SYDNEY — Local crime skeins are hot Down Under, with all the major free webs giving it a shot.

Channel Nine hit the mother lode with mini “Underbelly” — about a real-life 10-year gangland war in the state of Victoria — a huge watercooler hit that scored more than 2 million viewers. Seven has a regular weekly winner in “City Homicide,” now in its second season, and Ten has had success with its new cop skein, “Rush.”

Nine also recently bowed “The Strip,” set in Oz’s glitzy Gold Coast in Queensland, to a respectable million-plus aud.

But that doesn’t mean the free-to-air networks think the genre has peaked.

“Our two U.S. crime procedurals — “Criminal Minds” and “Bones” — have both grown significantly this year,” says Angus Ross, Seven’s skedding and acquisitions topper. “With smart scheduling, international police shows can still be very solid performers — so we’d like a couple more.”

Seven, the ratings leader for the second year in a row, says it has a wide focus for the current market, but is also looking for selective buys for its new HD channel.

“We continue to look for entertainment formats that have flexible scheduling options and will deliver bulk 25-54 demographics,” Ross adds.

Beverly McGarvey, Ten’s head of programming, says the net is not looking for too much more on the crime side at this market despite “Rush’s” success. Instead it is seeking “early evening content from 7-7:30, mainly factual and constructed reality.”

McGarvey points out that the web gets most of its crime (“Law & Order”, “NCIS”) through its already-in-place output deals.

Ten’s big hole is the demise of “Big Brother” after eight successful years. That leaves room for a 7 p.m. strip, so reality may be on the shopping list.

“But we will not be replacing ‘Big Brother’ with another show of that nature; our demographic was 16-39 then, and now it is targeted older,” McGarvey says.


“City Homicide” (Seven)

“Border Security” (Seven)

“60 Minutes” (Nine)