Folks in the movie business sometimes argue with me when I tell them that the most powerful executive in Hollywood lives in Philadelphia. But that debate should end if Brian Roberts’ Comcast buys Time Warner …
Most of the coverage has been about Leno taking with him a commanding ratings lead in late-night, not only among total viewers but also in the 18-49 age bracket advertisers covet. And in the days leading up to his exit, The Reporters Who Cover Television dusted off think pieces about Leno leaving the show in the wake of a demographic shift affecting millions of baby boomers who are being pushed aside to make way for a younger generation with different sensibilities. In many ways, Leno’s handoff to Fallon does mirror the first time the press wrote those think pieces, when NBC replaced Leno with his lead-out, Conan O’Brien in 2009 – a plan that famously flamed out over seven months.
But the bigger news here is the incredible gift Leno’s been given: a handoff do-over.
It’s a loaded gift for Leno. He owes much of his ratings success, and longevity, to the fact that he’s much adored in flyover country — Leno won last month’s 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll asking which late-night host was most likely to make you laugh, handily beating his latest replacement Fallon, his first replacement O’Brien, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Craig Ferguson. But the media doesn’t like Leno so much, having pegged him decades ago as the closet-hiding, eavesdropper who backstabbed their late-night crushes Letterman and, later, O’Brien.
Probably no network would’ve benefited by a football boost on Thursday more than NBC, which has been struggling mightily on the night. Instead, the NFL’s Thursday primetime games went to the network that regularly wins the night, CBS, with the biggest scripted show on television, comedy The Big Bang Theory. By snatching half of the NFL Thursday package, CBS ensures that its Thursday lineup won’t have to face football on another broadcast network. The limited scope of the commitment — eight weeks, half of the length of Sunday Night Football on NBC — and its timing early into the TV season (NFL Network got the late-season games) are expected to have lesser impact on CBS’ Thursday schedule than SNF has on NBC. That means that Big Bang Theory, which has been anchoring CBS’ Thursday lineup since fall 2010, most likely will stay put.
Two of the eight games will air before the beginning of the TV season, so CBS will launch its regular Thursday lineup at the beginning of November this fall. With networks more and more staggering their fall rollouts, that is not that late. (The CW has been employing an October fall rollout for the past couple of seasons.) CBS can use its fall-launch marketing dollars for the rest of the nights and then rely on football to hype its Thursday shows. I hear the promotional opportunity for the Thursday primetime football games was a big draw for CBS brass as they can get more eyeballs for the trailers of their new shows in the two weeks leading to the beginning of the season. Additionally, NFL football gives extra ratings muscle to a night where CBS already has been dominant and where advertisers traditionally love to spend premium dollars heading into the weekend.
PILOT SEASON: Walls Of Vertical Integration Fall Down As Orders For Projects From Rival Networks’ In-House Studios Skyrocket
It was 1999, the height of the cold war among the broadcast networks. Following the 1995 elimination of the fin-syn rules, which allowed networks to begin producing their own series, ABC, CBS and NBC started building up their in-house production arms with one mandate – to churn out product the nets would own. Cross-pollinating was considered almost heretic. Then in 1999, an ABC-based company, Jerry Bruckheimer TV, didn’t fold after getting a “no” from the network on its CSI pitch, instead setting the forensic drama at rival CBS. But vertical integration got in the way, with ABC deciding it wouldn’t be prudent to subsidize a rival by deficit financing the newly picked-up series — a $1 billion blunder for Disney as CSI went on to become a global hit. The last-minute pullout by ABC that left CBS scrambling put extra chill on the networks’ willingness to buy from the in-house production company of another network. (Fox sibling 20th Century Fox TV had long established itself as a major studio selling to everyone.)
