04/09/15: POP and A&E


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BEHIND THE SCENES at the Upfronts
The People! The Parties! The Buzz!a

We’ve got the Upfront updates on POP and A+E Networks…..


If you’re a hipster visiting NYC, you might stay at the Gansevoort Park hotel. If you’re a fledgling network, trying to capture said hipsters, it’s also the perfect spot to hold your Upfront. POP, the new network from CBS and Lionsgate, (formerly known as the TV Guide Network) is already boasting more than 300 hours of original programming, hot talent and a trounce of the competition. And they just launched on January 14th.


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What’s to Eat?
Little glasses of mixed nuts and fruit smoothies. Fresh fruit skewers. French toast, frittatas, bagels with cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onion and capers. Huge mugs for coffee. And best of all: a donut bar. Plain donuts were displayed with toppings to try sprinkles, fresh berries, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce. The smartly dressed Pop executives were studiously avoiding it, until some pleasure-seekers counting on their spin classes for later decided to grab the donuts and fill their plates.

The Look
The clubby room on the second floor was a cross between a designer Wyoming ranch and hip industrial loft. Thick carpets, lemon velvet and black leather couches mixed with plain wood coffee tables and wide plank floors. Glass planters were full of yellow roses and blue crocuses.

Singing Sopranos
Guests were serenaded by Vassar’s a cappella group, The Devils, who began with a swinging rendition of Fly Me to the Moon. It was also an intro to one of the network’s new shows, Sing It On, a docu-reality series about college competitions between a cappella groups. The show is co-produced by John Legend and Ty Stiklorius, who became friends when they both were members of Penn’s a cappella, Counterparts.

In the Bag
Guests went home with rugged navy backpack/picnic baskets. The zippered compartments contained elegant plates and glasses, cutlery, a corkscrew, bottle tops, a mini wood cheese board and cloth napkins. A side compartment held a bottle of Hubert Paulet Champagne, 2004. Attached to the backpack was a waterproof blanket, and inside were sturdy Zippo binoculars in their own case: perfect for bird or celebrity watching.

The Pitch
is the tagline for Pop, which is courting 30-40 year olds who have disposable income and want to stay cool by being in touch with fan culture and social media. The strategy seems to be working. Pop President Brad Schwartz said, “The launch introduced an entirely new brand personality, channel design and original programming that advertisers and audiences are rapidly embracing.” He is quick to add that Pop is growing, when all other pop culture/ entertainment channels are down. “We provide an efficient place for advertisers to re-allocate dollars lost on competitors’ declines.”

The Slate
In addition to Sing It On, Queens of Drama focuses on former soap sirens starting their own daytime drama and will star Vanessa Marcil, Chrystee Pharris, Crystal Hunt and Hunter Tylo. Look for special appearances by soap queens Donna Mills and Joan Collins.….Unusually Thicke is a reality family sitcom starring Alan Thicke, wife Tanya and “know it all son” Carter. Surely there will be room for another son, Robin?

Shows in development include The Elvis Duran Project and Celebrity Inc, which seems to be a twist on Shark Tank. John Stamos hosts the pilot Losing It, where celebs talk about the first time they had sex. The clip showed Newsroom’s Olivia Munn telling her story to Stamos. “I said to the guy, ‘Is that all there is?’”

Critically acclaimed Schitt’s Creek will be returning; star and co-creator (with son Daniel) Eugene Levy was on hand to explain the show’s success. “I just want to gush,” admitted Eugene Levy. “I’m a proud papa of both this show and my son. He isn’t only a great writer, he’s also terrific with costume-she was able to run down $7,000 dresses on Craig’s List and secondhand stores.” Levy says the idea for the show came from series like Keeping up with the Kardashians. “What if the Kardashians lost everything? I thought a show like that would be a great idea.” Levy added that growing up, his favorite comedy was The Andy Griffith Show because the laughs came not from jokes, but from the characters. He feels Schitt’s Creek, too, derives comedy from character.

