By the time Comcast and NBCUniversal announced their planned merger in December 2009, Jean Prewitt, president and CEO of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, had begun lobbying to improve the position of independent producers vis-à-vis media conglomerates.
“Probably four years ago, our board agreed that we had to take a much stronger policy role to address issues related to independents being closed out of U.S. television opportunities,” Prewitt says. “Some of that was related to media consolidation, but that was paired with concern about how all of that would potentially play out again on the Internet.”
By the time Comcast and NBCU were appearing before Congress to defend their deal, IFTA was more than ready. Prewitt’s testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee in February 2010 — while she sat next to Comcast CEO Steve Burke and then-NBCU prexy Jeff Zucker — helped persuade lawmakers some kind of deal was needed.
In 1995, independents accounted for 50% of programming on all channels,” she says. “Today, just 10% to 15% of programming comes from independents. More to the point, the public wasn’t seeing interesting independent programming.”
By Washington standards, a deal was quickly struck. In July, Comcast and NBCUniversal agreed to work with IFTA on the following items:
• Schedule an annual development presentation for indie producers;
• Arrange annual pitch meetings with execs from NBCU’s entertainment nets;
• Allocate funds to support development of indie projects;
• Facilitate introductions of indie producers to advertisers;
• Take submissions from independent producers for NBCU’s cable networks of movies of the week, miniseries or films;
• Help Comcast Cable develop a relationship with IFTA with an eye toward licensing independently produced content for distribution on Comcast’s new media platforms.
“We’ve already seen implementation,” Prewitt says. “Comcast and NBCU have been amenable because they are anxious to see a system that would start moving independent programming forward. They hope that by working closer with us that something might be created in this process that helps strengthen their channels.”
Title: President/CEO, Independent Film & Television Alliance
Role model: Nancy Drew
Career mantra: “Don’t lose sight of the mission.”
Leisure pursuits: “Collecting work of local artists, reading murder mysteries and travel essays, enjoying family”
Political passions: Cancer research, affordable housing, equal opportunities