This week, ratings of The Slap went down after a disappointing premiere and luke-warm reviews. Instead of writing about that (since I’m sure I’ll be doing that in the coming weeks), I want to discuss what the show has working for it. First of all, the cast is phenomenal. With names like Peter Sarsgaard, Zachary Quinto, Uma Thurman and Thandie Newton, the cast seems like they should be part of an underrated independent film, not a miniseries on NBC. Besides that, it has some great names behind the camera. Lisa Cholodenko, the Oscar nominated director/writer of The Kids Are All Right, directed 7 of the 8 episodes. The series was created by Jon Robin Baitz, who worked for the successful Brothers & Sisters for ABC, and Walter F. Parkes, a three-time Oscar nominee.
When I look at these names, people who have in the past done truly amazing work, I get excited about The Slap. They all seem like names that would be better suited for cable television, but they have found a (somewhat hostile) home on network television. Though it doesn’t seem hopeful that many more viewers will find this show in the next six weeks, The Slap is a show that works on paper.
In the television business, distribution is the key component in making content accessible and viewable by consumers on traditional and new platforms. Distribution is not only the way programming reaches audiences, but is a large component of programmers and distributors business models.
Traditionally TV distribution used to be much simpler; it was primarily through TV and consumed on the TV set. In this old media structure there were barriers to reaching consumers, (you would have to own a network or have a program carried by one). Today broadband allows for video content to be carried and viewed on the web. Countless individuals and companies can now reach viewers in new ways with all types of video content.
Television is still the primary way people consume video but new devices and new content are beginning to change consumers viewing behavior. Viewers can watch traditional TV or now have the option to aggregate their favorite videos through many new options like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or TV Everywhere and watch them on their TV, or a tablet, phone or computer. The rise of new platforms to distribute TV content through DVR and VOD plus online viewership has resulted in a number of exciting developments for programmers and distributors, as well as real threats and challenges.
Right now television content distribution can be broken down into three categories: traditional distributors, new challenging distributors, and programmers that try to take advantage of all avenues of distribution. Programmers now distribute through the traditional multi-channel operators (Time Warner), phone companies (Verizon & AT&T) and satellite distributors (like Dish and DirectTV) and new avenues like apps, TV Everywhere through a cable operator or digital offerings like Netflix.
Traditional Distributors in the TV Market
MSO’s, satellite, and phone companies are actively trying to delve into the growing market of cross platform viewing and video streaming. A recent development is TV Everywhere.
Comcast successfully released Xfinity on demand and struck deals with cable networks, broadcasters, and pay TV to stream their content online for Comcast subscribers. Applications like TV Everywhere are being released by a multitude of distributors, allowing consumers to stream their carried programming on any tablet, phone or computer. Time Warner now has TWC TV and Cablevision has TVtoGO. Phone companies also provide online streaming; Verizon streams FiOS TV and AT&T streams U-verse.
In February, DirectTV joined the online game and released DirectTV Everywhere. For traditional distributors, “TV Everywhere” has become an important part of their distribution model. But their applications have a lot of competition coming from Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon which offer library’s of content and more recently original or exclusive programming.
Rising Challengers to Traditional Distributors
The development of broadband as a vehicle for video has spurred huge entrepreneurial investment in companies like Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube as well as user-generated content. Traditional distributors are being challenged by new online distribution channels like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple TV, and Google (YouTube). These distributors are offering very appealing services to consumers and at low costs (Netflix & HuluPlus: both $8 a month and Amazon Prime $79/ yearly), or in the case of the web, Google or YouTube for free (you only need to have broadband). In addition, there is easy access through many devices like the computer, Xbox, iPad, etc with a wide range of content. We know this is appealing to consumers since Netflix recently grew to almost 28 million subscribers.
For the past few years Netflix, Amazon and HuluPlus have provided old shows, almost like a library service. This year Netflix shook up its programming strategy when it released original content “House of Cards”. They did what no distributor or programmer has done before: presenting an entire television series “House of Cards” to subscribers upfront. The viewer can than choose to watch the show all at once or at their own pace instead of once a week. In some ways, this strategy makes Netflix a competitor to HBO and cable channels. It also has blurred the lines as to what kind of company Netflix is: a distributor or original programmer? Further following a similar lead, Amazon is now promoting that they have exclusive content that you can only find and watch on Amazon.
