HRTS News – HRTS In-Focus http://blog.hrts.org News, Notes & Commentary on the world of HRTS Thu, 11 May 2017 01:12:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 http://blog.hrts.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-hrts-2014-32x32.gif HRTS News – HRTS In-Focus http://blog.hrts.org 32 32 A Moment in Time: Must See TV http://blog.hrts.org/2017/02/hrts-news/a-moment-in-time-must-see-tv/ Wed, 22 Feb 2017 01:33:46 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3738

Friends and family

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February 7, 2017. Beverly Wilshire. Hundreds of industry movers and shakers gathered together to enjoy a moment in time, the Must See TV of 90s NBC. The stage played host to reunited family members Warren Littlefield, Kevin Reilly, John Landgraf, David Nevins, Karey Burke, Robin Schwartz and Preston Beckman, who engaged in a candid, freewheeling discussion moderated by WME’s Rick Rosen.

Rosen began by noting “some incredible statistics to think about in today’s universe: in 1994-95, on an average Thursday night, 75 million Americans watched NBC”. He added that during the heyday of Must See TV, NBC won 168 Emmys, an unprecedented amount.

So what exactly was in the water? Littlefield, then President of NBC Entertainment, credited his mentor, Grant Tinker, saying that “Grant didn’t pontificate a lot but one of the things he told us when we were kids running around the network is to stop thinking about the audience as a bunch of aliens out there that you’re trying to figure out and just put shows on that you would watch”. At the beginning of the 90s, NBC was mired in last place and Tinker’s advice was to “first be best, then be first”. As for other secrets of their collective success, Reilly said that “I look down this line and I genuinely like and genuinely respect everyone on this panel, and there’s not a lot of organizations where you can say that”.

So what was it that made Must See TV so memorable?
Let’s begin the hit parade:


ER

IMG_4802-02-07-17-CHYNA PHOTOGRAPHYER is an iconic show that ran for 16 seasons, with Rosen asking “what happened when ER came into the room?” Reilly and Nevins related that it was a 175-page long, “trunk job”, as in a script that had long been sitting gathering dust in a trunk, a script that Michael Crichton had written in 1973. After a few fits and starts, NBC shot it as a pilot and didn’t think it would be a huge hit but they did think it was really good. Drama was out of favor on television and when they screened the pilot, Nevins said that “it went over like a lead balloon”. Reilly concurred, adding “it was like someone farted in the room”.

Despite the poor initial reception, the NBC team believed that they had something great and they moved forward, with Littlefield saying that “in the network universe, shows succeed because someone within that organization was willing to die for that show”. As for scheduling, Rosen noted that CBS in 1994 had a medical pilot from David E. Kelley and that show got even more buzz around town than did ER, asking the team how this affected their process. Nevins said that “a current report from CBS started floating around NBC”, drawing a huge laugh when he added “and we were like ‘holy shit, in the first episode of Chicago Hope they’re transplanting a baboon’s heart into a little baby! They’re gonna kick our ass!’”. Schwartz added that people were concerned about ER’s frenetic pace, saying “and there was that moment of ‘It moves too fast! It moves too fast! You’ve gotta slow it down!’”IMG_4620-02-07-17-CHYNA PHOTOGRAPHY

Despite all of the obstacles, Littlefield confirmed that ultimately “we believed in the writers and the producers, the showrunners who had a vision”. He added that the sales department shared ER out at a 22 rating, but the NBC creative team believed it was better than that and so held back a lot of inventory. Two months into its run, ER had a 45 share.

FRIENDS

Burke heard the initial pitch for FRIENDS and Rosen asked her how it played in the room. She laughed as she replied “I can’t remember what I had for breakfast but I remember that pitch”, going on to add that creators Kauffman and Crane “were finishing each other’s sentences, and it was so clear that they knew each other so intimately”. They were playwrights and pitched the show “like a two-hander play, it was like watching George and Gracie”. At that time, Landgraf was the new kid on the block and his expertise was drama, he laughed as he recalled “I didn’t know anything about comedy, I had literally zero experience in comedy and so my main contribution in that year was to give terrible, sucky notes to David Crane and Marta Kauffman”.

WILL & GRACE

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Back in the 1990s, openly gay characters on network television were very controversial. Rosen asked Schwartz about the development of the first show to feature an openly gay lead, and she related how the whole NBC team went on a corporate retreat and “at the end, Warren gave us all these rocks, this big garden rock and on the rock it said ‘RISK’” and then when the final script for Will & Grace was ready, Nevins and Schwartz’s team snuck into Littlefield’s office and “we put that script on Warren’s desk and we all piled our rocks, this big mountain of rocks that said ‘RISK’”.

Nevins recalled how he and Littlefield and their team had a meeting with their common boss and at the end of the meeting their boss asked “what f-king world do you live in where you think America wants to watch this?” Littlefield greenlit the pilot anyway and related how “that night when we were on the CBS Radford stage where the Will & Grace pilot shot, the audience were stomping, screaming, and that was it, I said ‘this is a hit show’”. Landgraf said that “the pilot played as a brilliant, riveting love story between a gay man and a heterosexual woman and the audience responded to it, it was profound”.

SEINFELD

IMG_4737-02-07-17-CHYNA PHOTOGRAPHYAs for the show about nothing, Littlefield noted its atypical origins, saying “the pilot screened great, we loved it and then the research report came in and it was probably the lowest-testing pilot in the history of NBC”. The report said that “these are losers. It’s not funny”. Beckman and others were strong believers in the show and so the team decided to move forward. In that year, NBC had already picked up a bunch of other shows and didn’t have much room left in their primetime budget and so they took money away from late night, from a Bob Hope special, and Littlefield called Jerry Seinfeld to say “we’re going to continue the show, we’re ordering four episodes”. Jerry was quiet and respectful and said “just one question: in the history of television, has anything ever worked with a four-episode order?”, Littlefield said he didn’t know, Seinfeld agreed to move forward and “that began the marriage”. The power of good content cannot be overstated, with Littlefield noting how “in the 90s at NBC that show was a beacon to the creative community, the kind of beacon that kept all of us in our jobs”.

