Opportunities for true-crime shows in the US

A&EProducers in the UK looking to develop true-crime formats for the US have been advised to focus on developing long-term relationships with relevant partners.

Speaking at a panel at the Edinburgh TV Festival last week, senior individuals from networks including US channels A&E and Investigation Discovery stressed the importance of ongoing dialogue as a way to develop ideas over time.

Brad Holcman, senior director at A&E, revealed that his staff were in constant talks with UK commissioners to get recommendations about which British producers and firms they should work with, although he added that A&E needed to do more outreach of its own.

The panel acknowledged that the success of true-crime formats on streaming services like Netflix – and in particular the real-life case of Steven Avery as detailed in Making a Murderer – has helped boost the appeal of the true-crime format and has even impacted the pace and story structure of network shows.

“Places like Netflix are good for stoking an interest in the genre,” said Sara Kozak, group senior vice-president of production for Investigation Discovery and American Heroes Channel. “We can then say ‘You know, we have entire channels devoted to this genre!’”

True-crime was described by the panel as having a universal appeal with “ultimate stakes” drama exploring death and violence that audiences can readily transpose onto their own lives in a highly relatable way. 

That said, stories need to be tailored for specific markets – whether in the UK or US – and the panel agreed that it sometimes helped for UK producers to have someone on their team who had experience of the US industry. 


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