Apple’s release of the Apple TV has further blurred the lines of traditional distribution; offering the perks of online streaming and TV together. Further Hulu Plus and other services are offered on the Apple TV . These advancements have changed how the media works and how television content is distributed to consumers. Netflix offering original content, the Apple TV, Hulu Plus and Amazon’s exclusive content offerings shows how fast things are transforming in the distribution and video content business
TV Programming Distribution Strategies
Broadcast and cable networks, to stay competitive, have been dabbing into online streaming, tablet apps, and phone applications. Most cable networks do their best to offer applications that distribute some recent episodes, behind the scenes clips, best of clips, etc. However cable networks tend to limit the amount of long-form content because the distributors they partner with would not pay them as high of a sub fee for their programming. A critical part of the business model for cable programming services is maintaining a strong sub fee with distributors.
Cable channels like A&E, Discovery, History, Lifetime and many others have iPad applications. Disney offers “Watch” to stream ESPN and Disney Channel to computers and other devices . Recently on the broadcast side, broadcasters have been making more content available on their websites and through services like Hulu. Since broadcast don’t rely on sub fees they have been much more aggressive in moving their content to other platforms than cable. And just this month ABC and CBS both came out with tablet applications to stream their television series.
Distributors have been and must adapt to new technologies, platforms and consumer demands. Despite the buzz that cable and broadcast are “dying mediums,” the Neilson graph below shows that while online viewership is increasing, people are still consuming a large percent of content on the TV set.
The real measure of the success of TV distributors will be how well their offerings satisfy consumer interests in viewing content how and when they want too. If the traditional distributors don’t provide it, new companies like Netflix and Apple will meet that demand.
In the television business, producing a successful show involves many factors. There are normally three stages to television production, Pre-Production, Principal Photography and Post Production. The main locations where shows are produced are either Los Angeles or New York, however some other U.S. metropolitan areas are also used to produce a show. Before a show can even reach the stage or pre-production programmers will require a package. This is a collection of key assets that differentiate one property from another. The main performers, the producers and the story line are also closely related to the concept and how it will be executed.
Pre-Production is the stage of production which involves planning and development, financing and deal making as well as securing people to produce and appear in the television show. This is the period of time when a series is scripted, the actors are cast, sets are built and a production crew is hired. The producer or production company create a full-scale budget, schedule and production plan once a project is given a green light. The budget must be planned very carefully in order to assure that the project is delivered without exceeding the available funding and to make sure that the producer makes a profit. Pre-production on a show ends once the planning ends and content starts being produced. Most shows do not get a green light, because they cannot secure financing.
Once a network has given a script a green light, it will order a pilot of the television show. Television pilots are standalone episodes of a television series that are used to sell the television show to a network. These episodes are used as testing grounds to gauge if a series will be successful. Sometimes a network will pick up a show after watching a pilot but will not air the episode. Instead, it will be reshot and even recast after it is given the green light. Variety estimates that around 20 pilots are ordered by a network, which are typically made up of half comedy, half drama. About half a dozen of these are actually picked up to become the premier episodes for the show. The rest are passed by the network and generally never seen again.
The big five networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CW have ordered nearly 100 pilots for the fall 2013 season. The networks ordered a total of 87 pilots last year. The Hollywood Reporter offered a breakdown of the pilots ordered:
Grand total: 98 (vs. 87 in 2012)
Drama total: 50 (vs. 42 in 2012)
Comedy total: 48 (vs. 45 in 2012)
Single-camera total: 34 (vs. 30 in 2012)
Multicamera total: 14 (vs. 15 in 2012)
Just because a network has picked up a pilot does not mean that it will last throughout the season. If the television show receives low ratings within the first few weeks of airing, a network will normally cancel a show. This spring 2013 saw many new television shows get canceled. Zero Hour (ABC), Do No Harm (NBC), and The Job (CBS) are notable shows that were canceled after airing less than five episodes.
