Scripted programming with an optimistic tone remain’s Pop’s programming theme for 2018-19, which traded the traditional upfront presentation in New York City for a series of individual conversations with advertisers and members of the media community.
“With what is going on in this world and everything with our government, and all this fighting, we just need some happy stuff sometimes,” said Brad Schwartz, president of Pop. “We need a bit of an escape, and our goal is to bring a new spin to programming formats that are familiar.”
Three years after launching as Pop, a joint venture between CBS and Lionsgate, the focus on the former TV Guide Network remains on the “modern grownup,” specifically those viewers in their 30s and 40s who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s.
“These are the people that might have gotten married in later life, or bought their first home or had kids in later life, but they want to stay connected to that emotion of youth,” said Schwartz. “So, the content that they love tends to be happy and optimistic. It reminds them of those good times in life, things that have happened and other stuff to come. And we built this network for this audience thinking this would give us our own identity.
Touting an independent study of more than 1,300 individuals, Pop appears to be the first content provider in this upfront season to recognize the value of the linear programming model in this growing world of digital consumption.
“What we found about this audience we are targeting is they are linear TV watchers,” said Schwartz. “Most watch live TV every day, and one in three say they are watching more TV than last year. But that’s not to say that we also don’t understand the importance of digital.”
“With each of these shows that we launch, we are trying to partner with really strong digital brands,” he added. “Hollywood Darlings, for example, is very much a Mom-type comedy and Scary Mommies is a really strong digital brand. By partnering the two we are able to offer advertisers additional opportunities.”
On the Programming Agenda
Original programming airing on Pop through December of this year will include the debut of six-episode limited series drama Clique, from the creators of British drama Skins, and the second seasons of comedy Hollywood Darlings, which follows the lives of best friends Jodie Sweetin (Full House, Fuller House), Beverley Mitchell (7th Heaven) and Christine Lakin (Step By Step); procedural comedy Swedish Dicks; and drama Wolf Creek, based on the horror film of the same name.
Pop also will feature Big Brother After Dark this summer, which keeps the camera rolling outside of its exposure on CBS (and could ultimately return for another celebrity-themed winter edition based on its successful recent run opposite the Winter Olympics on NBC). And sitcom Schitt’s Creek will feature an original holiday-themed episode in December.
Pop has ordered three pilots: Romantic comedy Arranged, the tale of two best friends who end up in marriage of convenience; Florida Girls, which features an inside look at the lives of a group of female friends living in a trashy trailer park; and The Demons of Dorian Gunn, a supernatural comedy.
In development are Wrightful Heirs, described as a modern take on The Beverly Hillbillies meets Downton Abbey; and sitcoms Best Intentions, set at a local high school and following the lives of a single father and his teenage son; and Spinning, set in the Hamptons and featuring a 40something spinning instructor in search of a killer.
“Any apprehension we may get from advertisers who target the women 25-54 demo on platforms like E!, Bravo, Lifetime and WE, we explain that if you buy us you are expanding your reach,” said Schwartz. “We may not be as sexy to talk about as Netflix or Hulu, but we are very proud of this linear audience that we have. And we are building a channel with all the challenges any linear platform faces.”