On TV development

The press of events has prevented me from blogging on this and this from the Times TV blog.

The first is from Jeff Zucker:

Mr. Zucker also gave details about the network’s recent decision to curtail its pilot development season, saying repeatedly that NBC was “committed to as much scripted programming as ever” because of the revenue it generates from advertising, syndication and DVDs.

He noted that the five broadcast networks spent half a billion dollars to develop 80 pilots last year. “Next fall, or whenever the next television season begins, at most eight of those series will return. 1 in 10,” Mr. Zucker said.

As he has done in the past, Mr. Zucker suggested that the NBC broadcast network will increasingly resemble the company’s cable properties. The USA network, for instance, has produced “just five pilots in the last two years,” he said. “Four of them went to air.”

On cable, Mr. Zucker said, “there’s far more discipline, far fewer big name directors and stars, and far greater reliance on script development and guts.”

Even though Jeff Zucker's record as a network executive speaks for itself (Father of the Pride), he is right in every particular here:

1. A scripted show will make you more money in the long run. People are still watching Gilligan's Island.

2. The way the networks develop is crazy.

3. The way cable develops isn't crazy.

Why is this? My opinion: a cable network knows itself and knows what it wants. USA (Characters wanted) stands for something; Bravo (reality in the decorative arts) stands for something; NBC stands for Celebrity Apprentice. Guts means standing for something and not picking something up because you had a marketing retreat where some Mark Penn-wannabe told you what your audience might want.

The second post is about how Raymond and Family Guy are still making coin in an otherwise gloomy syndication market. Why is the syndication market gloomy? Because there's no comedies? Why are there no comedies? Because no network wants to open another comedy night, because the network suspects, probably rightly, that they'll just screw them up. (Raymond and Family Guy are excellent cases in point because Family Guy was cancelled and Raymond almost was. )

I realize this is a long way to just say "Executives are idiots" but sometimes everyone needs to be reminded.

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