In his first public comments since his public battle with Viacom founder and chairman emeritus Sumner Redstone over the company's future, Viacom executive chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman said the company is staying focused on business and has already completed half of its upfront sales.
Dauman, who spoke today at the Gabelli & Company Movie & Entertainment Conference in New York, said that he's not relishing his moment under the microscope. On May 20, the 92-year-old Redstone removed him and George Abrams from the seven-person trust that will control Viacom (and CBS Corp.) after his death, as well as from the board of National Amusements, which owns 80 percent of Viacom's shares.
"I've been involved in company for 30 years, and this is certainly unique," said Dauman. "It's a lot more fun creating the content than being the content."
Yet the company's business dealings continue despite the war. Dauman said Viacom's upfront sales are halfway done, and the company has secured price increases in the high single-digit range so far, with volume in the mid to high single digits.
"We are well on our way to a strong upfront, which sets up a nice base for us," he said. "This upfront, our Viacom Vantage [data] product has been a very successful tool for us. That's why we have been able to write so much business early in the upfront. It bodes well for us."
Dauman said Viacom is "doing everything in our power" to return to ad revenue growth for the next fiscal year and hopes that a robust marketplace and a ratings uptick among his networks "will combine to get us to a good place there."
And while Redstone announced on Monday that he had changed Viacom's bylaws to require a unanimous vote by the board of directors to sell off all or part of Paramount, Dauman said he is proceeding with a deal to sell a 49 percent stake in the movie studio. "Paramount's had a tough year; it's no secret," he said. "It will bounce back over time."
"Over 40 players" expressed interest in acquiring a Paramount stake, said Dauman, and talks have progressed to "more detailed discussions with a limited group." Dauman said he is looking for a "major global, strategic" partner to acquire 49 percent of Paramount.
However, he said, "recent events have slowed down the process"—i.e., Redstone's actions— meaning that the original target of making a deal by the end of June "is going to slip."
"We are going to proceed deliberately, thoughtfully and thoroughly with our board," said Dauman, who added that the sale would benefit the Redstone family—as well as Gabelli, who held the investor conference, and is Viacom's No. 2 shareholder—as it would unlock a value of more than $10 per Viacom share. The eventual investor will also be "an interesting partner" for the entire Viacom company over time, he added.
Even as they are feuding publicly, Dauman praised Redstone, calling him "my great friend" and noting that they worked "side by side" for 30 years in every Viacom transaction. He has said previously that Redstone is being manipulated by his daughter, Shari, the vice chairman of Viacom and CBS Corp., and president of National Amusements. (Redstone and Shari both deny that allegation.)
As the power struggle rages on, Viacom remains "very focused on the business," said Dauman. "We think we have a lot of opportunity ahead. We're optimistic about it."
Sure, we've all been seeing and hearing a lot from Hamilton, the hottest musical in years, but here's a video that puts other clips to shame.
CBS' Facebook promo for Sunday's 70th Tony Awards uses 360-degree video to put you right on stage as the Hamilton cast rehearses a song. Technically it's just part of a song—an a cappella snippet of "Wait for It"—but it's still downright incredible.
Most 360 videos rely on scenic backdrops or action, but this one tones things down and lets you just enjoy looking around at an unbelievably talented cast that most of us would be damn lucky to even see from the nose-bleed seats.
Check it out below, and be sure to drag the video around with your mouse or finger to make the most of it:
If you thought FX's superb The People v. O.J. Simpson was the definitive TV miniseries about the NFL star turned criminal, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Just wait until tomorrow, when ABC airs the first part of O.J.: Made in America, a stunning 10-hour ESPN documentary series from director Ezra Edelman, who delves into Simpson's entire life and sets his NFL and Hollywood successes and subsequent murder trial against the turbulent backdrop of L.A. and race in the 1950s and '60s. It's a remarkable, tragic portrait of a superstar's rise and fall and our society's culpability in every twist of his story. Thought-provoking and engrossing, it pulls off something that might have seemed impossible: It surpasses the FX miniseries that preceded it. (ESPN will air the other four parts on Tuesday, Wednesday and next Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m.)
