Networks Progress, But Still Can Improve

May 28, 2007  •  Post A Comment

After the recent rush of the upfront presentations to advertisers in New York, it’s time to take stock of what the networks served up beyond ahi and cosmopolitans.
The year leading up to the soiree in New York two weeks ago was marked by massive change in the industry, particularly in the digital sphere. The 2006-07 cycle also was marked by progress in the realm of diversity, with the faces on several hit shows better reflecting the face of the television audience.
We’d like to see the networks double down on both fronts.
With regard to digital, it’s clear the networks are intent on integrating these new distribution technologies into their business models. For the most part, they bent over backward to show advertisers they want to include Internet and other distribution avenues in this year’s deals.
But there are lessons to be learned from audience behavior over the past year that not all networks are embracing. The shopworn mantra of “anything, anywhere, anytime” has never had more importance, and the media executives who most aggressively push their top-drawer content across the new technologies will be better positioned than their competition.
There has been a chorus of TV bosses saying their digital releases of programs improve the ratings of the same shows on regular TV. Yet the networks haven’t universally posted all their material on the Web.
Get with it!
As to diversity, in what we’ve seen of the fall pilots, yes, there are diverse characters on many of the new efforts. And of course, there is much casting and production to be done before the shows hit the airwaves, cable wires and fiber-optic lines this year.
But on first blush, this year’s offerings seem to be about as white-bread as usual. That’s a missed opportunity, as we’ve seen shows with diverse casts such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Heroes” prove that the combination of good writing, quality production and a cast that reflects how America looks can add up to a huge success.
Adding more racially diverse writers, producers and business-side executives probably would cultivate more on-screen talent that could reflect the hues of America’s population and in the process draw in more viewers.
Nowhere, by the way, was this issue more noticeable than in the lack of diversity among the programming and sales executives actually making the presentations.
So the 2007 upfront presentations found the networks incrementally improving their game on some counts, and leaving plenty of room for further improvement.
Next year, we’ll again wade through the waitstaff pushing ahi and cosmopolitans to check back.


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