New U.S. TV season rich with pilots, advertising.By early this month, an astounding a·stound
tr.v. a·stound·ed, a·stound·ing, a·stounds
To astonish and bewilder. See Synonyms at surprise.
[From Middle English astoned, past participle of astonen, 133 pilots had been summoned for the 2003-2004 U.S. domestic season by the six majors (ABC ABC
in full American Broadcasting Co.
Major U.S. television network. It began when the expanding national radio network NBC split into the separate Red and Blue networks in 1928. , NBC NBC
in full National Broadcasting Co.
Major U.S. commercial broadcasting company. It was formed in 1926 by RCA Corp., General Electric Co. (GE), and Westinghouse and was the first U.S. company to operate a broadcast network. , CBS (Cell Broadcast Service) See cell broadcast. , Fox, UPN UPN User Principal Name (Microsoft Windows 2000)
UPN United Paramount Network
UPN Unión del Pueblo Navarro (Navarrese People Union)
UPN Umgekehrte Polnische Notation , WB):m 58 dramas, 73 sitcoms, two animated programs and one "not-a-reality-format" game show. And various reports have indicated that the primetime upfronts (the ad-time sales auctions staged by the U.S. networks in May) are heading for a record $9 billion, up from $8 billion in 2002.
As they did last year, cops and crime dominated the hour-long pilots, but programs straddling strad·dle
v. strad·dled, strad·dling, strad·dles
a. To stand or sit with a leg on each side of; bestride: straddle a horse.
b. the line between drama and action/adventure also dotted the pilot landscape, something the '02-'03 season didn't see. Meanwhile, the comedies on display seemed to have more unusual twists than the last crop of hopefuls provided. And reality? Although there were a bevy bevy
a flock of birds. of "real people-real stories" pilots in the works, few are headed for fall starts, and so they have not been included in the tally above. (Excepting Fox, which will lay Joe Millionaire Joe Millionaire was an American reality television show broadcast on Fox beginning in January 2003. It was broadcast in the UK that same year. A sequel, The Next Joe Millionaire, followed in October 2003. 2 on us in September, the nets seem set on using summer as their reality launching.-pad.)
This year witnessed a notable increase in pilot commissions: ignoring "reality" (which has little to no back-end value back-end value
The amount paid to remaining shareholders in the last stage of a two-tier tender offer. for international distributors), only 120 pilots were up for grabs last year. Sitcoms once again dominated the pilot pool, but this time it was primarily because NBC had a disproportionate breakdown between comedy and drama; most of the nets had the two running neck-in-neck. And, as last year proved, more comedy pilots in the spring doesn't necessarily mean more comedy series in the fall. In fact, considering the relentlessly somber state of global affairs, it's probably safe to bet that the new fall season will be drama-heavy
Before the dust from the February sweeps had even settled, the six major broadcasters had a good idea of what they'd need in order to improve or stay strong in the new season. ABC and NBC had the largest pool of pilots to choose from, with 25 ordered for each, not including the late addition of a CGI-animated show to NBC'S crop. ABC'S pot was almost evenly split between drama and comedy, while NBC was looking at 17 sitcoms and only eight dramas (another drama was dropped early in the race due to casting issues). ABC also had the most reality series in the works, with one meant to steal thunder from Fox's Joe Millionaire: The new Rich Guy, Poor Guy is a dating format that pits a wealthy fellow against a not-so-wealthy one. Neither viewers, nor the ladies up for grabs, will know who's who Who’s Who
biographical dictionary of notable living people. [Am. Hist.: Hart, 922]
See : Fame . The show is due to hit the small screen before Joe 2, giving ABC a first stab at the bachelor-reality audience.
The WB lurked close behind, with 24 pilots on order: 10 from the drama category, 13 sitcoms, and the one and only "traditional" game show currently on the big list: an update of The Gong Show. Fox was also looking at 24 pilots -- 10 dramas and 14 comedies -- while CBS had 21 hopefuls, 11 of them comedies, 10 of them dramas (another drama bit the dust early on, again due to casting issues).
UPN, desperately in need of some fresh ideas, only had 12 pilots in its bag, six of them dramas. But the net was working with a gaggle of coveted cov·et
v. cov·et·ed, cov·et·ing, cov·ets
1. To feel blameworthy desire for (that which is another's). See Synonyms at envy.
2. To wish for longingly. See Synonyms at desire. producers (Joel Silver, Wes Craven and Aaron Spelling among them) and, of the other pilots it was considering, one was an animated show -- one of only two on the '03-'04 pilots roster. If the program gets a go, it would be a first for UPN in primetime, and may help the net draw new demos. (Fox could be serving as a role model here, as animation helped generate heat for that net when it was still struggling to distinguish itself.)
