Pop’s President on His Network’s Biggest Year Ever—and Its Future as Part of ViacomCBS

Brad Schwartz talks Schitt’s Creek’s Emmy surprise and getting One Day at a Time from Netflix

Headshot of Brad Schwartz
Brad Schwartz was named Pop president shortly after the network rebranded (and was renamed) in 2015. Pop
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Pop may be a smaller cable network—the former TV Guide Network rebranded in 2015—but it’s been making a lot of noise this year. In March, CBS bought out Lionsgate’s stake in Pop to become the network’s sole owner, paving the way for Pop to pick up One Day at a Time in June, three months after Netflix canceled the sitcom. Then, Pop’s signature show, Schitt’s Creek, finally broke into the Emmy race in its fifth season, landing four nominations, including outstanding comedy series, best actor and best actress.

Despite Pop’s momentum this year, its seemingly bright future may have potentially dimmed a bit now that parent company CBS will be merging with Viacom, which already has several basic cable networks of its own. Pop president Brad Schwartz spoke with Adweek about his network’s euphoric year, and its future as part of ViacomCBS:

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Adweek: Prior to CBS buying out Lionsgate, had you done any lobbying on your end to get either company to make that kind of move?
Schwartz: No. The only lobbying I did was to get more money. As a joint venture of these two unbelievable media companies, we had a wonderful and generous board, but where you ran into a little bit of trouble was as a joint venture, nobody really wanted to invest. So the lobbying I always did was, “Look at this business plan, look what we can become. Let’s think differently than the rest of the industry is. I’m not saying we’re going to grow our sub[scriber] rate 50%, but if we could get this done, then I think we could get to here. And the bigger platform we become, the better it is for both of you.”

You ran a marathon of CBS’ Love Island episodes during that show’s run this summer. Are we going to see more things like that going forward as part of CBS?
Absolutely, yes. That is one of my strategic goals for this channel. Now that we are part of CBS and we’re the only fully distributed general entertainment network that they have, there are amazing assets across the entire company that aren’t fully being monetized. I believe every major media network company needs a general entertainment catch-all channel to fully monetize things. Could we become a really big general entertainment network that still focuses on really smart, comedic-leaning original content, but is a place to do more mid-season catchup marathon for Survivor, a repeat of the Grammys, Big Brother After Dark, a Love Island aftershow, a marathon of a prior season of some show into the new episode tonight on CBS or Showtime?

There are assets around the company that are sitting there ready to be monetized that aren’t being fully monetized, that we could use to build our network, drive more revenue and more ad sales, and also support the rest of the company. Now that they’ve renewed Love Island for a second season, I think you can see Pop really support that a lot more in the second season and we would love to.

Now there’s the Viacom news. You talked about being CBS’ basic cable network, but what does that mean for Pop in a world where you’re with all of Viacom’s cable networks?
I really don’t know. I can’t speculate. I love Joe [Ianniello, the acting CBS CEO]. He’s been amazing. I love [CBS Corp. chief creative officer] David Nevins. He’s amazing. I’ve worked for Bob Bakish [the Viacom CEO, who will be CEO of the combined ViacomCBS] before when he was running [Viacom] International and I was running MTV Canada. We’ll see. Like I said, I think there’s room for a successful broad general entertainment network. We’ll see. We don’t know.

How soon after Netflix said they were cancelling One Day at a Time did you start to kick the tires on that show?
Pretty much immediately. When we saw it was canceled, I sent an email out to our team, saying, “We should look at this. This is a perfect show for us.” Two days later, I get an email from Joe Ianniello: “Are you guys looking at One Day at a Time?” I’m like, this is good. Then I went to Nevins, and that’s when he informed me that CBS All Access was looking at it, so let’s let that play out. I had to take a back seat to CBS All Access, and as you’ve read about in the press, Netflix wouldn’t let it go to another SVOD service. As soon as that happened, I went back to David and I’m like, “So, is it our turn now?” [laughs] And we went after it.

"It just got to the point where the passion for the show got enough people to vote for it.
Brad Schwartz, on Schitt's Creek's Emmy nominations

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.