By Chris Pursell
It’s been the summer of the Warrior, with NBC/Esquire Network’s sports entertainment franchise American Ninja Warrior continuing to cement itself as a summer staple from A. Smith & Co. The series recently got another renewal from NBC, and has been a stalwart on Monday nights as several athletes have gone viral with their mastery and failures on the course. Now, the company is looking to continue its success in sports entertainment, bringing back American Gladiators with a modern update. Meanwhile, American Ninja Warrior will present the Las Vegas Finals where competitors lay it all on the line for the $500,000 on Aug. 11 at 9p.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Kent Weed, President of A. Smith & Co. about the success of the show, digital extensions and the future of the series. Weed on the success of the show: I think the difference between this format and other shows is the stories of the athletes. They are relatable to the audience because anybody could do this, whether they are male, female, athlete, non-athletes, you feel like you could do this. They love the opportunity of doing something that is both unique and challenging. That is something else that is different about our show, you could be the best athlete in the world, or you could be someone who has lost 200 pounds to try to do this. Audiences find that inspiring. On digital strategy: Digital strategy is a new strategy. Up until recently, we’ve found it very difficult to make sense and to make money doing it. So, we’ve tried to strategize in a way that allows us to make money. In the last couple of years, it didn’t make sense. It was a new platform, kind of like cable 20 years ago when nobody was making any money. Our margins just weren’t big enough. But now, it is starting to trend towards less about making money initially and more about making money in the long term. What we are doing is looking at ways to do this as well so it makes sense of r the audience and they get to watch something that is valuable to them. So we are constantly trying to evaluate so it is value-added entertainment or whether it is special and unique. On the future: I think what you can expect moving forward is for people to complete the course. This is the only show that doesn’t have a winner! Yet it is still engrossing, fantastic to watch. Audiences are looking for a winner. We are also always thinking about what we are going to do next. The network is going to challenge us as well to create that. Once someone completes the course, we will make the courses harder. We challenge ourselves to make sure that we make it more difficult. Once you achieve this, can you do this? What’s interesting that we found this year is that a lot of competitors have built their own courses in their backyards. There is a huge, grassroots following for this. We are getting constantly challenged to beat them at their own game. They are looking to figure it out. Anytime something is new, it is challenging to the competitors, but they learn fast. On the athletes: They are getting stronger, they are more talented and they are smarter. The most interesting thing I think is that, as good as they are, when you compete, it is night and day compared to doing a course in your backyard. It is one thing to be really good in practice and anther to be good in the game. On finding franchises: We love sports, and sports entertainment is where we are centering a lot of programming. We are getting ready to do another huge franchise in American Gladiators, which is a brand we have the rights to with MGM. We believe in it and we believe in sports. Sports does well, it is an event situation. Sports entertainment can follow that, and I think that’s why American Ninja Warrior does well.
By: R. Thomas Umstead
TV One will return its docu-music series Unsung on July 30 with 10 new episodes, according to network officials. The series, which profiles R&B stars that were stars but never received superstar status, will feature in its upcoming new episodes such performers as Montell Jordon, Hi Five, The Emotions, Martha Wash, Troop, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Wilson Pickett, The Chi-Lites, Peaches & Herb and Rick James, said network officials. “As an intimate portrait of the lives of some of music’s most captivating artist, Unsung remains a celebration of their impact on both the recording industry and culture alike,” said D’Angela Proctor, senior vice president of Programming and Production for TV One. “By illuminating the stories of trials and triumphs in the upcoming slate, the legend of these iconic musicians will be sure to grow within the hearts and memories of our audience.”
by Lesley Goldberg
The network used its session in front of reporters at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour to announce additional season renewals for American Ninja Warrior, Last Comic Standing and America's Got Talent. As for the future of Hollywood Game Night, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said the network is already in production on additional episodes of the series, which runs on a different schedule than its summer unscripted fare.
The series have been solid performers this summer for the network as it looks to unscripted fare and inexpensive scripted co-productions to keep the lights on in the typically lower-rated viewing months.
"The renewal of these three series is evidence that we continue to hit our stride in delivering quality entertainment to a broad viewership,” said Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and late night at NBC Entertainment. “All of the hardworking talented people on these shows — both behind and in front of the camera — should feel very proud of their achievements.”
