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A TV Trend Trio - and Our First 2013 Upfront Update - Simon Applebaum

February 19, 2013

Published: February 19, 2013 at 12:15 PM GMT
Last Updated: February 18, 2013 at 12:15 PM GMT

We're only at mid-February, and three trends are in play that, as Arthur Miller would declare, attention must be paid with.

1) A record number of TV networks will enter the scripted series field this year, leading to a wider assortment of scripted fare all over TV. GMC, formerly Gospel Music Channel, kicked off the parade last month with For Richer or Poorer. Then came Stuff You Should Know from Science Channel, turning the popular podcast into a comedy. History will be next March 3 with Vikings. From there, the debut entries of Bravo, E!, Oprah Winfrey Network (via Tyler Perry), Hallmark Channel and Sundance Channel. Now add Participant Media's millennial-focused service from the merger of Documentary Channel and Halogen, G4's morphing into Esquire Channel, and a Jennifer Lopez-crafted Nuvo TV. Maybes in this picture: Discovery (with a Klondike miniseries going to the cameras this spring), TLC, and Robert Rodriguez's El Rey service. No wonder you can't go an hour--literally--without hearing about a new scripted program in development or green lighted somewhere. Or without rumors of top film producers/directors plotting moves into scripted TV. Impact on viewers: more quality/variety of scripted choices than ever.

2) Smart TVs are the new way for people to watch and use the Internet or original interactive applications. Reed Hastings, Netflix's chief, made it crystal clear to CNBC media correspondent Julia Boorstin the week before House Of Cards launched that more people are watching his venture over TV than PCs. His lieutenants make the same point to me and other journalists. Meantime, the research and anecdotes of increased Web viewing on smart TVs piles up--and not just for Netflix, YouTube, Hulu or Amazon. Bottom line: Every Web site, smartphone or tablet application must become TV-usable if not already. Sooner or later, and this pile suggests sooner, people will use the Internet on their TVs via remote controls, their voice, face, fingers (touch-screen) or gestures, or by smartphone/tablet downloads. What's more, smart TV capacity and capabilities are only going to increase with each set model. Every Internet and TV conference, starting with Social Media Week this week in NY, LA and elsewhere, must raise and cover this situation comprehensively, or a huge disservice will be done to the Internet, smartphone and tablet app developer crowd. If you believe in convergence, believe we've got the era of convergence underway.

3) Crowdfunding of TV series is a reality now, and by a year from now, could be a reality for seed-funding new TV networks. Individual show ventures are now going to crowdfund sites as Kickstarter, Mobcaster and Indie GoGo for public-contributed seed money. DTLA, with $30,000 in Kickstarter money launched on Logo last October. Separately, in advance of a full Federal regulatory greenlight, equity crowdfunding company EarlyShares has a deal with Fashion Star producer 5X5 Media for ongoing show development, where the public invests, equity-style, in the programming. Other production firms are checking out similar arrangements with EarlyShares or related equity crowdfunding organizations. And some crowdfunding conferences on the state level, such as Texas, are exploring TV/entertainment options in public. Yes, crowdfunding, however handled, does not guarantee a show's success. What it does do is open another way to get programs off the ground--programs and audience shows interest in through their own dollars. Potential side impact: encouraging venture capitalists, angel investors, incubator and accelerator entities--solidly apathetic for years on TV content and technology investment--to finally get off their keisters and invest. Crowdfunding is another subject every TV and online conference from here on in should have on their lineups. Credit Digital Hollywood for bringing up the subject at several of their conferences last year, and expanding the discussion at their Media Summit in NY next month.

For sure, more trends will play out as 2013 continues. For now, these three are the ones that play well now...and likely to play bigger the rest of this decade.

Now time for our first 2013 Upfront update. NickMom, the primetime/late-night portion of Nick Jr. which launched last fall, batted first a year ago this month. Update: NickMom hasn't set a date for a return event yet.NickMom

As we did last year, we'll break each New York-offered presentation down by five categories, with a Jacks grade for each. Our first channel at the plate: Style.

Venue: Fashion Week at Lincoln Center. If you check out the Damrosch Park portion of Lincoln Center most of the year, the idea of building a temporary prefabricated display on top comes across as unthinkable. That's what you saw for Fashion Week--chic, comfy, plenty of exhibits and walking room. Style's event room contained a white runway floor in the center, surrounded by plenty of plush sofas and seats with a good view for everyone. Bonus: a yummy, plentiful sushi bar. Grade: 5 Jacks.

Presentation: Two parts, relatively quick. First part--president Salaan Coleman Smith delivering the channel's purpose and programming plans. "We're a lifestyle brand, about living an aspirational lifestyle," she said. Second part: a runway show designed by Betsey and Lulu Johnson (subjects of a new reality series launching April 29) with a pop music soundtrack. Puppy/fluffy dresses highlighted the fall fashion style on display, with the models blowing or throwing valentine flower flakes at the audience. For an exclamation point, Betsey J. ripped her own runway with a cartwheel into a split. You don't see fashion designers do that often. Grade: 4 Jacks (4.5 for Betsey J.'s moves).

News: Smith's channel will launch 10 new series this year, including PopStyle, a live roundup of fashion, beauty and pop culture trends, and a revival of Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous, the iconic 1980's syndicated hour spotlighting champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Also in that mix: Styled To Rock, the Rihanna-produced fashion/design competition announced earlier. Separately, a development deal is set with Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron for Glam Squad, focusing on makeup and hair style teams. Style also will increase coverage of NY Fashion Weeks, beyond the Style Awards special launched last fall. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Host: Solid work by Smith--stayed straight and let video clips keep the presentation on point. Grade: 4 Jacks

Overall: 4.5 Jacks All the elements worked and a few elements you didn't expect--Betsey J.'s literal kicker of a runway show finish, and that sushi bar, made things more memorable.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned.

Simon Applebaum hosts/produces Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV. Tomorrow runs live Mondays/Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific time, over www.blogtalkradio.com. Replays are available 24/7 at www.blogtalkradio.com/televised, or in podcast form from ITunes.com.

Have a question or feedback? E-mail simonapple04@yahoo.com, or follow him via Facebook and Twitter (@UBCSimonTWBT).

Read all Simon’s MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Tomorrow Will Be Televised.

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The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaBizBloggers.com management or associated bloggers. MediaBizBloggers is an open thought leadership platform and readers may share their comments and opinions in response to all commentaries.

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