04/07/15: USA & CNN


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


Early morning breakfast at the Rainbow Room is always a luxurious way to start the day. The press didn’t have to wait long in the WPA muraled lobby at 30 Rock this morning before they were escorted into those curvy Art Deco elevators 65 floors up.

While it might have been a cloudy day, the view from the Rainbow Roomnorth over Central Parksouth down to the Empire State Buildingis always spectacular.


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With a full slate of 9 new shows, mega stars and breaking news, USA had much to celebrate.

The Venue
The Rainbow Room’s tables were dressed with boxes of daffodils and fresh fruit bowls.

Carrot, watermelon and green vegetable juices, as well as the standard fare.  Fresh fruits, scrambled eggs with chives, Applewood smoked bacon, roasted red skin potatoes, potato pancakes, smoked salmon, individual quiches, Belgium waffles on the buffet line: it was a gourmet’s dream.

On hand and mingling freely were Donny Deutsch, Christian Slater, Josh Holloway, Jason O’Mara and John Cena.

The Pitch
Chris McCumber, President USA Network
, highlighted the net’s achievements. “Two thirds of our demographic are millennials. The others have the same values as millennials. They are confident, optimistic and brave.” McCumber stressed the word “brave,” noting that it’s a characteristic of all USA’s new lead characters.

To that end, USA announced 9 new dramas (as well as Mark Wahlberg’s Shooter) with partners such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Charlize Theron and Rob Reiner. The network is expanding its success with Chrisley Knows Best by giving Todd Chrisley his own late night talk show pilot. And with the Chrisley children going off to college, Dad intends to join them in a pilot spinoff.

In sports, USA will expand its relationship with the WWE. The new promo premiered, entitled For the Hero In All of Us. McCumber was quick to point out that the WWE has a social media platform of more than 100,000,000 users. John Cena, WWE wrestler, and a handsome man who looks like he could eat a tree for breakfast, told the group that SMACKDOWN will be joining USA in 1Q 2016. The network is also adding the reality show WWE TOUGH ENOUGH which will begin airing June 23. Cena is particularly pumped about the show, he said, “because I’ll see who the up and coming wrestlers are.” USA continues to air RAW and is the exclusive cable home to WWE.

Actual cheers rang out when McCumber announced that after 35 years the Stanley Cup, in association with NBC, would be returning to the network.

The Slate
Of the shows previewed, several seemed particularly interesting. Mr. Robot, starring Rami Malek and Christian Slater, is a techno thriller filled with anonymous hackers. Or as McCumber said, “Social Network meets Fight Club.” “I’m just a tech,” explains Malek’s character. The phrase has the promise of becoming as popular as “make my day.” Christian Slater told Cynopsis that the show really “rests on Malek. He’s a bro.” The Robot will premiere on June 24 at 10pm.

Matt Nix, creator of Burn Notice, has offered up Complications to the network. The show, starring Jason O’Mara and Jessica Szohr, revolves around an average ER doc who saves a teen from a driveby shooting and inadvertently gets involved in a gang war. O’Mara told Cynopsis that he always wanted to be a doctor but didn’t think he was smart enough. “Too many science classes,” he said wryly. The series premieres June 18 at 9 p.m.

Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies will star in “Colony,” a drama about “occupied Los Angeles.” It’s slated for 4Q 2015, and is exec produced by Bates Motel EP Carlton Cuse. And Playing House will return for a second season with a twist: Each week viewers will be allowed to preview the following week’s episode on their On-Demand platform.

In the comedy arena, Donny Deutsch will play himself in Donny, a show the adman/commentator created.  Donny is about a talk show host who according to McCumber, “can’t keep his foot out of his mouth.’’ The clip got a big reaction from the audience.

It’s all about the Pitch
According to Peter Lazarus, SVP Advertising Sales, the network has been effective in explaining to clients why the WWE is a great environment for USA advertisers. “The WWE is not about blood, gore or sex. It’s about athletics and entertainment. When you go to one of their events, it’s like going to a Broadway show. Mostly, what you see in the audience are families…so family brands like Kellogg’s are becoming interested in spots on the WWE shows.” For the rest of the network, Lazarus notes that customization is key. “We tell them what we can offer and they tell us what they need, and then we try to make it happen.”

