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Steven Bochco Lays Down the Law : WHO'S HE KIDDING?

August 23, 1992

"I f I Ran a Network . . . ," last Sunday's commentary by television producer Steven Bochco ("Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law") has prompted a heavy response from readers. A sampling:

Bochco's piece is a perfect explanation of why a TV network should never allow a TV producer to occupy the CEO's chair.

To begin with, Bochco doesn't understand why the networks are in trouble. It has nothing to do with censors, or eliminating pilots or only buying shows from producers and writers "who are passionate about their work." Network audiences are shrinking for one basic reason: increasingly more and better competition.

When the networks were kings of the hill they essentially owned the medium. There were no VCRs and no cable, and very few viewers could watch a PBS station.

The TV audience is not some amorphous blob. It is millions of people from different cultures, with different values and different tastes. They want to watch different things at different times. They are taking advantage of that opportunity in ever-increasing numbers. This is known as "audience fragmentation," and no amount of "L.A. Law" or "Hill Street Blues" will change that.

Sure, better programming will help networks keep a larger share of a fragmented audience. However, their real problem is to control totally unrealistic production costs. This, among other things, means paying less money to people like Bochco. Sorry about that, Steve.


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