Ready Set Summer

Arthur Smith Ready Set Summer
With the season 8 premiere of American Ninja Warrior arriving June 1 on NBC, executive producer Arthur Smith of A Smith & Co. talked to Cynopsis about the keys to a successful summer series.

Cynopsis: Do the elements of a successful summer series different from what makes a regular season series work?

Arthur Smith: All successful series must carry the same key ingredients — regardless of season. The three “must haves” for success are: casting, format, and execution. If those three things are in place and firing on all cylinders, then the show is in position to do well. Of course, there are a number of other factors for success including marketing and scheduling but those are the 3 keys for producers. There are certain programs that feel just “right” for summer, and American Ninja Warrior is one of them.

What can be tricky about summer programming is that the holidays can be really disruptive to building and maintaining momentum. You have Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, so you have to keep those in mind so you can navigate a plan around those holidays and adjust accordingly. In addition, summer travel by millions of Americans during the summer can make it more challenging to maintain audiences. The advantage that American Ninja Warrior has, is that it has great “accessibility,” as viewers can drop in on the show at any point and feel satisfied. The show rewards the long-time viewer, as well as the viewer who likes their shows in bite-sized chunks. Although there is a continuing arc, each show and for that matter, each “run” stands on its own.

Cynopsis: What changes are in store for the new season?

Smith: Coming off of our biggest season yet where history was made with two finishers and one winner at Mount Mydoriyama, this off season was our busiest and unlike anything we have experienced so far. Our research and development was taken to a whole new level. We’re debuting 28 new obstacles this year. We raised the iconic Warped Wall six inches higher to increase the difficulty. Every location is new this year and we’re filming the show in four new cities: Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia. We’re going to be showing more new faces, too – submissions are up way up from last year. We had over 70,000 applicants – by far the most ever.

Cynopsis: How do you explain the rise of female competitors? What impact has “Mighty Kacy” had on the show and its audience?

Smith: Without question the “Kacy effect” has been huge. Her accomplishments have created a ton of attention. But very quickly on the heels of Kacy, we also saw amazing performances from Megan Martin, and Jessi Graff, and Michell Warnky, to name a few. This group of women have created such wonderful positive momentum for the last few years and it is not surprising to see the rise of female competitors. Every year the numbers go up for woman competitors but the biggest increase was this off season as we had 40 per cent more woman applying this year than last year!