Variety: Spirituality and DVRs Changing Primetime TV

BET adds spiritual themes to primetime

By CYNTHIA LITTLETON in Variety

New telepic franchise, reality show have religious touch

BET TV, like a number of general entertainment cablers, has renewed faith in spiritually themed programming.

The Viacom-owned cabler is expanding the range of shows that it carries with overtly spiritual and religious themes, beyond its traditional focus on gospel music series and specials into narrative telepics, talkshows and reality skeins. The subject matter resonates strongly with the BET audience, execs say, and undoubtedly there’s a hope of drawing new viewers who might not otherwise sample BET fare. As part of the push, BET has optioned the rights to four novels by author Reshonda Tate Billingsley with plans for a telepic franchise produced with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit production banner.

The first of the four Billingsley adaptations, Let the Church Say Amen, is starting production this week in Atlanta (Daily Variety, Aug. 24). Steve Harris and Lela Rochon have been cast in the story of a larger-than-life pastor who has to come to terms with his dysfunctional family and wayward daughter. Naturi Naughton, Collins Curtis Pennie and Hosea Chanchez co-star.

The other Billingsley titles optioned are “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” “Everybody Say Amen” and “Say Amen Again.”

BET has also just shot a pilot for a talkshow hosted by Bishop T.D. Jakes. And it has a docu-reality series following Detroit’s Sheard family, which includes multiple generations of gospel music stars and Bishop J. Drew Sheard, who leads a megachurch in Motor City.

BET has long featured gospel music programs on its Sunday morning slate…

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DVR changing landscape of smallscreen success

By CYNTHIA LITTLETONRICK KISSELL in Variety

Increase in DVR usage could shake up industry practices

TV bizzers can’t stop talking about the big jump in DVR usage during the past week and what it means for the primetime biz.
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The bad news for the Big Four networks in the early going of the 2012-13 campaign is that ratings have been soft for many new and returning series. The good news is that higher DVR playback numbers are helping to close the gap for a number of top-priority shows (Daily Variety, Oct. 2). And the fact that DVRs are humming away at a higher rate this fall is a good indicator that there are plenty of shows that viewers want to sample.But the big question raised by the growing influence of DVR numbers is how the increase in delayed viewing may shake up industry practices — in everything from how a show’s performance is evaluated to how and when networks spin ratings results.
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Industry insiders say overnight ratings can still clearly indicate whether a show is a big hit or a colossal miss, but for the majority of programs that land somewhere in the middle, the process of determining whether a show deserves a passing or failing grade is getting ever more complicated. And it requires more patience from net execs, who have to wait a week or two for the DVR playback numbers to roll in.”At the beginning of the season, we’re looking at a unique and dynamic atmosphere,” said David Poltrack, chief research officer for CBS Corp.
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Network number crunchers knew DVR usage was only going to increase, but the rate of growth last week still surprised them…
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