Why the TV Industry Needs Its Version of Steve Jobs — and Fast

The Hollywood Reporter has been surprising us lately by doing 2 things:

  1. Biting the hand that feeds it (i.e., the entrenched Hollywood powers-that-be and their business-as-usual-ways)
  2. Being right (i.e., understanding that because of technological innovation change in the Hollywood biz paradigm is essential to the survival of the industry)

Here’s a good example:

steve jobs as Hollywood savior

by Tim Goodman

There is no element of the television industry more intriguing at this point than the broadcast networks and their fascinating slow death. The Big Four — ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC — have had their heads in the sand about the complicated future they face. Only one of them, CBS, appears able to thrive working under the old truisms and rules that governed the industry for 50-plus years.

And there’s no guarantee that will continue.

Ratings continue to be down, and there’s an unsettling inability to reverse the trend. Each season the bar that measures how many millions of viewers in the 18-49 demo constitutes a “hit” gets lowered. Cable series such as The Walking Dead or Duck Dynasty — any number of shows from an increasing large reserve — have crushed many of their network competitors. Former sure things including American Idol and Dancing With the Stars are not nearly as dependable. Shows are failing at an alarming rate. And there’s still a financial disparity between the cost of network shows and the cost of cable shows, so every underdog ratings victory isn’t just a blow to broadcasters egos but a cash casualty as well.

You’d be crazy not to look at this scenario and wonder aloud what the hell will happen to this group. The networks have been suicidally insular as they wince at the future — adhering to outdated ideas and outmoded structural issues within the industry and oblivious to innovation.

Now, it would be naive to tell you that someone as lowly as your resident TV critic could fix this mess — that I have the answers no one has found in the past decade. If I could put two supercharged paddles on the figurative chest of the broadcast industry, I’d be making a lot more money than I am. But here’s what I do know, for certain:

The networks need their own version of Steve Jobs.

They need their iPod moment. They need their iTunes moment. They need their iPhone and iPad moments, too. Hell, at this point they just need their colored iMac moment.

They need someone to step forward and say, “Few industries are as tied to the old ways of doing things as the television industry, and the old ways don’t work anymore.” They need someone who will change the culture, find success and have his or her ideas stolen and copied immediately — a concept of business that everyone in television is overly familiar with.

But who is this person? Where is this person? And how soon can he or she get here?

Read it all

FTR: We totally disagree with the paragraph that comes after the jump above, in which writer Goodman says Leslie Moonves could fit the Steve Jobs bill. Not if being an innovator is a qualification, Tim, sorry. But we definitely agree with the need for someone to push through. (Too bad Chris Albrecht committed career suicide a few years ago by getting into a public brawl with his girlfriend. He had, and probably still has, a very special kind of foresight.