Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Writers Win, Directors and Others Lose in NBC Future

The New York Times reported today that Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC-Universal, indicated that NBC would not be buying numerous pilots in the future as it traditionally has. Instead they will order a couple each year, but would shift more toward a system of straight-to-series orders buying "first episode" scripts.

At the same time, the network will stick by its current script commitments.

This announcement is a win-win for writers, but for producers, directors, actors, and the technical and support staff, the model change is a disaster. They make millions each year shooting pilots that never become series.

The announcement is also consistent with what is becoming an NBCU future business plan for scripted TV, a plan that includes and NBC Direct.

Zucker noted in November that had 50 million video streams in October, 50% higher than the previous record, in May. "It's become a small cable channel in our universe," he said. Of the Hulu venture he said it was a "superstore" while was a "specialty shop." He indicated that the digital issue is the biggest nightmare in his job. "Nobody has figured out the economic model yet. And if we don't figure it out soon, those dollars will turn to pennies."

He emphasized: "We don't want to replace the dollars we were making in the analog world with pennies on the digital side."

As this blog described in November, major changes in the method of scripted tv delivery are looming.

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