There’s No Business That’s NOT Like Show Business

By

Leonard Zwelling

This is a quote from the irascible Fran Lebowitz and, boy, is it true.

I am in Banff, Canada attending the Banff World Media Festival. This is a meeting of movie and TV producers, writers and agents all looking for the next big thing. I am here to try to convince them that my proposed TV series called Conflict of Interest is the next big thing. (If anyone out there has relatives in the producing business and they are looking for a hit show, let me know).

This is a meeting of perhaps several hundred people, many of whom come for the scenery (it’s in the Canadian Rockies), but most are here to do business. They are all about taking meetings and hearing pitches and that’s what I am here for, too. It’s been eye opening in the first day. Why? Re-read the title of this blog.

I feel like I am at my first AACR meeting trying to grab the attention of the big shots to look at my data. Back then (my first AACR meeting was in 1978), ASCO and AACR met together at a hotel. Now they are huge and need convention centers and would never consider a joint meeting. This Banff meeting is more of a throw back. My guess is that these people use Cannes and Sundance as their AACR/ASCO equivalent.

But I am a newbie who has been accompanied here by my co-author and a producer to try and link our story with some interested buyer. No news yet—but it’s early.

At one of the early sessions, six leaders in content television were on a panel discussing the changes in the TV industry that seem to be happening very quickly.

What we Baby Boomers call TV, they call linear content. That is, it is broadcast through the air, on cable or via satellite to homes all across the Fruited Plain (and Canada and the rest of the world) where it is viewed simultaneously or DVR’d for later consumption. Some of this linear TV has ads (e.g. NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox along with FX and others) and some does not (HBO, SHO).

But linear content is being challenged by OTT. That stands for Over The Top and that is Netflix, Amazon et al. (known collectively as FAANG-Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google). Here the content is delivered via the Internet and it can be watched whenever is desired by the viewer including the ever-popular binge watching of a whole season of a show. The Millennials and younger use OTT.

As I listened to the arguments pro and con all of this, I was struck with how similar this business was to the health care business. These folks were arguing about how viewers access TV. One of the challenges facing the major academic medical centers is how will people access their care which is still the major source of institutional revenue.

Let’s take, for example, MD Anderson. In most years before there was an Anderson Network and Sister Institutions, MD Anderson was accessed only one way. You came to 1515. Now there are decisions to be made about the accessibility of MD Anderson in local networks and distant ones. How will the quality be maintained if the decision is that MD Anderson care is to be accessible through the equivalent of TV’s OTT in the Anderson Network? Can you really get MD Anderson care in New Jersey without ever having to touch down in Houston? What about the Woodlands? Will the outcomes be as good?

Just like the TV executives, the executives of the major academic centers are going to have to strategically address how their care can be accessed and how it will be paid for.

I guess Fran Lebowitz was right.

Leonard Zwelling