Some of the documentary's most interesting insights come during Saturday's premiere, which explores how Simpson became an advertising star almost as soon as he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1969. He quickly signed deals with Chevrolet and RC Cola, but his most life-changing endorsement came in 1975 when he signed with Hertz.
The first ad, which saw him racing through an airport to get to his rental car, was an instant hit and lead to an astounding two-decade partnership between Hertz and Simpson that lasted until Simpson's trial for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
"There was never a story written about O.J. that didn't mention Hertz," said ad exec Mark Morris, former account supervisor with the Ted Bates & Co., Hertz's advertising agency at the time, in the documentary.
Simpson became the first African-American spokesman to appear in advertising campaigns for mass audiences, which until then had featured almost exclusively white actors. In the series, activist and sociologist Harry Edwards notes, "O.J. was the first to demonstrate that white folks would buy stuff based on a black endorsement as long as it was not pressed as a black endorsement. And the way they did that was to remove black people totally from any scene that O.J. was in." (Indeed, the spot's creators talk about adding in white characters cheering him on to counteract what they saw as a potentially problematic image of a black man running wild through an airport.)
Before his documentary debuts tomorrow, Edelman talked about what made Simpson so attractive to advertisers, how Madison Avenue made Simpson a superstar and how that other O.J. miniseries has been a mixed blessing.
Adweek: How did O.J. become the first African-American athlete who was also a star spokesman?
Ezra Edelman: One of the fascinating parts of the narrative is that especially when you think of the history, there had been very few black corporate pitchmen, period. I think the only person at that point had been Bill Cosby, who had hawked White Owl Cigars in the mid-'60s. The idea that a black kid from Potrero Hill, the housing projects in San Francisco, after two years of junior college, arrives at USC, and two years later, he's spit out of his place and he already has these endorsement deals—that transformation is amazing to me. The fact that Chevrolet and RC Cola and ABC television, for that matter, signed him to these deals before he'd even played a down of professional football is astounding. How much of it was the pure magnetism of O.J.? How much of it was the influence of that school and the power of that school? He was transformational as a football star, but you're talking about something that's never been done before, that happened before he became even an NFL star.
What convinced Chevrolet to take him on right out of college?
I have to fall back on the people that I interviewed in the film. First of all, the idea that [sports journalist] Robert Lipsyte says that O.J. very much was the first counterrevolutionary athlete and how that plays into an advertiser's desire in 1969 to take a chance on a black man endorsing the most All-American of brands—I don't know. As one of his business agents at the time, David Lockton, says in the film, the pitch was, "Here's a guy who is not going to make any waves, essentially, and you might get brownie points for stepping up, and also, there's a lot of black people who buy cars, too."
It goes back to the lovely tale we like to tell about Branch Rickey [who, as Brooklyn Dodgers president and gm, broke baseball's color barrier and signed] Jackie Robinson. In the end, Branch Rickey wanted to make money, and he wanted to win games. And the best way to do that is to field black ballplayers. So in some ways, it's as simple as, we can sell more cars to more people with a black face—at least to a market previously potentially unavailable to us—then that makes sense, combined with the fact that they knew he wasn't a political risk. But this is all speculative.
Hertz CEO Frank Olson says that he saw O.J. as "colorless," which is a theme that continues in his stardom: Many people, including Simpson himself, didn't think of him as black.
Yeah, in the sense that the impact of the Hertz ads are immeasurable in the sense that the success of the campaign—it won awards and was an enormously popular, successful campaign—and then when you think about the time that we're talking about, the mid-'70s, and what the television landscape was, this was a time when there's essentially three networks. And people would sit down on a Wednesday night to watch their favorite shows on ABC, some of which would get a 30 or 35 share, and you have a black guy running through the airport selling Hertz. I think that familiarity, in terms of what that brought, was off the charts. Also, we're talking about O.J. as a pitchman for this company, but the advertisement that those commercials were for O.J. himself were off the charts. It was immeasurable.
You could argue that for all that O.J. did in his life as a public figure, nothing topped those Hertz ads as far as reaching the broadest audience the most often. That was the perfect vehicle and it was also perfect for his personality. This wasn't a three-hour drama. This was 30 seconds or a minute, where his good looks and his charm could come through.
