'Tapping' Into The Next 'Hit'

Where are TV’s next big hits coming from? Digital? Cable? Maybe local stations?  Those hits may just be  decent-performing forms of TV entertainment. In that light, we may need to redefine a “hit.”

Digital video platforms have tried to make a run into the big leagues with small ideas that grow into big vehicles. But that may not always be the right approach. As ratings continue to drift lower, some producers may feel the bar for them to succeed has been lowered.

The trouble is that actual success levels may be harder to come by. Or at least it will be harder for financial partners to read them correctly. For example, will advertisers in a couple of years spend premium dollars if there’s more fractionalizing of the TV space?

Broadcast stations could also get into the mix, especially considering their experience in producing many hours of local news. Legendary executive/producer Fred Silverman says stations could be the place for a programming renaissance to begin.



Syndication divisions of big media companies – like Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury -- have tried to nurture shows in a few markets before taking them out nationally. Fox Television Stations and other station group owners have partnered with such syndicators.

Cable networks also seem a natural place for nurturing hits because of lower production costs and fewer ratings hurdles. For example, Lisa Kudrow's "Web Therapy" is still airing new episodes on Showtime, and the Internet-born “Broad City” was just renewed for its second season on Comedy Central.

Original programming on the Internet is growing by leaps -- but perhaps not by bounds. Higher-profile shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” are on Netflix.  But Hulu Plus, YouTube and scores of other digital video platforms are also looking to make hay with content.

Will these shows make the transition to traditional networks? That might not be the right question when it comes to ever-“nichier” audiences.

As one TV executive told me: It isn’t about getting the largest audiences, but getting the right audiences. So don’t call it a hit -- maybe just a tap?

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