In terms of pilot trends, there are a few to report: first, remakes were hot. From Tarzan and MacGyver on the WB, to Mr. Ed Mr. Ed
the talking horse. [TV: Terrace, II, 116–117]
See : Horse on Fox and Hotel on UPN, old favorites seem ready to haunt us. But wait, there's more! ABC'S 111 Gramercy Park Gramercy Park (sometimes misspelled as Grammercy) is a small, fenced-in private park in the Gramercy neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, New York State. is said to be an Upstairs/Downstairs redux Refers to being brought back, revived or restored. From the Latin "reducere." , and the WB's Eddie's Father is an update of The Courts hip of Eddie's Father. (Adding the previously-mentioned Gong Show to this list, one could say the WB went a bit remake-crazy, with four of its 24 pilots from the "been there-done that" category.)
British programs continued to make their way across the pond (and all the way over to the Hollywood Hills The Hollywood Hills, an unofficial designation of part of the City of Los Angeles, California, are part of the eastern section of the low transverse range of the Santa Monica Mountains, which extends from the Los Feliz District and Hollywood, on the south side of the Valley, to ), as another slew of U.K. hits was re-tooled in the pilot season. NBC led the charge here, with three sitcom pilots built from British blueprints: The Ortegas, a South-of-the-Border-flavored twist on the BBC's The Kumars at No. 42, co-produced with U.K. indie Hat Trick Productions Hat Trick Productions is a British independent television production company. It was founded in 1986 by Rory McGrath (who left in 1992) Denise O'Donohue and Jimmy Mulville, and mainly makes comedy programmes. ; Coupling, a Montreux Silver Rose-winning sitcom originally produced by the U.K.'s Hartswood Films for the Beeb; and a new version of 1960s "boy-band" comedy The Monkees, being readied with the help of the Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. arm of U.K.-based 19 Television.
Also noteworthy in regards to the new crop of pilots was the visible presence of well-known film and television personalities. For the past few seasons, the number of stars cast in new series was kept to a minimum to help counter rising costs and shrinking budgets. This time around -- perhaps because of the winning economics of reality programming, perhaps because the domestic advertising sector has made something of a recovery -- the nets chose to bring aboard a host of familiar faces.
The WB had Delta Burke as a barmaid and single mom in Sweet Potato sweet potato, trailing perennial plant (Ipomoea batatas) of the family Convolvulaceae (morning glory family), native to the New World tropics. Cultivated from ancient times by the Aztecs for its edible tubers, it was introduced into Europe in the 16th cent. Queens, CBS had Matthew Modine as a forensic psychologist in Expert Witness, Danny Glover as an investigator in The Good Guy and Charlie Sheen Charles Irwin Sheen (born September 3, 1965) is a Golden Globe Award-winning and Emmy-nominated American actor. Biography
Sheen was born Carlos Irwin Estevez as a bachelor in Two and a Half Men Two and a Half Men is a North American television sitcom centered around a freewheeling bachelor, Charlie, whose carefree lifestyle is interrupted when his newly separated brother, Alan, moves in, along with his son Jake. ; Fox had Norm MacDonald as a TV news reporter in A Minute with Stan Hooper A Minute with Stan Hooper, also simply known as Stan Hooper, was a short-lived sitcom on the FOX Network starring Norm Macdonald. The central character, Stan Hooper, was taken from Macdonald's work on Saturday Night Live. It ran in 2003 & 2004. and Rebecca de Mornay as a mother in family drama No Place Like Home; and the Alphabet boasted Tim Allen in comedy These Guys and Mario van Peebles in Street Lawyer. But it's NBC that corralled the "lyon's" share of big names: Rob Lowe led an ensemble cast An ensemble cast is a cast in which the principal performers are assigned roughly equal amounts of importance in a dramatic production.
This kind of casting became more popular in television series because it allows for flexibility for writers to focus on different in legal drama Lyon's Den, Alicia Silverstone and Ryan O'Neal played a father/daughter pair in Miss Match, Derek Jacobi Sir Derek George Jacobi, CBE (IPA: /ˈdʒækəbi/) (born 22 October, 1938) is an English actor and director, knighted in 1994 for his services to the theatre. and Rupert Everett brought their irresistible accents and perfect comic timing to Mr. Ambassador, Tom Selleck coached a baseball team in Touch 'Em All McCall and Heather Locklear starred as a single mom in Once Around the Park. Other recognizables on the pilot list included ex-Sopranos star Joe Pantoliano, John Laroquerte, M ark Harmon, Tracy Morgan Tracy Morgan (born November 10 1968 in Bronx, New York) is an American actor perhaps best known as a member of the cast of Saturday Night Live from 1996 to 2003. Morgan currently stars as Tracy Jordan in Emmy Award Winning NBC sitcom 30 Rock. and Jenny McCarthy.
