Willing to Mess WithThe Rules to Succeed

At summer TCA, top network executives offer glimpses into their strategies for the season ahead
Author:
Publish date:

amorabito@nbmedia.com | @andreamorabito


Why This Matters

The TCA press tour sees
network chiefs looking for
any kind of programming/PR advantage in the ever-shifting multiplatform universe.

Broadcast network execs spent the last week appearing on stage at the Television Critics Association summer press tour peddling their wares for the new season. But in the unrelenting world of network TV, the development process is already about to begin anew. Here’s what to expect from each network as they approach fall.

NBC: “We need to be in the event business.”

—Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt

One lost count of the number of times Greenblatt used “event” in his TCA remarks, underscoring the importance of driving live viewership to the No. 3-rated network. He expressed hope that several new scripted series including The Michael J. Fox Show, The Blacklist and Dracula will have an event feel. The network also just ordered four new miniseries based on Hillary Clinton, Rosemary’s Baby, Stephen King’s Tommyknockers and Plymouth Rock.

But NBC is also looking for more live events, like its two-week game show The Million Second Quiz and staging of The Sound of Music to supplement specials such as the Golden Globe Awards and Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks. “We’re looking for more and more of those kind of events,” Greenblatt said. “We have a slew of specials coming this year, several of which we will announce over the next few weeks.”

CBS: “As much as we are a traditional network, and we are, and we’re very profitable doing that, we still are open to any way of doing business, as long as we can put on good shows and make it profitable.”

—CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves

Amid a changing broadcast ecosystem, CBS is still seeing great success under the traditional model with hits such as NCIS and The Big Bang Theory. But its 13-episode, serialized hit Under the Dome changed the rules for summer programming this year, and Moonves, pinch-hitting for entertainment president Nina Tassler at TCA, sees a place for new models on CBS’ stable slate.

Though he noted CBS wouldn’t have picked up the upcoming Hostages three years ago, the multiplatform syndication deal for The Good Wife and unique financing arrangment for Dome pointed to a business model for such serialized fare. Moonves said he expects Hostages to appear on an SVOD service after its 15-episode first season.

The CW: “We do want to expand upon the DC universe. We think they have rich characters that we can use.”

—Network president Mark Pedowitz

Copying what works is de rigueur in the TV business, so it’s not surprising that a season after Arrow launched to The CW’s biggest audience in three years, the drama will introduce The Flash as a recurring character for a potential spinoff.

It’s hard to launch new series in today’s fractured media landscape, and even harder for a net with a smaller audience like The CW. That’s why the network has leaned on franchises in the past with Beauty and the Beast and The Carrie Diaries and this fall’s Vampire Diaries spinoff, The Originals. “We do believe we can launch without necessarily having that franchise bit,” Pedowitz said. “But having those franchises allows you also to incubate and get new product to come out and increases your development capability.”

FOX: “We have been bound by certain practices that were born in a different era, that we are, at Fox, going to begin now pushing back on.”

—Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly

In a lively session, Reilly advocated for breaking out of the traditional 35-week TV season and—not for the first time—called for banning the distinction of midseason. This time around, Fox will take a more gradual rollout of its premieres, launching three new series in the fall; two each in November, January and spring; and the event series 24 and Wayward Pines in late spring.

And despite scheduling originals on Friday in previous seasons that never came to bear, Reilly insisted he’s committed to expanding the night beyond leftovers with two comedies and the relocation of Bones. “That’s not putting a show out to stud,” he said. “That’s putting a show people want to watch, on a Friday night, to begin building that night.”

Related