The Ever-Updated TV Upfront Chart
And so it begins: the annual series of network announcements about programing in the upcoming TV season, setting the stage for upfront negotiations with ad buyers this summer.
This time around TV networks are looking to improve on the weak 2014 upfront but contending with a lackluster marketplace and the continued threat from digital competition. and coming off a weak 2014 upfront ad haggle.
Here you'll find our robust but selective list of network announcements so far.
Top Line: ABC Family is staying out past its curfew, prepping a slate of decidedly adult fare in a bid to cause a stir with a cohort of young women it characterizes as "Becomers" -- viewers it brackets between 14 and 34 years old and says consumes around four hours of TV per night. (They're "becomers" because they are coming into their own and making big decisions for the first time.)
Ratings: Based on the industry currency of "C3," or commercial ratings over three days after they first air, ABC Family is the season's top-rated ad-supported cable network among women 18 to 49 (averaging 393,000 per night) and females 12-to-34 (331,000).
New programming: Over the next four years, the network plans to double investment in original scripted and unscripted series and achieve a more year-round programming schedule. Among the first new shows coming are "Stitchers," a covert ops procedural debuting; "Becoming Us," an unscripted show that focuses on a teenager coping with his father's gender transitioning; and "Kevin From Work," a single-camera comedy about unrequited love and thwarted ambition. Supernatural thriller "Shadowhunters" arrives in early 2016 along with drying-out drama "Recovery Road." Eight other projects are in various stages of development, including the recently announced pilots "Gorgeous Morons" and "Beyond."
Top Line: Cartoon Network enters the 2015 upfront season in a solid position, with growth in key demographics and an increase in viewership among girls.
Ratings: Cartoon Networks was the only kids' network to see an increase in ratings among 6-to-11-year-olds in 2014, averaging 1.3 million viewers, a 1.6% gain. In recent weeks, the channel has even moved ahead of Nickelodeon for the first time in years in the 6-to-11 demo.
Noteworthy: This year's presentation will include the revamped Boomerang, which began a global re-positioning last fall and became an ad-supported channel in the U.S. in January.
New programming: "We Bare Bears," a comedy about three bear siblings; "The Powerpuff Girls," a reboot of the series slated to debut in 2016; and "Mighty Magisword," Cartoon Network Studios' first original digital series, running not on TV but online and on demand. The network has also picked up an "Adventure Time" special mini-series and "Regular Show: The Movie."
Top Line: CNN is continuing its aggressive push into prime-time originals in an effort to stand out from the rest of cable news networks.
New programming: Kevin Spacey, recently known for his role on the Netflix political drama "House of Cards," is coming to CNN in 2016 with a six-part mini docu-series currently titled "Race for the White House." New York Times best-selling author Reza Aslan will host a new spiritual adventure series, "Believer," and comedian W. Kamau Bell will travel across the country exploring various communities in "United Shades of America." The network will also air five new documentary films in 2016 through its CNN Films division. These include "Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine," a biopic of the late innovator; "Unseen Enemy," which explores pathogens that could generate the next global pandemic; "Sunshine Superman," about Carl Benish, who is known as "the father of base jumping;" an untitled film about James Arthur Ray, the motivational speaker who was convicted of negligent homicide after the deaths of three attendees at a retreat; and a film centered on the life of the chef Jeremiah Tower.
Ratings: The cable news giant has made some meaningful strides in regaining viewers. From September through the first week in March, CNN has averaged 551,000 viewers in prime time, up 23% from the same period last year. That puts it ahead of rival MSNBC in both total audience and the target 25-to-54-year-old demographic.
Top Line: The Mickey Mouse House is foregoing a traditional upfront presentation and is instead taking clients inside Walt Disney World and Lucasfilm.
Ratings: While Disney Channel continues to retain its overall spot as the No. 1 cable network among kids 2 to 11 and 6 to 11, it's seen viewership decline over the past year. Both demos were down about 21% in 2014.
