Theme weeks have become a commonplace deal in New York over the past decade. This past week, the television industry launched one to call its own, and if it’s nurtured well, it could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Advertising Week, Internet Week, Social Media Week and the rest as a festival both industry leaders and the public can rally around.
Version 1.0 of NYC Television Week (held October 28-30), developed by the owners of top trade publications Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News, didn’t make local headlines or break news. What it did do was worth observing; what it didn’t do the same.
What it did:
***Showcase a welcome camaraderie between the industry’s pair of trade organizations off the bat. Veterans still remember the time when the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association were at loggerheads over every issue. These days, despite a thorny retransmission consent environment and general dysfunction in Congress, NAB president Gordon Smith and NCTA counterpart Michael Powell exhibit tendencies to be working for everyone’s common good. “We both have a mutual interest,” Powell remarked last Monday morning, “growing and succeeding.” For Smith, “we want cable to succeed. The question with retransmission consent is getting equilibrium. We don’t like service interruptions the same way we don’t like service interruption in Washington (as in Congress gridlock).”
***Push Ultra HD as the next big technology horizon TV will conquer and viewers will embrace. Smith advised his constituency to start investing in a transition from HD to ultra HD, while In Demand chief executive Bob Benya sees video-on-demand (VOD) leading the way to fuel viewer appetites for ultra HD content, once more gets produced that way. FYI: Benya isn’t raising the white flag on 3D television. When glasses-free TV sets come into the marketplace next year or so, public demand for 3D will rise up.
***Demonstrate a growing, prosperous Internet will not be at TV’s expense. The demonstration came from Group M chairman Irwin Gotlieb, one of the advertising industry’s biggest power players. When faced with an opening question about TV becoming a dinosaur, he said, “If TV was standing still, it would be a dinosaur. But is TV is not standing still, thanks to smart TVs, interactivity, ultra HD and video-on-demand. Everyone is moving in that direction.”
***Open a debate over the infrastructure under which scripted TV programming gets developed and greenlighted by channels. Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television, labeled the system a “mess” last Tuesday morning. “It’s just a bad system. Sometimes you’re forced to get acceptable TV just to fill a timeline.” Mosko wants to see the pilot process largely scrapped in favor of more 10 or 13-episode series orders, absent pilot. On the other end, 20th-Century-Fox TV co-chairman/chief executive Gary Newman wants options to the current development nature of things, not scrapping. “Don’t throw it out,” he told attendees a few hours after Mosko’s interview. “There’s value in it. Let’s see year-round program development and not trigger series until they’re ready. Also, put together more miniseries and limited-run series.”
What it didn’t do:
***Showcase smart TVs beyond Gotlieb’s comments. Ultra HD had a panel (a good one) Wednesday afternoon. The smart TV movement didn’t, despite the growing penetration among TV households and growing usage among viewers. A big, lost opportunity to deal with possibly the most important and arguably impactful technology development of this decade.
***Give attendees much opportunity to ask questions or react to what they saw. To the credit of organizers, every keynote presentation, one-on-one interview and panel throughout the week cried out for substantial Q&A sessions. Very few provided them; most gave two, maybe three minutes tops at the end. If you want to turn NYC Television Week into something big and special, this point has to be addressed. The easiest way to turn off a crowd and create bad buzz is to have them sit for hours without ample opportunity for feedback.
Nevertheless, there’s the kernel of something big and special at play here. The New York Television Festival, the just-launched Paley NYC showcase, Diversity Week and other TV outlets should consider a connection with NYC Television Week. So should local chapters of such groups as NAMIC, which had an executive breakfast with Pivot president Evan Shapiro last Wednesday (with plenty of audience give-and-take), and Women 2.0’s Founders Friday meetups. The tent’s big enough, and congratulate the organizers for realizing their first pass.
Look forward to Version 2.0 of this venture on the rise next fall.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!