As you point out him the documentary, football made him famous, but those Hertz ads really turned him into a superstar.
And that's one part of the idea of O.J. being "made in America." There is the basic rags-to-riches story of a kid growing up where he grew up, and ending up being a football star. But the idea that there's this other level that he can succeed in Hollywood and he could succeed in this realm as well, and that did more for him as far as his broad, commercial appeal, than just being quite simply one of the greatest athletes in our history. I think speaks volumes about what we value in our culture.
What was your reaction to first hearing about FX's O.J. miniseries?
It was just, what are you going to do? I wasn't thrilled. Look, it was already incredibly rare that we were working on something that ended up being 10 hours of television about this subject, and no one had done this and no one had done this deep a dive into the story of O.J., ever, and then you find out a year into the process that someone is doing a 10-hour dramatization. But it didn't have anything to do with what we were doing.
How about when you heard people talk about how good that other miniseries was?
That's the fear—that if this thing is good, and it's going to engage audiences, and you see how critically acclaimed it was and how popular it was, you fear that maybe there isn't an audience for another look at this story. I think, in retrospect, the sense I've gotten is that it really did prepare a culture that either had forgotten about O.J. or not thought about him in a while, and a generation that didn't know about him in the first place, it put O.J. back in the zeitgeist in a way that I feel like has potentially whetted people's appetites for our show. I certainly underestimated our culture's fascination with this story.
So, you still haven't seen it yet?
Look, I'm trying to escape O.J. The last thing I need personally is to watch 10 more hours of it. I know the story.
You've spent two years making O.J.: Made in America. What's next?
I don't know. What do you do after you do an eight-hour documentary? Do a 20-hour documentary? Do something different? I'm hoping to find some physical and mental space so I can figure out what comes next.
Nashville is back from the dead. The Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere drama, which ABC canceled last month after four seasons, is moving to CMT for Season 5.
CMT will air all 22 episodes of Nashville's fifth season (which will continue to film in Nashville), while Hulu will be the show's exclusive streaming partner, making all episodes available for streaming the day after they air on CMT. Hulu already had SVOD rights to Nashville's previous four seasons.
"CMT heard the fans. The wave of love and appreciation they have unleashed for Nashville has been overwhelming," said CMT president Brian Philips in a statement. "Nashville is a perfect addition to our evolving line-up of big music specials, documentaries and original series. We see our fans and ourselves in this show and we will treasure it like no other network. Nashville belongs on CMT."
So far, Nashville is the only series canceled during the 2015-16 TV season to find a new home. Last season, only one canceled show moved to a new outlet: The Mindy Project, which has continued on Hulu after Fox dropped it.
Lionsgate, which produces Nashville along with ABC Studios and Opry Entertainment, had been aggressively searching for a new home. In March, the studio signed Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (executive producers of My So-Called Life and thirtysomething) to step in as showrunners of a potential fifth season. Lionsgate was so confident the show would continue that it ended Season 4 with a cliffhanger, which left the fate of Hayden Panettiere's Juliette Barnes up in the air after her plane had gone missing, instead of a happier ending.
"There's a little short-term pain but ultimately long-term gain because we intend and are quite focused and are in substantive and serious conversations with multiple buyers about continuing the show on another platform," Lionsgate TV chairman Kevin Beggs told The Hollywood Reporter last month. "If we didn't feel that was going to happen, we might have gone a different way."
CMT was an ideal fit for the network, thanks to its country music audience and the network's decision this year to branch out into scripted series, which represents "a quantum leap" for the network, Philips told Adweek in March. The network's first scripted series, Still the King (starring Billy Ray Cyrus as a washed-up, one-hit-wonder singer who discovers he has a 15-year-old daughter), premieres Sunday night.
Last season, Nashville was drawing only 4.2 million views in live-plus-same-day ratings for ABC (and averaging 0.96 in the 18-49 demo), but CMT and Lionsgate said the show had more than 8 million weekly viewers across all platforms, and is strong with women 18-34.
