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Pay TV as we know it will be dead by 2025, and this is how it will happen

Mark Sullivan | Oct. 9, 2013
The pay TV industry is in transition, retooling itself to produce and distribute content that is streamed, not broadcast.

At any rate, 14 Emmy nods and one major-category win give Netflix a sheen of credibility, and will certainly encourage Netflix and other streaming-only content providers to offer more original shows in the future. Netflix has already announced it plans to double its volume of original content it will stream next year.

Amazon has a good shot at a place in the water-cooler small talk as it debuts its nerd comedy series Betas, and its Capitol Hill comedy Alpha House (written by Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury fame). Amazon will also release three children's shows: Annebots, Creative Galaxy, and Tumbleaf.

Not to be left out, Hulu and Lionsgate are now working with Brad Pitt's Plan B Productions to make Deadbeat, a "supernatural comedy" series.

How the TV sausage gets made
As streaming-only players like Netflix and Amazon enter the content space, the traditional production pipelines for TV shows are becoming less relevant. In the past, television writers, producers, and network suits followed the same rules and worked in concert. But now long-exclusive relationships are suddenly up for grabs.

"With the emergence of online content, it's become the Wild West again," says Craig Anton, a comedian/actor who has appeared in Showtime's Weeds and AMC's Mad Men. "Everyone is taking meetings with everyone," is a phrase you hear over and over when talking to people within the industry today. But Anton says one thing remains constant: The way to sell shows—whether to ABC or to Netflix—is by pitching them with hot, battle-proven writers and producers, or with an A-list star (like Kevin Spacey in House of Cards) attached. "The more firepower you can bring to the networks, the better the chance of success," Anton says.

This "packaging" technique, Anton explains, became the norm back in the 1980s, when Hollywood talent agencies began serving as a one-stop shop for their friends at the networks. Because these agencies managed not just actors but also writers and producers, they could carefully assemble just the right mix of talent to a show concept and then pitch it to a network as a fully baked idea.

These days a production company, rather than a talent shop, is often responsible for assembling such packages. So if a writer and her agent can't sell a concept directly to a network, they may go directly to a production company like Sony TriStar. If the people at the production company like the idea (and have relationships with other talent who would be good for the project), they may put money behind it, and try to sell it to a network.

Or in the more modern version of the story, they'll pitch it to a Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube.

 

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