Super Producers Power Reps

Aug 8, 2005  •  Post A Comment

For talent agencies, having more clients working can lead to increased fees or may open the door to packaging. It certainly provides considerable leverage when it comes to getting work for other clients. A newly released study by the Web-based TV consultant firm TVTracker.com provides important insight into which agencies have clout when it comes to getting their clients jobs in television.

The report shows that nearly 90 percent of the writers and producers staffed on broadcast network scripted series for the 2005-06 prime-time season are represented by six talent agencies. Of the six, film and TV powerhouse Creative Artists Agency tops the list. The other 10 percent are split among 20 smaller talent representation firms, according to the TVTracker.com report.

The report focuses on scripted prime-time shows on the six major broadcast networks. It provides a tally of writers, nonwriting producers and producer/directors who have been hired to work on shows that will air during the 2005-06 season. Agency clients working on unscripted series such as reality shows and news programming, including newsmagazines, are not included in the count.

The staffing of prime-time series is fluid, with some clients moving on and off shows within the span of a single season. Some of those counted will also change their representation during the season.

“It’s a snapshot,” Carolyn Finger, VP of TVTracker.com, said of the report. “It’s basically how staffing [for the upcoming] season shook out.”

Despite the shifting sands of staffing, the agency representation picture reveals that prolific producers have a major impact on how an agency fares in terms of the number of working clients.

The top agency on the TVTracker.com list, CAA, counted 231 clients on prime-time scripted shows, followed by the United Talent Agency with 226 clients.

The compiled numbers are based on “an aggregate number of people staffed, rather than packaging or revenue information,” said Mark Hoebich, CEO and founder of TVTracker.com.

For CAA, the success of nonwriting producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who has six scripted series on the air for the fall, helped bolster the agency’s overall number. TVTracker.com counted Mr. Bruckheimer six times to represent all of his credits. The same goes for UTA, which benefited from Dick Wolf’s success with his three “Law & Order” series.

“What we’re seeing is having these nonwriting producing entities really makes a big difference,” Ms. Finger said. “The agency really is commissioning that.”

The report also separately breaks down the number of clients each agency has with executive producer credits or creator credits and clients designated as head writer, or showrunner.

As with the overall client count, the six largest agencies, which include the Endeavor Agency, William Morris Agency, Broder-Webb-Chervin-Silbermann Agency and International Creative Management, dominated the list when it comes to the most senior writers and producers on staff.

In terms of executive producers, CAA topped the list with

98 clients, according to TVTracker.com, while Endeavor took the No. 1 spot with clients who have “created by” credits (27). Endeavor also has the most clients who serve as showrunners (33). Having a client at the top of a show gives agencies an in when getting their lower-level clients hired, Ms. Finger said.

“If you look at how strong an agency like CAA is in executive producers, you start to realize there is trickle-down effect in total staffing,” she said. “It stands to reason the more people you know in hiring positions, the more opportunity you create for yourselves.”

The concentration of so many clients in a few agencies is similar to the current state of the broadcast network business, Ms. Finger said.

“It parallels how few studios there are,” she said. “It’s the same kind of consolidation that you’ve seen on the supplier side. You essentially have six agencies selling to six studios and six networks, in the broadest possible definition.”

That definition comes with some notable exceptions. The fact that an agency has a showrunner staffed on a series doesn’t mean there is a reserved spot at the writers table for another agency client, she said, “but they have more access to that material.”

All of the large agencies listed declined comment on the TV Tracker data. A partner at one boutique agency said that these kinds of lists don’t really tell their story.

Alan Braun, a partner at the boutique Kaplan Stahler Gumer Braun agency said success for the agency is not about raw numbers. The TVTracker.com report does not list clients staffed on late-night series or cable shows, two areas of major business for a number of agencies, including his firm, Mr. Braun said.

The focus for a smaller firm is rarely how many staff it can place, but rather where it gets the client a job. Mr. Braun pointed out that his firm has only 21 clients on the TVTracker.com list, but five are staffed on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” a popular show that should remain a steady and lucrative piece of business for several seasons.

“It shows that at the boutique agencies, we really focus on getting our clients on the right shows,” Mr. Braun said. “We really specialize to our clients’ needs … otherwise we wouldn’t survive.”

Relationships with studio and network executives who play a crucial role in staffing shows and the ability to groom a select list of talented clients allow smaller agencies to survive in a world of consolidation, Ms. Finger said.

“If these companies are able to stay focused within their means and build on a client base, then they are able to succeed,” she said.