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The Future of TV: Execs Weigh In

For TV Guide's 65th anniversary, we looked ahead and asked several of the industry's most innovative programmers: What is the future of TV?

To celebrate TV Guide's 65th anniversary, we asked these programming innovators from broadcast, cable and streaming to look ahead 35 years -- when TV Guide will be 100 -- and ponder the future of television. "It all starts with story, and then we seek the fresh voices and unique perspectives to tell them," says Kim Lemon, EVP of Research, Program Planning and Scheduling at Showtime. The bottom line, says Andy Kubitz, EVP of programming strategy at ABC, is "connect[ing] in a meaningful way on multiple levels" and getting "folks invested in the storylines and the worlds we create."

As streaming platforms grow, how does programming strategy evolve over the next 35 years, both in terms of critical and commercial success?

Andy Kubitz, EVP, Programming Strategy, Programming, Planning and Scheduling, ABC Entertainment: The power of great storytelling holds true regardless of the delivery system or platforms being used. By attracting the best possible talent and creating the best possible content, we'll continue to be successful. The different platforms simply enable us to get that great content out to more people in a variety of ways.

Julie McNamara, EVP, Original Content, CBS All Access: I feel like [we'll either] be more in our own unique bubbles of entertainment and information -- so select, certain things that really appeal to us individually -- or seeking out more communal environments for experiencing shows. Regardless, it really all boils down to are you making great shows that people want to watch, and want to talk about.

Charlie Collier, President, AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios: We work to put our writers and partners in the best position to succeed from writer's room through to finale. I can't see that changing nor ever being anything but an opportunity to differentiate AMC from some of the platforms that are doing more bulk buying than might make us comfortable.

Kim Lemon, Executive VP, Research, Program Planning and Scheduling at Showtime Networks Inc.

Cliff Lipson, Cliff Lipson/SHOWTIME

Kim Lemon, EVP, Research, Program Planning And Scheduling, Showtime Networks Inc.: I don't see it changing much. We've created a bond with people who've been subscribing to Showtime for years now; they know to expect the unexpected. Not every subscriber will watch every show we produce, and that's OK. That's what gives us the room to stretch creatively. How else can you describe our success in such a crowded environment?

Cindy Holland, VP, Original Content, Netflix: We are at our best when we focus on our core business, which... [means] we're going to continue to focus on great storytelling. No matter what happens with technology, that's the constant. What I do know is that viewers have shown that they like watching TV this way -- streaming online, on their own time, with no advertising.

Will cable even exist in 35 years? Is there a version of the future where all networks are apps only?

Lemon: I'm a firm believer that some people will always appreciate the value in aggregation, whether we're talking linear channels or apps. The old-fashioned channel guide is still a great source for discovery.

McNamara: You know, we don't see it as this service replaces your cable package. For some people, that is the case. But this is a way to give our fans more CBS and a ... serialized, more adult version of CBS content ... something you feel that you couldn't find on the broadcast networks. We don't think of it as a replacement; it's providing more.

Charlie Collier, President of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios

Collier: If you had told Chuck Dolan that something like [premium upgrade] AMC Premiere would be available when he cut the ribbon on American Movie Classics in 1984, I think he would have been floored by our progress, creativity and ingenuity. Whatever the answer, I know our network can be a very powerful bridge to the future, however it specifically looks or defines itself 35 years from now. And, if you're reading this then, I'm typing on an iPad. It seemed really powerful as a transformation platform at the time -- ask your grandma.

Holland: What other companies do is entirely up to them. I think everyone at this point has seen the benefit of a "viewers first" model that puts viewers in the driver's seat.

Where do you hope your company will be in 35 years?

Lemon: This is an easy one, since I won't be around to be proven either right or wrong (or won't care if I am). In 35 years we'll develop a range of experiences, from the narrative that looks pretty much the way it does today to the more immersive. I hope we're telling stories with virtual or augmented reality and that the form is something other than sci-fi-based (not that there's anything wrong with that). It's a huge creative wall to be broken through.

Kubitz: Back in 1983, DVRs, cell phones, and iPads didn't exist, and just 10 years ago ABC was the first-to-market with an app. In the future, we will still be the home of relatable, inclusive storytelling that reflects our country and its people. In 35 years we will still be the American Broadcasting Company.

Julie McNamara, Executive Vice President, Original Content, CBS All Access

McNamara: Thirty-five years, that's a hard one. That goes beyond the 2020 strategic game plan. By then I hope that CBS All Access has developed a reputation of delivering all kinds of content at the highest levels ... allowing people to self-select their own kinds of shows, but still bringing people together for more communal experiences. And certainly with the originals that we're viewing, we're working very hard to help subscribers feel they're getting bang for their buck. Particularly in the [streaming] space, if you're going to pay for another service, we have to deliver.

Collier: We made a move into original programming a decade ago when no one on the planet was saying, "I sure hope American Movie Classics starts telling original stories." That is a huge point of pride and a reminder that complete transformation and ever-deeper relationships with our viewers are always just a few key creative decisions away. I look forward to the results of our big swings over the next 35 years. And, if I had to guess, Jonathan Banks will still be a star on AMC, fronting our dramatic interpretation of Baywatch 2053.

What are you personally looking forward to? What do we need more -- or less -- of in the industry?

Cindy Holland, Vice President of Original Content, Netflix


Holland: Diversity of storytelling. With a platform like Netflix, the possibilities are endless, so we're focused on creating more room for new voices to emerge across the globe. I'm incredibly encouraged and excited to see someone like Lena Waithe (Master of None) achieving recognition and calling her own shots. There's no better time than now to take a creative risk. I hope no one is waiting 35 years.

Kubitz: Great stories that make us feel, they stay with us and they connect us to the people around us. Personally, I hope TV continues to bring friends, as well as strangers, together in communities that love to share the common language of characters, story lines, and worlds that TV brings into people's lives. Long live the watercooler!

McNamara: I would hope that we don't wholly lose the ability to enjoy entertainment together. I think it's a wonderful part of entertainment to really let generations and members of families, friends, enjoy something collectively. There is so much content out right now, that I feel we're sort of, potentially, at a tipping point of either people watching their own thing on their own device, that's completely different from everybody else in their life. Maybe it's because culture right now feels polarizing. But everyone in my life still has those experiences of sharing a show with someone they love -- I'm hoping that will continue to exist.

Collier: In 35 years I hope "What are you watching?" will continue to be a question people ask each other in all kinds of ways and settings, to define themselves, relate to each other and share meaningful experiences.

Lemon: I hope creative control is never concentrated in the hands of a few. Nobody complains about the number of great books being written. Great TV has become literature in that sense. When people talk about Peak TV, it's like they're writing an obituary. More voices, more diversity -- we're just getting started.

While the future of TV is still as mysterious as a crystal ball, the future ~on~ TV is a whole different story. Check out some of your favorite shows' wildest innovations below.

Sci-Fi TV's Wildest Innovations: Dreaming About the Future of Tech

Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity. Header image by Thoroughly Reviewed.