You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

ABC Studios Boss on State of TV Biz: Broadcast is the ‘Last Stop on the Train of Pitches’

It would be impossible to get through a TV festival without hearing the words “Peak TV” — so much so that the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, had an entire panel dedicated to the current state of the industry, which currently boasts more than 400 scripted series.

ABC Studios boss Patrick Moran, Hulu’s head of originals Beatrice Springborn, HBO’s VP of programming Kathleen McCaffrey, CBS’s SVP of drama development Bryan Seabury, Shondaland’s Betsy Beers and writer/producer Liz Tigelaar gathered Saturday afternoon for a candidly raw discussion to discuss the pros and cons of Peak TV.

“Every decision you make is like you have a gun to your head,” Moran said, expressing the intense competition between networks and platforms to land top tier talent both in front of and behind the camera. “There are just so many places making so many shows — all of that volume is a very challenging thing to try to juggle…it’s like a giant game of Jenga.”

On that same note, HBO’s McCaffrey chimed in, saying, “Agents are really smart. They’re like, ‘If you’re not going to make a full series commitment, we’re going to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, bye!'”

With so many places to go, the networks and especially studios are feeling the grind of Peak TV, but the opportunity is immense for writers, producers and actors.

Tigelaar said the Peak TV era has provided writers with a “huge benefit,” explaining that ten or so years ago when a writer wasn’t staffed on a show, they’d have to wait until the next year to land a gig. Now, between broadcast, cable and streaming venues, writers rooms are staffing up year-round. “It completely transforms the schedule,” Tigelaar said. “All year long, there is tremendous opportunity. From staff writer to executive producer to showrunner, there are so many places to sell.”

“Good for them, bad for us,” Moran said, in response to Tigelaar. “With so many places making so much stuff, it’s not just writers and directors and actors…any element that goes into production is just in real short supply. It forces us to have to get more creative about where we produce our shows, when we do it. Financially, it puts more pressure. For all of the artists, it does create an enormous opportunity, but for all of the studios, it puts an enormous amount of pressure.”

Specifically speaking of talent, Moran exclaimed, “We’re paying what for who?!”

Springborn agreed with Moran in the sense that “your job has become an ambassador for the network that you weren’t before,” but although nets are in the game of selling themselves now, she says Hulu has the advantage of being a new platform, just breaking into original scripted programming. A major selling point for talent coming into the streaming service is the potential to create the first huge hit, which becomes the foundation of Hulu — like “House of Cards” or “Orange Is the New Black” is for Netflix. “I think that’s an opportunity that doesn’t really exist anymore,” she said.

The Hulu exec also boasted about the platform’s ability to nab shows that are on the bubble, most recently with ABC’s “Nashville,” which was renewed for a fifth season, thanks to Hulu and CMT.

“A lot of those shows will come to us and say, ‘Are you picking up the streaming rights for next season? Because that will pay for a piece of our budget.’ The ecosystem has changed a bit.”

Even HBO — the longtime gold standard of the industry — is no longer the shiny new toy. McCaffrey admits “it’s definitely a new game” with the heat of streaming services.

Moran, however, gave a nod to premium cablers like HBO and Showtime, plus the streaming platforms, noting that “they cast a really great halo around their shows.”

“Thank god we have Shondaland. We would not attract talent without Shonda [Rhimes] and Betsy [Beers]. Those shows cast a really great halo…most of our shows don’t have that,” Moran admitted, seated on the panel with Beers.

“You’re the last stop on the train on pitches,” he added, speaking of broadcast networks. “They’re going to start at Netflix and then they’ll go to HBO and Showtime and then the broadcast networks…they [broadcast nets] have to work that much harder to attract talent, writers, directors. I do think it’s not a level-playing field exactly. It does put a burden on us in the broadcast space to work harder and do better.”

Asked if Peak TV has hit its peak, the ABC Studios exec said no: “As a consumer who watches television, I don’t think we have hit the peak. As someone who makes TV, it’s hard.”

More TV

  • Khloe KardashianKhloe Kardashian, Emma Grede and

    Khloé Kardashian Could Be Next 'Bachelorette,' Says Show Creator Mike Fleiss

    The time has come to choose a new Bachelorette, and “The Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss has hinted that Khloe Kardashian may be in the mix. “I have already been in contact with my dear friend @KrisJenner about @khloekardashian as #TheBachelorette,” he tweeted Friday, after tweeting Thursday that “any decision regarding @khloekardashian as the new #TheBachelorette [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Whiskey Tango Cavalier

    TV Review: 'Whiskey Cavalier'

    The crux of “Whiskey Cavalier” can be found right in its protagonist’s name. “Will Chase” is a purposefully ridiculous wink of a name that tries to be both debonair and very silly all at once, just like the FBI agent (played by Scott Foley) to which it belongs. This isn’t a regular spy drama, “Whiskey [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Malik Yoba to Reprise Role in 'New York Undercover' Reboot at ABC

    Malik Yoba, who starred as Detective J.C. Williams in the 90s show “New York Undercover,” is set to reprise the role in the ABC reboot, sources tell Variety. Picking up 20 years after the end of the original series, “New York Undercover” will follow detectives Nat Gilmore and Melissa Ortiz as they investigate the city’s [...]

  • Chris Burrous dead KTLA anchor

    KTLA Anchor Chris Burrous' Cause of Death Released

    An investigative report on KTLA anchor Chris Burrous has determined that his cause of death was attributed to methamphetamine toxicity, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. Burrous, 43, was found unconscious at a motel in Glendale, Calif on December 27, and later died at the hospital. The death has been ruled as accidental. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content