How Are TV Viewing Trends Changing The Way We Watch Television?

How Are TV Viewing Trends Changing The Way We Watch Television?
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Creative Screenwriting Magazine attended this year’s Produced By Conference at Warner Bros. Studios. We attended a comprehensive panel discussion with some industry heavy hitters who decide what TV shows are greenlit and which aren’t. The panel comprised of Jenny Groom (NBC Entertainment), Amy Israel (Showtime), Peter Micelli (eOne), Nick Pepper (Legendary Television Studios) and Michael Thorn (FOX Entertainment).

The Rise Of Digital Programming

With the current plethora of streaming platforms. it’s difficult to stay competitive in the TV landscape. “Showtime prides itself on being an intimate, curated boutique that really cares about the artist, the producers, and a creative process that is transparent, honest, and not filled with too many managerial layers. You will probably never pitch to more than three people at a time,” said Amy Israel.

Current buyers are afforded the luxury of an abundance of content to produce. They are hungry and passionate. They carefully select their projects and ensure that they produce the best incarnations of a story. It’s vital that the company you sell your script to is listening and really understands what you’re trying to do. “We believe that the best people to own the TV show are the ones who create it.” Israel even suggests challenging Showtime executives who disagree. “Make them go deeper, darker and push them. Executives should put the guard rails up to ensure the train stays on track, but also stand back to allow the vision to flourish.

The landscape for broadcast networks is also changing according to Michael Thorn from FOX Entertainment. Previously, FOX bought between sixty and seventy dramas in one season, only to see a handful go to air. “This past season we decided to buy shows we believe in and will work on our air. We still take chances on new voices, but they are very calculated. This year we bought around thirty scripts and six went to series. Our process goal is to be focussed and create an environment that is supportive and feels like you can win.

We’re going to have fewer walls between film and TV, TV and non-scripted at eOne,” declared Peter Micelli.

TV Viewing Trends

Many studio based streamers will focus almost exclusively on exhibiting their own content. Legendary Studios and eOne are independent studios that rely on studio partners to exhibit their content. This is not necessarily a problem. “eOne will always be one of the higher volume, premium studios that sell globally. All the big media companies which produce their own content will always a few need reliable third-party suppliers. Inevitably, their internal production systems will not always work. That’s where we step in,” said Micelli.


It’s important to remain abreast of the buyers’ needs. The TV buyers market is becoming increasingly fractured and each is chasing a specific market. A TV show with 10 million viewers on a streaming platform can be a huge success financially. A few years ago, a show might be canceled at that level of viewership.

Audiences complain that there are too many TV shows. Micelli’s response is, “That’s like saying there are too many songs. People like different things. We use to make broad TV shows with elements that appeal to everybody. Now shows are more specific. We’re deep diving into the subculture and taking people to new places. If you’re interested in that place, you don’t need twenty million viewers for the show to be a success.” Specific shows create a dedicated following.

Peter Micelli also wisely asked where the business is going so he can find the great idea inside of it. “Oftentimes, buyers go down this path of what they might buy and it gets blown up when they hear something that they love. If something is good, it always seems to find its way.” Streamers like Apple TV and YouTube will likely aid the navigation process in the future by determining what you want and where to find it.

Curation is also an issue for TV viewership when a flagship show from a network migrates to a streamer and finds a whole new audience. Breaking Bad is a classic example when it got its second wind after it went from AMC to Netflix.

Nick Pepper is also excited about the current direction of TV audiences. “You use to sit at the dinner table and everybody would be talking about the same show. What show caught the zeitgeist or demographic. Nowadays everybody’s talking about different shows. Game Of Thrones is the most recent example of the former. It really is an exception.”

“Even if there isn’t a mass appeal to one project, there has to be relevancy. There has to be something that sparks human interest and emotion about the perplexing times we’ve live that garners our attention. The days of the slow burn are gone. Don’t expect an audience to wait until episode 5. The spark needs to happen in episode 1 or 2. You have to hook your audience within ten minutes.

There is also a resurgence in “limited series” previously referred to “mini-series.” They are shorter TV series with closed-ended stories.

Binge Watching

The ways of watching TV shows has also changed dramatically both in terms of frequency and devices. Comedy, in particular, can be enjoyed in bite-sized pieces. Appointment TV is not being supplanted by binge watching. The space between viewing two subsequent episodes is important because it creates a conversation for months. This makes a difference to the show. “People yearn for a sense of community by talking at the dinner table. They want to be shocked and challenged with characters that you cannot believe what they’re doing,” said Amy Israel.


Television business models are shifting from advertiser to subscription-based; more accurately, advertiser and subscriber-based. Broadcast networks capture around 160 million viewers per week, while the streamers have considerably fewer.

Michael Thorn claims that around the holiday season, Netflix released around seventy new titles. Apart from a handful of popular TV shows, most you’ve never heard of. They are in the bulk business.

What Makes A TV Buyer Say “YES”

Jenny Groom said, “Human first. You really need to relate to that character and want to envision yourself being that character, inspiring, positive with uplifting storytelling, inclusive and ingenious for NBC. We’re always open to ‘zingers’ that have a different approach.

We’re always stretching ourselves to grow,” said Amy Israel. “We care deeply about richly-drawn characters which aren’t necessarily all positive. We want to challenge audiences and break new ground. We won’t make a show that feels like it belongs on a network. If it feels like it’s a TV show that couldn’t be on anywhere other than Showtime, we’ll probably do it; something bold, subversive and dangerous.”

Nick Pepper is looking for a “unique spin on an idea for Legendary Television Studios.”

We’re looking for complicated characters. Many writers mistake darkness for complexity. We still do fun and aspirational,” said Michael Thorn at FOX Entertainment.

They are also building their animation and music slates.


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