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Upfronts 2018: IFC brings more 'Brockmire,' short-form fare to the pitch

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Upfronts 2018: IFC brings more 'Brockmire,' short-form fare to the pitch

As IFC (US) heads into upfront negotiations, it will take more swings with its baseball-announcer send-up series, as well as a new round of its mockumentary show, and a host of sponsorable short-form fare, executives said during the network's upfront presentation March 29.

In an interview after the presentation, AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll expressed enthusiasm for IFC’s short-form, branded-content gambits.

He also reiterated what he said on the company’s fourth-quarter 2017 earnings call that the programmer does not plan to emulate some other media companies in selectively decreasing the number of ad units it sells. “We’re going to keep things steady,” he said.

AMC Networks goes to market with a portfolio play across IFC, AMC (US), BBC America (US), WE tv (US) and SundanceTV (US) and their related properties. It also pitches a subset centered around the scripted series proffered by AMC, SundanceTV and BBC America. "It’s been effective for us," Carroll said.

IFC, he said, attracts its share of marketers, owing to relative genre scarcity: "A lot of advertisers like comedy, but have hard time finding the right vehicles. It's a comfortable place to be."

AMC Networks Inc.'s comedy channel has ordered third and fourth seasons of "Brockmire," starring Hank Azaria as a boozy major league broadcaster who is relegated to the minors following an on-air crash when he learned of his wife’s infidelity, before the sophomore campaign steps to the mic April 25. The eight-installment rookie run was the highest-rated new show in the network's history. "Brockmire's" ascendance comes as IFC wound down its long-running signature series, "Portlandia."

Meanwhile, the Emmy-nominated mockumentary show, "Documentary Now!" will return to IFC in 2019. Production on the new season begins in June and will include "One Giant Leap," a take on HBO's miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon."

Seth Meyers, co-creator of the series, expressed gratitude for IFC's patience, as the second season concluded in 2016, and hoped the absence will make viewers' eyeballs grow fonder: "I think when we come back — you know, fingers crossed — when you take time and come back you do 'Roseanne' numbers," he joked, alluding to the reboot of the ABC (US) sitcom that impressively drew over 18 million viewers for its March 27 return.

The cast of Canadian sketch show "Baroness von Sketch Show," the second season of which is slated to air on IFC, was also in the house.

So, too, were IFC President Jennifer Caserta, who noted that "the world needs a little smart comedy right now," and Blake Calloway, executive vice president of marketing and digital media. He noted the network’s "slightly off" initiative, which features short-form linear and digital content entries like FODtv (Funny or Die Television) that debuted last fall and interrupted the network’s prime-time film slate across all platforms.

Beginning April 20, the network is traveling back to the '80s on Friday with a revival of "Night Flight," the decade's pop culture show that featured such guests as Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, The Sex Pistols, Gumby and the late David Bowie. Eighteen 15-minute episodes are on tap.

Thursday will become "Bingo Night" beginning April 26, when IFC will air an interactive weekly game during the breaks of the network’s prime-time movie. Marketers are encouraged to sponsor and supply the prizes, according to Calloway.

He was also pitching "Sloth TV," a curated ode to "slow content" and a digital initiative set to premiere this fall.

After the presentation, Calloway said Sloth TV is an homage to the yule log and the network has "a calendar" of other ideas, including a grandmother knitting during "sweater season. We'll sell it to Kohl's. I'm making that it up," he said, before turning more serious. "We'd love to sell it to a single sponsor and promote in on air, 'Sloth TV presented this month by.' We can constantly reinvent things."