Just Asking

Favorite Social Media
“Instagram,” says Suits star Patrick J Adams. “Pictures are worth a thousand words and I’m too lazy to write a thousand words.”
“Instagram. It’s the only media I’m on at all, or ever have been.” Sarah Wayne Callies

Job You’d Love But Know You’ll Never Have
“Part time professor/part time archaeologist. In a fedora.” Patrick J Adams.
“Interior Designer.” Jessica Szohr
“Go on tour with Wilco as their drummer.” Chris McCumber
“Weatherman. You can be wrong every day and not get fired. I’d also like to be a rock star, because who wouldn’t?” Sarah Wayne Callies
“Novelist living abroad. The wine drinking, mustache type, in a suit that looks and feels like he sleeps in it.” Rami Malek
“President of the United States.” Christian Slater

Favorite Guilty Pleasure TV Show
Sometimes I wish it would never end. Because laughing until I cry is something I try to do as often as possible.” Patrick J Adams.
“The Bachelor.” Jessica Szohr
“Shark Tank.” Chris McCumber
“I don’t watch much TV but I saw a few episodes of Shark Tank the other day and couldn’t look away. I found myself in tears at the end, watching the one about the lady selling gumbo.” Sarah Wayne Callies
“Cartoons. Looney Tunes. Tom and Jerry.Rami Malek
The Voice, because it’s fun.” Christian Slater, Jason O’Mara

Food You’re most looking forward to on the buffet line
“Bacon. Who doesn’t like bacon?” Chris McCumber

–Reported by Meredith Berlin



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CNN, which launched in 1980 as The Cable News Network, might now also stand for Creating New Niches, as it continues to broaden its definition of news coverage under the guidance of CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker.

What’s the pitch?
The first 24-hour news channel, CNN still informs around the clock but with an evolving mix of “live news, original series, and films across all our distribution properties, including digital and international,” says Katrina Cukaj, CNN’s EVP of Ad Sales. “This has been a key strategy for us, and we have been quite successful.”

Cukaj is also touting to advertisers the new rebrand of HLN, and its “social first, all-screens” news and lifestyle focus.

Rate All About It
The successful strategy Cukaj cites is reflected in just released 2015 first quarter numbers:CNN was up 22 % in P2+ total day, 20% in 25-54 total day, and in primetime M-SU up 8% in P2+ and 11% in 25-54 vs. a year ago.HLN was up 27% in total day, 33% in 25-54 total day, and in primetime M-SU up 13% in viewers and 11% in 25-54 vs. a year ago.

New categories you want to break?
For CNN, technology, studio business, and travel. Beginning in September 2015, CNNgo is forming a media partnership with Lexus and Canon through which the brands will share research and insights into digital advertising.

“Another big initiative is that we took over sales for CNN Money, so that’s a new business for us on the sales end,” Cukaj said. “We’ll be going out to market within the financial category but also other verticals within the CNN Money family, such as media and luxury.”

For HLN, T-Mobile “has been a big rebrand launch partner,” says Cukaj. The network is also partnering with Holiday Inn on an original documentary series called Growing America, in which MBA students travel around the U.S. helping small businesses improve their companies, and “Match.com just signed up for BeautyLicious: Offline,” a new reality series featuring YouTube star Chelsea Crockett.

How would you characterize your competitive edge?
“Trust and credibility. We’ve been around a long time, and those are the factors that our advertisers look for and what makes us stand out,” says Cukaj.

News To Us
“Within the live news bucket, we’re gearing up for election 2016,” says Cukaj. “This is going to be one of the biggest tent poles in the marketplace from every angle: social, digital, and event-based. We’re going to have a lot of fun with that.”

The network has partnered with The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation to host its GOP presidential candidates debate on September 16th, 2015 at the Reagan Library.

The network will also premiere five documentary films in 2016, including Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, directed by Academy® Award-winning director Alex Gibney.

What defines success for you this upfront season?
“From a sales standpoint, driving more revenue to the company, continuing to diversify and grow our advertiser base, and having advertisers recognize the rebranding of HLN,” says Cukaj. “And most importantly, achieving those business results for our clients. At the end of the day, it’s all about them.”

Just Asking…
Chris Cuomo, co-anchor of CNN’s New Day, reported some news of his own by answering our “getting to know you” questions.

Guilty pleasure TV show?
Wicked Tuna – binge, baby!

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
To know the truth of any situation that has ever happened, and will ever happen

Beatles or Stones?

What was your least favorite subject in school?

–Reported by Rod Granger

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

The Gansevoort Park Hotel will be the venue for the POP press breakfast this Thursday, and we’ll be ready to scoop up all the bubbly info for you.

“A bigger commitment to premium programming” is where A+E Networks is headed, according to Peter Olsen, Executive Vice President, National Ad Sales.

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

Cynopsis Ad Sales: Mike Farina | VP, Sales | 203-218-6480

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