Will Last Year’s Shortfalls Continue in 2015?

May 15, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

With the 2015-2016 upfronts now behind us, it's on to the sales season. Last year's upfront market was down, with both broadcast and cable taking hits. New Jersey-based MDI pegged the decline at 6.1% to $18.125 billion overall, including a 4.7% drop by cable to $9.67 billion. The shortfalls marked the first retreat since 2009-10, when the market suffered from the lingering effects of the 2008 financial crisis. Where is the upfront headed this year? While agency executives say it's too soon to say, there are a number of key things to consider that will partly shape the Madison Avenue bazaar.

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Harry Shearer, the Voice of Iconic Simpsons Characters, Is Leaving the Show

May 14, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

The voice of some of the most recognizable and beloved animated characters of the last 30 years is going silent. Harry Shearer confirmed on Twitter that he won't be back for the 27th season of the hit Fox show The Simpsons after he could not come to terms with producers on a new contract. The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean wrote on Twitter, "The show will go on, made by people who love it and see in it the most wonderful vehicle for satire ever." Shearer has been the voice of Ned Flanders, C. Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers, Kent Brockman, Seymour Skinner and dozens of other characters. The one-time Saturday Night Live cast member (remember his Mike Wallace impression? ) wrote on Twitter: "I wanted what we've always had: the freedom to do other work." Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support. — Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015 The Simpsons was mentioned in 21st Century Fox's third-quarter earnings report on May 6—specifically, the cost of re-airing the show on FXX. "The expense growth at the new channels was led by increased rights fees ... and increased programming costs at FXX led by The Simpsons." But it was a Simpsons mega-marathon last summer that all but saved the cable channel.

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Thanks to Mad Men and Avengers, Actress Linda Cardellini Knows How to Keep a Secret

May 12, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Specs Age 39 Claim to fame Stars in Netflix's Bloodline; appears in The Avengers and Welcome to Me (both in theaters now); plays Sylvia Rosen on AMC's Mad Men Base Los Angeles Twitter @LindaCardellini What's the first information you consume in the morning? Well, I look and make sure that no one has called, that there have been no emergencies, and then I look at whatever comes up on my phone. Tell us about your social media habits. What are your go-to platforms? I don't have any really. I should get some.

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Azteca Is Proud to Use the ‘M’ Word

May 12, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Manuel Abud doesn't mind using the "M" word. He does it a lot, actually. The "M" word in this case is for Mexicans. "We target them because it's good business," said the president and CEO of Azteca America at the network's upfront presentation Monday night. The event at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square came a day before the two other dominant U.S. Hispanic networks -- Univision and Telemundo -- throw their annual party for advertisers. Mexicans, or those of Mexican descent, make up 67 percent of Hispanics in the U.S., so it's no wonder Abud uses the "M" word in abundance. He also delivered good news to clients: "I'm thrilled to say that for the first time in 7 years, we have substantial ratings growth." The network is up 33 percent in the adults 18-49 demo in prime time. Azteca also has a hit on its hands with Friday Night Futbol, which features Mexican League soccer matches

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Azteca America Will Build Hispanic Audience Platform for Advertisers

May 11, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

At its upfront presentation later today, Azteca America will unveil new technology to integrate linear and digital video account planning, and it claims to be the first U.S. broadcaster to do so. Azteca America, wholly owned by Mexico's TV Azteca, will partner with Google's DoubleClick and inventory management platform Furious Corp. to build the Hispanic Audience Platform (HAP). It is expected to be up and running later this year. "The Hispanic Audience Platform creates an incredible opportunity for marketers to reach a diverse, growing and highly valuable audience in a targeted way more than ever," said Court Stroud, evp, network sales and digital. Azteca America trails other U.S. Hispanic networks Univision and Telemundo in ratings and reach. It has more than 40 affiliates across the country including in the top 5 markets of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas. But its parent company is one of the largest producers of Spanish-language content in the world. As broadcasters know all too well, audiences, especially younger viewers, are not finding their favorite programs on TV alone. Azteca hopes the HAP will ensure that brands' investments will reach their audience in a more effective way across multiple platforms. "Azteca is leaping ahead of many of its larger competitors by ensuring they have the tools and technology to plan, optimize and deliver cross platform video, ensuring greater transparency, and higher ROI to advertisers," said Furious Corp. founder and CEO Ashley Swartz. Azteca America has long been a provider of multi-platform advertising solutions for clients, including through product integration .