A Lionsgate spokesperson said it was too early to say which cast members will return, though Beggs had previously said, "We intend to continue the show with them all involved," and called stars Britton and Panettiere "essential."
Orlando police believe a deranged fan may have been behind the brazen murder of rising music star Christina Grimmie who was a finalist on NBC's The Voice in the spring of 2014.
"The suspect traveled to Orlando apparently to commit this crime and had plans to travel back to where he came from," said Orlando police chief John Mina in a Saturday morning news conference. By Saturday afternoon, police had identified the suspect as 27-year-old Kevin James Loibl of St. Petersburg, Fla.
OPD can confirm 27 year old Kevin James Loibl, suspect who shot Christina Grimmie, is from St Petersburg, FL pic.twitter.com/iN6RUi3VRx
After a performance at Orlando's Plaza Live Friday night, Grimmie was signing autographs when Loibl walked up to her and shot her. Grimmie's brother tackled the suspect, who then shot himself.
Grimmie, 22, who placed in the top 3 of The Voice season 6 as part of Adam Levine's team, was a rising pop star who counts more than 3.2 million subscribers on her YouTube channel. In fact, she was discovered by the step-father of superstar Selena Gomez on YouTube 6 years ago.
The show has draped its Twitter page in black, and sent out this message:
There are no words. We lost a beautiful soul with an amazing voice. Our hearts go out to the friends, fans and family of @TheRealGrimmie.
When it comes to TV shows about D.C. politics in 2016, truth is stranger than fiction. Even when the fiction involves brain-eating bugs from space.
And that's the problem with BrainDead, CBS' new series, debuting tonight, about a Capitol Hill staffer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is one of the only people in Washington to realize that something sinister is slowly overtaking D.C.'s political players.
It's an inspired idea—and one of the most intriguing concepts that broadcast TV has attempted for its own version of a Walking Dead-like story. But creators Robert and Michelle King's fatal mistake is in setting BrainDead during the real 2016 presidential election, instead of a fictionalized doppelganger.
The show opens with footage of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders on the campaign trial, with a promise, "In the year 2016 there was a growing sense that people were losing their minds and no one knew why. Until now."
However, that's not true. Because the insanity that has been the 2016 presidential campaign is well underway before a meteor falls to Russia and unleashes the brain-eating bugs that turn humans into pod people.
But Trump and Clinton's regular presence on the cable TV networks in the background of most scenes is an ongoing reminder that not even an outlandish premise such as BrainDead's can measure up to many of the real-life antics we've seen so far during this election. Instead, you'll spend much of BrainDead wondering how Trump and Clinton would be navigating the show's events (including a government shutdown), and how Trump would propose doing away with the alien bugs. Perhaps he'd take a cue from one of CBS' previous summer series and construct a dome over the U.S. to keep any other meteors from falling to earth. In an election year where everything already seems ridiculously over the top, nothing is surprising, not even this kind of infestation.
The Kings, who also created The Good Wife, are usually so smart and savvy about their stories and characters, but the 2016 presidential election has been a rare blindspot for them. The biggest blunder of The Good Wife's final season was their decision to have Chris Noth's Peter Florrick pursue a presidential bid opposite the "real" Democratic candidates, none of whom could be a serious presence on the show for obvious reasons. They are repeating their mistakes here. A better option would have been to follow the lead of Scandal: the show found a Trump surrogate in Hollis Doyle (Gregg Henry), which allowed the characters to engage with him directly.
CBS is calling BrainDead a "comic-thriller," but the show has little of either. Most of the comic targets are safe and repetitive: there's a Rachel Maddow clone on the MSNBC surrogate who blames all of the political news on the Republicans, while its Fox News stand-in has a Megyn Kelly lookalike (played by Megan Hilty) who spends all her time skewering Democrats. And there are far too many on-the-nose references to people acting "insane" or "losing their minds."
The show isn't scary, though BrainDead's special effects team knows exactly what it's doing. Each episode is backed with nasty, gory effects—many of them variations on the infamous head exploding scene in Scanners—but even that starts to lose its impact by the third episode.
