Monday, 15 September 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #166: NBC, The World, and The Human Factor

A tip of my sun-baked pith helmet to the fragrant folks at Defamer for this report about the latest antics of NBC, and if it's true he is not long for his corner office.

If you're too lazy to click the link, I'll try to sum it up for you.
You see Silverman thinks he's found a brilliant new business model that he claims will capitalize on NBC's 4th place status.

One of the facets of this cubic zirconium of managerial brilliance is the use of international co-production to supposedly make NBC shows "bomb-proof," by making them profitable, even if they don't attract many viewers.

Now I'm all for international co-productions, co-operations, foreign sales, and all the wonderful capitalist goodies that lay in dealing with the wider world. But I don't think Silverman gets the point, not only of co-productions, but also of being the head of a major television network.

1. International co-productions exist so that producers and broadcasters can share costs and resources to maximize profits where the project would be untenable if any one partner was to try it alone. There's nothing wrong with it, and it can be a profitable deal if you have the rights and ownership issues settled and locked in iron before the first frame is shot.

2. When you are the head of a network, you do not, repeat not, run your network on the assumption that your network's ratings are going to suck.

That's essentially a declaration of surrender. Advertisers do
n't like people who surrender to low ratings, because they pay to get their messages out, not to have it clog time on shows people do not watch.

The head of a network has to have one goal, be the head of the number one network in the country. There's no glory in being #2, and waaaay less if you're #4 and have to worry about being beaten by the freakin' CW network.

There's a key ingredient to network success that every TV Mogul must at least acknowledge, but Silverman seems to have more or less forgotten.


The audience is the raison d'etre of the TV network, the object of the TV Mogul is to get as much audience as possible. Not settle for a little number on a chart.

And that just might be the core of Silverman's problem as a TV Mogul. The audience is just a number on a chart to him, not people with likes, dislikes, and dreams of their own. To him, it appears that ratings is simply mathematics, and not about people and winning them over.

This may come from the fact that Silverman's a product of a system where the denizens of the executive offices are more inbred than the darkest Deliverance themed fantasies of Appalachia. His family was in the business, pretty much all of his work has been in the business. The only people he encounters that are not in the business, are either wannabes, who are trying to get into the business and will thus kiss his ass, or the guy who mows his lawn.

Mr. & Mrs. Average American and their 2.5 children are just data points, not people. He doesn't seem to care what they like, or want in their shows, because he doesn't seem to encounter them in his daily life.

And that can only hurt NBC unless something drastic happens.


  1. Remember the europudding Frenzy of the nineties, COUNTERTRIKE, HIGHLANDER, DIAMONDS... Then they tried Australia or New Zealand. Even South Africa (before it became la mecqua of worlwide commercial ads shootings). That worked for syndication or cable, but for NBC?

    When I was a kid we were amazed by a stuff called "Come on along with ABC", one of the most brilliant ad campaign ever for a US tv network. US networks made us dream then, US tv made high scale entertainment for US audiences with US standards and sold it to the planet.

    What networks need most now are the Glen Larson, Stephen Cannell, Quinn Martin, Aaron Spelling, Harve Bennett, Kenneth Johnson... even Lee Goldberg, of the next 20 years. + New Fred Silverman and Brandon Tartikoff.

    More Vegas, less Bionic Woman.

  2. Las Vegas I mean, pardon me, it's 4.39 am there... :-)

  3. Being Canadian I was more awash in that Euro-co production craze of the 90s since most were in partnership with Canadian producers, and still dominate the reruns around here.

    Which illustrates one of the traps of the co-production. The original purpose of them is to exceed what either one can do alone, but what usually ended up happening, was that both took it as an excuse to cheap out.

  4. I remember quite well: Toronto or Vancouver doubling as New York. The first half shot there with crappy stories and the other half in Paris with an arc. My favourites where COUNTERSTRIKE and HIGHLANDER.

    Ah, back to memory lane... :-) My mother met Adrian Paul near Notre-Dame, once, they were shooting the first season.