Charting the next phase of The Launch

With season one in the books and the ink drying on a global deal with Sony Pictures Television, Bell Media president Randy Lennox talks key takeaways from the inaugural season.

With season one of The Launch now in the books, Bell Media president Randy Lennox (pictured) says the media co can shift its focus to what comes next. Namely: ensuring its newly announced partnership with Sony Pictures Television (SPT) allows the format to blossom internationally.

Last week, Bell Media revealed that SPT had acquired the format rights to the series, as well as season one of the show, which wrapped Wednesday night. As well, California-based SPT is in development on a U.K. version of the show via its London-based prodco subsidiary Electric Ray.

The format sale was a historic one for Bell Media in that it was the first time an original TV format for CTV had been sold for international distribution. Lennox said the property quickly became a hot commodity when it was introduced to buyers at MIPCOM late last year, which led to five “engaged and committed” international partners vying for the rights to take the show global, he told Playback Daily.

He added that Bell Media ultimately landed on SPT because the studio demonstrated its passion for the format. “The most important thing is that you always want to do business with someone who loves your show. [SPT] had people from three different continents on the first phone call meeting and a really comprehensive plan already prepared,” he said.

The deal wasn’t only a first for Bell Media and CTV. It also marked SPT’s first acquisition under its newly formed Future Formats Team, launched last month. The division aims to bring creatives from the international productions’ arm together with SPT’s distribution arm, with the goal of advising buyers on current and upcoming formats for their specific audiences.

“The U.K. is the ideal place for us to be making The Launch,” said Karl Warner, managing director of Electric Ray, adding that while the U.K. has a long history of successful music shows, like The X-Factor and The Voice, there’s room in the market for a behind-the-scenes making-of show like The Launch. 

“The U.K. is a key territory for launching new shows and success there will influence the rest of the world,” said Warner, who previously served as BBC Entertainment commissioner and executive editor.

In Canada, The Launch premiered on Jan. 10 to an average audience of 1.14 million viewers (2+) across CTV, CTV Two, Much, VRAK and Canal Vie, according to Numeris data provided by Bell Media. For its first five episodes, the show garnered an average of 869,000 (2+) viewers on CTV, CTV TWO, Much, Canal Vie and VRAK. Songs from the show also hit the #1 spot on many of the charts, including Logan Staats’ single “The Lucky Ones,” which landed at #1 on the iTunes song download chart in Canada.

In terms of what was learned during season one, Lennox said the show threw up a number of surprises. Chief among those was that around 34% of the streams for the songs came from outside of Canada, due largely to social-media sharing and the fact that some of performers have existing fan bases outside the country. All told, music from the show had been streamed around four million times heading into the finale episode. With the extensive promotion of the finale, that number increased significantly, Lennox added: “We were at 4 million streams [Thursday] morning when we sent out the press release at 5 a.m. We’re at 4.7 million right now at 2 p.m.,” said Lennox during an interview on Feb. 26.

Under the deal and releasing structure, Bell Media receives a cut of the profits from the songs released through the show. Bell Media and Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group also have option deals for recording, songwriting and publishing, as well as touring and merchandise rights, for all the artists.

As well, Lennox said that anecdotally the show had ended up over-indexing with family audiences, which was not necessarily the strategy heading in. “Inadvertently, we created a family show – I don’t think that we specifically said ‘this is going to be for mom, dad and all the kids,’” he said.

For the former music industry exec Lennox, who first joined Bell Media in summer 2015, he said the show ties together two phases of his career. “It’s been wonderful because it is really the marriage of my old life and my new life – it’s pretty much as 50-50 as it gets. I learned a lot on the TV side, it was rewarding on the music side, and so I’m humbled and very excited about the future around the property,” he said.