Prolific film and TV producer Mark Gordon popped into the Edinburgh International Television Festival today for a look back and a look ahead as part of a Gamechanger session. Along the way, he offered his take on the current state of the business. With talent migrating to cable and SVOD, and as ratings erode, he said, networks need to shake up the system before it’s “too late.”
The Grey’s Anatomy producer also reflected on the early days with creator Shonda Rhimes, who had “such clear vision” when they were putting together that ABC series. Rhimes recently did some shaking up herself when she signed a multi-year megadeal with Netflix, leaving her longtime home ABC Studios.
“She conquered network TV — ABC would buy anything of hers for fear of looking like schmucks [if someone else got it],” said Gordon, who is in business with Netflix on Designated Survivor outside the U.S. “Netflix will give her the opportunity to broaden her horizons. … I think we’re going to see some amazing things coming out of her at Netflix.”
On the subject of networks and the newer players, Gordon said: “Broadcast networks, they’re so stuck in their old ways and people don’t really want to work in broadcast television the way they used to. The best actors, writers, directors are working in cable or SVOD.”
How do the networks entice those folks to come back to the fold? “Change the system,” said Gordon. “I think they need to shake it up so much in ways that they would never think of. … They have to do everything because they’re behind, they have to catch up. We’re seeing their demise yearly with the ratings drop in percentage points. … At some point it’s going to be too late.”
Gordon also made the switch from ABC Studios to setting up independently with eOne back in 2015. Today, he said, “I saw the network business was going down the tubes, and I wanted to learn new things.”
But it can be challenging. “I feel liberated and pressured at the same time,” he said. “I never had to focus on numbers … now it’s about that horrible word EBITDA. … In my previous incarnation of work, I didn’t even know what it meant.”
In the past year, Gordon has had two films shooting in the UK: The Nutcracker and Kenneth Branagh’s all-star Murder On The Orient Express. He’s also “really interested in making shows over here,” he told the largely British audience today. Opening a UK office is an idea he’s been mulling. “I would like to try and make it happen sooner rather than later,” he said.