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Welcome New HRTS Members http://blog.hrts.org/2016/10/membership-spotlight/welcome-new-hrts-members-october-2016/ Thu, 20 Oct 2016 18:16:15 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3645 We would like to take this opportunity to welcome the following new members to HRTS. Should you have any questions about your benefits as a member, please email us at info@hrts.org or call 818-789-1182.

New HRTS Members

Phillip Segal - Original Productions
Eli Holzman
 - The Intellectual Property Corporation
Tobey List - Pivot/Participant Media
Eric Gronemeyer - Discovery Communications
Frank Donner - BLKBX Creative Group
Gary Rosenson - Playboy TV, LLC
Christopher Smith - NBC Universal
Alireza Ghaemian - Levity Entertainment Group

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HRTS State of the Industry: Non Scripted – Changing Faces http://blog.hrts.org/2016/06/hrts-news/hrts-state-of-the-industry-non-scripted-changing-faces/ Wed, 01 Jun 2016 23:23:17 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3478 IMG_4893-05.24.16-Chyna PhotographyMay 24, 2016. Beverly Hilton. Hundreds of TV movers and shakers gathered together to discuss the changing face of television during the HRTS State of the Industry – Non Scripted luncheon.

Variety’s Michael Schneider moderated a candid, freewheeling discussion with Endemol Shine’s Charlie Corwin, Warner Bros’ Mike Darnell, FremantleMedia’s Trish Kinane, NBC Entertainment’s Paul Telegdy and WME’s Sean Perry.

Santa Claus is coming to town. Or more correctly, to the set of the Bachelorette. Schneider asked Darnell how that works exactly and the latter chuckled as he said “we have to reinvent every year, there’s only so much you can do”, adding “there are very few shows that have been on that long and are still doing those numbers, it’s an amazing show”.

With the unscripted segment of the industry maturing, with shows that have been on the air for 15 years or more, Schneider wondered if there’s still shelf space for new entries. Perry said that there is always room but when selling a new show the question always is if “it’s better to go try six episodes of this new thing or put the money towards six more episodes of the show that’s working?” Corwin acknowledged that Big Brother is returning for Season 18, adding that “you could say that reality is a victim of its own success in a way, because some of these formats last so long that they’re almost like sporting events. When you talk about some of these shows with 20+ seasons it’s like the Super Bowl”.

Telegdy and Darnell recently launched a hit show with “Little Big Shots”, with the former crediting their host by saying “I think it’s a case study in Steve Harvey, in how he connects with audiences” and the latter then adding that “sometimes things have what I call magic dust on them, like when we did Idol, just once in a while you have that show and Little Big Shots felt like that to me”.

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Trish Kinane

Do you need a big name to have a big show?  As the former EP of American Idol, Kinane offered her perspective by noting that “I’m not sure that these days if you had Simon Cowell, relatively unknown, Paula and Randy, I’m not sure that it would work. And we all talk about it, could you go back to that or do you need the big celebrity?” Darnell concurred, adding that celebrities are now much more willing to do unscripted, since “when I was looking to replace Ellen on Idol and we were talking to J. Lo we had to really talk her into it”.

Schneider noted that American Idol was for many years the 800-pound gorilla in the room, going on to ask Darnell if he ever thought it would end, and if he was nostalgic about the show. Darnell drew a big laugh when he quipped “I left three years ago, so….it’s been off the air to me”, adding that “when you have a ship that big, I always say it’s like the Titanic because it is, something that huge, once it starts going down it is impossible to keep it from going down”. Kinane agreed, adding “I think it was a victim of its own success, it could never be what it was in its heyday”, and as for whether it will ever come back, “who knows, as Ryan said at the end of the finale”.

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(Left) Paul Telegdy, (Right) Sean Perry

Noting that as some of the long-running shows continue on they get more and more expensive to produce, Schneider wondered how that changes the game. Telegdy said that “obviously the environment has changed enormously and technology has sort of stuck a bomb underneath the audience and it’s spread everywhere to the four corners so we’re dealing with that fragmentation” and “fragmentation, lower ratings, means that we’re taking in less money” though with the strength of broadcast advertising they are still economically viable. Corwin added that “it’s important for producers to expand beyond broadcast, beyond cable as well, even though reality is still working well on both of those” since “we need to figure out how this programming lives on SVOD, how it exists on other digital platforms”. Perry pointed out that unlike a scripted drama with set overhead production costs, “we live in a world where you can do shows like Hollywood Game Night for a real number, the ratings are solid on it but if it was a two million dollar per episode show it would be gone”.

Whereas American Idol once ruled the airwaves, in 2016 there’s no doubt as to who is the master and center of attention: The Donald. Schneider said “there’s been a lot of talk about the news media and whether they’ve built up Donald Trump”, going on to ask Telegdy if he thinks that had Trump not been a reality TV star for many years if he’d still be the nominee today. Telegdy said “you know the answer. Of course not. If he hadn’t been the host of The Apprentice he wouldn’t have a platform to run from”.  Schneider asked point blank “does that blow you away?” and Telegdy and his very British accent got a huge laugh when he joked “it’s your country. Blow you away. I’ve got somewhere I can go”.

