Reilly: B'cast biz remains unchanged in many ways

Panelists reflect on effect of strike

Kevin Reilly isn't ready to rewrite the rules of the broadcast business just yet.

The president of Fox Entertainment urged caution to those already coming to conclusions about the dawning digital media world during a panel discussion Thursday at the Jack Myers Future of Media Breakfast at the Paley Center for Media. He was joined by Sony Pictures Television president Steve Mosko and Albert Cheng, executive vp digital at Disney-ABC Television Group.

In what might have been a veiled poke at recent moves made by his former boss, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, Reilly added, "Right now in the television season, if you are going to proclaim, 'This is the way it's been, and those days are over,' I don't think you know what you're talking about."

Much of the panel discussion centered on broadcast's changing position in the traditional windowing scheme in which TV programs are exploited. Citing the growing importance of ancillary revenue streams, Mosko said aftermarket considerations are examined much earlier on.

"Now all of these things have to line up very early on in the food chain but not drive the creative," he said.

Reilly noted that broadcasters now often are pressured to be patient with underperforming programs rather than undermine their potential in DVD or syndication windows. But he expressed frustration with the fact that even within News Corp., Fox can't participate in the success of a show in other divisions that maintain separate profit-and-loss statements.

Singling out Hulu, the online distribution platform News Corp. has launched with NBC Uni, Reilly noted, "I'm all for Hulu succeeding and want them to, but ultimately if we don't develop and launch good product, Hulu won't have much to put on."

That said, Reilly also sees the Internet as a place that could aid in program development, referencing plans in the works to test, online first, comedy and animation fare meant for TV.

The panelists also focused on how the industry has changed in the wake of the writers strike, which might have been a blessing in disguise for broadcasters. "If anything, the strike has helped us take a little bit of a breather," Cheng said.

Reilly noted the creative community's renewed interest in generating content for the Internet in the strike's aftermath. But he cautioned that writers might be in for a rude awakening when they examine the comparative financial rewards of the broadcast model.

"What I think they don't realize is they're not going to get the same $2 million guarantee and $50,000 per episode," Reilly said.

Also on the panel was Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, executive vp content strategy and acquisitions at Joost.
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