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Ted Leonsis on The State of the Television Industry

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May 12th, 2008

Ted’s Take

Ted wrote a post today based on the Silcon Alley Insider story about the TV Week interview with Jeff Zucker, entitled I Heard the Same Kind of Banter 10 Years Ago from Newspaper Titans...

"When you can't grow, you focus on expenses and the cycle of cuts; layoffs; cheapening of the product; and all sort of self-fulfilling rationale begins. I once thought of NBC television under Brandon Tartikoff as a creative powerhouse. Now it is all about Suits and numbers and cheap content to fill in the time slots. Color me nervous for network TV," Ted Leonsis on his blog, Ted's Take.

I don't put Zucker in the same league as Tartikoff creatively, but this environment is very different than the one Brandon T. faced, and I'm not sure even he could've done much. The truth is, Ted is right to be worried, but network TV needs to be worried no matter what. And perhaps even more worried than the newspapers - at least in terms of primetime programming. Though it's not really true right now outside of the NFL, in 20 years sports is bound to be the most lucrative programming because it might be practically the only thing people watch live.

The problem is with the younger generation, say Ted's kids, the expectations around content are:

  1. It should be available whenever I want it
  2. It should be available in whatever venue I want to view it in
  3. It should be free

That last one is already mostly true for the newspaper business, but at least they can make a case for big advertising in their revenue stream. The kids don't seem to want advertising in their television content.

I think to some degree networks like HBO are going to have to go to the likes of Apple and Intel and say, "The young affluent watch Entourage: Sponsor our show please!" and then make it "free". As for broadcast networks, the end for primetime as we knew it has already happened. We're just now on the long, slow ride towards the bottom.

There will be a few exception shows, but mostly I think The Office (few viewers, right demographics) is already the wave of the future and Zucker is just managing it as efficiently as he can. I hope however, Ted will be inspired to write a "10 steps to save broadcast primetime" post as he did with the newspaper industry (sadly when Ted moved his blog to a new domain, some of the posts got horribly formatted in the transition, but that one in particular is worth wading through anyway).

I highly recommend Ted's blog - it's often about what's going on his world, but it's also often just what he thinks about what's going on. Plus, he posts stuff like links to a younger Bill O'Reilly going kind of crazy.

 
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