Networks stray from home, but just a little
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/18/2003 8:00:00 PM
$1.8M per Show for Our Good, Good Friend, Ray Romano
Vertical integration is not quite what it was at the broadcast networks. All except UPN filled more than half of their new fall schedules with shows at least co-produced by a studio owned by their parent company, but that's fewer than last year.
|New Shows Picked Up|
|Net.||Total*||From affil. studio|
|*Including midseason orders
|CBS||7||4 (Viacom, Paramount, CBS Productions)|
|Fox||11||6 (20th Century Fox TV)|
|NBC||8||5 (NBC Studios)|
|WB||11||9 (Warner Bros. TV)|
|UPN||5||1 (Viacom Productions)|
All told, the six broadcast networks picked up 51 new shows, including midseason orders, exactly the same number they picked up last year. This year's new shows comprise 24 comedies, 24 dramas and three unscripted programs. Last year at this time, the networks picked up 23 comedies, 26 dramas and two reality shows. Last year, 80% of new series were at least partly produced by a network-affiliated studio. This year, that percentage is 60%.
Altogether, Warner Bros. nabbed a record 15 new series orders, giving it 28 shows on prime time this fall.
The WB picked up by far the highest percentage of shows produced by an affiliated studio, with 100% of its fall series produced by Warner Bros. Television. That adds five shows to the five Warner Bros.-produced shows already on The WB's schedule.
"I don't mean to sound disingenuous, but we truly chose the shows we felt were the best," said The WB Entertainment President Jordan Levin. "But we're obviously going deeper and deeper into a vertical future."
Both Levin and Warner Bros. Television President Peter Roth say it has been a priority for the network and the studio to work closer together, and they have certainly accomplished that.
"We have the No. 1, 3 and 4 highest-rated series on that network in Smallville, Gilmore Girls and Everwood," Roth says. "But, this year, we have at least two series on each of the six broadcast networks. While we are a primary supplier to The WB, and that was in fact one of our important goals four years ago, we are equally represented on other networks."
Sometimes, synergy was absent. All of Viacom-owned UPN's four comedies were produced by Warner Bros., which has no affiliation with Viacom. Only one of UPN's shows, Jake 2.0, comes from Viacom Productions.
"We just went for the best projects," said UPN President of Entertainment Dawn Ostroff. UPN has some big-name talent working on several of its shows, including hip-hop star Eve on The Opposite Sex and superstars Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith executive-producing All of Us, based loosely on their marriage.
Warner Bros. Television will produce both shows, which seem expensive but aren't, said CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves. "Compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer—which was a ridiculously expensive show with a $2.4 million license fee—these sitcoms represents less than 50% of the cost of that show, around $1 million per hour."
Networks in general are placing big bets on comedies this year, acquiring a total of 20 sitcoms for fall and four for midseason in the hopes that at least one will hit it big and go on to make hundreds of millions of dollars in syndication.
"A successful sitcom can be worth an awful lot of money to a studio that, in almost all cases, is owned by a company that owns the network," says Garry Hart, president of Paramount Television Production. Paramount also has a diverse programming slate next fall, placing six new series on the air for a total of 18 shows on broadcast network TV next year. Of those, nine are on UPN or CBS; the rest are spread out amongst the other four nets.
ABC, UPN and Fox are leaning the most toward comedy, although NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker said prior to the upfronts that NBC would like to expand into more nights of comedy and ultimately get 10 sitcoms on the air. Currently, NBC runs six comedies and still is working to fix its troubled Tuesday 8-9 p.m. timeslot.
Twentieth Century Fox, once the top-volume producer in the industry, has been vocal in its efforts to slim down its development and production.
"Three years ago, we had 24 series on the fall schedule, and, in the plane ride home, we both wanted to kill ourselves," says Dana Walden, president of Twentieth Century Fox Television, who runs the studio with Gary Newman. "If you are not careful about managing the volume, you max out the resources of your company because you only have so many executives to manage all of those shows.
"These new shows fit well into our mandate of smart, selective development," Walden continued. "They worked financially well for the studio, worked well in international arrangements, and commanded premium license fees and timeslots from the networks."
Twentieth scored eight pickups, adding to its 13 series on the air. Of those 21 shows, 11 are for Fox.
Touchstone, whose primary mandate is to develop for co-owned Disney net ABC, scored six new series, all of them for ABC. That adds to its eight returning series, six of which are on ABC.
Universal, which has been lobbying Washington on the difficulty of getting shows in prime time when a studio isn't co-owned with a network, had one new show picked up in Karen Sisco for ABC. That adds to the six shows the studio has on the air, four of them from Dick Wolf, creator of the Law & Order franchise.
Sony also got back into the network prime time business this year, with three pilots picked up: Joan of Arcadia on CBS, Kingdom Hospital on ABC and The Mayor on The WB. Joan is co-produced by CBS Productions; Kingdom Hospital, by Touchstone.
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