It's no secret that cable and Netflix are killing it when it comes to television dramas—in both quality and ratings—and it seems that networks are finally beginning to get nervous. A new article in The Hollywood Reporter delves into the subject, and it's a fascinating read for those who find themselves more prone to turn to AMC, HBO, and Netflix rather than the big five networks for quality drama series. From the article:
Drama is very slow -- slow to the point of keep-me-up-at-night," says [ABC Studios chief Patrick] Moran of a trend that suggests the explosion of cable and digital outlets is causing a talent drain that could upend the broadcast business. [...]
What's more, many writers who are available often are more interested in chasing their own passion projects a la Breaking Bad or House of Cards, say several top agents. Plus, a cable drama doesn't have to compete against 50 to 70 other hourlong entries in development the way it would in broadcast -- and once on the air, the likelihood of survival is considerably greater. Even the traditional advantage network executives have had in being able to promise financial rewards far greater than their cable cousins has slipped with what some are dubbing the "Netflix effect," referring to the streaming service's willingness to shell out big money, straight-to-series orders and limited creative interference -- a combination against which ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC often can't compete.
Part of this, the article explains, has to do with the amount of shows being pitched to cable vs. networks—no one wants a network show anymore, because cable/Netflix is just considered better.
One drama exec says his department was hearing only two or three pitches a day in late August, compared with the five his network traditionally hears. Admits another, "I'm reading more specs [scripts] because I actually have the time."
Interestingly enough, comedy shows are thriving at the big five networks—in that market, bidding wars are frequent because cable networks don't tend to pick up comedies over dramas. "Comedies [on cable] are very hard to make sense of financially from the standpoint of a participant or a content owner...and it's still a form of storytelling that broadcast networks are thriving and succeeding with," 20th Century Fox TV chairman Dana Walden explained.
Truthfully, I have little sympathy for the networks who are finally beginning to freak out because The Walking Dead is pulling in more ratings than their wooden, formulaic dramas. There's only one solution to their predicament, and it's literally as simple as make better shows. Obviously, the ideas are out there—cable channels and Netflix are proof of that, they were just more willing to give riskier ideas a chance and they ended up making bank. The Walking Dead, for instance, was turned down by NBC back in the day, and that went on to be cable's biggest series in a long time. Instead of calling cable's ratings success an "anomaly," networks need to veer from the standard and take some risks with their programming; if the product is good, people will eventually flock.
After all, don't forget—it took a while for Breaking Bad to be considered one of the best shows on television, but it happened when people eventually realized how good it is.
You can read the fascinating article in full over at THR.
[via The Hollywood Reporter]