2015 has been a year of significant growth in television. So much so, that some TV executives have speculated that there is simply too much content. The exponential growth of television content means that viewers can continually narrow their focuses without reducing the number of shows they consume. As next year approaches, TVEnthusiast is predicting the changes to the medium of television. Throughout New Years week, we will run a series of articles that look at television in 2016. Each article will focus on a different market of the industry. From Network to Streaming, if there is a means of consuming content in 2016, we will be covering it.
Looking Toward 2016 in the Networks
Network seems to be an interesting state of push and pull. With continual pressure from outside competition in the form of streaming and cable services, a lot of the networks seem to be clamping on known commodities – procedurals and four-camera sitcoms – that rather hearken back to an era when network was entirely in control. Because of this, at times it almost seems as though networks are aiming exclusively at older audiences, with not a lot of understanding how to appeal to younger demographics in a way that legitimately competes with the likes of HBO and Netflix. At the same time, this still isn’t entirely the case across the board: because for every new Chuck Lorre product or further incarnation of NCIS there’s also a network banking on another genre series, or another serialized driven products. Even CBS – long known as the most procedural and four-camera sitcom network of them all – has been taking some interesting risks with the likes of Limitless and Supergirl.
What We Know
It’s the time for mid-season premieres – the likes of which will include a host of returning shows (that took a break for the fall) as well as brand new series. The latter in particular can bring advantages for more daring products, with the less crowded field compared to fall premieres. And many a significant series in the past has gotten their start as a mid-season show. Some of the earliest entries we can expect to see right out of the gate points to networks playing it safe: Fox is introducing another Seth MacFarlane series in Bordertown, NBC is offering a procedural-driven Shades of Blue, and CBS is banking on Jane Lynch’s new comedy Angel from Hell. At the same time, there’s some healthy genre fare to be anticipated – like You, Me, and the Apocalypse (a kind of sci-fi comedy genre bender) as well as Second Chance and Lucifer on Fox. Indeed, for all the reputation the network is garnered thanks to the cancellation of shows like Firefly it’s still one we can regularly rely on to invest in this kind of programming.
What We Want
The trend of comic book programming continues, and will start with the one-two punch of Agent Carter’s second season debut, followed by the premiere of Legends of Tomorrow a couple of days later. Given the continual success of pretty much every show in this genre the last few years (save for Constantine) then we can rather hope that the trend and quality continues, and these two new outings will continue to encourage returns from their respective networks (not to mention their participation in the MCU and Arrow-verse). Beyond that, it’d be nice to see more of the networks not play it so safe. Last fall’s premiere slate demonstrated a depressing uninteresting swath of new television – as though too many of the networks are still living in the past. Finding more and better ways to keep up with the quality and sophistication of cable and streaming would be a far more interesting (though likely riskier) tactic). The Golden Age is largely defined by the likes of what serialization and single-camera sitcoms can offer, and we would hate for networks to forget or undermine that.
What We Expect
It really could go either way at this point. Networks are in a tough spot that’s been growing substantially almost with each passing year. Something that’s not aided by the fact that so much is now defined by the internet, and that practically anyone with major media capabilities and lots of money is interested in producing original programming (including the likes of Yahoo and YouTube). Networks are no longer the defining center of the industry the way they once were and they’ve been struggling enormously to cope with this. With the way trends have been continuing, likely we’ll see much of what has been prevalent the past few years: a mixture of interesting new television (fortunately for fans like us, most the comic book fare is on networks, and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon) scattered here or there amidst a predictable lineup of mainstream crowdpleasing procedurals and four-camera sitcoms. If things do evolve, it’ll be a slow process.
It’s been a tough few years for network and it’s not going to get easier. While there’s always something reliable to be found, the outside competition is growing fierce. Where once networks were the powerhouse of the industry, they’re now struggling to keep up with the competition. It’d be great to see them find a way to pull ahead of the pack, but for now, we’ll just have to settle with accepting that we’re lucky if they can keep up at all.
What do you think? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast throughout the holidays as we continue to roll out articles on the current state of TV in 2015 and what to expect in 2016.