Walsh Wants to Take 'America's Most Wanted' Worldwide

As it enters its 24th
season on the air, John Walsh has big plans for America's Most Wanted, one of Fox's longest-running primetime

"The Web has
given us a worldwide presence," says Walsh, who wants to take that
presence and franchise his show across the globe. This November, Walsh will
take America's Most Wanted to
Cambodia to go after international sex traffickers in a three-episode series.
It's a topic the show has tackled before, partnering with international law
enforcement agency Interpol to find fugitives.

Entertainment Chairman] Peter Rice is a global thinker and going global is a
natural progression for the show," says Walsh. "I think America's Most Wanted should be a show
out of Hong Kong, and we've had requests to partner up with Al Jazeera to do a
show out of the Middle East."

"I'm hoping
that we can team up and pick someone that could do Asia's Most Wanted on News Corp.'s Star TV, for example,"
Walsh says.

Accomplishing a
global expansion may be tricky considering that AMW just faced cost cuts and staff reductions. Budget cuts recently
resulted in the closing of the show's Los Angeles bureau, and the departure of
Los Angeles bureau chief Van King.

There also have been
changes at the top of the show. Last fall, Lance Heflin, who had helmed the
show for 20 years, quit, says Walsh. (Media Bistro's Fishbowl DC reported last month
that Walsh fired Heflin.)

AP reporter and Fox
News executive Steve Katz was brought on as co-executive producer, working
alongside Walsh in Washington, D.C.

"I'm really
trying to shake up the way we do business," says Walsh, "and as a
result have eliminated some of the staff. We had to move some people on who had
been there for years and needed to move on. I took a really hard look at the
show and thought it was getting a little formulaic, and a little old. I want to
change it and change the way we do business. Now, I'll be able to use more
freelancers, and I'm looking to use new creative directors for the recreations.
I also now have a bigger Web team."

Those moves have
resulted in some internal complaining, which also was reported by Media Bistro.
There also have been rumors that this will be the show's last season, but Walsh
denies that.

"I hope it's
not our last season," he says. "That's just a scurrilous rumor."

Like all
long-running TV shows, America's Most
ratings are down from its former heights, but the show remains
number-one in its Saturday 9 p.m. time slot among adults 18-49, excluding
sports, according to Fox. Fox is typically number-one on Saturday nights unless
it's competing with sports. In the 2009-10 season, America's Most Wanted averaged a 1.7 rating/5 share among adults
18-49 and 5.3 million viewers.

Most Wanted
has also had success with its Web
site, both in attracting traffic and, perhaps more importantly, in catching
criminals. In the week ended Aug. 28, AMW's
site was the Web's second-most visited network TV show site, next to only CBS'
summer hit Big Brother, which
attracted nearly 23% of the market share compared to AMW's nearly 6%, according to HitWise. CBS' NCIS was the third-most visited network TV show Web site during
that week, while Fox's American Idol
was fourth.

Most Wanted
's Web site has also helped
law-enforcement officials capture 46 criminals, and that's without the help of
the TV show, which remains a potent law-enforcement tool. During the week of
May 17, 2010, America's Most Wanted
caught five criminals in one week, the most the show has ever apprehended.

 Walsh also is
revamping the show's Web site: "I want to change the Web site and [News
Corp. Chairman] Rupert [Murdoch] is a very progressive guy. I went to Fox.com
for help, and we've restructured the home page, and brought in an outside
designer. I want to make the Web site cooler and more topical."

"We're not just
an interactive Web site," says Walsh. "We save lives. We catch
fugitives. We show pictures of missing kids. I'm trying to take the show in a
different direction and do business a different way."

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.