2013 Upfront: Predictions & Prognostications: Part 2

In part 1 of our upfront predictions, we made some overall predictions on how the season might unfold. In this post, we’re taking a closer look at specific programming trends that have emerged.

The Morning Ratings Race
In the past year, ABC’s “Good Morning America” accomplished something it hadn’t done since 1994: It topped NBC’s “Today Show” in total viewers aged 25 to 54.

“Today” began its downward turn after Meredith Vieira left in 2011, and it never regained its footing after Ann Curry was fired last summer. Meanwhile, “Good Morning America” takes a lighter approach to the morning news, and its cast seems to have better chemistry. This combination of factors appears to be paying off in spades for NBC.

Syndicated Talk Scoop
After a big year of talk debuts in 2012, only half survived to see another season in 2013: “The Steve Harvey Show,” Katie Couric’s “Katie” and Trisha Goddard’s “Trisha.” Cancelled shows include “The Ricki Lake Show,” “The Jeff Probst Show” and Anderson Cooper’s “Anderson Live.”

Sony Distribution is bringing back Queen Latifah’s show with hopes that her increased fame brings in a large share of viewers.

Bethenny Frankel is trying her hand at daytime talk after multiple successful Bravo shows and launch of her Skinny Girl alcohol brand. Her talk show tested in six markets last summer, and the results convinced Warner Brothers to pick it up and distribute nationally.

Another familiar talk show host, Arsenio Hall, is coming back to the late night via CBS Distribution. His new show will be a resurrection of his 90s talk show and will compete against the “Tonight Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “The Late Show” in the 11 p.m. time slot.

Of the new talks, Empower feels that Bethenny will bring in a younger, more coveted, audience and lead the pack. Season after season, the talk category continues to change, and hopefully some stability is on the horizon with this fall’s lineup.

Characters Welcome in This Modern Family
USA has been using its “characters welcome” slogan for years. This September the network will welcome the characters of broadcast TV’s most popular family comedy, “Modern Family.”

USA is banking on the “Modern Family” super fans, who call themselves Mofys, to tune into the re-airs on its network. To help lure them in, USA is preparing a 14-week on-air, digital and in-person marketing blitz. The network will even conduct a nationwide search for the Ultimate Modern Family.

USA also plans to offer a “second screen” component to every episode. This will include trivia, polls and custom advertising features. On Sunday nights, USA will have a segment titled “Modern Family Live,” which will show real-time results from the second screen engagement. Points will be accrued by viewers, and the one with the most at the end of the night will be coined as the night’s super fan.

Empower feels Modern Family we be a winner for USA. However, all indicators are pointing towards USA pricing it as an original program. Remember, this is an off-network acquisition. Does it warrant original programming pricing? We don’t believe it does.

Too Many FX Networks?
Has FX really reached its saturation point? With its recent announcement of younger-skewing FXX, the franchise now includes four outlets for viewers to consume everything that is FX. A branding campaign will be launched this summer to unite the cluster under a new tagline: “Fearless.”

The FX franchise is now made up of the following:
FX – will continue to focus on drama series/miniseries, target 18-49
FXM – primarily an all-movie net with some limited series, target 25-54
FXX – will house many acquired series and have more of a comedic focus, target 18-34
FX Now mobile app – soft launch in early Q3, official launch in September

FXX was the former FOX Soccer, taking over distribution in 74 MM HHs with a current launch date of September 2. This network will have a younger, more comedic focus than any other — this can be seen with the transition of comedies/dramedies like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The League” and “Legit” from FX to FXX. FXX will also house a new late night show, “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell,” which has transitioned from a weekly to a five night per week strip.

Continued commitment to scripted originals will help the franchise succeed; the goal is 25 originals running across all three nets within the next three years. Additionally, its strategy to avoid a potential identity crisis among networks is a smart one. Rather than share programming as many ownerships groups do, FX will avoid sharing in order to maintain distinct differences across its Fearless brand.

As the numbers start to come in over the coming weeks, showing a clearer picture of the upfront landscape, we’ll keep you updated.

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Michele Toller
Michele Toller

As VP of Offline Investment and Activation, I challenge Empower MediaMarketing’s print, out of home and broadcast teams to think in terms of consumer behavior. We focus on reaching consumers on their terms, when they are receptive to receiving brand messages. Outside of media, I’m an avid golfer -- although my score doesn’t always reflect it. I’ve had the pleasure of playing Winged Foot, Oakland Hills Country Club and TPC Scottsdale.