VIDWeek: Ratings Matter, But So Do Other Things

Nielsens or not, a series still has to pull its weight to keep its spot in the lineup

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New York — With some 450-plus scripted shows out there, the panelists on Transforming TV: What the Proliferation of Content Means for the Marketplace were asked, simply, if there’s too much stuff on TV. The point was raised that television, whether it’s broadcast or cable or digital, is so broad, and every aspect of it has its own content needs. Eric Ratchman, executive VP of content distribution at Univision, mentioned “new audiences on new platforms in new spaces, in new increments of time.”

The panel, which took place Thursday at the spring edition ofNext TV Summit, discussedNetflixcanceling shows such asSense8andThe Get Down, a somewhat unique development for the streaming service. “There are only so many shows that people can watch,” said Christina Wayne, CEO of Assembly Entertainment.

She mentioned the challenge of launching a show these days, when it’s up against "the finale of some hugeHBOshow, theNBAplayoffs, six other shows at various stages."

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Ratchman added that a series “has to, at the end of the day, drive acquisitions or drive retention.”

He said selling the “community” behind a show concept is as important as selling the show. “Without that, it’s very hard to break through the hundreds and hundreds of shows and pitches that are out there,” he added.

Christina Norman, CEO of Media Storm, mentioned a producer partnering with a network on more than the launch, and keeping the audience “warm” throughout the 52 weeks of the year. That’s easier, she said, than trying to reassemble the audience before the new season starts.  

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The panel also touched on ratings—or lack thereof, with the SVOD players. “It can be disheartening if you don’t know how many people are watching a show,” admitted Wayne.

Norman mentioned a “picture of engagement” that includes online chatter as well as ratings. Moderator Kai Falkenberg, deputy commissioner of NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, noted a recent panel in which Casey Bloys, HBO programming president, mentioned the importance of “think pieces” in the media, focused on a given series.  

The group also discussed the trend of TV festivals starting up around the country, and starting to rival film fests. Wayne said the lines between television and film are blurring. “I think, in the future, there will be no distinction between two-hour content and ongoing content,” she said of movies and series.

The panel also discussed binge watching. Wayne said Showtime preferred a traditional weekly release for its dramaI’m Dying Up Here. “They felt the marketplace is so crowded that there’s a benefit in having a 10-week marketing plan,” she said, where the show is talked about throughout.

Added Ratchman, “I don’t think it’s a one size fits all model.”

Next TV Summit's spring edition was part of NewBay Media's VIDWeek in New York City.