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It’s always Peak TV in blogging and social media

May 22, 2016

Mr. Robot

A monitor on the set of “Mr. Robot”

It’s insane how much television is on television right now. And even off television.

I thought the expansion in reality shows and sports programming alone was crazy. Reality TV is cheap and easy to produce, while sports draws a consistent, desirable audience.

But the number of scripted programs has doubled to 409 from 2009 to 2015. Who has time to watch that many shows?

Apparently, the entire world.

Fortunately, we can watch some great stories in Peak TV: “Mr. Robot,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Casual,” “Transparent.” And we can watch a lot of mediocre programming.

Veteran showrunner Carlton Cuse (“Bates Motel”) compares it to what would happen if the National Football League suddenly expanded to 90 teams. “You would have a lot of football available to you, but the quality of it would be diluted,” he says.

What I find interesting is what talk show host and producer Conan O’Brien once said (I think) about the business: It takes as much effort to create a middling TV show as it does a hit. He’s referring to the army of people it takes to put a half-hour of television together: writers, directors, actors, costumers, set designers, carpenters, makeup artists, lighting crew, sound crew, editors, publicity and marketing staffers, casting directors, production designers, producers, directors of photography, camera operators, showrunners and more.

Multiply that by 400 shows in production. That’s a tremendous effort to make content competing for our limited attention.

Many of us feel that strain of producing content for consumption by audiences pulled in all directions. The number of blogs, social media channels, podcasts and YouTube/Vine/Twitch stars has always forced us to be creative and provocative in our output. Plus, the barrier to entry in the digital world is far lower than television.

The explosion of television is a reminder that the audience is always in control. The better we cater to audiences, the more likely we succeed in accomplishing our goals, whether to inform, to entertain or to sell.

Audience members always have the option to change channels, to pause, to recommend or criticize what they see. Whatever we create, we must keep them in mind and how we want to help or provoke them.

The competition never ends, nor should our commitment to content that enriches our audience’s lives.

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