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CBS Hopes the AFC Championship Will Spark Its First New Reality Hit in 7 Years

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:18:30 +0000

The broadcast networks haven't launched a hit reality competition series since NBC debuted The Voice. CBS is looking to break that streak on Sunday as it launches the new series Hunted, with help from the NFL's AFC Championship game. The show follows nine pairs of contestants who have agreed to become fugitives on the run. They are pursed by a team of expert investigators, including former members of the FBI, CIA, NSA and the U.S. Marshals Service. Each team that successfully avoids capture for up to 28 days will win a $250,000 grand prize. CBS will premiere Hunted on Sunday night, right after the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. Last year's New England Patriots-Denver Broncos AFC Championship Game drew 53.3 million viewers in the late-afternoon slot (the NFC and AFC Championship rotate time slots each year). Fox has routinely used its NFC Championship Game to launch big shows, as it did last year for The X-Files' return (that show drew 16.2 million viewers and a 6.1 demo rating out of the NFC game, which had an audience of 45.7 million and a 15.7 demo rating). But CBS hasn't taken the same approach; two years ago, it aired a regular episode of Scorpion after the AFC game, drawing an audience of 12.3 million and a 3.2 demo rating. "The closest analogy I can think of was back [in 2010] when we did Undercover Boss out of the Super Bowl, which was unusual because it was a new show, and that was typically not our strategy in the past," said Kelly Kahl, senior evp of CBS Primetime. "Undercover Boss was a broad, easy to understand concept. It was easily promoted to a broad audience in the Super Bowl, and that's the case here as well: You're on the run, and there are people chasing you." By putting the premiere after the AFC Championship Game, "it guarantees that you're going to get some sampling for the show, and we think we have a show that's worthy of the big audience, and worthy of the sampling," said Kahl. "As you look across the course of the season, there are only so many opportunities to really get sampling to a new show, and this was one of them." Hunted was Glenn Geller's first big pickup when he took over as CBS Entertainment president in the fall of 2015. "It felt like it was the perfect reality series for us. It was that perfect blend of procedural and competition. It has all the spirit of Amazing Race but it feels like a scripted procedural. So it felt like a no-brainer. That's what our audience loves. They watch that every night of the week on CBS," said Geller. "In the U.K. [version], they had some real success, especially with male younger viewers, which is not easy to do." After its debut, Hunted moves to Wednesdays, where it will air between this season's two cycles of Survivor. "This feels like the perfect place to put the show. It's a natural fit for the Survivor audience, who loves competition and who wants to see those struggles of the characters," said Geller. Survivor and The Amazing Race have been solid performers for the network, but with 61 seasons between them (33 for Survivor, 28 for Amazing Race), CBS would like to find some fresh blood in the reality genre. (Its most recent unscripted success, Undercover Boss, launched in 2010.) While Survivor's fall rating in the 18-49 demo, 1.8, was down 10 percent from the show's spring cycle, the show still outrated everything on CBS' fall schedule except for The Big Bang Theory, NCIS and 60 Minutes. But even with its high-profile launching pad, Hunted will face an uphill struggle; in recent year, several broadcast networks have tried, and failed, to mount new reality competition series. The most notable flops include The X Factor on Fox, and a pair of musical competition misfires on ABC: Duets and Rising Star. "I think there's an expectation, fair or not, that when you put a reality show on it has to be a big hit," Geller told Adweek last year.[...]


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There's a High Bar for Trump’s Inauguration to Beat Previous TV Ratings

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 18:14:23 +0000

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Ratings are the currency of TV, and President-elect Donald Trump knows it.

A TV star for the past decade and a publicity aficionado long before that, Trump, during his presidential campaign, based his cultural relevance largely on Nielsen numbers. The higher the ratings, the better he was doing. In fact, his fascination with ratings is rivaled only by the most passionate of network executives.

Trump has been known to use Twitter to boast when programs or networks he's involved with deliver strong ratings.


