It has been harder and harder for broadcast TV networks to attract A-list creative talent amid growing competition from cable networks and digital platforms. Just yesterday, one of the most prolific broadcast TV creators of the last few decades, David E. Kelley — at TCA to promote his new Amazon series Goliath — admitted that he would probably not go back to broadcast.
“I don’t think a a lot of creators are saying that,” said Fox TV Group chairman Dana Walden, who was joined at Fox’s TCA executive session by the network’s president of entertainment David Madden, with her partner, Gary Newman, taking a break. I find it hasn’t been difficult at all (to get top creators to do shows for Fox and 20th Century Fox TV).
She touted the reach and power of broadcast series, which she believes is attractive to creators. “Our shows become part of the national conversation, they are hitting a nerve. You can’t have that elsewhere, particularly on OTT.”
Walden pointed to writer staffing on shows as an area that is most impacted by the proliferation of original scripted content.
“Peak TV is a challenge,” she said. “A lot of the creators are trying to staff with experienced writers, which can be difficult.”
Madden pointed out what is possibly the biggest draw of broadcast TV.
“There is still the opportunity for a big financial home-run that doesn’t exist elsewhere.”
Reboots are popular for next season, and Fox leading the trend with new 24 and Prison Break series, and Lethal Weapon and Exorcist adaptations.
“Reboots are not a guarantee of success — we certainly know that as well as anyone,” Walden said. “Our hope was that the well-known titles — if and only if well executed — would lighten the load on our marketing team as they have viewer awareness.”
Madden stressed that 7 of Fox’s new series are based on original contests. “That clearly remains our predominant business,” he said.
Fox was the most aggressive broadcast network when it came to ownership this past upfront, owning 100% of all its new scripted series except for Warner Bros.’ Lethal Weapon.
“Our core objective is to own as much great content as possible,” Walden said. “It’s true that it is a higher bar when it’s a show from an outside studio on Fox or our project for an outside network.” But she pointed out to high-profile 20th TV series for other networks, including Modern Family and Speechless for ABC, Life In Pieces for CBS and This Is Us for NBC.
Added Madden, “The ownership hasn’t stopped (Warner Bros.-produced Fox series) Lucifer and Gotham from staying on the air.”
Walden, who noted that Fox is still in the process of mounting a turnaround, also talked about the decision to cancel comedies Grandfathered and The Grinder after one season. “I don’t think our comedies were canceled too quickly,” she said, noting that both had received back orders. “At the end of the day, they had no ratings to justify leaving them on a broadcast network.” She indicated that, after going a bit broader with the two family comedies, Fox is returning to “bold and outrageous comedies unlike anything else.”