Throughout a summer season go to to Los Angeles this yr, Jim McKairnes — a former SVP Planning for CBS who’s spent the previous 13 years educating TV historical past on the faculty degree — had dinner with a fellow TV government who shared issues concerning the streaming world and the way “viewers and the experience of watching and loving TV seemed to take a back seat to algorithms and optimizations.”
Across the identical time, information broke that Kevin Levy was stepping down from his position as EVP, program planning, scheduling and acquisitions at The CW. That’s when it dawned on McKairnes that the position of a scheduler, “the crafting of a 22 hours a week, 35-weeks-a-season prime-time line-up worth jillions of dollars, just isn’t a thing anymore.”
So McKairnes sat down and wrote a bit for Medium known as Scheduling a TV Memoriam: An RIP Of Kinds for a As soon as-In-Demand Tv Business. Together with providing a historical past lesson on how TV scheduling got here to be, McKairnes stated “[scheduling is] the word that’s slowly becoming irrelevant to the medium, having less and less meaning as television itself comes to mean more and more,” McKairnes wrote. “Broadcast television revenues still pivot on the whens and wheres of a primetime grid, but in this our streaming world they’re connected to so much more now. As evidenced by Levy’s full former title, it’s about content strategy and acquisitions, too. In an era of digital windowing, Mondays at 9 is so last century. After all, who needs a meal to be scheduled when all the food is self serve?”
Though he has solely a handful of followers of Medium, the column instantly discovered an invested viewers, significantly amongst former broadcast TV schedulers like Preston Beckman, Kelly Kahl and Andy Kubitz — showmen who used to draw their very own scrums on the Tv Critics Tour due to their expertise and affection for speaking store with reporters.
“Scheduling doesn’t really run the game anymore,” McKairnes wrote in his column. “Lead-ins and lead-outs and hammock shows and tentpoles and companion pieces and four-stacks and Sweeps and retention have given way to analytics and optimization and algorithms. The new strategy is curation. It’s a successful business plan, but it’s hard to say where the fun is in that. Or where the TV fan — be it an executive or a viewer — fits in.”
So is he proper?
For probably the most half sure, although it looks as if a few of his ire needs to be directed at streamers. (He even quotes a high-ranking decision-maker at one of many platforms who stated, “Isn’t streaming great? You put all these shows on, and it doesn’t matter if anyone watches!”)
Schedulers nonetheless play an vital position on the broadcast networks, despite the fact that the phrase scheduling has been dropped from their titles through the years; Noriko Gee Kelley is the trade’s solely lady within the position at CBS; Steve Kern has the job at NBC, the place he stories to President of Program Planning Jeff Bader; Dan Harrison is the person to see at Fox and Ari Goldman serves in that capability at ABC.
By no means have been these executives’ scheduling prowess examined greater than this summer season due to the strike. As one former scheduler says, “someone had to put together a cohesive fall schedule with one arm tied behind their back.”
That’s a talent, he added.
Certain, nobody talks about time slot wars anymore. Nobody appears eager on telling a narrative with their primetime schedule. And there’s hardly any technique in making duplicates of reveals that already work: as McKairnes factors out in his column, giving Dick Wolf full nights of programming on NBC and CBS is “more about showrunner power and influence than anything else.”
However linear schedules are nonetheless related, despite the fact that customers now watch tv the best way they need to watch it. “Look, the schedule is not a bad thing,” stated one high-ranking program planning exec. “It is a recommendation engine. It is a marketing tool. It is a limiting factor. I’ve heard more than one streaming executive mention talk about the paralysis of choice, right? Viewers flip through these endless tiles and can’t find something that they want to watch. The schedule forces us to prioritize what is important to us at this moment in time, and to communicate that to the viewer.”
The truth is, there’s a motive why Kubitz was employed by Netflix final yr as a content material finance director of programming and launch analytics. “Those skills of being a good broadcaster are definitely valuable and applicable to streaming,” stated the printed TV exec. “You want to get the highest rating at the most reasonable cost so that you’re bringing the biggest or broadest audience to the platform. And if you’re a streamer, there are lessons to be taken from that that I’m not sure have been fully absorbed.”
McKairnes ends his column by saying “but for some — those of a certain stripe, say — a new TV season these days is just plain more about what was (the magic that used to be the creation and execution of a 22-hour prime-time TV week) than what will be. As a career? These days, Scheduling is up there with switchboard-operator or farrier: The work’s still done, but it’s not exactly in high demand.”
Perhaps, however that’s in all probability not an opinion shared by Ryan Sharkey, who simply right now was named the CW’s new SVP, programming and content material technique for The CW.