FRESH CHALLENGES FOR BRENNAN ON ‘FACE THE NATION’ BAD AUDIENCE GUESSES BITE NETS AHEAD OF UPFRONTS
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
BY GEORGE, THAT’S PROLIFIC David George and ITV America have built a ‘one-stop shop,’ filling screens with reality fare V O L U M E 15 1 • N U M B E R 2 • F E B R U A R Y 15 , 2 0 2 1 • $ 6 . 9 5
IN THIS ISSUE
VOLUME 151 • ISSUE 2 • FEBRUARY 15, 2021 WWW.BROADCASTINGCABLE.COM
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8 COVER STORY FEATURES 8 COVER STORY With more than 50 unscripted series for broadcasters, cable networks and streaming platforms in his stable, David George and ITV America have built a “one-stop shop” for reality content — and won honors as B+C’s Producer of the Year for 2021. By R. Thomas Umstead 14 PROGRAMMING Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan marks three years in the anchor chair at CBS’s venerable public-affairs show with an edge in the ratings and a news cycle that won’t slow down. By Michael Malone 20 CURRENCY Ratings erosion and substandard viewer forecasts have been a double whammy for networks as the upfront selling season nears. By Jon Lafayette
Cover: Titus Kana Photography. This Page: Cover Story: Titus Kana Photography; Programming: Michele Crowe/CBS; Currency: Pluto TV
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DEPARTMENTS 4 LEAD-IN 16 LOCAL NEWS 18 TECH 22 SYNDICATION 24 POLICY 25 FATES & FORTUNES 26 DATA MINE 32 VIEWPOINT 34 THE FIVE SPOT
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ON THE COVER
David George, CEO of ITV America, the 2021 B+C Producer of the Year. Future plc is a public company quoted on the London Stock Exchange (symbol: FUTR) www.futureplc.com
Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne Non-executive chairman Richard Huntingford Chief financial officer Rachel Addison Tel +44 (0)1225 442 244
Vol. 151 • No. 2 • February 15, 2021. B&C Broadcasting & Cable (ISSN 1068-6827) (USPS 066-000) is published monthly by Future US, Inc., 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to B&C Broadcasting & Cable, P.O. Box 8688, Lowell, MA 01853-8688. Printed in U.S.A. © 2021 Future US, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
True-Crime Story ‘The Widower’ Gets Three-Night Run on NBC ‘Dateline’ team produces chronicle of man whose wives keep dying By Michael Malone firstname.lastname@example.org @BCMikeMalone
he Widower, a three-part true-crime miniseries from the producers of Dateline NBC, starts on NBC Thursday, Feb. 18. The twisting and turning series, about a man who has had four wives die under mysterious circumstances, represents the first time the network is airing a multi-night, true-crime series from Dateline. “It just seemed like an unusual show that probably deserved a different kind of treatment,” said Paul Ryan, co-executive producer. “It deserved multiple nights.” Thomas Randolph, who is 66, is accused of murdering his sixth wife. Ryan called him “a strange and outrageous and unusual character.” The producers had extraordinary access to Randolph. The perp loved the attention, Ryan said, and was convinced he could persuade viewers of his innocence. “He has supreme
Thomas Randolph, accused of murdering his sixth wife, is the subject of the Dateline NBC-produced The Widower.
confidence in his ability to evade the system, and to charm people — lawyers, judges, producers,” Ryan said. The producers also got ample access to the law enforcement people chasing down the bad guy. “You’re literally there with the cops when they’re interviewing witnesses,” said Ryan.
“You’re really putting the puzzle together with them.” Dateline investigative producer Dan Slepian began documenting the murder investigation in 2008 while embedded with the Las Vegas Police Department. Ryan noted the work of Det. Dean O’Kelley, who appears in the miniseries. “He’s the most amazing, dogged, dedicated public servant you’d ever want to see,” said Ryan. “I was blown away by how much this guy cared and how far he was willing to go.” Episode one on Feb. 18 is one hour. Episode two a day later is two hours, and the conclusion, on Sunday, Feb. 21, is two hours. It will also stream on Peacock, which has a dedicated Dateline 24/7 channel. Dateline NBC airs Fridays at 9 p.m. (ET). It at times goes to two hours, but a multi-night series from Dateline is uncharted territory. “Stories like this don’t come down the pike all that often,” said Ryan. If The Widower finds a large audience, he added, the producers are up for going multi-night on future stories that merit it. Thomas Randolph will draw a few viewers. “He’s such an intriguing and unusual guy,” said Ryan. ●
‘B+C’ NAMES 2021 TECH LEADERSHIP AWARDS RECIPIENTS ViacomCBS, Charter, Disney, Nexstar, CableLabs execs among those will receive the honor BROADCASTING+CABLE HAS named the recipients of the 2021 Technology Leadership Awards. The awards, which B+C started in 1999, honor individuals who have made significant contributions to how TV, digital and streaming media companies use technology. The 2021 Tech Leadership Awards winners are: Greig Fraser, director of photography/producer; William Hayes, director of engineering and technology, Iowa PBS; Lucinda (Cindy) Hutter Cavell, VP, Cavell, Mertz & Associates; Brett Jenkins, executive VP and CTO, Nexstar Media Group; Yvette Kanouff, partner and CTO, JC2 Ventures; Jaya Kolhatkar, executive VP of data, Disney Direct-toConsumer; Barbara Lange, executive director, Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE); Doug Lung, VP, broadcast engineering, NBC Owned Stations; Phil McKinney, 4
president and CEO, CableLabs; and Phil Wiser, executive VP and global chief technology officer, ViacomCBS. In addition, B+C is introducing an award for “Technology Leadership Award for Building Diverse Tech Teams,” which will be given to Stephanie Mitchko-Beale, executive VP & chief technology officer, Charter Communications. “This year’s winners highlight the growing importance of tech innovation in helping media companies navigate rapid changes in their businesses,” said Kent Gibbons, content director, Broadcasting+Cable. “The innovative tech strategies they’ve pursued during their careers have both helped companies build new business for the digital age and provided consumers with higher quality content and access to content in new ways.” Recipients will be profiled in the March
22 issue of B+C as well as the April issue of TV Tech. The awards will be presented virtually during the Technology Leadership Summit March 23 and 24, 2021. For more information and to
register for the Technology Leadership Summit, which is produced by B+C, TV Tech and Multichannel News, go to technologyleadershipsummit.com. — George Winslow
WATCH THIS …
Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song
By Michael Malone email@example.com @BCMikeMalone
UFOs Invade Alaska on Discovery Plus
Aliens in Alaska begins Monday, Feb. 15, on Discovery Plus. Our 49th state is a “hotbed” for UFO sightings, abductions and extraterrestrial encounters, according to Discovery Plus. The series checks in with “dog mushers, trappers and bush pilots,” according to executive producer Christine Shuler, as well as plenty of regular folks, and gets everyone’s accounts of alien encounters. The hardy nature inherent to Alaskans gives their stories extra oomph, Shuler said. “Seeing their testimony, you realize you’re hearing from very stoic individuals who are not easily startled,” she said. People are typically interviewed outside, giving Alaska something of a starring role in the series. Viewers will see “how vast and open and alienating the environment is,” Shuler said. There are eight hour-long episodes. UFO believers and skeptics alike are welcome to tune in. “Forcing someone to become a convert is not fun,” said Shuler,
who added that Aliens in Alaska is more about “giving viewers enough information to make their own decision.” The Pentagon’s UFO unit is releasing a giant trove of information on alien encounters. That may give a bit of credence to those sharing their testimonies on Aliens in Alaska. “It helps people who have had these oddball experiences feel less alone,” said Shuler.
Aliens in Alaska: Discovery Plus; Young Rock: NBC; The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song: McGee Media/PBS; It's a Sin: HBO Max; Supervillain: The Making of Tekashi 6IX9INE: Getty Images
Aliens in Alaska
The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song is on PBS Tuesday. The two-night special traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America. Also on Tuesday, Temptation Island is on USA Network. Season three has four new couples in Maui, joined by 24 sexy singles to test whether the couples can make it work amidst the temptation. One more for Tuesday — comedy Kenan on NBC. Kenan Thompson plays the recently widowed host of an Atlanta morning show, struggling to balance
Rock Stars in NBC Comedy
On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Young Rock premieres on NBC. The comedy comes from Dwayne Johnson, and is about the different chapters in the life of the man once known as The Rock. The son of wrestler Rocky Johnson, Dwayne had pro wrestlers — Junkyard Dog, Andre the Giant —- in his life at an early age. Young Rock has the family moving around to follow wrestling jobs, including to Hawaii and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Dwayne playing football at the University of Miami. “He’s had so many different experiences,” said executive producer Jeff Chiang, who describes Johnson as “larger than life when he enters a room. He has a special energy to him.” Johnson went to high school in Bethlehem. The pilot covers Johnson at 15, standing 6’ 2” and rocking a moustache. “His classmates thought he was a narc,” Chiang said, describing a “21 Jump Street scenario.” Besides his teenage ’stache, viewers will see the extraordinary perseverance of Johnson as a child, Chiang shared. “The amount of times life throws him a curveball,” he said. “His life has been a series of highs and lows. You see where he is now, and you see how he got there.” Young Rock shoots in Australia. Joseph Lee Anderson, Stacey Leilua and Adrian Groulx are in the cast alongside Johnson. Nahnatchka Khan executive produces. “The story is deeply relatable,” Chiang said. “It’s about perseverance, it’s about love, it’s about finding the joys in life.” ●
It’s a Sin work, his young daughters and father-in-law, played by Don Johnson. Friday, It’s a Sin is on HBO Max. Set in 1981, Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin head to London at 18, and walk straight into a raging virus. There are five episodes. Sunday, Supervillain: The Making of Tekashi 6IX9INE is on Showtime. It’s a three-part docuseries about the notorious hip-hop artist. Giancarlo Esposito narrates.