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Crackle Insists It Can Thrive Even After Losing Jerry Seinfeld and Its Signature Show

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:07:01 +0000

Tuesday seemed to be a bleak day for Crackle, as Jerry Seinfeld—creator and host of the streaming service's signature series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee—announced that he's moving his show to Netflix after signing a deal with the streaming rival. Seinfeld will produce Comedians in Cars for Netflix (and move all nine prior seasons of the show there as well) and film two new stand-up comedy specials for the streaming service as part of the $100 million agreement. Crackle faces a future without its most well-known series—in which Seinfeld chats and drives around with his favorite comedians—and online speculation that the streamer might not be able to continue without it. Crackle general manager Eric Berger allayed those fears in his first comments since the Netflix deal was announced. He told Adweek that Crackle will continue to survive and thrive without the show. "Although we are incredibly grateful for our time working with Jerry and proud of the Emmy nominations the show has garnered, we have built up a slate of original series with top talent that we are incredibly proud of," Berger told Adweek, referring to The Art of More (starring Dennis Quaid), StartUp (starring Martin Freeman), SuperMansion (executive produced by and starring Bryan Cranston) and Snatch (the drama, which stars Rupert Grint and is based on the 2000 Guy Ritchie film, debuts March 16). "We have a development slate that we feel can rival any ad-supported network." Berger echoed those comments during a lengthy interview with Adweek just a few days before the Netflix news was announced. When asked at the time about the possibility of Seinfeld taking Comedians in Cars elsewhere, Berger said, "We love the show, and it has been a signature for Crackle, but I think the great part is, it's a portfolio now. It's not like a few years ago, where we didn't have that portfolio of all the slate of dramas and the comedies that we have. We're working with a lot of big talent show that we never did before. And we view all of that in a big portfolio." Crackle, which has an average monthly U.S. audience of 18 million, said that while Comedians in Cars had long been the top performing title on the site, it was surpassed by StartUp, which premiered in September. And the service's original film Mad Families, which stars Charlie Sheen and premiered last week, is also outperforming the current season of Comedians. So while Seinfeld's show remains Crackle's best-known title, it's no longer its most popular one. Here's the rest of Adweek's conversation with Berger, who laid out Crackle's vision for 2017—one that no longer includes Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: The streaming world has changed so much in the past year. What is Crackle doing to carve out its own niche? The first thing is, we're really focused on our consumer and our platforms. We have more data and direct contact with customers than ever before, and game consoles are a big piece of that. So really understanding that our market is about mature millennials who are gamers and stream to relax, and use other connected TV [devices] in the living room as well. We are making sure that our content really aligns with that audience more than ever before. The second thing is, as one of the only services that's focused purely on advertising, we want to make sure that we have the best advertising experience possible, so that consumers continue to use the service when there are plenty of other choice that are not ad supported in the marketplace. How are you doing that? We already had about half the ad load of TV across our products on the service already. For our dramas, we started doing something that we announced at our upfront last year, which is called BreakFree. There's only one ad at every break, that's it. And with that is a piece of [branded] content that we custom create, that's a little bit of a show in a [...]


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FX’s Comedy Baskets Brings Back Costco and Arby’s for Season 2, but Still Can't Land a Paid Integration

