The Biz: Second-chance Successes
Mae West once said, "All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else." Several TV networks couldn't agree more.
The Game was dumped by The CW in 2009 when the network decided to get out of the half-hour comedy business. Since relocating to cable network BET in January, the sexy, soapy sitcom about pro football players and the women who love them has averaged 4.4 million viewers — more than any current show on The CW.
Reality tearjerker Secret Millionaire remained a secret when Fox gave it a brief run in 2008. Now it has more than 10 million viewers on ABC, which is likely to pick up another cycle of the show that features rich people writing checks for charitable causes.
TNT has picked up another 10-episode order of Southland, the intense police drama dropped by NBC in 2009, while Comedy Central has ordered two more seasons of the animated sci-fi comedy Futurama, which started out on Fox back in 1999.
Shows switching networks isn't unheard of. The most significant move was in 1996 when JAG was canceled by NBC because the military drama didn't resonate with the
network's desired target audience of young, upscale viewers. It was picked up by CBS, where it ran for nine seasons and gave birth to the mega-successful spin-off NCIS.
But with so many more channels on the current television landscape, castoffs now have a better chance of getting a second look, especially if they fit a network's image, or — as they say in TV-marketing speak — are "on brand." That was the case with Secret Millionaire, which John Saade, senior vice president for alternative series at ABC, says is the kind of "positively transformational show" that appeals to the audience of the network's feel-good hit Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. "It should have been an ABC show from the get-go," he says.
The Game, with its predominantly African-American cast, makes sense for BET, which caters to black audiences and had been running repeats from the show's first three seasons. "We introduced it to viewers who had never seen it on The CW," says BET senior vice president Charlie Jordan Brookins.
After The CW canceled The Game, there was a groundswell of support from the show's fans on social networking sites Twitter and Facebook. It gave BET a built-in base to promote to when the show was then relaunched. "We were able to make the show a priority here," Jordan Brookins says. The effort clearly paid off as the BET premiere of The Game scored 7.7 million viewers on January 11, more than three times what it was drawing at The CW. "We had no idea it would do that well," Jordan Brookins says. "We were speechless."
While Southland isn't a ratings hit on the scale of TNT's biggest dramas The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles, Turner programming chief Michael Wright says he nabbed the series as soon as it became available because he believed it would give TNT a show with a quality patina that advertisers like. "It cast a positive light on us," he says.
Cable series don't have the same budgets as broadcast-network shows, so some adjustments are necessary in the transition to a new address. BET was able to bring down the cost of The Game by moving it from Los Angeles to Atlanta, where it can take advantage of a film-production tax credit provided by the state of Georgia. Southland had to tighten its belt as well, cutting its budget by one-third. But fan satisfaction remains high. Wright points out that Southland doubles its audience when DVR playback is added in. Based on the recent successes, look for more deserving but discarded shows to find new homes. There is no shortage of candidates. "If there was no Southland, I'd be looking at a Detroit 1-8-7," says Wright, citing ABC's highly regarded but low-rated crime drama. "It feels like a cable show."
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