Fast forward to 2014 when a whopping 10 projects from ABC Studios (5), Universal TV (3) and CBS TV Studios (2) have received series or pilot orders at rival broadcast networks so far, with pickups still underway. Here is how we got here. The ice among the broadcasters started to thaw a little in the mid-2000s. ABC’s in-house studio landed another hit on CBS with drama Criminal Minds, which it stayed with, and NBC’s production arm fielded a couple of short-lived series including Worst Week for CBS and Sons And Daughters for ABC. During the 2011 pilot season, there were two pilots from ABC’s, CBS’ or NBC’s production arms at rival networks: Weekends At Bellevue at Fox from Universal TV’s predecessor Universal Media Studios, and Ringer at CBS from ABC Studios. (Fox and UMS had an existing relationship via Fox’s hit drama House, sold by then-independent Universal Television just before its merger with NBC, while ABC Studios pulled out when Ringer moved to CBS sibling the CW.)
The Times They Are a-Changin’ in the broadcasting TV business. We’re in the first leg of pilot season but it feels a little bit like May — there are pilot orders, but there are also a ton of series orders, and everything in-between. The signs were already there in the fall — an unusually high volume of series pickups and early pilot orders heading into the official pilot season. And then Fox kicked off the annual winter TCA press tour last Monday with the announcement that it was abandoning pilot season. All other networks weighed in on the subject, and while none joined Fox’s Kevin Reilly in his R.I.P. Pilot Season proclamation, most have already been implementing some aspects of the strategy of gearing development towards series and trying to shift pilot production outside of the traditional January-April window when around 100 pilots vie for the same director, acting and showrunner talent.
But the changes, especially with ambitious drama projects that have been put on series track for production off-season, are creating challenges, exacerbated by the fact that those changes were not introduced at the beginning of the development cycle but in the middle of it, sending studios scrambling to adjust. There are several drama projects that are earmarked for series orders but are not slated to film until after the end of pilot season. Fox last week gave drama Runner (working title), from sibling 20th TV, what it calls “an off-cycle commitment for further investment towards series production” this summer. At least one other drama, Warner Bros. TV/Jerry Bruckheimer’s family thriller Home, is expected to get the same order, which involves the hiring of a small writing staff and penning additional scripts and a bible in anticipation of a series order. NBC on Sunday gave a 10-episode order to Uni TV’s dark Wizard Of Oz drama Emerald City, which too is setting up a writers room but will likely cast after May.
The model gives big in scope serialized projects the extra time they need to get their ambitious premises on track but it leaves networks without footage to show to advertisers at the upfronts. And worse, it leaves studios with no pilot to show to international buyers at the LA Screenings that immediately follow the May upfronts. Foreign pre-sales are crucial for studios, especially for expensive, high-end dramas that they take a big financial risk on deficit financing. Scripts and a bible are great, but buyers want to see tape or at the least, know which actors are in the series. I hear some studios are considering shopping the finished pilots to individual international broadcasters, which is a laborious task and it may also put studios at a disadvantage as buyers could be already stocked up for the season whereas they come to LA in May with open slates and wallets. Another option is what ABC did for its Once Upon A Time spinoff last year where the network shot a 19-minute presentation that was screened for advertisers in New York in May and for international buyers at the LA Screenings. But that would involve casting the project, or at least a number of roles during pilot season, something Fox and other networks are trying to get away from to avoid the fierce competition for talent.
I don’t think I’ve seen this before — by the end of the Winter TCA, two broadcast networks, NBC and Fox, are almost done with their pilot orders. Of course, the orders this year are not just for pilots as the networks — especially Fox, and to some extent NBC — are mixing things up with series pickups and commitments and pilot “prototypes.” Here is where things stand.
Fox has 10 projects with a series order — or a variation of it — in production for next season: two event series, Wayward Pines and Gracepoint; 6-episode comedy Mulaney; 13-episode dramas Hieroglyph and Backstrom; Glenn Gordon Caron/Ben Affleck’s The Middle Man, which has five scripts written and is casting; a few pilots that are designed to go to series, including comic book drama Gotham and Spanish series adaptation Red Band Society, which are opening writers rooms, and comedies Fatrick and Cabot College (formerly untitled Matt Hubbard). Additionally, the network has serialized thrilled drama Runner, set against the U.S.-Mexico war over weapons and terrorism, on a series path with an order for additional scripts and a bible for off-cycle production, with another complex serialized drama, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced family thriller Home, expected to join it. The network also has a cast-contingent comedy pilot, Here’s Your Damn Family, produced by Johnny Galecki. Fox is expected to make a couple of more orders, with comedy Weird Loners said to be on the pickup runway and Will Forte’s Last Man On Earth and Dead Boss among those in contention.
