CTAM Summit: 'Treme' Showrunners Talk Audience Vs. Ad Power

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Complete CTAM 2010 Coverage

New Orleans -- David Simon and Eric Overmyer's Tremé has the potential to be the kind of long-tail sleeper hit that The Wire has become for HBO, according to Eric Kessler, co-president of HBO.

The Wire has been off the premium network's air for two years, but remains a current blogosphere hit, retains a very active Facebook community and DVD sales are as robust as they've ever been. All of which speaks to the power of storytelling, said Kessler.

Kessler, Overmyer and Simon, co-creators and co-executive producers of Tremé, were the lone representation from the creative community at the CTAM Summit 2010 in New Orleans. And their inclusion here on Monday afternoon's panel titled, "Tremé: The Art of Building Audience and a Community," was, much like their Crescent City-set series, a postcard from an area still in the throes of redemption.

Tremé has inspired a dedicated, if small, television audience. But in New Orleans, it's become part of the fabric of a city. New Orlineans stop Overmyer and Simon - who both have homes here - on the street to talk about story arc and characters. Local viewing parties abound. Blogs, including Back of Town (backoftown.blogspot.com), meticulously dissect the series and the culture it both inhabits and recreates.

"It's fascinating that these shows - Tremé and The Wire - have audiences that really want to engage in conversation," said Kessler. "I went on the Facebook page for The Wire just the other day, and you see posts from an hour ago, three hours ago. This is still a very active community. And it speaks to the level of engagement about the show."

And that engagement speaks to the rich, layered, not easily digested stories that Overmyer and Simon have the luxury to explore on a pay cable network not enslaved by traditional commercial interests driving ad-supported broadcast or even basic-cable television.

"I could not have done [Tremé or The Wire] with advertising," said Simon. "Advertising requires you to service a certain base; you need the maximum amount of eyeballs to charge the maximum amount for advertisements."

When you take ad-driven imperatives out of the equation, Simon added, television "finally becomes something of an adult medium for the first time in its history. I care that people living the event find it credible. If it's credible to people inside the event, it will be credible to people outside of it."

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