For producers of top-quality TV content, no form of distribution holds more “home run” potential than broadcast television, says one producer, Ben Silverman.
“The most valuable place I can ever sell a television show still is broadcast TV,” Silverman said when he was interviewed on-stage Monday at a session on program production and investing at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. He was replying to the question, “How important is traditional broadcast in the content business today?”
Silverman said he’s bullish on broadcast because of the way the broadcast TV “ecosystem” exploits its content, using the word “exploits” in a positive context.
“They typically make more episodes of a program, 22 vs. just 10,” he said, “[and] across the cycle of exploitation they are open to having the off-network, off-broadcast rights exploited through the system — many times coming back to broadcast in syndication. As new players enter the market like Netflix [that] are trying to buy out those rights, you might therefore always be guaranteed success with Netflix, but you will never get a home run,” he said.
Silverman was co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios from 2007 to 2009. He is now the founder and chairman of his own production company, Eluctus. He has been the executive producer of a number of high-profile network TV shows, including The Office (the American version), Ugly Betty, The Biggest Loser and Jane the Virgin.
“With broadcast, you may be taking a ton of risk going into it, but you can still potentially create something like The Office or The Biggest Loser, which has huge back-end revenue streams, not just the front-end, commercial upside,” Silverman said. “So I’m still very much bullish and eager to bring major pieces of content [to broadcast television] like I just did with Jane the Virgin or Bear Grylls over the past couple of years.”
Silverman said that getting a show on broadcast TV ensures that it will be seen. “I don’t want to cut down trees in the middle of the forest and have nobody hear them,” he said. “I can’t take the risks [he takes now in terms of investment] and hope to put it out on YouTube. Young kids with cat videos are very comfortable doing that, but that’s not the kind of content I want to make.
“We still need to be in the ecosystem allied with our production partners in the broadcast space and the cable space,” he said. “Something like The Voice — you can’t get it on anywhere else. There’s just nothing else that can deliver on that promise [like broadcast TV].”
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