Los Angeles -- The changing landscape of television has
forced network executives to find innovative ways to reach audiences, something
the panelists at the Media Leaders Summit session at the 2013 PromaxBDA Conference
at the JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE Tuesday regarded as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
The panel, which included Kevin Beggs, president of
Lionsgate Television Group; Salaam Coleman Smith, president of Style Media;
and Michael Wright, president and head of programming at TBS, TNT and Turner
Classic Movies, agreed that networks have started to capitalize on the summer
months to keep viewers tuning in.
"It's a different world than that 10-month network
cycle and that six-week break that it used to be," said Beggs, who noted that
"networks can no longer rely on reruns to draw eyes."
Wright agreed. "I think broadcast is doing something
that they've always wanted to do, but the economic model has gotten in the way
in the past," explaining that the traditional method of a September-to-May
premiere period with an encore in the summer is now being challenged with
summer and limited series.
Smith said that Style Network, like sister network Bravo,
launches an entire campaign to promote summer series, with previews starting as
early as April. "That's where we usually premiere our highest-rated shows.
We attract very young viewers in the summertime, and young people are drawn to
a very optimistic, feel-good type of programming."
The panel also discussed how digital advances have increased
their networks' reach, perhaps the most game-changing being the advent of DVR.
"I don't know how many people in this room actually
turn on a channel and watch it, as opposed to turning on the DVR and saying,
'Which of my five or six favorite shows and I going to sit down and
watch?'" said Wright.
One of the criticisms of digital platforms -- particularly
Netflix -- is that they encourage binge-watching and impair the network's
ability to build and sustain a fan base. Coleman Smith was quick to point out,
however, that in many ways, these platforms essentially offer the networks free
marketing, in that viewers can get hooked on a current show by getting
unlimited access to the first few seasons, and stay hooked by ensuring that
they never miss an episode.
"People are self-curating," Wright said, but adds
that television networks do still serve a function in the revolutionized TV
ecosystem. "I don't think linear TV goes away. I think we still need
brands and networks to help an audience curate."
Networks can utilize digital content to perform this
function, the panel agreed. Coleman Smith said that by watching online Style Pop tips or immediately purchasing
an item seen on a show, her viewers are able to engage immediately with a
program, a point echoed by the men, both of whom championed "mini talk
shows" and online extras that allow viewers to extend their
Smith suggested that digital opportunities merely offer enhanced ways for viewers to
do what they've always done -- share an experience. "It doesn't matter how
you're consuming it, people don't want to miss out on the conversation. People
really want to be part of that moment."
The panel was moderated by Michael Schneider, Los Angeles Bureau Chief, TV Guide Magazine.