American Ninja Warrior has been a standout on Mondays, recently besting CBS' summer hit Under the Dome in the demographic in head-to-head competition. The A. Smith and Co.-produced series, which this season saw multiple women conquer the famed Warped Wall, will be back for its sixth season.
Last Comic Standing, revived for an eighth season, returned with host JB Smoove and judges Roseanne Barr, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Russell Peters. The Wanda Sykes-produced revival returned on par with its last outing four years ago thanks to a steady lead-in from Hollywood Game Night. It will return next summer for season nine.
America's Got Talent has been a cornerstone of NBC's summer schedule for nine seasons. The reality competition show, hosted by Nick Cannon and featuring judges Howard Stern, Melanie Brown, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel, has regularly ranked as summer's No. 1 series. The veteran series also recently bested ABC's big swing singing competition Rising Star in the latter's series debut with a special Sunday broadcast.
Unscripted fare is one of multiple strategies the broadcast networks have used to program in the summer. CBS helped change that game last summer with its Steven Spielberg-produced adaptation of Stephen King's Under the Dome.
by Michael Schneider
In reality TV, popular formats never really die — think the frequently revived Candid Camera — they just go into hibernation. Next to awaken is American Gladiators.
Executive producer Arthur Smith (Hell's Kitchen), who has turned the competition series American Ninja Warrior into a summer smash for NBC, is giving the 1990s syndicated hit (briefly brought back in 2008 by NBC) a modern makeover.
"It's a little darker, more intense, more serious," says Smith, who's producing the show through his A. Smith & Co. banner with MGM. "It's a little less red, white and blue. And there's no spandex. Spandex has left the building."
American Gladiators originally aired from 1989 to 1996 and featured amateur men and women as they competed against each other as well as the show's "Gladiators," who had names like "Nitro," "Laser," "Zap" and "Ice." The show spawned several international adaptations.
In a nod to modern times, Smith says the new American Gladiators will incorporate elements inspired by the popularity of both The Hunger Games and mixed martial arts. "Times have changed," he says. "This one is tonally different. It's more post-apocalyptic. But it's the same spirit."
Smith says he's been developing his Gladiators reboot for the past seven months and will shop it to broadcast and cable networks in the coming weeks. "I feel Gladiators is a big, broad family show," Smith says. "I've always been a big fan of the show." Smith says he isn't concerned that the NBC revival didn't last long. "Six years ago is eons ago," he says. "But what we're planning is a much bigger different from the original, and much different from the NBC show."
Casting will get under way after it lands a home; he's also waiting to tailor Gladiators to its eventual network partner.
But the overarching theme of the show is still David vs. Goliath-style battles. "There's no show in this world that embodies that spirit more than Gladiators," he says. "It's too great an idea not to grab."
By LISA DE MORAES
Ratings Rat Race: NBC Rules With ‘American Ninja Warrior’
NBC was No. 1 for the night in the demo among broadcaster, thanks to American Ninja Warrior, which climbed 13% week to week (1.8 compared to 1.6 rating) and 17% in total viewers (5.5 million vs. 4.7 mil). The 5.453 million in total viewers is a season high for a regular Ninja and best since a special USA vs. Japan telecast on January 13 (5.537 million). In its second hour, Ninja finished ahead of CBS’ Under The Dome recap (0.8/3, 4.34 million viewers), which finished last in its time slot, and ABC’s Mistresses original episode (1.0/3, 3.66 million). NBC noted its Detroit affiliate pre-empted NBC programming for a fireworks special that could impact these prelim stats, particularly in this 10 PM hour.
By Daniel Holloway
Primetime Ratings: NBC, ‘American Ninja Warrior’ Top Night
NBC’s American Ninja Warrior drew a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49 Monday night, up 13% from last week, making it the evening’s top-rated broadcast network. NBC was the night’s top broadcaster, averaging a 1.6 rating and 5 share.
By Tony Maglio
Ratings: Ninjas Fend Off Jack Bauer, Gordon Ramsey
NBC edged out Fox to finish first in ratings on Monday, thanks to added strength for “American Ninja Warrior.”
