Buyers Largely Upbeat Following TV Upfronts

NEW YORK It could have easily been drowned out in the cacophony of upfront presentations by its bigger rival networks last week. But The CW’s impressive program lineup presentation gave it the potential youth-market clout for which advertisers and media buyers clamor.

“Anyone who was concerned about the network not making it can rest assured that this is no longer the case,” said one buyer, who did not want to speak for attribution. The CW entertainment president “Dawn Ostroff should be very proud. All of the new shows focus on the network’s target audience and seem like they could work.”

Larry Novenstern, head of Optimedia’s NewCast, said, “This schedule will give The CW the ability to get more advertising dollars. Gossip Girl will help draw back younger audiences, and their multi-platform opportunities tied into that show will help advertises reach that younger base.”

Buyers clearly feel that Gossip Girl, a teen angst drama set in New York, could become that signature show for the network, doing what Dawson’s Creek and Felicity did for CW predecessor The WB. Gossip Girl joins The CW’s other new dramas, Life Is Wild and Reaper, and new sitcom Aliens in America, plus a new entertainment news show, CW Now, as well as a group of offbeat reality programs.

Also, Life Is Wild, about a New York veterinarian who moves his family to South Africa, will be a solid replacement for canceled 7th Heaven as a family-oriented drama, while Reaper, about a young guy who must work for the devil after finding out that his family sold his soul at birth, is a dramedy that somewhat mimics the canceled Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buyers were even buzzing about the new reality shows, which include Farmer Wants a Wife, in which big city socialites head to the country to be wooed by a farmer.

Meanwhile, ABC sales president Mike Shaw, in his upfront presentation, noted, “This is the golden age of television.” And that assessment of this year’s crop of shows was seconded by Optimedia’s Novenstern. “The production quality of television shows today is better than ever,” he said. “The need to reinvent themselves faster has the networks trying new and different things.”

Novenstern said the 30 new shows on the five broadcast networks “have the potential to be a good class,” an assessment echoed by other buyers. Each network has at least one show that buyers singled out as particularly promising for success. Buyers believe that female viewers watching ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy on Thursdays at 9 p.m. will flow right into the net’s new drama Big Shots at 10 p.m., particularly to watch Dylan McDermott, Michael Vartan, Josh Malina and Chris Titus in the lead roles.

However, buyers nearly universally predicted ABC’s new sitcom Caveman, based on the Geico commercial characters, will be the first show on any network to get canceled.

While NBC is planning to put most of its promotional dollars into The Bionic Woman, just about every buyer polled by Adweek sister publication Mediaweek said dramedy Chuck is the NBC show that will most likely succeed.

Over at CBS, sitcom The Big Bang Theory, starring 8 Simple Rules’ Kaley Cuoco, is seen as a winner. Cane, a drama about a Cuban-American family in the sugar cane business, with two feuding brothers, and starring Jimmy Smits, is well done, but buyers wonder whether the storyline will play well in non-metro markets; NBC’s highly touted Hispanic-themed Kingpin bombed a few years ago.

Buyers agreed that Fox’s new shows are better than last season, but they are not happy that it plans to shuffle its slate in mid-season. Of particular concern is shifting Bones from Tuesday to Friday, a move that killed Fox hit Dark Angels a few years back.