CBS Television Distribution is the latest player to try its hand at spinning viral videos into TV gold with its new weekly hour, Smash Cuts. Tribune, the CBS TV stations and The CW 100+ are the first groups to acquire the show. It's cleared in the top 30 markets—including WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles and WGN Chicago—and in 95% of the country, says John Nogawski, president of CTD.
The show is due to premiere the week of Sept. 27 and is expected to air on CW affiliates in early primetime on Sunday nights, in the block of time that The CW Network gave back to affiliates last spring.
Hollywood's other attempts at turning the Internet-video phenomenon into successful TV include Warner Bros.' recently canceled test of a similarly themed show, Beyond Twisted. The program, from the team behind TMZ, aired on Fox stations in six markets. When The CW initially launched, it experimented with viral video show Online Nation, which was quickly canceled.
Long before people started watching videos on YouTube, other video-based TV shows, such as ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos and CTD's own syndicated Maximum Exposure, have been very successful financially.
“This started two years ago on a computer desktop,” Nogawski says. “We were always finding fun videos and showing them to people. We put together a brief sales tape, showed it around at NATPE two years ago and got a great reception.”
When CTD launched The Doctors, Smash Cuts was put on the back burner, according to Nogawski. “When I learned that The CW was going to give back Sunday nights, I immediately thought of it,” he says. “I showed it to Tribune, who loved it. And then we were off to the races.”
Smash Cuts will be produced by Renegade 83, while CTD distributes the show and sells the advertising.
To create Smash Cuts, about 15 young producers are trying to find the Web's finest and funniest short-form videos. “It's just a fun group of young, energetic video junkies doing what they do,” says David Garfinkle, who executive-produces Smash Cuts along with his partner in Renegade 83, Jay Renfroe. Renegade 83 also has produced Blind Date, The Surreal Life, Gone Country and Mobile Home Disaster.
Each morning, the producers bring their discoveries from the prior day to a pitch meeting and try to sell them to the group. Once a video is selected, another group of producers works on clearing its rights.
Renegade 83 is casting four hosts who will guide viewers through that week's selection of videos. “The people we'll cast will be funny, irreverent, acerbic and cutting,” Garfinkle says. “We are looking for really funny, unique people with a very strong point of view. It's the hosts who will make this show a success.”