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True Crime and Investigation 22


Theme Festival - True Crime and Investigation

About this Festival

Everyone loves true crime and investigation series. We take a look at some of the biggest brands in this area of programming to uncover series that can deliver audiences for broadcasters looking for support in this area of the schedule.

Programming Profile

When truth is stranger than fiction


Is ‘stranger than fiction’ the latest twist of the true crime dial, or does the scarcity of suitable stories mean it is simply a niche successfully exploited by just one streamer and one production company? Find out in this month’s Theme Festival report on true crime.


True crime has been a fix-all for the unscripted business. It skews slightly female but appeals to a broad demographic. It’s so popular and moreish that it’s capable of reversing even the supposedly irreversible decline in US cable viewing. It has long been the genre that creates the most buzz for Netflix, outside of drama.


Recently the genre has evolved from the self-contained, one-hour Wives With Knives-style series that proved such a boon for Discovery’s Investigation Discovery (ID), A+E Networks’ Crime+Investigation and NBCUniversal’s Oxygen towards a more serialised, page-turner approach led by Netflix and its Making a Murderer.


With the post-pandemic audience perhaps tiring of murders – particularly as so many of them are perpetrated against women – the dial has been turned again. The watercooler television in this genre now comes in the form of ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ tales that twist and turn through up to half-a-dozen episodes, presenting a story so outrageous nobody would believe it were it not true. The Imposter, Three Identical Strangers, Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer and Tinder Swindler have led the way, and although they’ve landed in three different places – A+E/Film 4, CNN Films and the last two Netflix – they’re all from one production company.