Noteworthy: As part of this year's conversations, the network is pitching Disney Co-Op, the company's new branded-content arm. The division, which started this year and predominantly focuses on moms, is tasked with creating short-form content for advertisers and to push it out over social media.
New programming: Two new original movies in the works: "Invisible Sister," about a girl whose science project makes her popular sister invisible, and "Further Adventures in Babysitting," a reimaging of the 1987 film, "Adventures in Babysitting." The network is also working on a spinoff of "Jessie." Disney Jr., meanwhile, will introduce its first Hispanic princess, Elena of Avalor.
Top Line: This year Discovery Communications abandoned its usual upfront hoopla in favor of more intimate meetings with agencies and clients. Discovery ad sales chief Joe Abruzzese said he expects the upfront to be better than last year, with the help of data and some flexibility, but it "won't be gangbusters." Discovery is working with several data partners, including Rentrak and Nielsen Catalina, to help optimize its ad sales efforts.
Ratings: The total audience for Discovery Networks' Animal Planet dropped about 7% season-to-date in prime time to 659,000, while the 25-to-54 demo declined about 9%.
New programming on Animal Planet: "Restoration Wild," which follows Jay Chaikin as he repurposes vintage structures and relics left abandoned in the wild; "America Builds a Structure," Animal Planet's version of "Extreme Home Makeover;" "Sheriff of Cross River," about Nigeria's leading wildlife warrior; and "Living with Maneaters," a two-hour special exploring how man, tigers and leopards co-exist in close proximity in India.
Top Line: Under new president Rich Ross, Discovery Networks' flagship is moving away from stunt programming and refocusing on series that are core to the network's mission of exploration and natural history.
Ratings: Discovery's ratings have remained stable, averaging 1.6 million viewers in prime time and 783,000 in the core 25-to-54 demo.
New programming: "Racing Extinction," a documentary on endangered species; "Harley-Davidson," a scripted series about the true story of the motorcycle brand; and "Pacific Warriors," which follows commercial fisherman who fish alone from a kayak. Discovery Channel is also introducing Elevation Weekend, a multi-day block of mountain-climbing series and documentaries.
Noteworthy: Investigation Discovery has signed both Barbara Walters and Wendy Williams. It also picked up its first scripted mini-series.
Ratings: ID's ratings have remained relatively steady, averaging 835,000 viewers in prime time and 374,000 in the 25-to-54 demo. According to the company, ID was No. 5 network among women 25-54 in 2014 and ranked No. 1 for the third year in a row for the amount of time people spend watching the network.
New programming: Barbara Walters takes viewers inside headline-grabbing cases in "American Scandal"; Wendy Williams hosts and is executive producer for "Death By Gossip," which showcases the dark results of rumors. ID will also air a three-part scripted series, "Serial Thriller," about a terrorized community.
Topline: It appears TLC is moving away from the loud, over-the-top reality shows -- like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" -- that previously defined the channel, and toward shows that are more heartwarming and inspirational.
Ratings: TLC may have good reason to shift tactics. Its total audience fell 9% season-to-date to 1 million viewers in prime time, while its 25-to-54 audience also shrunk 10% since last year to 453,000.
New programming: A blue-collar car repair advisor discovers he is the heir and rightful King of the Isle of Mann in a show with working title "Hardly Royal." Other offerings include a series following new parents over the course of a year, a show about Quinceanera party planners, a makeover show hosted by Clinton Kelly and Devyn Simone with the working title "Swipe Right," and a social experiment where women and men let their parents pick their husband or wife.
Top Line: This is the first upfront for Fuse with its new owners, SiTV, which also owns NuVo. (The NuVo brand, itself formerly SiTV, will be folded into Fuse this fall.) Fuse is looking to appeal to "New Young Americans," which it defines as the "fast-growing, culturally-diverse audience defined as influencers and tastemakers, ages 18-34." Fuse is looking to extend its programming beyond music to "reflect a new attitude that is sexy, edgy, relevant and honest."
Ratings: Fuse has a very small audience, averaging just about 24,000 viewers in the 18-to-49 demograhic per day.