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 12:59:01 +0000

With hundreds of partnerships between TV shows and various brands, few of those relationships are as unique as the one between FX's quirky Zach Galifianakis clown comedy Baskets and the brands featured on the show. During the show's low-rated but critically-acclaimed debut last season, Baskets regularly featured Costco and Arby's, even though neither brand paid the production any money for their inclusion. As Baskets returns for Season 2 tonight, the show once again features both brands, though Jonathan Krisel, the show's co-creator and executive producer, told Adweek that he tried—unsuccessfully—to land other companies for paid integrations. Last season, as Krisel built Baskets' singular world, "I wanted Costco, I wanted Arby's. I just like having the real thing; I hate seeing a fake thing. The world is full of Costco, and people are always talking about their trips to Costco. I want to see that. I don't want to fake it," he said. Krisel, who grew up going to Costco with his family, said the idea to include Costco and its Kirkland products last year came from Baskets' production designer as a way to feature real brands on the show without having to clear them individually with multiple companies. Costco and Arby's were "very enthusiastic" about how the first season turned out and were game to return for Season 2, continuing the same arrangement in which the companies provided materials and shooting locations for free, but did not actually pay producers to be featured on the show. However, Krisel had to deal with an unexpected wrinkle with Costco. "There was some new management at Costco that was like, 'What is this thing that we're involved with?' Because the people that we dealt with [last season] were really cool and just got it instantly, but once some new management came in, they took a second look at it," said Krisel. Costco ultimately relented, and Galifianakis goes on a Costco shopping spree in the season's third episode. "There's way more Costco to come" later in the season, said Krisel. While Arby's is not referenced in the first part of the season, the brand will resurface in Season 2's second half. Krisel tried, but failed, to convince new brands to sign on for an integration in Baskets' second season. "It's a more ambitious season in certain ways and I wanted to find some partnerships that I could get some financial assistance from," he said. "I think because we had done these ones in the past, where we were getting access, but we weren't getting any financial help, going forward, that precedent was bad for me to then try to get money out of it." The producer was disappointed, but not surprised, that he came up short. "If we were Modern Family, going out to them, yes, they'd probably be more interested. We're a weird show, so they're like, what is the cost-benefit to this weird audience?" said Krisel, who has had more success with integrations on his IFC comedy Portlandia, which he also co-created and executive produces. "For Portlandia, because it has a very targeted market that you can tell right from [that] what the show is, IFC was getting Apple and certain [brands], just the same way that you're going to advertise in the New Yorker, to target this more educated, possibly wealthier group," said Krisel, who also has a Subaru integration deal on Portlandia. "On Baskets, I'm not sure what the demographic is. It's probably the same, but on the service, it doesn't look like it might be the same." While Krisel wasn't able to secure integrations, he did convince more brands to appear on the show this season, under the same terms as Arby's and Costco's inclusions (i.e. no money changed hands). One scene in the third episode takes place in an Applebee's, where two family members have an emo[...]


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This Is Us, the Season's Breakout Hit, Has Been Renewed for 2 More Seasons

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:57:39 +0000

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Broadcast TV's biggest new hit show will be airing on NBC through at least the 2018-19 season.

NBC announced a two-season renewal for its breakout family drama This Is Us today at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif. The network shared the news with the show's cast and producers just minutes before they met with reporters.

"The show means everything to us," said NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke.

The renewal covers "no less than 36 episodes," with "at least" 18 episodes per season (the Season 1 episode count), said Salke. She noted that 36 is a significant number—it's the age the three siblings in the show turned in the pilot.

This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman told Adweek last fall that he had pushed for a shorter season because he knew the series wouldn't be able to sustain the standard 22-episode order for broadcast dramas.

"[The show is] the breakout hit of the fall, as well as the No. 1 new show of the season," said Salke.

The series was an instant hit, drawing 10 million viewers on its first night, thanks to an ambitious marketing campaign that preserved the pilot's big twist. This Is Us is averaging a 2.6 rating in the 18-49 demo this season, a full ratings point higher than any of NBC's other scripted series. In live-plus-7 ratings, that number jumps to a 4.6.

Fogelman isn't worried about running out of story in the next two years. There are a lot of surprises and twists to come. "We have a plan," he said. "We know where this series is going and how we're going to keep people on their toes."

The creator, who wrote a full family history that he shared with the cast, isn't making things up on the fly. "I know where the show goes," Fogelman said. "I have a number of seasons in my brain, and we'll see as we get there." He added that given "the nature of the timeline, we'll never run out of stories."

The show has helped lead NBC to its most-watched fall season in 10 years. The network is averaging a 2.7 demo rating this season and has what NBC claims is the biggest lead for any network 17 weeks into a season. It's ahead of Fox (2.0) by 35 percent. CBS is in third with 1.9, and ABC has 1.7.