Supervillain: The Making of Tekashi 6IX9INE
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
BY GEORGE, THAT’S PROLIFIC CEO David George makes ITV America a ‘one-stop shop’ with reality series up and down the dial — and across platforms
By R. Thomas Umstead firstname.lastname@example.org @rtumstead30
Titus Kana Photography; ITV America
BC on Jan. 4 debuted a reboot series of the venerable British game show The Chase, which sees three contestants challenge a celebrity “chaser” — a quiz genius who looks to eliminate all comers. Three days later, Fox premiered the 19th season of iconic culinary competition Hell’s Kitchen, starring chef Gordon Ramsay. The series has a new, glitzy Las Vegas location, but it's the same old Ramsay as he puts would-be chefs through rigorous kitchen challenges. The common thread between the rebooted game show and the veteran competition series is that they are both produced by the same company, ITV America, led by CEO David George. In fact, the two shows are among more than 50 unscripted series the company and its six partner production companies — Leftfield Pictures, ITV Entertainment, Sirens Media, High Noon Entertainment, ThinkFactory Media and Good Caper Content — are scheduled to produce in 2021. The more than 400 hours of content ITV America will develop includes some of the most successful and long-running series on television across multiple platforms: Netflix’s Emmy-wining series Queer Eye, History’s iconic Pawn Stars, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey and CBS’s Love Island. “David is one of the most talented, creative executives I’ve ever worked with,” said Julian
Bellamy, managing director of ITV Studios and George’s direct report. “He’s got a brilliant blend that includes the beating heart of a producer and a really clear-thinking strategist and business brain.” Indeed, George — a former MTV producer who, after serving as president of Leftfield Entertainment, took over the reins of ITV America in 2018 — has deftly led the company through a turbulent time in a television production industry damaged last year by a once-in-a-century pandemic and challenged by a changing business model that has created more distribution outlets but also more competition. In 2021, ITV America will produce content for 17 cable networks, four broadcast networks and eight streaming services. “One only has to look at his team’s track record to see that it’s second to none — his team has had a phenomenal track record on-screen, whether it be Queer Eye or Love Island, The Chase or Hell’s Kitchen,” Bellamy said. “What they’ve done in the past few years is be very smart as to anticipate the market’s evolution and the diversification of the business not only in the broadcasting and cable space, but working with other new platforms and buyers.” George has the unique ability to combine strong production instincts with a keen business acumen that allows him to recognize and foster successful programming, said Corie Henson, executive VP and head of unscripted programming for TBS, TNT and truTV. Along with Rat In the Kitchen, a new culinary-themed show launching later this year on TBS, Henson said ITV America is also producing shows for WarnerMedia featuring former WWE star John
Hell’s Kitchen on Fox, starring Gordon Ramsay, is one of ITV America’s longrunning hits.
Cena and NBA superstar Russell Westbrook. “He comes from being a producer, so he understands how a show gets made and how much it costs, how to work with talent and tell a story,” said Henson, who, when she was a production executive at Fox, worked with George on Hell’s Kitchen. “When that knowledge comes down from the top of the company, there’s a trickle-down respect for the producers and the production. He’s now really embraced the business aspect of the company and has an ambitious and aggressive approach, but he always does it with an approachable style.” During the pandemic of 2020, when many production companies were forced to shut down production to keep COVID-19 from spreading, George and his team worked to create safety measures to continue the production of shows such as Love Island and History’s Forged in Fire that helped provide much desired original content (and preserved jobs). “They came up with ways to actually make new episodes for one of our longest-running franchises, Forged in Fire, even when everyone was sheltered ... that was really smart, innovative and successful,” A+E Networks president of programming president Rob Sharenow said. “It’s that kind of collaborative thinking and calm when facing extreme obstacles that is part of the key to their success. That’s a great example of where they were really able to respond to a show our viewers really wanted, and they found a way to deliver.” Bellamy said George’s decision to contain the stars and crew of Love Island within a Las Vegas-based bubble environment to finish shooting the show’s season highlighted George’s leadership abilities under extreme duress. “You find a lot out about people when everyone’s back is up against the wall,” he said. “We all know how challenging that has been ... but the fact that they were able to make the show with the quality that they did is a remarkable testament to the whole team and Dave’s leadership.” George’s ability to manage and facilitate the delivery, innovation and creation of memorable, popular and successful original content has earned him and ITV America
Broadcasting+Cable’s Producer of the Year nod for 2021. George spoke with B+C about the company’s programming success, its current and future business strategy and the evolving television marketplace. Here’s a version of that conversation edited for space and clarity. B+C: How do you see each of ITV America’s production brands working together to create a formidable player in a very competitive, unscripted series space? David George: When we started down the path of really focusing our labels as brands, it was really about the market wanting to buy from a producer who has had experience in that genre. Some of them were very easy to define — you take a company like High Noon, which is known for Cake Boss and Fixer Upper, and you say that it is our pinnacle lifestyle brand — they do food and home [content] to the nth degree. Then you take a label that we launched, like Good Caper, which was us saying, “we have a bit of a void in the crime programming space and we need to be great in there.” So we really look at things on a genre-by-genre basis. Left Field, they do [History’s] Pawn Stars and Alone, so we have them focus in the male space; ITV Entertainment is our big gaming format. Then you have ThinkFactory, which is really focused on the big, loud talent. Sirens is our female pop-culture vertical. Then we have some other partnerships like Kimmelot — Jimmy Kimmel's company — and we work with them very closely on a lot of comedy. We just did a big partnership with Nobody's Hero, and they do really loud, off-the-wall formats. So that's where we're kind of focused right now. It really is about us being that one-stop shop. B+C: You mentioned a couple of iconic shows that ITV America produces, which also includes [Fox’s] Hell’s Kitchen, that have stood the test of time and continue to have success. How do you continue to breathe life into these shows in a crowded environment where new shows are being rolled out consistently? DG: First of all, known IP [intellectual property] is such a valuable commodity these days. It’s so hard to break a new show. A known commodity is really a great value, particularly in broadcast and cable, because they're really trying to hold onto their audience and their demographics with the streaming services coming online. So, you want to creatively refresh those shows as often as you can, but you want to keep the core of those shows true. I think Hell’s Kitchen is a prime example of us taking a little bit of a different spin and making it a bit more exciting by bringing it to Las Vegas and doing something different with the show to make it feel fresh, but not turning the core viewers off. Those shows that have been around for a long time are known and proven commodities in this marketplace. They’re almost irreplaceable for certain sectors.