Telegdy noted that Trump’s “persona seems to be in lockstep with his persona on the show” and “what’s going on has demonstrated that this is an enormous amount of responsibility, that goes with the job of putting out the version of someone that we do in a TV show”. So what job will he take in a Trump White House? Telegdy joked “Ambassador to the Court of St. James, it’s a nice house in Regents Park”.

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Mike Darnell

And with a huge grin on his face, Darnell added “a reality star as president just makes me smile”.

We all have hits and misses, Schneider asking the panel about the one that got away. Darnell said “I did a show called Who’s Your Daddy and I really thought it was interesting and it taught me something because there was a lot of controversy around it and it didn’t launch. I used to think that controversy by itself was able to get something launched but it really wasn’t”.  Kinane said “we had a show when I was in the UK, one which Mike nearly bought, it was called Divorce Me and was a sort of anti-dating show” and “we had removal vans at the end of the driveway of the house and depending on who answered the questions correctly either the husband or the wife got whatever they wanted and put it in the removal van, and the last round was who would get the family pet”.  Telegdy said “I have to give a shout out to Shark Tank, I love that format going back to its glory days as Dragon’s Den on the BBC and I always thought we would love a smart business show like that”. Perry said “the one that I think about is The Island from last year. Didn’t work, and it killed me because it was so authentic, there was no significant artifice around it and if that had worked it would have created its own genre”. After having thought things through for a moment, Corwin answered that “there’s been so many shows, I generally tend to block them out if they don’t work, to save space in my head” but “there was one called Knife Swap, that was couples volunteering for elective plastic surgery but the husband would pick the procedures the wife got and vice-versa and they wouldn’t know until they woke up”.

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(Left) Michael Schneider, (Right) Charlie Corwin

There’s been a wave of consolidation in the business over the past couple of years, Schneider wondering
if everything’s been accounted for or if more is to come. Corwin said that “most companies of a certain size have been merged or acquired, so we’re probably toward the end of this cycle of consolidation”. As to whether or not consolidation is a good thing, Corwin noted that it is a positive development “to the degree that we can get to the right intersection between scale and independence”. Perry said that “from where I sit you’re still doing the same job, you’re selling shows, you’re getting people to buy them, it’s just that the buyers have changed”, adding that “it’s imperative that when these conglomerates buy shows and invest in them they’ve got to let them be who they are, because if you squash that creativity you take away the reason you bought the company”.

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Photos by Chyna Photography

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Next Spotlight Breakfast June 14th: Showime’s THE CIRCUS http://blog.hrts.org/2016/05/hrts-news/next-spotlight-breakfast-june-14th-showimes-the-circus/ Thu, 26 May 2016 00:48:27 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3419 With this year's political season resembling a season of Jersey Shore...and with the mid-season finale..aka the California Primary on June 7th...we felt it would be fun to bring together the team from Showtime's sublime "fly on the wall" political series THE CIRCUS to share some of their observations and commentary on what has been...as their title so accurately says.. The Greatest Political show on Earth!

The Circus Announcement

ORDER TICKETS

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Building a Kingdom – A Conversation with Dick Wolf and Chuck Lorre, HRTS luncheon recap http://blog.hrts.org/2016/02/hrts-news/building-a-kingdom-a-conversation-with-dick-wolf-and-chuck-lorre-hrts-luncheon-recap/ Wed, 17 Feb 2016 01:24:07 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3329  

A Conversation with Chuck Lorre and Dick Wolf, Stage Shot

Legends. Decades of success. Thousands of hours of content. Studios unto themselves. All descriptors for Dick Wolf and Chuck Lorre, two men who took the stage at the Beverly Hilton on December 14, 2015 for a freewheeling discussion with veteran executive Warren Littlefield.

Littlefield opened by saying that “our theme is ‘then and now’ so let’s do a quick snapshot of our world in 1990 and hopefully gain a little bit of a better understanding about how these two overachievers accomplished what they have done both then and now”. In 1990 there were 248 million people in the country, with an average of 33 channels per household, there were 4 broadcast networks and “cable basically lived off of network re-runs”. Cut-to today and there are 320 million people in the country, with an average of about 200 channels per household, and “that doesn’t include Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime”.

HRTS: A Conversation with Dick Wolf and Chuck Lorre 2015 Warren LittlefieldStarting at the beginning, Littlefield noted that “in some Eastern European countries, prison time is considered a real boost to a political career, in Hollywood sometimes that boost can come from being fired. Chuck, Cybill Shepherd fired you and Dick, Don Johnson fired you – how did you both bounce back?” Lorre said “I drank a lot, and then I did ‘Dharma & Greg’” and in the second season of that show he had a transformative epiphany when he realized that no one there was mad at him and so “it was the beginning of actually enjoying it, it was a safe and warm way to work, which it hadn’t been for many years”. Wolf saw being fired as a blessing in disguise, saying “Don arranging my departure was actually a huge favor, because out of that came moving into my own shows”.

Procedural versus serialized? Littlefield noted that with Law & Order, “it wasn’t about character development, it was about ‘ripped from the headlines’, very story-driven”, adding that the current Chicago trilogy (Med, Fire, PD) are more character-driven, so is that part of the evolution of network television? Wolf said that with all three Chicago shows he’s been cutting back on the serialized elements of late, since “four years ago, everything had to be heavily serialized to accommodate binge-viewing, and that never made sense to me since essentially TNT invented binge-viewing with ‘Law & Order’ marathons and nobody ever objected, they just went up every hour and nobody was saying ‘I wish there was a continuing storyline’”. Further, “if the writing is good, people are perfectly happy to watch a self-contained hour and I think the taste is drifting back towards more procedural”. As to the larger evolutionary processes at work, Wolf said that the television industry “has changed more in the last six months than it did in the last six years, and it changed more in there than it has in the previous sixty”, asking the audience “did anyone out there four years ago think that Netflix and Hulu and Amazon would be the major prestige studios that everybody wanted to go to?”

