The partners are poised to shop “Sports Illustrated: True Crime” to TV and digital outlets in the coming weeks.
Bruckheimer’s TV company and Time Inc.’s sports powerhouse were brought together by their mutual reps at CAA. The show is part of Time Inc.’s initiative to expand the reach of its publishing brands by using its editorial resources as the foundation for TV programs. Earlier this week, People magazine announced a pact with ABC for a four-hour documentary marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana.
Bruckheimer TV was a fit for the Sports Illustrated project because of its long track record with crime-centered procedural storytelling in the “CSI” franchise and other scripted drama series. However, “True Crime” will take a strict documentary approach with no plans for docu-drama or reenactment elements. The goal is to blend the production expertise of Bruckheimer TV with the editorial muscle that Sports Illustrated already devotes to covering crime as it intersects with sports.
“We love telling great stories especially when they involve crime,” Bruckheimer told Variety. “We love the idea of looking at the real thing – how crimes are committed, why they were committed and the effect they had on other people. We understand how to craft a story, and who better to collaborate with than the (journalists) who actually followed the stories.”
Time Inc. president-CEO Rich Battista has been on a mission to grow the publishing giant’s TV portfolio. “People in Hollywood flip through People and Sports Illustrated and Time every week looking for story ideas,” he said. “It’s time for us to leverage that for ourselves.”
Time Inc. is on track to produce at least 40 hours of television this year, up from five hours in 2014. Investigation Discovery’s “People Magazine Investigates” franchise was renewed last month for a second season.
Bruce Gersh, Time Inc.’s senior VP strategy and business development, said the goal is to make the format of episodes flexible, allowing for longer takes on more complex stories. “If one of the stories really takes off, we could spin it off into a separate series,” he said.
“True Crime” will be exec produced by Bruckheimer and Bruckheimer TV’s Jonathan Littman and KristieAnne Reed along with Time Inc.’s Gersh, Ian Orefice, Chris Stone, Jon Wertheim and Josh Oshinsky.
Time Inc.’s TV development initiative has had traction with network buyers because the strength of its brands are a marketing tool for networks. The magazines and their digital offshoots also help spread the word about the shows without being too overtly promotional. “It’s very natural for Sports Illustrated to be in the marketplace with the kinds of stories we’ll be covering in ‘True Crime,’ ” Battista said.
The quality of the journalism in Sports Illustrated was a big part of the attraction for Bruckheimer, who has been a reader of the magazine for years. The prolific film and TV producer, a well-known hockey buff who tries to get out on the ice a few times a week, said he was eager to get to work in the docu arena, a form that he worked in early on in his career. Bruckheimer said he’s been impressed by the craftsmanship displayed in recent TV docu-series such as ESPN’s “O.J.: Made in America.”
“It’s exciting for me as a producer to involve myself in another world with great creative talent,” he said. “I read so many papers, but nobody covers sports like Sports Illustrated.”