2:30pm PT by Lacey Rose
Pop Network Chief Grilled on Bill Cosby, '7th Heaven' Scandals
Pop Entertainment president Brad Schwartz got his turn in the hot seat Friday.
After fielding a flurry of routine questions about his yet-to-be-launched cable network, a fan-centric rebrand of the TVGuide Network, Schwartz's first-ever appearance at the Television Critics Association's press tour took a somewhat uncomfortable turn when he was asked to weigh in on the still-unfolding Bill Cosby saga. Specifically, would The Cosby Show still qualify among the great TV shows from the 1980s and 1990s that will be celebrated on his network? And how does he feel about competitor TV Land's decision to pull Cosby Show repeats in the wake of the comedian's rape allegations.
"Wow, welcome to your first TCA," Schwartz joked from the Pasadena stage, nervously wiggling about in his seat as he suggested he'd benefit from more time to give the question — and more significantly, his answer — some thought.
"We pulled 7th Heaven off the air [at TVGN] when that thing happened. That was a decision we made as a company," he began, referring to another 2014 scandal in which 7th Heaven actor Stephen Collins confessed to sexually abusing underage girls. "But I don't like to speculate on what TV Land or other people would do."
Sensing that that answer wouldn't do, he continued: "It's a classic TV show … but I'm not fully educated on everything that's going on. I know he was up in Canada last night doing stand-up and said some things that people didn't like." He paused. "I'm just not educated enough on the whole thing."
As for TVGN's decision to pull 7th Heaven, well, that one was less complicated. "It was a show that, by its very nature, was heartfelt. The father in that show was a priest," he explained. "We just thought when these allegations came that we didn't need to air it. It wasn't a big hit show for us. It wasn't something that we ever promoted. It was an easy decision. I think the Cosby thing is a little bigger."
Fortunately for the good-natured Schwartz, he was able to steer the conversation back to the CBS and Lionsgate joint venture, which will launch in 80 million homes — A&T and Cablevision are the only carrier holdouts, though he suggested that soon will change — on Feb. 14 with 35- to 45-year-old "modern grown-ups" as its target. Pop's focus is pop culture from a fan's perspective.
"I think of us as being a little more optimistic, a little more fun and a little more positive [than a competitor like E!]," he added, noting of Pop's brand filter: "It's like, what would Jimmy Fallon do? The way he interviews somebody, the way he does those lip sync competitions and the way he interacts with celebrities is just so fun and inspiring and viral. If you could bottle that and create a brand out of that, that's really kind of a North Star for us."