NBC to Launch Crime Network; CBS to Do 'Telenovelas'

NBC will try to solve a ratings mystery when it launches the first crime-themed cable network, Sleuth, on Jan. 1.

The channel is permanently replacing Trio, the network's failed pop-culture channel.

To kick off the new 24-hour format, Sleuth will present a New Year's marathon that will feature the pilot episodes of a slew of popular crime shows, including "The A-Team," "Knight Rider," "Simon & Simon," "Karen Sisco" "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "EZ Streets."

The marathon continues throughout the week, and will include the pilots of "Miami Vice," "Columbo," "The Rockford Files," "Magnum, P.I." and "JAG."

Sleuth will draw upon NBC Universal's library of movies, documentaries and TV shows for programming, including movies such as "Scarface" and "Casino."

Sleuth will eventually be available in high-definition format and include an on-demand channel.

When it launches next month, the network will have more than 5 million subscribers through distribution deals with various cable companies.

Meanwhile, CBS is looking to shake up its prime-time schedule next summer by airing Americanized takes on "telenovelas," melodramatic soap operas popular in Latin American countries.

According to various trade reports, romance novelist Jackie Collins is among those who'd script the telenovelas, which would air twice a week over 13 weeks.

"The whole motivation behind this is for us to find a new form to work in," CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler told The Hollywood Reporter.

"The idea is to create something fun that becomes a guilty pleasure so much that the audience feels compelled to watch.

"It needs to have elements of escapism and wish fulfillment to it."

Telenovelas, which have a beginning and end — unlike daytime soaps — have been huge ratings draws in both Latin America and here in the U.S. for Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo.

The telenovela "Betty la Fea" (Betty the Ugly) drew millions of viewers several years back.

The telenovela being written by Collins and writer/producer Jonathan Prince would be centered on Hollywood and celebrities, according to the Hollywood Reporter.