TV Studio Bosses On Death Of Peak TV, Hollywood Contraction & Lamenting Loss Of Shows Such As ‘American Born Chinese’ & ‘Primo’ – ATX

Peak television was officially declared dead earlier this year when FX boss John Landgraf revealed that the number of scripted series on air in 2023 dropped 12% from the previous year – the first reduction in over a decade.

A collection of television studio bosses gathered in Austin to talk about the “strain” of producing so many shows – 600 in 2022.

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Karey Burke, President, 20th Television, Nicole Clemens, President, Paramount Television Studios, Lisa Katz, President, Scripted Content, NBCUniversal Entertainment, Katherine Pope, President, Sony Pictures Television Studios and Erin Underhill, President, Universal Television, discussed the topic, as well as the contraction over the last twelve months in a panel at the ATX Festival in Texas.

“We’re on the other side of it,” said Burke. “I never want to celebrate the loss of opportunity but I think we all felt the strain of 600+ television shows in the marketplace and not being able to get the eyeballs. Shows would come and go so quickly. It’s tough for the audience, it’s not fair to the creators because platforms don’t have the marketing dollars for 600 shows. It feels like a natural and healthy correction. I understand that it’s scary, any time there’s a contraction it can be concerning but I do look at the bright side. I’m optimistic that we’re still going to make a lot of amazing television, we’re just going to have more time to do it and have more resources to support it.”

Sony’s Pope said short orders and the volume of shows impacted the overall television business.

“The reason you go into TV, as opposed to film, is the novelization format. It’s the fact that characters get to grow and take baby steps forward and baby steps back over a long period of time. To not really be able to do that, where shows were like these little one offs that also didn’t break through, I think that was a challenge to the core tenants of TV in general,” she added.

There’s been a noticeable contraction across Hollywood, following the writers and actors strikes last year.

Pope said that the second fear comes into a creative endeavor, you have “failed. “You just can’t be afraid. You have to continue to go at it with the enthusiasm, the fandom, the critical eye, you can’t start getting scared, that’s like death. So, no matter what is happening with the larger pressures of the business, I go in every day just like excited to find something new, excited to get shows out there. Yeah, it’s hard if you bring something out and you think there’s going to be a bidding war and everyone’s going to want [a show] and they don’t, that’s hard, but you just got to dust it off and fall in love with the next one,” she added.

“We are a creative business so you have to be relaxed,” added Paramount’s Clemens.

Universal Television’s Underhill added, “Since the strike, we’ve had tremendous success. It’s definitely a challenged landscape but we have sold and have series orders on over half a dozen shows. The hope is that the industry is healthy and it will be a new normal to some degree [because] great stories will always be in demand.”

The group also lamented a number of recently canceled series.

Underhill said that she was still “licking my wounds” over Freevee’s cancellation of Primo, the comedy series from Shea Serrano and Mike Schur. The show, inspired by creator Serrano’s life growing up in San Antonio, TX, was canceled earlier this month. “It was so special for those who saw it and to me it deserved a second season.”

Burke highlighted Disney+’s cancellation of American Born Chinese. The action fantasy series, which starred Oscar winners Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh, was axed in January. “It was well received… it had a premiere at the White House. It found an audience internationally, which was really lovely, but couldn’t break through domestically here.”

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