5 Takeaways at TCA’s Halfway Point

TCA summer press tour is entering an eventful home stretch this week, with CBS, Fox, FX, Showtime and the CW closing out the 2016 edition. The idiosyncratic media gathering doesn’t always cast the die for shows and networks. But it often offers a degree of surprise in a carefully choreographed industry. 

Here were the five biggest takeaways from the first half of the tour: 

1. Casey Bloys, an accomplished 12-year veteran of HBO who replaced Michael Lombardo as programming chief last spring, wobbled during his first TCA executive session. He was asked repeatedly about sexualized violence against women on a string of HBO shows, including this fall’s high-stakes Westworld and Game of Thrones. After initially stonewalling and then ill-advisedly joking about the subject, Bloys conceded: “Is it something we think about? Yeah, the criticism is valid… point taken on it.” Despite an overall show of strength by HBO, especially its summer breakout A Night Of and the Sarah Jessica Parker dramedy Divorce, Bloys also was pressed on the meltdown of Vinyl and the upcoming end of Thrones

2. Channing Dungey, who took the reins at ABC from Paul Lee early this year, appeared to draw on Lee’s frictionless TCA appearances during her executive session. She reiterated plans to diversify The Bachelor and promote synergy with Marvel and Lucasfilm. And, while she didn’t repeat Lee’s curiously worded praise of the network’s “delicious” shows, Dungey showed similar enthusiasm when praising the much-maligned network procedural. (One such ABC bet is Conviction.) “We’ve moved into a landscape where there is an appetite for serialized dramas,” she said, “but I would love to see more close-ended dramas on networks.” 

3. Bob Greenblatt, entertainment chairman at NBC, acknowledged that rivals ABC and CBS have made strides in the OTT space. But he said a big announcement is in the offing once the network gets past the Rio Olympics. “We’re in a unique position because our sister company [Comcast] is a cable company, and the OTT strategy is a competitive take from what the cable business is,” he said. 

4. Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos said the $6 billion the company is spending on programming in 2016 will increase in 2017, though he didn’t offer any forecasts. While acknowledging viewers face a glut of shows, he said the problem is too many “mediocre” ones. “Our vote is to keep the bar high, and to keep ’em coming,” he said. 

5. TNT and TBS chief Kevin Reilly said Turner is still studying the impact of reduced commercial loads for TNT dramas, which have given showrunners roughly 10 more minutes per hour. So far, Reilly said, “the data points in the right direction.”