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Realscreen January/February 2019

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026 JANUARY / FEBRUARY '19 REBIRTH OF LIVE driven, essential viewing element that it wouldn't have without it." The Lifetime exec, however, says her team wants to ensure that any live content created at the network can be repeatable. "My Great Big Live Wedding is a very simple, clean format that we've developed and created that I think can be very repeatable for us and work past the live broadcast." While the A+E Networks subsidiary currently receives approximately two or three ideas a month for live concepts through its development pipeline, McCarthy and her executive team are attempting to be "very strategic and deliberate" in the ones they pursue. Thinkfactory CEO Adam Reed, meanwhile, often challenges his development team to explain why a series has been pitched as a live concept. If they can't offer a specific answer, that series does not get produced as a live program. "We're very cautious and careful about what we take to market," Reed says. "Live for the sake of live is never going to work, but live that adds stakes to an already tremendous amount of them — that will work." In the last rush of live content a few years back, Discovery had scored with specials such as Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda, which aired live in 2013 across more than 200 countries worldwide. The project was a ratings smash domestically, generating Discovery's highest- ever rating for a live broadcast. But the company had quietly moved away from the live stunt space in the years since. Nearly six years removed from Skywire Live, Discovery has once again stepped up to the plate in an attempt to take a big swing into the genre with Lucky 8's policing docuseries Border Live and the event special Discovery Live: Into The Blue Hole from INE, Impossible Works and Discovery Studios. Both programs premiered in December. Hosted by award-winning news journalist Bill Weir, the six- part multi-platform Border Live saw crews embed themselves in the field with officers and special agents at key sites along the U.S.-Mexico border, while the two-hour, one-off Into the Blue Hole dove into the mysterious depths of an ancient sinkhole off the coast of Belize. "The beauty of linear television is having moments that everybody is watching at the same time, talking about at the same time — you can be a part of a national conversation," says Nancy Daniels, chief brand officer for Discovery & factual. "Just look at what live sports and live events do. "We're definitely open to that space and see huge opportunity." Despite the onslaught of live proposals sitting on the desks of network executives at the moment — "I don't know if I can quantify a number for you, but we're getting a lot of live pitches," says Daniels — industry veterans say producers and development execs should proceed with cautious enthusiasm. "We never lead with 'live' — we lead with the concept of the show and the execution of that show, and what is best to deliver an audience," Thinkfactory's Reed notes. As with all programming, there are no guarantees when it comes to the success of a live project. While Border Live's premiere numbers were close to those of Live PD's debut in October of 2016, ultimately, Discovery opted to cancel the series three episodes into its planned six-episode run, with its third ep pulling in only 430,000 viewers. And for its successes in the real-time space, the team at Big Fish knows that a hopeful big swing can still result in a sobering miss. In July 2017, the prodco attempted to liven up the relationship space by offering a fly- on-the-wall view of dating in Lifetime's Date Night Live. The series provided a voyeuristic look into at least nine dates per episode across various American cities. However, the series didn't return for a second season, with available data showing that Date Night Live generated a rating of 0.05 in the 18-49 demo and an average of approximately 200,000 viewers. "With Date Night Live, it was raw, it was unformed and in the future when we look at this space, those are the two things that we're going to take into account," D'Agostino says. "The live dating space isn't dead," she adds. "We are very much still convinced that it can be successful and we are currently even attempting to crack that." We never lead with 'live.' We lead with the concept of the show and the execution, and what is best to deliver to an audience." Reed

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