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BC Beat

9/28/2008 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Bravo Acquires First Season of 'Swingtown'

Bravo has cut a deal with CBS Paramount Network Television to acquire rights to the entire 13-episode first season of drama Swingtown. The NBC Universal-owned cable network plans to begin airing episodes in October.

The series, about couple-swapping in a Chicago suburb in the 1970s, premiered on CBS in June and fizzled in its run over the summer.

But Frances Berwick, executive VP and general manager of Bravo Media, sees Swingtown as a natural companion to Bravo's Real Housewives franchise, the Atlanta iteration of which launches Oct. 7.

“The subject matter and the feel of the show, we thought would be a really good fit,” Berwick says.

Swingtown was a pet project of CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, who picked up the program for last season when the network was trying to show an edgier side. Tassler told television critics over the summer at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills that while she was a fan of the show, she was disappointed in the ratings.

That's because it averaged less than 7 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in the 18-49 demo in its Thursday night time slot, and dropped to an average of 3.9 million viewers and a 1.3 rating in the demo when it was relegated to the Friday night graveyard.

“For a broadcast network show, [Swingtown] really had very little exposure,” Berwick says. “I think it was one of those hidden gems. It got moved all over their schedule. It really was not launched at the optimal time, and we thought it was worthy of another window.”

And since the show also had fans inside CBS, it was shopped to cable networks as well as DirecTV to try to resurrect it, as first reported on broadcastingcable.com (Aug. 22).

Some inside CBS hoped to get the 13 episodes picked up by a cable partner with an eye toward putting it back into production for another run of originals.

The pitch to cable networks hinged on escaping the FCC's broadcast indecency oversight to allow the show, with its risqué premise, to grow creatively and generate the kind of buzz that basic-cable shows, like AMC's Emmy-winning drama Mad Men, are enjoying.

But Bravo's Berwick stressed that Swingtown is a “limited acquisition” for Bravo and that the network was not prepared to go back into production on new episodes of the show.

Attack of 'The Clone Wars'

We'll find out Oct. 3 whether or not the Force is with The Clone Wars, Cartoon Network's new animated series based on the Star Wars saga. But when it comes to the promotional force behind the series, Cartoon is going full-on galactic.

“It's safe to say this is the biggest marketing campaign in our network's history,” says Stuart Snyder, head of animation, young adults and kids media at Cartoon's parent, Turner Broadcasting.

In addition to a mall tour, the network's promo blitz includes staging some 2,000 in-home viewing parties around the country.

“If you are going to make something the most prominent campaign ever in a network's history,” Snyder says, “I can't think of a larger entertainment brand to do so than Star Wars.”

Indeed, Cartoon is not only banking on the durable franchise to anchor its new Friday night fantasy/action block, part of an effort to program in nightly themes. The network is also looking to catch a new set of viewers in a tractor beam and reel them in.

“This is an opportunity to create destination programming for kids and parents,” Snyder says, noting the anecdotal research he's getting from “dads telling me their sons and kids are excited about the series.”

Asked whether he might hearken back to his time as head of World Wrestling Entertainment and develop an animated series based on the already-cartoonish characters at the WWE, Snyder sounds intrigued.

“WWE has great action stars and they are really targeted to our audience,” he says. “There could be a marriage made in heaven in regards to an idea there.”

With Marisa Guthrie and John Eggerton

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