Winstead is a winning actress, but Laurel isn't developed much, especially compared to how fully-formed Julianna Margulies' Alicia Florrick was in The Good Wife. Laurel is a documentary filmmaker who is pulled back into D.C. politics to raise money for her documentary on Melanesian choirs, and handles "constituent casework" for her Senator brother (Danny Pino), the Democratic whip from Maryland. While dealing with ornery constitutions ("I don't have social security problems," says one. "You have social security problems."), she starts investigating when someone mentions that her husband—who worked as an engineer on the container ship that transported the meteor from Russia to the U.S.—isn't acting like himself.
She crosses paths with Gareth (Aaron Tveit), who works as legislative director for Republican Sen. Red Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub), and is looking to avoid a looming federal government shutdown.
There is an fascinating story here, taking the typical D.C. political dealing, backstabbing and giving it a comic horror spin, but BrianDead hasn't found it. That is, aside from one area, where the show is perfectly pitched: the madcap tone of the musical recaps that kick off each episode, beginning with the second week. They're funny, off the wall, and everything that BrainDead should be and isn't yet. Even if you skip the show, be sure to carve out a few minutes each week for the recap.
While all the broadcast networks have talked about the need to program year-round, CBS has put its money where its mouth is, spending lavishly on new summer series—Under the Dome, Extant and Zoo—with compelling visuals and story, which quickly fall off a cliff. (Under the Dome and Extant have been canceled, and Zoo has returned for Season 2 this summer, though its buzz has been almost nonexistent). I had high hopes that the Kings would break CBS' disappointing summer streak, but instead, the network will have to go back to the drawing board for summer 2017.
It already counts 11 verticals covering everything from news and sports to women's issues, music, food and tech. Now, Vice is planning to expand its scope even further, pulling back the curtain today on a gaming vertical that was first announced at the company's NewFronts presentation last in May.
The as yet unnamed channel, set to fully launch in the fall, will focus on gaming culture, big and small, through personal storytelling.
"It's probably the biggest medium today for communications," Joel Fowler, publisher of the new vertical, told Adweek. Fowler also runs Vice's electronic music and culture channel, Thump.
Vice already produces gaming-related content for Motherboard and The Creators Project, as well as for the main website, but will now have its own "dedicated place where we can devote resources," said Fowler. "We see it more as doubling down on all the gaming content that we've been doing."
Vice is debuting the first episode of Pixel by Pixel, the first video series for the vertical, during this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. Vice partnered with Twitch to stream the episode live during its E3 broadcast scheduled for Tuesday afternoon around 6 p.m. PT. The series profiles indie game developers in the weeks leading up to the release of their projects. The first episode follows Alex Preston, creator of Hyper Light Drifter. The game is autobiographical in nature. Preston was born with a serious congenital heart defect. The game's main character confronts challenges he must resolve before he dies.
Vice will roll out the first episode for each of the five new shows in the coming months leading up to the site's launch; all five videos will be sponsored by Taco Bell. By late summer, Vice will debut the first episode of esports-themed series Versus, which will center on the game Smite.
Unlike most gaming sites, Fowler plans to steer clear of reviews. "It's almost like a big controversial point between sites and fans," said Fowler. Too often, reviewers end up getting blasted by fans for essentially lying to them. They also led to the rise of the ugly Gamergate controversy in 2014. "We really don't want to even touch that space," said Fowler, who plans to focus on the stories behind the games and the people who make them.
"The biggest point is that it's inclusive," he said.
The rise of esports is also leading to a positive pivot in the gaming world, he says.
"There was definitely, for a couple years, a pretty polarized depiction of games from mass media. That is definitely changing as esports has become such a big cash cow," Fowler said. The burgeoning space also allows them to work across other Vice verticals.
"Vice Sports can cover it from a sporting angle and we can actually unify for really comprehensive esports coverage," he said.
Adweek: What's the first information you consume in the morning?
Michael Ian Black: The New York Times print edition. I have it delivered every day. It's my favorite thing in the world. If I go cover to cover with the front section of the newspaper, I read a lot more than I would if I just read it online.
You were one of the first comedians to become really popular on Twitter when you joined back in 2009. Why did you get on there?
