We love Mr. Levine because not only does he demonstrate great insight into the TV world daily, on his blog, “…by Ken Levine,” he also can rant like a son of a bitch.
And so, without further ado…
How to make stupid money in television — at this moment of time
by Ken Levine
Let’s see how long it takes for this business model to implode. Because it will.
TV is undergoing more changes now than it has in decades, perhaps five decades.
In the old days, here’s how the few lucky talented (but still fortunate) writers got rich:
Networks couldn’t legally own shows. So studios would make development deals to tie up the best talent. That resulted in multi-year seven-figure deals. The idea was that those writer/producers were exclusive to that studio and if they created a hit show everyone stood to cash in.
Additionally, writer/producers owned part of the shows they created. And in those days the goal was to make at least 100 episodes to sell into syndication. A smash hit like CHEERS or SEINFELD could be worth hundreds of millions to the writer/producer.
Once networks could own shows those development deals began to dry up. A few high-end deals still remained but the parameters of those deals were different. At one time writers only created shows and produced pilots. Under the new model, the network or studio (often the same thing) could assign you to work on whatever show it wanted. You don’t have a pilot? Guess what? You’re Co-EP of THE NEIGHBORHOOD.
Now we’re in a totally different universe. Streaming services are the future. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are getting competition from Warners, Disney, Apple, CBS, and more to come. They don’t need 100 episodes. They don’t want 100 episodes. Syndication is drying up. Soon there won’t be shows with 100+ episodes. Series used to go seven years; in the future they’ll go three. Producers once produced 22 episodes a season. Now they produce 12. Or 8….