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It’s not every day that Brad Schwartz, president of Pop — the niche cable network best known for critical darling Schitt’s Creek and repeats of Dawson’s Creek — gets an email from TV legend Norman Lear. But that’s just what happened Thursday when the CBS-owned cabler successfully teamed with producers Sony TV to revive Lear’s Latinx-themed One Day at a Time reboot for a fourth season, mere months after Netflix’s shocking decision to cancel the beloved multi-camera comedy.
In talking to Schwartz — who has been with the former TV Guide Network for six years and oversaw its transition from a joint venture between Lionsgate TV and CBS into a cabler fully owned by the latter — the executive’s love of One Day at a Time is evident. His love of the series and his absolute joy in reviving it is perhaps best summed up in his desire to print and frame Lear’s email thanking him for rescuing One Day at a Time. What’s more, Schwartz has big plans for One Day at a Time and hopes the series will take over as Pop’s No. 1 when its current favorite, Schitt’s Creek, wraps its run in 2020.
Below, Schwartz talks with The Hollywood Reporter about how the groundbreaking deal for One Day at a Time — the first streaming show to jump to a cable network — came together, how it fits in with Pop’s larger scripted push and the advantages that come with being the No. 1 show on a smaller network.
Walk us through the deal: when did the conversations start? What was the process? How competitive was it?
When we first heard that it was getting canceled, I couldn’t believe it — it’s a wonderful show with a lot of passionate fans — and I started thinking that the things that popped for Schitt’s Creek and helped it break through at a smaller and emerging network were because it had so much love and kindness in it. It has great characters and character development and dealt with important themes of inclusion and acceptance. All of those things that helped Schitt’s Creek break through on a network — pulling on your emotions and making you laugh and cry — I thought that although they’re very different shows, One Day at a Time had similar emotional beats. It’s smart, clever and dealt with important themes and could make you laugh and cry. I thought that show could fit alongside Schitt’s Creek on Pop. The final season of Schitt’s Creek is coming, and it would be great to have another critically acclaimed, fan-adored series to pick up the mantle. So we picked up the phone and called. Internally, there was interest from other parts of the company [CBS All Access], and it felt a little “kumbaya” that we weren’t the only ones considering it. We’d heard about the SVOD holdbacks and challenges outside of Netflix, but the linear and broadcast rights were available. Joe Ianniello [acting CEO of Pop parent company CBS Corp.] emailed me about it; David Nevins [CBS chief creative officer] was very supportive of it, and off we went. Everybody sacrificed a little bit for the deal to come together; we took the biggest swing we’ve ever taken, and Sony did what they needed to do to have the deal make sense.
So Pop paid more for the show than you have for any other program? And it sounds like maybe the cast took a cut?
That’s more of a question for Sony; I don’t know the answer to that. I assume Netflix was paying a lot. We worked closely with Sony on the budget to get it to a place where everyone was comfortable. What I mean by “We all did it for the love of the show” is that I don’t know if anybody looked at their profits and losses on the show. Everyone went into it because we are all in love with the show and wanted to find a way to keep it going.
This is the first time a streaming original series has moved to a cable network. How unique of a licensing deal is this? Sony basically reverse-engineered a syndication deal.
Season four will be a Pop Original series. But it’s a very typical licensing deal. Sony sold it as a deficit production; we’re paying a good license fee and getting a broad set of rights that allows us to fully stack the show across all of our TV Everywhere platforms. It allows us to have a second window on the CBS network, should they want to take it. Sony has electronic sell-through rights — like iTunes and things that they wouldn’t have had in the Netflix deal, like long-tail syndication and international rights. It was a thoughtful and innovative deal on Sony and our behalf.
What sort of stacking rights do you have?
With TV Everywhere, we have a Pop app and are on all of the platforms you’d imagine — Roku, Apple, etc. We have our website that you can authenticate into, and, through all of our MVPD partners, we have VOD folders that you can watch Pop shows through. As long as you’re a subscriber to Pop and get Pop in your cable package, you can authenticate in and watch all our shows through these TV Everywhere products. For One Day at a Time, we’ll have full stacking rights as the episodes roll out every week on Pop. All the episodes will be there for viewers to watch again. This is for season four and beyond. The first three seasons will remain exclusive to Netflix when it comes to streaming.
How do you plan to make One Day at a Time available to its current audience, who may be unlikely to have a cable subscription?
They’ll have to subscribe — that’s part of our business. We have more subscribers in the U.S. than Netflix, which is funny to say. There will be people who have Pop that don’t have Netflix who will have access to this show for the first time. There’s a huge amount of people who also have cable and Netflix.
Exec producer Mike Royce said he’d like to see One Day at a Time continue on for multiple new seasons on Pop. Say this runs 10 more seasons; what happens to the streaming library starting with season four? Could those new seasons then wind up on CBS All Access in a few years down the line?
Sony could down the line be able to sell these new episodes — season four and on — to an SVOD. In the meantime, you can come to Pop and watch them! (Laughs)
Can you imagine a world where in a few years from now, Sony calls Netflix and offers them five new seasons of One Day at a Time, do you want to be the SVOD home for those?!
