Television’s executives, producers, and stars recently wrapped up the summer Television Critics Association press tour.
It’s an exhausting (and exciting) pageant of the networks’ best current programming and upcoming shows for hundreds of critics and reporters from all over the US (and even some international press) who flock to Los Angeles twice a year for the event.
Each day of the TCA press tour, a network’s top boss kicks off the morning by facing reporters in an executive session. Depending on how their network is doing, they will be celebrated or verbally attacked by the journalists. Then the reporters meet and greet panel after panel dedicated to said network’s shows and stars.
Every press tour, certain themes and patterns from the TV world emerge. They tell us about what the industry is wrestling with and give us a snapshot of what’s to come.
Here are the biggest things the TV industry is facing in 2016:
Improving diversity in front of and behind the cameras is an ongoing discussion in the TV business. But it becomes a larger conversation when one of the networks goes against the grain. While other networks showed off their gains in improving numbers for females and minorities on their shows, CBS was blasted for its all-white and all-male fall slate of shows.
'We need to do better and we know it,' CBS's chastised president Glen Gellar told reporters.
With an abundance of epic, well-made dramas filling the TV landscape currently, comedies aren't finding audiences quickly enough.
Fox, for example, had a dismal time with comedies this past year. It canceled buzzy but low-rated comedies starring Rob Lowe ('Grinder') and Jon Stamos ('Grandfathered'), half of its Tuesday night comedy block, and two other new comedies. The network's chairman, Dana Walden, said the problem is that comedies don't inspire urgency among its viewers.
'People are watching comedies,' Walden said. 'They are just not watching in a seven-day, with-urgency manner that enables us to monetise them in the current broadcast model.'
NBC has been in a multi-year comedy drought, and vowed in June that it would give more time to comedies so they can find an audience. Now they're hoping things are looking up after the success of 'Superstore' and its move to Thursday nights.
With so many TV shows on now and viewing habits changing, networks are examining if the traditional 22-episode season makes sense anymore.
They had already experimented with limited series, which could air while shows are on hiatus. But now they're seeing the advantages of shorter seasons for viewers who don't have the patience and time for long seasons, as well as for big stars and creative talent who don't want to be locked down for a year at a time on one project.
Cable channels have been reaping the benefits of shorter seasons for years, but now the networks are catching on with shows like ABC's 'American Crime' and 'Secrets and Lies' or Fox's 'Wayward Pines' and 'Scream Queens.'
There is a lot of discussion of the future of superhero shows on broadcast networks. This past season, CBS broke into the genre with DC Comics' 'Supergirl.' Averaging 8 million viewers, it just wasn't worth the money to CBS to continue on with the show. Sister network The CW picked it up. And, yes, The CW is a broadcast network, too, but its ratings threshold is much lower than that of its bigger corporate sibling.
ABC, too, had people wondering if networks could support comic-book shows when it canceled 'Marvel's Agent Carter' and passed on the pilot for 'Marvel's Most Wanted.' The situation gets stickier when one considers that Marvel and ABC are corporate siblings under Disney, yet Marvel's shows have had way more success over at Netflix.
Jeph Loeb, Marvel's TV head, told Business Insider that the relationship with ABC is stronger than ever, but admitted to us that he didn't understand the network's decisions to cancel and pass on 'Agent Carter' and 'Marvel's Most Wanted.'
Nevertheless, CBS and ABC both say they remain open to superhero shows.
The idea of Peak TV, the moment when TV shows reach maximum output and saturation, has been an ongoing concern for FX president John Landgraf. He has been sounding the alarm for nearly two years. This year, he predicts there will be as many as 450 scripted shows. And it would seem that the biggest culprit in filling the space is Netflix. The streaming service has seriously ramped up its show production, having announced about 71 new series in 2016 alone.
Why is the growing amount of shows a problem? Viewers have less ability to watch the shows they want, quality suffers, and the chances for finding an audience drop.
On the other hand, there are those who don't believe we can ever have too many shows on TV. We can give you one guess on who's leading that charge...
That would be Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. He believes the idea of Peak TV is based on an outdated TV model.
'When people talk about Peak TV, they talk about it through an old-media lens,' he said during the TCA press tour. 'But today, the viewer has total control over what shows they want to watch and how they want to get to them. And in that world, it's almost infinite, the possibilities for how people can connect.'
Remake mania has taken over the entertainment industry, but is that really what people want?
We've already seen the failures of Fox's 'Minority Report' and ABC's 'Rush Hour' and 'Muppets' remakes. And we're even seeing movie audiences rebel against the recent 'Ghostbusters' reboot and a very late 'Independence Day' sequel. Yet the trend doesn't seem to be slowing.
Remakes are attractive projects because Hollywood believes that if they were successful once, they can be again. And for TV's crowded show landscape, they come in with some brand recognition that separates them from the bunch.
Fox came under fire during TCA because its upcoming fall programming slate has four shows based on existing titles: 'Lethal Weapon,' 'The Exorcist,' '24,' and 'Prison Break.' And its executives defended that decision by acknowledging that reboots help with marketing, but they contend that a show has to pass other tests to make it on the schedule.
'We're not interested in just rebooting titles,' Fox head Dana Walden said. 'We have a rich and extensive library at the studio. We could have all reboots. We chose these shows for a variety of different reasons.'
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