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Crime has always been one of TV’s most successful genres — consider that NCIS is the most-viewed show, while cable news networks frequently go wall-to-wall with crime stories such as Casey Anthony or Amanda Knox. Good Morning America’s fortunes have risen fast over the past year, with many crime segments featured. Syndicators are taking notice.
Daytime’s favored demographic — women 25-54 — is the target of cable network Investigation Discovery, which launched in 2008 as the 50th-ranked network in that demo. Today, with its 24/7 schedule of true crime fare, the net ranks fifth in daytime and seventh in total-day delivery among all cable channels in that key viewer group.
“In any given week, 10 out of 15 of The New York Times’ best sellers are in our genre of mystery or suspense,” says Henry Schleiff, group president of Investigation Discovery, Destination America and Military Channel. “The most popular films week in and week out are in our genre. On TV, going back to the early days of Perry Mason through the popularity of CBS’ hit series, the genre always has been incredibly successful. Finally, look at what the cable news networks focus on, from Jodi Arias to George Zimmerman.
“In some respects, ID has a $10 billion marketing budget,” Schleiff adds. “I say that a little facetiously, but all of that coverage in news, magazines and other genres is really one big advertisement for the popularity of the genre, and that sends viewers to us.”
The same holds true for syndication, which has several crime-based projects in development. CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil, daytime’s leading talk show, frequently touches on true crime, ripping stories from the headlines and booking guests from those stories.
“We’ve always found true crime to be a fascinating area for us, especially given Phil’s background in psychology and courtroom sciences,” says Carla Pennington, Dr. Phil executive producer. “He has a special ability to get to the root of the story, even if the audience is already familiar with the headline, and does so in such a way that there is always great takeaway for viewers to protect themselves and their families.”
Three New Shows in the Works
That message of success has resonated for producers of syndicated fare. Warner Bros.’ Telepictures is in development on a show currently titled True Crime Daily, created by the producers of Extra and starring former Dateline investigative reporter Chris Hansen. It will feature a panel of crime experts, including Chicago cop turned producer Ed Bernero, who executive produced Criminal Minds and Third Watch; former FBI profiler Jim Clemente; attorney Shawn Holley, who was on O. J. Simpson’s defense team and has represented members of the Kardashian family and Lindsay Lohan; criminal psychiatrist Michelle Ward; and criminal defense attorney and TV legal commentator Alison Triessl, founder of the crime site WildAboutTrial.com.
CBS Television Distribution is shopping Crimesider, which was discussed as a potential sale to cable in 2011. Crimesider is based on a website of the same name run by CBS News’ 48 Hours. The syndicated show, like the site, would be executive produced by Susan Zirinsky, 48 Hours’ senior executive producer.
Tribune is considering those shows as two half-hours in an hour block, according to several sources. The station group has needs at 4 and 5 p.m. after the demise of Warner Bros.’ Anderson Cooper and Twentieth’s Ricki Lake. Tribune’s pickups are now mostly contingent upon partnerships with producers, along the lines of what it’s doing with CTD on Arsenio, The Test and its upcoming test of former hip-hop artist MC Serch.
Debmar-Mercury and Scripps also continue to work on a crime-focused panel show. Star Jones would act as the moderator, and the producers are finalizing other talent to fill out the panel. An extended presentation has been shot, and reports are that Scripps would like to go ahead with the project while Debmar-Mercury develops a business plan for a national launch.
“We were really happy with what we saw,” says Ira Bernstein, copresident of Debmar-Mercury. “Star Jones did an exceptional job in a unique format, and we’re excited to talk to the marketplace about it.”
Off of the crime beat, Mark Burnett’s One Three Media, overseen by former CTD president of programming Terry Wood, has a daytime show in development in which Hearst is said to be interested, although that show is likely targeted for fall 2015.
Several sources say NBCUniversal is quietly selling Meredith Vieira’s new talk show for a fall 2014 debut, although no announcements have been made yet.
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