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Fox Moves Empire to Fall, Announces Final Season of American Idol

May 11, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

There is a new Empire at Fox—in more ways than one. Ahead of their first upfront Monday afternoon as Fox Television Group chairmen and CEOs, Dana Walden and Gary Newman announced a 2015-16 lineup with one big expected move—Empire is moving from midseason to anchor the fall lineup—and one stunner: former blockbuster American Idol will end its run next year. "Our strategy with these bold creative swings is simple: schedule them strategically, market them relentlessly and create events that break through and captivate viewers across every platform," said Walden and Newman. Fox tumbled to fourth place in adults 18-49 this season, and as Walden and Newman struggled to rebuild the network, they found the biggest building block imaginable in Empire, which was the success story of 2014-15 , with ratings increases every in single week. So it comes as no surprise that the network isn't waiting until midseason to deploy Empire, and instead will debut it in the fall in its Wednesday 9 p.m. time slot. Leading into Empire will be new drama Rosewood, about a Miami pathologist played by Morris Chestnut. Empire's new season is expected to be 18 episodes, up from 12 episodes in Season 1; Walden and Newman have been debating the episode count for months . Empire quickly displaced the fading American Idol this season as Fox's top show. Now that once-mightly Idol has fallen to earth—it regularly loses to time slot competitor Survivor in total viewers and adults 18-49—the network is pulling the plug on the music competition series after its 15th season. Judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr., along with host Ryan Seacrest, will return for the final season, which will also pay tribute to the previous 14 years of Idol. (What could replace Idol in 2017? Walden and Newman have been talking with original Idol judge Simon Cowell about developing a new series for the network.) Freshman hit Gotham will return Mondays at 8 p.m., followed by Minority Report, a drama based on the 2002 Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg film. Tuesdays are all-new for Fox. New comedies Grandfathered (lifelong bachelor John Stamos discovers he's both a father and a grandfather) and The Grinder (after playing a TV lawyer, Rob Lowe returns to his hometown to help out at his family's real-life firm) lead in to Ryan Murphy's anthology horror series Scream Queens, which the network has already been promoting heavily all spring.

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Why Some Low-Rated TV Shows Keep Getting Renewed

May 11, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Judgment day has arrived. As the broadcast networks locked in their schedules ahead of this week's upfronts, they decided the fate of their shows that were still on the ratings bubble—including The Mindy Project on Fox and ABC's Forever, Marvel's Agent Carter and American Crime. As is the case every year, a couple of these bubble series eked out a renewal (American Crime, Agent Carter), while others with similar ratings were canceled (Forever). And with more outlets than ever—especially streaming services—desperate for original content to attract new viewers, even canceled series with engaged fan bases are finding new life after getting the ax. That's what happened with the low-rated The Mindy Project, which appears to be headed to Hulu after Fox passed on a fourth season. That's because networks take more than just ratings into account when it comes to picking up, or saving, a show. After all, a number of series with cult followings—including Parks and Recreation, Community and Fringe—improbably managed to stave off cancelation for years. Sometimes, a tinier-but-loyal audience can be even more attractive to ad buyers than a higher-rated show's viewers. "While ratings certainly matter, if the ratings are smaller but they capture 95 percent of that audience that I'm looking for, then that's the right group for me," said Dan Cohn, client director of investment at Initiative. "As long as it has the target audience we're going after, and they're watching the show week in and week out, that's what we care about." That engagement was also a key reason that Hulu, which already has exclusive SVOD rights to The Mindy Project, immediately began talks about a two-year pickup after Fox canceled the show on May 6, according to sources. Why all the fuss over a show that averaged just a 1.1 rating in adults 18-49 and a mere 2.3 million total viewers? While advertisers like The Mindy Project's upscale (though small) female audience, its resiliency ultimately comes down to creator and star Mindy Kaling. Even though Dana Walden, Fox Television Group co-chairman and co-CEO, ultimately passed on Season 4, she marveled earlier this year of Kaling: "She's willing to do anything to support that show." That includes embracing product integrations like Target, Microsoft Lumia, Toyota and Mazda, which "can pay for beautiful sets and location trips," Kaling said. But more importantly, she keeps fans engaged by promoting the show—incessantly but hilariously—to her nearly 4 million Twitter and 1.4 million Instagram followers. "Promoting the show is just bragging about your favorite thing, so I always want to be talking about it," she said. "Social media's good for that." (Bonus: Shows with exceptional social engagement, like The Mindy Project, are more attractive to advertisers.) The fan outreach that helps Kaling save her show each year also kept perennial bubble series Parks and Recreation on the air for seven seasons, thanks in large part to a nonstop media blitz from star Amy Poehler and castmates

