FAANG Changing Pilot Season
Streamers are putting pressure on Broadcast networks to lure bigger stars with more money.
TV was once considered the place where an actor’s career went to die. At one point, it was indeed a wasteland of failed or on the decline cinema stars on shows made for mass appeal. In the past, there was nothing respectable about appearing on a TV show, other than collecting a paycheck.
Over the decades that cliche has fallen by the wayside. Now, not only is having a hit TV show respectable, it is necessary to sustain a career. Many movie stars were rushing to broadcast networks to sign on the dotted line for a chance at making money and securing future income.
Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google, collectively known as FAANG, changed the way the game is played. Each of the big tech companies now run their own network of TV shows and are luring the big names to join them. This has placed a heavy burden on broadcast networks looking to stay competitive.
It’s Not All About The Benjamins
A traditional broadcast show consists of 22–25 episodes per season. This is a large commitment for a star that wants to maintain a movie career as well. When Kevin Bacon signed on to The Following and Viola Davis agreed to star in How To Get Away With Murder, networks agreed that the pair would only need to be in about 13 episodes per season. Davis would eventually agree to 15 episodes to help with her show’s storytelling format.
These deals happened as Netflix was beginning to segue into producing original shows of their own. Their seasons consisted of 13 episodes back then, that number has dropped to between 8 and 13. It was very appealing to stars like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.
Fewer episodes of shows has forced broadcast networks to find inventive ways to fill their schedules. In the case of ABC, they have at times renewed shows that had ratings below what they would like to see in the hopes of the second season catching fire. CBS, on the other hand, expanded its Big Brother franchise in an ill-advised celebrity edition that likely won’t see a second cycle.
Over the past several decades, broadcast networks have seen their Emmy appeal dwindle. Hotshots like HBO began to steal their thunder and take away nominations from shows that appealed to a mass audience.
With the introduction of Netflix, and then Amazon into the Emmy race, broadcast watched their fortunes fall to the ground. Within an inch of their lives, the only broadcast shows to garner any Emmy love last year was perennial favorites, This Is Us and The Good Place.
Netflix and HBO led the way with nominations. While Amazon walked away with top prizes that left the networks scrambling to assure stars they would still get love from awards if they signed with them. Not many “prestigious” actors believed the broadcast networks and have since joined a streaming service show.
Money Does Matter
It’s an actor’s dream come true. Streamers and Networks are battling for the highest-profile star they can get. And both competitors realize that at the end of the day, awards and scheduling won’t matter if the price is right.
For a top name, broadcast networks are offering up to $250,000 per episode. That payday is going to names like Rob Lowe (9–1–1: Lonestar), Cobie Smulders (Stumptown), and Edie Falco (Tommy). A good paycheck for all involved, especially when they can also incite the scheduling clause that leaves them time to work on outside projects.
However, Apple has toppled that figure. They offered Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston a cool $1 million per episode for their Golden Globe-nominated show The Morning Show. This has led to the other streamers upping offers for actors they are trying to lure, and broadcast networks gasping for air. They don’t have the deep pockets of the streamers and they fear this will cost them some of the biggest stars on the planet.
By throwing around money, awards, and flexibility the streaming networks are changing how the TV business is done and how the pilot season is playing out for the broadcast networks.