Before the start of the L.A. Screenings 2017, it looked like we could have a remake of the L.A. Screenings 2008, which, under the weight of the writers’ strike that began in November 2007, saw only a few pilots completed. Fortunately, the 2017 disputes with the two writers’ unions were resolved a month before the Upfronts presentations in New York City, with a three-year contract for non-linear broadcasting signed ahead of time. This time, it came down to the wire, with the writers’ unions calling off the planned strike for pension and SVoD residuals just a few days before the Upfronts.
With the new disputes resolved, the first day of the Indie portion of the L.A. Screenings market, May 16, kicked off with busy schedules, intensive suite meetings, Sonar’s general screenings and the NATPE opening party. The following days were just as busy, with a MIP Cancun reception, Caracol party and Telefilms’ general screenings.
At the InterContinental Hotel in Century City, which, as usual, was the venue for the Indie portion of the L.A. Screenings, Latin and other buyers found 80 exhibitors from 16 countries, with seven first-timers, including All3Media and Sonar. That’s a slight decrease from last year’s 88 distribution companies. Similarly, the overall number of buyers throughout the whole two-week event was down a bit with most studios seeing around 1,500 buyers from 56 countries.
For the first time this year, Isabella Marquez, who traditionally coordinates the Indies at the InterContinental Hotel, introduced nametag badges for participants. As of May 11, 910 people had registered for the free badges in advance and 300 more did it by the market’s opening day. Marquez also arranged for free Wi-Fi service throughout the hotel for L.A. Screenings participants.
The badge concept was well received and some participants who operated from the busy lobby without renting a suite — such as ACI’s Chevonne O’Shaughnessy — were even willing to pay a fee to get a badge, “since we are taking advantage of the services,” she said.
On the first day of the L.A. Screenings’ Indie portion at the InterContinental, which gathers mostly LATAM buyers, Jeff Crounck, the hotel’s bell captain, delivered 261 copies of VideoAge to the buyers’ rooms. According to him, VideoAge was the only publication that provided this service.
On May 18, Fox signaled the end of the indies’ event and the kick-off of the studio segment with their own screenings. This year’s market — which continued up to May 26 — also saw the active participation of both MGM and Paramount Studios.
As anticipated in VideoAge’s April Issue, U.S. President Trump’s ideology is seeping into the new TV season. The New York Times wrote of the new season’s series: “How would the occupant of the White House affect what showed up on the air? One trend that has emerged is the rise of shows with military themes.”
According to The Los Angeles Times, the new TV lineups are “playing it safe. Network television wants to be America’s security blanket.” The paper also added, “viewers want some escapism from the unpredictable administration of President Trump that has generated alarming headlines about campaign collusion with Russia and a possible nuclear showdown with North Korea.” And: “The atmosphere of insecurity is similar to the months following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. After the attacks, viewers flocked to TV comfort food that season,” the paper reported.
Indeed, critics at The Los Angeles Times wrote that this new season looks a lot like “comfort food,” with reboots (American Idol), revivals (Will & Grace and Roseanne), prequels (Young Sheldon), spinoffs and remakes (Dynasty, S.W.A.T., and Dirty Dancing). Religion is also playing a part (A Christmas Story, By The Book and The Gospel of Kevin), as well as military themes (The Brave, Valor and SEAL Team).
However, other commentators pointed out that, while networks play it safe, audiences most often reward those TV outlets that take chances and are challenging.
As far as the Upfronts were concerned, advertisers returned to traditional television, having been disappointed by the ROI they saw with digital.
The Upfront accounts for between 75 and 80 percent of the overall TV primetime ad market, and if the economy improves, the nets can expect an increase in rates for the balance of the airtime inventory in the so-called scatter market. For example, according to Standard Media Index estimates, advertisers who bought spots in CBS’ The Big Bang Theory in the scatter market paid over $391,000 per spot, a 34 percent premium over the network’s Upfront rate last year.
At the Upfronts, the major broadcast networks picked up a total of 46 series for the new season, mid-season and back-ups out of 75 pilots presented (last year there were 47), however the studios will be distributing a total of 69 new series, including programs produced for other TV outlets. Seven of the new series were picked up before the Upfronts and others, such as FOX’s 911 and CBS’ Dynasty, which were not screened in L.A. since those shows went straight to series.
As for the TV broadcast’s genre mix, 26 drama series won over 13 comedies (the rest were reality or competition programs).
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