By Rick Kissell
NBC’s ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ Fox’s ‘MasterChef’ Top Monday
NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” and Fox’s “MasterChef” were in a tight battle as Monday’s top-rated program among young adults while ABC’s “The Bachelorette” was again tops in total viewers, but is down in demos from last summer.
The entertainment industry-backed campaign Got Your 6,
aimed at bridging the civilian-military divide, will host its
first ever industry summit Vetfronts Thursday in Beverly
The event, produced in association with the Hollywood
Radio and Television Society, will bring together 300 industry
exec, content creators and programming influencers to discuss how
to provide a more accurate portrayal of veterans in film and
"Each year, a quarter of a million service members exit the
military and return to civilian life. Now, more than ever, it is
critical to change society's perceptions of veterans from a
population in need to a cohort of trained leaders," Got Your 6
managing director Chris Marvin said in a statement. "If content
creators can change the way veterans are portrayed in film and
television, then the way veterans are perceived by the audience
will shift as well, and communities will be better prepared to
engage returning veterans as assets in our communities."
The inaugural event will welcome bizzers including Peter
Berg and Film 44, Alex Kurtzman ("Hawaii Five-0," "Star Trek"),
Rasha and Stephanie Drachkovitch of 44 Blue Productions, Arthur
Smith and Kent Weed of A. Smith & Co. ("Hell's Kitchen,"
"American Ninja Warrior") and Charlie Ebersol and Mike Lanigan's
The summit will also feature video remarks from First Lady
Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, a keynote message from Marvin
and the presentation of Got Your 6's new celebrity PSA.
By Andrea Seilkaly
With Amazing America with Sarah
Palin about to end its run, Sportsman Channel is
getting "unplugged" with a new original series about people
living off the grid.
America Unplugged, hosted by former
U.S. Navy SEAL Cade Courtley (pictured), will look at the stories
of eight Americans who have chosen to live off the land, including
generating their own electricity. The network says about 400,000
Americans are living off the grid.
"These are everyday people that don't necessarily think that the
world is going to end tomorrow. For them, this is just a better way
of life. This is a more clean way of living, the way their
forefathers did it," said Marc Fein, executive VP of programming
and production for the Sportsman Channel.
Fein hopes that the show's theme of self reliance can reach a
broad audience and connect them with its core hunting and fishing
programming. "We really like the connection to our 'Red Wild and
Blue' theme," he said.
America Unplugged will launch June 5 at 8 p.m. ET,
the timeslot Amazing America will be vacating
after this week's finale. Fein says Amazing America,
featuring Palin, the former vice presidential candidate, generated
big increases in viewership in its timeslot from a year ago. It
also generated buzz for the network.
"The awareness factor has been great and it's been really good
for us," Fein said, but the show hasn't been renewed yet.
"We've had discussions on that," he said. "There's a lot of
positives to it. Once the show ends its run, we'll sit back and
talk about things internally and make that decision about going
America Unplugged is produced by A. Smith &
Co., which also produces Hell's
Kitchen and American Ninja Warrior. "We
really like their style and working with them," said Fein, pointing
to the authentic way the show was produced, as opposed to the more
scripted reality of some other non-scripted shows.
Living off the grid means that some of the individuals featured
on America Unplugged are unlikely to have cable
"None of them probably have Nielsen boxes," Fein said. "I know
we just lost eight people who would have watched the show."
Source: Broadcast & Cable
By Jon Lafayette
It's more than rooting for the underdog that makes NBC's intense
obstacle course a summer hit.
NBC's American Ninja Warrior may be the best reality
competition series on TV that hasn't produced a single winner.
After six seasons, the series adapted from the Japanese format
Sasuke has seen hundreds of aspiring "ninjas" competing through a
roster of insanely named obstacles that test not only their
athletic skills but their mental prowess as well. At the end of
their multiple-city journey -- which includes qualifying rounds and
four increasingly challenging stages -- is 590-foot Mount
Midoriyama, the pinnacle of the competition that no American has
ever successfully defeated, and a cash prize of $500,000.
Olympians, professional athletes, rock climbers, parkour runners
and fitness buffs -- men and women of all ages and backgrounds --
spend 364 days a year training for their one shot to compete, many
of which end in mere seconds on ANW's trademark first obstacle: the
Quintuple steps. So what's the appeal?
