Oxygen Comes Up for Breath as a Crime Network

Crime syndication is sweet turf and the Oxygen cable network wants a piece of the action.

Gangsters are always fighting over their turf in the cut-throat business of crime. NBCUniversal cable network Oxygen isn’t new on the block. It made its bones with “Crime Time” programming from Friday to Monday and now it wants a sit down with the syndicate. Oxygen announced it will shake up its programming to focus exclusively on crime-related programming geared towards the young molls of today.

Legendary movie gangster Edward G. Robinson once said “crime doesn’t pay, unless it’s in the movies,” but TV is raking in so much ad revenue it’s almost a felony. NBCU recently threw the switch on Esquire Network and left it to a digital-only stay of execution.

NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment’s lifestyle networks president, Frances Berwick, cited the podcast Serial and the Netflix docu-series Making a Murder as a inspirations for the move to the crime beat.

“People are really passionate about this genre,” Berwick told Variety. “There is an opportunity right now to really lean in to the genre and capitalize on the moment. This has been demonstrated online where you see (true-crime) podcasts exploding and armchair detectives out there on social platforms trying to solve crimes. This felt like the natural extension of something that was already working well for Oxygen.”

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The network will be joining Discovery, Investigation Discovery, A&E, Lifetime, National Geographic, as well as premiere cable station HBO and streaming service Netflix in the crime wave.

“There is a huge demand for this type of programming,” Berwick told Variety. “We feel like we’re in a really good position to bring a younger female viewership to these shows, and produce them in a high-quality way that makes sense for us right now.”

As part of the reformat, the new Oxygen channel will revive TNT’s true crime series Cold Justice, produced by Magical Elves, which brought us Top Chef and Law and Order’s Dick Wolf, whose Wolf Entertainment is said to be in talks on a possible broader partnership with Oxygen. Oxygen currently runs Law & Order-branded shows like NCIS and CSI.

Most of Oxygen’s current originals series, like Bad Girls Club, will be dropped by early summer. Oxygen is looking to buy off-network crime shows to supplement its original series.

Producer Nancy Glass is developing a jury-focused series for Oxygen. The network will premiere the gritty abduction investigative series Three Days to Live on March 5.

Oxygen launched a true-crime weekly podcast, Martinis and Murder, which is hosted by John Thrasher and Daryn Carp. Oxygen has been running the crime-of-the-week unscripted female killer franchise Snapped since 2004.

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The rebrand will not be accompanied by a new name.

“We think Oxygen works really well in the new context,” Berwick said.

Oxygen hopes to have the revamp ready by June or July.