I think it’s very Dickens — it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of the times. You never have a conversation now where you say, this is how much a show costs, and the network just says, sure. That never happens. — David George CEO, ITV America
B+C: One of those shows also is Queer Eye on Netflix. What was it about that particular IP that made you believe it
ITV America (2)
could be successfully rebooted on Netflix? DG: Queer Eye was an interesting case. We were sitting around talking about the show one day and wondering what was going on with it. Lo and behold, [series producer Scout Productions] was in conversations with Netflix about bringing the show back, but they didn’t do physical production — they were looking for a producing partner to come in and be the producers with them. So, we said this is an iconic show [as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, it ran on Bravo from 2003 to 2007], but it can’t be the same show when it comes back, particularly on Netflix. You have to reimagine what that show is. Ultimately, that show transformed from a meat-and-potatoes makeover show to being the social zeitgeist of what’s going on in America. I think that move of flipping it on its head and sending the Fab Five into, for a lack of a better word, ‘red states,’ was a fresh thing to do because the country is so fragmented. To show that the Fab Five can go into these red states and find those connection points with people from completely different backgrounds and values is such a tremendous thing to watch. I think it’s something that this country is so desperate to see. I just think that was the secret sauce of that show, and why it worked on Netflix, and why it was able to reboot so successfully. B+C: Has the move by streaming services into unscripted programming changed your strategy as to how and where to pitch a particular show? DG: It’s interesting to watch the business change before our very eyes. We knew change was coming, but I just don’t think we knew it was coming this fast. The pandemic really has accelerated the timeline for linear buyers to point their resources and direction towards the streaming platform. So when we evaluate where we’re selling, we don’t just look at a linear network only, but we also think about, what is the streaming platform that is associated with this network? That’s because ultimately, the success of a show on linear is sometimes going to also need that support of the streamer. All of these things are just conduits to where we can pipe content, and to me that is the future. So when we come up with ideas, the first thing we think is, where would this make the most amount of sense? Where’s the audience for this idea? Second thing is, can this place afford this idea? Because the truth is, the numbers are leading the creative now in this business, whereas before the creative used to lead the numbers. For us, what we’re seeing is that the streamers in a lot of cases have bigger budgets to play with versus even broadcast right now, which is shocking. When you think about it, broadcast was this $2 million-per-episode world that you were playing in, and it’s not really like that anymore. When you look at the linear ratings, they can’t support those price points. The tricky part with the streamers, though, is you don't really know how a show performs. Is it really worth the amount of money? But the truth is content is just measured differently [in digital], right? Let’s go back to Queer Eye for
Alone Love Island
The Chase a sec. Is Queer Eye getting 5 million views or 10 million views globally? I have no idea. But my hunch is that Queer Eye has such a following and importance to people that they’re willing to renew their subscription to Netflix for that show, so that show has true value for a streamer. So in the streaming world, I don’t know if it’s necessarily about 50 million viewers watching your show as much as it is, ‘I will renew my subscription just to be able to see that.’ In a nutshell, we want our content to be supported properly from a funding standpoint, but we also want it to go places where we think it can have a long shelf life. Whether that’s at cable, at broadcast or at a streamer, we’re always going to evaluate on those levels. B+C: Given the fact that there are so many players now in the marketplace, is this the best time for a content producer like ITV America to be in the business? DG: I think it’s very Dickens — it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of the times. You never have a conversation now where you say, this is how much a show costs and the network just says, sure. That never happens. So I think you're in a constant dogfight with funding creative properly, given higher network expectations. So that makes it incredibly difficult to produce. But at the end of the day, it’s still a great time, because if you have an idea, there’s probably a platform out there for it. There are so many other places coming online. We had high hopes for Quibi and it didn't work out, but at the end of the day you have to respect that they took a swing and went for it. There’s so many other places that
are talking about getting into the content game, whether it’s Roku or Paramount Plus now coming out for CBS. It’s a whole new world and we’re in the center of the storm, so to speak, especially with all the consolidation. I think when we come out of it, we’re going to see very streamlined buyers and you’re going to see a wide range of content. You’re also going to see big-budget shows coming through, and you’re going to see that there are places for any idea. B+C: Around this time last year, this whole new world you referenced was turned on its head with the emergence of COVID-19. How damaging from a business perspective was the pandemic for ITV America, and how was the company able to pivot forward? DG: I think ITV America was very lucky because we were lined up to have a very good year. Now that very good year turned into just an OK year. From a business standpoint, we were able to weather the storm and I have to give credit to our entire team for figuring out how to get our shows into production safely and to
take care of our people. We were fortunate enough not to have to do layoffs or salary reductions. It tested everybody’s mettle in terms of how can we actually produce right now, but I always think people are defined in bad times, not in good times, and this team that works at ITV America are the best in the business. Whether it’s figuring out how to take over 300 edits and turn them remote within two weeks so people can edit shows from home, or our COVID committee meeting every single week to talk about productions, positive tests, shutdowns and how we’re going to safely get these productions back, it really makes me proud about how we weathered that storm. Even our network partners stepped up to the plate to help us with some of these costs. When you are a CEO, there’s always the reality of how the business is doing, but then there’s that level of whether we are a good enough team to weather this and to get through the other side. The other side isn’t quite there yet, but we’ve done a great job so far.
Titus Kana; ITV America
B+C: What’s the most important criterion for making a successful series? Is it talent? Is it format? Is it genre? DG: The secret sauce to me is that unique element with every idea that separates it from the pack. When you go and pitch an idea to a network, very rarely do you go in and say, I’ve got an idea for this show, and they say I’ve never heard anything like that. It's always that little kernel that kind of flips it on its head. What I like most about that is I love a hidden trait of a show that doesn't necessarily register with you but is a core element of the show. An example of that is TRL [MTV’s Total Request Live], which was the first show that I ever worked on. Everybody looks at that show as a music countdown show with guests that come on and perform. My take is that that was a competition show between artists. I don’t think people ever really looked at TRL like it was a competition show, but people were so passionate about those artists that they would go and vote every single day, and show up in Times Square just to get a glance at them. They would go nuts because they wanted to show their passion for those people, and they wanted their band to beat your band. That to me is that hidden little gem within that show that separated it from the pack, and I don’t think people really even understand that.
I think diversity is a huge priority for us as well as for the industry. I think the events of the last year have awakened a lot of people to the reality that we need more diversity within television and unscripted in particular. — David George , CEO, ITV America Fast-forward to today: I think Pawn Stars is a game show because you play along at home and wonder what [series star Rick Harrison] is going to pay for this, so you’re playing along to see the results. I don’t think The Masked Singer is a singing competition show, but a game show: You’re trying to guess who that person is. Look at [History series] Alone, one of our shows that I think is very unique. What makes that unique is the circumstance that we put people in. There are no producers around — they are completely on their own, living out in the wilderness, and they’re producing themselves. The danger is real, and to the viewer, they realize that we’re not trying to pull the wool over their eyes, and people trust that brand because of it. It’s that level of connection that you have to have with the viewer that separates a great idea from a bad idea. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when you get it, that’s when those shows break through and become massive hits.
ITV America production Pawn Stars has been a big hit for History.
B+C: What role does diversity play in terms of the development of shows and are you satisfied with where you are in terms of inclusive content? DG: When I look across our portfolio, I think there are some great things and there are some things that we need to work on. We are making a very conscious effort to go down the path of more diversity within our lineup. There are some really exciting things that are coming from us that will stamp that. For us though, the most important thing for any company is to be reflective of society and to become more diverse. It’s about creating opportunity for people and becoming a place where people want to come and work. For me, that is the No. 1 priority for us — how do we diversify our workforce and become a place where diverse storytellers feel like they want to come and tell their story to us? If we do that, it’s very simple: the workforce becomes more diversified, your content becomes more diversified, and you become more reflective of society. I have literally rubber-stamped across our company that this is a massive priority for ITV America moving forward, but it’s a long process. [Note: ITV America’s diverse shows include Food Network’s Cupcake Guys Training Camp and OWN’s Love & Marriage: Huntsville]. B+C: Will ITV America look to expand and add more production companies to its portfolio? DG: We’re very open to partnerships and are actively exploring partnerships, particularly with creators that don't want to build something as big as ITV. The physical production game is incredibly difficult right now, and we have the size and scale to support people who maybe can’t afford all of that infrastructure, but they’ve got great ideas and they want to have that level of support. Those are win-win partnerships for us [and] I think, in the end, you’re going to see more and more of those happening across the board. I think some of these production companies coming out of this pandemic are going to be struggling because some of their shows won’t have gotten into production, so I think a lot of producers out there are evaluating their business model. For us, we’re trying to stay as steady as possible, and a steady hand right now is a commodity in this business. Hopefully producers want to keep partnering with us. ●
Margaret Brennan Faces Fresh Challenges on Sunday Mornings Moderator of CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ marks three years in the chair By Michael Malone email@example.com @BCMikeMalone
Top: Michele Crowe/CBS; Bottom: Chris Usher/CBS
hree years ago this month, Margaret Brennan was named moderator of Face the Nation. The CBS public-affairs program is in a favorable spot, finishing 2020 with an average of a Sunday-best 3,598,000 million total viewers. The show tallied a whopping 4.5 million viewers on Jan. 10, as viewers looked for Brennan’s take on the Capitol invasion. She has had a front-row seat for the torrid pace at which the news cycle now moves. “It’s been such a whirlwind,” Brennan said. “I think it’s been 10 years of news packed into three years of moderating.” Between the pandemic, battles for racial equality, the election and the storming of the Capitol, it’s an awful lot to cover for Brennan or for anyone chronicling national politics. She aims to offer ample “context and perspective” to the Sunday program. “Just a clear-headed, straightforward focus on facts, the things people can’t afford not to know,” she said. “That’s been the driving focus of how I think about Sundays.” Mary Hager, longtime executive producer on Face the Nation, said Brennan is perfectly poised to cover the hectic news schedule. “Margaret is by far the most-studious, well-prepared, well-educated, well-versedin-policy moderator,” she said. “Margaret is someone who wants to know everything about a topic. I’m so impressed by how well she knows each guest’s subject matter. She studies. She’s a voracious reader. She loves facts and she loves context.” Brennan had been White House and senior foreign affairs correspondent at CBS News.
I think it’s been 10 years of news packed into three years of moderating. — Margaret Brennan, Face the Nation moderator
She started in the Face the Nation chair on Feb. 25, 2018, after John Dickerson shifted to CBS This Morning. Hager said Brennan excels at crafting a question in a manner that often gets a reluctant guest to give it up. Big gets for Face the Nation in recent times include Dr. Deborah Birx last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci in November and thenAttorney General William Barr in June. Barr discussed the controversial clearing of Lafayette Square in Washington for President Donald Trump’s church visit. The news cycle may slow a bit after Trump’s impeachment hearing concludes. Brennan noted a different vibe out of the White House across the last month. “There aren’t tweets — that’s a big change,” she said, describing how the former president could insert himself into a big story with a few taps on his phone. “We’ve gone from covering chaos to covering challenges,” Hager said. “It’s a little bit of a different tone at this point. But then you look at Congress and maybe that’s not the case.”
