I've heard many television executives claim that the days of parents and kids sitting down together in front of the TV are gone forever. As a mom, TV viewer and someone who, while I was president of Fox Family Channel and Fox Kids Network, commissioned more focus groups with parents across the country than I care to count, I disagree. Even TV Guide
recently brought back its "Family Page" based, in part, on people constantly asking, "What can I watch together with my kids?" So, why aren't more television networks meeting this need?
Many don't believe that you can find shows that appeal to adults and
kids and that will also
score big in prime time ratings (my partners and I intend to show them otherwise) because "family entertainment" has gotten the image of being just for little kids. In some cases, it is. But the best of true family programming entertains parents as well as their children. So, rather than backing away from a challenge—especially one of perception—we producers should meet it head on and create great entertainment that just happens to appeal to families.
To succeed, we need to show that family entertainment doesn't have to be about
families, but made for
families. Today's families. I doubt that many people would pitch American Idol
as "family entertainment," yet it delivered adults, kids and even (gasp!) teens, all at the same time (double gasp!). I don't recall any four-letter words and only an occasional exposed belly button, but it proved it could be a hit anyway. And, on the other end of the "family" spectrum, at this time of year I'm always reminded that holiday specials are great proof that co-viewing still exists. It can be done. It's all about great product.
More and more frequently, harried parents, looking for easy and affordable ways to share time and experiences with their children (and content that they, the parents, will actually enjoy) are choosing family entertainment on home video and DVD.
First, there is the convenience of being able to sit down with the entire family at any time that is suitable to their hectic schedule.
Secondly, parents are in control of the content.
Third, and probably most important, parents can relate to their children through a similar shared experience, such as recounting their awe the first time they saw ET
or the way a magical holiday special, like Rudolph, brings out the kid in all of us. I think this is why, if you look at the top selling video/DVD titles of all time, you'll find so many family and holiday classics at the top of the list.
If we need to go this route, then we must "pitch" directly to the most important persons in the entire business—the consumers—and convince them that our video/DVD provides at least
$15-$20 dollars' worth of entertainment. Ironically, most of those target consumers fall into television's prized 18-49 category.
So, in a broad sense, the people that I make programming for and those that TV networks want to deliver are really the same. However, the way my partners and I go about it will involve different budgets, a different way of attracting talent and more focus on creating new classics to top those best-seller lists. And, if we have to call it something other than "family entertainment" to change perceptions, so be it.