For TV Shows, It’s a Seller’s Market

The title above is also the title of a Wall Street Journal article that was published a couple of weeks ago. We hadn’t mentioned it before cuz we were waiting for WSJ to rethink what they’d said and, well, correct it.

Clear as mud, right? Well, here’s the skinny:

tv-show-articlesby Amol Sharma and Keach Hagey

Broadcast TV networks used to get first crack at all the best scripts in Hollywood. Nowadays, they are mere participants in a mad scramble.

TV-show creators this year are taking their pitches far beyond the networks, says Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment. “They are taking them to Netflix, they are going to HBO, they are hitting every cable outlet,” she says. “It just puts you in the position of being even more of an underdog.”

Ms. Salke says NBC aggressively pursued one big comedy project from a major outside studio this season, but “the creators decided to negotiate with Netflix instead.”

Growing demand for original TV series to satisfy broadcasters, cable TV channels and online video is creating a scarcity of writers, directors and even actors available to produce certain types of shows. Keach Hagey reports.
That one of the major broadcast networks would feel like an underdog highlights the increasingly competitive landscape in the world of television.

As the traditional broadcasters—Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS—kick off another fall TV season this week, an explosion of original programming from cable networks and online video is giving consumers ever-greater choices. The growing demand for new series also is creating a scarcity of writers, directors and even actors available to produce certain types of shows.

Many writers who networks would turn to for dramas, for example, are already tied up making shows for cable networks, industry executives say.

“The best writers are in demand now in multiple places,” says Patrick Moran, the executive vice president of ABC Studios, part of Walt Disney Co.

“We’re seeing everyone participating in this derby,” says Kevin Reilly, chairman of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Co. “It’s at a fever pitch right now.”

Some network executives say the broadcasters need to rethink their approach to producing programming around an official September to May season.

In Mr. Reilly’s view, the broadcasters’ current system is “insane”: The major networks all race to buy scripts and produce 10 to 20 pilots each on the same timeline, hustling to get pilots made in the weeks before big annual presentations to advertisers in the spring, when they show off the ones they have picked up for airing.

That leads to artificially intense competition for talent in the last-minute frenzy. Mr. Reilly says there are times when actors he doesn’t know—and has to look up on entertainment database IMDb—have six or seven offers broadcast networks and cable outfits.

“We’re trying to lead the way to get out of that outdated system,” Mr. Reilly says. He says the official TV season makes no sense when cable rivals are putting out their top shows at all times of year.

Read it all

Okay, so here’s the thing. Read one way the article and its title are absolutely correct. The existence of new markets like Netflix et al that are paying professional prices for television programming is real – and, let’s face it, wonderful for creatives and audiences alike.

And, yes, the fact that more places are bidding on the product does translate into a “seller’s market.” But that market is, in fact, only for the creations of the same small group of established and high-priced Old Pros who were always in demand and able to get top dollar. Newbs are, sadly, still screwed. In other words, although there’s justified hope for change – and a lot of it right here at TVWriter™ – the situation for now is still, “Welcome to the Seller’s Market. Oh, no, not you guys. Them.”

Dammit, dunno about you, but the “we” who’s writing this thing right here right now really wants to make the big jump from being that selfsame “we” to becoming, you got it – “them.”