What TMZ did for celebrity news, Crime Watch Daily hopes to do for crime. On Sept. 14, Warner Bros.’ Crime Watch Daily will premiere in syndication after nearly three years in development. The show will serve as an evening news lead-in on many Tribune, Sinclair and other stations across the country.
“What I love is that Crime Watch Daily is completely unique from anything else on broadcast daytime television right now. It’s high-quality, very compelling and topical, and most important, it’s the first show of its kind in this space,” says Sean Compton, Tribune Media president of strategic programming and acquisitions. Tribune was an early partner on the show.
Crime is a popular topic among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54, who have made Investigation Discovery cable’s fastest growing network.
Along those lines, Crime Watch Daily plans to serve that audience a fast-paced mix of mystery, crime and drama. Although the program is still two weeks from premiere, crimewatchdaily.com is already up and running, as is its Facebook page. Both sites feature trending crime stories—such as the downfall of Subway pitchman Jared Fogle—as well as local crime stories. Fans can get involved by submitting tips for unsolved crimes on the site.
As the show preps for launch, it’s working hard on a three-day story in which it had people with criminal records apply for jobs—and get hired—at popular ride service Uber. The show also will have an exclusive jailhouse interview with Detroit mom Mitchelle Blair, who was recently sentenced to life in prison for killing two of her children, and conversations with victims of Pastor Sammy Nuckolls, an evangelical preacher who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for taping women in private homes with hidden cameras.
Starting Like Gangbusters
Crime Watch Daily is set to go hard right out of the gate, with plans to bust a scammer every day for a month, according to show creator and senior executive producer Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey.
Part of Crime Watch Daily’s pitch has been that it will work collaboratively with local TV stations to develop stories, break news and bust criminals, as well as to give participating stations exclusives on these stories.
“They are without question collaborating with us and other stations,” says Compton. “That was another reason we liked the show. Not only did we like the genre for our stations, we liked that our stations were going to have a real contribution to the program.”
For example, Crime Watch Daily’s producers have been working with Tribune’s Fox affiliate WTTV Indianapolis on local resident Fogle’s downfall, and the show is expected to feature some of that coverage at launch.
“News directors were a little suspicious at first, but as soon as we explain it to them, they hand over footage left and right,” says executive producer Scott Eldridge, who formerly produced America’s Most Wanted with John Walsh and shares EP credit on the show with Jeremy Spiegel. “Local stations make their money off news so if they have a great lead-in, it means more dollars for them.”
“News directors don’t have the resources to do stories like this. We’re doing a lot of the legwork for them and handing this content to them on a silver platter,” says Gregorisch-Dempsey.
Moreover, when a station works with Crime Watch Daily, it will likely get an exclusive story to feature in its local market, with Crime Watch Daily holding the entire story to air nationally a bit later.
A Top Team
Australian Matt Doran, the show’s host, is also its guinea pig, doing every thing from leading stings to demonstrating five ways to defend yourself from a home break-in while in bed to acting like the victim in a roadside kidnapping.
Doran will be joined by three on-air reporters: Michelle Sigona in Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles-based Andrea Isom, who cut her teeth on the tough streets of Detroit; and Seattle-based Jason Mattera, a New York Times best-selling author.
Each of them brings a personal brand to Crime Watch Daily, says Eldridge. Sigona formerly worked with Eldridge on America’s Most Wanted and specializes in cold cases.
“She lives this. She’s involved with those families and following up on those stories even when she’s not working,” says Eldridge.
Isom is “very versatile and not afraid to confront people,” says Eldridge. For example, in the pilot Isom marched right up to the door of a suspected murderer and confronted him on the spot, something even police on the scene were hesitant to do.
And Jason “is a sting guy. He’s wired that way,” says Eldridge.
While Crime Watch Daily will offer many stories shot in the field and with the help of local TV journalists, it also will do pieces from its studio.
“We have two bookers dedicated to getting big gets and they are working around the clock,” says Eldridge. One of the show’s first big gets is an interview with Joey Buttafuoco, who found fame in the early ’90s after his 16-year-old mistress Amy Fisher shot his wife, Mary Jo.
“There’s no face of crime-fighting like John Walsh on TV anymore,” says Gregorisch-Dempsey. “We are really carefully crafting every story so that there’s a big payoff at the end.”