Among the many differences between the Oscars and the Emmys is the timing of the ceremony with regard to the industry’s work cycles.
The Academy Awards mark the culmination of filmdom’s grueling awards-season gantlet, but when it’s all over, bizzers can generally take it easy, at least for a little while. For the TV troops, the Emmy Awards come at the start of the race — not only with the onslaught of fall series premieres but also the chase for hot development properties for the following season.
This year, there’s definitely no resting after the Emmys as the nets dive into a shootout involving more than two dozen new series preems during the next few weeks (and that doesn’t even count midseason). And the development derby is off to a robust and competitive start. A host of projects have landed sizable commitments, including some from writers who haven’t yet reached boldface name status.
Industry insiders say there’s been a lot of jockeying between NBC and ABC in particular going after the same projects, a dynamic that has helped bid up the market for everyone (to the delight of tenpercenters). Fueling the largess at the networks is the rebound in the syndication market as evidenced by the megabucks deals commanded by Emmy darling “Modern Family” and “The Big Bang Theory,” as well as such dramas as “Hawaii Five-0” and “Castle.”
The selling season got off to a bit of a late start as the creative community waited for Bob Greenblatt’s new team to settle in — Jennifer Salke at NBC Entertainment and Bela Bajaria at Universal TV. Greenblatt and his lieutenants bring a wealth of strong relationships in the creative community. There’s a lot of goodwill in town toward the new regime, and there are plenty of folks counting on the long-term upside of helping them begin the primetime turnaround at the Peacock.
Once the selling season got going, it was as if pitches and spec scripts and remake/reboot concepts were shot out of a cannon. Long gone is the protocol of drama pitches going first followed by comedy. Now it seems to be everything all at once, and the selling frenzy is not limited to broadcasters. TNT, USA, Lifetime, FX and other cablers have been busy grabbing scripts and greenlighting pilots.
There’s a lot of exciting projects out there,” said Warner Bros. TV Group topper Bruce Rosenblum. “You’ve got relatively new senior management at two of the networks (ABC and NBC) who are anxious to get going this year. There’s a lot of excitement about the (TV) business right now.”
Dealmaking is ever more complicated, especially for shops like Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox TV and Sony Pictures TV that play the field in shopping projects to other networks. (If Greenblatt has his way, Universal TV will be in that fray by next year.) Wrangling over the long-term control of Web streaming rights will be the next frontier of fierce fighting for nonaligned networks and studios, biz vets predict, as those rights are starting to yield real money.
At this stage of the development cycle, however, the only thing that really matters is the quality of the work. All those put pilot orders and hefty penalties won’t mean much come January unless execs believe the script is worth the gamble. If so, those big upfront deals can ensure a larger pilot budget and a more generous license fee should the project go all the way to a series order. If not, the penalty is the price of doing business, and more often than not, that money migrates to new business between the same net and studio.
Nobody’s going to make a bad pilot just because there’s a penalty,” said a top TV talent rep. “Those big commitments don’t really benefit the (creatives). They only matter when it allows you to make a better pilot.”