×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Why Television is Hitting the Road for Festivals

The television business is on the move, as smallscreen festivals become an increasingly important part of the way networks and studios do business. Helping to break through the avalanche of content to bring shows and talent to fans and build social-media buzz, the TV fest circuit amounts to a nonstop promo tour that spans the globe.

Hard on the heels of the fourth annual ATX Television Festival, which wrapped June 7 in Austin, some industryites took off for the Monte Carlo TV Festival, which runs through June 18, while others will hit the first-ever Seriesfest June 18-21 in Denver. Then they’ll gear up to head to San Diego for the increasingly TV-centric Comic-Con from July 9-12.

Alexandra Shapiro, exec VP of marketing and digital for USA Network, says festivals help to distinguish a show early by providing the kind of momentum that normally would require much more marketing money. “In a world where it’s harder and harder to break out, that kind of association and recognition helps,” she says.

Oscar winner Patricia Arquette, who’s promoting CBS series “CSI: Cyber,” was honored June 13 on the opening night of the European seaside Monte Carlo fest, scheduled to hold screenings of “Empire” and “Aquarius,” and welcome “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Terry Crews, “NCIS” star Brian Dietzen and “The Vampire Diaries’ ” Kat Graham and Candice Accola.

“Talent understands how competitive the landscape is,” says Shapiro, who also handles festival planning for USA. “And to be able to showcase your properties and yourself in front of a highly influential audience that’s made up of both consumers and trade (is an) upside that is a lot greater than losing a day or two of your personal life. They realize this is part of how we have to market in this day and age.”

USA has been a major presence across this year’s circuit, headlining ATX with the opening-night premiere and party for upcoming gang-themed drama “Complications,” as well as using the event to promote established series, like caper law drama “Suits,” which hosted a panel. The network’s Christian Slater hacker drama “Mr. Robot” nabbed an audience award at SXSW, also screened at Tribeca, and will make its way to SeriesFest.

Hoping to join ATX, Atlanta’s ATV Fest and the fall New York Television Festival as important stops on the TV fan-promotion train, SeriesFest is luring attendees with an opening-night bash that features singer-songwriter John Legend and comedian Whitney Cummings performing at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Even with established film festivals like Sundance and SXSW starting to merge their formats and spotlight television, too, ATX co-exec directors and founders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson say they’re getting better at winning the fight for the most important shows on their wish list. “We fight hard for things,” Gipson says.

The Austin fest provided a down-home atmosphere not only for studios to build and maintain buzz for fan-favorite series — but also an intimate setting for showrunners to bond with passionate fans as well as each other. Beau Willimon, Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson, for example, chatted amiably in the green room; Plec even sat in on Damon Lindelof’s “The Leftovers” panel, throwing out one of the first questions during the audience Q&A.

Fans also find a sense of community at festivals dedicated solely to television, like ATX, which the duo explains continues to be the TV-centric fest’s unique flavor.

“There are rabid fans that don’t have a place to go so [we’re] giving them a place to meet and a community — a lot of it is running into a cast member or creative, but it really is more about the community. Television as a medium forms a community so giving them a real life place is a unique experience,” McFarland says. “When we started it, there really wasn’t any place for just television to go to. It speaks to the medium itself and the content being created.”

 

ATX has already sold more than 25% of next year’s passes, and studios, networks and talent understand the benefit of signing up for panels and screenings that play to superfans who influence other fans. “They see that ripple effect,” says Gipson, “and see what an impact that can have.”

More TV

  • Robert Iger and Rupert Murdochcredit: Disney

    Wall Street Applauds as Disney Nears Finish Line on Fox Acquisition

    Wall Street is rooting for Disney as the media giant reaches the finish line this week in its 15-month quest to acquire most of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire. Fox shareholders, on the other hand, are being a little more cautious. Disney is poised to close the $71.3 billion deal that took many twists [...]

  • Skam Season 2 Bows on Movistar

    Spanish Remake Of 'Skam' Returns to Movistar + on March 28

    MADRID — Movistar +, the pay TV unit of telco giant Telefonica, has set a March 28 release for Season 2 of “Skam España,” the Spanish remake of Norwegian cult web-TV hit teen drama “Skam” (“Shame”) whose plot, at least in the second season, begins to diverge from the Nordic original. Produced in collaboration with [...]

  • HBO Asia Unveils Three New Originals,

    HBO Asia Unveils Slate of Originals, Renews ‘Teenage Psychic’ for Second Season

    HBO Asia has unveiled a trio of new original series and a second season of its hit “The Teenage Psychic.” The new shows bring the number of original series commissioned and distributed by the Singapore-based offshoot of HBO to 15. “Dream Raider” will be HBO Asia’s first Asian sci-fi drama, an eight-episode hour-long series that [...]

  • Supergirl -- "O Brother, Where Art

    Jon Cryer Breaks Down Playing 'Sociopath' Lex Luthor on 'Supergirl'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” the Mar. 17 episode of “Supergirl.” After seasons of build-up, Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) made his “Supergirl” debut in the fourth season episode entitled “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Initially, the supervillain positioned himself as a sick man, eager [...]

  • George M. Lehr Dead: Man From

    George M. Lehr, 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' Associate Producer, Dies at 87

    George M. Lehr, associate producer on such classic TV series as “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Police Woman,” and later a professor at USC’s School of Cinema & Television, died March 14, in Erie, Pa., after a short illness. He was 87. Lehr worked on television shows at MGM, 20th Century-Fox and Columbia for more [...]

  • FilMart: HBO Asia CEO Jonathan Spink

    FilMart: HBO Asia CEO Jonathan Spink Praises Local Content Strategy

    CEO of HBO Asia since 2003, Jonathan Spink has seen the growth of pay-TV in Asia, the moves towards content localization and original production, and has faced up to the challenge of internet-based streaming services. He joins Variety on Monday in a keynote presentation at Hong Kong’s FilMart, and is expected to unveil an expanded [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content