"It's the stories of the people that separates us: how people
overcome adversity to achieve their goals. Whether they're doing it
for a friend who is ill, a mother that had breast cancer or whether
it's a personal achievement they're trying to overcome -- weight
loss, beating drugs or alcohol -- it's personal human achievement,
and it's something that audiences can identity with," executive
producer Kent Weed tells The Hollywood Reporter during a visit to
the Venice, Calif., qualifying round in mid-March.
It's there that hundreds of aspiring ninjas line up for hours
for an opportunity to be one of the few walk-on competitors on the
show's sixth season. This year, Weed says, the show received more
than 3,000 video submissions -- more than double the 1,200 who sent
in video recordings sharing stories of physical challenges and
often including amazing footage of just what the human body is
capable of doing with the right training. At the Venice qualifying
round, about 100 will have the chance to run the course with only
25 accepted. Producers, he notes, are always looking for a
combination of story and skill -- but personality certainly doesn't
hurt if it's backed up with physical prowess.
Among this year's class of ninja hopefuls, is a gymnast who
ended up breaking both ankles and tearing both of his Achilles
tendons and was told he may never walk again. He was back training
while in boots and had to retrain himself how to walk. He used it
as one of his motivating factors to get to ANW. Previous seasons
have featured soldiers who survived horrendous accidents and more
stories that tug at the heartstrings of the hosts, producers and,
After segueing from G4 to NBC, ANW has grown every season. The
series has expanded from 12 hours during its first run on NBC
to 16 the following season. Season six will take up 28 hours of the
network's summer schedule, with repeats continuing to run on G4.
The show has also grown in the U.S. for NBC -- last summer it
averaged a 1.6 among adults 18-49 and about 5 million total
viewers. The series will expand to five cities this year, including
St. Louis for the first time. Each city will feature new obstacles
that keep competitors -- many of whom construct replica courses in
their backyards -- on their toes.
"As good as formats like American Idol and Dancing
With the Stars are, I think they have an expiration date,"
Weed notes. "Every reality show has an expiration date, and at some
point, people will say, 'I've seen it. I get it,' and they get
tired of it. But something like this is still fresh and new; it's
the serious version of Wipeout, and it's very real. You are rooting
for these guys to succeed because you want them to. You see
yourself on the course."
While shows like Idol, The Voice and Dancing
all must rely the judges' decisions, competitors on ANW control
their own destiny. "Their fate lies in their hands," Weed says.
"The results are with them, and some of the best stories kill us.
We've had these amazing stories, and we'll do a three-minute
profile package, and they fall on the second step. Your heart just
goes out to them, but thankfully it's not like the Olympics, where
you have to wait for years. You can come back in a year."
And that's just what Brent Steffensen has done. He's one of the
only Americans to come close to the mythical Mount Midoriyama and
has been a Ninja Warrior staple since season two. Over the
years, Steffensen has seen his star rise as obstacle course racing
has become one of the fastest-growing sports around. He believes
the show offers much more than reality competition entries like
The Voice, Idol and Dancing. "It's very different
in that it requires a diverse background," he says. "You can't just
be a rock climber or a gymnast or a parkour guy; you have to have a
lot of different skills to even come to the course. … You've got to
be pretty well-rounded to do obstacle courses."
This year, Steffensen will again go head-to-head with his
girlfriend, aspiring ninja Kacy Catanzaro, and says the camaraderie
between competitors brings something to American Ninja Warrior that
many other reality competition series lack. "There's some
competitiveness, but it's all very friendly," he explains. "It's
everybody against the mountain. That's one thing that's super cool
about Ninja Warrior."
Catanzaro says women are continuing to make strides on the
challenging courses and hopes that this is the year that a female
competitor will complete Stage 1. She says the show, whose audience
is primarily female, helps inspire women of all ages to get out and
train. "American Ninja Warrior is so fun that you don't realize how
taxing it is on your body when you're doing it and how taxing it is
when you're training leading up to it," says Catanzaro, who
frequently trains alongside Steffensen.
