The week or so of the L.A. Screenings is a busy time for buyers in L.A. who screen some 100 U.S. networks’ pilots. VideoAge caught up with a few acquisition executives (who will be in Los Angeles starting May 17; Latin buyers arrive May 13) in advance of the event, to see what they’re anticipating and what they’d like to buy.
This year, several series pick-ups were announced earlier than usual, so buyers already have their eyes on certain shows that are a done deal. Lanny Huang, of Promo Group TV in Hong Kong, pointed to The Club, a CBS Studios drama that’s already been picked up by ABC and is an Upstairs, Downstairs-style drama about a prestigious country club. She also said she’s interested in Warner Bros. comedies Damaged Goods (for ABC), about sexual politics that have changed in the post-feminist era, and Selfie, also from WB for ABC, about a self-obsessed 20-something.
She’s also interested in Fox’s The Strain (for FX in the U.S.), Guillermo del Toro’s first major TV series, about a vampire apocalypse.
Huang explained that the success of The Walking Dead (a zombie series) and Scandal (a D.C. based drama), are leading her to look for more series like that. “Also, I am sourcing trends that target younger audiences – 20-somethings.”
Aline Marrache-Tesseraud, head of Acquisitions, Foreign Fictions, at France’s Canal Plus agreed about The Walking Dead effect. “The Walking Dead phenomenon has had some babies. It’s very new, and a broad audience is interested in these kinds of shows,” she said.
Dermot Horan, director of Broadcast and Acquisitions at RTE in Ireland, says he’s cautious about getting too attached to any of the newly announced pilots — unless they’ve already been picked up to series.
“I never get too excited about a pilot, unless it has a confirmed order,” he said. “Too often ideas on paper aren’t executed well or ideas I really like aren’t picked up!”
This year, though, he expects to see a continuation of a trend that started last year for “more shorter, continuous and event-based series. …The cable channels are frequently beating the free-to-air networks in the Nielsen ratings with 10- and 12-parters that … attract feature film talent, both in front and behind the camera.”
He’s also expecting, “some new procedurals, with CSI and NCIS spin-offs already announced, CIA/terrorism (a la Homeland), fantasy (ala Game of Thrones), sci-fi with a short-run Heroes sequel back on NBC; and in comedy, the now-usual mix of multi-camera and single-camera shows with families and 20- and 30-somethings juggling work and family life.”
Ruediger Boess, SVP Content Group, Acquisitions for Germany’s Prosiebensat.1 TV, described Tyrant, which has been ordered by FX from Fox, and is from the team behind Homeland, as a “masterpiece.” He also pointed to “big expectations” for Warner Bros.’ Gotham, a Batman prequel which has already been picked up by Fox. Boess said he’s noticed lots of superheros that may be headed to the 2014-2015 schedule. In addition to the aforementioned Gotham, there’s Flash for CW and Constantine for NBC (both from Warner Bros.) Plus, NBC has announced its plans for a Heroes miniseries sequel in 2015.
Canal Plus’ Marrache-Tesseraud, said that while she’s seeing more and more dramas being produced by the studios, comedy is growing quickly for her company. “A lot of new comedy projects are on the market and are very interesting, and I think this is a genre that will explode in the coming years,” she said.