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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

A+E Global Content Sales

Programming Profile

It’s a life of crime for A+E Networks

04-10-2021

A+E Networks’ Liz Soriano explores how demand for true crime has been impacted by events of the past 18 months and offers a look at the company’s new slate of programming, encompassing new true crime series and scripted coproductions.

 

Lockdown and the ongoing boom in streaming platforms have combined to drive up demand for true crime programming, and the genre is evolving to fit the changing audiences that are now embracing this kind of content.

 

So says Liz Soriano, senior VP of international programming at A+E Networks: “The demand is still insatiable – perhaps even more so after our year or so of lockdown.

 

“We set the genre of unscripted crime with The First 48 nearly two decades ago. Since then, what we have found is that not only has the interest in crime content remained consistent throughout the years but, as platforms for consuming content have grown and grown, the genre has demographically transcended all of them: we see strong performance across linear and non-linear,” she explains.

 

Soriano
Liz Soriano, A+E Networks

This high viewer demand has allowed A+E Networks to not only super-serve its own audiences and traditional third-party clients around the world but also to expand into new areas in the non-linear streaming space and even free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) sectors.

 

“In lockdown, true crime consumption on both linear and non-linear, non-traditional platforms increased. Consumers were going to get this content however they could consume it, which is why we’ve been able to explore ‘white space’ opportunities like FAST channels that have brought in viewers across a wide range of demographics,” Soriano says.

 

“The streaming boom has opened so many new avenues for us. We’ve been fortunate to be able to build a catalogue rich with strong content that appeals across multiple demographics and platforms, which is why we’ve been pounding the pavement and exploring these digital ‘white spaces’ that enable our global imprint to grow exponentially.”

 

With all this in mind, A+E Networks has put together a new slate of programmes on which true crime takes a lead role, and the company is showcasing them via C21’s Digital Screenings this week.

 

Cellmate Secrets
Cellmate Secrets

On the factual front, the slate includes Bio: Bobby Brown, the latest entry in A+E Networks’ award-winning Biography series from US channel A&E; the Angie Harmon-hosted Cellmate Secrets, offering an unfiltered perspective on some of the most shocking true crime stories; and Court Cam, which takes viewers inside America’s most dramatic courtroom moments.

 

Continuing the true crime angle, Cold Case Files has become a global phenomenon and returns with further investigations into and resolution of cases long unsolved. Invisible Monsters, meanwhile, features exclusive interviews with survivors, investigators and family members who encountered the world’s most infamous serial killers, including Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer.

 

More new factual comes in the form of The Toys that Built the World, which brings to life the stories of the visionaries who created some of our most beloved and enduring toys; Right to Offend, which explores the evolution of black comedy and comedians who have used pointed humour to expose, challenge and ridicule society’s injustices; and Secrets of Playboy, which dives into the dark underbelly of the Playboy lifestyle, featuring candid interviews with the friends, employees and confidantes of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

 

Keeping up with the Joneses
Keeping up with the Joneses

Completing the slate are talent-driven titles Keeping up with the Joneses, a trilogy of movies produced by and starring Vivica A Fox, about a prominent family in the town of Pacific Hills; and Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman, which profiles history’s greatest prison escapes and is hosted by the Oscar-winning actor.

 

“We have multiple projects that boast a diverse array of internationally recognised A-list talent,” says Soriano, pointing to not only Freeman and Fox but also Harmon in Cellmate Secrets and Right to Offend stars Chris Rock and Lena Waithe.

 

Viewers’ enduring demand for crime content is matched by their love of espionage, and A+E Networks has a pair of scripted coproductions on its new slate. Red Election follows two female agents – one British, one Danish – who must join forces to avert a Russian terrorist attack on British soil; while Next of Kin centres on a psychologist suffering from mysterious pains, who joins forces with a cybersecurity agent to uncover the true reason her DNA was recently stolen.

 

Red Election
Red Election

“All of these projects have something that appeals to a wide range of viewers,” says Soriano. “Red Election and Next of Kin are two fantastic titles with female protagonists, both in genres that are of high interest to viewers and buyers right now.

 

“And our true crime titles prove why we remain global leaders in the crime and investigation genre, over 20 years after we set the standard with The First 48. With over 200 new hours in our fall catalogue, we consider ourselves to be ¬¬– quite literally – ‘partners in crime’ to our clients.”

 

Proven hits like Cold Case Files and Court Cam can certainly boast high episode counts and worldwide recognition, while the company’s new titles like Invisible Monsters and Secrets of Playboy take globally recognisable names and cases and offer new insights, Soriano says.

 

Invisible Monsters
Invisible Monsters

“For example, we’ve seen the stories of the most famous serial killers in the world told before, in both scripted and unscripted series and movies. But in our minds, what was missing from those stories was: what was it in particular about the culture of the 1970s and 80s that allowed these men to get away with their horrific crimes for so many years – and Invisible Monsters effectively answers some of our most burning questions.”

 

The crime genre isn’t carved in stone, however, and Soriano acknowledges the need for it to adapt to changing audience expectations. “What continues to set our content apart as the genre has grown is that we recognise that crime stories are about more than the crime,” she says.

 

“It’s about the impact on the victims, on the families and on the communities where they lived. A+E crime series are told through the eyes of those affected and most impacted, always keeping in mind that the story we’re telling was the worst day of someone’s life. We deliver on the heart, are authentic to human experience and emotion, and do our best whenever possible to counterbalance the impact of these crimes with the pursuit of justice.”

 

Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman
Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman

Evidence of this new approach can perhaps be seen in Secrets of Playboy, which is told through “a modern, post-#MeToo lens,” says Soriano, with the series featuring interviews with some of the people in Hefner’s inner circle who are speaking publicly for the very first time, four years after his death.

 

This new demand for true crime is certainly yielding fruit. One recent deal that Soriano highlights is A+E Networks’ new partnership with Channel 4 in the UK on its recently launched True Crime on Channel 4 streaming service. “Thanks to this partnership, untapped audiences will be able to watch some of our most talked-about true crime series of the past few years: the award-winning Surviving R Kelly and Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, for free in the UK for the first time, as well as The First 48,” she explains.

 

Looking ahead, Soriano offers a glimpse into some future developments at A+E Networks. “We’ve reignited some of our most beloved crime franchises. Four of our all-time top-performing crime series with the highest volume of episodes – American Justice, City Confidential, Cold Case Files and Panic 9-1-1 – are back with new episodes.

 

Court Cam
Court Cam

“Each title still boasts stories told in ways that are emotionally resonant and provocative, but now we’re telling them through the lens of today’s culture and sensitivities. We’re confident the viewer base we’ve built will flock to each of the series and keep coming back for more,” she adds.

 

“We continue to expand our storytelling in ways that appeal to global audiences, via efforts including localised coproductions, and remain committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, both behind and in front of the camera. As we continue to grow and transform, it’s crucial that all of our titles ¬– whether in true crime or scripted drama – better reflect the depth of diversity in our world.”



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