Several of televisionâs top executives gathered at Variety âs TV Summit to discuss the content arms race thatâs being caused by the impending launch of new streaming platforms and the major disruptions happening in the industry as a result of the flurry of recent mega-mergers.
After the Disney-Fox merger led to a slew of layoffs, NBC co-chairman Paul Telegdy weighed in on the changes that the Comcast acquisition of Sky has brought to the day-to-day at the network.
“Itâs been a great transition. Thereâs very little friction and overlap between the businesses, which is always desirable in a big acquisition,” Telegdy said. “You wonât have a lot of people worrying about where their next paycheck is coming from. Weâve had a stable, non-complacent role in the last 18 months.”
As far as how collaborations between NBC and Sky will play out, Telegdy said itâs still too early to tell, but made sure to emphasize that they are both taking the time to develop a “deep synergy” as opposed to looking for “quick content wins.”
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With NBC prepping a streaming platform of its own, slated to launch in 2020, Telegdy also addressed the question of whether the network might be overshadowed as a result.
“The Peacockâs on the logo and what we really are is the primary content engine for the creation of a lot of series,” Telegdy said. “Rumors of our demise have long been overstated, but weâve come out of a very strong upfront.”
The panel later pivoted to a discussion on the content arms race which seems to be escalating as more and more players enter the content business and production values soar.
Execs from neither Netflix nor HBO were present on the panel. However, the execs addressed the quantity of content being produced by the former and the budget disruptions being caused by the latter. Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch said that the cabler has always positioned itself as the “cherry on top of television,” and the eye-popping amount Netflix is spending on content wonât change Starzâs approach.
“I think Netflix is trying to replace television, theyâre trying to be all things to everybody and I also think theyâve done a phenomenal job of convincing everyone on Wall Street, everyone in this room, that you have to spend $13 billion to compete and so if you donât have that kind of money why donât just close down and go home because you canât do it,” Hirsch said. “But thereâs room for a premium service to be sold on top of everybody and thatâs how weâve been positioned, thatâs how weâve been successful, and that means that our content is unique and special. Thereâs always going to be a place for us and we donât have to spend $13 billion to be successful.”
Meanwhile Amazon Studios COO and co-head of TV Albert Cheng said the streamerâs approach is to look for quality and global appeal over quantity.
“When you look around, everyoneâs spending a lot of money. I think when we come back to how weâre going to approach this space, itâs really about how much investment do we need to make in a specific show to serve the creative and make the best version of it possible. When you work with the creatives, that is the ultimate goal,” Cheng said. “Weâre not in the business of creating a lot of content, a lot of volume, but we are in the business of making sure that we remind our customers why they come back every year and renew their subscription.”
Weighing in on the content arms race, Showtime president Gary Levine issued a light-hearted gibe at his cabler rival HBO and a certain fantasy epic which recently came to a monumental end.
“The competitive environment has definitely raised costs,” Levine began. “But I do not subscribe to the idea that bigger is necessarily better. Even with âGame of Thronesâ no one the next day was saying, âHoly cow, do you know how much they spent on that episode?â They were talking about the story and the characters. They even made one in the dark — they could have spent nothing. Just shut the lights and do a radio play.”
Toward the end of the panel, each executive discussed the biggest challenges and opportunities they are facing as the TV landscape shifts on a seemingly daily basis, and AMC president Sarah Barnett closed proceedings on a positive note.
“The different voices telling stories today [are] so bloody exciting and I think thatâs real and I think weâre all engaging in that in ways that are not just canned, not just lip service,” she said. “We have a long way to go in many ways, but I think different people telling stories in new ways is going to be, and is already, the lifeblood of what is reinventing storytelling in our industry.”
Other participants on the lively panel included Tubi CCO Adam Lewinson.
LINK ORIGINAL: Variety