I was reluctant to, actually, but I had a friend who told me that somebody was pretending to be me on Twitter and that I should join to stop that from happening, so I did. And then I just got hooked on it. It's my little social media crack pipe.
Who do you follow?
It kind of varies. Right now, with the election, I'm paying a lot of attention to politics. There's a woman named Jenna Johnson who follows the Trump campaign [for The Washington Post] who's good, and Oliver Willis with Media Matters, I like him. I follow Dan Pfeiffer, who was Obama's director of communications. And then I have a circle of Twitter friends who I don't really know in real life but I know on Twitter.
Have any of your Twitter friends turned into real-life friends?
[Comedian] Rob Delaney is probably the closest. I didn't know Rob at all, and we became Twitter friends before we actually became friendly in real life.
Do you follow any politicians?
I kind of like my congressman, Jim Himes. He's got a sense of humor. I tend not to follow politicians because they're always so self-serving and they never actually say anything. But [Iowa Senator] Chuck Grassley is funny because he's basically incoherent most of the time.
What podcasts do you listen to?
Before you called, I was just listening to This American Life. I've also been listening to Keepin' It 1600, which is a new political podcast. It's interesting. It's really a deep dive into politics by two guys who really know politics [Dan Pfeiffer and former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau].
What TV shows do you watch?
Right now, I'm watching Game of Thrones and The Night Manager. I liked the first two episodes of The Night Manager a lot, and then the third episode got very implausible and deus ex machina for me, so my wife and I were bitching about that to each other.
A lot of people might not know this, but you were the voice of the sock puppet from those famous Pets.com ads. What was that like?
It was an odd experience because the character became so much more popular than the company, and the company just couldn't survive. It was ahead of its time in certain ways because online shopping for commodities just wasn't a thing back then. It hadn't really entered the gestalt. But it was also a painful job because I had to stick my arm up all the time. You do that for 10 minutes at a time, and it actually hurts. I don't know how Triumph does it.
This story first appeared in the June 13, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
CMT president Brian Philips wasn't kidding when he told Adweek in March prior to his network's upfront presentation that the country-themed network's move into scripted series this year for the first time represented "a quantum leap."
At that point, he was referring only to Still the King (starring Billy Ray Cyrus as a washed-up, one-hit wonder who discovers he has a 15-year-old daughter), which debuted last week, and Million Dollar Quartet (inspired by the 2010 Broadway musical set in 1950s Memphis), which will air in November.
But CMT's biggest scripted splash came Friday when the network announced it had picked up the Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere drama, Nashville, which was canceled by ABC in May. CMT will air all 22 episodes of Nashville's fifth season, while Hulu will be the show's exclusive streaming partner, making all episodes available for streaming the day after they air on CMT.
Lionsgate, which produces Nashville along with ABC Studios and Opry Entertainment, had been aggressively searching for a new home and found it in CMT, which is also based in Nashville. But the deal also wouldn't have happened without Hulu, which had SVOD rights to the show's previous four seasons and agreed to renew its streaming agreement to make the deal happen. (Hulu has exclusive streaming rights, but CMT will be able to offer the show on VOD.)
It's a huge swing for CMT, which is hoping to attract a good chunk of the 4.2 million viewers that watched Nashville in live-plus-same-day ratings last season on ABC (and averaged 0.96 in the 18-49 demo). CMT and Lionsgate said the show had more than 8 million weekly viewers across all platforms. In contrast, Still the King was CMT's highest original premiere ever with 2.2 million viewers (and a 0.97 rating) across CMT, TV Land and Nick at Nite.
"It's been a good week," said Philips, who spoke with Adweek about how the deal happened and why the Season 5 premiere might air on more than one Viacom network.
Adweek: What prompted CMT's push into scripted this year even before Nashville?
Brian Philips: It was really a natural evolution of the channel. As we moved away from some of our lighter reality fare, we wanted to create scripted that embraced music, that attracted a broader audience. We already had major pieces in motion with both Still the King and Million Dollar Quartet. To have Nashville come along and complete the puzzle in such a timely way is just a real gift.
