Networks Flip the Script

Epix will jump into a very crowded premium scripted-series arena within the next year, looking to broaden its theatrical movie-heavy lineup in an effort to reach younger viewers.

To spearhead its scripted efforts, the Lionsgate, Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount- owned premium service has hired former Walt Disney Studios executive Jocelyn Diaz to head its original programming efforts.

Epix will look to play on a scripted field already dominated by its premium competitors HBO and Showtime, both of which have developed successful and award-winning scripted shows such as Game of Thrones and The Affair.

Epix will also play catch-up with over-the- top pay services Amazon Prime (Transparent), Netflix (House of Cards) and Hulu (East Los High), all of which are active players in scripted comedy and drama series.

Epix CEO Mark Greenberg told Multichannel News the premium programmer is eyeing several series concepts with interest, although he would not provide specifics. Nor would he say how many series the premium service will develop in 2015. Greenberg did say Epix will lean on the TV production arms of its three owners to help develop projects.

“We have several projects that we’re very interested in,” Greenberg said. “It’s going to take us a little over a year before you see something on air because you want to make sure its produced at a high-quality, Epix and pay- TV standard.”

Diaz oversaw all aspects of live-action feature development while at Disney for such films as Into the Woods and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. She said Epix will target a younger audience with scripted fare, and will look at all genres, including dramas and comedies.

“What we’ll be looking to do in original series is to mirror that level of quality of other Epix content,” she said. “What makes the most sense for Epix is authenticity and having distinctive voices, whether it’s through comedies or dramas.”

The scripted series will complement Epix’s lineup of 3,000 movie titles, original specials and sports documentaries like the recent The Road to the NHL Winter Classic.

Epix isn’t the only network looking to launch firsttime scripted content. Pivot and E!, are launching inaugural scripted shows this year.

Pivot on Jan. 29 will debut Fortitude, a suspense/drama series that focuses on a small, close-knit Arctic community that has never had a violent crime until a brutal murder changes everything. The series joins unscripted documentary series The Secret Lives of Americans on the Pivot lineup this year, the millennialsfocused network’s head of programming, Belisa Balaban, said at a Jan. 9 Television Critics Association Winter press tour presentation.

“We are about great storytelling through the eyes of individuals who captivate us and help illuminate the big, hairy, complicated issues of our lives,” Balaban said.

E! on March 15 will premiere its first original scripted series, The Royals, which chronicles the lives of a fictional monarchy in modern times. The network last week at its TCA Tour presentation said the series has been renewed for a second season.

R. Thomas Umstead

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.