Us Vs. Them
Schwartz believes that by responding to fandom, Pop sets itself apart. “Fandom has never been more relevant in culturefans are tweeting during their favorite shows, contributing to Kickstarter campaigns to bring their favorite shows back and even naming their fandoms (e.g., Gladiators, Little Monsters, Tributes, Blockheads). We super-serve them by creating fun content around things that already have an inherent following.”

What Clients Are Saying
“Advertisers are excited to be in business with a media brand that is rapidly growing, culturally relevant, vibrant and backed by the support of amazing owners,” believes Schwartz. He says clients are “rooting for Pop in a landscape of competitive networks with eroding audiences and higher pricing while under-delivering against sales estimates.” 

The network added 20 new advertisers in first quarter, 2015, according to Michael Rissetto, VP, Pricing and Planning, including Pepsi, GM and Edible Arrangements. Advertisers are responding to our position in the marketplace, the value and the fact that we have delivered our guarantee of audience,” said Rissetto.

Just Asking….

What’s Your Favorite Form of Social Media?
“I like Instagram the best because it’s like keeping a mini album of your life as it goes by.  Also, you get to view the lives of people you follow in a visual way.” Donna Mills

Anything that doesn’t require clever or funny.” Eugene Levy

I like Twitter; if you can’t be funny, at least you have to be brief. How many characters did I just use?” Alan Thicke

What’s the one job you’d love to have but never will?
“Interior designer. I actually thought seriously about it at one? point, but wouldn’t want to do it unless I had proper schooling and that would take a long time at this point.” Donna Mills

A dancer. Can’t dance to save my life.” Daniel Levy

Playing Riff in West Side Story.” Eugene Levy

“I’d love Tom Brady’s job even without the Giselle part.” Alan Thicke

Guilty Pleasure TV show
“Joel Osteen
.” Eugene Levy

I just finished The Jinx and I’m only feeling guilty about how absolutely terrified I was for days after finishing the last episode.” Daniel Levy

“ESPN’s Around the Horn…guys who never played the game yelling and bitching about the ones who do.” Alan Thicke

Reported by Meredith Berlin


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A+E Networks

Some companies speculate that in the evolving distribution landscape network, brands will forfeit their importance to individual shows. A+E Networks would not be one of those companies. “We reject that premise,” says Peter Olsen, Executive Vice President, National Ad Sales. Olsen is taking that message to the Upfronts this year, emphasizing a return to the core brand for each of its cache of networks including A&E, Lifetime, History, H2, LMN and FYI. He cites the addition of two Critics Choice Awards shows – the Movie Awards debuted in January and Television Awards will bow May 31 – to A&E, as well as a new slate of History miniseries, including a remake of Roots, as examples of how A+E is programming the kind of content viewers expect from the network they expect to watch it on.

What’s the pitch this Upfront?
“Brands matter and will matter no matter where the business goes,” says Olsen. “The discussion is, What’s going to happen to bundles, how are people going to consume content? Content is important, but content in the context of a brand really matters. So brand, content and then allowing everyone to have access are the big three pillars of corporate planning for us.”

What’s the big programming trend this year?
“Everyone is seeking the next scripted hit,” says Olsen. “In 2009, there were 12 cable networks that did original scripted programing and they did 54 shows. In 2014, there were 25 networks doing original scripted and there were 109 shows. Whether it’s in distribution, international, or ad revenue, the fully distributed networks are being defined by their biggest scripted hits, and that’s an important part of where we are going as company – a bigger commitment to premium programming.”

Shows to Look Out For
“I think Smile has tremendous potential to surprise people,” says Eli Lehrer, Senior Vice President, Non-Fiction Programming at Lifetime. “On its face, it seems like a slightly silly, perhaps odd, idea – we find people with bad teeth and give a dental transformation. But when people see the depth of change that the new teeth bring to our subjects, they’re going to be incredibly moved.”

“On the scripted side, Texas Rising is a big swing for us,” says Dirk Hoogstra, Executive Vice President and General Manager, History and H2.

