In what many are dubbing a new Golden Age of television, the quality of shows and options for programming are at an all-time high, a focal theme at this year’s Tune In: The TV Summit. The confab, held on Aug. 6 at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Century City, will feature a wealth of industry professionals, including keynote speakers Conan O’Brien, host and exec producer of his eponymous TBS nighttime talk show, and Marc Juris, president and general manager of WEtv.
“I have to say, with all the advancing technology, it still takes the same amount of time and hard labor to come up with a great story,” says Juris. “Because I’m a storyteller, we’re all storytellers, my job really hasn’t changed. The elements of a great story are the same as they have been for thousands of years.”
But in a field as fluid and unpredictable as television, it’s often those behind the scenes — the agency business included — that make the cogs turn, says Ari Greenburg, partner, scripted TV at WME.
“It’s a great time to be an agent,” says Greenburg, slated to speak on the Future of the TV Business panel. “If you have writers and producers that have projects, there are a ton of places to take them. That’s what most of these panels have been about, and how to make money from these things.”
In a complementary effort to both make money and keep audiences satisfied, networks should not be viewed in a hierarchic manner, with some looked at as prime real estate while others are seen as playing second fiddle, Greenburg says. Rather, he says, all platforms, from digital to broadcast to broadband, are plum starting points from which to birth and promote a series.
“If they’re the winning bidder, (the digital platform) will get it,” he says, “and part of their big sell is that they don’t give a lot of creative notes. I’m sure that will evolve as they get more experienced.”
Elwood Reid, creator of FX’s gritty drama “The Bridge,” also senses a change in networks’ approach to good shows, but more akin to viewer “subscriptions” to a platform. Audiences are in it for the long haul, and successful networks will attempt to stick it out with creators to build their brand, Reid says.
“Audiences out there don’t know what the real battle is,” says Reid, who will take part in the TV’s Creative Trailblazers panel, “which is that all these networks are competing for the writer or the director with the really cool fucking idea that everyone is afraid of. So if you’ve got that really good brand, all the writers and actors want to go to them.”
Though it is certainly a goal to have a major hit on a broadcast network and attract widespread recognition, Reid’s strong desire at the moment is to continue to serve a particular, fragmented audience.
“Anyone would love to have a big hit like ‘Two and a Half Men’ or ‘NCIS,’” he says. “Do I think ‘Mad Men’s’ Matt Weiner would like 20 million people to watch every week? Yeah, so would I. But I think I’m serving a particular type of audience. ‘The Bridge,’ is the show I want to do.”