Sexing Up TV Land’s Slate With Fresh Fare
Tom Forman Teams With Network on Reality Project
As it undergoes its own brand metamorphosis, the TV Land cable network is getting into business with longtime “Extreme Makeover” executive producer Tom Forman.
The network has closed a deal with Mr. Forman to produce a pilot presentation for a series that will offer a new take on the makeover genre, according to Keith Cox, executive VP of original programming for TV Land.
“It’s kind of the anti-makeover show,” Mr. Cox said. Further details about the project are being kept under wraps.
Mr. Forman joins Mark Burnett, Mike Fleiss, Allison Grodner, Michael Davies and other top network-level reality producers working on projects for the nascent TV Land Prime lineup, launched last year to house the network’s growing roster of original programming geared toward viewers in their 40s and 50s.
Just last week, the network announced a third-season pickup for Mr. Fleiss’ “High School Reunion.” That marked the first time TV Land has ordered a third cycle of one of its reality shows.
And on April 15, TV Land bows its latest original, a dating competition series from Mr. Fleiss called “The Cougar.”
Mr. Cox said he plans to launch four new and three returning reality series over the next year, with scripted comedies in the works as well. While originals currently are targeted for Wednesday nights, with new shows debuting year-round, TV Land executives already are hopeful they can eventually expand the Prime franchise.
“As we evolve, we’d love to go to a second night,” Mr. Cox said.
The network, which in 2008 was a top 10 cable network in its target audience of viewers in their 40s and 50s, is following a familiar path for cable channels, starting out by owning a programming niche, then fighting to expand to a broader audience without alienating core fans.
While reality shows from Mr. Fleiss or Mr. Forman are a departure from the retro programming that fills most of TV Land’s lineup, Mr. Cox argues that viewers who enjoy repeats of “Good Times” or “M*A*S*H” aren’t averse to watching “The Cougar” strut her stuff.
“They’re both our demo,” he said, explaining that TV Land wants to “super-serve” its audience of older adults, he said.
“We’re building an environment that’s more contemporary, but we’re not changing our demo,” he said. “We’re speaking to a group of people nobody’s speaking to. CBS does to a degree, but they do so in a very broad way. We’re really targeting them.”
While he wouldn’t talk specifics, Mr. Cox said ad buyers like the change in programming.
“They’re embracing these shows,” he said, adding that the “Reunion” franchise has “done very well with product integration.”
TV Land and its owner, MTV Networks, haven’t been cautious in launching Prime. Compared with 2007, before Prime popped, TV Land’s marketing spending has doubled, according to a representative.
“The budgets aren’t Procter & Gamble level. We’re not doing mega-campaigns,” said Kim Rosenblum, senior VP of creative and marketing for TV Land. “But they’re healthy budgets that talk to adults 25-54.”
To hype “The Cougar,” for example, Ms. Rosenblum rolled out extensive ad pushes both on TV Land and a slew of outside, female-friendly cable networks, including A&E, Bravo, E! and USA.
So far, the new shows and the major marketing push have paid off with a decline in the channel’s overall audience age (down four years), and a 4% increase in its 2008 adult 25-54 Nielsen ratings (compared to 2007).
Because TV Land’s own air remains the best way for it to reach its target audience, the network has designed a launch strategy that ensures the premiere of one new show immediately after the finale of the previous original. So just as “Cougar” is debuting a week after “High School Reunion 2” ended, the network will follow the “Cougar” finale with the June launch of “She’s Got the Look 2.”
The marketing of “Look” will begin shortly with the launch of a high-end print campaign featuring an original shoot from fashion photographer Matthew Rolston, who has directed videos by Madonna and Miley Cyrus.
Ms. Rosenblum also has contracted with leading online marketing company Deep Focus for its digital efforts on “The Cougar,” while the network also hired CREW Creative for some projects.
As for future programming, Mr. Cox last fall announced plans to branch into reality comedy, and greenlighted “How’d You Get So Rich” and “Make My Day” from Mr. Burnett and Mr. Davies, respectively. Those series likely will debut in late summer or early fall.
Also on the drawing board for 2009: “First Love, Second Chance,” a Granada America format that gives past couples the chance to rekindle a lost romance.
The scripted programming push is also in full swing, with Mr. Cox thinking he’ll develop between 10 and 12 half-hour comedy scripts. The executive, who once worked in comedy development for Warner Bros. TV, expects to begin production on his first multicamera comedy pilots by the fall, and premiere a new scripted half-hour by the middle of 2010.
Mr. Cox said his game plan is the same whether he’s developing a scripted or unscripted show.
“I want to make sure it has the legs to become a franchise,” he said. “And I want to work with great producers, find really great voices and develop shows that speak to our audience.