In what may be an unprecedented demonstration of network clout, CBS on Monday ordered seven new series for its fall schedule, six of which are partially owned by the web.
The series CBS ordered Monday night are the comedies “The Brian Benben Show” from Warner Bros. and CBS Prods., “Maggie Winters” from Greenblatt-Janollari and CBS Prods., dramas “To Have and to Hold” from Greenblatt-Janollari and CBS Prods., “L.A. Docs” from Columbia TriStar and CBS Prods., and “Martial Law” from 20th Century Fox and CBS Prods.
CBS also became a production partner in Columbia TriStar’s comedy pilot “King of Queens” at the 11th hour, and the show was subsequently picked up for fall.
The only new series CBS ordered in which it doesn’t have a financial stake is the Spelling drama “Buddy Farrow,” which may air in the 9 p.m. Friday slot leading into “Nash Bridges.”
The phaseout of financial interest and syndication rules has given broadcast networks the ability to own and produce as many of the shows on their primetime schedules as they please.
It was in fact the end of the government’s program ownership restrictions that allowed Disney to purchase ABC. While CBS and NBC are not partnered with studios, they are flexing their muscles more than ever this year to produce series inhouse or demand ownership stakes in series from outside suppliers.
CBS declined comment for this story.
NBC owns or co-produces three of the six new shows it picked up for fall, and the Peacock extracted a financial piece of Brillstein-Grey’s returning sitcom “NewsRadio” in exchange for renewal.
Networks that control distribution now have the leverage to extract ownership in their series unless a studio produces a hit show and can exert its own influence.
Warner Bros., for instance, had so much leverage at NBC simply because it produces the No. 1 series, “ER,” and hence was able to extract $13 million per episode from the network to keep the series next season. Warner Bros. now owns four of the five series on NBC’s Thursday night lineup.
With eye-popping license fees like those for “ER” on the rise, networks increasingly want to own their own shows so they can’t be held hostage to such demands. Owning shows means more creative control, too.
CBS TV CEO Leslie Moonves has made it a top priority to beef up CBS Prods. and he also oversees Eyemark Entertainment, the worldwide distribution arm of the network, which will sell the shows the network owns.
Studios not partnered with networks, such as Columbia, MGM and USA Studios (formerly Universal), are now less able to get new shows on the air unless they give up ownership stakes, which then reduces the studio’s backend windfall for hit shows.
Studios count on hit shows to cover their losses on failed series, but it’s unclear whether co-productions will change that economic equation: A studio loses less on a failed series that’s co-produced because the network shares the risk.
The end of the fin-syn regs does not mean, however, that outside suppliers have no shot at getting shows on the air.
Fox and ABC, which are both partnered with studios, have reached an agreement that they will do business with each other. Twentieth Century Fox has sold several series to ABC over the past two seasons; Fox is likely to pick up at least one Disney series for its fall schedule.
CBS won’t officially unveil its fall schedule until Wednesday, but here’s a look at the new shows that made the cut.
– “The Brian Benben Show” stars the former star of ‘Dream On” as a TV anchor supplanted by a young, good-looking team. It will likely air Monday night.
– “King of Queens” is a comedy about a blue-collar couple in New York, whose extended family joins the household. It’s also a contender for Monday night.
– “Maggie Winters” is a comedy starring “Murphy Brown’s” Faith Ford as a divorcee. It may air at 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays after “The Nanny.”
– “L.A. Docs” from producer Mark Johnson is a drama about a group of doctors who get sick of corporate medicine and start their own practice. It may wind up at 10 p.m. Monday.
– “To Have and to Hold” is a romantic dramedy about the relationship between a cop and lawyer. Sources speculate it might wind up Wednesday nights after the comedy block.
– “Buddy Farrow” is a buddy cop drama about young detectives teaming up with an older legendary detective. It may head for the 9 p.m. Friday slot.
-“Martial Law,” written and executive produced by Calton Cuse (“Nash Bridges”), is an action hour about a Hong Kong martial arts expert who teams up with two L.A. cops. It may be a contender for Saturday night leading into “Walker Texas Ranger.”