Oxygen Exploring Crime-Focused Rebranding With Dick Wolf

Dick Wolf - 33rd annual PaleyFest - Getty -H 2016
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

NBCUniversal and Dick Wolf may be expanding their already prolific relationship.

NBCU is in talks to rebrand Oxygen as a crime-focused network, with talks underway with producers including Wolf, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The potential rebranding would arrive as Oxygen recently expanded a crime-themed programming block, appropriately titled "Crime Time," to four nights a week with the cable network seeing total viewer gains north of 40 percent.

Oxygen is said to be developing new projects with Wolf, the prolific producer behind the Law & Order and Chicago franchises, among others. Nothing is currently set in stone, with an insider cautioning that a deal could still fall apart. Wolf's precise role as well as the size of any equity stake he may have is still being discussed, say sources. 

To be sure, the fact that any rebranding is being considered speaks to the challenges Oxygen and other niche cable channels have had in the crowded landscape. Leaning more heavily on true crime could enable the ratings-challenged net to stand out in a potential a la carte future when doing so is not just important but critical to one's survival. Oxygen's last rebrand came in 2014, when the network, which is in 75 million homes, announced it would focus on culturally relevant programming for "young, modern women." The current lineup includes series including Bad Girls Club, Snapped and Sisterhood of Hip-Hop.

It's worth noting that Discovery has found ratings success in the true-crime genre over at Investigation Discovery. More recently, true-crime docuseries including HBO's The Jinx and Netflix's Making a Murderer breathed new life into the ailing reality space and has since spurred a long roster of similarly themed development across the landscape.

The news comes as Wolf's extensive portfolio of Chicago-set procedurals have not been taken out into the syndicated marketplace. Repeats of Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, etc., also do not yet have a home on a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu. Even without those deals in place, Wolf is the closest thing NBC has to a proven hitmaker, and he is easily the most valuable showrunner on Universal TV's roster, most recently renewing his overall deal with the studio through 2020. Next up, Wolf has Law & Order: True Crime, an anthology series set at NBC whose first season will focus on the Menendez brothers.