Laughs) Wouldn’t that be funny?! Possibly?! I would love if this all ended up at CBS All Access, obviously.
Whenever a network revives a show, it immediately takes on a reputation as a Show Saver. Is that something you’re interested in doing more going forward, or was this a unique situation?
It was a show-specific situation. When we first created Pop and were trying to figure out what we wanted to be, we loved the idea of trying to feel very nostalgic to what we call “modern grownups” — people who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. Every time you came to Pop, you should feel something familiar. That’s why in our acquisition strategy, you see shows like Charmed, the original 90210, Melrose Place and Dawson’s Creek. Then a show like Schitt’s Creek when you have stars like Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy — people you grew up watching in American Pie, Beetlejuice and Home Alone. It started stitching together really nicely. One Day at a Time is a known title people would know from their childhood. So it had that nostalgia factor to it. It was available and dealt with themes we knew worked with Schitt’s Creek. It was perfect. We’re not looking to be a Show Saver. It was a show we love, and we can’t believe we had the chance to do it.
I spoke with Netflix head of originals Cindy Holland in April, and she mentioned that she thought One Day at a Time would not have gotten a second season, let alone a third, if it were on any other outlet. Netflix doesn’t release viewership info. In shopping the series, was Sony able to give you any data about the show? What’s your expectation for it?
One of the advantages that Schitt’s Creek has had is that it’s a network’s No. 1 show. You’d always rather be a network’s No. 1 show than another network’s No. 8 show, even if it’s a bigger platform. It gets such an outsize portion of our marketing budget and attention with the press. You really have every part of your company working overtime on what is your No. 1 show. And Schitt’s Creek has enjoyed that kind of support on Pop and has grown year after year. As a smaller network that’s passionate about something, you can give it time to grow. Using Cindy’s analysis, you could argue that if you just looked at the numbers, Schitt’s Creek should have been canceled after two years. But we love the show, and we are so passionate about it. It was our No. 1 show and it put us on the map and broke through, and now it’s in the Emmy conversation. For us, we have different metrics of what success is. Critical acclaim is a big metric for us, and having a passionate fanbase is important for us. My expectation for the show is I hope it rates similarly to Schitt’s Creek, which means it’s not a 2 million viewer show, but it’s a show that’s moving the needle, defining the network and making us proud to come to work every day and work on it. I think you’ll see more effort put behind One Day at a Time on Pop than it was on Netflix, even though we’re a smaller business.
When CMT revived Nashville after ABC cancelled it, their expectation was that the series would bring new viewers to the network. Is that part of the appeal in bringing back One Day at a Time?
I think it will bring a whole bunch of new viewers to Pop. There’s a passionate fanbase out there, some of whom may never have heard of us. People who love Schitt’s Creek are going to love One Day at a Time. And there are three seasons of One Day at a Time fans who will hopefully find other things on Pop that they love. In 2020, we’ll have two of the best comedies in all of television on our air.
You also landed the first three seasons of One Day at a Time. What’s your rollout strategy? Will this be paired with the final season of Schitt’s Creek?
We have the final season of Schitt’s Creek, which I would imagine will be event TV with a big audience every week. Within those episodes, we’ll be able to tell people about One Day at a Time and hopefully start the latter out of Schitt’s Creek’s ending. We’d pass the baton from one to the other. As far as the first three seasons, they’re readily available on Netflix, and hopefully people will continue to catch up on those first three seasons and come to us for season four. But we’ll use those first three seasons to stunt the show and use them for marketing and marathon them around season four, and maybe do some strips with it. It won’t be a weekly rollout with those old seasons; it will be used as promotional efforts to push the new.
In a larger sense, Pop TV has only a handful of originals. Do you plan to build a roster of scripted series around One Day at a Time? How will the show help with your strategy when it comes to scripted originals?
I think it’s a great lane for us. It’s something we’re really focused on. There are a lot of people doing huge, expensive scripted shows, and there are a lot of people doing less expensive reality programming. We’ve always challenged ourselves to ask if there was a way to do premium scripted stuff in an efficient way. I love the Blumhouse analogy: people make a $100 million movie and Blumhouse makes Get Out for $8 million. There is a way to make great content at different price points. It’s a challenge, and it’s one we take on. We are firmly committed to creating premium programming. Maybe we don’t do 10 shows a year; maybe we do six. Our whole development slate is all scripted right now. We have Schitt’s Creek, One Day at a Time, Flack with Anna Paquin — we haven’t announced season two yet but hopefully that comes back — and then we have some other scripted projects that we’ve done pilots for and are hoping to pick up really soon. We’re in it.
Mike Royce told us that by no means does he see season four as the last for One Day at a Time. How long would you like to see this run on Pop?
Schitt’s Creek went for six seasons on Pop, and it was the creator’s decision to end it; we would have taken six more. Hopefully this is a similar show and it goes as long as everyone wants it to. We’re not looking at this in any short-term way. I’d love to see this go on for season after season and just enjoy the same type of ride that Schitt’s Creek took us on. Let’s cross our fingers.
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