United States: Can Television's New Golden Age Stay?

Last Updated: February 27 2018
Article by Ronald R. Urbach

On Wikipedia, there are two entries for "The Golden Age of Television." The first describes a period from the late '40s to late '50s, which featured live productions aimed at the affluent viewers who could then afford television sets. The second one, we're living through now.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has gotten glued to one of the many gripping series parading across our screens in this new century. From The Sopranos, to Breaking Bad, to Mad Men, it has been an embarrassment of riches.

They say that nothing gold can stay (well, Robert Frost did anyway). That's a scary thought for viewers, but one that has been articulated by a television executive who made waves last year when he said that we may have reached "peak television." Is this a bubble that's going to burst, or will the unseen hand of the market continue to deliver entertainment masterpieces right to our homes?

How I See It

  • The large number of platforms available today makes it necessary for outlets to produce highly compelling content. Of course, that's easier said than done. For those of us who work in creative industries (and even more boring ones like the law), it's inspiring to turn on the television today and see so many artists working at such a high level.
  • HBO (Game of Thrones), Showtime (Homeland), Netflix (Making a Murderer), and new streaming services have been making a big cultural impact with their high-quality offerings. However, those outlets operate on a subscriber model and do not have the day-to-day pressure of delivering audiences to advertisers. This makes it all the more impressive that AMC has been such a giant force in our new era, delivering a stream of influential shows that includes The Walking Dead, The Killing, and Better Call Saul.

How the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Linda Schupack, Executive Vice President of Marketing at AMC and SundanceTV, to learn more about the modern television landscape and how it's changing.

How has the task of marketing television shows changed in the last 10 years? Is it harder to reach people given all the noise on social media, or does the buzz generated on Twitter and other platforms make it easier for quality television to be discovered?

One of the greatest changes over the past 10 years is the sheer number of scripted television series – so it is just that much harder to cut through. But, the advent of social media is a terrific marketing tool – as it allows "talked-about" television to really be talked about – and, as a marketer, it is wonderful to be able to have a relationship with both individual fans and the fan community.

Do you agree that we are experiencing a new Golden Age of Television, and if so, what forces do you think are most responsible for it?

There is no question that we are in a Golden Age of Television – and have been in one for quite some time. Great TV is really like literature. Technology plays a critical role here: the streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu) let people catch up on favorite series and also allow for easy bingeing of more complex stories. Plus, technology also allows for people to have much larger screens at home, which attracts creatives who wanted to tell very cinematic stories, episodically, on the big screen.

With the large number of outlets putting out content today, do you aim for a narrow slice of the population, or are you targeting a general audience?

We try to keep the fan at the center of everything we do, and we are always looking for stories that people feel passionate about. That being said, we are always trying to bring as large a number of viewers as possible to our shows.

What was your favorite television show when you were growing up?

The Mary Tyler Moore show!

What do you expect to be the biggest change in the way television is delivered to consumers over the next five years?

More and more "channels" will be seamlessly accessed on the phone.

What is the most interesting object in your office?

The Walking Dead character Negan's barbed wire bat, Lucille.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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