Produced By: Veteran Producer Touts 'Historic' Time in Television

Marshall Herskovitz
Marshall Herskovitz
 Craig Barrett/Getty Images

Veteran producer Marshall Herskovitz said Saturday we are in the midst of a “historic” time in television, citing an explosion of new delivery platforms and more TV shows than ever – with no end in sight.

Herskovitz, who produced Traffic and The Last Samurai, said this has disrupted the ways networks have traditionally been programmed, shifted how viewers consume content and changed the way advertisers allocate their resources to both old and new mediums.

That was the key point of a panel at the Produced By Conference Saturday afternoon titled “The revolution has just been televised: The disrupted landscape of TV. “

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Herskovitz said that for independent producers it is the greatest time to be a creator since the end of the financial interest and syndication rules in the 1990s, which allowed the broadcasters to take control of the content they put on air and forced a lot of smaller TV distributors out of business. Now independent producers have many other places to sell and get better deals allowing them greater chances to own some or all of the back end on successful shows.

“I think this is the golden age of TV…again,” said CAA TV packaging agent Peter Micelli. ”The amount of shows we’re selling and getting on the air is staggering.”

“It’s an amazing and exciting time as you see these shifts,” added Micelli, who said they now regularly hear from new distributors coming to the agency looking to get into the business of making scripted programming.

People are consuming TV content in new ways when they want but all of that doesn’t change the need for compelling content, said Jessika Borsiczky, producer of Showtime's House of Lies. “If you’re a story teller, you don’t care where it gets on, you just want it to get out there.”

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Morgan Wandell, who has been head of drama at Amazon Studios for seven months, said they are no longer in the business of being the favorite show for 20 million viewers.

“This is about being somebody’s favorite show,” said Wandell. “You’re doing something that extracts so much passion from the audience members will pay for it and seek out ways to find it.”

The storytelling is also different, said Wandell: “This is so serially driven. People tend to watch these shows one at a time [and will binge to see them all at once]. It’s much more akin in some ways to reading a novel than watching traditional television. That has incredible implications for story telling and these shows.”

Quan Phung has been president, scripted television, for Slingshot Global Media – which is described as a new independent TV studio- - for two months after a career in more traditional television. He said they are attracting talent by making shows that are their passion projects.

“We’re almost artisanal in the way we make them,” said Phung.

Wandall said the goal for each show is to break out and “stand apart form the other 60 odd entities looking to do scripted programming.”

He said they are reaching out beyond traditional TV writers to bringing playwrights, authors and even journalists to create “really immersive shows” that make viewers want to “gorge on one episode after another.”

“I say to everybody,” added Wandall, “this is kind of like the best of the old and new without the horseshit of either. We’re trying to do good stuff and be in business with the best people.”

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