New Programming: The network is touting a daily pop-culture look called "White Guy Talk Show," and "Skee TV," which provides insider access into the music world with interviews and live performances. It's also developing a transgendered-inspired series called "Transcendent"; "Hey Fluffy," a scripted series from comedian Gabriel Iglesias; and "King of the Floor," a competition series in search of the best street dancer.
New network: Fuse is preparing to start a new cable network tentatively called FM in the fourth quarter. Music will be at the core of that channel, particularly from young, multicultural and up-and-coming talent. But Fuse did not offer any details on securing the carriage deals with pay-TV companies it will need to carry FM.
Top Line: The former Game Show network, perhaps best known right now for "The American Bible" challenge, is again expanding its lineup of original game shows and aiming to broaden its audience.
New programming: GSN, which is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment and DirecTV, said at a March 10 presentation that it has greenlit two series: "Steampunk'd," a skills competition in which contestants have to combine objects from the past and present to yield the steampunk aesthetic, and "Lie Detectors," a series in the "shiny floor" genre of games in which a studio audience guesses which of three comedians is telling the truth most often.
The network also said it is making pilots for a spin-off of "Skin Wars," its body-painting competition that just wrapped shooting a second season; "Winsanity," a numbers-based game show; and "Hellevator," a horror-themed competition that sends contestants out of the elevator on each floor to complete a challenge or be left behind.
It has also bought 50 three-minute episodes of a humorous series "Man vs. Fly," which contestants try to kill a housefly in 60 seconds. The epsiodes will run on TV in between other programming, but GSN said it has put "Man vs. Fly" into development as a half-hour show.
Ratings: The network says February brought its largest audience among the women 25 to 54 years old that it targets.
Top Line: Earlier this year NBC Universal reorganized E! Network, Esquire Network, Bravo and Oxygen under one lifestyle group headed by Frances Berwick with the goal of reducing audience duplication across the networks and creating more targeted buys for advertisers.
Ratings: Bravo's ratings have taken a significant hit, averaging 731,000 viewers season-to-date in prime time, down 19% from last season and its 18-to-49 audience off 18% for the same period.
New programming: Bravo has a slate of 10 new programs, which include a road-trip series starring NeNe Leakes and Kim Zolciak Biermann from "Real Housewives of Atlanta"; expansions of existing franchises with "Below Deck Mediterranean," "Ladies of Dallas" and "Married to Medicine Houston"; "Fit Club," a series focusing on New York City fitness trainers; and "Mother Funders," about the Locust Grove, Ga., Parent-Teacher Organization.
Noteworthy: Esquire is teaming up with sibling Oxygen for a his-and-hers version of the same series. The Esquire version, "Comedians of L.A.," will follow six stand-up comedians as they tour concert halls and appear in movies. (Oxygen follows their wives and girlfriends.)
Ratings: Esquire's audience is still miniscule and smaller than that of Style Network, which it replaced in September 2013, but it is growing in an area that matters -- upscale, young men. The network's total audience to date this season is up 17% in prime time from the same period last year, averaging about 91,000 viewers.
New programming: Other new shows include a series with comedian, writer and entrepreneur David Rees; a show that follows six aspiring master sommeliers; a documentary following top sports agents in professional football; and a competition series to find the nation's best burger.
Noteworthy: Oxygen received a brand re-fresh in the fall, shedding most of its programming and turning its' focus on multicultural millennial women. As part of the co-production with Esquire Network, Oxygen will air "Living With Funny," which will turn the cameras on the wives and girlfriends of the performers in "Comedians of L.A."
Ratings: The network's total audience dropped 32% to about 255,000 viewers in prime time season-to-date. The 18-to-49 audience shrunk 29% and 18-to-34 audience declined 34%.
New programming: Oxygen is increasing its original programming by a quarter with eight new series. They include "Time to Quit Your Day Job," which features business figures like Randi Zuckerberg investing in new products from young entrepreneurs; "Pretty. Strong" about a women's football league; and "Douglas Family Gold," about the family of Olympian Gabby Douglas, among others. The network also secured the exclusive cable distribution for the daily "Crazy Talk," a comedic, half-hour syndicated roundup of clips from other TV shows.
