When Weeds' Mary-Louise Parker beat out four of ABC's Desperate Housewives to win a Golden Globe for best comedy actress, she scored for pay-TV underdog Showtime and boutique TV studio Lions Gate Television, which produces the comedy about a pot-dealing soccer mom. Lions Gate has sold the show to 130 countries and is preparing season two for next summer. Before heading to this week's NATPE convention in Las Vegas, the studio's President Kevin Beggs talked to B&C's Allison Romano about the meaning of the Golden Globe, surviving as an independent TV studio and why he isn't afraid of iPod deals.
Few people had money on Mary-Louise Parker to best four Desperate Housewives. How shocked were you?
We realized early on we had lightning in a bottle. This show skewers American suburban social mores in a way we thought would speak to viewers here and the international community.
But deep down, we felt the juggernaut of Desperate Housewives might keep rolling. We know our show is exquisite on-screen, but the commercial success of Desperate Housewives is hard to ignore.
When we heard, we jumped out of our seats. We were David to their Goliath.
Lions Gate is one of the last independents. What does the Golden Globe mean for business?
It reaffirms that great work can come from anywhere. The paper formula of owning the network, the studio and all the means of production doesn't guarantee a creative lock on success.
This little project on a small pay network from a small independent TV division is a testament to hard work and amazing talents coming together and making something extraordinary. For anyone in our business discouraged by the overwhelming odds, this should be inspiring.
At NATPE, we see more cable shows being sold into syndication. As a major cable producer, are you bullish on syndication possibilities?
Off-cable is a viable business if you've spent conservatively on production. We have an agreement with Debmar-Mercury Entertainment to syndicate The Dead Zone, and we have a number of shows that are accuumulating enough episodes. Cable branding is pretty specific, and it is not a slam dunk, but if a show is good, people will want to watch reruns.
I don't think there will be big auctions for the rights, but if the prices are comparable with modest off-network shows, it would be huge for our production model.
One of the NATPE panels touts the reemergence of TV comedies. Your studio is developing some comedy pilots. Is the genre back?
There are two comedy businesses at the moment: traditional, multicamera sitcoms and alternative comedy. With the traditional sitcoms, the hits are still few and far between. But people are interested in alternatives and hybrid reality comedies.
Weeds is single-camera and feels more like a drama. We have Lovespring for Lifetime that is more like Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office. That's where the hits will come, and there is a more efficient economic model to support it.
How are deals for putting content on new platforms—iPods, the Internet, video-on- demand—affecting your business?
A hit show that people want is going to have multiple access points. People will watch it on TV, buy it, download it. None of these platforms is relevant, though, if you have a failed show. ABC's Apple deal is on the back of two shows, Desperate Housewives and Lost, that won Golden Globes. There is an appetite for those shows. No one is announcing an Emily's Reasons Why Not iPod deal. These deals add promotional models, and there are some revenue opportunities—and we'd like a share of the revenue.