TV Land Sitcoms Go Live To Build Appointment Buzz

Live-event programming has served up big ratings for cable networks in recent months, and now one network will adapt the format for its original scripted series.

TV Land is looking to live telecasts of popular sitcoms Hot in Cleveland and The Soul Man, set for March 26, to deliver big audiences and boost the shows’ respective brands.

Even as viewers consume more timeshifted television via DVRs or on-demand, live-event programming continues to draw appointment-viewing audiences. Time spent viewing time-shifted shows is up by two hours, to 14 hours in fourth-quarter 2013 from 12 in 2012, according to a recent Nielsen Cross-Platform Report.

A virtue of live telecasts is that viewers tune in to see content happening in the moment, and then chat about it in real time on social media.

On Feb. 22, TV One’s live telecast of the NAACP Image Awards drew a network-record 935,000 viewers. Discovery Channel drew its biggest audience since 2000 last June 23, when 12 million viewers tuned into a live telecast of Nik Wallenda’s successful Grand Canyon crossing. And sports fans shelled out a record $150 million in pay-per-view revenues to watch Showtime’s Sept. 14 Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez boxing telecast.

National Geographic Channel was also hoping to pin down big ratings for its March 14 Live From Space two-hour special from the International Space Station.

TV Land wants to add some buzz for Hot in Cleveland and The Soul Man with the live crossover episodes, beginning with the season-five premiere of Hot in Cleveland at 10 p.m. and the third-season debut of The Soul Man at 10:30 p.m.

Hot in Cleveland‘s Betty White and The Soul Man star Cedric the Entertainer will appear in both episodes, TV Land officials said.

TV Land has experimented with live telecasts before. The network offered a live episode of Hot in Cleveland on June 19, which averaged 2.7 million viewers on a live-plus-sevenday basis, a gain from the show’s fourth-season average of 2.1 million viewers.

Live episodes bring another dimension to the look and feel of a show, TV Land president Larry Jones said.

“Normally, it takes about three to four hours to get a 22-minute show out, but this is straight 22 minutes — whatever happens, happens,” Jones said. “Everyone is on their game, they are nervous and excited — it adds a level of adrenaline and creativity to whomever is on that stage both in front of and behind the camera that’s really fun and electrifying. That translates well to the viewers back at home.”

TV Land also hopes the live shows will generate a ratings boost. The network averaged 771,000 viewers in primetime during the month of February, a 1% increase from the same period last year.

“The challenge and risk that accompanies airing live content is what appeals to viewers,” Jones said. “From a promotional standpoint it creates live tune-in because everybody wonders what’s going to happen, so it adds a level of excitement for the viewer at home to be more compelled to watch it live.”


TV Land is looking to boost appointment viewing by turning the March 26 episodes of Hot in Cleveland and The Soul Man into a live, crossover event.

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.