What’s Next After ‘Portlandia’ and How IFC Programs For Binge Viewers
At the TV Critics Association Winter Tour in Pasadena last week, cable networks and critics gathered not just to discuss the premieres of upcoming shows, but to also celebrate the stories and content that make their networks unique. We sat down with Christine Lubrano, IFC senior vice president of original programming, to talk about how her network creates new stories, keeps viewers excited, and imagines the future after the hit series, Portlandia.
“We are actively looking for projects that feature women's points of view, diverse casts, diverse points of view--that is super important to us as well as sketch,” said Lubrano. She noted that though IFC’s demographic is still more male than female, the network is striving to cater to both, like Portlandia did in the female sketch comedy world, and with IFC’s newly acquired female-led show, Baroness von Sketch Show.
But network executives, producers and writers have also been expanding upon the dynamic content they already have. Besides its sketch comedy, IFC also delves into horror comedy. Lubrano added that IFC recognizes that this segment of their audience--the Comic-Con fans--are viewers that prefer to binge. “Our goal is obviously to program the channel but we have to look at how people are consuming content,” said Lubrano.
So the network ended up doing just that. For the second season of Stan Against Evil, IFC started airing two episodes every week for an eight-episode season over four weeks rather than take eight weeks to air the entire season. “Fortunately at IFC, we are able to take certain liberties with our air schedule so that our audience can feel fulfilled and enjoy our shows in a way they might typically enjoy on another platform,” added Lubrano, who said the new schedule has worked wonders for the show.
While the network focuses on elevated creative, smart comedy and sketch, Lubrano indicated that what makes a show an “IFC show” has to do with how the network treats the actual writing process. For the past four years, IFC has developed a system that honors a long writing process before going into production. “When you are in development at IFC or producing for IFC, it's the number one goal of the original programming team to make sure that the writing experience and the production experience are in complete alignment with the creator's vision. Part of our process that we treasure more than anything is the writing period,” Lubrano explained.
She further elaborated that a lot of times the network will commission a full series worth of scripts before going into production, and while that’s labor intensive, the writer and creator get the chance to hone in on what the show is and should be. “The creative latitude that people have when they work with IFC is a tremendous positive and makes us very attractive for creators and writers, and I think that sets us apart.”
Lubrano also emphasized that IFC lives by its tagline: Always On, Slightly Off. “It's in our promos, in our online creative, in our marketing materials, in the tone of our shows. It’s embedded in the DNA of the channel, on air, off air. [Our content is] always packaged within the context of ‘slightly off,’” she added. “People are always looking for different points of view. People are always looking for things that are outside the mainstream. That slightly off-hook that we have gives us creative latitude and it’s what also sets us apart.”
Which goes to show that if the content is strong and connects with viewers, audiences will come and stay for a long time, even after a beloved and favorite series airs its final season.