This is the phase of production when the actors are finalized for their roles and locations have been secured for filming. At this point the development team has created a plan for filming and financing the show. The term principal photography refers to the phase of production when the majority of footage and sound are recorded. This stage takes place either at a soundstage or filmed on location. Filming on location means securing permits to shoot in an actual real-life setting. Shooting a show normally means rigorous 12-hour workdays. Television episodes are filmed in groups called blocks, and rely on the availability of resources and the restrictions of the production schedule. Large sets can be altered to look like many different locations simply by changing set pieces or lighting. For example, a dark scary park can also be a beautiful garden by using contrasting lighting and changing a few set pieces. Techniques like this help to keep the cost of production down, since this is the most expensive phase of production. Most directors and producers will shoot the most expensive production elements first so that the budget can be allocated for the rest of the scenes.
Once the first few episodes of a show have been filmed, the post-production phase begins. All of the footage that has been recorded is edited and sequenced and special effects are added. Sometimes additional dialogue needs to be recorded in the studio and it is layered into the recorded footage. During this last stage of production the production team will screen episodes to their target demographic. This can help gauge the public response to the show and if it is negatively received then it can be altered or reedited before releasing to the public.
Production companies provide the physical basis for filming. Television programs are produced in a variety of entities, from small companies to large multinational corporations. Many corporations employ in-house producers for internal communication reasons. Outside production companies will handle Television networks and local stations will employ producers, who’s main job are to control costs and manage brand identities. Producers are held responsible for a television show’s overall quality and survivability. There are a variety of producers that work on a television show.
Typically, the main producer and the writer are normally the same person; this ensures that a producer can make sure that a project stays true to its brand. There are many different types of producers; the executive producer or the “chief executive” is in charge or everything relating to the production of the show. Executive producers can be the head writers of a show, the CEO of a production company, or a producer on the writing team and may serve on the board of directors. The co-executive producer is second in charge behind the executive producer, and assists with the development and daily management of the show. The associate producer runs day-to-day operations for the show.
Many stations will have producers that work on multiple projects for the network. For example, Seth MacFarlane has three television shows in production on Fox network. Another notable producer is J.J. Abrams, who has produced shows on multiple networks throughout the years.
1. The Business of Television, Bleumenthol & Goodenough
Programming has traditionally been made up of two dominant genres, the drama and the situational comedy (or sitcom). In a typical week’s prime time schedule, the major five broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, and NBC) air a combined 43 hours of dramas and 18 hours of comedy. Another notable genre in the current schedule is reality and competition shows which currently make up 14 hours of the broadcast schedule. When looking into the broader scope of television, more and more genres begin to emerge. Currently on cable and premium networks, dramas and sitcoms also dominate the schedule but they are accompanied by more diverse programming such as mini-series, more reality, and developing genres such as mock reality. Schedules are constantly changing and adapting as new programs are developed and programs begin to come off the air. The development process is unique for each genre and the current season has already showed some success and failures.
The beginning of any drama series typically happens in one of three ways. Either a writer-producer meets with the network and a concept emerges which then turns into a script or a writer-producer already has a script and pitches it to the network. The third common way for a show to develop is for a highly regarded star to decide they want to do a television program and a team is assigned to develop something which fits their needs. Once a script is written and the network approves along with a cast and crew, a pilot is produced and shown to the network. How many pilots are commissioned is dependent upon the networks overall tone, for example The CW is unlikely to produce a large amount of comedy pilots since their schedule is dominated by dramas, along with their current needs. If not many dramas survive the season, more are likely to be commissioned for the next season.
In the current pilot season, Vulture magazine has already spotted several programming trends. One of which is franchise programming. Shows such as NCIS, The Vampire Diaries, and Chicago Fire all have related pilots being worked on. Going off of the success of Once Upon a Time, there is also a tendency towards magical or supernatural themed programs. Vulture predicts a rise in “House” type characters as well as many bigger name stars following Kevin Bacon back to the smaller screen. Much of this is based off of the successes of this past season and an effort to keep promising trends rolling.
One of the more successful launches this Spring was Fox’s The Following starring Kevin Bacon. The show has already been picked up for a second season and has been consistently winning it’s time slot.
A significant drama which went off the air this spring was The CW’s Gossip Girl. While not a major player in the ratings, Gossip Girl was still influential in it’s run on the CW as a trend setter for other programming. The network saw an uptick in the amount of programs focusing on the glamorous and elite such as 90210 and this season’s The Carrie Diaries.
