Variety business editor Cynthia Littleton sat down with top TV executives Paul Telegdy, chairman at NBC; Sarah Barnett, president of entertainment at AMC Networks; Albert Cheng, COO and co-head of TV at Amazon Studios; Jeffrey Hirsch, President and CEO of Starz; Gary Levine, co-president of entertainment at Showtime; and Adam Lewinson, chief content officer of Tubi, at Variety‘s June 2019 TV Summit to discuss the content arms race being caused by the launch of new streaming platforms and the major disruptions happening in the industry as a result of recent mega-mergers.
After the Disney-Fox merger led to a slew of layoffs, NBC chairman Paul Telegdy weighed in on the changes that Comcast’s acquisition of Sky has brought day-to-day at the network.
“It’s been a great transition. There’s very little friction and overlap between the businesses, which is always desirable in a big acquisition,” Telegdy said. “You won’t have a lot of people worrying about where their next paycheck is coming from. We’ve had a stable, non-complacent role in the last 18 months.”
As far as how collaborations between NBC and Sky will play out, Telegdy said it’s still too early to tell, but made sure to emphasize they are both taking the time to develop a “deep synergy” as opposed to looking for “quick content wins.”
With NBCUniversal prepping its own streaming platform Peacock for an April 2020 launch, Telegdy also addressed the question of whether the network might be overshadowed as a result.
“What we really are is the primary content engine for the creation of a lot of series,” Telegdy said. “Rumors of our demise have long been overstated, but we’ve come out of a very strong upfront.”
The panel later pivoted to a discussion on the content arms race which seems to be escalating as more and more players seek new programs and production values soar.
Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch said that HBO has always positioned itself as the “cherry on top of television,” and the eye-popping amount Netflix is spending on content won’t change the approach at Starz.
“I think Netflix is trying to replace television, they’re trying to be all things to everybody and I also think they’ve done a phenomenal job of convincing everyone on Wall Street, everyone in this room, that you have to spend $13 billion to compete and so if you don’t have that kind of money why don’t just close down and go home because you can’t do it,” Hirsch said. “But there’s room for a premium service to be sold on top of everybody and that’s how we’ve been positioned, that’s how we’ve been successful, and that means that our content is unique and special. There’s always going to be a place for us and we don’t have to spend $13 billion to be successful.”