04/20/15: Cynopsis Media: 2015 Upfront Recap



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Cynopsis Media: 2015 Upfront Recap

04/20/15

Ratings growth and robust slates were the talk of Upfronts last week, as it becomes clear that this season, it all comes down to brand identity.

April 15
National Geographic Channels

National Geographic Channels chose midtown Manhattan eatery Ma Peche as the site for a dramatic Upfront rollout…and a little birthday celebration.

National Geographic Channel enters Upfronts on the heels of its most-watched March in network history, thanks to its most-watched show ever, Killing Jesus. The goal is the keep the momentum going with a 2015-2016 slate offering bold new programming, and brand-new partnerships. “National  Geographic Channel is the  only  network on television with a 127-year legacy. For us, the power of this brand  comes from the innovators and explorers before us who dared to redefine possibility  and heroically forged against  convention,” said National Geographic Channels CEO Courteney Monroe. “As evident in the diverse and ambitious programming that we continue to develop and produce, we’re taking our viewers on adventures, bringing them to places no one else can deliver and giving them the inspiration and curiosity to dive into the unknown.”

New series include anthology Breakthrough, a partnership with GE, focused on cutting-edge innovations, from Imagine Entertainment‘s Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and Asylum Entertainment.Among the directors involved: Angela Bassett, Peter Berg, Paul Giamatti, Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard and Brett Ratner. Also on the way: 50 States of Survival, showcasing modern ingenuity; Primal Survival, about the fight for life in extreme conditions; competition series The Great Human Race and shipbuilding + remote Alaska docu-series The Yard.

Event series Saints & Strangers tackles the tribulations of the first American settlers and yearlong event America’s National Parks, a partnership with sister net Nat Geo WILD and the National Parks System, offers two new hours of North America’s natural wonders per quarter, while History of the World…For Now takes viewers on a more irreverent romp.

“This year’s Upfront slate is a testament to our programming commitment to rise above the clutter, to keep true to our core and to deliver on the authenticity that our viewers crave and rely on,” said Tim Pastore, president, original programming and production.

On the heels of its most-watched and highest-rated year ever, Nat Geo WILD is marking its fifth anniversary with a returning series, new shows, specials and events that target a very specific viewer. “In this time of intense disruption and competition, having a strong brand identity and understanding of your audience is more important than ever,” said Courteney Monroe. “At Nat Geo WILD, we have both! We are a network for anyone who loves animals as much as we do, and our Upfront slate reflects this perfectly.”

Joining returning series, more than half of which star veterinarians (The Incredible Dr. Pol is the net’s number one show) are newcomers Vet School and Animal Storm Squad, about an animal disaster-relief specialist. A new summer series, Biggest & Baddest, will feature explorer Niall McCann, and natural history specials include Wild Yellowstone, Wild Sri Lanka, Wild Atlantic and Wild South Africa.

Upcoming events include the returns of Big Cat Week, with five world premiere specials and Barkfest, as well as Sharkfest, offering insights and in-depth profiles of the likes of hammerheads and the great white (“We’re leaving the scare tactics and mockumentaries to others,” says the net).

“Our new Upfront slate delivers something great for every member of the family with the kind of awe-inspiring, unexpected and visually stunning original programming making us the No. 1 destination for the best wildlife content in the world,” said EVP and general manager Geoff Daniels.


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April 14

ABC Family

ABC Family announced it is doubling its original programming slate over the next four years, with a mix of scripted and reality series. Renewed scripted hits Pretty Little Liars, Switched at Birth and The Fosters will be joined by Stitchers, Becoming Us and Kevin From Work this summer; Shadowhunters, based on young adult book series The Mortal Instruments, and drama Recovery Road are slated for fall. Eight additional shows are in development. “We are going to expand in all genres,” said EVP Programming Karey Burke. “The goal is to get more year-round originals, so we need to have more of everything.”

The net is targeting what it calls “becomers,” women from their mid-teens to late 20s. “Becomers are exploring and establishing who they are becoming  personally, professionally and romantically – they live in that magical and messy place between their first kiss and their first kid,” said ABC Family president Tom Ascheim. And to serve their media habits, the net is launching the next generation of its WATCH ABC Family app this summer. “Our audience is comprised of mobile natives," said Ascheim. “They live in a digital world and have the expectation that their shows will be available to them on whatever device they are on. The WATCH ABC Family app delivers on that expectation. Our next generation will put the social tools our audience loves next to the shows they want to talk about.”


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TV One

TV One talked up ratings growth at its Upfront lunch at NYC’s Helen Mills. “I think TV One is going to be in the best position it’s ever been in,” said net president Brad Siegel. “We just finished a record-breaking first quarter. We are the only network in our competitive set that’s growing and growing big. We’re up 26 percent in persons 25-54, and if we look at a broadcast prime, 8-11, we’re up 45 percent in persons 18-49 and 36 percent in persons 25-54. So, we have had tremendous growth and we’re going to continue that growth because it’s being fueled by our investment in original programming and marketing. I think we go into the Upfront with a great message.”

What makes TV One stand out? “We’re the only 100 percent, or soon-to-be 100 percent, minority-owned network,” said Siegel. “We’re the only network with a real growth story across every demographic. And I think our programming strategy is working.”

That strategy includes comedies Born Again Virgin, premiering this summer, and Mitch N’ Max, a twist on The Odd Couple, arriving in 3Q15. True crime series Unstoppable and reality series The Next 15 debut in 4Q15, with local news parody The Weekly Show bowing early next year. Among a slew of new and original world premiere movies are For the Love of Ruth, based on the Biblical book of Ruth, romantic comedy Will to Love, boxing drama Ringside and uplifting original Runaway Island.

In development: scripted comedy The Family Plot, drama Brooklyn Faith, and docu-series Debutantes, Biker Girlz, It’s Good to Be Me and Strippers (wt).

What’s next? “You’re going to start to see shows where the characters are more fully developed and a bit more complex, dealing with issues that are of the moment, that will make them more relevant,” says Lindsay. “The opportunity to create anchors that can drive the network is there.”


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