TCA Trends: Future, History Collide as Nets Explore New Frontiers

Diversity of cable programming remains robust, and that dynamic has certainly been on display in L.A. this week at TCA where some emerging themes seemed ripped from the headlines. With much news surrounding the fledgling private rocket-launch industry and private companies shuttling people into space for a hefty price, several nets are working on space exploration-related shows. The TV home to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nat Geo announced Ron Howard and Brian Grazer will helm what CEO Courteney Monroe described to critics as “a unique hybrid of scripted and unscripted elements” called “Red Planet.” The miniseries will follow the quest to colonize Mars. The scripted portion begins in 2032 and follows the first manned mission to Mars. It’s intercut with documentary interviews with present-day scientists. On the heels of the ratings success of its July 15 Pluto special, Science Channel presented a series “Secret Space Escapes” (October) chronicling close calls and near misses in space, which can be an unforgiving environment. History and historical fiction also were heavily represented at TCA and also seemed relevant to the news. Amid the recent warming of rela- tions with Cuba, American Heroes Channel presented the doc “Castro: The World’s Most Watched Man” (fall premiere). The one-hour doc features the insights of CIA agents who spent four decades following Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader. As it moves to becoming a national network, WGN America has chosen a slate of originals with historic themes. Its first series, premiered last year, “Manhattan” and “Salem,” are set at historic moments (the atomic bomb’s birth and 17th century colonial MA). A new series presented at TCA, as was Manhattan (season 2 Oct premiere), is “Underground,” about a group of plantation slaves fighting for freedom. On Friday, BBC America presented 8-part series “The Last Kingdom” (Oct 10), a piece of historical fiction that traces the birth of England by focusing on Uhtred, a 9th -century Saxon warrior who fights the Danes to reclaim his birth- right. The series is based on Bernard Cornwell’s bestseller of the same name.


Viacom’s India Move

Viacom has acquired a 50% interest in India’s Prism TV for around $153mln. The compa- ny owns and operates regional entertainment nets. The deal was completed Fri, and the parties received regula- tory approval earlier this month. Following the transaction, the remaining 50% interest will continue to be owned by the Network18 Group, Viacom’s partner in the Viacom18 joint venture. Viacom18 operates 10 channels in India, including MTV, Nick, Comedy Central and COLORS, a Hindi general entertainment brand. The deal al- lows Viacom to deepen its penetration into the fast-growing Indian market, especially the regional markets where growth is accelerating, Wells Fargo analysts wrote. They noted the Indian market is extremely fragmented, with

60% of India’s 1.2bln population speaking regional dialects. “Bottom line, we like the long-term strategy for VIAB as its building inroads in one of the fastest growing media markets in the world,” the analysts said. Viacom’s pres/ CEO shared the sentiment: “This acquisition is an important step in building on our leadership position in India, a key market in Viacom’s international growth strategy,” said Philippe Dauman in a statement.

FusePreps for Relaunch

Fuse will relaunch on Sept 30 with a new lineup of programming, an expanded partnership with Gabriel Iglesias and a new series order from Relativity Media. The net will also feature a new logo and brand as its identify will be “defined by a line-up of sexy, edgy and relevant original music, comedy, culture and lifestyle program- ming,” the company said in a release. The new Fuse aims to reach the “multicultural, Millennial audience of trendsetters and influencers that we are calling ‘New Young Americans,’” Fuse Media pres Bill Hilary said. The 1st original show developed as part of a multi-year partnership with Iglesias, “Fluffy Breaks Even,” debuts Oct 1. Two other originals join- ing the Oct programming lineup is Season 2 of talk show “Skee TV” and “Revealed.” The net also booked 6 30-min eps of docu-comedy “Saturday Morning Fever” from Relativity Television, which will debut next year.


The FCC will consider a Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration and FNPRM that seeks to improve consumer protection and competition as the industry continues to transition to an all-IP network. Issues to be addressed include ensuring consumers have options and sufficient information regarding emer- gency communications during power outages.


OTT Numbers Estimate

While few OTT/SVOD platforms share usage information, MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson estimates that HBO Now currently has around 1.9mln subs. He also estimates that DISH’s Sling TV has around 200K subs. In addition, Viacom’s Noggin SVOD service is estimated to have around 320K subs. The analyst used data from Sensor Tower on iOS download and used Netflix sub number as reference.


GOP presidential contender Donald Trump has a solid lead with 30.9% support among Repub- licans, according to a poll from Gravis Marketing released by One America News Network. Scott Walker comes in 2nd with 15.4%. In 3rd is Jeb Bush with 10% followed by Bobby Jindal at 7.2%. Mike Huckabee rounds out the top five with 6.0%. Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton leads with 50.8%, with Ber- nie Sanders bringing in 24%. No other announced candidate has more than 5%.


YES had its most-watched and highest-rated Yankee telecast of the 2015 season Thurs night. The Yankees-Rangers telecast drew 315K average total TV HHs and averaged a 4.24 TV HH rating, topping Wed night’s previous season high of 302K average TV HHs/4.06 average TV HH rating.


AMC renewed drama series “Humans” for a 2nd season. Co-produced by AMC, Channel 4 and Kudos, the series will return for 8 eps with production starting next year. — MTV placed a 2nd season order of its series “Scream” with Dimension Television. – E! booked series “Hollywood Teen Medium” (wt). The 8-ep, hour-long series follows 19-year-old Tyler Henry as he balances his special abilities with trying to be a regular teen. – Syfy ordered “Blood Drive,” a 13-ep scripted series from Universal Cable Productions.

Rovi Extends License Agreement

Rovi renewed its discovery patent portfolio license agreement with Funai Electric, covering Japan and EU. The cross-regional licenses are expected to enable Funai to use Rovi’s patents for digital consumer electronics and to access Rovi’s discovery features including intuitive search and targeted recom- mendations services.


Cablefax Week in Review


The Daily


Pickleball, Anyone? Networks Step Up to Service Line

It makes sense that programmers would want to get in on pickleball given its soaring popularity. But televising matches isn’t without its challenges.

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