New Admin, Old Problems
Brennan stressed that the issues dividing Washington, and the nation as a whole, hardly dissipated when Trump headed for Mar-a-Lago. “Make no mistake — the problems that are confronting us didn’t disappear at noon on Jan. 20” with the swearing-in of President Joe Biden, she said. “The producers and I talk about all the same things we did a few weeks ago.”
Margaret Brennan at the Face the Nation anchor desk (above) and interviewing former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb about the COVID-19 outbreak (below r.).
Face the Nation’s 3.598 million average viewers last year nipped Meet the Press’s 3.58 million, while NBC’s Meet the Press won in viewers 25-54, averaging 828,000 to Face’s 723,000 and ABC’s This Week average of 711,000. Hager uses another metric to measure success: “More and more people comment to me, you really learn from Face the Nation interviews.” Podcast Facing Forward with Margaret Brennan premiered Jan. 22. Brennan is figuring out the best way to communicate in this newer medium. “We’re trying to figure out how to do an in-depth conversation and follow an arc that is interesting for an audio-only listener,” Brennan said. Brennan and Hager look forward to the day when guests again turn up on the set for interviews, instead of the remote ones happening amidst the pandemic. “You really do get better interviews when they’re sitting across the table, looking each other in the eye,” Hager said. “It just makes for a much more compelling interview and probably better television too.” Even with a less blustery president in the White House, the news cycle will hardly subside. After her eventful three years at Face the Nation, Brennan is planning out the next three years. She described “so many deep story lines converging at once” over the past year, stories that personally affect a vast number of Americans. “It has been historic and we feel the weight of the moment for our country,” said Brennan. “It’s not just political junkies chewing on the week that was. We are talking about people’s lives in a very personal way right now.” ●
Battle Royale in Phoenix Lively news scene features two Spanish-language players, and an indie By Michael Malone firstname.lastname@example.org @BCMikeMalone
ith Arizona a prime swing state on Election Day, stations in the capital enjoyed enormous political spending. It put an emphatic exclamation point on a year made dismal by the pandemic. “The market went nuts,” Andrew Deschapelles, president and general manager of KTAZ, said. “Arizona became very much a battleground state.” Fox owns KSAZ and MyNetworkTV station KUTP. Scripps has ABC affiliate KNXV and CW affiliate KASW. Meredith has CBS-
aligned KPHO and independent KTVK. Tegna owns NBC affiliate KPNX. Univision has KTVW-KFPH and Telemundo holds KTAZ. Cox Communications is Phoenix’s primary pay TV operator. DMA No. 11 added 279,000 TV households from 2020 to 2021, according to Nielsen. Stations are increasing their news output. KSAZ does 12 hours of news per weekday and KUTP simulcasts OTT product NewsNow from Fox 10 a.m. to noon weekdays. NewsNow is “very raw and unfiltered,” said VP/news director Doug Bannard. KNXV has made KASW a news destination (see sidebar). KTAZ does 11 a.m., 4-5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. news weekdays, with Deschapelles citing NBCUniversal’s ownership as key. “That investment was really substantial,” he said, mentioning how the news department
SCRIPPS REVAMPS PHOENIX CW STATION SCRIPPS ACQUIRED THE CW affiliate KASW from Nexstar Media Group two years ago in an eight-station, $580 million deal. CW61 has emerged as a news destination. KASW offers weekday news at 7-9 a.m, noon-1 p.m. and, most recently, 9-9:30 p.m. The morning news happened in late March. “Our plan was to extend our community presence and the strong connection our team has with our ABC15 Mornings viewers,” said Anita Helt, VP/general manager of KNXV-KASW. “Little did we know that the connection would only deepen as we have helped our viewers through these unprecedented times.” KASW’s news features ABC15 on CW61 branding. The
noon program happened when daytime viewership spiked amidst the pandemic and the primetime newscast premiered in July. KASW has also enjoyed an upgrade in its syndicated programs, which include Seinfeld and Friends. “Nostalgia really seems to resonate,” said Helt. KASW had a minimal news presence prior to the acquisition. “We’ve really expanded our news footprint,” Helt said. — MM
Reporter/anchor Brian Webb of Foxowned KSAZ, which offers 12 hours of local news per day.
spiked from three people to 30 over the course of a year. KTVW has 11:30 a.m., 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. news, and Joe Donnarumma, president and general manager, is thinking about mornings. “It’s always in discussion,” he said. In November, KSAZ and KTVK tied in 6 a.m. households, and KSAZ took the 25-54 title. At 5-5:30 p.m., KNXV had the top household score, followed by KSAZ and KPNX. (KPNX and KNXV have network news at 5:30.) KTVW topped KSAZ in the 25-54 race at 5. KNXV had the top local household score at 6 p.m., while KSAZ won 25-54. The 10 p.m. household race saw KNXV at 2.5, KPNX at 1.9, KSAZ and KPHO at 1.8, KTVW at 1.6, KTVK at 1.2 and KTAZ at 0.7. In 25-54, KTVW did a 1.3 and KSAZ a 0.9. KPNX got a 0.8, KTAZ a 0.7, KNXV a 0.6, KPHO a 0.4 and KTVK a 0.3. KSAZ thrives on an average anchor tenure of 18 years at the station. “We’ve carved out our niche as the big-story station,” Bannard said. The Phoenix market has adopted ATSC 3.0. The Big Four stations share a helicopter. Stations are figuring out how remote working will work when the pandemic ends. Anita Helt, VP and general manager at KNXV-KASW, mentioned how reporters like the more “efficient” morning editorial meetings now, which get them out the door faster. Staffers miss serendipitous meetings that spark ideas, she said, but Helt is pleased to see how quickly staffers adapted. “If anyone asked a year ago, could you do that, I would’ve thought they were dreaming,” she said. KSAZ will test The Mediator with Ice-T starting March 1. “We like to pride ourselves as a viable test market,” said Mark Rodman, senior VP and general manager. “If it gets any traction we’ll roll it out nationally.” KTVW-KFPH is hosting the virtual small business event Possible April 6-8. “It’s informational but also inspirational,” said Donnarumma. Tourism is down, but real estate is booming. “We are cautiously optimistic that, once the vaccine is widely distributed, things will turn around,” said Rodman. Local content is a dynamic business in Phoenix. “The news cycle just does not stop,” said Helt. “What we do as news organizations is more important than ever.” ●
Allison Rodriguez (l.) and Justin Pazera bring Scripps synergies as coanchors of ABC15 Mornings on CW61.
Comcast Pushes Back Northeast Rollout Of 1.2 TB Data Cap to July Move comes after Pennsylvania attorney general raises concern By Daniel Frankel email@example.com @dannyfrankel
omcast has postponed a plan to implement a data usage limit of 1.2 terabytes in 14 additional states and territories in the Northeastern U.S., a move that would have put the cable operator’s entire broadband service footprint under usage cap. The move comes after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro raised concerns that the usage caps could be a problem for consumers at a time when the pandemic has robbed them of employment but saddled them with needs, such as home-schooling of their children, that render high levels of broadband usage essential. Pleas came from other state officials, as well — in early January, a dozen Massachusetts state representatives “strongly urged” Comcast to call off the implementation of the cap. An agreement made by the No. 1 U.S.
cable operator with Shapiro now calls for the usage caps to be deployed in July, meaning customers wouldn’t see any hits to their bill until August. Comcast was already capping usage of customers in 27 states when it announced in November that customers in the following
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro raised a red flag about Comcast instituting a usage cap during a pandemic.