Noteworthy: The evolution of USA Network continues, as a new development slate promises to lend nuance to the old "blue-sky drama" brand by way of storm clouds and contrails.
New Programming: The techno-thriller "Mr. Robot" may very well be cable's most buzzworthy new show. It stars Remi Malek as a cyber-security engineer with a jones for code, narcotics and social justice (although not necessarily in that order); USA's shorthand for it is "'The Social Network' meets 'Fight Club.'" Also in the works: "Colony," a sci-fi action series set in contemporary Los Angeles.
Top Line: Nickelodeon will be pitching a new subscription platform as well as its newly formalized branded content arm.
Ratings: Nickelodeon enters the upfront marketplace as No. 2 among kids' networks, behind Disney Channel. It ended 2014 with a 15% decline in viewership among kids 2 to 11 years old and a 13% drop in the 6-to-11 demo.
Going OTT: Nickelodeon introduced Noggin, a subscription service aimed at preschoolers. The platform is ad-free and will cost users $5.99 per month.
Branded content: The network is formalizing its consumer insights, partnership marketing and multi-media services under the banner Nickelodeon Inside Out Solutions. The group is designed to connect marketers to Nickelodeon's TV and digital channels, social footprint, consumer products business and on-the-ground marketing experiences.
Broadway bound?: "SpongeBob SquarePants" is headed to Broadway, with the network previewing its development of a musical version of the cartoon.
New programming: Musical comedy "Make It Pop," about boarding school students who start a K-pop band; "Talia's Kitchen," inspired by telenovelas about a 14-year-old girl with magical cooking skills; a live-action series based on "School of Rock;" "The W.I.T.S. Academy," a daily series about witches and wizards in training; and "Mutt & Stuff" from producers Sid and Marty Kroft.
Noteworthy: Pivot, the millennials-focused network introduced by Participant Media last summer, is focusing on documentaries this year with the introduction of a Wednesday-night doc block, effective May 6. The first documentary out is "Gardeners of Eden," exploring the future of elephants.
New programming: An investigative series executive-produced by Brian Knappenberger will feature "untold stories of people who defend human rights and call out institutional failures," Pivot said in March. The network also announced "The Secret Lives of Americans," which will give viewers a look at individuals' lives as they expose untold truths to the most important people in their lives. And Pivot has three unscripted series in development: two investigative food series, one by The New York Times' Mark Bittman and another from "Going Clear" producer Alex Gibney, plus a series with comedian Wyatt Cenac from "The Daily Show."
Returning series: "Hit Record on TV with Joseph Gordon-Levitt" and "Human Resources" will all return for new seasons.
Not returning: "TakePart Live," part of the 2014 upfront pitch, was was a late-night talk show encouraging viewers to play a part in social issues, hosted by Meghan McCain, Jacob Soboroff and Eddie Huang. It was canceled at the end of last year.
Ratings: Pivot is not rated.
Top line: Spike is pushing for a more gender-balanced audience with the goal of becoming a general entertainment network.
All in on scripted: Spike is making a big investment in scripted series, lining up five big-budget dramas and miniseries. Projects in development include "Emergency Broadcast," an apocalyptic alien-invasion thriller from Legendary Pictures' CEO Thomas Tull and "World War Z" author Max Brooks; "Red Mars," a space-exploration serial based on the Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy of 1990s sci-fi novels; and "The War at the Shore," an event series from Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti's Trigger Street Productions ("House of Cards") chronicling Donald Trump and Steve Wynn's war for the soul of Atlantic City. Also in the works is "Deep Web," a drama about the internet's shadowy Silk Road bazaar, where anonymous users could secure everything from illegal narcotics to murder-for-hire, and the miniseries "The Crusaders."
New look: Spike unveiled what it considers an edgier new logo and tagline: "The Ones to Watch."
New programming: A fitness competition series with Jillian Michaels; overall deal with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.