What’s the biggest challenge?
“The distribution landscape is changing quickly. Technology is allowing viewers to access content differently than they used to and measurement companies are having trouble keeping up,” says Olsen. “Even business models are being stretched to keep up with the consumer. We’ve been more committed to original programming and it’s got to be in all the different genres that make sense for us. It’s about brand elevation. We’re constantly looking at the relevance of the network.”

What new advertising categories do you want to break?
“It’s more client by client in terms of what makes more sense to us,” says Olsen. “We do believe that a lot of emerging technology is changing categories. So it’s about being in early conversations with emerging segments and sub-segments of markets.”

What are you hearing from advertisers?
“They’re clearly seeking newer platforms, trying to figure out what their consumers are doing,” reports Olsen. “It seems like every day there’s another announcement of someone injecting their data into the landscape and frankly, marketers are a little overwhelmed. But the vast majority of video is still being seen on the big screen.”
“Our powerful brand provides a high-quality, premium environment for advertisers,” says History’s Dirk Hoogstra. “They want to partner with premium brands.”

How are you keeping up with evolving platforms?
“We are partnering in a bigger way with Facebook and LiveRail on the digital data front… and we’re working with Rovi for the television [platform],” says Olsen. “So we are immersing ourselves in advanced audience targeting and developing platforms to bring advertisers more of a robust buy.”

Renewed emphasis on the A and the E…
“A&E was an arts and entertainment network, going back 10 years. Then it morphed into a general entertainment network. Now we’re reimagining that blend, revisiting our roots and thinking about what arts and entertainment look like in the world we’re in now,” shares Olsen. “Bringing in the Critics’ Choice Awards is one way we are emphasizing the network’s roots. Some networks have started their own version of an awards show, with mixed success. We decided to acquire the rights to something that has been around, believing that the brand name means something for the Critics Choice Awards. Look at what happened with the Golden Globes, what it was seven years ago compared to today. We want to take an established show and work to make it more relevant to the times we’re in. And live programming is somewhat DVR-proof.”

Just asking…
Rutledge Wood, star of History’s Top Gear and Lost In Transmission, Shiri Appleby of Lifetime’s UnReal and Clive Stanton from History’s Vikings get up close and personal.

Why should people watch your show?
Wood: It’s a really fun way to learn about cars, history, and why people love cars so much. What they represent to this country is a lot more than just a mode of transportation, and I think Lost In Transmission shows why old cars can mean so much to people.
Stanton: Because there really is nothing like it on your TV screens…it’s visceral, otherworldly and at times fantastical. An historical drama, full of action, adventure and intrigue, following a race of people never explored in this amount of detail before on screen, and right at the heart of all that, it’s a family saga that we can all relate to. Event TV at its best.

What’s your favorite social media platform?
Twitter has been my favorite for years because of the direct and immediate response you get from people watching your shows. I love being able to live tweet with them during shows and answer questions they have. Plus I get to share some fun stories there about stuff that doesn’t always make it to the show itself.
Appleby: I love Instagram. How great that people are now walking around thinking of taking photographs all day long? It’s a very creative way to share your experiences.
Stanton: I like Twitter. It gives me a broader and more direct connection to fans, being able to communicate and answer questions regarding projects I’m working on.

What’s your hidden talent?
My hidden talent is a toss-up between home baker and dressmaker. I’m a newbie at both but go at them with a strong passion.

Quote of the Day
“Scripted is still dominating the buzz factor, but in this competitive landscape it’s about what’s breaking through. There are still plenty of reality hits…in any genre, the cream rises to the top.”  Dirk Hoogstra

– Reported by Cathy Applefeld Olson

Coming up in “Backstage at the Upfronts,” hitting your mailbox at 6pm!

ASPiRE founder Magic Johnson talks about whether or not he misses basketball.

“We’re going to double – if not triple – ad dollars.” Fightin’ words from Michael Finn, Senior VP Sales for El Rey.

Keep Watching & Reading,
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Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group 

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