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Are TV Studios Taking Enough Risks?

Tanner | Aug 29, 2011

“You can’t look at this business in the same unsophisticated way you did a decade ago,” said Andy Kaplan, president of Sony’s channels operation in a recent New York Times article on Sony’s pursuit of the new prime time on television.

Sony Pictures – which is responsible for some of the undisputed best TV programming over the past several years – know what they’re talking about. The business struggled back in 2004 to make the prime time TV cut, still one of the absolute most popular time slots for television today. Back then Sony Pictures cut more than 30% of their work force and found themselves struggling to hit any home runs on the platform. But Steve Mosko, Chief of Sony Pictures, is a risk taker.

In-fact: Mosko once, apparently, won over a major studio partner by arm wrestling for the business. True story.

Judging by the recent success of some of Sony’s hit TV shows – Breaking Bad, Community, Shark Tank, and Rescue Me, just to name a few – they really do get the changing landscape of television. Or, at least, it appears that way. Though it may have taken them a while to grasp what needs to be done, other networks can surely learn a thing or two from Sony Pictures. Most notably: you have to take risks if you’re going to compete with the leagues of online pirates and the countless other TV studios.

Pan AmSony is again taking a risk with new series such as “Charlies Angels” and “Pan Am” which both will premiere during the next TV season. Of course, Sony isn’t the only network taking a risk with grittier, darker, more surreal, and more innovative stories. The next season of TV is sure to bring with it some of the best entertainment that insists on pushing boundaries. Or so the networks and earlier reviewers tell us.

Still, there are a number of upcoming shows that look downright boring. Both “Grimm” and “The Playboy Club” on NBC look great, but reviewers are saying the shows are bland and simply trying to follow on the heels of other, popular trends of the times. The same goes for “Unforgettable” (which is a Sony Pictures production) and “Person of Interest” on CBS.

But are the big television production studios really taking enough risks (or enough of a risk) to keep audiences captivated? If not: are the studios to blame, or the networks? What would you say?


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