Panel advocates cutting talent costs

Exex, VC agree risky strategy required

LAS VEGAS — Fearful that the current cost of producing shows is quickly getting too expensive, a NATPE panel of TV execs and a venture capitalist suggested cutting the cost of both talent agents and their clients is one good way to make ends meet.

Dennis Miller of Constellation Ventures said that talent agents must be willing to take less while Derek Baine of Kagan World Media offered up ABC’s “The Practice” as an example where talent costs were slashed — and the show has seen a resurgence in ratings.

“There are ways to cut budgets,” Baine said. “It can be risky but it just might pay off.”

Added Sony TV topper Steve Mosko, “If you’re smart with your cuts, there are ways to make money.”

While everyone agreed that DVD revenue has skyrocketed over the past five years, that coin hasn’t necessarily gone back into programming. And, added Mosko, by having so much TV DVD product in the marketplace can harm to the other aspects of studio profitability.

“DVD is exciting but you don’t want to jeopardize your syndie values,” he said.

Panelists, including Fox TV Studio prexy David Grant, were generally dismissive of product placement coin since no one is quite sure how the money should be divided and whether it works editorially.

“Product placement is overhyped,” Baine suggested. “What happens when those shows get into international markets and the products get dated?”

Miller was enthusiastic on having cable providers offering up niche nets for a nominal fee. An example was a reality net, full of programming that would be considered to hot-to-handle for broadcast standards.

“People will pay $3-$5 a month to get what they want,” he said.

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