Not too long ago, the NBC Network suffered a major glitch in programming decisions due to the fiasco in removing Conan O’Brien from the Tonight Show. The idea was to have Jay Leno in prime time, and with his show it would replace expensive, scripted episodic dramas and programs in the 10-11PM hour with Jay’s lower budgeted program. The Jay Leno Show would be a natural lead in to the local news, and audiences would stay tuned to the Tonight Show with Conan. Prior to this change taking place, many industry observers noted this could initiate the beginning of the end of the traditional network prime-time dominance in TV viewing. However, we now know this experiment has proven to be one of the most disastrous decisions in TV programming history, yet the experiment may be tried again if the cost of scripted shows continues to escalate, and the traditional TV audiences continue to decline. The behind-the-scenes negotiations made great drama in the media as everyone speculated what would eventually take place. Now, more recent changes in the line-up with Jay Leno out, Jimmy Fallon in, and the changes keep on coming.
Based on my own experiences working in network TV sitcoms, I can attest to the fact that the term originated years ago in the business that ‘nobody knows nothing’ does have merit. For those of you planning on entering the TV or film business, you need to understand that many decisions are made on whims, paybacks, hunches, and other aspects that are influenced by people who have the power but don’t necessarily always make the right decisions. I have worked on numerous Pilots that had to be re-shot due to casting issues, or where a network executive felt one of the sets needed to be redesigned…which would facilitate shooting all the scenes in that new set over again. The Pilot process has not changed much since the beginning of television. Of all the Pilots I’ve worked on, only a handful ever get to air, and maybe one or two last past the first season. Based on these observations, comments, and current state of affairs with over-the-air network programming, answer the following three (3) questions:
1. How would you feel if the traditional networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) were to disappear as icons in television programming and end up presenting only unscripted shows, or programs with more reality-based themes?
2. Do you plan on using, or have you used an MP3 player (iPod) to view TV programs, or view clips of shows that the networks are presently experimenting with to either retain or capture a larger portion of their declining audience?
3. In your opinion, what do you think the networks should do to maintain their position in the marketplace as various forms of new communication delivery systems are being introduced providing additional competition for the viewer’s time spent watching television?