It wasn’t that long ago when cable programmers looked at Labor Day weekend as a sort of respite after a long, busy summer in which many high-profile scripted shows debuted prior to the start of the broadcast networks’ fall TV season.
But with more than 400 scripted shows on cable, broadcast and online streaming services available to viewers this year, no time period can be considered off -limits for original series launches anymore. As a result, several cable networks are aggressively going after viewers during the typically slow holiday weekend with original movies, miniseries and series.
Discovery Channel has chosen Labor Day (Sept. 5) to launch its six-hour miniseries Harley and the Davidsons (pictured), the network’s first scripted miniseries since 2014’s Klondike.
Discovery’s historical motorcycle-themed series will look to capture viewers searching for original content amid the massive amount of reruns, movies and show marathons typically scheduled over holidays. History in 2014 proved that viewers will watch original content over the holiday weekend, drawing 3.7 million viewers for the Labor Day premiere of the miniseries Houdini.
Also on Labor Day, MTV will unleash two scripted comedy series in Loosely Exactly Nicole, starring comedian and Girl Code star Nicole Byer, and Mary + Jane, about the exploits of unlikely weed dealers.
The day prior, TV One will look to tap viewers suffering from Olympics withdrawal with its original boxing-themed film Ringside.
Cable’s scripted train continues the day after Labor Day with two more high-profile series premieres. FX will debut Atlanta, a half-hour comedy series from Community star Donald Glover, while OWN will roll out its Oprah Winfrey/Ava DuVernay-produced drama series Queen Sugar.
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Online streaming service Crackle will also look to get in on the action with the debut of StartUp, starring Adam Brody.
With broadcast network series premieres premiering less than a week after Labor Day and running through May, and with a crowded cable lineup of scripted show premieres dominating the summer months, there are there are precious few pockets on the calendar where networks can get the word out on big scripted projects.
As viewers officially say goodbye to the summer and look forward to a new season of scripted broadcast fare, Labor Day weekend now seems to be as good a time as any for cable nets to raise the flag on original programming.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.