HRTS: A Conversation with Dick Wolf and Chuck Lorre 2015 Dick WolfPicking up on the theme of prestige and awards, Littlefield noted that broadcast shows today aren’t really driven by critical praise and that “it seems as though your success is driven by viewers”, asking both men who they write for. Lorre said that he and his writing team ask “would we watch it? Would we laugh at that particular moment?” and “is it worth the audience’s time?” He added that “another good barometer is the guys that are operating the cameras, because they’ve seen it all and if they laugh, you’re gold”. Wolf drew parallels to the film industry, saying “broadcast and cable are still two totally different spheres, worlds, universes, and we write mass entertainment. Network shows are the equivalent of big studio movies, there are a lot fewer of them than there were, and cable is the realm of the independents”.

Littlefield noted the repeal of fin-syn in the 80s and the current state of overwhelming network ownership of content, going on to ask Wolf “what is the difference when you’re vertically integrated versus when you’re not?” Wolf said “I would go so far as to say I am maybe the only beneficiary of vertical integration, because of the deals that were pending both in ’86 and in ’94, it’s been very good for me” since “in success, everybody knows that there are going to be ways to capitalize on that success in the same company”.

HRTS: A Conversation with Dick Wolf and Chuck Lorre 2015 Chuck LorreIs there a secret sauce for comedy success? Littlefield noted the diversity of different types of characters that Lorre has created, asking if there’s anything that they all have in common. Lorre said that “before comedy can occur, I have to care about the character” and “it has happen on the page, and then you have to be lucky enough to find an actor who has that innate presence that causes the audience to give a damn. Then you can tell the story, then the jokes have impact because you’re viscerally involved with a human being on the TV screen”. Given the increasing competition from shows on unrestricted platforms such as Netflix and Amazon, Littlefield asked Lorre how he keeps a broadcast comedy fresh and edgy. Lorre said that the new content ecosystem doesn’t affect his process, since “it’s playing defensive, trying to anticipate what other people are doing. When you sit down in a room and you’re staring at a computer monitor and you have to write ‘Fade In’, you have to write ‘Fade In’ into something that you care about”.  He added that “I think we’ve become the redheaded stepchild in television because we shoot in front of an audience. Try it sometimes, put your comedy in front of 200 people and see if they laugh”.

In closing, Littlefield said that “my sense for both of you is that what you do is your oxygen, it is essential to how you live and breathe – what do you love most about your job, what drives you to do what you do?” Wolf said that “it feels so good when it’s good. When you see characters starting to work, and people hitting their stride, it’s a high and ain’t no other way to get it”. Lorre said that “if you’re lucky and you have a TV series that survives, a family happens. You’re spending years and years with the same people and it’s an ongoing ensemble village kind of a thing and it’s remarkable”.

HRTS: A Conversation with Dick Wolf and Chuck Lorre 2015 Warren Littlefield holds sign

 

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Photos by Chyna Photography

HRTS and JHRTS members can watch the video of this luncheon in addition to the large archive of past HRTS Newsmaker Luncheons. Log in here with your HRTS username and password.

 

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Just Can’t Get Enough – The State of the Industry 2015 HRTS Luncheon Recap http://blog.hrts.org/2015/10/hrts-news/just-cant-get-enough-the-state-of-the-industry-2015-hrts-luncheon-recap/ Thu, 29 Oct 2015 23:57:45 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3282 HRTS State of the Industry 2015 stage pic

How much is too much? The global demand for content is at an all-time high and so the production has risen accordingly. Is there a tipping point? If so, where is it? And how do we get paid for all of this?

On October 15, 2015 a packed house gathered at the Beverly Hilton to explore these questions during the inaugural event of the 2015-16 HRTS Newsmaker Luncheon series, the State of the Industry.

Helping us navigate the way forward were five panelists representing key sectors of our industry:

Paul Lee, President of ABC Entertainment Group; Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix; Sandra Stern, President of Lionsgate Television Group; Frances Berwick, President of Lifestyle Networks at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment; and David Nevins, President of Showtime Networks.

HRTS: State of the Industry 2015 Jon ErlichmanModerating this panel of explorers was Parachute TV’s Jon Erlichman, who began by going back to the future as he referenced last year’s SOTI panel and its predictions, asking the panelists what has surprised them over the past year. Sarandos noted that what works is universal, that “the great news for the people in this room is that most of the things that people love to watch, they love to watch around the world”. Lee concurred, adding “we were gratified to see that all of the movements we were making to create a much more multicultural landscape really came home last year. You absolutely saw that if you can empower showrunners that reflect the country around them you can unleash a huge wave of creativity”. Nevins said “I’ve been surprised by how fast it’s moved – a year ago this time we had all the plans in place to sell ourselves over the Internet but we hadn’t yet made the decision to push the button and do it. I thought it would be a small locus of focus for the first year or two and it’s become a major part of who we are very fast”. Berwick agreed as to the rapid and accelerating pace, adding that “everybody’s been surprised by the speed of the change, the shift in viewing behavior. I think one of the most surprising things is that in this so-called Golden Age of scripted is that it’s still unscripted that is dominating in terms of cable entertainment”.

