ATX Television Fest: The Devoted Niche vs. the Casual Mass
Examining an audience's value
By Rod Machen,
1:15PM, Mon. Jun. 8, 2015
As the quality and quantity of television grows, the ways for a show to succeed has also increased. On Saturday, the ATX Television Festival hosted a panel to debate the merits of the devoted niche vs. a casual mass audience. While the latter has been the traditional route to success, the former is becoming more and more popular.
Kathleen McCaffrey of HBO knows something about niche. Girls, the best-known show she has developed for the network, is an exercise in harnessing the power of a devoted small audience. While the viewing numbers aren’t large (around two million per episode), its influence and coverage is outsized. It’s not just fans that make a lot of noise, but detractors as well. Every time Lena Dunham, opens her mouth, there’s a slew of haters waiting to pounce, and the echo-chamber effect on social media is deafening.
NBC’s Hannibal is a great example of a show straddling the boundary between these two propositions. Showrunner Bryan Fuller has to balance the needs of a large broadcast network with material more suited to a more adult-oriented cable channel. As season three ramps up, the experiment appears to have been a success so far.
Local Austinite Noah Hawley has been on both sides of the fence. His show My Generation was cancelled too soon and demonstrated the dangers of negotiating the waters of broadcast television. His latest project, a television adaption of the movie Fargo, has found fertile ground on FX, a network that can afford to cultivate a niche.
The biggest name on the stage was responsible for one of television’s most popular sitcoms. Phil Rosenthal created Everybody Loves Raymond, giving CBS one of its most significant successes. It is shows like this, with their seemingly eternal lives in syndication, that live off of casual fans, but as the years go by, programs like this are becoming anomalies.
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ATX Television Festival, Phil Rosenthal, Bryan Fuller, Kathleen McCaffrey, Noah Hawley, Hannibal, Fargo, Girls, Lena Dunham, ATX TV Fest 2015