The L.A. Screenings are a fairly well-kept secret. This year they were restricted to 1,500 international program buyers and acquisitions executives. The evolving technological landscape means more buyers alongside the traditional channels, including satellite broadcasters, cable systems and digital platforms. As an acquisitions consultant for two European broadcasters, I have been treated to this exceptional “behind-the-scenes” experience for several years.
Here’s the general concept: the major Hollywood studios premiere the new shows for their 2015 season, screening an impressive 206 shows in a single week.
It’s Sunny California, of course. In the morning, you arrive at the studio, and are greeted by friendly “welcomers” who present you with a badge and a gift bag. The swag includes fleece blankets, tote bags, a world travel adapter/USB charger, noise-cancelling headphones, stuffed animals and even an iPad mini. I also got a colourful catalogue with helpful details on all the series I was about to see but the pièce de résistance, for me anyway, was an LED ballpoint pen to assist in taking notes in dark theatres!
The networks are looking to reach new viewers and portray the society we live in.
The morning screenings are followed by a gourmet lunch. Series stars like LL Cool J and Scott Bakula will drop by your table for a chat and a photo. Oh, yes – the studio’s sales rep also drops by. You can watch drama and comedy pilots and presentations from 9am to 6pm. Then all thoughts turn to parties, and no wonder…
Suffice it to say, they are epic. Make that spectacular. For example, one year Warner Bros. took its entire back lot and turned it into the Wild West, complete with horses, haylofts, shops, Western cowboy cuisine and everyone in cowboy hats. Another year, guests played at a three-ring circus, with hundreds of costumed performers adding to the atmosphere.
Trends to Watch
Of course, the L.A. Screenings are also about the hard business of TV, so here are some trends from the 2015-2016 comedy and drama pilots presented by the studios for ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW:
Diversity in Casting: The networks are looking to reach new viewers and portray the society we live in. This year the series leads are African American, Asian American and Hispanic. Remember that:
- The current U.S. population is 320.09 million.
- 17 percent or 54 million people are Hispanic.
- 14.4 percent or 41.7 million are African American.
Movies and Comics: Source material this year includes movies and comic book adaptions. Minority Report, Limitless, Uncle Buck and Rush Hour were all inspired by, and adapted from, motion pictures.
There will also be more superheroes and comic book characters joining Arrow, Gotham, The Flash and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coming up are Lucifer and Supergirl from DC Comics, while Arrow/Flash spin-off Legends of Tomorrow is in the works at The CW.
The networks stepped out of their comfort zones to capture new audiences and generated plenty of buzz.
My Personal Favorites:
- I can’t wait to see Rob Lowe ham it up as a retired actor becoming a small community lawyer in The Grinder from Fox.
- Shonda Rhimes’ new ABC show, The Catch, has another impossibly dynamic, gorgeous heroine—this time a forensic accountant—caught up in twists and turns with her fiancée and staff. Bank statements and audits are very sexy.
- Queen of the South from USA Networks is a thriller set in the world of Mexican drug cartels. Our underdog heroine pursues a fantasy life of wealth and power, after her drug-dealing boyfriend is killed. It has the emotion and richness of its telenovela source material.
It was definitely not “business as usual” this year, as the networks stepped out of their comfort zones to capture new audiences and generated plenty of buzz to boot!
Pat Quinn of Quinn Media Management creates partnerships for international media and technology companies that open doors to new revenue streams in the United States. Her company specialises in routes to market, acquisitions, programming and business development. Learn more about the company here – www.patquinnmedia.com
Pat has experience in international formats and has previously worked at companies including ICM and Warner Bros. Television.