NBC handing prime-time keys to outsiders

TV studios often pack their production schedules to the brim, using the old tadpole theory of evolution--make a lot of them and hope a few survive. However, creating tadpoles is relatively inexpensive--a few ribbits, some amphibious flirting, and a kinky Heimlich maneuver. Television shows, on the other hand, can run into the millions of dollars to produce.

With costs of shows skyrocketing, ratings in decline, and Internet television on the horizon, studios are tapping their noggins to come up with new, cost-effective ways to fill their schedules with shows people will watch.

Last week, NBC tackled this quandary by signing a unique deal to give an outside producer a block of prime-time programming, reports The New York Times. The deal will see two hours of NBC's prime-time programming filled by shows from producer Thom Beers, the man behind the hit "docudramas" Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, and Monster Garage.

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, nor were any specific titles mentioned (though it is believed that they will stay within Beers' preferred genre). The network has preliminarily agreed to buy 30 hours of programming from Beers--three unnamed new shows that will each have 10 one-hour episodes.

The deal is unique in that NBC will be airing the programming in a two-hour block during prime time--basically handing over the keys to the castle to Beers for a night. Said night was initially targeted for Saturday, a traditionally slow night for television, but The New York Times cites a participant who says the "block may be shown on any night."

With the digital age upon us and reruns of shows attracting only a small fraction of the initial run, this deal is all about saving money and may signify a new way for executives to find their programming. When compared to scripted shows or even a typical reality program on a major network, Beers' programs are relatively cheap to make. The New York Times estimates the cost of the one-hour Ice Road Truckers hovers around $500,000 per episode, versus an approximate $3 million for scripted TV.

The producers and NBC will split ownership of the programs, with NBC keeping domestic rights and producers taking international rights. The shows are expected to begin airing in the second half of 2008.

The deal is allegedly in no way related to the current Writers Guild of America strike.

Comments (7)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Dec 04, 2007
Deadliest Catch is ok if theres nothing else on, but Ice Road Truckers? That series is beyond dull and that show about lobster fisherman isnt much better. I guess if you drive semis for a living or like trucks you might watch it, beyond that? I dont see that show getting decent ratings. Its ok for a 3rd tier cable network but not big 4 network programming. Networks would be better off putting on some good movies.
Reply
Flag
Dec 04, 2007
Screen writers please settle this strike as soon as possible because if you don't your going to change the entire industry - and not for the better because there are going to be even fewer jobs for writers. Twenty years ago when the writer went on strike there were more employers in the pot. TV stations could not own movie studios and TV stations could not own multiple channels in a local area.

Today CW is owned by Warners and CBS. In the LA area CBS station channel 2 in partnership with channel 9 KCAL: while Fox 11 has a working agreement with KCOP channel 13. NBC and Universal are one. In fact every studio is tied to a Network; plus all the networks have major interest in cable stations. So the writers who were dealing with 15+ companies are today really dealing with 5. The writers are not going to get what they lost over VHS revenue, and despite all the demonstrations they are not really going to get what they want now because the producers will never reveal their books which makes it difficult to figure out if the show made or did not make a profit. James Garner sued Universal for his royalities on his show the Rockford files. It was a hit series in primetime and in syndication, yet Universal produced court records that showed that the show was millions in the red. The screen writers are playing right into the networks hands as they fill their lineup with more cheap reality game and reality shows, which will cause the audience to find other types of entertainment (such as video games). I suggest that the writers take what has been offered or disband completely. While their cause has merit and I believe they are owed what they are asking for, the writer's union has to look at today's world. They have no clout (actor support will fade when the award season arives, the elections season comes around and when they start to run out of money and the networks won't lose money by running programs against American Idol. History might record that the writer's union was responsible for destroying network prime time TV as we knew it (remember that these 5 companies have a major interests in publishing. Whoever though of going on strike in this era should seek mental help. When you negotiate, you negotiate from a position of strength, and right now screen writers don't have they position.
More+
Reply
Flag
Dec 04, 2007
Deadliest Catch is an entertaining show. Though some of the drama is probably staged, they certainly can't fake those 30-foot waves in the middle of an icy Arctic Ocean and the falling chunks of ice from the masts of the ships.
Reply
Flag
Dec 04, 2007
more fake-ality crap
Reply
Flag
Dec 03, 2007
I've heard about this a couple of mouths ago and that Thom Beers might be doing another series that is about commerical fishing, and it will be about Swordfishing.
Reply
Flag
Dec 03, 2007
Saturday night has been dead air for far too long. When was the last time there was original programing on Saturday on a major network? The District maybe?
Reply
Flag
Dec 03, 2007
Nbc is covering their ass just in case the strike goes on for a long time.
Reply
Flag