NBC has ordered eight comedy pilots, two straight-to-series comedies (Tina Fey/Robert Carlock, Mr. Robinson), eight drama pilots and the 10-episode straight-to-series Wizard Of Oz project Emerald City, which, like Runner and Home, will set up a writers room and start working on backup scripts and a bible before going into production off-season. Another big-swing drama, John Glenn’s immaculate conception project, too has been given an order for backup scripts in lieu of a pilot order. With several event and miniseries also on tap (The Slap, Rosemary’s Baby), NBC is pretty much set on the drama side, with another pickup or two a possibility, and likely will order a couple of more comedy pilots, with the adaptation of the Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit and a Joe Port-Joe Wiseman half-hour among the hot prospects.
Q&A: MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman On WWE Network, Sony’s Virtual Pay TV Plans, And What’s Next For Streaming Video
The new year has barely started, yet I already have a candidate for the eventual list of 2014′s most influential media execs: MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman. His sports-focused streaming video and Internet operation is poised to become an entertainment power following the announcements at International CES this month that it will drive two potentially ground-breaking new services. On February 24, WWE will launch a subscription-based online video channel, WWE Network, that will include live and on-demand library programming. (Bowman sat on the WWE board from 2003-2008.) And Sony turned heads with its plan to introduce a Web-based pay TV service that will include live programming from channels that are only available now to subscribers of traditional cable, satellite, and telco video services. MLBAM’s state-of-the-art infrastructure already handles live and on-demand streaming for college basketball’s March Madness, CBS Sports, and ESPN3, as well as Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze TV and in 2012 handled Obama for America campaign videos. As its business grows, financial types wonder whether baseball execs might take MLBAM public. So it’s a heady time for Bowman, who became Michigan’s state treasurer in 1983 at age 27 and went on to become COO of ITT Corp. Deadline checked in with the MLBAM chief to find out more about his plans with WWE and Sony, and the prospects for streaming video. Here are his thoughts, edited for length and clarity.
DEADLINE: Why do you consider the WWE Network so noteworthy?
BOWMAN: Economically it’s one of our largest clients for sure. In that sense it’s incredibly important. But what’s more important than dollars is this is the most vertically integrated brand in America. Vince McMahon controls everything soup to nuts — from the idea in his head to how it appears on every screen around the world. And he just demonstrated [at CES] he’s going to try and change what the economic rules are. He’s in an ideal situation to do that. That’s why a lot of the content players are going to watch this very carefully.
The success on other nights this fall has made NBC‘s ratings struggles on Thursday even more glaring. “Thursday night is a real challenge for us, something that we’re well aware of as we head into pilot season and start to think about the fall schedule next year,” NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt said at TCA today. “Comedy has proven to be very difficult for us.” No kidding. This past Thursday, The Michael J. Fox Show hit a series low of 0.6 rating in 18-49, a number a show rarely logs and lives to see another airing. ”We’re, obviously, not happy about a .6 for any show and especially for Michael J. Fox,” Greenblatt said. “We like that show. We like Sean Hayes’ show a lot. Creatively, we think they’re good shows, and we’re really unhappy that we can’t find an audience for them in those time periods. So we’re going to still work hard to see what we can do on Thursday nights. It is a real, real uphill battle.”
Greenblatt’s initial assessment of Michael J. Fox Show‘s renewal chances was pretty grim: “Obviously, we have to see how it plays out for the next few months and then get in the scheduling room and make some hard decisions. It’s not anywhere near where we’d like it to be.” He got more optimistic as the session went on. “I’d love to figure out a way to bring it back,” he said. “We may move it around the schedule a little bit.”
For those who missed the Primetime Emmy Awards in September, there was a repeat at the SAG Awards tonight, with Modern Family winning the top comedy prize for a fourth straight time and Breaking Bad topping the drama field for the first time. “What a way to go out in style,” Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston exclaimed when accepting the best drama ensemble trophy for the show’s final season. That going out in style included a sweep for the acclaimed AMC drama, which won both categories it was nominated in — best drama series ensemble and best actor in a drama series for Cranston, his second consecutive win. It was also the second consecutive year that three time Emmy winner Cranston left the Shrine Auditorium with two SAG trophies — last year he won best actor for Breaking Bad and shared best feature ensemble for Argo.