Shapiro: Wikimedia Commons; Android TV: Google
ANDROID TV STARTS TURNING INTO GOOGLE TV WITH LATEST UI UPDATE GOOGLE HAS RELEASED an update for Android TV devices around the world that brings their user interfaces more into line with the Google TV operating system that the company is building its longterm video strategy around. Starting in early February, smart TVs, OTT players and dongles and other Android TV devices have a new UI. The update changes the home screen to look more like that found on the new Chromecast with Google TV device. On their home screens, updated Android TV devices now have three main menu items on top of their home screens: “Home,” which features the
content and apps a user deploys most often; “Discovery,” which very similar to the “For You” tab on Google TV, surfacing user recommendations; and “Apps,” which includes whatever applications the user has downloaded to their device. The update now features a scrolling carousel of snapshots from featured content on top of the screen, behind the three main menu items. Google said that this is not an OS update. Google TV, which overlays search and discovery features on top of Android TV, is generally designed to run on Android 10 and above platforms.
places would soon be capped, too: New York; New Jersey; Connecticut; Delaware; Massachusetts; Maryland; Maine; New Hampshire; Vermont; Pennsylvania; Ohio; Washington, D.C; Virginia; West Virginia; and North Carolina. The cap would result in Xfinity Internet customers being charged an additional $10 for every 50 gigabytes of data they use in excess of the 1.2 TB cap, plus tax, every month. Originally, it was technically was supposed to be implemented in the Northeast starting in January. Given grace periods, its effective start was actually March, and affected customers would see the hit to their bills starting in April. So Comcast is effectively delaying the pain for 90 days, not canceling it. At the time that it announced the expansion of the usage caps, Comcast insisted that 95% of its customers don’t come close to using 1.2 TB in an average month. Average monthly usage comes in at around 308 GB, Comcast said. However, OpenVault, which provides data to cable operators about their networks, released a report last last year suggesting that the number of so-called “power users” is rising fast. Within two to three years, the company said, 5% to 10% of internet users will consume 2 TB or more data each month. Then, of course, there are all those Zoom meetings, that are still prolifically occurring, as the number of COVID vaccine recipients edges toward 10% of the U.S. population. “As Pennsylvanians continue to navigate this pandemic, we know millions are relying on the internet for school and work more than ever,” Shapiro said in a statement. “This is not the time to change the rules when it comes to Internet data usage and increase costs.” ●
Google’s updated home screen for Android TV.
This latest UI update can run on lower iterations of Android TV. Ultimately, Google’s expressed strategy is to slowly migrate the global base of Android TV devices to Google TV, including the brand name, and make a major push for market share in
the global OTT device ecosystem, now largely controlled by Roku and Amazon. The update started rolling out Wednesday in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and France. It will expand to more countries in the coming weeks, Google said. — DF
Bad Audience Estimates Hurt Linear Television As Upfronts Approach Make-good ads frustrate advertisers — but they don’t want cash back By Jon Lafayette firstname.lastname@example.org @jlafayette
s buyers and sellers make plans for another upfront, they face two issues that make it difficult for networks to increase revenue and for advertisers to reach as many companies as they expect. Ratings erosion for the linear networks is problem enough for anyone dependent on TV advertising. That problem is intensified by the networks’ propensity to overestimate how many viewers they’ll reach in order to have more inventory to sell, and the historic willingness of sellers to largely accept those inflated numbers in order to keep pricing down on a cost-per-thousand viewers basis. Last year’s unusual upfront and the unpredictable TV season that followed have put a spotlight on those issues, buyers and sellers said. Simply put, after a long delay because of COVID-19, when networks and buyers got around to making deals, they didn’t anticipate a double-digit dip in ratings. That meant that as the season started, commercials underdelivered on promised audiences and make-good ads piled up, squeezing supply and pushing up prices for spots remaining on sale in the scatter market. New data from Standard Media Index shows that spending in scatter rose during the first quarter of this broadcast year (see chart). Prices were up from 1% for entertainment programming to 45% for news on broadcast. On cable, entertainment prices were down 7% after diving even more in the upfront, and up double digits for news and sports. During upfront negotiations, the networks gave clients more flexibility to cancel upfront buys and get money back — something media companies are loath to offer. Turns out, that’s not what the buyers and their clients wanted. David Sederbaum, executive VP, video investment at Dentsu Amplifi, said the amount of cash back being offered to advertisers and even being accepted is higher than in past years. That’s a sign the market isn’t working the way it should. “I don’t think that the sales community is doing as good a job as they need to with their ratings estimate projections,” Sederbaum said. “We as an industry need to push the sales
SCATTER SHOT Q1 (Oct.-Dec.) TV ad revenues, by type, YoY (in millions) USD $M
BY Q1 2019
BY Q1 2020 $3,841M -14%
SOURCE: SMI AccuTV
community to be more accurate in their estimates, because the clients don’t necessarily want money back, even if cash back is an option.” Instead of cash, advertisers want to reach their consumers. A big reason why ratings are down is because viewers are switching from linear and traditional pay TV to over-the-top options, including streaming services. Gradually, ad dollars are following.
Scramble for Digital Reach
Media companies are building and buying digital platforms and ad-supported streaming services to keep those ad dollars in the family. “You can reduce your investment in linear television, as long as you’re getting that reach other places, specifically OTT and digital video,” said Sederbaum. “There are more opportunities than ever to spread that money out. But I think that the big media companies have certainly recognized that they need to diversify their offering as well.” Tatari, an analytics and media buying company, has noticed the shift in the market and has been advising its mostly direct-to-consumer
A+E's Peter Olsen (above) says traditional TV should be viewed as a total audience play. Meanwhile, big media firms like Viacom are developing OTT platforms like Pluto TV (bottom).
clients that instead of buying at the last minute, they’d better have a plan, because the inventory they want might not be available if they wait. “In this marketplace, the future is not going to be like the past,” said Brad Geving, Tatari’s VP of media. “We’re urging clients to think ahead more than they normally would and think about what budgets they want to allocate to TV, so that we can secure that head of time.” Geving noted that the period between Christmas and New Year’s — Q5, Tatari calls it — is usually a good time to buy because inventory is plentiful and prices are low. “This year, we didn’t see the normal discounts,” he said. Primetime broadcast has been the first inventory to dry up and Tatari buys a lot of linear cable. But cable ratings have fallen faster than broadcast. “If there weren’t cable inventory available on linear, then we would be looking for CTV to fill that gap,” Geving said. Another factor causing the squeeze on inventory is the practice of buying commercials based on young adult demos — adults 18-49 or 25-54. Those viewers are cutting the cord and streaming these days, leaving broadcast and cable with a high proportion of viewers 55-plus. That’s one reason why A+E Networks wants to shift to using total audience, or adults 18 and older, as its primary currency during this year’s upfront. (A+E will hold its virtual 2021 upfront March 3. WarnerMedia will present its kids and family programming on Feb. 17.)
Embracing Older Demos
“Traditional linear television should be seen as a total audience play, with frankly a skew towards the older audience,” A+E Networks president of ad sales Peter Olsen said. A+E will make estimates for both total audience and the traditional demos. But Olsen admits “there’s very little incentive for the seller side to have realistic estimates.” He adds: “You get a lot of frustration now that people can’t be delivered in flight.” Looking at the supply-and-demand math for the upcoming upfront, Olsen sees prices going up 15% to 20% for adults 18 to 49. And yet, buyers and clients will try to insist that they don’t want CPMs going up more than 5%. “That’s not sustainable,” he said. By including loyal older viewers, the audience for linear TV will shrink more slowly, which would also slow price increases. A+E and others are offering other advertising solutions, including audience targeting, addressable advertising, digital and over-the-top solutions. And that’s fine with buyers. “The more choices that we have from the buying side for our clients, the more leverage we have,” Sederbaum said. “With the data and technology at our disposal, we can also right-size our investments and spend less if we’re doing it targeted through addressable media.” ●
Court, Conflict Find New Fortunes in Streaming Era Vast libraries create new revenue streams on streaming platforms By Paige Albiniak email@example.com @PaigeA
ith CBS Media Ventures’ Judge Judy going out of first-run production after this season and NBCUniversal Television Distribution’s Maury ending production after next season, syndication’s court and conflict genres are undergoing seismic shifts. But those vast libraries are finding new homes — and new revenue — on streaming platforms. Judy will remain on broadcast TV in repeats, and with thousands of episodes in its library, viewers, except possibly the most loyal, are unlikely to miss the lack of originals. Judge Judy will remain on stations for years to come. Meanwhile, Judge Judy Sheindlin is starring in and producing a new version of her show for Amazon’s IMDb TV streaming service, and it remains to be seen how Her Honor will fare in that new venue. Judge Judy isn’t the only court show to be exiting. Several low-rated and lesswell-cleared court shows wrapped in the past year. Debmar-Mercury’s Caught in Providence, starring 84-year-old Municipal Court Judge Frank Caprio, is no longer airing on TV stations. MGM/Orion TV has departed the entire genre, with Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, Couples Court with the Cutlers and Personal Injury Court all no longer in production, although Paternity Court is still available as a podcast and on YouTube, where the show’s channel has 1.8 million subscribers. Trifecta’s Protection Court also has ceased production and is airing in only repeats.
Judge Judy: CBS Media Ventures
Libraries Lift Streaming Start-Ups
Still, under the right conditions, court shows remain a good business for syndicators, especially if they have large content libraries to offer content-starved streaming startups. “Talk shows are ephemeral because they are day-and-date, and entertainment magazines have no life beyond several days,” Stephen Brown, executive VP, programming and development at Fox Television Stations, said. “Producing [court and conflict] is good business because it’s inexpensive to produce and it gives you a great library that has a long
it completes its 2021-22 season. Maury, like Jerry Springer, will remain on the air in repeats, and with 30 years of episodes, those are plentiful. Meanwhile, NBCU is working to launch a spinoff of Maury, starring one of the show’s frequent guest hosts, that it hopes to debut in fall 2022, Tracie Wilson, executive VP, NBCUniversal Syndication Studios, said. “Between all of those things, we see room down the road for more [of these shows], whether that’s court or conflict,” Sean O’Boyle, executive VP, syndication sales, NBCU Syndication Studios, said. “I think there’s a lane of conflict television that exists on certain stations and it’s a successful lane. Between those repeats, we think 2022 would be an opportunity to expand.” Fox has licensed the library of Divorce Court, which is renewed through the 2022-23 TV season, to NBCU’s Peacock, Disney’s Hulu, Fox’s own advertising-supported video-on-demand service Tubi, Nosey and Xumo. “At one point, these streaming deals will eclipse what we earn from [broadcast] barter,” Brown said. Likewise, NBCU has licensed the Maury, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos libraries to Nosey and those shows could also find their way to Peacock.
