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WE tv is looking to put a new twist on the increasingly popular aftershow format.
The female-skewing cable network on Thursday will debut “WatchIt With,” a second-screen experience featuring Mary Mary stars and siblings Erica and Tina Campbell watching the episode and providing commentary.
Following a new episode of the unscripted reality series about the Grammy-winning gospel-singing sisters at 9 p.m., WE tv will air a 90-minute repeat of the episode starting at 10 p.m., with the duo reacting to events in the episode, talking to one another and pausing the episode to provide commentary — adding half an hour to the encore broadcast. The rebroadcasts of Mary Mary will feature the “WatchIt With” format for the remaining seven episodes of its third season.
The main screen will feature the rebroadcast, while the siblings will be in a smaller screen in the lower right-hand corner offering their thoughts. At key moments in the encore, the Campbell sisters will pause the action in the rebroadcast and the screens will switch, with the duo taking over the larger portion to provide additional commentary.
Mary Mary has continued to be a solid performer for WE tv. In its third season, the reality series following the Campbells and their families has averaged 1.3 million total viewers over two episodes among total viewers and including three days of DVR returns. That’s up compared with both season one (682,000 average) and its sophomore run (777,000).
STORY: Gospel Goes Mainstream With WE tv’s ‘Mary Mary’
“We are really focused on ways to boost our original programming to enhance the viewing experience,” WE tv president and GM Marc Juris tells The Hollywood Reporter. “As a fan of unscripted programming and many shows like this, I’m always wondering what people who are in the show are thinking about the way they’re portrayed and how the story is unfolding as they’re watching the show.”
WE tv first tested the “WatchIt With” format online, experimenting with the format when the sisters would react to content from the first two episodes of season three on highlight clips on the cabler’s website. The network is looking for other originals to get the “WatchIt With” format.
The “WatchIt With” format combines the idea of an aftershow with a reunion show. It will immediately follow each new episode and include commentary on every part of the hour compared with live aftershows.
Juris says he hopes viewers will tune in to the original broadcast and stick around for the encore to see how the siblings respond to the emotional scenes that they’re seeing for the first time. “It’s their actual and genuine reaction and we’re trying to re-encore the show with a value-added experience,” he says, noting production on the “WatchIt With” episodes didn’t take long at all. His goal is for most of WE tv’s appropriate fare to encore with the additional value-added second-screen feature. “If it works, we’ll be out in a minivan doing everybody and it’ll be on immediately — as soon as we can get it done,” he says.
The aftershow format has seen its popularity spike in recent years with AMC’s launch of The Talking Dead, a live post-episode series in which host Chris Hardwick interviews castmembers, producers and famous fans of The Walking Dead and breaks down each installment. Talking Dead continues to build momentum. AMC copied the format for the final season of Breaking Bad, while other networks including A&E (Bates Motel) and FX (Sons of Anarchy) have featured similar concepts on air and online, respectively. MTV also greenlighted a Teen Wolf aftershow, while USA Network has set a live aftershow to follow the series finale of Psych.
The aftershow format has proven to be an inexpensive way for networks to further capitalize on the success of fan-favorite shows that also help to lift its original programming.
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