NBC, Fox, HBO Executives Tout Advantages for Young Creators in Current Market

TV Summit
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Network executives speaking at the Variety TV Summit on Tuesday said they believe that young content creators have never had more opportunities than they do today.

“I think it’s a really good time to be a talented writer,” Fox Entertainment president David Madden said. “Everyone’s looking for someone who can really write. But the threshold for having showrunning experience or even senior staffing experience is probably less. … There’s so much appetite right now that we’re looking for great writing no matter what experience someone may have.”

Madden was joined by programming chiefs, including NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, FX Networks original programming president Eric Schrier, and OWN president Erik Logan on a panel that touched on a broad range of industry issues, including how to support young talent with unique voices.

Salke said it’s important for networks to offer the proper support for less experienced creators by pairing them with veteran showrunners.

“If you don’t sell creators who are inspired and stand out of the crowd as that, you’re going to be a great partner who is going to support and build them and support their show and their vision, they have 640 other places they can go,” she said. “You have to be able to support them. I can’t think of a better time for supporting creators of shows.”

Schrier also highlighted FX’s history of nurturing such relationships, like when the network brought in Paul Simms to assist Donald Glover with his hit comedy “Atlanta.”

“If you look over our track record, we’ve had a tremendous amount of success with people that don’t have a lot of experience,” he said. “What we’ve done is try to support them in the best way, so if you go all the way back to ‘The Shield,’ Shawn Ryan had been a staff writer on some network shows, but never ran a show. So we brought Scott Brazil in to support him on the production side. That’s what Paul does for Donald. He gives him a level of experience and helps him navigate the more bureaucratic aspects of being a showrunner.”

On the flip side, HBO Programming president Casey Bloys pointed specifically to the example set by Issa Rae and her new hit HBO show “Insecure” as the success a relatively inexperienced creative team can attain.

“We took a chance on ‘Insecure’ with three people: Issa Rae as a performer and creator, with Prentice Penny as showrunner, and with Melina Matsoukas as director,” he said. “In this case, all three hit it out of the park. Five years ago, we may have said ‘Well, we need someone who’s been a showrunner.’ It’s really gratifying when it works.”

The panel was moderated by Cynthia Littleton, managing editor of TV for Variety.