CTAM Summit: 'Treme' Showrunners Talk Audience Vs. Ad Power

Complete CTAM 2010 Coverage

New Orleans -- David Simon
and Eric Overmyer's Tremé has the potential to be the kind of long-tail
sleeper hit that The Wire has become for HBO.

The Wire has been off the premium network's air for two years,
but remains a current blogosphere hit, retains a very active Facebook community
and DVD sales are as robust as they've ever been. All of which speaks to the
power of storytelling, says Eric Kessler, co-president of HBO.

Kessler, Overmyer and
Simon, co-creators and co-executive producers of Tremé, were the lone
representation from the creative community at the CTAM Summit 2010 in New
Orleans. And their inclusion here on Monday afternoon's panel titled, "Tremé:
The Art of Building Audience and a Community," was, much like their Crescent
City-set series, a postcard from an area still in the throes of redemption.

Tremé has inspired a dedicated, if small, television
audience. But in New Orleans, it's become part of the fabric of a city. New
Orlineans stop Overmyer and Simon - who both have homes here - on the street to
talk about story arc and characters. Local viewing parties abound. Blogs,
including Back of Town (backoftown.blogspot.com),
meticulously dissect the series and the culture it both inhabits and recreates.

"It's fascinating that
these shows - Tremé and The Wire - have audiences that really
want to engage in conversation," said Kessler. "I went on the Facebook page for
The Wire just the other day, and you see posts from an hour ago, three
hours ago. This is still a very active community. And it speaks to the level of
engagement about the show."

And that engagement speaks
to the rich, layered, not easily digested stories that Overmyer and Simon have
the luxury to explore on a pay cable network not enslaved by traditional
commercial interests driving ad-supported broadcast or even basic-cable

"I could not have done [Tremé
or The Wire] with advertising," said Simon. "Advertising requires you to
service a certain base; you need the maximum amount of eyeballs to charge the
maximum amount for advertisements."

When you take ad-driven imperatives out of the
equation, Simon added, television "finally becomes something of an adult medium
for the first time in its history. I care that people living the event find it
credible. If it's credible to people inside the event, it will be credible to
people outside of it."