Ampere: Delays of Scripted Content to Last Well Into 2021

Producers of new scripted content — which typically spends an average of 11 months in production — will be battling against COVID-related delays well into 2021, far longer than their unscripted counterparts, according to a study from Ampere Analysis.

While producers of new unscripted content — which spends an average of just two months in production — have been able to adapt production to the new circumstances, already overcoming the worst period of delays, the same is not true for their scripted counterparts, according to the analysis.

Compensating for the lack of new high-quality scripted content, unscripted commissions increased from 66% in Q2 2019 to 72% in Q2 2020. Reality shows benefitted the most from this trend with 24% more titles commissioned in Q2 2020 than in Q2 2019.

The temporary stop in production also forced programmers to air older and less popular content to fill gaps, and some have turned to unscripted material to pad their schedules, according to Ampere.

While the proportion of new content aired dropped steadily over Q1 and Q2 2020, unscripted content has already made a rapid recovery, with new titles representing a higher proportion of primetime series than before COVID-19. However, the proportion of new scripted primetime shows has yet to return to pre-COVID levels.

Meanwhile, linear viewers in the U.S. and U.K. rated comedy, crime and thriller, sport, drama, and sci-fi and fantasy as their top five genres in Q1 and Q2 2020 — the same period that saw a considerable decrease in the proportion of new titles aired for all five genres.

“At the time of writing, almost half of all scripted commissions from the first half of 2019 had yet to be released, highlighting the long production periods for scripted shows and the impact of exposure to the COVID-linked production hiatus,” Ampere stated. “As a consequence, delays for scripted titles ordered in the same period in 2020 — also exposed to the production shutdown — will run well into 2021.”

The firm noted BBC’s “Staged,” one of the few scripted drama titles to be produced during lockdown, has already been licensed in multiple markets, illustrating demand for fresh new scripted shows. The series, starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, follows actors whose play has been put on hold due to COVID-19, but whose director has persuaded them to continue rehearsing online.

While the production of some scripted genres such as drama and romance can often be expedited, the ability to shorten the often lengthy post-production process for genres such as action and adventure, sci-fi and fantasy, and horror — while maintaining output quality — will be key to limiting the onward impact of the pandemic, the research firm stated. Programmers that can air the highest volume of new scripted content, through commissions or acquisitions, in the next 12 months will win over consumers, the firm concluded.

“COVID-19 has hit the production of high-quality, scripted content most severely, and producers will be fighting delays well into 2021,” said Ampere analyst Olivia Deane. “Linear programmers know that viewers won’t accept poor quality content and repeats indefinitely, and they will lose consumers to both broadcast and on-demand competitors if they don’t address the situation fast.

“This is particularly problematic for channels that offer a high proportion of original scripted content. To maintain a competitive edge, they will need to adjust their acquisition models to compete in the race to broadcast new, high-quality content. This suggests a time to shine for independent studios with scripted projects already in the pipeline. However, with indies facing their own delays, it’s likely that supply will be outweighed by demand for the foreseeable future.”

COVID-19 Hangover: 60% of Scripted Releases at Risk of Delay

Audiences and the industry can expect disruption to the supply and release of new content for more than a year as a result of production delays caused by COVID-19, according to a new report by Ampere Analysis.

The report finds 60% of scripted releases at risk of delay and a further 5% to 10% that may be lost entirely.

“Our analysis indicates that the unscripted market will more easily weather the current pandemic thanks to the production of non-location-based, and COVID-related, content,” according to Ampere. “However, the delay of summer ‘blockbusters’ like ‘The Bachelorette’ and ‘Love Island’ will have a negative impact on even the unscripted sector. We predict the scripted sector will take a far bigger hit: even if production is able to restart in June, underlying effects of the shutdown will be felt in the scripted TV market for the remainder of 2020, and well into 2021.”

In the second half of 2020, Ampere expects that the world’s top TV commissioners will release between 5% to 10% fewer new scripted titles on a monthly basis than previously predicted. The effect will last into the first half of 2021, and potentially longer.

Over half of scripted titles which would normally have released in the second half of 2020 are at risk of delays in release schedules due to the current production hiatus. Titles scheduled for release from June to August are likely to largely be in post-production, and Ampere expects delays will be more limited for this period.

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The number of scripted TV titles at risk of delay remains high for a year, with impact particularly intense at the traditional start of the broadcast season in the autumn. At this point, between 50% and 60% of scripted titles that would normally have been released in the period are at risk of delay by Ampere’s estimates. A further 5% to 10% of scripted titles expected to have been released during the autumn months are likely be lost entirely due to the current production shutdown, Ampere predicts. The proportion of scripted releases unaffected by the shutdown only rises above 40% in March 2021.

Compared to 2019, only 51% of scripted projects ordered during March through May 2019 have been released to date. With commissioning of scripted content down by 40% in the equivalent period of 2020, Ampere predicts the current lack of commissions will impact the supply of content well into 2021.

