Ion Looks to Original Movies to Bulk Up Primetime

Mar 25, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Ion says it plans to produce 12 original films beginning in the fourth quarter as part of its effort to build its primetime schedule.
The films, in a variety of genres, include romances, thrillers, action and holiday pictures. Ion will offer advertisers integrated marketing opportunities with the movies, the network said Wednesday.
The films join Ion’s recently revamped lineup of off-network shows and acquired series.
“Ion is committed to a programming strategy that operates simultaneously on two tracks,” said Leslie Chesloff, executive VP of programming at Ion Media Networks. “First, as is indicated by the development of these films, we are fast-tracking the production of our own original content. Second, as our success with ‘Boston Legal’ and ‘NCIS’ proves, there is an audience for top-rated off-network series. We are in the market for hit comedies and dramas and we will continue to add to our schedule as they become available.”
Ms. Chesloff said she is hoping one of the original movies will serve as a back-door pilot for a series.
“I would hope next year at this time that we can announce getting into originally produced series for Ion,” she said.
In the meantime, the network will be airing series acquired from Canada, but not seen in the U.S.
“Durham County” will debut in the fall, “The Guard” will launch in January and “The Border” will air in the second quarter.
Ion plans to air its dramas at 10 p.m., where there may be an opportunity with NBC replacing its scripted shows with the new Jay Leno show, Ms. Chesloff said.
Ion also has begun a weekend movie night for theatrical movie releases, starting with “Hitch.” Ion will air films after they appear on cable.
Stephen Appel, Ion’s president for sales and marketing, said Ion’s upfront pitch will be based on the network’s increase in primetime viewership; it is up 16% in households and 30% among adults 25 to 54.
“The times are tough. There’s no question that’s true,” Mr. Appel said. “We’ve rebranded, we’ve got better material on air. We’ve got a viewership increase that’s very recognizable. We do real numbers on Monday night, over a million households.”
The network added 21 major advertisers to its roster, which now totals about 50, he added.
“Our challenge is to increase the viewership and to keep adding new advertisers as we go,” he said. “There are a lot of people that say they want to do business with us.”

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