SPT's Mosko to Industry: Keep Planning Ahead

With all of the Big Four holding some of their most
anticipated programs for midseason, the networks are finally employing more
year-round programming strategies-not just talking about it. And that's exactly
how veteran studio chief Steve Mosko likes it.

The Sony Pictures TV president says part of SPT's success
with its dramas this year has come from thinking long-term. SPT added three new
network dramas to its portfolio with pickups Charile's Angels and Pan Am
on ABC and Unforgettable on CBS. This
summer SPT will have eight cable series on the air, more than any other studio,
and next season nine primetime broadcast series.

Mosko talked with B&C's
executive editor, Melissa Grego, about why it's so important for industry
decision-makers to plan ahead, why so many more female leads are on the
schedule and more. An edited transcript follows.

What are some of your big take-aways from this upfront week?

People are really looking at programming their networks
year-round, and I like that. Because sometimes you feel like it's all or
nothing in fall.

We've always been a company that's had mid-season shows, and
it's good to know the networks support this year-round development process. I
think it's healthy and good for us, good for the business.

There also are some efforts to look even beyond any given full year.
Terra Nova, they're talking
Touch for down the line, Flintstones for 2013. Do you think we will and/or
should see more of these long-lead projects from the community?

Yes, some of these projects become so big. And anything that
adds more strategy to this whole process, it will be welcome. There are some
ideas that take some time to tee up, and I think it will be good for the

Is the trend encouraging to you and what you are doing at Sony-are you
jumping in on these long-lead projects?

We do try to take a long view. Part of the success with our
dramas this year has come from thinking long-term. You can't develop for what's
just right in front of you. You have to develop with a little bit more of a
long-term process.

Some things we have on the burner may not be for next year,
but maybe 18 months from now knowing what people are available, what
commitments they have.

From a company standpoint we always looked at ourselves as
being 52 weeks a year selling shows, launching shows.

Why do there seem to be more female leads in shows this round?

Here's what happens at our place: We'll sit down and look at
the schedule and say, what are we betting will work, won't work, what are the
holes? So we'll look at that. We'll talk to our international guys and
distribution guys and say, OK, what's hot, what's popular around the world?

Then you hear what the advertisers are saying. And what
strikes me as what the advertisers are looking for is two things: women and
adults. But women demographics are the ones most coveted by advertisers because
they bring the adults.

For us it just so happened that we had three of our dramas
with strong female characters and strong female storylines. That's not all we
developed; it's just what stood out.

There is a prioritization of comedy on the networks. Why is comedy so
important to the TV industry?

Comedies do very, very well in the backend. There's still a
market for strong comedies in syndication.

As far as your business, broadcast vs. cable, comedy vs. drama vs.
unscripted, is it still the most lucrative thing to do to get half-hour comedy
on a strong broadcast lineup? What's the best opportunity right now from your

We still look at the business in its entirety. So for
example, there still is a market for comedies in the United
States in syndication. Comedies, normally, generally
don't sell as well internationally as drama.

To balance that, dramas on the other hand tend to sell
exceptionally well internationally-and domestically. Hawaii
5-0, for example, made a lot of money in domestic syndication and also does
very, very well internationally.

If you have the right drama in this market, you can make big
money in the global part of that business.

So really the aim is a totally rounded-out group of cable and
broadcast, comedy, drama, unscripted shows-It's not about one thing for you.

This is why we're so excited this upfront. We have three new
dramas picked up, Charlie's, Pan Am, Unforgettable. We had a reality series, Re-Modeled, picked up by the CW. Shark Tank for 13 episodes [on] ABC Fridays. Sing-Off [NBC], 2 hours for 13 weeks. We had Rules of Engagement [CBS] picked up, Community [NBC], Happy

So comedy, drama, unscripted. That's nice because we think
of our business as [a] portfolio business, and that's exactly how it laid out
in the upfront. So we're really happy about that. But now the work starts to
turn these into great series.

Anything else surprise you about the slates that were announced?

Just talking about demographics is one thing, but also I was
pleased to see a lot of variety in drama choices; there's Pan Am, then Grimm and Once Upon a Time. As much as there was
the down-the-middle stuff.

I think Unforgettable
is a great drama; it's built really well for CBS. There's a lot of variety in
the selection for dramas. That was encouraging for us because we tried to be
varied in what we develop.

What trends are you seeing, hearing about in terms of ad sales or new
kinds of deals you're seeing or making?

What everybody always talks about behind the scenes is: It's
all about the shows. If the shows work, all these other things kind of follow
along. If you have a successful show, people buy DVDs, it goes into
syndication, Netflix, etc. But it all starts with making a great show people
want to watch. There's always great talk around platforms and the digital
experience; those are all really important, but people are only going to seek
them if you make great shows. Then the money follows.

Overall what was your take on what was presented? There was a tough
batting average out of last season's class. How do these slates look?

I really thought it was great to see the kind of variety in
the types of dramas, comedies, trying different things. Nobody ever should be
criticized for trying different things. I applaud anybody who's trying to do
something outside the box. There's always a place for it.

I thought the variety has been good. The fact that the
advertising biz seems to be in good shape, it makes everybody feel more
positive about the business, which is great.