Universal Studio Group Chairman Pearlena Igbokwe has said reboots and remakes are here to stay but they need to be “interesting” and have “vision,” as she revealed “we spent a year hearing people tell us how horrible a Fresh Prince remake would be.”
Speaking in a keynote interview at the live and in-person Banff World Media Festival, Igbokwe said she “understands why people lean in to titles in a world with hundreds of shows where you’re looking for a leg up” but “just saying I’m remaking a show from the 70s or 80s is not enough.”
“When someone comes to us for titles in our TV and film library we say ‘tell us your vision for it’,” she added. “The bar is higher when you tell someone you are remaking their favourite show.”
To that end, Igbokwe said Universal put up with a year of criticism around the Fresh Prince Peacock reboot from fans of the original cult 90s classic. “And then people watched it and loved it,” she added. “So we will continue to see reboots but the bar is high.”
Traversing a wide range of topics today up in the Rockies, Igbokwe said podcasts and gaming are the next big obstacles that TV producers will come up against when competing for people’s time.
She dismissed the notion that the world is reaching “peak TV,” as predicted by FX’s John Landgraf several years ago, but said “people only have a certain amount of time.”
“There are a lot of shows to watch and you’re going to come up against things like podcasts and gaming,” she added. “But I don’t think there has been too much pullback yet. Can there be too much TV? I don’t think so.”
On inflated budgets, Igbokwe said “we can’t make decisions based on dollars.”
“You have to take creative risks to win,” Igbokwe made a point of telling the Banff crowd, emphasizing her story first philosophy for the global market. “Creativity is not about spending the most money,” the USG boss added, nothing the relative low budget of the acclaimed Russian Doll.
“For a lot of platforms, it’s about driving subs. They are spending a lot of but creativity isn’t necessarily about spending a lot of money. When you look at a Game of Thrones you think that’s fantastic and is worth every penny but you can also make Russian Doll or Hacks and people still love them. It’s a balance. Not everything has to be a $40M to $50M show
Igbokwe talked up Universal’s balance of producing for internal Comcast-owned platforms such as NBC, USA and Peacock along with third parties including Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon, describing this as the “best of both worlds.”
The former Showtime exec, who became chairman around two years ago during the early stages of the pandemic, is currently overseeing 129 projects across 29 platforms including Hacks, Never Have I Ever, Young Rock, Umbrella Academy and Gaslit.
She was speaking at this year’s Banff World Media Festival, with Netflix’s Bela Bajaria and Participant CEO David Linde set to deliver keynotes tomorrow.
She told a group of journalists in London recently that the “arms race” for top talent is subsiding.
Dominic Patten contributed to this report
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