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“There is one certainty among the current uncertainty — that the COVID-19 pandemic will change the TV production industry far beyond the end of the lockdown,” Ampere senior analyst Fred Black said in a statement. “Initially, we expect delays to cause gaps in scripted TV release schedules, which broadcasters and streaming players will have to fill with other content. However, as delayed productions begin to fill out content gaps in later months, these gaps will begin to close. But this has further ramifications. The knock-on effect of delayed releases is a likely depression of the number of new commissions for some time after the shutdown ends, as commissioners look to fill schedules with delayed projects they have already invested in before signing off new ones.”

Unscripted content is set to bounce back quicker, according to Ampere. While a number of unscripted commissions expected over Q2 and Q3 2020 will be delayed, Ampere predicts release schedules will begin to return to normal by the autumn, with the percentage of titles unaffected rising to 71% by October. The biggest misses in the unscripted space are likely to be returning summer series that cannot go into production, such as reality stalwarts ‘Love Island’ and ‘The Bachelorette.’ Unscripted commissions have actually increased in comparison to the same period last year, partly to fill schedule gaps left by delayed or cancelled scripted series. However, a large proportion of these titles have been COVID-19-specific commissions. If this content is excluded, unscripted commissions have been down 27% since the beginning of March. Unlike scripted content, commissioners can typically order enough adapted unscripted content during lockdown to cover normal numbers of new unscripted releases, as well as help cover schedule gaps from delayed or cancelled scripted content.

Commissioners are currently creating a large number of extra unscripted projects which can be used to cover gaps in the schedule left by delayed titles or the missed scripted commissions,” said Black in a statement. “This number of extra commissions will begin to wane as the shutdown ends, with audience appetite for COVID-19-specific content already showing signs of falling.”

HBO Max Orders Dog Grooming Competition Show

HBO Max, the upcoming direct-to-consumer offering from WarnerMedia, has ordered the series “Hot Dog” (working title).

HBO Max is scheduled to launch in May.

The 12-episode, half-hour series features three dog groomers facing off in a creative competition showcasing canine breeds of all kinds.

Inspired by the social platforms and coffee table book from celebrity dog grooming expert Jess Rona, each episode will include challenges and themes meant to spotlight the best looks for man’s best friend. Along with comedic commentary from celebrity guests and a host, Rona will lead the judging panel with the best in show winner walking away with a cash prize and first place rosette.

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Rona built a following online with her signature slow-motion blow dry videos and serves as the dog grooming artist to many celebrity dogs. In addition to grooming, she is the author of Groomed, the director of Tegan and Sarah’s Closer video, and has appeared on “Drunk History” and “New Girl.”

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“Jess Rona has made a name for herself as dog groomer-to-the stars and it is so fun to be able to bring her incredibly successful online brand and business to life in this way,” Jennifer O’Connell, EVP of original non-fiction and kids programming for HBO Max, said in a statement. “Expect pure escapism that the whole family can watch together and root for their favorite pooch with the most fabulous and creative trans-fur-mations.”

Netflix Announces Unscripted Lineup, Including New Series From Marie Kondo

Netflix has announced new and returning unscripted shows.

“Rhythm + Flow,” “The Circle” and “Love Is Blind” will all return with second seasons premiering in 2021, along with a new series from decluttering expert Marie Kondo (“Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”).

“It’s been incredible to see Netflix members everywhere respond to the raw, authentic stories of real people and real stakes,” said Brandon Riegg, Netflix VP of nonfiction series and comedy specials, in a statement. “We pride ourselves on creating a favorite show for any taste, and we’re thrilled fans embraced all of these series with such enthusiasm and shared passion. We look forward to sparking more joy for our members.”

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New series “Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo” features Kondo and her team setting out to tidy one small town in America (visit TidyMyTown.com to nominate a town for Kondo’s mission).

Returning series include:

  • Rhythm + Flow” season two, in which judges Cardi B, Chance the Rapper and Tip “T.I.” Harris return, looking for the next hip-hop sensation in the music competition series (auditions are now open at RhythmAndFlow.com);
  • “The Circle” seasons two and three, in which host Michelle Buteau returns as all new contestants and catfish enter “The Circle” vying for a $100,000 prize in a game where anyone can be anyone (casting is open at TheCircleCasting.com); and
  • “Love Is Blind”seasons two and three, in which hosts Vanessa Lachey and her husband Nick Lachey again ask the question if love is blind as new singles prepare to enter the pods for the dating experiment (season two is currently casting in Chicago with season three).

 

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Netflix to Bow Unscripted Lifestyle Series With Organizers to the Stars

Netflix has begun production on a new lifestyle series featuring Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, the duo behind home organization company The Home Edit.

Known for their design-centric approach to arranging and organizing, the New York Times bestselling authors will take on the homes of big-name celebrities and everyday families, according to Netflix. The series follows organizers Shearer and Teplin as they transform the lives of their clients by conquering clutter with their signature style.

Each hour-long episode features two organizational projects shaped by the duo.

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The eight-episode series is executive produced by Molly Sims, Hello Sunshine’s Reese Witherspoon, Charlotte Koh and Cynthia Stockhammer; and Critical Content’s Tom Forman, Jenny Daly and Jon Beyer along with Tess Gamboa Meyers, who will serve as showrunner.

The series joins another lifestyle show about organization from Netflix, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.”