Barney Fife will have to make room for George Foreman in TV Land's programming ring.
The 94 million-subscriber network, known mostly for classic TV shows such as The Andy Griffith Show and M*A*S*H, will introduce several new original reality series over the next six months — including one following the personal life of the former heavyweight boxing champion — in an effort to super-serve its 40-to-54-year-old target viewer.
The Viacom-owned channel is also hoping originals will boost viewership for the network, which fell off 7% in 2007 to 888,000 average primetime viewers from 954,000 in 2006. But TV Land president Larry Jones said the network will not abandon its classic-TV roots.
“It's an evolutionary period for us,” he said. “We know that our viewers watch shows like [ABC's] Dancing With The Stars, so if we can find those original opportunities and combine it with The Andy Griffith Show, we think the brand has enough flexibility to embrace something like that.”
The network launched its original initiative last Wednesday (March 5) with High School Reunion, which reunites former classmates from a Texas high school. The series got off to a solid start, ringing up triple-digit demographic advances over last year in the time slot.
Other originals on the docket include: The Big 4-0, a My Super Sweet 16-esque show which follows several people as they prepare for their 40th birthday parties; She's Got the Look, a competition beauty contest for ladies age 35 and older; and Family Foreman, which follows the life of the aforementioned Foreman and his family.
In addition, the network will bring back its Hollywood-based reality series Myths and Legends for a second season, according to Jones. It will also move its annual TV Land Awards from April to June this year.
Jones says the reality-based originals should cater well to its target audience, which isn't being served adequately by other general-entertainment networks like USA Network and TNT.
“They're not embracing and talking directly to [that audience],” he said. “The voice that we will deliver is one that says, 'I'm in my 40s and I'm not embarrassed about it, and this channel actually talks to me instead of down to me.' ”
He also doesn't believe the new originals will alienate viewers who tune in to see Sanford and Son and other classic shows.
“You'll still have that escapist entertainment and still have the point of view that it's not homework when you come to the channel,” he said. “We go above and beyond classic TV but the foundation will always be and continue to be classic television.”