Thursday, June 24, 2010

'Characters Welcome' at USA Network

For, Sandra Berg examines the the 'Characters Welcome' brand that has helped transform the fortunes of the USA Network.
The network brought in marketing experts who determined that all they had to do was drop the character umbrella over what already existed. They made it more specific and created a “brand filter”: dysfunctional, quirky characters, flawed, but always likeable. It was decided these characters must also be placed in an environment of “blue skies.” Today, everything the network develops—every promo campaign, all of the marketing—is put through the filter and must fit into the brand.

According to head of development Bill McGoldrick (SVP, Original Scripted Programming, USA Network), their development philosophy is, “We try to keep the number [of shows] low enough that we can actually pay attention and develop each script properly. What I’ve hated about the pitch process is—and this is something Jeff Wachtel taught me—is the [thumbs up/thumbs down]. Why does it always have to be pass/fail? Why is it always, either I want this, or I don’t want that? Sometimes I’ll tell a writer this is what works for me, but these six other things don’t, either because we have it, or we tried it last season, or whatever. I try to keep an open door for writers if they want to re-pitch or keep developing. But you’ve got to be careful because you don’t want to bring people back six times and then say ‘no’.”

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