Why The New York Times Extended Its Brand Into TV With FX’s The Weekly

The 30-episode first season debuts on Sunday

New episodes of The Weekly will debut Sundays on FX and be available on Hulu the following day.

This Sunday, The New York Times is expanding to a journalistic platform it has never tackled before: television. Each half-hour episode of the new docuseries The Weekly, which debuts Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on FX with episodes streaming on Hulu the following day, will focus on a different Times reporter and story.

The 30-episode first season of The Weekly will spotlight such Times stories as the investigations into Louisiana’s T.M. Landry College Prep—which exposed transcript fraud, physical violence and emotional abuse at the school—and New York’s yellow cab industry, which has trapped thousands of immigrants in reckless loans.

The Weekly is the Times’ first attempt at a TV series. (The outlet was the subject of last year’s Showtime docuseries The Fourth Estate but did not produce it.)

Adweek sat down with two Weekly executive producers—Times assistant managing editor Sam Dolnick and Ken Druckerman, co-producer of Left/Right Productions—to talk about how they were surprised to end up with FX, why the show’s premiere was delayed half a year and how they balance telling a great Times story with producing a compelling episode of TV.

Adweek: What was the genesis of The Weekly?
Sam Dolnick: The past few years, the Times has evolved from being a print newspaper to—like all of us—a digital platform, to audio, which was a big breakthrough for us a couple of years ago. And TV was the next frontier.

The New York Times doesn’t know how to make TV, and rather than try to reinvent the wheel, we saw early on that we needed a partner. We sought out Left/Right for a lot of reasons. Ken himself was a big one, but we also admired the work that Left/Right did, from The Circus, which is fast and stylish and newsy, to This American Life, which is artful and inventive and creative. Ken had some ideas about what New York Times stories could look like on TV, and we had ambitions to go on TV—and we started ginning this thing up together.

How did you decide that FX was the best fit for what you both wanted to do?
Ken Druckerman: We spent a year developing the show and trying to fine-tune the idea. Then we took it out to the marketplace and got a really strong reaction. There were several parties that were interested, but in FX and Hulu, we felt like we were able to get the reach of basic cable—a big audience—and also have that digital side through Hulu. So it felt like a wonderful opportunity. And FX and Hulu were interested in the concept that we were pitching, rather than telling us how they might change it around.

Dolnick: I think we were both surprised to end up at FX. That’s not how we would have predicted it. But once we met [FX Networks chairman] John Landgraf and understood better what he was trying to do, it really lined up with us. And we really liked that they hadn’t done documentary or news. It felt like completely fresh territory. Many other partners we were excited about had big brands and big identities in that space, and it felt strange for the Times to also be there. So we liked that we are alone here.

What we’re trying to do is build something that lasts, something that becomes a hallmark of New York Times journalism.
Sam Dolnick, assistant managing editor, New York Times

The Weekly was originally going to premiere at the end of last year. What was the reason behind the delay? Was it production-related, or FX’s scheduling needs?
Dolnick: It was a calculus of all of those things, frankly. What we’re trying to do is build something that lasts, something that becomes a hallmark of New York Times journalism. That takes time, and we want to make it right, and we’re trying to do it with FX, a new partnership that we’ve never worked with before. So we’re working with them to figure out their programming needs, taking their guidance on when and how to launch the show so that it finds its biggest audience, while building a new department inside of our very busy newsroom that’s going to stand for years to come.

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