Cabler goes 'Super Size'

MSNBC has acquired basic cable rights to Dick Wolf’s “Crime and Punishment” series and Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” to help fill the pipeline for its primetime “doc block.”

Documentaries were made central to MSNBC’s primetime strategy soon after Dan Abrams was appointed general manager of the net last summer; he threw out two hours of live programming in favor of taped shows from 10 p.m. to midnight in the East and 7-9 p.m. on the West Coast.

Originally, MSNBC leaned heavily on “Dateline” and a library of docs from NBC News, but it has ramped up production in the past few months and has been actively financing and acquiring work by independent producers.

“There is really nothing in the documentary world we don’t want to look at or get our hands on,” said MSNBC longform veep Michael Rubin.

Among the indie docs acquired to air during December are “Beyond Conviction,” about a rape victim who confronts her attacker, and “For God and Country: A Marine Sniper’s Story,” about a young veteran of Iraq.

MSNBC’s own doc unit produced “No Place for a Child,” which tracks five children through the child welfare system, and new episodes of “Lockup,” a series on America’s prison system.

From NBC, the net will air the “Dateline NBC” hidden-camera series “To Catch a Predator” and episodes of “Headliners and Legends” on Ted Kennedy and Nelson Mandela.

Net will air 10 episodes from Dick Wolf’s “Crime and Punishment” series, which follows cases as they are prosecuted in the San Diego district attorney’s office.

Spurlock’s feature “Super Size Me” will air over the entire two-hour block during January.

Part of the strategy is to knit MSNBC closer to NBC News and provide it with another venue to spread out the cost of documaking. But the net is looking to acquire indie work from outside NBC U in order to bring diverse viewpoints to the network.

“These docs have to conform to NBC broadcast standards and pass legal-department muster,” Rubin said. “I think we can have other voices speaking, and it broadens our palette, which is good for the viewer.”

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