Barnaby Shingleton, the director of entertainment and factual at Sky Vision, talks to TV Real about the ongoing demand for crime-themed factual programming.
Chalk it up to morbid curiosity but there’s something fascinating about stories centered on illegal activity. These tales are even more intriguing—and terrifying—when they involve real-life crimes, including murder. As dark as the material is, true-crime TV programming continues to be an extremely popular genre and one that Sky Vision, the production and distribution arm of Sky, has had success with.
“Over the last couple of years Sky Vision has greatly expanded its true-crime catalog, reflecting the increased audience demand for this genre of programming,” says Barnaby Shingleton, the director of entertainment and factual at Sky Vision. “There are close to 500 hours of [true-crime] content in Sky Vision’s catalog, from long-running series like I Knew My Murderer and It Takes a Killer (Bellum Entertainment) through to limited series with dramatic reconstructions, including Killer Clergy (Sky Vision Productions) and flashing blue-light series The Force (Shine TV).”
According to Shingleton, the appetite for this type of programming is not limited to crime-focused channels. “We have also seen a drive in demand from some of the more mainstream channels,” he says. “We have 30 clients who regularly take crime content from us, including MTV Sweden, YourTV in the U.K. and Foxtel Australia. We have been able to close deals on our crime content in 155 countries. Examples include It Takes a Killer, which we sold to Oxygen in the U.S., CBS Reality in the U.K./Ireland, Sky Italia, Foxtel Australia, AMC in CEE and A+E Networks in various parts of EMEA. National Enquirer Investigates has also proved popular, selling in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, Portugal and Latin America.”
Perhaps a sign of the times, one of the trends Shingleton has been noticing in the genre as of late is a growing curiosity about crimes committed via social media. “We have some very strong new content with chilling stories of betrayal and deceit, with #Murder and My Online Nightmare both attracting lots of attention,” he says.
Although the bar might not be set quite as high as it is for premium scripted fare, true-crime series should still strive for good production quality in order to stand out in the marketplace and have international appeal. “Each episode has to be carefully constructed to keep the viewer on tenterhooks throughout and be broad enough to allow transmission in daytime,” adds Shingleton. “Our experience shows us that many broadcasters require true-crime content that can provide flexibility in scheduling. Programs featuring a lot of visual violence and graphic scenes will be more difficult to sell. Volume is also very helpful for channels requiring content to strip across the week.”
Moving forward, Sky Vision plans to press on with its hunt for crime-themed factual programming. “We know audiences love this genre and we will continue to look for more quality content that meets our threshold and allows us to maximize sales opportunities across the globe,” says Shingleton.