Winter 2013

The Business of Television

Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group, considers the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.

1. You’ve said that expanding digital markets and mobile viewing are evolutionary for the television industry, not revolutionary. What did you mean by that?

While we’re seeing some diminution in ratings at the broadcast and cable networks, we’re seeing an overall increase in the amount of viewing of television content. The good news is that more people are watching more television today than ever before. They’re just watching episodic storytelling on multiple platforms. The dramatic impact of these new platforms is the expanded opportunity to watch these episodic stories in an on demand environment. And all of that is great for those of us who are in the business of producing television shows. And certainly that’s an important growth area for members of the DGA.

2. Do you see the model for broadcast television changing?

The great majority of the shows that generate meaningful revenue come from both broadcast and basic cable networks, along with premium pay services like Showtime and HBO. That is where for the very foreseeable future the majority of the quality, professionally produced work will be developed and executed. We don’t expect that to change as a result of any of these new emerging platforms.

3. Do you think these new platforms can become a source of content outside the traditional suppliers?

It’s very early in that game. Keep an eye on what happens with Netflix and House of Cards in February. The team at Hulu has also developed some original content. But this is something that will play out over the next three to five to seven years. This will not be a quick evolution where they’re buying multiple series in the very near future.

4. Is it possible to measure how many viewers are actually watching content on new media platforms?

It’s certainly a challenge at this point. The industry is working with Nielsen and others to develop measurement systems that record and identify not only total viewers but also demographics of those viewers. This measurement model of the expanded on demand viewing is necessary so that we can work with our advertisers to receive compensation for that viewing. We need to get paid for the advertising that runs with that viewing so that the shift in viewing patterns result in equivalent or growing amounts of revenue to the distributors and to the creative community whose work is reflected in those shows.

5. What kind of impact are new platforms having on the distribution window for your shows?

Technology is causing the industry to move the syndication windows forward in connection with serialized dramas in particular. What you’re seeing with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and eventually YouTube is an earlier exploitation of the repeats. Traditionally, we would have waited until the end of the fourth year to begin repeating these stories. Now we’re finding business models, together with our broadcast and cable network partners, that allow us to show those repeats at the end of the first year and at the end of the second year and at the end of the third year on serialized dramas. So we are seeing the model change as a result of technology and the ability to deliver the repeats of these shows to our consumers a bit earlier.

6. Would you say reality or non-scripted television has peaked or is it still growing?

My sense is that it’s stabilized. If you look at the schedules on the broadcast and cable networks, it does not appear that there is more non-scripted programming than there was a handful of years ago. So it’s safe to say it’s stabilized, but probably not growing.

7. How significant is the problem of Internet theft for TV content, and what can the industry do to control it?

Piracy is an important issue for all of us, both on the film side and the television side. However, it appears to be less of a problem on the television side. The biggest opportunity to combat piracy from a television standpoint is to make the content accessible in a convenient and legal way so consumers can find their favorite shows when they want them. This is being accomplished by electronic sell-throughs, via Apple and iTunes; with,, Hulu, and similar digital services that provide easy and early access to the shows. And then at the end of seasons, the availability of many shows on platforms like Netflix. So the earlier access in a convenient and legal form seems to be diminishing the impact of piracy on television content.

8. What specifically has Warner Bros. Television been doing to encourage diversity in the hiring of directors for its shows?

We have a program put together in conjunction with the senior management of the DGA that we’re very proud of. We intend to expand that program. We had a meeting with the leadership of the DGA recently, and together we are putting the fine points on a plan to expand our existing program and continue to increase our attention to this very important issue.

9. How successful would you say Warner Bros. has been to date in this area?

My sense is we’ve been as successful as others in our business, which isn’t good enough. I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to pay more attention and make greater efforts to expand diversity not only in front of the camera, but also behind the camera in the sense of more women directors and more directors of color.

10. If the TV industry is in a golden age in terms of the demand for content, do you feel that it’s also in a golden age in terms of the quality of the content?

Absolutely. If you step back as a viewer, you clearly see the quality is exceptional; the best that it’s ever been. The pilots that are being done, and the series that are being selected to go on the air are being executed at such a high level. It’s a great tribute to the members of your Guild.

10 Questions

Question and answer sessions with prominent figures outside the Guild about current creative and business issues.

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