ID Thinks ‘True Crime Files’ Will Pay for Stations

Why This Matters: TV stations need cost-efficient ways to program dayparts, especially as new first-run originals are both expensive and rare.

True Crime has turned Investigation Discovery into the No. 1 cable network in the country among women 25-54 in total day, which also happens to be the key demographic that tunes into syndication. Moreover, those viewers stay tuned into ID longer than any other network for the past six years, said Henry Schleiff, group president, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Television and Destination America.

That’s why ID partnered with Barry Wallach, former president of NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution, and Joe DiSalvo, former president of sales for CBS Television Distribution, to take its procedural programs into broadcast syndication.

This fall, True Crime Files, composed of recently aired episodes from ID’s vast library, will debut in more than 90% of the U.S., including on Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tribune Broadcasting, Cox Television, Ellis, Graham Media Group, Gray Television, Hearst, Sunbeam Television, Tegna and Weigel Broadcasting-owned stations. The show is currently sold in 46 of the top 50 markets and Wallach and Di Salvo aren’t done yet.

[Investigation Discovery Orders Season Three of 'People Magazine Investigates']

“Self-contained crime stories have been a part of daytime syndication since the early days, when off-network crime shows had a big presence,” Arthur Hasson, chief operating officer, Sinclair Original Programming, said. “Cable networks and Investigation Discovery, in particular, have filled this void successfully. When you look at our MyNet or CW affiliates, adding more conflict talk or court was something we didn’t want to do. We want to broaden our offerings.”

True Crime Files will premiere this fall as a one-hour strip, with stations having the option to take double runs. If the offering works, stations will have the option to expand into two-hour blocks the following season. When the show airs this fall, it will be exclusive to TV stations in its syndicated dayparts with all-new episodes airing on ID in primetime.

A Franchise Is Born

“This is the beginning of a franchise,” Wallach said. “ID has thousands of hours we can continue to feed True Crime Files. This can continue for years, because ID keeps producing more content plus there are already literally thousands of episodes in the library.”

For starters, participating stations will have 260 hours of fresh episodes, said Di Salvo, and they are getting them in all-barter deals, with stations keeping nine minutes of advertising inventory in every episode, and national advertisers taking six minutes. 

[NATPE 2018: Tribune, Sinclair Pick Up 'True Crime Files' for Fall]

“This is a low-risk proposition for stations with the potential of a high rate of return,” Elliot Wagner, VP of Discovery Global Enterprises, said.

This could also be the start of a new business model for Discovery and TV stations. Discovery just acquired Scripps Networks Interactive and its lifestyle channels HGTV, Food Network and more in a $14.6 billion acquisition. Wagner thinks shows like Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop and Good Bones could also be attractive to daytime’s largely female audience.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.