“We keep making the same mistakes over and over again,” said Stephen Brown, executive VP of programming and development, Fox Television Stations, who had its own recent failure with the single-host format with The Ricki Lake Show. “We all keep doing that as a business and it keeps failing.”
Brown was part of a panel of syndication executives to close out The Content Show Thursday as part of NewBay Media’s NYC Television Week. B&C contributing editor Paige Albiniak moderated the panel.
“In 2011 we were all running around looking for the next Oprah,” added Alexandra Jewett, executive VP, programming, Debmar-Mercury. “There will be more Oprah’s, more Rosie’s [O’Donnell] and more Ellen’s down the road.” But finding those new faces has been tough, while other execs feel that the panel model better serves today’s audience.
“The idea of having the distinct points of view, the differing points of view, makes it more interesting to the viewer,” said Brown. “That idea that we are going to find the next Oprah – when we try to bring these single personalities one after another – I think that’s a faulty logic.”
Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president, creative affairs, CBS Television Distribution, added that “its inherently more interesting to have a panel instead of one host, unless that host is so captivating.” She also said that success with this format, naturally, breeds a slew of imitators. “Like anything, when something works there is a lot of imitation.”
Jewett argued that the panel format also makes it easier on programmers, as you are not reliant on one host to bring in viewers. “You can always swap somebody out who’s not connecting with the audience,” she said. “You have more room to grow, evolve and change.”
Even with the rise of the panel format, Jewett does not think the single-host format is gone forever. “I don’t think its dead… there will continue to be people who come down the pike who captivate a wide audience.”
A few other highlights from the session:
-- Estey McLoughlin was asked about the success of their rookie court show Hot Bench, which Estey McLoughlin gave much of the success to having a major name like Judge Judy on board. “It got people to sample it and build awareness more quickly than most shows do,” she said. "It’s hard to break through with another court show… there’s been so many it’s fragmented the audience.”
-- One of the few single-host shows, NBCUniversal Television Distribution’s rookie Meredith Vieira, already locked in a second-season renewal despite lackluster ratings. “I’m not surprised they are being patient with the show,” said Jewett.
-- With The Real and Dish Nation, FTS has the two youngest-skewing shows in syndication, with median audiences of 41 and 47, respectively. Brown however, argues those median ages speak to a major problem in the space. “I think that certainty speaks a lot to one of the endemic problems of syndication, is that it skews so old.”