How did this Nashville deal come together? There had been questions about Nashville's future on ABC for many months.
In spite of its explosive growth, Nashville the city is still a small town. I think we always saw ourselves in that show a little bit, literally and figuratively. We saw a lot of people we knew in the show. As a result, we always had our eye on it. Every year, there would be some conjecture about whether or not it might become available, and when it was available, the fans took over. In my entire career, I've not seen anything like the seismic groundswell that hit us from every direction about "CMT needs to save Nashville." As we were working out the details and the deal, in the back of my mind, aside from the great business implications of having a wonderful, proven show with a great following, I was like, "I don't want to disappoint these people!" I couldn't pick up my dry cleaning in Nashville without somebody coming up and saying, "What's going to happen with Nashville? Are you going to do it or not? What's the holdup?" We always knew that if it became available, we wanted to be in play to get it. And Lionsgate made that possible, as did Hulu.
If the show had been available a year ago, before your expansion into scripted, would you have made the same play for it?
The question centers around whether or not a year ago we would have built up this scripted infrastructure for promotion and marketing and production and press and all the things that accompany Still the King and Million Dollar Quartet. It would have been harder to know a year ago if we were able to make that leap, but now we're much more comfortable working with scripted.
This has a broadcast show's budget and license fee. Hulu is a big part of this deal, but what else did you have to do to make the finances work out so this made sense for your head and your heart?
It took great advice from a lot of different wings of this company. Not the least of which is the very top of [Viacom] Kids and Family [Group] and ad sales. Any place you look in this company, you can find people who can think with their heads and hearts simultaneously and see the benefits of the brand and see the long-term benefit relative to the short term. So it involved a lot of quick consultation with our company and with my senior team. "Can we take this on? Are we ready for this?" I'll give our larger company credit for being flexible and nimble when we thought we wanted and needed something that could change CMT's future, and everything came together really quickly with very little friction.
Much of the cast is in long-term deals, but did you check with them to see if they were still on board with the move to CMT?
Yeah. Obviously, we did that diligence, but last year on CMT's Artists of the Year Awards, we gave a special honor to the cast and crew and creators of Nashville for all they've done for our town and for our culture. Chip Esten [who plays Deacon] is a constant go-to guy for CMT. He's always there when you need him for something. We have great relations with the talent on the show, including the people who came out and made the announcement with us on Friday: Chris Carmack [who plays Will] and Clare Bowen [who plays Scarlett] along with [Esten]. We didn't worry much because frankly some of those people were behind the "Save Nashville" movement as well. And I think that they were very pleased by the outcome of CMT being the new home for the show.
Is it safe to say we'll see a big marketing push behind the show ahead of its CMT debut?
Yes, that is safe to say.
Any idea when Season 5 will premiere?
It's still a work in progress. The writers' room is up, the showrunners are in place [Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, executive producers of My So-Called Life and Thirtysomething], and my sense is that they can more or less deliver at will. It could be fall; it could be a little bit later. We don't know. We're in the earliest of talks right now. We feel like the Nashville machine is gearing up, and we'll develop a plan for the rollout of these 22 new episodes that makes the most sense for everybody.
The CMT Awards and the Still the King premiere aired across multiple Viacom networks. Is that something you're considering for Nashville as well?
Yeah, I think so. We always look to our sister nets, those that are compatible or can be additive with shows like this. They're a huge help. The power of this Kids and Family Group is enormous. They're a huge help with awards, they're a huge help launching Still the King, and I can imagine the same for everything we do, including Nashville.
Will CMT have a bigger presence on the show this season?
We're not going to impose ourselves on the show, if that's what anybody's worried about. You're not going to be seeing egregious storylines set inside the executive suites of CMT I don't think. The writers are dedicated to making the stories pop, and it's whatever they come up with. For what it's worth, half of our executives were already on the ABC version of the show, much to my surprise sometimes when I was watching it! So, it's a small town, and a lot of our people have already touched the show one way or another over the years. Whatever the writers feel is the most organic way to work in the interesting facets of Nashville that have made this show so popular, we're with them.
What's it like having this show added to your arsenal during Viacom's upfront talks?
