Anke Stoll, the director of acquisitions and co-productions at Keshet International, talks to TV Real about the company’s partnership with Woodcut Media for true-crime programming.
Last year, Keshet International (KI) inked a first-look distribution and development deal with U.K.-based production company Woodcut Media. The agreement gives KI—best known for having scripted and entertainment series and formats—exclusive access to Woodcut’s new factual crime slate for global distribution. The pact allows KI to expand its catalog of non-scripted, English-language content.
“We are now moving heavily into third-party acquisitions across all genres to increase our portfolio of high-quality finished tape,” says Anke Stoll, the director of acquisitions and co-productions at Keshet International. “In the factual sphere, we wanted to concentrate initially on internationally successful sub-genres with an avid following—such as true crime—and then widen the catalog to include other topics.”
Stoll continues: “Woodcut Media is one of the best producers of true crime there is; it is one of a few key production companies that commissioners contact directly to develop ideas because of their great expertise in the true-crime genre. Our first-look deal with Woodcut has been very effective in establishing ourselves in the factual genre and we hope to grow our catalog quickly with more high-quality true-crime stories.”
One of the Woodcut Media titles that KI is particularly excited about adding to the catalog is World’s Most Evil Killers, which tells the real-life stories of some of the most disturbing and prolific murderers from different countries. The show is due to debut on Sky’s Pick channel in the U.K. this year and has also presold to Germany’s RTL.
Regarding what makes a true-crime series like World’s Most Evil Killers successful, Stoll says there are a number of factors at play. “It’s the combination of telling the actual crime story, coupled with interviews with people who were closely involved, such as parents or relatives, victims who survived, and the police officers that investigated each case, as well as experts who give their views about the motive and psychology behind the crimes,” she says. “The way the stories in World’s Most Evil Killers are told engages the viewer—they are introduced to a certain extent and then analyzed, before the next part of the story is revealed, then they are analyzed again. This makes viewers interact with the series, triggering their interest and asking them to be involved. It encourages the viewer to use their intelligence to form an opinion. Surprisingly, even though the crimes are horrific, it does become possible to [understand] the reasons why they took place.”
Stoll believes that the increased demand for true-crime programming has been sparked by the global success of such series as Netflix’s Making a Murderer and HBO’s The Jinx. “At the heart of this is the audience’s fascination with true-crime stories; it feeds their appetite for voyeurism while offering a safe way of being scared, because the perpetrators are either behind bars or dead,” she says. “True crime lets us all become ‘armchair detectives,’ but unlike fictional stories, these are even more interesting because they are real.”
According to Stoll, broadcasters in Central Europe and North America have been very hungry for true-crime content as of late. “Global cable and satellite channels such as A&E and Discovery have an appetite for true crime, but there probably isn’t a single country that doesn’t have a dedicated crime channel nowadays,” she says. “SVOD platforms are also keen on true-crime content and some of the free-to-air channels have dedicated time slots for true crime as well.”
As far as trends go, Stoll has observed that investigative-style productions are currently at the forefront of true crime. “Viewers want to understand more about the actual police investigation,” she says. “A limited-series structure has become more popular for true crime too; whilst traditionally it was one case per episode per week, one case can now extend over several episodes. We have also noticed the desire for content to be more dramatic, with high-end reconstructions.”
Stoll notes that this is just the beginning of KI and Woodcut Media’s relationship, which will expand to include additional genres. “We are developing a wide range of titles together, taking recent trends into account and are looking at widening our collaboration to co-produce and co-develop together across factual, entertainment and scripted.”