It took 13 years for “BattleBots” to return to TV. And this time, the show got a bit of an upgrade from its previous cable home, Comedy Central, to broadcast network, ABC.
Only the right combination of cultural movements and people could bring the robotic fighting challenge back to the small screen. But, it was clear that no one involved with the show lost heart.
“Trey [Roski] and I went through this agency, that agency, this executive producer, that production company,”
“BattleBots” co-founder and executive producer Greg Munson told Business Insider.
“I had always believed that it could be a broader show,” Chris Cowan also told Business Insider. He serves as executive producer for “BattleBots” and head of unscripted television for Whalerock Industries, the production company that would help usher the competition back to TV.
“BattleBots” was canceled in 2002, a time in which Viacom was buying out its partners in Comedy Central and the cable channel was returning to its comedy roots.
“BattleBots” co-founders Munson and Roski continued shopping the show around. At one point, movie director James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Avatar”) and reality TV titan Mark Burnett (“The Voice,” “Survivor”) were attached to the series.
“We got a yes from Discovery, because of [Cameron and Burnett],” Cowan said. “But for one reason or the next, it just never happened. Too bad, because it would have been pretty cool. But, it was actually a blessing in disguise. Over the years of fighting and trying to get this back to TV, it led us to Whalerock, a great group who believes in the same things that Trey and I believe in.”
With the right team in place (and it doesn’t hurt that Whalerock owner Lloyd Braun is a former ABC Entertainment chairman), some major cultural things also had to take place.
“Thirteen years is a fairly significant time in the television universe,” Cowan said. “The original show was so beloved that I felt there would be a core audience appetite, but I also felt that in the 13 years that passed that we as a society and a culture had become more tech-obsessed. Ultimately, it came down to three fortunate and zeitgeist obsessions that we have culturally now, which are sports, technology, and gaming.”
Munson agreed that a more robot and tech-friendly culture was helpful to the show, but he also felt that the success of another cable show paved the way for “BattleBots.”
“Something as simple as ‘American Ninja Warrior’ making the jump from G4, Esquire to NBC was a huge help for us,” Munson explained. “That is competition show that really feels cable. I mean if you were talking to TV people, they would really say it’s a cable show. ‘Battlebots’ is in that same vein, but guess what? They jumped to NBC and found some success. So, that opened the door for people to consider ‘Battlebots,’ a show from Comedy Central, to go to ABC. So, I think it was a combination of the zeitgeist and network TV being more open for these types of shows.”
“BattleBots” has fared pretty well at its 9 p.m. time slot on Sundays. It has averaged a 1.4 rating with the advertiser-friendly Adults aged 18 to 49 years old and 4.6 million total viewers, according to Nielsen.
And while ABC hasn’t ordered a second season yet, the producers sound confident as we approach Sunday’s finale episode.
“We don’t know about Season 2 and I don’t want to jinx it,” Munson said. “But, if you look at the Magic 8-Ball, it would say, ‘All signs point to yes.'”
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