ES Veterans Carry on
tail. Court is really a good business for us, and I think we should do more.” To that end, Fox is testing The Mediator with Ice-T, executive produced by former Warner Bros. executive Stuart Krasnow, next month. Viewers like court shows for the same reasons they like true crime or conflict: the episodes have a beginning, a middle and an end with a satisfying resolution. “Court allows for big characters,” Brown said. “Guests can come in and be a little wackadoodle and [audiences are] delighted by it. Court allows for a very black and white world, there’s really no nuance. There’s a hero and there’s a victim or a villain. That’s why we love these judges who come in and adjudicate these cases. You are watching these people get their comeuppance. It’s a moral story that we get to see play out every day.” Court is like the more formatted version of conflict talk, and that’s why Jerry Springer has successfully made the transition from talk-show host to courtroom jurist. NBCUniversal is expected to renew Judge Jerry for a third season, although it’s still early yet. The granddaddy of conflict talkers, NBCUniversal’s Maury starring Maury Povich, 82, will end first-run production after
Judge Judy Sheindlin may be wrapping up her eponymous syndicated show, but it will live on in repeats even as she reconvenes on streamer IMDb TV.
Meanwhile, all five of Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios court shows remain on the air. The first one, America’s Court with Judge Ross, is now in its 11th season and the company just signed Ross for seven more years, said Allen. Entertainment Studios also has Justice for All with Judge Cristina Perez, in its ninth season; Supreme Justice with Judge Karen, in its eighth season; Justice with Judge Mablean, in its seventh season, and The Verdict with Judge Hatchett, in its fifth season. “Having five court shows makes us the largest producer and distributor of court shows domestically,” Allen said. “The reason we believe so much in this genre is that this is a huge ad category. Law-related services account for 15% of all local ad sales. The legal ad category is $650 million annually, so [this genre] has staying power. It’s also excellent counter-programming, low-risk for stations, and it continues to be the perfect transitional program into and out of all programs and very easy to cross-promote.” Court shows have been so successful for Entertainment Studios and Allen that he credits them with allowing him to expand the company and ultimately buy The Weather Channel and other assets, including TV stations. “[Court] turned out to be a turning point for our company that took us to the next level and allowed us to really grow.” Like Fox and NBCUniversal, Entertainment Studios also plans to expand its court offerings, Allen said: “We will be adding more court shows; we’re talking to talent. Court shows are great for TV stations.” ●
Pressure Builds to Name Permanent FCC Chair Net neutrality petition signals big things could be teed up By John Eggerton firstname.lastname@example.org @eggerton
resident Joe Biden is under pressure from advocacy groups to name a permanent Federal Communications Commission chairman, and a third commissioner who will give that chair the Democratic majority needed to do big, regulatory-minded things. The FCC is currently locked in a 2-2 political tie. Past chairs have pointed out that the vast majority of the agency’s decisions are unanimous, but that doesn't change the fact that many of the highest-profile rulings, like on media ownership deregulation, broadband subsidy programs and net neutrality regulations, are not. The FCC has just been officially asked to restore the net neutrality rules, so that proceeding has already been teed up. As acting chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel has the inside track for permanent chair. According to one lobbyist source, some political consultants are already making hires based on the assumption Rosenworcel will get the nod. But she is not a lock.
Some folks, including the Congressional Black Caucus, supported commissioner Geoffrey Starks for the chairmanship (or acting chairmanship) between the election and Inauguration Day. But after Rosenworcel, the commission’s senior Democrat, got the acting nod, it would be unusual for Starks to now leapfrog her for the top spot, Washington lobbyists and former FCC officials said, speaking on background. Starks declined comment on his chairmanship aspirations, but multiple people
Biden: Ken Cedeno/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Psaki: The White House
FCC FACES FOREIGN DISCLOSURE PUSHBACK CABLE OPERATORS AND broadcasters agree that the Federal Communications Commission should be careful in making sure viewers know where their video and audio content is coming from, an issue that has taken on new urgency in an age of disinformation campaigns by foreign actors. The FCC effort currently applies only to broadcast material, but broadcasters say it should apply to cable as well. The FCC voted unanimously last October to establish disclosure requirements for broadcast TV and radio content sponsored by foreign governments. The proposed rules require “a specific disclosure at the time of broadcast if a foreign governmental entity has paid a radio or television station, directly or indirectly, to air material, or if the programming was provided to the station free of charge by such an entity as an inducement to broadcast the material.”
President Joe Biden faces pressure to end a 2-2 partisan deadlock on the FCC.
said he has clearly been seeking the post. Rosenworcel has fans on Capitol Hill, where she was a top Senate staffer, and in Silicon Valley. So does Edward “Smitty” Smith, a partner at law firm DLA Piper who has experience with overseeing multibilliondollar broadband subsidies at the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and at the FCC, as an adviser to the Broadcast Incentive Auction Task Force. Smith also was on the four-person Biden FCC transition review team and raised money for the candidate. One D.C. vet said that if any profile fit a presidential FCC pick, it is Smith’s. Whether the new chair is Rosenworcel (most likely, says one former top FCC official of the other party) or Smith (in the running, says another) or even Starks (unlikely, but with backers and good people skills), the key will be locking in the third Democratic vote. Smith could be a candidate for that third seat on the FCC, along with Anna Gomez of D.C. powerhouse law firm Wiley, whose namesake is former FCC chairman Dick Wiley and whose alumni include numerous former FCC commissioners including another former chairman, Republican Kevin Martin. Gomez is also a former top official at the NTIA, the White House’s chief communications policy advisory arm. Another name mentioned for the third seat is Travis LeBlanc, a partner at D.C. law firm Cooley LLP. He is former FCC Enforcement Bureau chief under the last Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler. More germane to the current discussion, he is former senior adviser to then-California attorney general, and now-Vice President, Kamala Harris. ●
to confine the disclosures to programming on controversial issues of public importance, to exclude advertising and B-roll footage and archival material and to adopt a “due diligence” standard for determining whether or not material needs to The disclosures must be made at the be disclosed, essentially meaning best beginning and end of each program and at least once per hour for programming longer efforts at such a determination should be sufficient. than 60 minutes, though those are tentaNCTA-The Internet & Televitive guidelines, with the wording, sion Association said if the time, frequency and duration FCC does decide to apply still to be determined. the rules to cable as Broadcasters and well as broadcast, as a cable operators are Democratic commisall for disclosure of sion is likely to do, it potentially harmful should follow NAB’s disinformation, but lead by not making the argue that the current disclosures overly broad. language could mean The FCC also should not labeling non-malicious, or Jen Psaki require program distributors to as the National Association “conduct investigations into whether of Broadcasters put it, “sweep in a an entity or individual is in fact a foreign much broader swath of content than the intended target of foreign propaganda,” and governmental” but instead require them to “exercise reasonable diligence by thus needlessly tarnish it with the scarlet asking the entity whether it qualifies as a letter of a disclosure warning. foreign governmental entity,” rather than The NAB has argued that the FCC needs
the FCC’s proposal of making broadcasters, and potentially cable operators, review the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act database and the commission’s list of U.S.-based foreign media outlets, NCTA said. NCTA said the more rigorous reviews would “place unrealistic expectations on cable operators and broadcasters,” require them to guess what the FCC will later conclude is reasonable diligence and result in an “administrative quagmire.” The Biden White House has signaled clear concerns with foreign media content. In the Feb. 3 daily briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the White House’s position on RT (Russia Today). Psaki said she had not spoken with the president about RT, but said it was “pretty factual” to say the outlet was a Russian propaganda tool. “I think there is no question as we are trying to decipher information that is accurate or inaccurate it is important for the American people to know that there are outlets working on behalf of foreign governments who have an agenda,” Psaki said. — JE
FATES & FORTUNES
People Notable executives on the move BRIEFLY NOTED Other industry execs making moves
Charter Communications has promoted Jessica Fischer to executive VP, finance, adding oversight of procurement, investor relations, internal audit and corporate planning. She had been senior VP, finance and treasurer.
Josef Robey has joined Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media Family Networks as director of product, VOD (video-on-demand). A former director of product at DisneyABC Television Group, he most recently was a consultant.
Robert Mills was named executive VP, unscripted and alternative entertainment for The Walt Disney Co. He had been senior VP, alternative series, specials snd late-night programming at ABC Entertainment.
The Walt Disney Co. also added Reena Singh in the newly created role of senior VP, development and current series at the Disney Branded Television unit. She most recently was senior VP, current programming at 20th Television.
