There may be too much TV, but is there enough great talent around to meet demand? A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc warned Monday at TheGrill that there isn’t.
“When I think about too much content out there, one of the things that comes to mind for me is just the volume of really outstanding creators there are,” Dubuc said at TheWrap‘s media leadership conference. “There hasn’t been a birth of a new generation of television creators at the same pace as the amount of content that’s out there.”
Dubuc joined TheWrap CEO and editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman onstage at the conference for a lengthy interview, during which she touched on the state of reality television, the upcoming reboot of the classic television miniseries “Roots” and her company’s revenue.
Asked about FX Networks CEO John Landgraf‘s comments this summer wherein he described the current industry landscape as “simply too much television” and predicted a content bubble that will compel some cable networks to disappear once it bursts, Dubuc mostly agreed with her competitor, noting that “a lot of us are scratching our heads” over how very small networks are able to spend what appear to be large amounts of money on original programming.
But she focused largely on the strain that the amount of content being made has placed on the industry’s creative infrastructure.
“When you look at the increase in the number of scripted series and the number of unscripted hours, the pool of producers hasn’t grown at the same rate,” Dubuc said. “So I think there’s a bit of a creative tax on the system.”
Dubuc also conceded that the reality television field is in need of revitalization — but also defended what has worked in the past.
“I would love to see more swings in areas that we haven’t explored” in unscripted, Dubuc said. “I can’t necessarily tell you what that is — I think you know it when you see it — but I think we’ve had a lot of the same-themed shows in broadcast, but those shows are still performing.”
She then pointed out that during broadcast premiere week, 12 hours were unscripted, and of those, seven won their time periods.
“A lot of people make hay about ‘American Idol’s’ ratings and ‘Empire,'” Dubuc said, noting that “American Idol” has been on the air since 2002. “That’s an enormous run. Thirteen years from now we’ll see how ‘Empire’s’ doing.”
Dubuc received applause from the audience when she screened a short teaser for the upcoming miniseries “Roots,” based, as the original 1977 ABC miniseries was, on the novel by Alex Haley. The teaser featured first looks at stars Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Anika Noni Rose and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. When Waxman pointed out that the original series aired on broadcast television, Dubuc hinted that the new one nearly did as well.
“I think we had competition from a broadcast network” when pursuing the rights, Dubuc said. “We were really aggressive going at it.”
The executive began her session with a defense of the cable television business, declaring, “Cable is not dead.” Dubuc’s appearance followed interviews with digital executives such as YouTube chief business officer Robert Kynci, Maker Studios CEO Ynon Kreiz and AwesomenessTV CEO Brian Robbins. Those sessions highlighted the emergence of digital media as traditional-media companies work to adapt to the changing landscape.
“Some portfolio groups are doing a better job of looking to the future,” she said of the cable industry. “But what has to be acknowledged is that we have billions of dollars in revenue and billions of dollars of profit that has to be managed through this transition. So it’s not going to be instant. It’s not going to be overnight. But that’s not to say that we aren’t focused on the evolution of media.”
Asked by Waxman whether A+E’s revenue was close to the $4 billion per year that has been estimated, Dubuc wouldn’t confirm the number, but did say “It’s in the neighborhood,” though slightly lower. “It’s a good rent district, if you can get it.”