We are at the tail end of a TV selling season that saw more bidding wars and production and put pilot commitments than I can remember, and that isn’t lost on the broadcast entertainment presidents. Survivor‘s Jeff Probst opened the discussion at the annual Hollywood Radio & Television Society network chiefs luncheon today by sharing that during his lunch with the executives before they took the stage, everyone was complaining about how crazy and out of whack this pitch season has been. Fox’s Kevin Reilly, who spoke his mind more than anyone else on the panel, quickly jumped in. “(NBC) got cash, (ABC) got competitive against that cash, and we took the bait,” is how Reilly summed up this year’s marketplace. “We all think we were played a little bit. Agents are doing very well this year as a result.” Reilly’s counterparts mostly agreed, though their responses were more measured. “It’s been very, very frantic this year,” CBS’ Nina Tassler said. She blamed media coverage for the increased intensity of the pitch season. “Every single thing that happens is now being reported, from a pitch to speculation on the terms of a deal, and that does absolutely impact the business.” Added NBC’s Jennifer Salke: “I get the email about a media inquiry while the producer is still in the parking lot. That adds to the frenzy.” But it wasn’t all bad this buying season, ABC’s Paul Lee said. “There was also a rush of new energy, with a lot of new people and new ideas; there was lot of ambition in the projects coming in,” he said.
An old tradition is coming back – HRTS said today that it will hold its first luncheon with the heads of the broadcast networks in 3 years. HRTS president Kevin Beggs said that he has an agreement in principle with the 5 broadcast nets for the October event. Once a staple of the TV media scene, the luncheon was scrapped in 2008 when NBC attempted to book EVP Teri Weinberg instead of co-chairman Ben Silverman, leading to pushback from the other networks.
Also today, HRTS announced its schedule of events for the coming season, which opens tomorrow with “A Conversation With…Chase Carey” at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, followed by the broadcast chiefs, The Hitmakers- Scripted in December, The Cable Chiefs in March, The Hitmakers – Reality in April and The State of the Industry – First Amendment Throwdown in June. HRTS is making the First Amendment luncheon its flagship event for the season, and plans to invite top personalities from different sides, including Fox News.
Beggs, President of Lionsgate TV has been re-elected for a second term as HRTS president; Sarah Timberman, Principal, Timberman/Beverly Productions, as VP; Sean Perry, Co-Department Head of Alternative Television, WME Entertainment, as Secretary and Martha Henderson, EVP & Manager, Entertainment Division, City National Bank, re-elected as Treasurer. New HRTS board members are Leigh Brecheen, Partner, Bloom Hergott Diemer Rosenthal LaViolette Feldman Schenkman & Goodman, LLP; Ian Moffit, SVP, Programming & Content Strategy, BBC Worldwide Productions; and David Nevins, President, Entertainment, Showtime Networks, Inc.
Peter Tolan’s 2005 line about Steve McPherson, “Steve, if you can hear me, fuck you,” has gone down in HRTS luncheon history as one of the most memorable panel moments ever. But five years later, Tolan was pretty subdued in his reaction to McPherson’s ouster at ABC. “Don’t speak ill of the dead,” is pretty much all he said at TCA today. But he also talked about how he and McPherson made up a month after the HRTS luncheon when they both happened to be lunching at the Palm. “We hugged at valet parking. That’s Hollywood right there.”