by Colin Costello
In the last few years, writers have been faced with a changing studio business model. In fact, only 34 spec screenplays were sold through July of this year. Upon digging deeper, many of those specs were by A-list writers.
Studios such as Sony & Disney mostly release known brands such as “Spider-man,” Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm & Disney animated. And other studios are trying to follow the successful Marvel model and “universe build.”
While this model has altered, the situation is not dire, nowhere close to it in fact. The explosion of TV in recent years has led to better and deeper storytelling than in most films. Just look at series like “Better Call Saul,” “Bates Motel,” “Madam Secretary” & “Atlanta.” They rank high and above “Transformers” or Pirates of the Caribbean.” Once considered a step down in an actor’s career, TV can now actually be a big step up. Indeed, right now, there are approximately 436 series on TV.
The good news is that all of those shows need writers. Then when you factor in the explosion of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon & Vudu, the possibilities for writers are endless. This was also confirmed by my attending the recent Scripted Summit, held November 7th & 8th in LA.
The conference brought together the top creators, producers, buyers & distributors of scripted programming. For two days, the focus was on dissecting the biz, networking, how to make deals & presenting new opportunities.
One of the panels I was lucky to attend was “The New Buyers.” It featured some of the players in Digital who discussed the type of programming they’re looking for, as well as valuable intel on how to successfully work in the digital-first content space.
Moderated by Jeff Gaspin, President of New Wave Entertainment, the round-table featured Dustin Davis, head of Comedy Development at YouTube Red, Julie McNamara, EVP of Original Content at CBS All-Access & Steve Wolf, Head of Programming at Verizon go90. It was here my eyes were opened wider as the four engaged in a lively discussion about what was next for content creators.
Have a script that you think would appeal to millennials? Try Verizon go90. According to Wolf, the platform is at the hub of distributing content – potentially reaching 100+ million wireless customers, including those with or without Verizon. The app is downloadable for all carriers. Highlighted programming are the thrillers “[email protected]” & “In the Vault.” You’ll also find high school dramas such as “Guidance” & “Zac and Mia.”
Since its launch, YouTube Red kind of stumbled out of the gate, as Google had to get over the initial hurdle of distinguishing itself from free YouTube. But this is a monthly subscription service from YouTube that removes advertisements from all videos, everywhere you watch. According to Davis, the platform seems ready to strike with its fun comedy series, “Ryan Hanson Solves Murders On Television.” The show features “Orange is the New Black’s” Samira Wiley as a detective and actor Ryan Hanson. One can also view comedy series such as “Ghostmates” & “Broke.”
Then there is CBS All-Access. The platform launched with a bang with the premiere of “Star Trek: Discovery,” the prequel to “Star Trek TOS.” It also features the critically-applauded drama, “The Good Fight.”
There are certainly more digital avenues to come if these three prove to be successful. I mean, we haven’t even discussed Apple TV.
So don’t despair when it comes to shopping your features, this just may be the very best time to sell your spec somewhere else.
I know I will be.