LA Screenings 2014: Comic Book Adaptations Lead Drama Boom, Will It Result In Greater Sales?

LA Screenings 2014 (FT)

With the screenings now underway in Los Angeles, this year’s drama boom, which features a large number of comic book adaptations, has led to one prevailing question: will the greater number of drama entries equal greater sales?

Buyers from across the world, the UK included, have now descended of the city of Los Angeles and over the course of this week will be entertained by the six major studios as they showcase their new crop of shows, hoping for those very lucrative international sales that will inevitably follow. The screenings are drama heavy this year, with only a handful of new comedy series from the networks on offer.

GothamThe large number of drama offerings are being led by some very high profile comic book series. From Warner Bros Television’s Gotham, Constantine and The Flash, through to ABC Studios’ Agent Carter. Beyond comic books there are a number of high concept series such as CBS Television Studios Madam Secretary and Universal Television’s State of Affairs. Other notable dramas include 20th Century Fox Television’s Empire and Backstrom, ABC Studios Red Band Society and WBTV’s Stalker.

While there are notably fewer entries, things aren’t exactly quiet on the comedy side – though the new comedy that most international buyers were anticipating, 20th Century Fox Television’s How I Met Your Dad, did not get the series order many had expected. Fox still has Mulaney, which thanks to comments made by Kevin Reilly has already earned the nickname “Seinfeld 2.0”. Sony Pictures Television is shopping Marry Me, which hails from Happy Endings‘ David Caspe. While ABC Studios has Benched, Black-ish and Galavant; with Warner Bros showcasing One Big Happy and Selfie, amongst others.

This year’s drama heavy focus from the networks and studios comes after the past two years saw comedy taking greater prominence and, on a certain level, failing to perform both domestically in the United States and amongst international buyers. The general consensus amongst said buyers and distribution executives has long been that drama has a far easier time of going global than comedy does (last year one exec told TVWise that “comedy doesn’t always translate internationally”). That being the case, with this year’s screenings being drama heavy  – with a 65%/35% split – the question circulating is “will that lead to greater sales?”

The FlashThe atmosphere and general feeling from buyers in the bubble of LA is usually a good indicator of things to come. Last year, mid-way through the screenings the mood was up-beat and the assumption from several key execs was that 2013-2014 would lead to greater sales – and it did. It’s a little early but the mood is certainly mixed at present.

That is especially true when it comes to comic book series. Gotham and The Flash will be big sellers, of that there is no doubt. Very few are talking about Constantine this early, but odds are good that WB will get a decent amount of interest. ABC Studios may have a harder time with Agent Carter, which may struggle with its short order (8 episodes) and the issue certain international broadcasters had with SHIELD last year.

While things are a little quiet this early into the screenings, one exec told me last night that she was confident that once the screenings were in full swing, especially on the Warner Bros lot, the excitement would become “palpable”. With strong pilots from the studios such as Stalker, State Of Affairs, Madam Secretary and the sure to be hot CSI: Cyber and NCIS: New Orleans, its safe to assume that this year’s resurgence of drama at the networks will soon extend globally.