- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - One day into the annual week where television’s biggest networks reveal their future programming plans and it was clear what the buzzword was going to be: Eventize.

No matter whether it’s a word or not, broadcasters talked frequently about their desire to create big events that viewers need to watch immediately for fear of being left out of the cultural conversation.

Networks are adjusting to the changed world of how people watch their programs: hours or weeks later on DVR, online or on-demand. But the industry’s financial structure hasn’t caught up yet, so viewers who watch when a program is first aired - once the only way to watch - are considered more valuable.

That’s why Fox is putting on a live production of “Grease” and NBC is remaking “The Music Man.” Fox is recreating an Evel Knievel motorcycle jump. ABC touts its Oscars telecast and other awards shows. NBC locked up Olympics rights through 2032, and CBS won a bidding war to show NFL football on Thursday night.


Sports usually gets little or no attention in network sales pitches to advertisers. Not this year. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox all gave sports a starring role. Why? Very few people DVR sports events.

ABC made the point explicit with a message on a wide video screen: “Your DVR can’t handle live.”

“We’re obsessed with trying to eventize everything we can - even episodes of our scripted shows,” said Robert Greenblatt, NBC’s entertainment chief.

“It’s about the urgency to view,” said Fox’s Kevin Reilly.

A grand finale won’t be enough for CBS‘ outgoing comedy “Two and a Half Men.” The network wants a season’s worth of special episodes. David Letterman’s retirement will be a “yearlong celebration of Dave.” CBS producers have been told to push the envelope, said Nina Tassler, entertainment president, like the surprise death of Will Gardner on a March episode of “The Good Wife.”

“It’s important to keep your fans engaged,” Tassler said. “You keep eventizing your entire season.”

TRUTH SQUAD

Jimmy Kimmel is a one-man truth squad each year at ABC’s schedule presentation, puncturing the promises of network salesmen, and was particularly sharp this year. He spared no one, not even his bosses, and may have effectively killed a lackluster new ABC comedy “Selfie” with a single barb.

He also zeroed in on ABC entertainment chief Paul Lee’s boast that ABC was No. 1 - in brand identification or some metric. In the Nielsen ratings, ABC is No. 3.

“The ABC I work at is not No. 1,” Kimmel said. “In fact, we might have to crash on your couch for a while.”

He reminds advertisers the majority of new shows presented to them as surefire hits won’t last more than a year. “Don’t get attached to our new shows,” he said. “It’s like adopting a kitten with cancer.”

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