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Sony Exec Explains How Deal With Yahoo For Community Happened
Posted by Joseph Lee on 07.01.2014



In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sony Pictures Television president of programming and production Zack Van Amburg spoke about how the deal with Yahoo happened in order to give fans their sixth season of Community. Here are highlights:

On how the deal happened: "Here's the good news: For most of the big services, including cable networks that preexisted, it really just takes one show. I think we've proven that we have a built-in fan base. I'm less concerned about finding audience on Yahoo than I was at 8 p.m. on NBC. We had no lead-ins because we were kicking off the night. And when you take a look at the ratings on NBC, we did better than everything that followed us and preceded us at 8 on Thursday night. The show has a rabid fan base that I think will come to it no matter where it is. More importantly, we have a younger, very savvy audience that understands shows exist in alternative places. There will be strong online appeal. There's going to be a groundswell of support. The Yahoo people said something very interesting: They're looking to create shows and content for people that didn't know that that's what they wanted. Meaning they're very encouraging on the fact that strong word-of-mouth and good buzz is going to bring an audience. But they also believe they have a real plan to intro Community to a whole new audience that may not have heard of it yet. All those marketing plans are going to be forthcoming, but they were pretty savvy about what their new plan is. In terms of their slow rollout, in our history as a studio, The Shield went to FX at a time when nobody really knew what FX was. Breaking Bad went to AMC at a time where nobody knew what AMC was because we sold that and Mad Men hadn't been on the air yet and there was no original strategy there. We've been in early on the Netflix side of things and are very encouraged. I have nothing but genuine high hopes for Yahoo, particularly when you talk to the management there. They're really savvy and part of why you haven't seen a lot come from them is because they want to be very strategic and specific about how to be successful. We certainly liked what we were hearing from them."

On other networks being interested: "I always think the easiest thing to do when a show gets canceled is to convince its home network that they were wrong in their cancellation. The truth about the upfronts is that people are pressured to make decisions, and you try to make the best decision with the information that's in front of you. But I often think what doesn't happen is taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. We're always hopeful that we can keep a show as we did with CBS' Unforgettable. I got a nice note this morning from Nina Tassler saying the show is fantastic and she's happy to have it. That was canceled a few years ago and, out of the rush of May, she looked up and said it made sense to keep it. The hope is always to try your best to keep the show on the originating network. That wasn't in the cards. The conversations were as wide as you could imagine. We called other broadcast networks. There wasn't a lot of room on the schedule and it was a strange comedy year for the other broadcast networks. We had targeted conversations cable-wise and most aggressively with Hulu. They made a significant offer on the show, but it was Yahoo that surprised us all and came in so aggressively and positively."

On if there could be a seventh season: "I don't know, let's see how our movie does! Isn't that our plan? There's no way we're not making the movie now! I think once we make the movie, let's look up and decide how much more Community the world wants. We promised six seasons and a movie, how much more do you want?! [Laughs.] I'd be lying if I told you that we have not had some very early and preliminary conversations that are very exciting about what a potential movie could be and who might direct it. It's early but it's completely in our thought process."





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