WGN America Looks Abroad for Programming
To replace its cancelled slate of high-end scripted originals, the Tribune-owned cabler is turning to low-cost dramas.
Will other networks follow WGN America’s exit from prestige TV?
To replace its cancelled slate of high-end scripted originals, the Tribune-owned cabler announced Aug. 8 the pickups of three low-cost dramas: Canada’s Pure and Shoot the Messenger and Sweden’s 100 Code, starring Dominic Monaghan and the late Michael Nyqvist. They join Canadian Anna Paquin starrer Bellevue, acquired July 31.
“We’re going to see much more of this type of gamble,” University of Virginia media analyst Christopher Ali tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting the difficulty of competing with high rollers like HBO and Netflix. “Broadcasters have to be creative, and optioning foreign content is a good example.”
In no longer trying to outspend rivals, “this move is designed to deliver additional value for our advertising and distribution partners and offer viewers more original content across our air,” Tribune interim CEO Peter Kern tells THR.
In May, he told analysts that although viewers were drawn to flagships like Outsiders and Underground, they didn’t stick around to watch the rest of the network’s schedule.
The shift to foreign imports, especially from Canada, aims to broaden WGN America’s audience and cut programming costs. As one Canadian market watcher observed, local broadcasters have long profited from importing cheap American shows rather than betting on expensive homegrown originals: "Now it’s the U.S.’ turn to follow our lead."