Oxygen has staked its claim as the top network for true crime with shows like 'Snapped', 'The Piketon Family Murders' and more
From being a network that focused on lifestyle, entertainment, and reality shows to becoming a full-time destination for lovers of true crime in a matter of just two years, it would be an understatement to say that Oxygen has done well — they've flourished!
In a world where true crime has caught the fascination of almost every eyeball, Oxygen has managed to stay ahead of the game. From being a network that was focused on lifestyle, entertainment, and reality shows, it has now become a full-time destination for all lovers of true crime in a matter of just two years. To say that Oxygen has done well would be an understatement when they've, in fact, flourished. And because of that, true crime documentary makers like Netflix and others have a lot to learn from them.
Oxygen Media was founded in 1998 by former Nickelodeon executive Geraldine Laybourne, talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, and producers Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach. Until 2007, shows like 'Campus Ladies', 'Bliss', 'Oprah After the Show', 'Talk Sex with Sue Johanson', 'The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency', 'Snapped', 'Girls Behaving Badly' and 'Bad Girls Club' remained the highlight shows of the network. However, things were stirred and shaken after NBC Universal took over.
The network giant acquired Oxygen for $925 million in November of 2007 and worked on revamping its content for its female audience to consume. Its programming content at the time included shows like 'Fix My Choir' and 'Sisterhood of Hip Hop', which was executive produced by rapper T.I. and followed the lives of a group of female rappers trying to make it big in a male-dominated industry. However, they soon realized that the real reward lay in a slightly different genre — true crime.
Their iconic show 'Snapped' had a lot to do with it. "It was the cornerstone to building our Crime Time weekend block that eventually grew to four days a week before we became a full-time destination for crime programming in the summer of 2017," Rod Aissa, Executive Vice President of Original Programming and Development at Oxygen Media told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). "It’s something we worked towards for a long time and we’ve had a tremendous reaction from the true crime community as well as the creative community," he said.
'Snapped' debuted in 2004 and was a hit with 24 seasons under its belt and two spin-offs that followed, cementing its success. The series depicted high profile and seriously bizarre cases, focusing largely on female perpetrators. Infact, it was so good, Lady Gaga once famously tweeted that 'Snapped' was part of her true crime obsession. Just months after going full crime time, they brought in Dick Wolf's 'Cold Justice' back for a fresh season after it was canceled by TNT. Oxygen also got a brand new yellow police tape look soon after.
Since then, Oxygen went on to become the fastest growing cable entertainment network for the second consecutive year in 2018 with double-digit growth behind original successes such as 'Aaron Hernandez Uncovered', 'Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers' and 'Cold Justice'. The first half of 2019 also kept the momentum going with documentaries like 'Dirty John: The Dirty Truth,' that came with a Bravo adaptation, the evergreen 'Snapped' and 'The Piketon Family Murders'.
You see, the folks at Oxygen understood why true crime inspired such an insatiable dan base. "There's an escapist element at play with the true crime genre. Viewers are getting a peek into a kind of life they (hopefully) will never/have never experienced," said Aissa, noting that part of the appeal is based on seeing people live extreme situations so that they don't have to, and these stories can give viewers a feeling of "thank god that's not me".
However, just knowing that isn't enough — and like most storytelling, crime viewing is ultimately driven by wanting to have a deeper understanding of people and the world around you, shared Aissa. "We consistently hear how important it is in crime programming to pay off on the psychological aspects. Viewers watch to get a stronger understanding of human mindsets, motivations, and relationships," he said explaining that it makes viewers feel like they’re learning how to protect themselves and their loved ones, and that the genre gives them stronger awareness of their surroundings. "Likewise, viewers see these shows as having a positive effect on the world, given the focus on justice-seeking and bringing bad behavior to light," he said.
Oxygen has also successfully remained relatively backlash free. Crime content, in recent times, has been accused of glamorizing killers. Aissa said that they are very careful about how they approach the stories and it is with utmost caution. "Well, when you're dealing with true crime content, there are many considerations you must address. You’re often dealing with families, victims, survivors, law enforcement, attorneys, etc."
Through it all, there's one thing that truly has kept them ahead of the curve and that has been the quality of their original true crime programming along with the fact that it takes those at home on a crime-solving spree from the comfort of their couch, said Aissa. "We strive to give unprecedented access, new information and provide a style of storytelling that allows our viewers to play along at home to try and solve the case right until the very end," he said.
They're taking it a notch up this year with shows involving names like Kim Kardashian, Nancy Grace, Paul Holes and Kate Snow in addition to Ice T, Kelly Siegler and Loni Coombs. There are also projects with Mark Wahlberg, Jason Blum and Kelly Ripa, who are involved in the development side of things. But more importantly, it is their consistency that helps them stand out. "Oxygen's 'all crime all the time' creates a destination that viewers want to watch," Aissa noted.