Television’s executives, producers, and stars are just wrapping up this winter’s biannual Television Critics Association press tour.
It’s an exhausting (and exciting) pageant of the network’s 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 the network’s shows and stars.
Every year, certain themes and patterns from the TV world emerge. They tell us about what the industry is wrestling with and give us a snapshop of what’s to come.
Here’s what you can expect to see out of the TV industry in the coming months:
The broadcast and cable networks were anything but relaxed about Netflix during TCA. The streaming giant came under fire for refusing to release its show ratings and therefore standing on an uneven playing field.
NBC shocked the room of reporters when its research exec released what he believes to be close approximations of Netflix's ratings. He named 'Jessica Jones' as its No. 1 show with 4.8 million total viewers in the advertiser-coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic.
The point was to prove that traditional broadcast and cable networks aren't being out-watched by streaming.
'I don't believe there's enough stuff on Netflix that is broad enough and is consistent enough to affect us in a meaningful way on a regular basis,' the NBC exec said.
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos called NBC's numbers 'remarkably inaccurate.'
Meanwhile, FX boss John Landgraf accused Netflix of an unfair advantage in that it doesn't need to prove profitability, and so it can spend more money on shows than his network. He explained that FX wanted Aziz Ansari's 'Master of None,' but the streaming company overwhelmed the cable channel in money and other commitments.
Sarandos countered by explaining that Netflix's profit is driven by expanding its international reach, which it's doing in various ways with its ramed-up original content.
Fox is the latest network to get into the musical TV trend with 'Grease Live.' It will follow that with Trisha Yearwood starring in 'The Passion,' and 'Rocky Horror Picture Show.'
'One of the things we love about the shows is that the music makes the show feel very contemporary and kind of very exciting,' Fox's CEO Gary Walden said of musical shows. 'It gives it an element, a feeling almost of it being live.'
NBC led the way with its live-aired musicals and said during TCA that it's closing a deal for 'Hairspray' next. It also recently found a ratings hit with the Dolly Parton biopic 'Coat of Many Colours.'
Cable and streaming want their music TV, too. Showtime's Cameron Crowe-produced drama 'Roadies' follows the lives and work of the crew behind a rockin' tour. HBO teamed Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese on the upcoming 'Vinyl.' And Amazon's 'Mozart in the Jungle,' about a New York symphony, just won a Golden Globe.
The TV industry has been playing a game of 'wait, wait, hurry' with ratings. It took a very long time for it to admit that the old model of counting live viewers wasn't an accurate look at TV viewership. Even as things evolve, there have been hiccups in trying to convince advertisers. Now, everyone seems to be on the bandwagon.
Fox, which became the first broadcast network to end reporting of its live ratings, made a big presentation (complete with slides) of the rise its shows received in delayed viewership. It reiterated that its renewal/cancellation decisions aren't based on live ratings anymore and pointed out that recently renewed 'Scream Queens,' for example, had a 167% boost in viewers across platforms like DVD, online, and streaming.
Only a month after Netflix released 'Making a Murderer,' other networks want in on the action. Investigation Discovery and NBC News are teaming up to refute the Netflix documentary in a special to air later this month.
The truth is TV is undergoing true-crime mania right now that has nothing to do with 'Making a Murderer' (as projects were in the works before the doc series came along). It probably has more to do with the viral success of last year's 'Serial' podcast and HBO's 'The Jinx.'
But 'Making a Murderer' has clearly confirmed there's an interest in true-crime programming.
Ryan Murphy may be the next to cash in on the trend when FX's 'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story' premieres on February 2. In the meantime, Murphy, too, is obsessing about 'Making a Murderer.'
'When I was watching that show I wanted to talk to every juror and see inside the courtroom,' he said during TCA.
An argument about 'peak TV' that started last year rages on. FX stoked the fires when it released an actual count of 2015's scripted shows, coming to a grand total of 412, which had to be corrected from an earlier figure.
'So I can't think of a better anecdote than that,' FX Networks CEO John Landgraf said. 'You can't even count how many television shows accurately. There are so many.'
Writer/producer Judd Apatow -- whose next show, 'Love,' is premiering on Netflix -- had a different point of view.
'It's an amazing time for showrunners and creators because there is an enormous need for shows,' he said. 'Even six or seven years ago, it felt like a lot of my friends were out of work, and there were not a lot of sitcoms, and suddenly the whole world seemed to open up and demand groundbreaking television.'
TV networks and producers are patting themselves on the back for saying they would create more diverse programming over the years and then doing it. ABC led the charge with 'Black-ish,' 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'Scandal,' and 'How to Get Away with Murder.' ABC also announced that the next star of 'The Bachelorette' won't be white.
Now, NBC is very pleased with itself. America Ferrera, a lead on 'Superstore,' said the show was the first time she read a role that wasn't specifically written for a Latina actress. Jennifer Lopez drama 'Shades of Blue' gives the cop genre a minority star.
'For me, the turning point was Shonda Rhimes and 'Grey's Anatomy,'' Lopez said. 'That's where TV got interesting again. I remember watching that and what was so interesting was where she placed different characters. Since then it feels like the norm.'
On the other end, new CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller countered charges that his network isn't diverse enough.
'I'm diverse, I fall into the LBGT category. I'm just a gay guy from Indiana who doesn't play basketball,' Geller said. 'I mentioned my husband earlier, because I want to normalize my diversity. CBS will always reflect what America looks like.'
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