The Fox Television Stations are a little more than halfway through the trial run of The Mediator with Ice-T, which started on March 1, and so far they like what they see.
“They did a half-dozen innovative things with this show,” Frank Cicha, executive VP, programming, Fox Television Stations, said. “They pitched us the show at the beginning of a pandemic — that’s ballsy right there. They were ready to do the show all virtually if they had to. All they needed to know was that they had a platform and we were glad to give that to them.”
The Mediator with Ice-T features the Law & Order: SVU star sitting at a desk and speaking to two complainants who are calling in remotely. They present their case to him, he checks in with experts, and then he and the experts return to the litigants to weigh in on the case. That the complainants are calling in remotely, just like everyone has been doing with their family, friends and co-workers for the past year, feels very of the moment.
“I’ve always thought Ice would be an amazing mediator,” executive producer Andre Jetmir said. “I always look to him as someone who is very calm. When it comes to considering people’s problems, he’s like a fish to water.”
Whether or not The Mediator gets picked up into national syndication remains to be seen, and stations’ schedules for fall 2021 are largely settled. But there are other options for the show besides just broadcast syndication, and The Mediator’s team is willing to consider them.
Fox now owns advertising-supported streamer Tubi, and the company is interested in making programming-sharing deals for the streamer. It also has digital network Fox Soul, which already airs such syndicated shows as Fox-produced-and-distributed Divorce Court and Dish Nation. Jetmir is making plans to shoot another 100 to 150 episodes of The Mediator over the summer.
“We are looking at a couple of streamers and at a couple of second and third windows,” Jetmir said. “There are so many different ways we can monetize this production. If Fox, God willing, has us back, that would be the tip of the spear.”
Should the show end up being distributed across multiple platforms, it could be one of the first new first-run syndicated shows to be cleared across multiple streaming platforms as well as on TV stations. But in an economically challenging environment, that sort of distribution strategy is necessary to make first-run shows viable for both TV stations and producers.
Another potential piece of the business model is an app that would offer professional mediation for a small fee, Jetmir said. “Mediation is the only legal system that people have in this country that doesn’t cost them a bazillion dollars,” he said.
With all of those revenue-driving options on the table, Jetmir feels optimistic about
“Ice really loves this thing,” Jetmir said. “I’ve known him for more than 20 years and I’ve never seen him so engaged with what he’s doing. It’s almost like when he’s performing on stage, that’s how engaged he is.”
Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.
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