NEW YORK — Men might want to take note if their loved one turns to the Investigation Discovery network Sunday for Super Bowl counterprogramming, where a marathon of “Wives With Knives” episodes will be running during the game.
It is a typically colorful programming choice by a young network that has grown quickly because of them.
Five years into its life, the network devoted to true crime and mystery stories has attracted new fans so rapidly that its chief executive, Henry Schleiff, boldly predicts that it will be the top-rated cable TV network within three or four years.
The five “Wives With Knives” episodes tell stories of five different women who stabbed their husbands or boyfriends, sometimes killing them, sometimes not. The women are all interviewed by criminologist Casey Jordan.
“We thought we could have fun with this marathon of `Wives With Knives’ that intentionally, perhaps, tries to cut the men out of the picture,” Schleiff said, as his publicist groaned in the background. “Wait! It gets worse. It goes directly to our core audience of females because, as that audience understands, the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his chest.”
Bad taste, perhaps? “We’re having fun with it,” Schleiff said. “I think our audience will, too.”
Judging by the titles of ID’s programs, the free-wheeling meetings where titles are proposed would make a fascinating program itself. Schleiff claims credit – or blame – for “Wives With Knives.”
There’s also “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?” on people who discover ugly secrets about their spouses, soon to have a spinoff. “Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets” has murder stories told in the first person. “Happily Never After” is about people who meet untimely demises around their wedding days. There’s “Blood, Lies & Alibis,” “Blood Relatives,” “Date From Hell” and “Deadly Women, Fatal Encounters.”
Tia Carerre is host of ID’s Valentine’s Day special, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” where, it’s safe to say, the protagonists will think of more colorful approaches than slipping out the back, Jack.
ID’s audience is 61 percent women, perhaps counterintuitive given the nature of its programming. But many women are big fans of mystery and suspense novels, Schleiff said.
“Women love these stories from a number of perspectives,” Schleiff said. “At their heart, these are really mysteries. Women, in particular, using their intuition or whatever, and like the problem-solving.”
Investigation Discovery began life five years ago this week, after parent Discovery Communications bought out the stake of the then-Discovery Times network that it shared with The New York Times. That network averaged some 80,000 viewers at any point during the day, according to the Nielsen company. Since its relaunch, ID has grown viewers each month to the point where it averaged 669,000 viewers in January, Nielsen said. In 55 million homes five years ago, it will be in 85 million by the end of March.
Schleiff, a natural showman who has run Court TV and the Hallmark Channel, was brought in in 2009. The colorful programming gets attention, but there’s a serious side on programs like the upcoming “March to Justice” documentary, about the early days of the civil rights movement.
With its female, primarily older audience, Investigation Discovery has done a good job reaching a group of people that watches TV heavily, said Brad Adgate, an analyst for Horizon Media. It reaches for reality-based programming the same type of people interested in CBS’ prime-time shows, he said.
It has the chance to become one of Discovery Communications’ most profitable networks, Adgate said. He believes a prediction that the network can be No. 1 in cable over the next few years is too optimistic, though.
ID scores high in Nielsen’s measurement of “length of viewing,” an obscure statistic advertisers love: it means the network’s viewers tend to hang around longer than they do at other places. It also indicates the network has an attractive identity in itself, that viewers are tuning in more to ID than to specific shows.
“Although we may change the titles every hour, we may have a slight variation ... the one common denominator is they are incredibly riveting,” Schleiff said. “They are incredibly compelling. They are incredibly emotionally moving.”
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