EXCLUSIVE: The team behind Crime Junkie, which scores around 10M downloads per month, are the latest true-crime podcasters looking to make a major move into television with two new projects already receiving interest.
The podcast, which was set up Ashley Flowers, a board member of Crimestoppers in Indiana, has become a breakout sensation with episodes on cases such as the murder of April Tinsley from Fort Wayne, the 1991 Austin yogurt shop murders and the Green River killer.
Now Flowers and her team are working on a new podcast in conjunction with local police forces that has caught the eye of documentary producers and networks as well as a scripted project that could turn the Crime Junkie podcast into a drama series.
She told Deadline, “I have partnered with the state police in Indiana and we’re doing a story on a 40-year old cold case that they police are investigating. It’s the story looking at what it takes to reinvestigate a cold case. The [officer] I’m working with was seven when it happened and just got a new job and got 20 binders slapped on his desk and was told ‘hey, you have a full-time job but can you solve this in your free time?’.”
The new podcast is being set up as a limited six-part series with the potential to return and marks the first time that law enforcement has brought in an outside podcaster to help crack a case. “This is very experimental for the police,” she said. “This is something that has come from the relationships I’ve built up over the last five years by being on the board of Crimestoppers. You’ve got to earn their trust.”
Flowers is working with agency UTA on the project. “There’s been a lot of talk in the television world about how we could turn this show into a series, once it’s out and fingers crossed the police is happy. Everyone starts drooling when I talk about this work I’m doing with the police. I’m making them nervous but everyone is interested in that because it’s the access that everyone’s looking for. I think there could be a beautiful relationship once I get to a place where the police want to do it,” she added.
On the scripted side, Flowers is developing a series based on her experience launching the Crime Junkie podcasts. “We want to branch out beyond podcasting. The fiction stuff is primed for television. It’s based on the idea of Crime Junkie; the main character as a girl who is podcasting and gets in over her head as she becomes an armchair sleuth. We have talked to some networks about pitching it as a mini-series,” she added.
Flowers, who began by doing a crime segment on a local Indiana radio station, launched the podcast in December 2017 with the case of missing person Niqui Mccown before doing a two-parter on the murder of Laci Peterson, who has been the subject of docs on ABC and A&E. She co-hosts Crime Junkie with Brit Prawat. “I always felt that there was a specific show missing; where two people could have conversations on the show without detracting from the story. A lot of the stories that we’ve done are ones that haven’t been done on other podcasts, they are fresh. Most of it is that I’ve been consuming true crime for 30 years so if I remember a story in all of the books I’ve read or documentaries I’ve watched, there has to be a reason, those are the stories that I’ve been retelling.”
She said that she receives around 3,000 suggestions per month about cases. “We do have this bigger mission of wanting it to be more than entertainment, wanting it to bring attention to cases. I feel there’s stuff we can be doing, for instance, in missing person’s cases, getting the word out or unsolved cases where they’re still looking for a perpetrator. I like being able to able to cover all kinds of cases and I didn’t want to paint myself into a corner.”
Crime Junkie is the latest true-crime podcast to reach a big audience with around 90% of its listeners women. “Back in December 2017, I was having to explain to most people I bumped into, what a podcast was, now at least they understand and I can explain what I do,” said Flowers, who added that she is looking to set up her own podcast network with a slew of new shows over the next 12 to 18 months.