“The entertainment industry will be driven by the TV business, not the movie business,” Sony Pictures Television President Steve Mosko said at tonight’s Chapman University panel “The New Era of Television” at the Sony lot’s Backstage Theatre. Mosko was joined by Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos and AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll as they canvassed where the small-screen medium has been and where it’s going. The event was moderated by Ross Brown, professor at Chapman Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.
“I don’t say that with any disregard,” added Mosko. “I think the motion picture business is still a great business. It’s just that there’s so much great TV being produced.”
Mosko further spoke to the students about how “TV was always the bastard child” to movies, but “is on equal footing with the movie business” now in the wake of its latest golden age. It’s no longer a stigma or a step down for film directors to segue to the medium. “Rather than go to the movies on a Saturday night, most people rather watch three hours of House Of Cards,” said Mosko. Given that there’s more points of entry for great creative content such as Netflix and Amazon, it makes the small screen more palatable for filmmakers. “A lot of people want to be in TV,” Mosko said. “They don’t fear failure once they’re on the air. They feel failure of getting on the air. If Adam Sandler wants to do a movie, he does a movie, and it goes out. If he says, ‘I want to do a broadcast network show,’ he has to write a script, make a pilot and deal with a lot of people half his age giving him notes. Then they do a pilot, then there’s more notes, then it goes before a committee, and the fact that the show might fail in that process and not get to the consumer scares a lot of (creative) people off. And what Ted and Ed have done with their platforms is accommodate great writers and actors to approach TV in a way where they don’t feel like they’ll fail TV early on, they leave it up to the consumer.”
Carroll explained how the TV industry use to be hooked on the billion-dollar syndication business, how procedurals like CSI and Law & Order were the way of the future. Syndicated procedurals allowed viewers to parachute into any episode without ever committing to the series on a whole. “The detectives left the office and no one cared,” said Carroll. But Netflix changed all that, with what Sarandos called “consumer’s control of the demand. It used to be when I was a kid, if I overslept, I didn’t get to watch Saturday morning cartoons until next Saturday.” But now, “people can get the whole history of TV on demand.” Sarandos told the crowd that while Netflix is currently in 50 countries, the plan is to be everywhere internationally by the end of 2016. New markets include Japan and Cuba for the streaming service, and they’re developing locally based series in Mexico and France to appeal to subscribers in those territories.
Talking about the future, Mosko said that for Sony TV, “We don’t need a network, for as long as the (viewing) universe expands” with such streaming outlets like Netflix, “It’s good for us.” Mosko mentioned that Sony was the first major studio TV division to get its programming (read Breaking Bad, and now its spinoff Better Call Saul) on Netflix.
Carroll mentioned that despite the revolution of streaming service, the primetime schedule as we know it, continues to propel the watercooler environment, particularly with such shows as The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and even Game Of Thrones. “The feeling is communal; no one wants to miss a show and then hear others talks about it,” he said. “A schedule creates challenges for shows to be urgent.”
Another point Sarandos clarified tonight was in regards to Netflix’s subscriber data and how it’s incorporated into the creativity of its shows.
“It’s one of the most misunderstood things that we do,” he said. “There’s a fantasy world that we use the date for casting. We use the data to size the investment. So if we can use the data to reinforce what we believe will be the size of the audience for the show, if we can accurately project that, then we can say that this show is going to draw enough of an audience that we should be investing way more, and make an offer that would be tough to compete with. Or, this is a really great show, but it’s only for a small audience, so we control the investment. It’s about sizing the audience in success. The data won’t tell you much about success just from the elements alone. It will give you a good indicator of the potential for success, but all the data helps us manage the size of investment.”