The reputation August has for many people is that of dog days – slow, inactive, mundane, activity of a snail-crawling nature, compared to the other 11 months of a year.
Blast that rep to bits this August where television is concerned. Sure, we've had years in which a network was launched down this stretch. MTV immediately comes to mind 30-plus years ago. However, we sure haven't had an August of late with three – repeat, three – networks with high profiles start up.
We've already had one of the three take off in Pivot, opening last Thursday with more than 40 million homes in view, thanks to acquiring the affiliate base of The Documentary Channel and Halogen. Participant Media's entry into the TV network arena, out to engage millennials with content that entertains and provokes involvement with social issues simultaneously, kicked off with back-to-back episodes of the dramedy Please Like Me and the hour-long nightly roundtable TakePart Live. Also on opening night, Pivot became the latest in the growing line of channels entering the scripted TV universe. Pivot already has a number of original series ahead to watch for, from documentary Jersey Strong to nuvo-variety HitRecord, specials co-produced with Rolling Stone and Univision, and the hip/flip young Shakespeare drama Will from The Great Gatsby/Moulin Rouge writer Craig Pearce.
Next on deck: Fox Sports 1 on August 17, checking into the very crowded field of all-sports networks. Weekend NASCAR truck racing and UFC mixed martial-arts competition will kick off a schedule of some 5,000 live event hours planned for the channel's first year, with soccer and college football games in short order. Fox Sports Live, the net's brand of sports news/highlights coverage, will premiere opening weekend, followed by Regis Philbin's afternoon Rush Hour and other daytime series the following week. Thanks to the conversion of Speed Channel, Fox Sports 1 anticipates launching among 90 million cable and satellite households, a record for a new channel in its genre.
Three days later, Current TV will be replaced by Al Jazeera America, the third of our August channel launches. A news service focusing on domestic developments, issues and trends, this service will combine reports from a dozen bureaus nationwide with material from parent Al Jazeera's other news channels available worldwide, including Al Jazeera English. The coverage centerpiece: America Tonight, a nightly newsmagazine anchored by former CNN anchorperson/CBS correspondent Joie Chen, with frequent special reports from Soledad O'Brien and other contributors. Other features include a nightly talk hour with Antonio Mora, formerly with ABC. Current gives Al Jazeera America coverage among 40-45 million households at launch. How quickly AJA gets beyond that will depend on early audience and pundit reaction to its coverage, comparisons to other all-news nets and likely as important, comparison to coverage by mothership Al Jazeera, whose past work originating from the Middle East has raised controversy with U.S. government officials and members of Congress.
Together, this trio will kick off the most concentrated set of notable network premieres in recent memory. FXX and Esquire Network (converted from G4) hit the scene next month, with Fusion and Sean Combs's Revolt taking off in October, and El Rey Network from Robert Rodriguez (assisted on several levels by Univision) playing this December. There's also a good chance we may see some other independent players join the bunch, including Chicago-based Touchvision and multicasters Soul Of The South and VU TV Network.
Looks like this month isn't one for the dog day believers among us. In this rapidly-expanding TV world, that's amore for all the rest.
Observations from the passing parade:
***Looks like CBS and Time Warner Cable are hunkering down in their retransmission consent skirmish. If they can't reach a deal by this weekend, when Tiger Woods may contend for his first golf major win in years at the PGA Championship, Time Warner customers in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and elsewhere probably can kiss their CBS stations and Showtime goodbye until at least mid-September, when CBS opens its fall season. The radio/TV advocacy by both parties continues.
***New series premieres to watch this weekend: Starz's The White Queen, the pay channel's first attempt at original Saturday night programming, based on the popular book series, and Low Winter Sun from AMC, getting buzz as an early contender for next fall's Emmy Awards.
***Keep a close eye or ear on Google's Chromecast venture, the $35 plug-in allowing people to watch YouTube, Netflix and other Web services on the TV set. What becomes of Google TV if this plugs well with the public?
***With ABC Family cancelling Bunheads, can someone give star Sutton Foster her own variety series? She's a dynamite talent – sings, acts, dances – and personable to the hilt. How about it, someone out there?
***Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV which I host and produce, begins its seventh year on the air this week. I'm deeply grateful to all the guests coming on, all the public relations people arranging guests and seeing value in the program's existence, BlogTalk Radio for carrying it, and most important, all of you who listen and participate. Your listening is deeply appreciated, and I invite you to strap in for our next amazing year. If you're not listening, come on in and discover what the world of TV has to say.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!
Simon Applebaum is producer/host of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV. Tomorrow runs live Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific Time on www.blogtalkradio.com, with replays available at www.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. A weekly TV series edition will soon premiere on the new UBC-TV network.
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