HRTS: State of the Industry 2015 Sandra SternErlichman next addressed Stern directly, pointing out that her studio has relationships with broadcast, cable and OTT streaming, asking her how she selects specific projects. Stern said that “we try to be very strategic in the way that we develop our shows, we look to find those programs – unscripted as well as scripted – that have the potential to find an audience and keep an audience and engage people.  And so our shows tend to be a little noisier than some others because we are a little bit more selective, we have to be more selective”.

HRTS: State of the Industry 2015 Frances BerwickIn terms of monetizing, should we think of networks as distribution networks or as brands? Berwick said that “brand is really important right now, it will be vital in a couple of years’ time”. Nevins noted that Sarandos and Netflix have for many years pointed the way toward the future in that “we’re going to be in an app-based world, and your app will be your brand”. Lee said that it’s not so much an either/or choice, since “you can be a network and a brand. In a world of fragmentation, it’s a brand that really makes you stand out”.

The world has changed not only on the business side but on the creative side as well, Lee making clear that “all the rules that were written in stone when I walked through the door – period doesn’t work, fairytales don’t work, main characters have to be likable, they probably have to be white, no moral complexity – these were the rules that you’d been living with for many, many years and the reality is that they’ve all gone. It’s all happening because we are in an on-demand world, it’s no longer about what seems to be least objectionable, it’s a world where if you don’t love it then it doesn’t survive”.

HRTS: State of the Industry 2015 Ted SarandosEarlier this year, FX head John Landgraf said that there is too much TV. Sarandos took exception to the suggestion that there’s a glut, saying “that is an extremely old lens to look at TV under - in a world of 4 networks and 3 hours of primetime, 1 more show would have been too much TV. But now the economics of production and distribution are unique to shows and so there’s no such thing as too much TV unless we’re all spending more and not watching more, which has not been the case”. Stern and Lee agreed, since good shows will always attract viewers and especially if made available on demand across multiple platforms. Nevins noted the growing global demand for Hollywood content, that “the same dynamics are happening around the world and the addictive, serialized shows are what’s driving the market in a lot of places”.

HRTS: State of the Industry 2015 Paul LeeWhat about social media? Berwick said that “half of the challenge and the benefit of how social media works now is that [reality TV] characters are front and center throughout the year. The challenge for us is that the stuff they’re doing we won’t be airing for another 4 months”, drawing a big laugh as she quipped “we also have to keep them out of jail”. Sarandos agreed, adding that although Netflix releases every episode at once, “with social media there’s a collective buzz all year and not just on one night”. Lee said that social media “is a fantastic boon to television. It’s a wonderful thing that you’re no longer off on your own in the dark, that you’re watching with millions of people as it happens”.

HRTS: State of the Industry 2015 David NevinsGiven the ongoing and increasing connections between viewers, producers and networks, how does everyone continue to get paid? After a bit of light-hearted teasing of Sarandos over his continued refusal to release ratings – “a little note would be nice” joked Stern – the panel agreed that the outlook is bright. Lee said that “five or ten years ago, broadcast was a single revenue stream business, it was all about the minute-by-minute ratings. Over the past years, broadcasters have built multiple revenue streams, we own the content, our retransmission is now aggressive, we build platforms around the world, we have four or five revenue streams”.

The hunger for content is growing and shows no signs of slowing, from binge-viewing to live-tweeting to discussion board commenting. Fan passion and enthusiasm build and build in new and different ways, strengthening engagements that create communities and worlds for us all. We slip and slide as we fall in love and we just can’t seem to get enough.

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Photos by Chyna Photography

HRTS and JHRTS members can watch the video of this luncheon in addition to the large archive of past HRTS Newsmaker Luncheons. Log in here with your HRTS username and password.

 

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HRTS Goes to the Emmys http://blog.hrts.org/2015/10/hrts-news/hrts-goes-to-the-emmys-2/ Thu, 29 Oct 2015 23:57:29 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3249 Now that the dust has settled from Emmy season, here’s an inside scoop: the HRTS was there.

The HRTS and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) are the two premiere groups in the television industry. From executives to actors to writers and directors and producers, the two groups consist of thousands of members who are in the business, thousands of members who are the business.

The partnership between the HRTS and the ATAS goes back many years and includes numerous events created and produced together, such as the State of the Industry luncheon and other Newsmaker luncheons. In addition to the events, there are myriad personal connections from Board leaders to staff colleagues to dual-members.

The Primetime Emmys are the biggest event on the TV industry calendar and the HRTS was there to represent the business side of the industry. When an actor or writer or director wins an Emmy, these are the rows of people who stand and applaud enthusiastically, the people who partnered with the actors and writers and directors to make the shows possible, the people who nurtured their talent to make the shows great. Hillary Clinton famously said that “it takes a village to raise a child” and if that’s true of the development of a single person then think of how many more people it takes to raise a show, when hundreds of people are involved both in front of and behind the camera.

Uzo Aduba won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role on ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, a show produced by HRTS members Lionsgate and Netflix. She made a point of personally thanking her team members, saying “thank you to our family at Netflix and Lionsgate.  You all are incredible.  I love you so much for your kindness. Thank you, Cindy.  Thank you, Ted.  Thank you, Neri.  Thank you, Lisa.  Thank you, Trim.  Thank you, Nina.  Thank you, Peter”.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, her show produced by HRTS member HBO, and she thanked her longtime partners “Richard Plepler, Mike Lombardo, Casey Bloys, for their never-ending support; in fact, their friendship.  Imagine that”.

