TV Showdown: Exclusive Portraits of 4 Top Executives
11:04 AM PDT 10/17/2013 by Lacey Rose, Matthew Belloni
FX's John Landgraf, Netflix's Ted Sarandos, Showtime's David Nevins, and Fox's Kevin Reilly meet in one room, and no topic is off-limits as they tackle Netflix's ratings mystery, why Fox will slash pilots to end the "welfare state" and Sarandos' threat as cable moves to own VOD. Photographed on location at the Thompson Beverly Hills by Ramona Rosales and Jessica Chou.
“We’re all in that business of pushing chips into the middle of the table,” says Landgraf (left), with Sarandos, Reilly and Nevins.
Reilly on doing a few straight-to-series orders lately: "We've been bound to these cycles for a long time in the broadcast side of the business. When I worked in cable [at FX], I loved getting off of it. It was a much better process creatively. It has a higher yield on the success side. You want to have the ability to course-correct if need be and not have to cast under duress. So my series orders have been predominantly to unwind us off the cycle in broadcast, but the marketplace is at such a fever pitch. I can't stand it."
Landgraf on development: "I really believe in the development process. Obviously, Ted [Sarandos]'s organization has a different point of view. There's a process of working on a script and working on a pilot -- sometimes actually retooling a pilot -- that's valuable for precision of tone. And it's difficult to do that right now because [with] any project that has merit, there is, at minimum, a pilot commitment and often a series commitment."
Sarandos on Netflix: "People get wrapped up in the cost of a show and say we pay a lot for a show. But I don't have the development infrastructure overhead, and I'm not [making] 50 or 60 pilots to do it. If you took all that money out and put it on the screen -- which is what we did with House of Cards -- then we're probably not that different."
Nevins on network competition: "Having the ability to go at the right pace is one of the things I like about my job, as opposed to when I was in the network business. I don't like artificial pressure to go faster and to make decisions before things are ready."
Sarandos on Pilots
"Pilots and development deals also have become a defensive play in a super-competitive market. 'I'm not going to ever make that, but I don't want anyone else to.' Some of this has gotten out of hand," he says.
Reilly on Pilot Season's 'Welfare State'
"I don't like the welfare state of the development process. A lot of this town was sustained by the pilot system, where we were making an enormous and inefficient amount of product," he says. "It never made a lot of sense, but frankly, it wasn't bad for people because they may not have a series, but in the meantime they're paying their bills with the pilot. It's a silly system, so maybe one of the healthier things that could evolve as there are more series opportunities is to get off of that inefficiency of just throwing spaghetti at the wall."
Nevins on What Shows He'd Like to Steal
"I'd take some comedy from John. I'd take Louie, and I might even take The League. I'm trying to shift what we're doing in comedy a little bit, and Louie would be a fantastic start."
Reilly on What He Dislikes About Broadcast
"If I'm sitting on Sons of Anarchy, and it comes in the last week of April and I have one week to screen it and a week to cut a trailer and go sell it, that show is dead in the water. And that means a great show would have never come to pass. But I have a hard time convincing the community that somehow it's in their best interest to get off that. But we're getting there."