Fewer TV episodes per season have infiltrated the ranks of broadcast networks, cable networks and premium ad-supported networks, like HBO and Netflix. That's true even for shows that became hits in recent years. They include “Empire,” “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad” and “Fargo.”
While production costs are a major reason for the change, some of this has to do with timing. Blame TV consumers' distraction with other media -- Internet, social media, cable. TV networks can start a show midseason with fewer episodes and take advantage of a lull in midseason promotion.
But what about trimming the actual time of those individual episodes? Well, that has happened, in order to squeeze in more advertising and promotion time.
Maybe this is only the beginning.
What about really short TV episodes -- not the 22-minute comedies or 42-minute dramas -- but six- to-10-minute ones? That’s what former DreamWorks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, speaking at a Cannes Lions event, is thinking for his new company, WndrCo.
Shorter duration for a single TV episode would be the YouTube-ification of television. That means looking to attract TV consumers, especially Millennials, who gravitate to quicker story arcs and racier storytelling.
Where does that leave advertising?
Katzenberg believes shorter episodes would also lure marketers, although he didn’t go into detail. But he did talk about some current TV production specifics.
He says it costs $200,000 per minute for shows like Netflix’s “House of Cards” and $300,000 per minute for HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” But the per-minute spending for YouTube-type shows tops out at $5,000.
What about big TV/Hollywood talent? Katzenberg has talked to many people -- production, talent, etc. He says there is little resistance to the idea. That’s the long and the short of it.