Last week, execs from Fox, which produces the show, revealed that they considered This Is Us for their own network, but handed it to NBC when they realized the show was a better fit for that network.

The Season 1 finale of This Is Us airs March 7.


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Will & Grace Is Returning to NBC Next Season for a 10-Episode Run

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:12:45 +0000

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Fox isn't the only broadcast network that's bringing back its biggest recent hits.

NBC is reviving its hit sitcom Will & Grace for a 10-episode limited run next season. NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke made the announcement at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

All four of the show's stars—Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally—will return, along with show creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan and director James Burrows, who directed every episode of the sitcom's run.

NBC has been pursuing a revival ever since the stars and creators reunited last fall for a hilarious pitch to get out the vote for Hillary Clinton.

"We're thrilled to have the show back. We've been quietly talking to Max and David since the reunion episode went viral in September to see if it was possible to align everyone's schedules to do these episodes," Salke told reporters. "And we're so happy it all worked out. We've got the cast, producers, Jimmy Burrows, everyone's on board and excited to get back in production."

The show aired from 1998 to 2006, and was the highest-rated sitcom in the 18-49 demo from 2001 to 2005. Its series finale drew an audience of 18 million.

"We're thrilled that one of the smartest, funniest, and most defining comedies in NBC history is coming back," said NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt in a statement. "This groundbreaking series for everything from gay rights to social and political commentary—all disguised as a high-speed train of witty pop culture—is coming back where it belongs."

Fox had great success last season bringing back The X-Files for a limited run, and the network hopes to replicate that with Prison Break, which returns on April 4 as a limited series.

NBC attempted to revive the ABC Craig T. Nelson sitcom Coach in 2015, giving it a straight-to-series order, but the network pulled the plug after seeing the first episode.

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Hulu's CEO on Its New Livestreaming Bundle and Getting The Golden Girls

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 13:00:00 +0000

Between rescuing The Mindy Project, launching an ad-free tier and crafting a solid lineup of original series, Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins has steadily been transforming the streaming service since he arrived in 2013. But 2017 looks to be Hulu's biggest year yet. Hulu will join the battle for cord cutters and cord-nevers with its own streaming bundle, which will launch "in the next few months," Hopkins said. The competitor to AT&T's DirecTV Now  will be priced under $40 and will include all content that Hulu's current SVOD (subscription video on demand) customers receive in the $7.99 subscription tier. That launch will  include a complete overhaul of Hulu's user interface, which will usher in several new features for all subscribers. And the service is beefing up its content both on the original side—where The Handmaid's Tale, starring Elisabeth Moss and based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel, is already looking like the critically acclaimed breakthrough Hulu has been waiting for—as well as the acquisitions side, where it picked up The Golden Girls, which debuts in February. Hopkins spoke with Adweek about what to expect from Hulu's new livestreaming service, what he's learned from the ad-tree tier and what it takes for him to consider picking up a canceled show. Adweek: Why was it so important for you to get CBS onto your upcoming livestreaming bundle, which is a network your competitors don't have? Mike Hopkins: CBS has the No. 1 network [in ages] 18-54, and they have a lot of really great programming. We're going to make this a sports-centric offering, and if you're going to make that part of your package, you have to have NFL, you have to have the complete March Madness package and all of the other great sports that they have. We thought it would be important to have the big four broadcasters, and CBS certainly rounds that package out for us. You've also struck deals with Fox, Disney and Time Warner for the new service but haven't announced agreements yet with several other big media companies, including NBCUniversal, Discovery and A+E Networks. Can we assume there will be more news on that front before the launch? Yes, that's our expectation as well. You'll also be launching with a cloud DVR, which is a feature that DirecTV Now says it will add at some point in the future. I think if you're going to have a service that really seeks to be a complete offering for consumers, many of which are used to a DVR, you have to make that part of the offering. We've been working awfully hard this year to get it right and to make it integrated seamlessly into a live and on-demand service. It's really exciting, and I think it's going to work really well. It's going to be fully functional, just like you could expect from a regular DVR. One of the big criticisms about the DirecTV Now launch was that it was buggy and rushed. You had also considered launching your own service early. What prompted you to hold back a few months until you had more of the pieces in place? For us, it's even more important than just launching the new service, because one of the advantages that we have is that we've got millions of subscribers already using our platform. And this new user interface will be for both our existing SVOD customers and the new live ones. It's one thing to launch a service with zero subscribers and then offer them a new interface. But we're going to ask our existing subs who like our current interface to try this new one, so we really have to bake it and make sure that it's great. That's one of the reasons that we took a little more time. You're going to offer different user profiles as part of the new service. Will that feature also be made available to Hulu's SVOD subscribers? Yes. In fact, a[...]


