Our new head of programming…..
OK. This is not about VJs, ‘the revolution’ or my now defunct Bang and Olufsen system.
This is about producing TV shows… or at least pitching them.
*any references to ‘broadcasters’ from here on in is entirely fictional. Any similarities between them and any real networks are entirely coincidental.
We just finished a pitch session with a major broadcaster.
We had waited about a month for the pitch meeting and went in prepared. We had 10 shows we were pitching.
Did that one already….
Already producing that one with someone else….
We like that one a lot… but…..
Here it comes…
Past experience and our focus groups have shows that…..
There is a reason why most TV shows look the same. Why there are periods of about 30 home decorating shows on 5 different networks, or why CSI looks just like Miami CSI or Law and Order looks just like Law and Order Sex Crimes Unit? It’s pretty simple:
You have a machine in your living room that gives you up to date, minute to minute information on what networks are buying: Want to know what to pitch? – just turn it on and watch. Then, give ’em more of the same.
When I started in this business, I was told, ‘television is imitative, not creative. Just give them more of what they already make and you’ll do fine. ‘
There is a real risk-avoidance mentality among programmers.
So they read the ‘tea leaves’, or more properly, ‘research studies’.
This is too bad, and a remnant of another era.
If the Pope had focus-grouped the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or relied on audience ‘research studies’, it would have been dominated by puppies with big eyes, maybe wearing funny hats. Playing cards.
“Listen.. Michelangelo… I know you like the thing with the fingers… God… Adam… but our research tells us that 87% of the population of Rome loves cute puppies.. OK? Puppies… not fingers!”
Have you ever seen a working focus group? They do them in places like Racine, Wisconsin. In the middle of the afternoon. They pay you $20 to sit in a room and watch a show with a dial that goes from ‘like’ to ‘don’t like’. You also get cookies and coffee. Then, they ask you what you thought of the show.
Who has free time in the middle of the day, even in Racine, to do this?
It’s a self-selecting group. But it determines what you’ll see.
Ironically, now there’s no need to sit and agonize over what you ‘think’ people will like. They’ll tell you!
So I tell you what – why don’t you commission 10 minute ‘testers’ of the concept we are pitching. We’ll kill ourselves to make ’em great. Then post them on your website. Let your viewers respond. Comment. Whatever they want. Tell us what you like and what you don’t like.
Go ahead, take a risk. See what the ‘people’ really want – as opposed to what the focus group in Las Vegas wants.
Hey… I think there’s a series in there… somewhere…. Whaddya think?