“Taking the story door to door” was how Brad Schwartz, president of Pop TV described the network’s upfront sales presentation to the advertising community, which was also given to individual members of the press in New York City this week. Joining Schwartz were Justin Rosenblatt, executive VP, programming; Michael DuPont, executive VP, ad sales; and Caroline Wilson, vice president, integrated marketing.
These individual sit-downs came on the heels of two original series premieres: Docuseries Hollywood Darlings, featuring three child stars from the 1990s: Christine Lakin (Step By Step), Beverley Mitchell (7th Heaven) and Jodie Sweetin (Full House); and scripted comedy Return of the Mac, with former New Kids on the Block band member Joey McIntyre. Both half-hours debuted on April 12, and they are two of the seven new upcoming series (and nine projects in development) at Pop.
In total, more than 400 hours of original programming, targeted to audiences in their 30s and 40s who grew up in the 1990s, are expected to air on Pop in the upcoming year.
“Content is what still keeps our audience connected to that emotion of youth,” says Schwartz. “We refer to our audience ‘modern grown-ups’ and we feel that everything in our network should feel oddly familiar to this audience.”
As the rebrand from the old TV Guide Network effective in 2015, Pop, a joint venture between CBS and Lionsgate, has morphed from an outlet in search of an identity to a programming landscape for broad and familiar concepts accentuated by a contemporary spin.
“That first year was all about rebranding from the TV Guide Network,” says Schwartz. “Initially, we went to the marketplace with the story that we were going to build this new network. Last year was all about shifting to Pop, with our pitch to prospective advertisers why they should do business with us. This year, it is about treating Pop like you would anyone else, and why our list of accomplishments will only bring more value to prospective advertisers.”
Touting double-digit growth year-to-year across the key demographics of women and adults 18-49 and 25-54, part of these gains, of course, stems from the increased distribution.
“Not only have we been growing in distribution and ratings, people are now writing about our content which is great for an emerging network. And we are making inroads with talent in the caliber of Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, the New Kids on the Block and Keanu Reeves; not to mention guest stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael J. Fox on our scripted comedy Nightcap, and our upcoming Hot Date from Will Arnett.”
Upcoming at Pop
Hot Date is a half-hour scripted comedy featuring Emily Axford and Brian K. Murphy from comedy website CollegeHumor. It joins upcoming Clique, Pop’s first scripted drama set in a university and reminiscent of Gossip Girl and soon-to-conclude Pretty Little Liars; and Swedish Dicks, Private Investigators, the web comedy series about two unlicensed Swedish detectives trying to make a living in Los Angeles. Ten episodes of Swedish Dicks are already available. Clique, meanwhile, has already been confirmed for two seasons (with six episodes in each season). “Given the expected interest in social media, we will absolutely be focusing on a specific digital market plan for Clique,” says Schwartz.
In scripted development at Pop in the comedy department is Let’s Get Physical, which plays off the 1980s world of aerobics; anthology It’s a Date from the producers of HBO’s Sex and the City and Divorce; Peaches, the tale of a boy who is raised as a girl after his parents lose a pie-eating contest wager; and The New and Improved Pixie Wexler, which focuses on a former child commercial star who embarks on a career as a copyrighter at a Chicago ad agency. Another potential entry is Two Princes, described as a contemporary comedic fairytale in which Prince Charming leaves Cinderella behind in Fantasyland and winds up in present day Venice Beach.
Vying for pick-ups in the scripted drama arena is figure skating-set soapy drama Kiss & Cry; and sci-fi wannabe entry The Demons of Dorian Gunn. There are also two potential non-scripted newbies: Get in My Van, which is described as a talk-travel show hosted by Kate Walsh (Private Practice); and You Take My Point, a pop-culture panel show hosted by Mary McCormack (Divorce).
“What we are trying to find and develop shows that speak to an extensive audience and that feel just plain bold,” said Rosenblatt. “We now have more shows to work with than ever before.”
Pop also has acquired the off-network rights to ABC sitcom The Goldbergs, which will join That ‘70s Show, Beverly Hills, 90210, Baywatch, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek, and recent entry ER.