GAME OF THRONES won Outstanding Drama Series and in accepting their award, co-creator David Benioff said “thank you to HBO, in their wisdom, paired a couple of novice producers with people of experience.  We want to thank them.  They're standing behind us, Bernie Caulfield, Chris Newman, Frank Doelger, Carolyn Strauss.  We would -- you know, you're the reason we're up here.  And finally, just thanks again HBO for believing in dragons”. Backstage, he elaborated on his acceptance speech, saying “when we first talked to George about doing this, the books were sent to us to do as feature films and when we started reading them we realized that they were just way too complex to possibly do them justice as features. The first conversation we had was about bringing it to HBO, long before HBO knew about it, because it’s the only place we could imagine it working” and “we know a lot of people who do what we do in one way or another, and every single one of them is jealous of the way we get to work at HBO”.

The biggest surprise of the night, the one that had HRTS members buzzing the next day, was the triumphant return of Tracy Morgan, a man recovering from a near-fatal car accident. Taking the stage to a boisterous standing ovation, Morgan said “thanks to my amazing doctors and the support of my family and my beautiful new wife, I’m here. Standing on my own two feet”. Backstage, Morgan spoke from the heart about his traumatic brain injury, his rehab and his promise to his fiancée that he would get better so that he could walk her down the aisle. If you’d like to hear his story in his own words, click below:

At HRTS luncheons we hear about the power of content, how no matter the distribution or monetization, it always comes down to the content and so it’s clear that the business side cannot exist without the creative side. It’s equally clear that the abundance of talented men and women across the country and around the world thrive when partnered with people who nurture their talent during development, production and distribution, a symbiotic partnership to make the shows great. It’s a symbiotic partnership that mirrors the one between the HRTS and the ATAS. Thank you to the team at the TV Academy for including us in the festivities, already looking forward to next year.

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Comic-Con 2015 Recap http://blog.hrts.org/2015/08/hrts-news/comic-con-2015-recap/ Thu, 27 Aug 2015 23:02:01 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3204 San Diego Comic Con 2015 - Outcast boothEvery year a giant forms, powered by more attendees and more press than any other industry event, including the Oscars. Hollywood treks down to San Diego to meet up with over 100,000 dedicated fans and spend a few days by the beach at Comic-Con. What began as a comic book convention is now arguably the largest promotional opportunity in the world for new films and TV shows and especially coming in mid-to-late July as it does.

What Cannes is to independent films, the Con is to commercial films and TV shows. The opportunities for marketing, publicity and networking are seemingly limitless since everyone goes, including every major studio and network, managers and agents, talent, advertisers, transmedia companies and the global press. Social media are great for building up virtual contacts but there’s something to be said for actually showing up, shaking hands and kibitzing with people. And if you have tens of thousands of people and you’re right by the ocean, so much the better.

Three HRTS members who made a big impression at this year’s Con were Fox, Warner Bros, and NBCU.

On Thursday night, Fox International Studios head Sharon Tal Yguado (HRTS member profile: http://blog.hrts.org/2012/03/membership-spotlight/hrts-member-profile-andie-green-and-sharon-tal-yguado/) kicked things off in style with a rooftop bash at the Andaz in honor of Robert Kirkman’s new show OUTCAST (http://www.cinemax.com/outcast/). It was a lively affair from start to finish, with producers and studio execs including Gale Anne Hurd, Eli Roth, Greg Nicotero and Sue Naegle, and talent including the cast of THE WALKING DEAD and its hit prequel.

On Friday evening, WBTV held its annual mixer at the Hard Rock and as with every year, they went all out. A diverse and eclectic mix of attendees included HRTS member and panelist Chuck Lorre, Mike Tyson, Victor Garber, Giancarlo Esposito, DC Comics writers, a host of Cirque performers and a mermaid. Because if you have a pool then of course you must have a mermaid. There are numerous industry parties throughout the year in Los Angeles but none quite like this, where everybody can just be a fan for a night, remembering some of the reasons they got into the business in the first place.

San Diego Comic Con 2015 Sharknado 3So if one party has zombies and another has mermaids, what can you do for an encore? Why, you can fill a swimming pool full of bloodthirsty sharks, which is exactly what NBCU did at the Syfy SHARKNADO 3 party held Friday night at the Solamar. For this sequel (http://www.syfy.com/sharknado3) - tagline “Oh Hell No” - not only did they have the (virtual) sharks prowling, waiting for unsuspecting partygoers to fall in, they also had Vinenado, a booth where you could record, upload and share yourself in scenes from the movie. And Singnado, the most dangerous karaoke of all time.

Comic-Con strikes the perfect balance between business and pleasure. It offers something for everyone and with the enormous number of passionately engaged fans plus the concentration of Hollywood types, there are few to no places better suited to promoting your content or to building your network. See you at the shore.

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Photos licensed through Creative Commons. Originals:
License: CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/vW5B1d
License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/vkqF4G

 

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The Human Touch – The Hitmakers 2015 HRTS Luncheon Recap http://blog.hrts.org/2015/04/hrts-news/hitmakers-2015-hrts-luncheon-recap/ Thu, 16 Apr 2015 18:47:16 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3114 The Hitmakers 2015 panel

On April 8th 2015, a group of our industry’s best and brightest gathered at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the annual Hitmakers luncheon. Stacey Wilson of The Hollywood Reporter served as moderator for a enjoyably intimate panel and joining her were multi-hyphenates Lee Daniels of EMPIRE, Jill Soloway of Transparent, Michelle King of The Good Wife, Sarah Treem of The Affair, and Noah Hawley of FARGO.

Stacey Wilson moderates, The Hitmakers 2015

Stacey Wilson

Wilson began at the beginning, asking the panelists who or what first inspired them to start writing.

