Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1115: The Death of Vertical Integration

Interesting to see this report from Deadline: Hollywood about how the major networks are now buying projects from production houses and studios owned by rival networks, and how this marks the end of the network's dreams of total vertical integration.

If you don't know "vertical integration" is where a media company, like a network, handles everything, from production, to broadcasting, and syndication. 

They saw themselves as the next iteration of the Golden Age movie studios who produced films, and distributed them to theatres that they also owned. That ended in 1948 when the Federal government forced them accept something called a "consent decree" that ordered them to get out of the theatre business.

While the studios seemed to thrive during that golden age it didn't seem to help the networks. The networks, and a lot of the programming they developed internally went beyond mediocrity into downright horridness.


Back in ye olde Golden Age of Hollywood the studios were, for the most part, guide by the singular visions of their bosses. They were men who knew what they wanted and were personally invested in their productions. Not just financially, but ego-wise as well. 

Their decisions may not always have been right, but they at least had the right intentions behind them. They wanted the audience to love the movies they were releasing, simple as that. That was essential to them thriving in the age of vertical integration.

Network TV, especially modern network TV, is extremely different.

One thing is that it's exponentially more bureaucratic than the Golden Age studios were at their worst. To get something on the air it must go through a maze of junior executives, senior executives, vice-presidents, and presidents before you get to those who can give you a green light. 

Most of the time these folks are not emotionally invested in the projects being developed, they're not even intellectually invested, and they only say something for the sake of looking like they're busy.

Also, these executives knew that shows developed by the network's pet studio weren't going anywhere else. So they could meddle, and muddle, and jerk it around, knowing full well that no other channel was going to swoop in and poach the show, or the  show's creators out from under them.

Now even in a best case scenario, where executives, producers, and creatives just clicked in magical synchronicity a vertically integrated TV network is still doomed to failure.


Because even under the best case scenarios, the best people working together under the best conditions can only go so far. Also so far doesn't seem enough to completely fill a network's schedule.

They need the competition between networks, studios and the people working for them to spur creativity and take the sort of chances that can lead to great and successful television.

So let's put broadcast network vertical integration to rest like Old Yeller, only stinkier.

No comments:

Post a Comment