Upfront News and Views: GSN Increases Its Original Game Face

By TV / Video Download Archives
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Venue: Sony's Madison Ave. building between E. 55-56th Streets. In a change of pace, GSN moved its annual March press debrief from a stately mix of hallway (for breakfast buffet) and multi-level conference place to half-owner Sony's seventh-floor lounge and screening room. Plenty of show posters and mod artwork all over the walls with a black staircase in the center. Plush seats in the screening room with a good view for everyone. One corner reserved for photos produced a priceless moment: Jerry Springer (representing Baggage on the Road) on top of The Chase brainiac Mark Labbett, aka The Beast. Can you imagine the selfie bonanza? Grade: 3.5 Jacks

Presentation: Three years into a transition from primetime dependence on Match Game and other classic replays to original series, GSN has turned the corner with viewers, network executives noted in a number of ways. One unique barometer to back up that argument: five out of seven primetime originals running last year (including newbies Idiotest, Skin Wars and It Takes a Church) are back in 2015. That's a 71 percent return rate, figured president/CEO David Goldhill, compared to 41 percent on average for cable networks and about one-third for broadcast networks. From here, programming executive vice president Amy Introcaso-Davis added, new series will fall into two categories: game shows and artistic, "skill-based" competition series. Grade: 3.5 Jacks

News: At least four new series will debut this year, three between now and summer. Lie Detectors, produced in New York, involves studio audiences in an exercise to determine the truth or falsehood of tales spun by a trio of celebrities. The audience member with the most correct and quick determinations gets to play for cash. Word-association game Chain Reaction gets a second revival on the channel, originating from Los Angeles. The third is Monopoly Millionaires' Club, where MMC lottery players gather in Las Vegas for a crack at $1 million. GSN will give MMC a primetime run, together with local station clearances in weekend syndication. Fourth up: Steampunk'd, a competition among design experts who blend Victorian art with cutting-edge technology. In development: A Skin Warsoffshoot involving artists not in the body-painting biz; Hellevator (game with horror elements from Paranormal Activity entrepreneur Jason Blum); Winsanity (contestants work with lists of facts); Window Warriors (visual merchandising contest) and Man vs. Fly (just how it reads, adapted from a series of three-minute vignettes GSN will run throughout its schedule). Grade: 3.5 Jacks

Host: Ben Gleib, the deadpan and irreverent host of Idiotest. No one -- from executives to fellow GSN personalities -- was safe in the room from his presentation observations. "I hit myself with a (hotel) towel last night, and I host a show about other people being idiots," he said. After giving a sample "idiotest" set in a New York subway car to GSN ad sales chief John Zaccario, Gleib acknowledged that the car was fake. "A real car would have 800 people packed in ... and someone playing tambourine with his foot." At one point, Labbatt (seated in the audience) agreed Gleib was "an appropriate host" of his series. Grade: 4 Jacks

Overall Grade: 3.5 Jacks A bright, well-paced snapshot of the network and how its game focus is expanding. Generous celebrity face time was a plus.

Special Note: Pivot did not allow press coverage of its New York upfront presentation Thursday morning at The Lambs Club.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

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