CANNES, France — Marion Edwards, president of international at 20th Century Fox Television Distribution, received the inaugural Variety Vanguard Award at the Mipcom TV conference Tuesday. The award recognizes individuals who make great contributions to the growth of the global television business.
Speaking on stage at Mipcom to Henry Chu, Variety’s Europe bureau chief, Edwards reaffirmed her belief that network television is alive and well. “It is still the brass ring for many producers,” she said. “The fact is that with a network hit literally millions of people can watch it, and millions of people can engage in a community dialogue about it, and I still think that television at its heart is something best enjoyed together with other people.”
Edwards recalled having “Shōgun” parties on nights when the show would air, while others had “Friends” and “Cheers” parties. “It is just a great way to share fun and humor with your friends, and that’s not so easy to do with shows where people are watching different numbers of episodes at different times, and you’re binging on your own, and so I think that does keep that network experience special and when you can hit it out of the ball-park there you’ve hit a big home run,” she said.
Edwards recognized that we are in an age of fragmentation in the television market, but stuck to her faith in the value of mass audience television. “I do think the audience has fractured a lot and I think it is great that there is programming being produced for virtually everybody who’d like to watch something. But I still think there is that opportunity for shows to reach across the aisle, that can attract parents and grandparent and children as well; that there are still family experiences to be had around the warm, glowing television set, but it is becoming harder to do. People tend to want to watch shows that speak very personally to them, but I think they are also still interested in broader shows.”
Edwards recalled recent conversations she had had at the market in Mipcom. “I said I don’t really think there’s a more derogatory word in the English language than ‘old,’ but old media is still king. I think it is a question of grabbing that ring and making that connection to the audience that old media can get for you. So I think it is a bad word, but a great business.”