When it comes to gift-giving during the holiday season, there are presents you dream of (see: “A Christmas Story”), presents that are nice surprises (thoughtful items that prove family and friends really “get” you) and presents that are entirely sensible (socks, underwear, replacement printer cartridges).
As another eventful year draws to a close, the television business can use a combination of all three types of offerings to help ensure that peace and prosperity reign in 2014. After making a list, checking it twice, and without judging who’s been naughty or nice, here are five things I’d like to bestow on the networks, studios, creatives and other creatures who help make the pictures fly through the air (or the wires).
No. 1: A better Nielsen yardstick
The thing that keeps CEOs up at night is the feeling money is left on the table because ratings measurement systems haven’t kept up with the many ways people now watch TV programs. Nielsen has been working toward delivering omnibus ratings for live, DVR, VOD and streaming viewing for years, but there are still many obstacles to getting numbers networks and advertisers can agree on as currency. The best research minds in the industry formed a coalition a few years ago to study the problem (and prod Nielsen to move faster). Let’s hope 2014 is the year the biz cracks the code.
No. 2: A peace treaty between nets and studios for handling VOD and SVOD rights
A lot of wrangling is going on in the dealmaking over who gets to control the post-premiere digital rights in various platforms, and for how long. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, of course, as different congloms have taken different approaches, with some favoring only TV Everywhere authentication services, while others are cracking open the door to SVOD upstarts. There’s concern in the creative community that deal points for what happens after a show is produced may get in the way of landing a project at the optimum network.
No. 3: A moratorium on remakes of old shows
For the sake of encouraging writers everywhere to dig deep and be original, let’s take a breather on hoary concepts hauled out of studio vaults. Yes, those remakes can be cost-effective because the basic IP is already paid for, but let this fall’s experience with “Ironside” be a lesson. Do we really need a fresh spin on “Murder, She Wrote,” “Charmed,” “Tales From the Dark Side” or “Have Gun Will Travel?” Say it ain’t so, Paladin.
No. 4: Tailwinds for the slew of “event series” in the pipeline for next year and beyond
NBC’s success with “The Sound of Music Live” proved America will show up for a big event if it hits the right notes, and CBS’ “Under the Dome” demonstrated there’s a clear appetite for summer popcorn fare. But here’s hoping the TV biz won’t suffer the same blockbuster overload as the major film studios endured this past summer. FX, Fox, ABC and NBC will be among the first out of the gate next year with “Fargo,” “24: Live Another Day,” CIA thriller “The Assets” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” respectively.
No. 5: A comedy series that is both funny and fetching to a wide audience
The 2013-14 campaign has yielded some well-received laffers — ABC’s “The Goldbergs” and “Trophy Wife,” CBS’ “Mom,” Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” — though none have caught fire yet from a ratings standpoint. But “The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family” weren’t built in a day either, so hopefully the worthiest will have the time to find their footing. (“Brooklyn” is likely to gain yardage after its post-Super Bowl airing in February.) As Charles Dickens observed in “A Christmas Carol”: “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
Happy holidays to one and all.