Cable networks typically are more adventurous in their programming and have been seeing a lot of success lately.
Among the biggest successes is AMC’s The Walking Dead. It is a slightly nontraditional show that has garnered huge ratings for the cable network. It was a major Sunday night competitor this season despite not being on a major broadcast network.
Another major program this spring was The History Channel’s mini series The Bible. It received a lot of attention for it’s content and created a viewing war with The Walking Dead.
Comedies are developed in a very similar way to dramas. Typically more comedy pilots are produced each year because they are shorter and quicker to make. However, more concepts are abandoned and there are different standards for determining what shows get picked up. A comedy will rarely be picked up just because it’s funny. Comedies are evaluated more based on the current schedule and where there are holes. If a current show is going off the air or needs a stronger lead in, then a comedy has a stronger chance of making it to air. There is also a different target demographic for comedies. They are intended to appeal to younger, typically less educated, and lower income than other types of programming.
NBC had a much hyped new series in 1600 Penn which was given an early release of the pilot. The show did not hold an audience well and saw continually declining ratings. NBC chose to end the season early by airing multiple episodes in a night. The scheduling change combined with declining ratings led to cancellation rumors.
A more successful show this spring has been ABC’s How to Live With Your Parents For The Rest of Your Life. It had a late premiere date but has still seen favorable ratings. It focuses on a single mom having to move back in with her parents and the struggles that ensue from her eccentric family.
This season will see the end of the long running NBC comedy The Office. The show was a hit for the network for many years and led to similar programs such as Parks and Recreation which is still on air. Show Runner Greg Daniels promises a heartfelt goodbye to match the series all around tone and characters.
There are four general rules that define reality television. The first is that they do not involve actors, at least in the traditional sense. Second, while they may be planned, they are not written in the way that comedies and dramas are. They are always produced on location, and finally they have some sort of special gimmick. When in development, these programs are judged more on the potential of the idea than the reputations of the writers or performers. Reality television has created a place for itself in the schedule over the past few decades. It is especially prominent on cable networks with networks such as E! and Bravo airing almost exclusively reality in their prime time slots. Bravo recently announced they have 17 new series being planned, nearly all of which are reality.
On broadcast networks, it is most common to see reality programming in the form of competition. The Voice saw a cast change this spring with Shakira and Usher replacing Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green as judges. The show has been seeing decent numbers with the new judges.
Reality is clearly a genre which is here to stay. Over the years, reality programming has reached to some pretty extreme levels as far as the types of stories and characters that are put on the air. This has led to a new trend of mock realities, shows which are meant to look like reality shows but are scripted or improv and actually make fun of reality programming.
E! has an hour every week titled “Mock Block Monday” which features two of these Mock Reality Shows. The first is Burning Love which is an imitation of dating shows such as The Bachelor. The second is After Lately which is a supposed documentary of the office of Chelsea Lately, another popular program of theirs.
Other networks are picking up on this trend as well. MTV recently announced a new show, appropriately called Reality Stars, which will be about four friends who get involved in reality television. BET has committed to a second season of The Real Husbands of Hollywood. The show follows men of Hollywood in their “natural environment”.
Nielsen announced earlier this winter that it plans to begin using Twitter to measure program popularity. This focus on the “second screen” could give more insight into what viewers are responding too and begin to dictate programming decisions. It can help programmers adapt to the growing social engagement of viewers and use social media trends to their advantage.
Distribution refers to the means by which television programming is delivered to consumers. It is done through traditional means like Broadcast, Cable or Satellite television, or through newer means like Video on Demand (VOD), Digital Video Recording (DVR), and online Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) services like HULU Plus and Netflix.
When it comes to overseeing and regulating of these different means of mass television distribution, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is the principle government agency in charge. Its jurisdiction covers the means of mass emerging television technologies at the intersection of telephone, internet, computing, and digital signals. .
via the FCC website (http://www.fcc.gov/logos)
Several events have been ongoing during this semester related to the regulatory and legal aspects of distribution include a satellite provider, Dish’s disputes with both cable and broadcast networks, and the FCC’s ongoing plans for an incentive auction to reclaim spectrum space for wireless operators.
