ABC, MindShare Eye Drama Series

Mar 1, 2004  •  Post A Comment

ABC is hoping to see the first fruits of its partnership with media buying agency MindShare this summer.
ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne said the network is considering two scripted dramas to be programmed in the summer, one of which would come from ABC’s deal to develop shows with MindShare.
Under the pact made in December, ABC would have no upfront costs for the programming. Instead it would share advertising time within the show with the media buying agency, which would produce the show with money from clients such as Unilever and Sears. Clients, in turn, would get ad spots in the show.
ABC and MindShare have narrowed potential drama projects down to two but haven’t decided yet which one to pursue. Both projects were already making their way through ABC’s drama development department when MindShare stepped in.
Ms. Lyne said neither the MindShare project nor the other drama, which she described as a soap, would be piloted. “They would be six episodes ordered from the scripts at a different price point,” she said.
While a typical first-year drama costs about $2 million to produce, ABC would like to produce summer dramas for closer to $1.2 million.
Peter Tortorici, director of programming at MindShare, who was hired to oversee the buyer’s programming efforts, said creativity was just as important to MindShare as cost.
“It’s really trying to do things in a slightly different fashion so that we use a little bit more imagination, take some risks and do things that are unconventional, that hopefully for the viewer produce something that’s compelling and different and entertaining,” he said. “Its ultimate objective is not low cost, its ultimate objective is compelling entertainment.”
That being said, “We do have financial parameters that we’re trying to work within to keep the risk-reward ratio reasonable for everybody that’s part of it, and that includes creating advantages and upside for people who work with us,” he said.
MindShare will partner with studios and networks to produce shows. In the case of the summer ABC drama, it would most likely be the network’s sister studio Touchstone, Mr. Tortorici said.
Mr. Tortorici said the media buyer would open its doors to pitches from agents, but at the moment, “We are really working from a known slate of projects to see if we can get our first project up and running.”
The obvious advantage to ABC of the business model created with MindShare is that the network gets to air a new original drama without putting up any cash, limiting its risk if the show fails. On the flip side, in success the network could lose out on lucrative advertising dollars if the show is a huge hit because it splits the time with MindShare.
A model with a lower price point is ideal for summer programming, Ms. Lyne said. In the past broadcast networks have not aggressively pursued original scripted programming in the summer because advertisers aren’t willing to pay as much money for ad time in the summer when homes using television levels are lower, making it harder to recoup the production costs.
“[A lower price point] makes it much easier to justify putting a scripted show on during the summer,” Ms. Lyne said. “Summer is a time we can experiment [with] different programming models. One of these shows is something where we’ve paired a reality producer and a scripted producer so we can use some of the insights that we have gotten into what is compelling about reality programming beyond the obvious.”
ABC has about a month to decide whether to go forward on the MindShare drama and the soap opera project if the network wants them ready for a summer airdate, Ms. Lyne said. The network is looking as well at airing three original reality shows in the summer.