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USA Today on how broadcast nets should deal with economy

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May 3rd, 2009

USA Today's Robert Bianco has some advice for the television networks which he boils down to:

  • Cut costs wisely
  • Be less arrogant
  • Enter the real world

On the issue of cost, I did find this bit interesting:

As they extend their game shows and limit their commitments to big casts and big-name stars, the networks are sending a message to actors and writers: If you want to work, you'll have to work for less. Employees everywhere are hearing much the same, of course, but it's a harder sell in Hollywood because the employers have historically been unreliable bookkeepers. At some studios, creative accounting is the only creativity you'll find.

What's needed is a show of good faith. And here's a good place for the networks and studios to start: Stop inflating costs by adding your friends, former co-workers, ex-presidents and assorted contractually obligated hacks to the producer payrolls. Pay only those people who actually work, and you'd be shocked at the savings.

For Hollywood, being less arrogant could be as difficult as being told "don't breathe", but I found myself agreeing with Bianco here:

Take ABC's In the Motherhood, a fast flop that was shot in ABC's preferred one-camera style — even though audiences clearly prefer the older method used by CBS' high-rated Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. Yet when asked why she chose this format, producer Alexandra Rushfield said she and her partners would tell the story "the way we want to tell it and let other people think about how well it is going to do."

Well, yes, there's something to be said for leaving business decisions to business types and letting creators go their own way. Still, if you really want to be free of concerns about how well a project does, go to an outlet like AMC that can make do with a tiny audience. And if art is what you want, create art, rather than commercial pap that can't even manage to be commercial.

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