Daniels said “I read ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf when I was nine”, Wilson drawing a huge laugh when she quipped “that says a lot about you, this is all making a lot of sense”. Daniels agreed and added “I then wrote my own version of that when I was 10 or 11, a very twisted version”. Treem followed a similar muse, saying “I also wrote a play when I was 11 or 12”. Soloway said that she was highly visual from the start since “I remember writing stories when I was really young and cutting people out of the Montgomery Ward catalog to play the characters, so I was casting very early”. Hawley noted that “I started as a musician and songwriter and I realized that your target audience is 14-year-old girls mostly and that I’m not a night person, so that whole lifestyle was not really gonna work out for me and I started writing fiction”. For King it was all about the teamwork, since “I remember being obsessed with George S. Kaufman when I was in grammar school and he always had a collaborator and I thought ‘oh yes, this sounds like an excellent plan’”.

Michelle King, The Hitmakers 2015

Michelle King

So what was your first big break as a writer? King said “it was the first pilot we went out and pitched, we had three companies bidding on it and it was the most exciting thing ever”. Hawley said “for me it was with fiction, I sold my first novel when I was 27 and it’s easy to get job, it’s hard to have a career so it’s always what happens next”. For Soloway it was short but oh so sweet, since “I remember when I was writing on SIX FEET UNDER and I turned in my first draft of my first episode and late that night, Alan Ball sent me a two-word email that said “fucking great””. Treem’s path came through the theater, she related how “I was at Yale Drama School and I had a play that somehow got to HBO and they were looking for somebody to write a fucked-up teenager and my play was about fucked-up teenagers”. Daniels channeled an Eric Clapton song, noting that “it was in the 80s and I’d taken a screenwriting course in New York and I was on crack cocaine and I wrote a scene about a guy trying to stop using crack and the teacher said it was a masterpiece”.

Lee Daniels moderates, The Hitmakers 2015

Lee Daniels

Wilson asked Daniels about his first year in television, wondering about the challenges of his transition from film and he replied that “there’s nothing that could prepare me for what this journey was about”. He noted that “at first, I bucked the system because I’m so used to doing it alone” but then ultimately “it was a group of people with many opinions and so I learned to collaborate”. Daniels drew a huge laugh when he quipped that “I lost my virginity, I don’t know that I want to lose it again”.

As for THE GOOD WIFE, Wilson noted that many of the stories relate to current news, going on to ask King in what ways she works to integrate reality and fiction. King said that “we tend to read a lot, which frankly is procrastination as much as it is anything else. It’s a very smart writers’ room and we tend to look at issues that are interesting to us”.

Jill Soloway, The Hitmakers 2015

Jill Soloway

So is it difficult to make a show about your own family? Soloway said that “basing a show on my family, I kind of had to do a lot of backwards talking to them – ‘I’m doing a show about a family, kind of our family’ - but I didn’t really talk about the name of the show or the titular character”. Through many trials and tribulations, Soloway told herself that “this has to be a TV show, I don’t know what else to do other than to assume that I’m going to be able to turn this into something, so it was actually a life-saving thought that this is all for art, this is for something”. And the show has been hit with her real-life family, with Soloway announcing that “my mom moved to Los Angeles and she’s a TV writer now and she’s written a script”.

Sarah Treem, The Hitmakers 2015

Sarah Treem

THE AFFAIR utilizes a dual-narrative storytelling style and so Wilson asked Treem how she settled on that particular frame. Treem noted that duality is inherent to the DNA of the show and so “the dual-narrative storytelling was the first thing that we came up with, before we had the characters, before we had anything we knew that we wanted to tell the story of an affair from two perspectives”.

Wilson asked Hawley if his writing process has changed since the first season of his show and he said that “my ability to focus entirely on that story in the first year [came] from the fact that it was the only thing that I was doing” and then with the show becoming a huge hit and all of the attendant awards shows and other time commitments, “once we launched the writers’ room for the second year it became harder to be in that room all day every day”. Further, “Joel and Ethan never made the same movie twice, so we can’t do that - it has to be a different movie this time around, which is really exciting and fun”.

Noah Hawley, The Hitmakers 2015

Noah Hawley

When it comes to creating characters, what’s the balance between writers and actors? Hawley said “it’s a two-way street, actors have to feel like what they’re doing is real and it’s an interesting line that we walk”. Daniels concurred, adding “I trust the actors, I can never really go by the word, the word has been written but the nuance is something that [they bring], it’s why we’ve cast them and so I’m not married to the word”, because at the end of the day “it has to be honest, it has to come from a place of truth and sometimes the actors are more aware of the truth than I am”. Treem suggested that “I think your job as the writer is to figure out how your actors work and then write towards them”, going on to note that there’s a difference between American actors who like to improv “and the British actors who are incredibly committed to the text, they practice the text and they are perfect on the text”. Soloway was inspired by Woody Allen’s process and so she “started telling people that they could say whatever they wanted”, laughing as she added “and nothing makes an actor say what’s on the page more”. Taking a different tack, King said that “we tend to sit down with the actors twice a season and talk about the arcs and where the story is going as much as we can” but in terms of words on the page, “when people want to change a word we get a phone call at 5 in the morning, and I’m happy to get it”.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten on writing and/or running a show? King said “Christina Davis of CBS told me “don’t hold back plot, you can always invent more plot, you cannot invent more audience””. Hawley said that his colleague Bob De Laurentiis told him “when you’re a showrunner just imagine that there’s a line outside your door that stretches on forever - you learn to go out the window”. Soloway referenced her theater background and the value of “playable action, as a writer I used to ask ‘what do they want?’ and then when I became a director I began to ask ‘what are they doing to get what they want?’, what’s the playable action in this beat, in this scene?” Treem said that “in my first season, I called everybody I could think of to ask for advice”, and Ed Zwick told her that “”writers on set are a little bit like tits on a bull”, which I thought was good advice about letting the show do its thing, letting everybody do their job”.  Daniels noted the importance of having a clear vision, saying that “Norman Lear gave me some great advice, which is to always fight for what you believe in even if you feel that you’re the odd ball out”.

