HRTS Cable Chiefs Panel: Serialized Dramas Face Uncertain Future On Basic Cable

No big headlines from today’s HRTS luncheon featuring several cable chiefs: FX’s John Landgraf, Showtime’s David Nevins, USA Network’s Jeff Wachtel and BET’s Loretha Jones.

Landgraf spoke candidly about the difficulty of making serialized dramas work on basic cable. He noted that viewers seem to watch only reality series and sports live and prefer to view serialized shows in blocks of several episodes at a time on their DVRs. That hurts ratings tremendously and puts a lot of pressure on scripted programming, which doesn’t come cheap – Landgraf quoted a $200 million figure for keeping a basic cable drama series on the air for 7 years. Looking back at a show like Damages, while proud of it, Landgraf acknowledged that it didn’t work for FX and he wouldn’t do such serialized series in the future.

Other tidbits from the luncheon: Nevins spoke about broadening Showtime’s audiences, Wachtel called the final season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent a “victory lap” and Jones admitted even she was surprised by the huge success of the BET’s sitcom The Game.

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