Chris Hansen wants to catch more preda­tors

The vet­eran news­man is us­ing crowd fund­ing to sup­port his new hid­den-cam­era se­ries.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Stephen Battaglio

NEW YORK —- Chris Hansen is go­ing back into the preda­tor-catch­ing busi­ness, but this time he’s ask­ing his fans to help him.

The vet­eran net­work news cor­re­spon­dent, known for the “Date­line NBC” in­ves­tiga­tive se­ries “To Catch a Preda­tor,” is turn­ing to crowd fund­ing to sup­port a new hid­den-cam­era op­er­a­tion to cap­ture men who use the In­ter­net to find un­der­age sex part­ners. The re­sults will be­come the ba­sis for a new se­ries, “Hansen vs. Preda­tor.”

Start­ing Wed­nes­day, peo­ple can con­trib­ute to a cam­paign that Hansen is launch­ing on Kick­starter, the In­ter­net crowd-fund­ing site that en­ables peo­ple to con­trib­ute money to a ven­ture or cause they are pas­sion­ate about. Hansen’s fundrais­ing tar­get is around $400,000.

Crowd fund­ing — now a $5 bil­lion-plus in­dus­try — has been used to fi­nance movies, new tech busi­nesses and other projects. But Hansen is the first high-pro­file TV news per­son­al­ity to use the mech­a­nism to re­vive a fran­chise for which he’s al­ready well-known.

“There is a pent-up de­mand from view­ers for an­other in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Hansen said in a re­cent in­ter­view from his Con­necti­cut home. “And from a tech­nol­ogy stand­point, the land­scape has re­ally changed since we did the last one.”

The new se­ries will be pre­sented on a dig­i­tal Web chan­nel be­fore it’s sold to a TV out­let.

Hansen had shopped the

new se­ries around to dif­fer­ent TV net­works and syn­di­ca­tors, but found that “the best way to do this is shoot the next in­ves­ti­ga­tion and show that we have it.” It also gives him cre­ative con­trol and own­er­ship of the pro­gram, some­thing he would not have if he pro­duced it through a news or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“What it re­ally il­lus­trates is that there are mul­ti­ple paths to fund­ing, pro­duc­tion and even dis­tri­bu­tion to­day, com­pared to the ham­mer­lock that le­gacy me­dia once ap­plied and en­joyed,” said An­drew Hey­ward, a for­mer CBS News pres­i­dent who now ad­vises com­pa­nies on dig­i­tal strat­egy.

Hansen isn’t go­ing it alone in the project. He’s get­ting an as­sist from his agency, Wil­liam Mor­ris En­deavor, which now has an en­tire unit ded­i­cated to help­ing tal­ent de­velop strate­gies and man­age their crowd-fund­ing cam­paigns.

“We’re try­ing to help our clients connect with fans who want to help bring their projects to life,” said Erin Eren­berg, direc­tor of crowd fund­ing at Wil­liam Mor­ris En­deavor.

The agency helped launched cam­paigns that se­cured fund­ing for doc­u­men­taries made by Steve Buscemi and Ricki Lake. It was also in­volved in the fund­ing cam­paign for “Ta­ble Top,” the Web video se­ries in which Wil Wheaton plays board games with celebrity guests.

Eren­berg be­lieves that “Preda­tor” fits the pro­file of es­tab­lished pop cul­ture fix­tures that be­come crowd­funded projects, such as the TV se­ries “Veron­ica Mars” which was turned into a crowd-funded fea­ture film. The project has to gen­er­ate enough pas­sion from fans that they are will­ing to make a fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion to see it re­turn in some form.

“There has def­i­nitely been a trend of bring­ing back con­tent that peo­ple feel has gone too soon,” Eren­berg said.

“To Catch a Preda­tor” be­came a hit fran­chise for NBC News when it started air­ing on “Date­line NBC” in 2004.

NBC News con­ducted the in­ves­ti­ga­tions with the help of a civil­ian watch­dog group called Per­verted-Jus­tice and lo­cal po­lice in the towns and cities where the stings were set up.

Through on­line chat rooms, po­ten­tial preda­tors were lured by de­coys to the sting lo­ca­tions. Hansen con­fronted the sus­pects with his sig­na­ture line, “Have a seat.” Af­ter a chat with the cor­re­spon­dent, the sus­pects were ar­rested by lo­cal po­lice, while a cam­era crew cap­tured it all.

Hansen did his last in­ves­ti­ga­tion in De­cem­ber 2008. But “Preda­tor” re­mained a viewer fa­vorite for years af­ter­ward in re­peats on ca­ble chan­nel MSNBC. It was also sold by NBC to broad­cast­ers around the world, tak­ing in well over $10 mil­lion. Nearly ev­ery seg­ment can still be found on­line via YouTube.

Hansen’s preda­tor-bust­ing per­sona was im­mor­tal­ized on “The Simp­sons” and “South Park.” His name even came up in a gag de­liv­ered by comic Kevin Hart dur­ing the re­cent roast of Justin Bieber on Com­edy Cen­tral.

Peo­ple he meets still ask him when they will see a new edi­tion of “Preda­tor.” “Most of them don’t even know that I’m no longer with NBC News,” said Hansen, who left the net­work in 2013.

But Hansen said there are rea­sons other than viewer de­mand to re­vive the “Preda­tor” con­cept.

“When we did it be­fore, there were chat rooms on AOL and Ya­hoo,” he said. “Now there are 22 ways to com­mu­ni­cate on­line.”

The team that Hansen used for “To Catch a Preda­tor” was at the fore­front of In­ter­net safety. Del Har­vey, one of the young women who posed as a de­coy in the sting op­er­a­tions, over­sees on­line se­cu­rity at Twit­ter.

Hansen al­ready has a spon­sor for the new se­ries, busi­ness and legal re­search provider Lexis Nexis.

Con­trib­u­tors to the “Hansen vs. Preda­tor” Kick­starter cam­paign will be of­fered the usual crowd-fund­ing in­cen­tives such as a logo em­bla­zoned T-shirt, a cof­fee mug or an in­vi­ta­tion for a pri­vate screen­ing of “Hansen vs. Preda­tor” with Hansen and his crew.

But true “Preda­tor” afi­ciona­dos are likely to want to shell out $150 for Hansen to pro­vide an out­go­ing mes­sage for their voice mail.

Vir­gini­aSher­wood NBC Uni­ver­sal

CHRIS HANSEN is plan­ning to launch a new Web se­ries called “Hansen vs. Preda­tor.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.