Summer TV Wars: Breaking Down the Big Four's Bold New Playbook
This story first appeared in the June 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The official television season wrapped May 21, but the Big Four are on an ambitious crusade to avoid the historic doldrums of summer. A record 570 combined hours of original first-run programming will air through September, not including sports.
The push, part of an ambitious effort to compete with cable for ad dollars, comes after a 2013 summer ratings win for NBC. But that was when The Voice stretched into June. This year brings a more even playing field, and strategies differ wildly. ABC is tempting fate (remember Duets?) by launching another singing competition in Rising Star and continuing to air low-budget Canadian co-productions. NBC has the glossy pirate drama Crossbones, starring John Malkovich, stalwart America's Got Talent and some acquisitions of its own on the comedy side. Fox again largely is padding the schedule with Gordon Ramsay, while CBS, which had a hit in Under the Dome last year, stays the course with the equally pricey Halle Berry vehicle Extant.
"It was certainly an experiment of sorts," says CBS chairman Nina Tassler of last summer's push for quality over quantity in the face of hundreds of hours of unscripted fare. "When you see how well Dome did, relative to in-season programming as well, it's pretty remarkable. It has informed our choices moving forward."