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Will Millennials Care About The CW's 'Archie' Reboot?

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:25:48 +0000

As they try to break through the Peak TV glut and grab viewers, broadcast networks have been relying heavily on new shows based on popular intellectual property (IP), like Lethal Weapon, MacGyver and the upcoming Training Day and Taken. But The CW's new drama Riverdale—based on the Archie Comics characters—offers the season's most intriguing test as to whether IP can truly help launch a show, even if its intended audience will likely have very little knowledge of the source material. Riverdale, which premieres Jan. 26, finds Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead entangled in racy storylines miles from the world of the squeaky-clean comics book, which launched in the '40s. The premiere episode alone features a murder, a hush-hush student/teacher affair and dark secrets galore. "It's an interesting conundrum: the IP builds awareness, but if you're then changing too much of the DNA, are you risking pushing the audience away?" said executive producer Greg Berlanti, who was intrigued by the opportunity to mine the originality of the characters, which had made the Archie comics so successful. "What was interesting to us was how much can we bring it into a new generation." While The CW's marketing campaigns for its other series based on comic books characters, including Berlanti's shows Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl, relied heavily on consumers' awareness of those characters, its Riverdale campaign doesn't reference Archie at all, aside from a few subtle Easter eggs. "We assumed that everyone we're reaching doesn't know who Archie is," said Rick Haskins, evp, marketing and digital programs. "Thank goodness we have the experience of [former CW hit] Gossip Girl; we know how to do these sexy, gossipy, pop-y things. That's really the playbook we're pulling from: more Gossip Girl than DC Comics." To that end, as he looked to reach women 18-34, Haskins created five major spots, all featuring popular music. The campaign includes buys on musical.ly (the popular music video social network for tweens and teens), and for the first time ever for a CW show, VOD, to target the millennial audience on their preferred viewing platforms. Despite the marketing campaign's millennial focus, The CW president Mark Pedowitz argued that the Archie brand does have some value to viewers. "The importance of the IP was it gives you a hook and something to tag it with; it started a dialogue that Archie was coming back," said Pedowitz, adding that The CW's audience isn't as young as one would guess: its linear median age is around 43 (though its digital median age is 20 years younger than that). He expects at least some old-school Archie fans will be intrigued enough to give Riverdale a try. "If those people tune in and don't like it, at least they checked it out," said Pedowitz. "And if they tune in and like it, it gives this a different flavor." And given that Archie Comics has been given an edgy revamp in recent years, "the current readership will connect what they're reading to the show," said executive producer Sarah Schechter. Buyers, meanwhile, are less interested in the value of Riverdale's IP than its potential to reach millennial woman (in the vein of Dawson's Creek and Gossip Girl, which defined The CW and its predecessor, The WB), given that the other programs targeting that demo, like Pretty Little Liars, are ending their runs, causing some of those viewers to seek out programming on other platforms. "Much of what they are offering on those other platforms isn't ad-supported, so this is a good contender in that space to speak to people," said Jill Isherwood, vp, associate director of broadcast research at GSD&M. Ultimately, however, neither the netwo[...]


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