Crime, of the real or fictional variety, has long been a jumping-off point for TV shows. Just look at the enduring popularity of series such as Law & Order and its various spinoffs, including Organized Crime, which premieres April 1, and the rebooted America’s Most Wanted, which debuted on March 15 — to cite just two high-profile crime-TV franchises that have been getting fresh attention lately.
When you factor in the myriad other new and continuing crime-related series that are available across the TV landscape, it’s clear that viewers have an insatiable appetite for this genre.
Data from iSpot.tv reveals that true crime and police procedural shows are a huge driver of TV ad impressions, for both new episodes and syndicated reruns. In 2021 so far, counting both new episodes and reruns, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit alone has racked up over 15.4 billion TV ad impressions — making it the No. 1 non-sports program on TV in terms of ad delivery, responsible for 1.1% of all TV ad impressions YTD. That 1% may not sound like a lot, but when you factor in the thousands of other shows that air 24/7, it’s not shabby at all (NFL football games, including the Super Bowl, accounted for about 3.4% of all TV ad impressions YTD).
Blue Bloods and Chicago P.D. aren’t far behind SVU, with 12.5 billion and 11.7 billion impressions, respectively, so far this year. Not only are these three shows generating top impression counts, they’re also scoring major watch-time, as data from VIZIO’s Inscape suggests: Inscape’s weekly rankings put these three series frequently in the top 25 — if not top ten — shows by minutes watched. In fact, SVU has made Inscape’s ranking of most-watched shows every single week in 2021 thus far.
The data above includes syndicated reruns, of which there are a lot, especially when it comes to SVU. USA Network has generated over 7.3 billion impressions with SVU reruns this year, while ION has racked up 7.1 billion for the series; ION is also a primary driver of impressions for reruns of Blue Bloods (9.9 billion) and Chicago P.D. (6.1 billion).
Adjusting the ranking to only account for ad impressions delivered during new episodes, SVU, Blue Bloods and Chicago P.D. fall down the list as news, sports and daytime programs such as The Price Is Right, Let’s Make a Deal and The Young and the Restless — with new episodes daily — rack up massive impressions. In this view, the top crime/police procedural show by impressions (again, served up during new episodes only) so far in 2021 is NCIS, with 1.6 billion. 9-1-1 and Chicago P.D. are close behind with 1.4 billion impressions each.
Of course, fictional series are only one part of the equation here; it’s also worth looking at shows such as The First 48, Dateline NBC and 20/20 — which have all been airing for years — as well as The Con, a new true crime show narrated by Whoopi Goldberg that premiered on ABC in late 2020. (Dateline NBC and 20/20 don’t focus exclusively on crime-related stories, but crime is such an important part of their mix that we decided to include them in our analysis.)
Going by impression counts, The First 48 is the breakout hit when factoring in new and rerun episodes, with over 6.3 billion TV ad impressions YTD. Most of those impressions come from reruns; new episodes have generated 344 million impressions thus far.
On the other hand, nearly 70% of Dateline NBC’s 3.3 billion impressions this year have come from new episodes. The same goes for 20/20, which has seen 2 billion impressions for new episodes, 2.4 billion total for the year to date. As a new show, The Con isn’t in syndication yet and has a modest 169.1 million impressions so far in 2021.
What advertisers are capitalizing on these series? In general, these shows are supported by insurance and fast food brands: Domino’s has advertised on every single show mentioned above, and is frequently in the top five most-seen brands for all episode types. Liberty Mutual and Geico are also big players in this arena.
The advertiser list is a bit different for The Con: Although Domino’s still leads for impressions so far this year (6.9 million), Chobani (6.1 million), CoverGirl (5.7 million), Facebook (5.7 million) and Kohl’s (5.4 million) round out the top five. CoverGirl was also the most-seen brand for the premiere of America’s Most Wanted.
And speaking of America’s Most Wanted, it’s worth noting that Fox has been giving the rebooted series a lot of promotional support. Per iSpot’s analysis, it’s been a top five most-promoted show, based on network promo impressions, in recent weeks (along with two fictional crime shows from CBS: The Equalizer and Clarice).