May 8, 2013
Upfront Recap—Scripted Still Hot, Plenty of News Breaking
By Joyce Wang
Scripted series might have become what reality was a decade ago. This year’s upfront featured some networks venturing into scripted for the first time, while others continued the expansion of scripted fare.
Newcomers in the scripted world include a pair of Discovery nets. Discovery Channel will launch its first ever scripted mini-series, “Klondike,” based on Charlotte Gray’s book “Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike.” Science Channel is debuting its 1st scripted dramatic feature, “73 Seconds: The Challenger Investigation.” The BBC co-production, premiering in November, details the aftermath of the Challenger disaster. Bravo, home for “real housewives” across the nation, is also taking its first stab at original scripted programming, with its’13 slate featuring 3 scripted projects in development.
Crown Media Family Networks’ move into original scripted programming (4 shows total during the ’13-’14 season), combined with its daytime block will transform the brand, pres/CEO Bill Abbott said recently at the company’s NY upfront event.
The addition of scripted programming is expected to open up new ad opportunities (e.g. the automotive category), Abbott said. Spike’s programming slate includes extensive scripted projects. "Our move into scripted special-event series is a major step in the evolution of the brand that now reaches a more balanced audience," said Sharon Levy, evp, original series. "We also see this as a stepping stone to developing original scripted dramatic series." The 5 projects include "Hit Men," "Whitey Bulger Project," "The Lamp," an untitled Benghazi project and "iHuman" (all working titles). E!'s upcoming programming slate includes scripted projects in development such as "Laurel Canyon," "The Stand-In," "Songbyrd," "Expectations," "The Shoreline," "Dirty/Pretty," "Fortunate Son" and "The Royals."
And then there’s AMC, the kingdom of scripted. Its programming schedule includes numerous new projects and an overall deal with writer Rolin Jones (“Boardwalk Empire”) on scripted programs like "Ballistic City," "King," "Ashland" and "White City." Syfy’s upcoming programming slate includes 19 scripted and reality projects, as well as the 4th season of original drama “Being Human.”
Another trend at this season’s upfront presentations has been to actually break some news instead of simply wining and entertaining media buyers (though there still was plenty of that). Fox used the upfront to announce Fox Sports 1, which will replace Speed Aug 17, and the upcoming FXX, launching in September. Nickelodeon’s upfron
t featured pres Cyma Zarghami detailing the net’s strategy for catering to post-Millennials, backed by research findings. For the new kid audience, “funny is everything,” said Jane Gould, svp, consumer insights.