Rs 10-20 lakh on an hourly basis (low budget shows come for Rs 6-8 lakh) it is easy to see that repeats entail huge savings. Besides, it is safer to repeat a successful programme than make and market (at considerable cost) a small, new serial.
Just as the little girl in Balika Vadhu had senior broadcasting executives questioning the accepted principles of repeat programming, grim faced ACP Pradyuman will set them thinking further.
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