Credit: Erika Doss/IFC

NAB 2017: IFC Grows Viral 'Brockmire' Into Full-Blown TV

IFC president Jennifer Caserta and actor Hank Azaria discussed the digital comedy's evolution into linear TV series

Full Coverage of NAB 2017

Hank Azaria hatched the character Jim Brockmire, a disgraced baseball announcer trying to make a comeback, seven years ago as the subject of a Funny or Die mockumentary, chronicling the major league caller’s crash after an on-air meltdown after discovering his wife’s infidelity.

Fast forward to April 2017, when a more multi-dimensional Brockmire (although just as raunchy and drunk as his digital incarnation) did, in fact, make it to TV – albeit it as the central character of the new IFC comedy, Brockmire, based on the viral short.

“The short was like the pilot [for] us,” IFC president and general manager Jennifer Caserta said Monday. “We didn’t go the traditional route that people in our seats typically go.”

Related: IFC Puts Two More Original Videos in Comedy Crib

Caserta’s comments were part of a discussion Monday at the NAB Show in Las Vegas that explored what it took to grow Brockmire from a digital short to a full-blown TV series – and why it worked. 

According to Caserta (who shared the stage with Azaria and co-star Amanda Peet), Brockmire’s development and roll out was a cross digital-linear endeavor from the get-go to linear launch in early April.

After the Funny or Die video piqued IFC’s interest, Azaria and the network pursued working together to see if Jim Brockmire, and his attempted comeback as a minor league announcer, would work as long form programming.

Eight scripts later, Caserta said she could, indeed, see that Brockmire, the character, could make the leap. “They were very funny but (we saw) the characters really develop into these multi-dimensional, messed-up people,” she said.

After shooting those eight episodes in just 22 days, IFC launched the program online before on-air. The show got 3,000,000 views, she said.

What works best is having a fantastic show, and we had that,” she said.

Azaria said key to Brockmire making the leap is that Jim Brockmire was able to become a richer person than his less developed, viral self was. Traits from his stereotypical sports-guy cadence to his comeback attempt calling the minor league Morristown Frackers strike a chord, particularly with “men of a certain age who find it hilarious and comforting.

“It’s a sports redemption story through a raunchy ... alcoholic … self-destructive lens,” he said.

IFC has already renewed Brockmire for a second season. In addition, IFC plans more collaborations with Funny or Die, in which the network invested, as part of its larger multiplatform strategy, Caserta said.

“We want to experiment getting into the digital space and doing things differently as we try to figure out this new model,” she said, adding that Funny or Die is key in doing that.

“What they do they do so well,” she said.