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USA turning to Crime

Mar 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

In a rare instance of a Web site spawning a television network, Barry Diller’s USA Networks is buying Crime.com and launching a digital network based on it this fall.
USA is purchasing the Web site, which was launched last summer, from “Cops” creator John Langley. Mr. Langley will be a co-producer of the new spinoff network to be called Crime.
Court TV originally had an equity stake in Crime.com but no longer has an interest in the online property. Court TV carries reruns of Mr. Langley’s hit series “Cops” as part of a long-term off-network rights deal.
By no longer being part of Crime.com, Court TV has effectively helped create a network that will potentially compete for its audience.
Crime is being billed as a crime-themed programming hybrid featuring nonfiction and fiction series. It will be pitched to cable operators as an add-on to their expanded digital network packages.
Crime will fall under USA Cable’s Emerging Network Group, which oversees networks Trio and World News International, which USA acquired from Canada’s North American Television last May for $100 million in cash.
USA officials said they chose crime because it is one program genre that nobody has developed a lock on. “There’s no singular cable vehicle or destination that has ever harnessed crime entirely,” said Emerging Networks Group President Patrick Vien, who will oversee Crime. “We saw that as an opportunity.” No cable distribution deals have been cut yet, Mr. Vien said.
Mr. Langley could not be reached for comment, but sources close to the situation said he agreed to sell his Web site to USA because it opened the door to develop both cable and online programming.
Crime will start off with two original nonfiction series: “Crime Scene” and “Police Beat,” both of which will be developed by Mr. Langley. Its fiction content will initially consist mainly of movies.
The remainder of Crime’s schedule will be filled with acquired police dramas and documentaries, but Mr. Vien declined to name any specific series. What Crime won’t be, he said, is a recycling center for old USA original series such as “Silk Stalkings.” But he didn’t rule out using previous crime-themed original USA movies.
The Crime.com Web site is chock full of crime-related information, including most wanted criminals, sex offenders, crime headlines and even a prison products store. It features a live “Jail Cam” which carries the warning: “First live web cam from inside a working jail! You may see violence or sexually inappropriate behavior.”
Another cable network that originated as a Web site spinoff is TechTV, which was originally known as ZDTV, an outgrowth of ZDNet.
Crime joins USA’s stable of cable networks that, aside from Trio and News World International, includes USA Network, Sci-Fi Channel and Home Shopping Network.