Kent Weed lays out the secrets to success to American Ninja Warrior, sports entertainment;
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.