Nets Flip the Script at Upfronts


This year’s cable network upfronts
have thus far produced the typical
laundry list of original scripted comedies and
dramas, as well as competition reality shows
and the occasional game show.

What’s interesting about this upfront season
is not so much the shows themselves, but
the networks that are flipping their programming
strategies to try new content formats.

BET will most likely expand its music and
reality series-dominated lineup into the onehour
drama format for the first time with Being
Mary Jane
, an original movie pilot starring
Gabrielle Union that it expects to convert into
a series, according to BET CEO Debra Lee.

Not to be outdone, Bravo — cultivators of
personality-driven reality shows like the Real Housewives franchise
— will seek new ratings fortunes in the scripted genre
with several projects, including 22 Birthdays, about the scandalous
activities of a group of parents at an exclusive private
school, and Blowing Sunshine, which follows the staff and
high-profile patients at a fictional private rehabilitation center.

Music-themed network Fuse will jump into the scripted
arena with Blaze Studios, a half-hour musical comedy starring
Marcus Paulk (Redtails) and Quinton Aaron (The Blind Side)
that takes a behind-the-scenes look at the wild antics of the
staff and clients at a high-end recording studio.

Hallmark Channel will tap the bestseller list
for its first two scripted series. The two series,
scheduled for a 2013 premiere, are based on
concepts from authors Debbie Macomber and
Janette Oke, both of whom have had their work
previously developed for movies on Hallmark
Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel.

Country music-themed CMT will look to
strike a chord with viewers in the animation
arena with Bounty Hunters, about three friends
and their bounty-hunting business. Comedians
Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable
Guy are involved.

If you’re into reality competition series, look no
further than genre neophyte Animal Planet, which
will look to hook viewers through its new fishing-themed competition
series Top Hooker.

New game show programming can now be found on reality
series-themed networks like MTV2 and Fuse, while reality
series can be found on GSN (formerly Game Show Network).

Network executives say program diversification is imperative
to draw new viewers within a hyper-competitive
cable environment. But networks that stretch the genre
boundaries of their content have to be careful not to dilute
their brand image in viewer’s eyes.