As for co-host Matt Iseman, he believes part of the show's
appeal is that nobody has ever won it. "We weren't sure if the
American public was ready for having a show where there was no
winner. Everyone says, 'Who won this year?' Nobody. Nobody
completed the course," he says, noting the show's diverse pool of
competitors helps it appeal to a broad and diverse viewership.
"Idol has lots of beautiful people, and the age range is more
limited," says Iseman, who pulled a hamstring trying to get up the
show's trademark Warped Wall and went head-first into the water
when attempting the jump hang. "With ours, we have Grandpa Ninja --
55-year-old Kelvin Antoine -- who is out here with his grandkids,
doing the course alongside 18- and 22-year-old parkour phenomenons.
We have Navy SEALs and pro athletes, but the majority are average
people -- milkmen, accountants, schoolteachers -- who somehow find
time to have a family and train for this. I think it's hard not to
root for them. Once you hear the backstory for somebody, you start
pulling for them. Then when they go out on the second quad step,
American Ninja Warrior returns Monday, May 26 at 9 p.m.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter by Lesley Goldberg
The talk show host and producer is teaming with cable network
HGTV to launch a furniture design competition series, The Hollywood
Reporter has learned.
The six-episode "Ellen's Design Challenge" marks DeGeneres' A
Very Good Production banner's first foray into producing for cable.
The show, which will premiere in 2015, will feature six competitors
tackling challenges in sketching, designing and building furniture
within 24 hours. Contestants must showcase their creativity and
versatility to impress a panel of judges. The last one standing
will take home a cash prize.
"I'm so excited about this show because I love finding really
special pieces of furniture," DeGeneres said. "One time I found a
beautiful one-of-a-kind armoire that spoke to me in a way I'd never
experienced. It turned out there was a drifter living inside of it,
but that's a story for another time."
The series will highlight DeGeneres' passion for furniture and
house design. Contestants will be paired with expert carpenters to
complete their assigned tasks. A six-part online companion series
also will allow viewers to get to know the designers.
"There has been a lot of dancing in our halls since we shared
that we will be collaborating with Ellen," HGTV and DIY Network
president Kathleen Finch said. "When she talked to us about her
love of buying and renovating homes, her personal passion for the
creative process of furniture design emerged as something that she
wanted to explore more. Since HGTV is the ultimate forum in
this space, and since no other network can deliver an audience who
is as enthusiastic as she is about the creative process, we just
had to make it happen."
DeGeneres and her A Very Good Production banner topper Jeff
Kleeman, A. Smith & Co.'s Arthur Smith, Kent Weed and Jay
Bienstock will executive produce the series, which hails from
Warner Bros. Television's syndication division Telepictures, which
also produces "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
For DeGeneres' WBTV-based A Very Good Production, the series
joins programs that include her syndicated daytime talk show;
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment original movie "Sophia Grace &
Rosie's Royal Adventure"; the feature "Sing You Home", based on the
Jodi Picoult novel; as well as an untitled feature starring
DeGeneres and Rebel Wilson. The production company also is
producing NBC's lesbian comedy pilot "One Big Happy", starring
At HGTV, "Ellen's Design Challenge" joins a roster that includes
the House Hunters franchise, HGTV Star and Kitchen Cousins, among
Source: Hollywood Reporter
By Lesley Goldberg
Editors of The Hollywood Reporter zeroed in on those who know
this climate best: the sellers.
Arthur Smith, A veteran with Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen"
and "Kitchen Nightmares" on his lineup, Smith sees the return of
NBC's ratings-dependable "American Ninja Warrior" in May and seven
other cable series back on the air throughout the year.
The Reality Player sounds off on his craziest pitch, and the
moment he knew when we'd pushed a contestant too far.
It was for our ABC series I Survived a Japanese Game Show. We
had a variety of videos, sketches and demonstrations featuring
staff submerging their heads in icy cold water and putting nylon
stockings on their head while trying to stuff their face full of
Moment I knew we'd pushed a contestant too
We brought back eliminated contestants for a reunion on Paradise
Hotel. The show was happening in real time, so the eliminated
contestants had seen the show and absorbed all the negative
comments the remaining contestants had said about them. A war broke
out, and we stopped production for 24 hours so everybody could calm
FULL STORY: Hollywood Reporter Reveals 2014's Top
25 Reality Players
THE COMPLETE LIST