Meredith has named Diane L. Parker as VP, diversity and inclusion. She had been director, staffing, global diversity and inclusion for the Associated Press.
Nexstar Media Group named Jeff Moriarty as executive VP and chief product officer for its digital division. He comes from Gannett/USA Today Network, where he was senior VP, consumer products.
E.W. Scripps has named Jodi Chisarick as general sales manager for its national television networks business. She previously was senior VP and general sales manager at 20th Television.
E.W. Scripps has named Jeff Kiernan news director of WXYZ and WMYD Detroit. The local news veteran most recently was senior director of local content at Scrippsowned WTMJ Milwaukee.
Liz Lewis was named senior VP, catalog development at Sony/ATV Music Publishing, based in New York. She comes from Warner Records, where she wrapped up a 10-year career as VP, sync and brand partnerships.
Warner Bros. owned content studio Stage 13 has tapped Elaine Chin as senior VP, head of scripted content, leading the studio’s scripted creative team. She was senior VP, narrative film at Participant Media.
Social-media measurement firm Tubular Labs has named Scott Ernst as CEO. He most recently was CEO of Macromill, the Japan-based global marketing research business that went public while he was in charge.
Jen Weinberg has been named head of talent relations and events at WarnerMedia. She had been VP, talent relations and events at Disney Television Studios, with responsibility for 20th Television, ABC Signature and Touchstone Television.
Charter Communications reported that president and chief operating officer John Bickham will retire at the end of 2022. In addition, chief product and technology officer Rich DiGeronimo and chief financial officer Christopher Winfrey will expand their duties. … Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit producer of Sesame Street, has named Ed Wells as executive VP and head of global media and education. He was senior VP, head of international media and education. … WarnerMedia also named Austin O’Malia as head of awards for HBO, HBO Max, TBS, TNT and truTV. He had been VP, awards and corporate affairs at Showtime. … WISH Indianapolis has named Raymond J. Brune as senior executive producer, news and programming. He has worked at E!, ABC and KTLA Los Angeles and launched horse-racing network TVG. … ViacomCBS Networks U.K. added three executives to its new growth and partnerships division in London: Dan Fahy was promoted to senior VP, head of emerging business; Ashley Sennik was named VP, growth, U.K. streaming; and Akhila Khanna was elevated to VP, partner engagement & business development.
Data provided by
Ad Meter Who’s spending what where
PROMO MOJO Our exclusive weekly ranking of the programming that networks are promoting most heavily (Feb. 1-7)
MOST-SEEN TV ADS
Brands ranked by the greatest increase in TV
Brands ranked by TV ad impressions
Jeep Spend Increase: Est. TV Spend:
GEICO ▲ 1354%
Total TV ad impressions within all U.S. households, including national linear (live and time-shifted), VOD plus OTT and local
Est. Media Value: $5,271,650
Estimated media value of in-network promos On the strength of nearly 270 million TV ad impressions, a CBS promo for crime drama The Equalizer — which you probably saw during the Super Bowl — takes first place, followed by a promo for Super Bowl LV itself. Another CBS crime drama that got a Big Game boost, Clarice, takes third place. Rounding out the ranking: ABC, which hypes American Idol in fourth, and MotorTrend Network, which revs viewers up for Top Gear America in fifth. Notably, the Top Gear America spot has the highest iSpot Attention Index (115) in our ranking, meaning viewers were on average highly likely to watch it all the way through (vs. interrupting it by changing the channel, pulling up the guide, fast-forwarding or turning off the TV).
The Equalizer, CBS
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
2. Super Bowl LV, CBS TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
3. Clarice, CBS
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
4. American Idol, ABC TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
269,672,335 $5,271,650 249,661,883 $2,180,230 240,946,442 $3,857,460 236,898,808 $3,006,789
5. Top Gear America, Motor Trend Network
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
Top Show: Super Bowl Today
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
Top Show: College Basketball
TV Ad Impressions: 269,672,335
Est. TV Spend:
TOP 5 PROMOTIONS
Spend Within Industry:
The Equalizer, CBS
TV Ad Impressions:
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
Top Show: Super Bowl Today
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
DraftKings Spend Increase:
Law & Order: SVU
T-Mobile ▲ 604%
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
927.25M $35.1M 2.36%
Super Bowl LV
DISNEY PLUS LEADS MAJOR SVODs IN EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AT 89% EIGHTY-NINE PERCENT OF the content found on Disney Plus can’t be watched on any other subscription or adsupported video-on-demand service, an analysis conducted by Reelgood found. Disney Plus’s purity leads even Netflix, which
boasts that 83% of its catalog is exclusive to the platform. The adjacent chart shows how the major SVOD services stack up in terms of exclusive movies and shows. — Daniel Frankel For more stories like this, go to nexttv.com.
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AVAILABLE THOUGH EACH U.S. SVOD STREAMING SERVICE
B+C’S MOST VIEWED
*Reelgood U.S. catalog data snapshot as of Jan. 15, 2021
Top stories on broadcastingcable.com, Jan. 18-Feb. 10 1. Sinclair, Bally’s Rebrand Regional Sports Networks
2. Charter, Byron Allen Resolve $10 Billion Discrimination Lawsuit 3. Paramount Plus Discounted by 58% for Current CBS All Access Customers 4. Syndication Ratings: ‘Jeopardy!’ Leads With Ken Jennings at Podium 5. Newsmax TV Hires Rob Finnerty for Morning Show
**Exclusive content defined as any movie or TV show episode that is not available to stream via any SVOD or AVOD service
To read these stories, go to broadcastingcable.com.
SOURCE: Reelgood's VOD catalog insights product
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 cable programs ranked by viewer engagement Ratings Rank
Telecast (Week Ending Jan. 31)
Wendy Williams: What a Mess!
Wendy Williams: The Movie
90 Day Fiancé
The Curse of Oak Island
La Rosa de Guadalupe
Tyler Perry's Sistas
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
WWE Monday Night Raw
Byron Allen: Mark Reinertson ; Snowkissed: Hallmark Channel
The Stickiness Index looks at viewer engagement based on several factors. A higher number indicates more of the audience is tuned in for the duration of the telecast. * TV Engagement ratings powered by Comscore’s TV Essentials. (Sorted by social media activity.)
Data provided by
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 broadcast programs ranked by viewer engagement
Telecast (Week Ending Jan. 31)
Todo Por Mi Hija
Imperio De Mentiras
Vencer El Desamor
FBI: Most Wanted
The Stickiness Index looks at viewer engagement based on several factors. A higher number indicates more of the audience is tuned in for the duration of the telecast. * TV Engagement ratings powered by Comscore’s TV Essentials. (Sorted by social media activity.)
THE WEEK OF FEB. 1 TV Time users track the shows they're watching on TV via the TV Time app. That data is then used to determine the most-binged shows of the week in the U.S.
Share of binges: 2.25%
Share of binges: 1.58%
Share of binges: 1.50%
Attack on Titan
Share of binges: 1.42%
Share of binges: 1.14%
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
Share of binges: 1.06%
Share of binges: 0.94%
Fate: The Winx Saga
Share of binges: 0.80%
Share of binges: 0.79%
The Big Bang Theory
Share of binges: 0.78%
LAST WEEK: 9
LAST WEEK: —
FBI: Most Wanted: CBS; Charter
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
Networks reflected don't include every viewing platform available nor total viewing in share of binge
To receive "The Binge Report" and otherTV Time reports, visit https://www.whipmedia.com/subscribe/
NEXT TV’S MOST VIEWED Top five stories on nexttv.com, Jan. 18-Feb. 10 1. Charter’s Spectrum TV App Blackout on Roku Edges Toward Two-Month Mark 2. Comcast Aims for True Gigabit WiFi Experience 3. Charter, Byron Allen Resolve $10 Billion Discrimination Lawsuit 4. Paramount Plus Discounted by 58% for Current CBS All Access Customers 5. Sinclair, Bally’s Rebrand Regional Sports Networks To read these stories, go to nexttv.com.
Most-Watched Shows on TV Of all the live, linear minutes watched by VIZIO smart TVs Feb. 1 - 7, 5.44% of the time was spent watching the Super Bowl. See what other shows captured the most watch-time* in the graphic below
* ‘The Super Bowl Today‘ CBS pregame show
Via Vizio’s Inscape, the TV data company with insights from a panel of more than 17 million active and opted-in smart TVs. Data is linear, live TV only and includes all episode types (new and reruns). Rankings are by percent share duration, deﬁned as "of all the live, linear minutes watched last week, X% of the time was spent on show Y")
Data provided by
VUIT’S MOST-WATCHED STATION FEEDS Top 10 local broadcasters streamed on the VUit app Rank
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
Traverse City, Mich.
Charleston-Huntington, W. Va.
Meredith Local Media Group
What news event drove tune-in?
