Upfronts 2015: Pivot Plants More Doc Seeds, Re-ups ‘HitRecord’

Net’s small-scale event for ad buyers touts growth, refined strategy in second year on air

Related: Upfront Central

Two years after announcing its launch plans, Pivot gave a small-scale presentation to ad buyers Thursday that highlighted its progress in Year 2 and gave recently installed GM Kent Rees a chance to articulate the network’s refined strategy.

Documentary content has always been a touchstone for the network owned by Participant Media, known for film docs like An Inconvenient Truth as well as scripted features such as Lincoln and The Help. In May, Pivot will introduce a doc block with rotating hosts. Kristin Davis (Sex and the City) is among those set to intro films on air, in her case for endangered-elephant film Gardeners of Eden, which she executive produced.

The network also announced pickups of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Emmy-winning take on variety shows, HitRecord on TV, a new investigative series by Brian Knappenberger (The Internet’s Own Boy), and docu-series Human Resources, whose second season starts this summer.

Development projects announced Thursday include projects with Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, writer/comedian and former Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac and food writer Mark Bittman.

Pivot’s aim is to “keep audiences tuning in while encouraging them to take action on the issues that move them,” said Rees, who was promoted to the top spot last fall after Evan Shapiro left and eventually joined NBCUniversal.

Privately, independently owned and dedicated to a “double bottom line” of both profits and social good, Pivot can’t necessarily be judged by the same standards of other nets that launched alongside it in 2013, among them Fusion, Revolt, Al Jazeera America and Fox Sports 1. But it has had to maintain a long-term view given how gradually the progress has come, at least in the pure TV industry sense. (In fairness, no member of the Class of 2013 has scaled quickly given the intense competition across the content landscape, including newly fortified SVOD platforms.)

After launching with 40 million households, Pivot is now carried in about 47 million homes, having recently been added on Time Warner Cable. In February it began airing event series Fortitude, a coventure with the U.K.’s Sky TV. The atmospheric, Arctic-set mystery drama points the way tonally for future scripted forays that will fill out the 60 to 70 original hours of programming projected for 2015. The rest of the schedule will be anchored by syndicated titles such as Buffy the Vampire SlayerVeronica Mars and Friday Night Lights, plus films, including several from Participant’s own library of several dozen movies it has produced since its founding in 2004.