Dish Network vs. AMC Networks
The Networks’ dispute started years earlier with Cablevision’s lawsuit against Dish over their Voom HD channel which Dish stopped carrying in 2008. AMC was spun off from Cablevision in 2011. In April 2012, Dish notified AMC that it would drop their channels and by July, when their contract expired, Dish removed AMC Network channels AMC, WEtv, IFC, and Sundance from its lineup .
The companies indicated different reasons for the dispute. AMC stated that DISH dropped its programming because it wanted to gain leverage in an unrelated lawsuit involving Cablevision and their Voom HD channel . DISH, conversely stated that the dispute was over “bundling,” in which big networks like AMC try to sell several of their channels, both high- and low-rated, to providers in a bundle to get a better price .
Image via Deadline website (http://www.deadline.com/tag/dish-network/)
By September, Dish’s 14 million subscribers had been without any AMC channels for more than two months and feared not be able to view the season premiere of the AMC hit show, The Walking Dead, set to premiere October 14. Speaking on the dispute, Dish’s senior vice president of programming, Adam Shull stated that “The problem is they’re asking me to pay for four channels for really what is the price of three shows,” thus Dish wouldn’t be paying for any AMC shows .
On their part, AMC turned to social media in a quest to get their channels back on Dish, launching a YouTube video contest for angry Dish subscribers called “Hey DISH, Where’s my AMC?” .
The conflict would not be resolved until October 21 when Cablevision and AMC Networks settled their lawsuit with Dish Network for $700 million. The deal brought to end a dispute over whether Dish breached an affiliate agreement by terminating AMC’s Voom HD Network in 2008. At a trial that began in late September, AMC sought some $2.4 billion in damages from what it believed was Dish’s improper termination. Dish had defended itself by saying that it had the authority to cancel the Voom deal based on a contractual clause requiring Cablevision/AMC to invest $100 million per year on the channel. As part of the deal Dish also reached a new carriage agreement with AMC, bringing the network back to their lineup along with IFC, Sundance, and WEtv .
Dish Network’s AutoHop vs. Broadcasters
Image via Dish Network Website (http://godish.com/)
Another battle Dish Network has been involved in pertains to the AutoHop feature for its DVR systems, Hopper and Joey. Introduced in March, Autohop, an International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Award Honoree, allows users who are watching Primetime Anytime recordings to completely skip commercials. When the user starts watching a recording, they are allowed to choose whether or not to skip commercials. Users who choose to skip the commercials move from segment to segment of TV shows without having to watch the ads . This feature has undoubtedly caused uproar with broadcasters, who depend on ad sales for a majority of their revenue.
In May, three of the major broadcasters (CBS, NBC, and Fox) filed suit against Dish Network in Los Angles, contending that the technology violated copyright law. Dish simultaneously filed a suit against ABC, CBS, and NBC in New York seeking a declaratory judgment affirming the legality of their technology . In documents filed August 22, Fox’s lawyer argued that AutoHop was in “violation of the express terms and conditions of its contracts with Fox and federal copyright law. Both parties argued their respective points of view in front of U.S. District Court judge, Dolly Gee, on September 21 in Los Angeles. On November 6, Gee denied Fox’s request for a preliminary injunction that would shut AutoHop down. Gee, in denying Fox said, “Although Dish defines some of the parameters of copying for time-shifting purposes, it is ultimately the user who causes the copy to be made.” She also pointed out that Fox hadn’t proved there would be “irreparable damage” if no injunction was issued. Any harm to Fox, she said, could be relieved by monetary damages. The judge did agree with Fox though that Dish had likely committed copyright infringement and broken the contract between the two companies in making copies of Fox programming for alleged quality assurance .
On November 9, Fox filed an appeal against the denial of its request for an injunction, moving the matter from the U.S. District Court to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District. More legal action from broadcasters followed on November 24 when ABC sought a preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan federal court to also block AutoHop .
