Tough times for indies


New Orleans -- At a National Association of Television Programming Executives session Monday sponsored by Broadcasting &
and co-owned Multichannel News, a packed conference room heard
cable executives tell them what most of them must have already known: It's hard for
an independent producer to get a show on cable and elsewhere.

"We get 6,000 to 7,000 proposals in various forms every year," said Dan Salerno,
vice president of program planning for Discovery Networks U.S. Of those that make the
grade, he added, "the batting average is really quite low."

With ample time for questions and answers with the audience, executives also conceded to
one questioner that getting your foot in the door is the hard part.

Gary Garfinkel, VP of film acquisitions for Showtime Networks Inc.,
said most of the projects that get serious consideration are brought to Showtime
by "agents, managers or somebody we worked with before."

One audience member with a show to sell stood at a mike, proposal in hand,
and said to Garfinkel: "I see you are, like, 30 feet away. I think I could make
the dash," then bounded over the stage and left his one-page treatment.

The executives urged would-be producers to keep trying.

Asked one audience member: "What is the difference between persistence and
annoyance?" Answered Mary Silverman, senior VP of programs for Courtroom Television Network: "I think annoyance is great, unless you have been officially turned down.
It's a very annoying group of people in this business, so you might as well go
for it."