In its upfront pitch, three-year-old Pop is telling media buyers it’s got more viewers and it knows more about them.
A joint venture of CBS and Lionsgate, Pop took over the cable position of the TV Guide Network and set out to serve what it calls Modern Grown-ups.
“It’s working,” says Pop president Brad Schwartz, noting that Pop is one of a handful of networks whose viewership has increased in each of the past five years. “We built this channel that’s fun and familiar and every time you come to us, if you’re part of the Modern Grown-up audience of people who came of age in the 80's and 90's, our channel should just feel really, really fun and optimistic.”
Over the past few years, the rising ratings have translated into higher ad revenues. Kagan estimates that Pop’s ad revenues rose to $66 million in 2017 from $63 million in 2016. Kagan forecast’s Pop’s ad revenues hitting $68 million in 2018.
For a young network, Pop says it will air 400 hours of original programming this year, enough to ensure it has at least on original on every month. Current shows include Schitt’s Creek, Swedish Dicks and Clique. Flack, a series about a public relations expert living in London starring Anna Paquin, premiere in the first quarter of 2019.
At a time of peak TV, Schwartz says Pop’s programming differentiates it from the channels it deems competitors. Unlike networks like E!, Bravo, Oxygen and VH1 programmed mainly with unscripted and non-fiction shows, Pop focuses on scripted programming featuring A-list talent either in front of or behind the camera.
And Pop’s scripted programming isn’t dark like much of what’s on USA, FX or TNT. Pop viewers want content that’s “smart and light that connects and uplifts them,” Schwartz says, featuring “familiar faces and familiar formats, but seen through a fresh lens.”
A big part of Pop’s upfront presentation is a new study of 1,300 of its viewers it commissioned.
The study found that most of the Pop audience watched live TV every day, and say they’re watching more live TV than last year. Two thirds are married or living with partners; two thirds own a home and almost half make $75,000 or more.
The study found three segments of Pop viewers.
“First were these Mod Moms,” says Schwartz. “These are people that are the CEO of household. They make all the buying decisions for the household. For them their TV time is after dinner we’re all going to sit around the TV and watch Modern Family. TV is what connects the family and bonds people together.”
The second group, Modernists, feature the largest share of singles. They have the most disposable income and for them sitting down and watching TV is “me time.”
Modern Mates is the last group. “They are the most ethnically diverse segment,” Schwartz says. “They enjoy being plugged in parents, they want to stay up on the latest pop culture trends and they spend money on things like travel and gadgets and devices. They like finding TV shows first so they can evangelize it to their friends.”
Networks have been doing this sort of segmentation research for years. These days, using big data, networks are able to identify viewers who buy specific products and create more efficient campaigns for advertisers.
But Schwartz says it’s difficult for a linear network to pinpoint and deliver those viewers. “I think going out and doing this research shows our clients that we care. We want know who the audience is and better serve your positioning,” he said.
Schwarz added that the research is being used internally by the network’s programming, marketing and publicity departments.
As a small network with original programming, Pop is able to get the stars of its show to appear in branded content for advertising clients. The cast of Pop’s Hot Date did an ad for Zillow in which the joke was that while it looked like the characters were looking at a dating app, they were actually viewing sexy real estate on Zillow’s app. The cast of Schitt’s Creek did branded content for Lysol.
Pop’s original programming is available on the network’s website and on-demand through cable operators. This year CBS interactive began selling ads in Pop programming on digital platforms using dynamically inserted advertising.
The network will also be launching an app called Pop Now in the next 90 days.
Here are the new shows coming to Pop:
• Arranged: From the co-creator of the critically-acclaimed comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Aline Brosh McKenna, and series writer/producer Sono Patel, comes this timely and diverse romantic comedy about two best friends who end up in a marriage of convenience. . The project is from CBS Television Studios.
• Florida Girls: From JAX Media and 3 Arts Entertainment Florida Girls, created by and starring Laura Chinn who also executive producer, is a distinctive series based on Chinn’s life. The series is a bold comedy and an inside look at female friendship and poverty.
• The Demons of Dorian Gunn: This supernatural comedy follows disgraced New York socialite Dorian Gunn, who discovers he’s descended from a long line of demon hunters and is forced to abandon his life of leisure to protect humanity from monsters as they emerge from the gates of hell. It stars Jeffery Self, Chrissie Fit, H. Jon Benjamin, Lateefah Holder and Kyle Harris.
• Wrightful Heirs: A modern take on The Beverly Hillbillies meets Downton Abbey, this series centers on a street-smart single mom who inherits a British manor and moves her family from middle-class Ohio to a life of nobility in the U.K.
• Best Intentions: From A+E Studios and Adam Herz, the writer of American Pie and two hit sequels, comes this half hour scripted comedy about the insecurities of a single father, his teenage son, and the all-too-smart women of their fumbling affections. Best Intentions is executive produced by Herz and Ben Silverman, Sean Canino and Jay Weisleder of Propagate.
• Spinning: From the writer of Heathers comes this half hour scripted comedy that takes place in the Hamptons as the town is struck by a series of mysterious murders. A forty-something spinning instructor makes it her mission to find the killer.