The broadcasters’ reason for going after AutoHop is that it “will ultimately destroy the advertiser-supported ecosystem” they depend on for revenue . The networks make more than $19 billion a year in advertising, money that pays for the high cost of programming. Without advertising, network executives say, media companies would have to charge distributors three times the current rate for their signals, added costs which would be passed on to consumers. Dish, on its part, said that it believes that the AutoHop feature does not violate the networks’ copyrights. Instead, the company said AutoHop is simply an enhancement of existing ad-zapping technologies, and ultimately a matter of consumer choice .
FCC Incentive Spectrum Auction
Image via Cio website (http://www.cio.com/article/717594/FCC_Approves_Wireless_Spectrum_Incentive_Auction_Plan)
The FCC is a quasi-autonomous commission that has elements of each of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government. It is part of the group of independent regulatory agencies (see also the FAA, FTC, and SEC) . In its control of television, the FCC performs several distinct functions such as rulemaking, licensing, registration, adjudication, enforcement, and informal influence .
Last February, President Obama signed a law empowering the FCC to buy spectrum from broadcasters wishing to give it up and then turn around and auction it to wireless broadband carriers. The FCC is working on the implementing rules for the incentive auction — so-called because broadcasters have a cash incentive to give up their spectrum . They have hopes that the auction could begin as early as 2014, but have until September 2022 to conduct the sale and license the airwaves to wireless companies .
For the most part, full-service broadcasters with major network affiliations and newsrooms have said they have no interest in the incentive auction, preferring to hang on to their entire spectrum so they can offer new services. However, other broadcasters that are struggling see the incentive auction as a way to recoup some or all of their investments. Speculators have also entered the market, buying up marginal stations with the intention of selling their spectrum at a profit in the FCC auction .
Fall FCC Spectrum Auction News
September 07, 2012: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski set to release the FCC’s framework for the spectrum auction with target of having a report and order voted by mid-2013 and the auctions completed by the end of 2014 . Full article.
October 04, 2012: Chairman Genachowski said that the FCC will exceed its 300 MHz target for freeing up spectrum, a target the commission set in the National Broadban Plan . Full article.
November 13, 2012: An anonymous group of broadcasters interested in selling their TV spectrum in the incentive auction created the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition and tapped former Fox and Disney lobbyist Preston Padden to lead their efforts before the FCC as the commission writes rules for the auction . Full article.
December 03, 2012: FCC officials spelled out some financial options in a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP webcast, urging listeners to file comments as the commission works to write rules for the auction. The deadline for comments on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was extended to Jan. 25, with reply comments due March 26 . Full article.
With the auction yet to occur, there is more news to come. To stay updated, check out the FCC’s official website.
In the television world, and the entertainment world in general, distribution is where it all begins. Distribution, and all the various facets that it encompasses, is the machine. It is the force behind every production that is made, behind every network deal that is signed, and behind every advertisement that is created. Essentially, distribution allows the television business to be a business.
When discussing television in the broad sense, it refers to everything from the syndication of programs, to brand creation, to network affiliates, to satellite agreements.  It is the way that consumers gain access to content and the way that production companies, networks, and stations earn revenue. The term “distribution” is such a blanket word, because it could be argued that almost everything done in the television industry relates back to some sort of distributional motive.
That being said, the modern state of the distribution world can be divided into three main categories: broadcast, cable, and other media distribution deals. What is so interesting about the current state of the distribution market is that “other media” has increasingly become dominated by internet distribution deals, on services such as Netflix and Hulu. The future of distribution and the television industry in general seem to be heading in this direction, and distribution will be a huge factor in its success.
NBCUniversaland Verizon (FiOS TV) reached a long-term agreement that would allow Verizon to carry and distribute all NBCUniversal programming live and
on-demand to subscribers. This access to NBCUniversal programming includes broadcast as well as cable, meaning that Verizon can now distribute NBCU subsidiaries such as USA, Bravo, Style, Syfy, Telemundo, E!, and the NBC Sports Network. In the second part of the deal, Verizon was promised rights to carry Olympic Games and four Comcast SportsNet channels, of which include those in the Philadelphia and New England market areas. 
