A full recap of World Screen Newsflash’s L.A. Screenings coverage, including social media analysis from The WIT, on-site reporting from Elizabeth Guider and insight from the U.S. network upfronts.
2019-20 Fall Season Grid
World Screen’s comprehensive guide to the U.S. networks’ 2019-20 season features the prime-time grids for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The CW; pop-up trailers; descriptions and credits for each new and returning show; and a listing of series by studio. View the grid here.
Elizabeth Guider Reports
“Queried by World Screen over the last month, several acquirers claimed they (and their viewers) want ‘a classy drama,’ or ‘a smart comedy,’ or ‘a different kind of show that will have everyone talking,’ but the emphasis these days is on the ‘a,‘” reported our contributing editor, Elizabeth Guider, from Los Angeles on the eve of the studio screenings. “They no longer want to buy in bulk from their U.S. suppliers; rather, like the handful of top British buyers have always done, they increasingly cherry-pick the one, or two, or three shows that will make a positive impact on their platforms back home.” You can catch up on her recaps of the presentations by Warner Bros., CBS Studios International, Sony Pictures Television and NBCUniversal, which feature a slew of buyer reactions to the new shows. In addition, she offered up key takeaways from the week-long event. Guider was also on hand at the independent screenings and reported on the inaugural NATPE L.A. Screenings Independents Producers Summit. Read Guider’s in-depth report on how U.S. series are faring abroad here.
The WIT Analysis
Tracking tweets, Facebook comments and YouTube trailer views, The WIT provided some insight into which shows are likely to resonate with audiences this fall. Get commentary from The WIT’s Geise Fiscina on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The CW.
Upfront Announcements & Insight
The word “stability” popped up a lot as the U.S. broadcast networks unveiled their 2019-20 season grids. For the most part, ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW emphasized returning hits, ordering just a smattering of new shows for the fall while keeping many more in store for midseason. A risk-averse strategy is not surprising given the widespread disruption in the media industry today, as appointment viewing takes a backseat to on-demand and the U.S. market braces for even more competition in the streaming space.
Known IP is a clear trend on the networks, from The CW’s reliance on DC Comics and Archie Comics characters—and hitmaker Greg Berlanti (who also grew his portfolio across the other broadcast networks)—to FBI, 9-1-1 and black-ish spin-offs to Lincoln, based on The Bone Collector novel, and Stumptown, adapted from a graphic novel, to the scripted format-inspired The Baker and the Beauty and Not Just Me. Vertical integration continues, with ABC, NBC, CBS and The CW all relying heavily on their sister production companies. Although, there remains room for independents on the U.S. grid, and not just in unscripted; Werner Entertainment scored a renewal on The Conners (repped by Carsey-Werner), Keshet Studios is involved in both Lincoln and The Baker and the Beauty (sharing distribution rights with NBCUniversal on the latter), Entertainment One landed a renewal of The Rookie on ABC and a pickup of Deputy at FOX, Lionsgate’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist rolls out on NBC in the fall, and Sony Pictures Television has four new shows arriving in midseason.
The week also saw Disney and WarnerMedia both putting an emphasis on their expanded portfolios. Kevin Mayer, chairman of direct-to-consumer and international at The Walt Disney Company, delivered the opening remarks at the group’s Upfront Experience, its first since closing the 21st Century Fox deal. “This marks the latest watershed event in what has been a very remarkable year for us,” Mayer said. “We completed the acquisition of 21st Century Fox in March, we unveiled Disney+ last month and we announced an agreement with Comcast to assume full operational control of Hulu effective immediately and acquire Comcast’s equity stake in 2024. Among all of these developments, the power of the advertising portfolio that we have brought together might be the most exciting thing of all.”
Speaking to reporters ahead of Disney’s Upfront Experience, John Landgraf, chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions, spoke about his optimism for the future as his division settles into its new parent company. Landgraf said Hulu will be the brand’s streaming home (his comments came shortly after Disney revealed it was taking full control of the platform) rather than the family-friendly, four-quadrant Disney+ or a standalone SVOD service.
“It’s going to be challenging for standalone streaming brands to scale up. You can start to see the shape of a new world emerging in which there are six really large companies that have declared their aspirations to make large streaming services—Disney, Comcast, AT&T/WarnerMedia, Apple, Amazon and Netflix. The thing I’m most excited about is you can see massive growth in the OTT space and you can see, particularly with younger viewers, that’s where the growth is coming from. Cable distribution is flat at best. The possibilities of a platform like Hulu, which has so many more subscribers, is much more exciting to us in the long run than trying to scale up a standalone brand.”
Upfront week also saw Disney’s Bob Iger and AT&T’s Randall L. Stephenson talking to investors about the importance of direct-to-consumer. At Disney, between Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, there are a raft of synergies, Iger said at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit. “We’ll be able to manage customers across all platforms, so customer data, of course, passwords and user names, billing. It gives us the ability to bundle, which is a big deal. Share data. Advertising. This gives us a great opportunity in terms of leveraging our content and our content creative engines, in this particular case [20th Century] Fox, FX, ABC, ABC News, etc. We’ll also be able to leverage our technology.”
Stephenson, chairman, CEO and president of AT&T, at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference in Boston, noted, “As we bring WarnerMedia into the fold, our key video product will become the SVOD service that Bob Greenblatt and John Stankey are standing up in WarnerMedia. And I don’t think people yet have an appreciation for what this product will bring to bear. This is obviously going to be centered around HBO, which is the premium of premium content. It’s actually a luxury brand in terms of content. But we’ll pin that and surround it with all of the content library of Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Studios and Turner.”
Stephenson mentioned lucrative Warner Bros. television productions like Friends, Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory and noted, “We will be bringing a lot of these media rights, licensing rights back to ourselves to put on our own SVOD product.”