Upfront News and Views: Buying Into Pop’s Fan-Friendly Entertainment

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After noting that Pop's ratings were up 11 percent in the first three months of 2015 (on top of more than two years of viewership increases as TVGN/TV Guide Network), president Brad Schwartz invited the ad community to reexamine their TV environment. "We're in a world where everyone is down and we're up," he said. "You can do better. Move some of the money you're spending on other networks with us, at better pricing points." (FYI: Pop, under its new name and concentration on fan culture series, has gained 20 new advertisers so far this year, compared with 44 for all of 2014.) A shifted buy, under Schwartz's appeal, will get sponsors more bang with upscale 18-45 viewers subtitled "the modern grownups" for their habit of raising children and families later in life. "Pop culture keeps them engaged in their youth," he added, with his channel's format highlighting culture with a fan mindset, a distinct sweet spot at Bravo (focus on affluent tastemakers), E! (paparazzi/insider approach) and VH1 (urban perspective).

Venue: Second Penthouse level of the Gansevoort Park Ave. Hotel on E. 29th St. In order to simulate a living-room atmosphere, the space was decorated with colorful sofas, pillows and seats, with breakfast, tea and juices served at the back. Pop's logo was in the center of greenery on one wall. Acapella choir Vassar Devils (who will compete in the national college acapella championships later this week at Beacon Theater) entertained the press crowd while they relaxed, ate or both. Grade: 3.5 Jacks for the setting; 4.5 Jacks for Vassar's aca-versatility.

Presentation: Takes a page from the time-honored strategy of asking advertisers to shift money from one media arena to another. After noting that Pop's ratings were up 11 percent in the first three months of 2015 (on top of more than two years of viewership increases as TVGN/TV Guide Network), president Brad Schwartz invited the ad community to reexamine their TV environment. "We're in a world where everyone is down and we're up," he said. "You can do better. Move some of the money you're spending on other networks with us, at better pricing points." (FYI: Pop, under its new name and concentration on fan culture series, has gained 20 new advertisers so far this year, compared with 44 for all of 2014.) A shifted buy, under Schwartz's appeal, will get sponsors more bang with upscale 18-45 viewers subtitled "the modern grownups" for their habit of raising children and families later in life. "Pop culture keeps them engaged in their youth," he added, with his channel's format highlighting culture with a fan mindset, a distinct sweet spot at Bravo (focus on affluent tastemakers), E! (paparazzi/insider approach) and VH1 (urban perspective). Grade: 3 Jacks

News: More than 300 hours of original programming throughout 2015. The new series premieres begin April 26 with “Queens of Drama,” bringing soap opera faves together to assemble and pitch a primetime drama. (“Queens” will pair up with the return of the Daytime Emmy Awards to live TV with Tyra Banks hosting.) “Sing It Out,” with John Legend aboard as an executive producer, debuts May 13 with its focus on five college acapella groups and their road to that national championship. Legend, coming off the Best Song Academy Award for "Glory," has a first-look deal to develop additional series. One more newbie is set for this summer: “Don't Blink” (street magicians breaking in new tricks). The development contenders include “Doubt” (a game show involving Nigel Lythgoe) and “Celebrity Inc.” (stars look for new products to endorse -- will be tested as a one-hour special). Grade: 3 Jacks

Host: Schwartz was engaging, supported by appearances from “Schitt's Creek” co-creator/executive producer/star Eugene Levy and Ty Stiklorius, Legend's manager and “Sing It Out” co-executive producer. Fun turn by Stiklorius about her and Legend's acapella adventures at the University of Pennsylvania. Grade: 3.5 Jacks

Overall Grade: 3.5 Jacks First network so far this Upfront season to publicly ask agencies to pull spending from elsewhere. Bold tactic for Pop, so short into its new existence as fandom-celebrating channel. Schwartz did his best to make the case.

Special Note: Yes, there was no news about scripted projects ahead. However, keep in mind that a year ago, then-TVGN management affirmed that scripted would happen 18-24 months down the road. There's two scripted programs on the schedule now -- acclaimed “Schitt's Creek” (renewed for 2016) and “Impress Me.” More could be on the way. 

The Jacks scale:

5 Jacks -- Excellent
4 Jacks -- Very Good
3 Jacks -- Good
2 Jacks -- Fair
1 Jack -- Poor
0 Jacks -- Worse than bad

More observations from the passing parade:

Did you hear about the new smart/ultra HD TV sets coming soon from Samsung and LG? If you didn't, you're one of a multitude. In the last two weeks, separate Samsung and LG events here in New York saw a lot of key press not show up because they were not invited or overlooked. Result: few people got the news beyond readers of PR Newswire (LG) or Business Wire (Samsung). Whoever oversaw the PR effort for these events should get busy now to insure this doesn't happen again.

Kollide.tv wants to be the Netflix of multicultural TV. The Web showcase of first-run scripted and unscripted series created, produced and/or featuring people of color has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $150,000 en route to becoming a TV channel available on smart TVs and devices like Roku (where a Kollide beta test is underway). Nearly $2,000 was raised two days into the campaign, which continues through early May.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

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