"If Twitter is the telephone, we're the conversation."
That comment was a highlight of Fortune Brainstorm Tech's "Future of Television" discussion on Thursday—even though the person who said it wasn't in the room.
No offense to the panelists on stage: Disney (DIS) Media Networks co-chair Anne Sweeney, CBS (CBS) exec Nancy Tellem, and NBC Universal's (CMCSA) Lauren Zalaznick. But the remark--which moderator Jason Hirschhorn said former MTV Networks (VIA) CEO Judy McGrath uttered to him--nails the point about what programmers must do today: Go two-way and way beyond the TV screen.
What makes a hit? TV ratings still matter, of course, but social engagement can make or break a show in this digital era. Tellem, who is senior advisor to CBS chief Leslie Moonves, pointed to Gossip Girl on the CW network (of which CBS is a part owner). The series, by measure of TV eyeballs when episodes premiere, might be considered a dud--or at least "a conundrum," which is what Tellem called the show. But TV execs learned to love Gossip Girl because the target--young women and teenage girls--are passionate viewers online, via iTunes (AAPL), Hulu, Netflix (NFLX), video on demand, DVR, whatever. Plus, Gossip Girl's 9.8 million Facebook fans chat and tweet up a storm.
Meanwhile, on ABC, Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family have huge audiences who time-shift viewing via DVR--and typically skip commercials. Which is why Zalaznick says: "The DVR is the biggest legal pirate there ever was....We've enabled legal piracy." Zalaznick, who oversees NBCU's Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media, made the point that TV execs must learn how to make good money serving consumers who want their TV shows anytime and everywhere.
Moreover, building a hit is ever more complicated. Big social buzz—top Twitter trends, for instance--is less predictive of big TV ratings than it used to be, said Zalaznick. The reason? Social-media noise is getting so loud, it's challenging forecasters. "We're at a turning point," she added.
So the TV execs soldier on. The web's exploding social-media platforms--Twitter, Facebook, and other second and third "screens" beyond the tube—invite them to get a lot more creative with their products and build profits too. Meanwhile, Zalaznick reminded the group of the everlasting No. 1 challenge: "It is really hard to make excellent stuff about compelling characters that you want to see over and over again."
by Patricia Sellers
Back in 1987, Charlie Sheen was starring in the movie Wall Street and on the cusp of a big career.
And when we at Fortune challenged the Wall Street cast to a softball game in Manhattan one night, Sheen struck us as a cocky 21-year-old who ogled the girls and wagged his butt at the plate.
He didn't seem terribly threatening when I pitched against him that night. But he MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 3, 2011 3:23 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
I was visiting Gina Bianchini, the founder and former CEO of Ning, in Silicon Valley last month, and we found ourselves randomly wondering: Why are boycotts, so common years ago, not a popular product of the Internet era?
With social networking all the rage, we thought, how easy it is to organize impassioned people and mobilize.
Which brings to mind an idea: Can we boycott Charlie Sheen?
The boycott--a word coined MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 2, 2011 1:32 PM ET
Sarah Palin changed the game for women and power, and it'll never be the same again. So say a few well-known women -- Arianna Huffington, former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, White House Project president Marie Wilson, and More magazine editor in chief Lesley Jane Seymour -- who met in New York this morning for "The Spin Room: Gender, Politics and Media in the 2008 Election." The lively panel was MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 13, 2008 1:44 PM ET
"Go vote now. It'll make you feel big and strong."
-- CBS (CBS) News Washington bureau chief Bob Schieffer shared this advice from his mother last night, as a closer to the final debate between Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. In these tumultous times when we can feel so powerless, voting is one way that to make our voices heard. There is a consensus that this was the liveliest MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Oct 16, 2008 5:24 PM ET
"One thing I've learned playing with people at the top of their game, from captains of industry to rock stars, is that they want to do the things that unsuccessful people don't want to do. They want the risks and the responsibility, whereas others want the comfort in mediocrity."
- David Feherty, CBS Sports golf analyst shared this with me in a conversation this afternoon, casting himself in the role of MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Jun 25, 2008 9:51 PM ET
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