Related: 20th Annual SAG Awards – Live Blog
Best comedy ensemble victor Modern Family also was a double winner tonight, with Ty Burrell earning the first individual SAG Award for the show. He ended Alec Baldwin’s incredible streak of seven consecutive wins for actor in a comedy series. Because of a SAG Awards rule quirk, 30 Rock qualified for the SAG Awards for an eighth year, even through the comedy ran for seven seasons. The Emmy-winning NBC comedy landed three nominations — for best comedy ensemble, Baldwin, and last year’s comedy actress winner Tina Fey — but for the first time in its history left without a single statuette. Burrell’s win means that three-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons, on his third consecutive SAG Award nomination, is yet to get a win as is the ensemble of his show, three-time nominee The Big Bang Theory.
Can you blame Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “forgetting” what awards show she was at while accepting her best comedy actress SAG Award for HBO’s Veep? She has been a fixture on the awards circuit for the past two years and is the two-time reigning Emmy champion. And let us all just agree that while Maggie Smith is playing the deliciously cantankerous elder Lady Grantham on Downton Abbey, she automatically gets at least one major acting award a year. In 2011 and 2012 it was an Emmy, last year it was a Golden Globe, now she won her first individual SAG Award (she also shared in the show’s best drama ensemble trophy last year.)
UPDATE: ABC & ‘Bachelor’ Producers Condemn ‘Bachelor’ Star Juan Pablo Galavis’ Gay People Are “Pervert” Comments As “Careless”, He Apologizes
2ND UPDATE: The damage control tour by The Bachelor star Juan Pablo Galavis continues with another apology, this time to the gay community through GLAAD. He also will be meeting with LGBT Latinos next week:
I have heard from many gay Latinos today who are hurt because of what I said and I apologize. I know gay parents and I support them and their families. They are good parents and loving families. I am a father and I know the feel of being a father, why wouldn’t I want my gay friends to also be happy parents? I also want gay and lesbian youth to know that it is fine to be who you are. Gay or straight, Black or White, Latin or American, what matters here is to respect who we are.
UPDATE, 1 PM: ABC, Warner Horizon and The Bachelor executive producers just issued a statement slamming Bachelor star Juan Pablo Galavis‘ statements that gay people are “pervert” and shouldn’t be allowed to be on The Bachelor. “Juan Pablo’s comments were careless, thoughtless and insensitive, and in no way reflect the views of the network, the show’s producers or studio,” the statement read. It mirrors A&E Network’s reaction to Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s controversial comments about gays — but the network and producers stopped short of reprimanding Galavis, a move that created a backlash for A&E, which suspended and then un-suspended Robertson. In the case of The Bachelor, all episodes of Galavis’ season have already been shot with the exception of the Women Tell All and After The Final Rose specials. It is unclear if ABC will proceed with them as planned. Galavis also issued a statement on Facebook, apologizing for his comments and insisting that they were taken out of context. He blamed the use of word “pervert” in reference to gay people on English being his second language and professed his “respect for Gay people and their families.” You can read his full statement under the post.
PREVIOUS 10:20 AM: It’s been what, a month, since the star of a hit reality show made controversial comments about gay people? Cue Juan Pablo Galavis, the popular star of the current cycle of ABC‘s The Bachelor. In an interview with TVPage at ABC’s TCA party last night, the single dad and a former Venezuelan soccer player was asked whether it would be a good idea to have a gay Bachelor. He was firmly against it. “I don’t think it is a good example for kids to watch that on TV,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m mistaken or not, I have a lot of friends like that, but (gays) are more pervert [sic] in a sense, and to me the show will be too strong, too hard to watch on TV.” It remains to be seen what Galavis’ gay friends as well as ABC and The Bachelor producer Warner Horizon will say about those comments. While not as incendiary as last month’s statements by Phil Robertson, star of A&E’s juggernaut Duck Dynasty, Galavis’ stance on the sensitive topic is sure to raise eyebrows and could be damaging to the show.