CMT is in a really good position for the upfront, clearly investing even more than we really imagined in original content, scripted, as well as big music franchises. And Nashville ices the cake with its passionate fanbase that we know will come back for Season 5 on CMT. So we're in the best possible position.
Anything else to add about Nashville?
As sexy and surprising as the great fan story that Nashville is, and as important as it will be to CMT's growth and the spread of CMT to a broader audience, I would like to reiterate that a huge amount of creativity, time, thought and money went into our investment in Still the King, which debuted really strongly for us, and Million Dollar Quartet, which I'm immensely proud of and think our audience will love. It's a family of great scripted shows and music events. I never want to be in the place where we're only known for one thing. We have a lot on our air, and we're not going to be a one-note network that's only about Nashville the TV show.
Because NBC's No. 1 series, Sunday Night Football, stretches well past 11 p.m., the network can't use it to help any of its new shows this fall. Instead, the network is making the most of its No. 2 show, The Voice, which it will deploy to launch all three of its new fall series, NBC announced today.
The Voice, with new coaches Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus, kicks off Season 11 on Monday, Sept. 19. Then NBC will air two episodes of its new Kristen Bell-Ted Danson comedy, The Good Place, which moves to its regular 8:30 p.m. Thursday spot on Sept. 22. (Trailers and descriptions of NBC's three new shows can be found here.)
New drama This Is Us will debut Tuesday, Sept. 20, after The Voice's Tuesday airing and will remain at 10 p.m. for three weeks until moving to its regular 9 p.m. slot on Oct. 11.
NBC's third freshman fall series, drama Timeless, which will air regularly in the same plum 10 p.m. time slot on Mondays that turned The Blacklist and Blindspot into hits, will settle in on Oct. 3.
Sunday Night Football kicks off NBC's fall—and the NFL's season—on Thursday, Sept. 8, in a Super Bowl 50 rematch between the champion Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. On Sunday, Sept. 11, Sunday Night Football returns to Sundays, as the Arizona Cardinals host the New England Patriots.
Blindspot, which was last season's No. 1 freshman series among adults ages 18 to 49, will premiere Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 10 p.m. after the season finale of America's Got Talent. It will then shift to its regular (and new) time slot—9 p.m.—a week later.
Most of NBC's fall schedule will roll out the week of Sept. 19, the first week of the 2016-17 season. Only three shows won't air until later in the fall: Timeless (Oct. 3), Chicago Fire (Oct. 11) and Grimm (premiere date still TBD).
Midseason hit Superstore will premiere Sept. 22, though NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said in May that the network will also air an original episode of the comedy during its Summer Olympics coverage in August.
Here is the entire premiere schedule for NBC's fall shows (new programs in bold):
8-10 p.m. — The Voice (Sept. 19)
10-11 p.m. — Timeless (Oct. 3)
8-9 p.m. — The Voice (Sept. 20)
9-10 p.m. — This Is Us (Sept 19 at 10 p.m.; moves to regular slot on Oct. 11)
10-11 p.m. — Chicago Fire (Oct. 11)
8-9 p.m. — Blindspot (Sept. 14 at 10 p.m.; moves to regular slot on Sept. 21)
9-10 p.m. — Law & Order: SVU (Sept. 21)
10-11 p.m. — Chicago P.D. (Sept. 21)
8-9 p.m. — Superstore (Sept. 22)
8:30-9 p.m. — The Good Place (previews Monday, Sept. 19; time period premiere on Sept. 22)
9-10 p.m. — Chicago Med (Sept. 22)
10-11 p.m. — The Blacklist (Sept. 22)
8-9 p.m. — Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon (Sept. 23)
9-10 p.m. — Grimm (no premiere date announced)
10-11 p.m. — Dateline (Sept. 23 at 9 p.m.)
8-10 p.m. — Dateline Saturday Night Mystery
10-11 p.m. — Saturday Night Live (classic encores)
7-8:20 p.m. — Football Night in America (Thursday, Sept. 8; Sunday premiere, Sept. 11)
8:20-11 p.m. — Sunday Night Football (Thursday, Sept. 8; Sunday premiere on Sept. 11)
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