Monday, April 9, 2007

Network Honchos Tackle the State of Nighttime Soaps

Scott D. Pierce writes an absolutely fantastic piece entitled "To Be Continued..." for the Deseret Morning News on the place and future of the nighttime serial on network television. I've included a highly truncated version below, but recommend reading Pierce's full article here.

From the Deseret Morning News:

Last fall, network executives were…declaring this the Season of the Serial — in addition to the [many] shows with storylines that continue from week to week returning—[execs] added 19 more.

By midseason, some critics were declaring the effort a big flop and predicting the end of serialized shows on network TV.


As with all things in TV, this is cyclical....if the executives were wrong last fall, so were those critics at midseason. The truth lies in the middle. Of those 19 new serials, four — BROTHERS & SISTERS, HEROES, MEN IN TREES, and UGLY BETTY — have already been renewed for next season [a success rate of 21 percent].

A 21 percent success rate is just about [the same] for all new network shows. If one or two more get picked up…this year's crop of serialized newcomers will exceed that average.

Part of the thinking [is] that serials are a risk, but offer a big reward. If they prove popular with [viewers], those viewers will come back week after week.

"Serialization is still one of the biggest hooks that we have into an audience," NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said. "[It's] rocket fuel when you hit it."

The risk comes because you're asking viewers to tune in to every single episode [and] the risk increases when there are so many serials on the air, because viewers can't commit to all of them.

Fox's Entertainment president Peter Liguori thinks that serials have to be not just good, but better than other shows. "It seems to me that in order to put on a serialized show, you have a higher standard," he said. "If we're going to ask viewers to make that kind of commitment, you better be great."


It would be nice if quality always wins out [but] some good shows get canceled; some very bad shows succeed.

The thinking is that there were just too many serialized shows on the air at one time...if a viewer is already watching 24 and LOST and GREY’S ANATOMY, how many of the 19 new shows did he or she have time to start watching [also]?

Reilly acknowledged that critics "were right to acknowledge the overabundance of serialized shows." Particularly too many shows that were so much alike in tone….but [that] you can't argue serials don't work, "because there's Heroes, completely defying the logic," Reilly said. "Highly serialized, highly complex and it's the breakout hit of the year."

And ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson believes that "escapism" equaled success, pointing to Betty and Brothers & Sisters.

Liguori postulates that "shows that have a more singular focus and a singular goal may have a leg up. PRISON BREAK — get out of prison; 24 — save the country."

Network programmers…expect to program fewer new serials this fall. "We're...looking and saying. 'How much [of a] commitment can an audience make to an overall schedule?"' McPherson said. As a result, he's looking at more "stuff that is procedural or closed-ended" for next season.

"We're not running away from it," said NBC's Reilly. "But we are balancing it out a little bit more."

No comments:

All copyrights retained by original authors. Original Soappipe and Soappipe|Opinion content copyright (2007, or current year) by Benjamin Bryant, all rights reserved.

Use of original Soappipe material either by reprint or linking permitted, as long as "Soappipe," "Soappipe|Opinion," or "Ben Bryant" is credited.