Finally, the breakdown among the production studios should be mentioned: a whopping 35 pilots were produced or co-produced by Warner Brothers, no less than three per net. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox had its hands in another 30, mostly for its own Fox, but with everybody getting at least two from the Searchlight net. NBC Studios and Touchstone came in a distant third with 18 productions/co-productions each. Paramount had eight pilots in the works, while Universal was involved with seven, one of which was being handled by specialty division Reveille. Sony had seven and DreamWorks followed with six. Smaller companies with good presence this year included Brad Grey Productions, Carsey-Werner-Manda-bach, Imagine TV, Original TV and Regency. In the 2002-2003 season, independent studios provided just 17 hours of the primetime fare, down from 47 hours a decade ago. In addition, according to the L.A.-based Coalition for Program Diversity, "the percentage of advertising revenues that the networks have spent on programm ing dropped from 30.3 percent in 1994 -- before the finsyn restrictions were rescinded -- to 26.3 percent in 2000."
As for the network presentations, according to Viacom's president Mel Karmazin, upfront pricing could jump between 12 and 15 percent. Networks have said they expect to sell 80 to 85 percent of their upfront inventory (indie network PAX, however, will not hold an upfront this year). This is because the scatter market has been strong as of late (up to a 50 percent premium), so advertisers who failed to get the bargains they anticipated with scatter will want to secure time at better prices.
Similarly, PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that broadcast and cable TV network ad spending will grow by four percent in 2003 and at a seven percent annual rate through 2006.
This is great news for the nets, who have been losing out the past few years. In the 2001-2002 season, only two of the six terrestrial networks made a profit on their primetime schedules.
Advertisers can choose from network television, syndication and cable TV, but they continue to value the ability of networks to attract a mass audience they cannot find elsewhere. Considering the number of channels available, the networks' viewership share is hard to argue with.
"In a land of midgets, a five-foot man is a giant," said News Corp. president Peter Chernin, to the Financial Times.
RELATED ARTICLE: When Product Placement Becomes "Integrated"
Though product placement, which in the U.S. is euphemistically called "product integration," has become quite common on television over the last few years, the practice is still primarily thought of as exclusively idiosyncratic id·i·o·syn·cra·sy
n. pl. id·i·o·syn·cra·sies
1. A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.
2. A physiological or temperamental peculiarity.
3. of the over-the-top reality television arena. But all that is about to change with a new pilot from Carsey-Werner Distribution and Survivor producer Mark Burnett, who are seeking to take product placement to the next level, blending it seamlessly within a typical sitcom format.
While product integration has been done in scripted series before (Seinfeld devoted an entire episode to Junior Mints; a scene on Friends in which Jennifer Aniston washed her sheets with Snuggle detergent was reportedly valued at $250,000 by interactive product placement network iTVX), this is the first time anyone has ever made a concentrated effort to incorporate products into the very fabric of a non-reality show. The fruit of all this labor is Are We There Yet?, a single-camera comedic tale of a newly remarried father who brings his two reluctant teenagers to Europe to bond with their new stepmother. "[Are We There Yet?] lends itself to [product placement]," said Carsey-Werner's James Anderson. So long as it's "not to where it compromises the integrity of the show."
Though, as of this writing, the WB has not yet officially picked up the new laffer, Carsey-Werner is optimistic about the series' future. "Carsey-Werner and the WB have been trying for years to come up with something to do together," said Anderson.
Blatant product placement often leaves a bad taste in the mouth of viewers, but rising star salaries, can't-miss brand extension opportunities, and the endless quest for ancillary revenue Ancillary Revenue
Revenue generated from goods or services that differ from or enhance the main services or product lines of a company. By introducing new products and services or using existing products to branch into new markets, companies create additional opportunities for sources has left program producers with little choice but to adopt this practice as their own. Burnett was a product placement trailblazer, signing multiple sponsors -- including Reebok Ree´bok`
n. 1. (Zool.) The peele. , Target and Mountain Dew -- to CBS' Survivor. But while Burnett's getting rich off the series, that isn't the case for most producers according to Jeff Greenfield, vice president of sales at 1st Approach, a firm that specializes in strategic media solutions and has worked on campaigns for Hershey Foods and Krispy Kreme. "Burnett has an ownership interest [in the show]. Generally the production house doesn't make any money off product placement," so it's the networks that are getting richer by hawking products, he said. And when series are sold internationally? "[Foreign networks] buy a show as is... so a company pays a one-time fee [to showca se its products] and all rights for international distribution are negotiated separately....That's why digital enhancement would be great. [The foreign network] could put in products that make sense for them." An entire episode of Universal's Law and Order, for example, revolved around the brand-name drug Gleevec. The foreign networks who acquired the program would be stuck with the product's integration into the script, even if its name could be dubbed out of the dialogue.
While Carsey-Werner is not yet sure exactly how the financial stuff is going to work out ("it varies," said Anderson; "sometimes it's just a pure cash situation; sometimes it's a combination of cash and a company saying 'well, we can also help you with cross-promotion"'), either way, "it helps defray de·fray
tr.v. de·frayed, de·fray·ing, de·frays
To undertake the payment of (costs or expenses); pay.
[French défrayer, from Old French desfrayer : des-, the costs of doing a show."