* Most out-of-market viewers
STREAMED SHOWS 1
Business First AM
Washington Post Live
Martin Yan's Sizzling Wok
VUit High School Sports Replays On-demand local sports
Crossing the Great Lakes
VUIT’S MOST POPULAR CHANNELS Most streamed channels on the VUit app for January 2021 1. NYC Live 2. Politics Uncut 3. Washington Post LIVE 4. VUit eSports 5. PowerNation
Top 10 most-viewed pieces of content on the VUit app
Daily news series
VUit original short film
Automotive enthusiast program
Automotive enthusiast program
To view these channels, go to www.VUit.com
The Fly-Over Music Hour
On-demand local music
VUit is the streaming service supported by 200 local TV stations. Run by Syncbak with an investment by Gray Television, VUit offers a variety of channels and feeds from local TV stations.
Capital Letters, By John Eggerton @eggerton
Picture This, By R. Thomas Umstead @rtumstead3
Beyond Black History Month
Media Plays Central Role in Impeachment
Programmers are recognizing the African-American experience all year long
News clips are key evidence in case against Donald Trump
Genius: Aretha: National Geographic
s the nation continues to celebrate the life of iconic gospel singer Mahalia Jackson — the Black History Month, a number of first of four films the network will develop with Good television distributors are making sure Morning America host Robin Roberts. that the recognition of African-American contributions to the country echo Making Awards History loudly on the small screen beyond February. African-American images and stories are teeing National Geographic on Feb. 10 said it will mark up history in the upcoming awards season as Black the 100th anniversary of the devastating Tulsa, actors and projects garnered a record-setting Oklahoma massacre in which white racists number of nominations. For example, a record burned down a thriving Black community in the four of five SAG Awards best film nominations are city. The documentary, Red Summer, recounts the led by people of color — three of them with two-day massacre that left as many as 300 Black predominately African-American casts: Netflix’s people dead and more than 10,000 homeless and Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and displaced. The documentary will air in June as Amazon Video’s One Night in Miami. part of Nat Geo’s celebration of Juneteenth, when Other Black historically themed shows, like HBO’s the last African-American slaves in the U.S. Lovecraft Country — which weaves the negative learned of their emancipation. history of the 1950s Jim Crow period within Until recently, this dark period in an equally scary sci-fi tale — Hulu’s The the United States was all but buried United States v. Billie Holiday and in the history books. National Judas and the Black Messiah, Geographic Global Television which focuses on the governNetworks president Courtment’s infiltration of the Black eney Monroe revealed Panther Party in the 1960s, during her TCA Winter Tour drew multiple nominations opening remarks that she in major categories across had only recently become nominations for Screen aware of the incident. “This Actors Guild and Critics tragedy was the most visible Choice Awards. during a period in the early Black History Month has 20th century when Jim Crow arguably taken on greater laws were at their height and the significance this year in light of Genius: Aretha [Klu Klux Klan] was resurging across the social justice movement ignited the nation,” she would add. by the death of George Floyd last May. TV Nat Geo will also pay homage to the Queen of One president Michelle Rice said that the continSoul, Aretha Franklin, through its March limited ued proliferation of content created about, by and series Genius: Aretha. It’s the third installment of for African-Americans will help ensure that the the network’s Genius franchise, built around history, stories, images and messages resonate prominent and creative historic figures, and the throughout the year. first featuring an African-American legend. Nat “Even though TV One targets black people and Geo will follow up Franklin with a Genius focused we feel like we get that message out to our audience on Martin Luther King Jr. every day, I think it’s also important to get that HBO in March will sing the praises of a legendary message out to consumers who are not Black,” she female R&B singer, Tina Turner, in Tina. The said. “When you talk about this whole anti-racism documentary charts the singer’s career of more than movement, it’s really about educating and getting five decades, recounting her early fame, her personal people to understand that our stories are part of and professional struggles, including her tumultuous the fabric of this country.” ● marriage to Ike Turner, as well as her even more improbable resurgence as a global star in the 1980s. R. Thomas Umstead is senior content producer for Also in March, Lifetime will air a movie chronicling Broadcasting + Cable.
ormer President Donald Trump lived by the sword of angry tweets and made-for-video rallies and statements, and if the House impeachment managers' case against the president is any indication, his reputation may die on that sword. Tweets and videos from a host of media outlets, many of which had been branded enemies of the people by Trump, were used extensively last week to build the House impeachment managers’ case against Trump as the instigator of the Capitol insurrection through months of claims on social media and in videos — White House-produced and otherwise — of a stolen election and a Joe Biden victory that could only be the result of widespread fraud. Throughout his presidency, Trump’s advisers had reportedly warned him that his avalanche of social media posts, early on identified as official statements from the president, were stepping on his message and distracting from his agenda, though arguably that agenda also included rallying his base against what he saw as a media out to get him in league with Democrats. But the consequences of his reliance on the media he reviles to connect with his base could prove more serious and longer-lasting. The House impeachment managers’ argument was a highly emotional one, rooted deeply in the sobering and shocking videos and tweets, which played a prominent if not dominant role in the prosecution. And while legal commentators pointed out that the audience was about 10 Republicans who would needed to be swayed if the president were to be convicted, the wider TV and online audience for the Senate trial, which was being covered wall-to-wall online and on cable news and heavily on broadcast, was also likely the millions of people the Democrats were looking to persuade of the unsuitability of Trump to high office. Since conviction was unlikely from the outset, conveying the horror of the day — with Capitol police mauled and the mob calling for Vice President Mike Pence’s hanging and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s murder, while the President remained relatively silent — clearly also had the secondary goal of convicting Trump in the court of public opinion. That’s because the end game, as much as accountability, was ensuring the former president cannot be re-elected in 2024. ● John Eggerton is senior content producer, Washington, for Broadcasting + Cable.
THE FIVE SPOT
Executive Producer, PBS’s ‘Frontline’ Journalist reshapes investigative series for a new generation of news watchers
ince 2015, Raney AronsonRath has served as executive producer of Frontline, PBS’s flagship investigative journalism series, overseeing production of more than 20 in-depth documentaries each year on critical issues facing the country and the world. As if stepping into the shoes of Frontline’s founder and seminal EP, eight-time Emmy winner David Fanning, during a post-Trump era of public trust headwinds blowing in the opposite direction of exactly the job she’s trying to do wasn’t tough enough? AronsonRath is also trying to transform Frontline for a new generation of news consumers, adapting the series into formats they pay attention to. Here’s what she told B+C senior content producer, technology Daniel Frankel recently, in a conversation edited for space and clarity.
What is the process for selecting a Frontline story? There are many different kinds of Frontline stories. Often, they are ones we’d consider the ‘biggest’ or most important of the year. But sometimes they are less well-known or understood — and literally might not get told if we don’t do it. The stories take different forms; they can be first-person, reporter-led, narrated or cinema verité. The common thread through whatever we do though is rigorous journalism brought to life in cinematic, narrative form. We’re always looking at the reporting, at the accountability, the questions being asked, the diversity of perspectives, and not just the present conflict but the context of whatever subject we are investigating. What Frontline stories are you most proud of? I always say that is like asking a parent who their favorite child is. I like them all! But I am most excited when our journalism is shining, when we are asking the tough questions of the people who should be held to account, when we reveal things that people hadn’t seen before or expose injustices or inequities. This past year, I have been especially proud of the early decision we made to focus on those who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In light of the attack on the Capitol, I am also really focused right now on our years-long commitment to reporting on right-wing extremism and white supremacist and hate groups. This dates back to our “Documenting Hate” films with ProPublica, where we identified Charlottesville assailants — and there is much more we are doing in this territory. That reminds me: I am really proud of our collaborations with other news organizations. This has been a top priority for me at Frontline and our partners are just amazing. In the past year, we worked with the Associated Press, ProPublica, Univision, NPR, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Marshall Project. I hope I didn’t forget anyone! Are there important stories you think you’ve missed? As an editor and the executive producer, I believe there are always so many
BONUS FIVE What are you binge-watching? My family is rewatching Schitt’s Creek, Star Trek: Picard, Space Force and many others. Which streaming services do you subscribe to? Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus How do you get your news? The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, PBS NewsHour and NPR Favorite everyday tech? Zoom, zoom and zoom! Sony Ci, iPhone and so much more. How many times have you left the house this week? At least 20. Even in the pandemic I have to get out, and I am helped by a puppy who forces us all out of the house multiple times a day!
Frontline executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath is looking to new forms of storytelling like podcasts and interactive films. more stories than we can tell. We do a lot of international reporting as it is, but I feel there are so many more stories to be told around the world. How has the anti-press climate perpetuated by the Trump administration affected your job? In this climate, we have redoubled our attention to security, both physical security and on the digital security front. We’re accustomed to being vigilant with security protocols in the field internationally, but now we find ourselves more and more applying protocols to our reporters who are working domestically. Can you tell us about some of the new storytelling formats being explored under the Frontline brand? I love this question, as it’s one of my biggest passions. We’ve been implementing multiple new ways to tell stories — from podcasts, interactive films, short films and feature films — all with the goal of reaching a new generation of viewers. We are also now the fastest growing PBS series on YouTube, where millions of people sought out Frontline films, subsequently quadrupling our streaming numbers in 2020. ●
Broadcasting and Cable - February 2021