NYTVF: Hammer, Rosen Weigh In On Current State of the Industry

Broadcast and station business, Nielsen and TV development cycle among topics

The broadcast and station business, Nielsen and the TV development cycle were all topics of discussion at an “Industry Day” panel at the New York Television Festival Sept. 22.

NATPE President Rick Feldman moderated the panel, which was comprised of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment President Bonnie Hammer and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment Head of Television Rick Rosen.

Rosen was bearish on the future of the broadcast and station business, though he said that it was unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

“The station business is a very challenged business,” Rosen said. “I don’t think advertising in free television will ever be what it once was, it will still be a good business but there are probably too many stations to support the existing model.”

Part of the challenge facing local stations is the sudden growth of Web outlets competing for local eyeballs.

“I do believe online is coming into that world,” Hammer said. “It is no longer one size fits all.”

The cable business drew a much more positive response from the panel, who noted that the dual revenue streams are helping to offset some of the losses resulting from the depressed advertising market.

But a big problem that still needs to be resolved is how to accurately measure the audience in an effort to attract the most favorable advertising rates. While Nielsen was never mentioned by name, the panelists were all eager to see a change in measurement.

“How do you measure aggregated eyeballs watching your piece of content? We have 50% more people watching our programs [when you count] DVR, and we cant sell that,” Hammer said, referring to the Live + 7 day ratings measurement. “Somebody has got to accurately measure this.”

“How TV shows are measured is an archaic system, it is an anachronism,” Rosen said. “The ratings do not accurately reflect who is watching the show and that is something that has to be rectified.”

CIMM, which was formed by the major media companies to find a more all encompassing measurement system to compete with Nielsen, received a brief mention from the panel, though they added it was still to early to see how it would try and rectify the problems with the existing system.

On the topic of the development cycle, all three declared that the traditional system, with the broadcasters ordering pilots at the end of the year and orders to series in May, was essentially dying.

“I think it was pretty obvious that there way no way to really continue a development process where you would pump money into a project that never hits the air or is on for 4 or 5 episodes,” Feldman said.

Hammer noted that while cable has traditionally thrived during the summer, networks are beginning to reach out to compete with broadcasters year round.

“In the early days [launching in summer ] would help us break through all the clutter,” Hammer said. “We are now taking the step of putting our shows almost toe-to-toe with the broadcasters.”

Jay Leno, who has been the subject of much attention with his stripped comedy show at 10 p.m., was also discussed as part of shaking up the development cycle. Hammer praised her parent company for trying to shake up the status quo and try something new and different in an attempt to make the model work.

Rosen, who represents current Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien, as well as a number of writers and producers, was more skeptical.

“To the extent that it takes jobs away from talented writers, it is concerning,” he said.