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How Mad Men, by Looking Back, Changed the Future of Advertising

May 11, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

"On Stage 9, the wardrobes of the male cast members include white shirts, cuff links, tie clips and hats," Stuart Elliott wrote in his New York Times advertising column in 2006, about a then-unknown cast shooting a pilot. "The female cast members wear long skirts, slips, formidable-looking brassieres and nylon stockings." Elliott would go on to write many columns about the AMC network's Mad Men—which premiered on July 19, 2007 and which, with much fanfare, draws to a close with the series finale on May 17—and he found silver-haired ad executives to be polarized. "Half of the people I talk to from that era are very hard-core fans of the show and say that it is exactly what it was like then," Elliott, who retired from the Times in 2014 after 23 years, tells Adweek. "And half say the show was completely phony and drummed up for dramatic purposes." Whether the series got the era right or not, what cannot be denied is that it has had an immeasurable impact on this one. Here, some of the more significant ways Mad Men changed our world. It made advertising sexy In 2007, procurement departments increasingly were applying the same cost-cutting measures to ad agencies as they did to their copy paper and coffee vendors. Ad executives, priding themselves as trusted advisors, felt slighted—and it didn't help that viewers were gleefully TiVo-ing past their commercials. "The ad business," Elliott recalls, "was kind of in a funk." Enter Jon Hamm as Don Draper. Lantern jawed, crisply dressed and pomaded, he made this pronouncement in the first episode: "Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is OK." Music to the ad industry's ears. Bob Jeffrey, who served as worldwide CEO of JWT when the show premiered, notes that it helped provide the industry with a pipeline of aspiring talent

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Endemol Beyond Promises More of Everything at NewFronts

May 7, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Endemol Beyond—the product of the 2014 merger of Dutch-based multi-platform entertainment company Endemol, Shine Group and CORE Media—promises more of everything in 2015: more viral videos, more scripted series, more makeup tutorials and more Pitbull. The key message at Endemol Beyond's NewFronts presentation was that it values creators like YouTube star Michelle Phan, PrankvsPrank founder Jesse Wellens and Vine champion Brittany Furlan. The new entity, co-owned by 21st Century Fox and Apollo, aims to make an "emotional connection" with the stars' audiences around the world with a variety of new offerings—while always keeping those marketing departments in mind. President Will Keenan told attendees the company's "core value" is storytelling, whether through video game compilations, beauty salon pranks or tales told by a pop star's personal photographer. Keenan argued that the loyalty young viewers feel toward new media personalities allows Endemol to facilitate "a direct brand-to-consumer relationship" for its partners. And while the company has developed its own platforms in the form of apps for Amazon Prime, Roku, Android, etc., Keenan spoke of future syndication deals with media bigwigs like AOL and Yahoo

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Q&A: CW President Mark Pedowitz Gets Guys

May 7, 2015  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

For much of its existence, The CW has been shunted off to the side by its bigger, and more popular, broadcast siblings. Launched in 2006 when UPN and The WB combined forces, The CW's tiny audience is usually relegated it to a mere footnote when compared to the likes of CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC. But The CW has suddenly become a broadcaster to be reckoned with, thanks to its two freshman hits: The Flash, which is already most-watched show in The CW's history and the critically-acclaimed Jane the Virgin, which nabbed the network its first-ever Peabody Award and Golden Globe wins. Along with Arrow, The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural, the shows have led The CW to its most-watched season since 2007-2008, and increases this season on four of The CW's five nights of programming (only Thursdays, thanks to ABC's unstoppable lineup of Shonda Rhimes shows, has taken a hit). More proof of the network's broadening audience: its median age is now 43, up from 37 three years ago, and the audience is now 45 percent male, versus 35 percent male three years ago. CW president Mark Pedowitz is also using the network's digital arm, CW Seed, to develop new comedies for the network. In a Q&A ahead of next week's upfronts, Pedowitz talked about the advantages of aging up the network, wooing new advertisers and how Doctor Who inspired his crossover strategy. The CW audience is now almost 45 percent male. What shows are most responsible for adding men? It's The Flash, Arrow, The 100 and Supernatural. Had you been actively pursuing a male audience with those shows? We recognize that when Smallville went off the air [in 2011] we lost a boatload of men. So this was a thoughtful, executed piece of a strategy to balance it out a little more

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