As sometimes happens in the distribution world, and a testament to how powerful those who hold distribution rights can be, there can be disputes, such as the recent one between Cablevision and Tribune TV that strongly impacted Fox affiliates. Cablevision subscribers in states such as NY, PA, CT, and NJ were slammed with no access to Fox stations when Cablevision and Tribune clashed over retransmission fees in late August. As a result, Tribune denied Cablevision customers access to seven affiliates that were Fox, CW, and MyNetwork stations. After two months the blackout ended (terms of the agreement were not released) though it would not be surprising to see these distribution issues regarding retransmission fees appear again in the future. 
“We sincerely appreciate the patience of our customers as we worked to reach an agreement that is consistent with our focus on minimizing the impact of rising programming costs.” – Cablevision
One of the best scenarios for a distribution company is when syndicated television shows prove to be continuously successful. This is certainly the case for the CBS
#1 Syndicated Program ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Logo 
Television Distribution company, who distributes Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in the United States, both of which have been the top syndicated game shows  and recipients of countless awards. The ABC Owned Television Stations Group (that reaches over 20% of US households ) recently renewed both of these games shows for 2015-2016, meaning that the ABC-owned stations will continue to be able air these shows on their affiliate stations.
Stepping away a bit from the specific broadcast television distribution deals, CBS Television Distribution president Scott Koondel was recently named senior VP and chief corporate content licensing officer. Why this is important when talking about the current distribution snapshot is because it shows the change in the structure of
CBS Executive Scott Koondel 
television distribution, and where it will most likely go in the future. Because of this restructuring, Koondel will now take on a roll that will require him take on the CBS licensing issues on the Internet, something that CBS was not previously actively involved in. This immense increase in distribution on Internet platforms has grown exponentially as of late, and is really where the entire television industry is headed in the future, with distribution leading the way. 
CNN has created a new subsidiary called CNN Films, that will allow it to integrate documentary films into its television network. CNN Films will buy the desired full-length documentaries, and then distribute them during primetime on CNN. Having this new unit will allow CNN to manage the distribution of their desired documentaries both in terms of showing it on their network, as well as give them the added bonus of potentially distributing the documentaries in theaters. 
ION Media Networks, Inc. partnered in a recent distribution deal with DIRECTV. This deal, while not specifically released, will allow ION Television to be available nationwide to all subscribers of DIRECTV.  Recently, at a Leadership in Communications panel in Syracuse, NY, ION Media executive Doug Holloway discussed the journey of the ION television network, and how important it is to fill the “white” areas of distribution where ION is not currently carried.  ION Media Networks Overview (Video)
In what has been regarded as potentially one of the biggest distribution deals of the past couple months, CBS Corporation finally announced that they would be engaging in a licensing agreement that would allow the CBS television library to be distributed via Hulu Plus, the paid subscription service facet of Hulu.com. This means that users will now have the ability to stream classic shows such as “Star Trek” and “CSI: Miami” on Hulu, as opposed to only being able to watch CBS video on the CBS website, as exists now. This is expected to go into effect January 2013. 
“This marks another agreement that meets the growing demand for our content on new platforms.” – Scott Koondel, Senior Vice President of Corporate Licensing, CBS Corporation
The overall trend of the current distribution market can be seen clearly, whether it be in Koondel’s position switch, CBS’s licensing agreement, or many of the other recent distribution deals. While television is still the most popular platform to watch content on, more and more consumers are turning towards the Internet. As such, and because distribution is essentially the backbone of the television industry, it must adjust with this rapidly changing market, something that is occurring now and that we will continue to see in the imminent future.
The Future of Television 
1. Blumenthal, H. J., & Goodenough, O. R. (2006). The business of television. New York: Billboard Books.
2. TV News Desk. (2012, 11 27). Nbcuniversal announces wide ranging agreement with verizon fios tv. Retrieved from http://m.bwwtvworld.com/article/NBCUniversal-Announces-Wide-Ranging-Agreement-with-Verizon-FIOS-TV-20121127
3. Block, A. (2012, 10 27). Tribune-cablevision deal ends blackout in new york tri-state area. Retrieved from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/tribune-cablevision-deal-ends-blackout-383665
4. Bibel, S. (2012, 10 29). ‘Wheel of fortune’ and ‘jeopardy!’ reupped through 2016 by abc owned television station group. Retrieved from http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2012/10/29/wheel-of-fortune-and-jeopardy-reupped-through-2016-by-abc-owned-television-stations-group/155099/
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