As more new-tech distributors seek to offer narrower “bundles” of content to subscribers eager to get video content on demand, Brad Schwartz believes there will be less room for TV outlets that cannot lure a robust, passionate audience. “I think we are going to see a culling of the herd when it comes to cable networks,” said Schwartz, Pop’s president. “People are going to have to pick and choose the content they want to invest in. We are going to be one of those networks left standing. Over the next one to three years, there will be more channels that go away.”
He cites Viacom’s recent decision to focus on six core networks and NBCUniversal’s recent move to scrap cable networks Esquire and Cloo as evidence of the trend. Distributors, he believes, will offer “a tighter group of networks for a really efficient price.” And not every network will be part of every bundle offer. “I think it’s only just beginning.”
His efforts throw a spotlight on Pop, which just a few years ago was better known as the TV Guide Channel, and showed TV favorites alongside a scrolling grid of programming on the set-top box. The launch of Pop in 2015 was meant to sever ties to that old outlet and give the network – which reached 80 million subscribers upon its debut – more freedom to follow a new path. Executives regularly position Pop as a place for younger adults – people who grew up in the 1990s – and as a competitor to such networks as Bravo, Oxygen, Lifetime and OWN.
Even though Pop is just three years old, Schwartz believes it has enough wind at its back to stay in the game. Its corporate parents have fewer cable assets and are thus able to focus on nothing distribution opportunities, he said. Pop is being made available not only through traditional distributors like AT&T and Altice’s Cablevision, but also newer outlets including Hulu. “Both of these [parent] companies are making sure we get into every skinny bundle,” said Schwartz.
Pop has made its name with scripted comedies like “Schitt’s Creek,” an irreverent comedy starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, and “Nightcap,” a spoof of late night TV from Ali Wentworth. But the network is about to unveil its first hour-long original scripted drama. “Clique” shows childhood soul mates arriving at a university only to be drawn into an elite group of girls, The show is created and executive produced by Jess Britain alongside executive producer Bryan Elsley. “The fulcrum of our network is more comedy than drama, but certainly there is a major appetite for drama,” said Justin Rosenblatt, the networks executive vice president of original programming and development. Schwartz said he hopes to have two dramas on Pop’s air by 2018.
The network is working to strengthen its roster of acquired series. In the fall, Pop will start to run 80 episodes of “The Goldbergs,” the Sony Pictures Television-produced series that airs on ABC. Pop quietly last week began to run the popular medical drama “E.R.,” which Schwartz says is not available elsewhere on TV or on any subscription-video-on-demand service. Schwartz said Pop is seeing viewers eager to watch episodes of the series once again as well as those who have never watched any of it.
Pop is ready to launch two other new series. “Hot Date” is a half-hour scripted comedy created in partnership with College Humor and its Big Breakfast studio, and it is executive produced by Will Arnett’s Electric Avenue Productions, Principato-Young Entertainment and Big Breakfast. The series stars Emily Axford and Brian K. Murphy, and will start production this summer. It is expected to premiere in Fall of 2017.
“Swedish Dicks. Private Investigators” stars Peter Stormare and Johan Glans, and features Keanu Reeves. The single camera comedy from Lionsgate and Viaplay centers on an aging ex-stuntman an overly optimistic Swedish DJ who form the private detective firm Swedish Dicks and solve wild cases LA in Los Angeles. The first season will consist of 10 episodes in Fall 2017,. Guest stars include Traci Lords, Anthony Lapaglia,Eric Roberts and Margaret Cho. A second season begins production this summer.
The network said it had two unscripted and seven scripted series in development:
*”Let’s Get Physical” is a comedy playing off the 1980s world of aerobics, and is produced by Ben and Dan Newmark of Grandma’s House Entertainment and Connor Pritchard’s Inside Center Productions .
*”Kiss & Cry” is a soapy-drama set in the high-stakes world of competitive figure skating. It is written by Samantha Stratton and produced by Safehouse Pictures’ Tory Tunnell and Joby Harold.
*”The Demons of Dorian Gunn” shows a New York socialite discovering he hails from a long line of demon hunters. It’s written by Evan Greenspoon and Brandon Scott Jones and executive produced by Tony Hernandez and Lilly Burns of JAX Media, Kara Welker, and actress Krysten Ritter through her production company Silent Machine.
*”It’s A Date” is a comedy anthology about the pursuit of love, and is produced by Sarah Jessica Parker and Alison Benson’s Pretty Matches and Laura Waters’ Princess Pictures.
*”Peaches” is billed as an off-the-wall comedy series about a character who was born a boy but had to be raised as a girl after his parents lose a pie-eating contest wager. It is written by Barry Safchik and Michael Platt and produced by Michael Rosenberg’s Rosey TV with global independent studio Entertainment One.
*”The New and Improved Pixie Wexler” is a broad comedy about a former child commercial star now fresh out of grad school who embarks on a career at a Chicago ad agency. It is written by John Montgomery and produced by Mark Teitelbaum of Teitelbaum Artists Group, Bill D’Elia and John Montgomery.
*”Two Princes” is a comedic fairytale showing Prince Charming in present day Venice Beach, and is written by Jay Baxter and Shaun Zaken.
*”Get In My Van” is a travelogue hosted by Kate Walsh and comedian Arden Myrin, who travel the country in a pimped-out RV meeting real people and celebrity friends. It is produced by Magical Elves.
*”You Take My Point” is a pop-culture panel show hosted by Mary McCormack from her own living room. Regulars include her best friends Rashida Jones and Chelsea Handler and her brother, director Will McCormack along with a rotating panel of celebrity guests. It is produced in partnership with Rashida Jones and Matador.