ABC‘s Nashville started as a family soap set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene that followed one star at her peak, Rayna (Connie Britton), and one on the rise, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere). The country music business was as major part of the tapestry of the show as the twists and turns in the characters’ personal relationship. But then gradually over the first season of the show, which had one of the strongest launches in fall 2012, the soapy content started to rise, a trend that continued this season when the series also moved away from the Rayna-Juliette storyline that was at the heart of the show early on to focus on peripheral characters. (Word is that there will be a course correction in the second half of the season, with Rayna and Juliette’s relationship, plus Chip Esten’s Deacon, taking center stage again.) There have been rumors about pressure from ABC to make the show soapier, with former Nashville music producer T Bone Burnett fanning flames last fall with comments in an interview about “a knockdown, bloody, drag-out fight” behind the scenes over making music drama versus soap opera, and that star Britton too wasn’t too fond of the show’s creative direction.
Fox is switching to the cable development model. That is the takeaway from today’s announcement by Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly that the network will be bypassing pilot season this year and going forward. I sat down with Reilly to discuss how the changes will be implemented and what it means for writers, actors and agents.
First, “we are abandoning pilot season, not pilots,” Reilly stressed. “Pilots still are a helpful tool, especially on the comedy side where the alchemy is fragile, and you really need the casting to inform your decision on the project.” But going forward, “we will be ordering pilots geared towards series,” he said. That means picking up fewer pilots, which is the cable model. “Instead of making 10 pilots hoping to get one series on the air, I’d like to make it more 1-to-1 ratio,” Reilly said. That means fewer pilot roles for actors but a better chance for those who get pilots to get on the air. The switch also means likely buying fewer scripts, Reilly said.
This will be a transitional year as Fox has a stockpile of scripts, some of them with big commitments. “There will be a few more drama pilots ordered in the next month or so, with another half dozen pushed forward for the next cycle with further investment,” Reilly said. That involves a pilot order plus backup scripts and/or funds for a writing staff, or, in some cases, just extra scripts and a bible for a straight-to-series consideration. On the comedy side, “we’ll have a leaner slate, we will order a few more pilots.” There is no mandate for any of those to be ready in May for fall consideration, though, if magic strikes and a pilot comes quickly and knocks it out of the park, it could make it on the 2014-15 schedule. Expected to be on the schedule are Fox’s current pilots, drama Gotham and comedies Fatrick and Cabot College (Matt Hubbard), with Reilly expected to formalize their series orders next month. With those three, plus comedy series Mulaney and drama series Hieroglyph and Ben Affleck’s The Middle Man, there will be no much shelf space for new series anyway, especially as Reilly said he wanted to bring back most of the network’s current series and only has 15 hours of primetime versus 22 for the other major nets.
Related: 2014 Fox Pilots
2014 is getting off to a busy start for NBC News. No sooner does the division announce its priority is getting Today back up on its feet with a new tagline “Rise to Shine” that will help viewers forget its bungled dumping of show co-anchor Ann Curry, than a report surfaces that NBC News will not renew Curry’s $12 million contract — the one she got when she was shoved off Today. The network has denied the Radar report, noting that Curry has been given an actual big assignment which, presumably, is what happens when you pay someone $12 mil a year.
Meanwhile, the division’s Sunday Beltway show Meet The Press got its fourth quarter numbers, and they’re the franchise’s worst in its history in the news demo. MTP also suffered its smallest fourth-quarter total-viewer crowd since ’91. This news forced the news division to have to insist to Politico that it has no plans to replace anchor David Gregory, because the site’s media columnist had suggested just that.
And MSNBC has had to refute a report in National Review that Rachel Maddow dictates the cable news network’s editorial direction and has a lot to say about personnel decisions. This after MSNBC anchors Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin got the hook over separate incendiary comments, and a teary apology by Melissa Harris-Perry for an episode of her program in which she and a bunch of comics poked fun at little black grandson Kieran sitting on Mitt Romney’s knee in the family’s Christmas photo.