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Photos by Chyna Photography

HRTS and JHRTS members can watch the video of this luncheon in addition to the large archive of past HRTS Newsmaker Luncheons. Log in here with your HRTS username and password.

 

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Fall Programmer’s Summit 2014 – HRTS Luncheon Recap http://blog.hrts.org/2014/12/hrts-news/fall-programmers-summit-2014-hrts-luncheon-recap/ Thu, 04 Dec 2014 19:28:19 +0000 http://blog.hrts.org/?p=3043 Fall Programmer's Summit 2014 luncheon panel shot

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there and so on November 20th, some of the brightest minds in the business came together at the Beverly Hilton to figure out where we’re all going and how we’re going to get there.

Andy Greenwald, staff writer at Grantland, moderated the annual Programmer’s Summit luncheon with panelists Kent Alterman, President of Content Development & Original Programming at Comedy Central; Susanne Daniels, President of Programming at MTV; and Nick Grad, President of Original Programming at FX Networks and FX Productions.

Andy Greenwald moderates the Fall Programmer's Summit 2014

Andy Greenwald

Greenwald started by noting that all of the panelists had gained their current positions fairly recently, going on to ask what they prioritized from day one in the job. Daniels said that “the state of the network was fairly healthy, with a strong brand” and “one of the goals, one of the reasons I was hired was to increase scripted programming”. Grad said “we knew we were launching a new suite of networks and we’d have to radically ramp up the amount of programming we have” and so “what the biggest challenge has been is keeping up with that kind of volume and making sure that we don’t fall into the trap of having so much volume that we can’t give the shows the same TLC or the same level of focus”. Alterman drew a big laugh when he quipped “my job didn’t really change, I asked them for more money after my first deal was done and then they gave me a new title”, adding that “everyone in this room knows that this business is cyclical, it has its ups and downs. When I took over, I think the network was in more of a down period for a little while, they were still grappling with the ghost of Dave Chappelle and it had been a while since the look and the feel of the network had been updated, so I felt that there was a lot of opportunity”.

Susanne Daniels; HRTS; Fall Programmer's Summit 2014

Susanne Daniels

In terms of branding, Greenwald asked how much personal taste and sensibility can be brought to the job versus servicing the existing needs of the network’s brand. Daniels said that “it’s a constant balancing act, because you’re going to be attracted and want to be involved in projects that appeal to you personally but at the same time you have to have your glasses on, your audience-perspective glasses”. Grad agreed, saying that “you don’t want to lose your focus, the brand is the most important thing”. Alterman noted that “to a large degree I think it’s less about my sensibility and point of view as it is about the creator’s sensibility and point of view, and our most important guiding principle is to find talented people that have a really strong point of view”.

Are viewers fans of specific networks or are they more loyal to specific shows regardless of platform? Grad said “I’m a marketer, I’m marketing a brand through these shows and the longer you do it, the more the brand has value”. Daniels concurred, adding “I think brand is really important, I’ve always felt that way” since “it makes a difference, it sets a certain level of expectation”.

Nick Grad; HRTS; Fall Programmer's Summit 2014

Nick Grad

As for ratings, Greenwald asked the panelists what specifically they look for in the numbers. Grad said that “we try and look at them in the way of who’s watching the show, and when it comes down to the decisions of picking shows or giving them another season, I think we’re always looking at if there’s potential for this show to grow”. Daniels noted how the game has changed in recent years, how “the tricky part of ratings today is that we find with our audience that they’re very savvy and they’re waiting to find out if you’re going to pick it up for Season 2 before they invest and then if you pick it up for Season 2 they’ll binge-watch Season 1”.

So is there a difference in value between winning Twitter versus winning a timeslot? Alterman said that “I think there’s a disconnect, a lag and a disconnect between popularity on the one hand and measurement and monetization on the other” and so shows can sometimes have as many or more viewers on YouTube than on a traditional network platform. Daniels agreed, though she predicted that “I think that ultimately there won’t be a disconnect, I think we’re moving in a way where we start to measure those different viewing patterns”.

Kent Alterman; HRTS; Fall Programmer's Summit 2014

Kent Alterman

There are currently more buyers producing more scripted programming than at any time in history, how does this change the thinking? Grad said “it makes you play a little tight since if you don’t make it then maybe somebody else will make it and you’ll look bad”, but that being said, “we don’t block people from taking out things that we pass on and setting them up somewhere else, if you’re not going to make it then let someone else do it”. Alterman concurred, saying “just because something isn’t right for you doesn’t mean it isn’t right for someone else”. Daniels said that “all of the competition makes you as a network executive think a little bit harder about how you’re going to break out with a pitch”.

In closing, Greenwald asked what panelists want to hear when they sit down for a pitch, what excites them. Grad said “we can come up with all kinds of ways to analyze the common things in all the shows that have worked, but whatever that next great show is, right now it’s an empty space. It doesn’t exist yet and you can use all the algorithms in the world but you can’t come up with what that next thing is, and so there will always be the great thrill of hearing that pitch”. Alterman agreed, adding “you really can never know where it comes from, and the greater the heights it reaches, the more it’s lightning in a bottle”. Daniels said “I am excited about personal stories, I really get excited when someone comes in and they want to tell a story based on a personal adventure that they lived”.

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Photos by Chyna Photography

HRTS and JHRTS members can watch the video of this luncheon in addition to the large archive of past HRTS Newsmaker Luncheons. Log in here with your HRTS username and password.

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