A Cable Sampler
Networks are trotting out their wares to tempt buyers
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/2/2004 8:00:00 PM
With 56 cable networks now getting Nielsen ratings, upfront presentations—the way broadcast networks do them—would take nearly two months and result in some party-weary ad buyers.
But several basic networks have been trumpeting their coming attractions and strategies for advertisers. Here's a glimpse at what they're up to.
Lifetime Television is boosting its original-movie production to 19 films for the coming season, up seven from its current total. It is also adding a syndicated radio network to its brand lineup.
Household names like Lauren Holly, Mary-Louise Parker, and Debra Winger will star in upcoming made-fors. The network is also planning its first original miniseries—about sex trafficking—which will air in 2005.
Other programming plans include a Friday-night reality block, which will offer returning shows Head 2 Toe, a makeover show, and Merge, a home-redecorating show. Also on the slate is new housecleaning reality show How Clean Is Your House?, a British import produced by FremantleNorth America.
Specials include a Nanny reunion; TV's Greatest Sidekicks; and Instant Weddings, where a couple goes from proposal to marriage in four hours.
Bravo is absolute proof that one show can make a network. In the first quarter, its prime time ratings climbed 75% over last year. Now Bravo President Jeff Gaspin has to make sure he doesn't do to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy what ABC did to Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, namely do it to death.
Gaspin has Queer Eye (the Fab Five are going to Texas, y'all), its spinoff, Queer Eye for a Straight Girl, and a celebrity bio show called Naked. More than half of Bravo's schedule will be original programming.
Among other new shows is Pilot Season, executive-produced by Will & Grace star Sean Hayes, a reality show tracing the creation of a sitcom. For its third season, Project Greenlight, the Miramax Television filmmaking reality show is moving to Bravo from HBO. Project Runway, also from Miramax, will embark on a search for a new clothing designer.
Next month, TBS will nix the "Superstation" surname and capitalize on its humor focus with a fresh branding campaign: "Very Funny."
It has quite a list of off-net hits: Seinfeld, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Home Improvement. In June, Sex & the City joins the network for its first post-HBO run.
Also being added is a pair of not-too-serious reality series: Outback Jack, where city girls compete for the affections of an Australian cowboy, and a take on Gilligan's Island, debuting in December.
The remodeling job at TBS is similar to TNT's makeover a few years ago, when the channel adopted its "We know drama" tag, an attempt to capitalize on its dramatic off-nets, movies, and sports. TBS is angling for comedy-loving upscale 25-40ish viewers.
Over at TNT, a new drama will arrive by summer 2005. Five contenders are in development: The System, about a hot-shot Miami prosecutor; a crime drama about an LAPD special scam unit from Third Watch creator John Ridley; another LAPD drama, this one, from Spelling TV, centering on a SWAT team; Hell's Kitchen, a family crime show; and a medical series about trauma specialists.
TNT already has two limited series in the works. The Grid, a counterterrorism drama co-produced with the BBC, will run in July. Steven Spielberg's 12-hour Into the West is slated for summer 2005.
Food Network is adding seven new prime time series and two daytime series to its lineup over the next six months.
New for prime time: Recipe for Success (which has already premiered, Thursdays at 9:30), a show that goes "from torts to tarts" with a lawyer-turned-baker; BBQ America With Bobby Flay; The Secret Life Of, a history of food; What's Hot, What's Cool, food trends; Party Starters, a sort of "Party Eye for the Entertaining-Challenged Guy (or Girl)"; Kitchen Cops, in which a SWAT team of experts help remodel a kitchen; and Inside Dish With Rachael Ray, a visit to homes and kitchens of A-list celebs.
The network says that it will produce 90 specials among its 800 hours of original programming targeted for this year.
E! Entertainment Television adds a celluloid twist to the reality genre in a show set for a June debut, one of a pair of new reality offerings. E! is partnering with Fear Factor producers Joel Klein and David Hurwitz on series Scream Play, in which contestants re-create famous movie action scenes. Ben Silverman and Mark Koops of Reveille executive-produce. E! has ordered 13 episodes of the hour show.
Coming in June is Dr. 90210, about a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon and his patients. Viewers won't see patients go under the knife.
Cartoon Network unveiled five series in the very competitive children's programming genre. The Venture Brothers follows the adventures of two flighty brothers, their scientist dad, and his body guard. On Squidbillies, a family of displaced squids try to adjust to their new surroundings. Tom Goes to the Mayor features wannabe entrepreneur Tom Peters, a small-town dreamer who persuades the mayor to bring his wacky ideas to life. Stroker & Hoop is an off-beat buddy detective comedy. Actor Seth Green is lending his voice to an unnamed series on pop culture.
Hey, Cartoon knows who's sneaking a peek. It's extending two popular Adult Swim block shows, ordering 13 more episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021.
Among 11 new shows coming to kids powerhouse Nickelodeon this season is a series starring Britney Spears' little sister, Jamie Lynn, and one starring Julia Roberts' niece, Emma. Plus, popular Dora the Explorer's cousin Diego is getting his own show.
For preschoolers, there's Dora spinoff Go Diego Go, as well as a Blue's Clues off-shoot, Blue's Room. The channel also has Backyardigans, featuring the first computer-generated animation created by in-house producers.
For tweens and teens, Nick is reinvigorating its "TeenNick" block with four new live-action shows. Unfabulous stars Emma Roberts as a teen who uses music to cope. Spears, on her still-unnamed show, will infiltrate a newly coed boarding school. The Power Strikers, produced by Whoopi Goldberg, features a girl's soccer team. And Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide gives advice on how to make it through middle school.
On the animated side, Nick is jumping into action/adventure, a genre in which Fox and the Cartoon Network have always been strong, with Avatar, a new series targeted at boys.
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