The Bryan Fuller Curse: Why Bad Things Happen to Good TV Shows

Bryan Fuller is a television writer, producer and showrunner. He has a prolific history of creating and developing critically-acclaimed, award winning television shows that have devoted, adoring fanbases. All of his shows have also all been unceremoniously cancelled. All but one before they could reach a third season.

This sad story is nothing new. We have all had a beloved television show in the past that got axed too soon, but why does this happen? Why do shows that have so much promise often underperform?

For each of Fuller’s cancelled projects, there is a pretty concrete reason we can point to: low ratings. It’s why most shows end up getting canned, but is it always because the show just isn’t any good? In Fuller’s case, and undoubtedly many others’, there is much more at play.

Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies, arguably Fuller’s most successful show, was cancelled by ABC after just two seasons. During its short life the show managed to earn 57 award nominations and 18 wins, 7 of those being Primetime Emmy Awards. It premiered to an audience of almost 13 million people, becoming the most watched series of that week.
It seemed like smooth sailing for Pushing Daisies until the writer’s strike of 2007-08. The Strike forced the first season to be cut short, going from an intended 22 episodes to just 9 episodes in the first season. Ratings were a fraction of first season numbers by the time the second season premiered, and the show was cancelled after only 6 of its 13 episodes.

Fuller’s most recent (and most recently cancelled) project, Hannibal performed fairly well in the ratings for most of its three seasons. There had been a pretty steady decline over the course of the third season, which was the reason cited by NBC as to why the series was axed. It was also thought that the network was looking to avoid potential rights issues in planned upcoming seasons. Apparently Fuller wanted to introduce the character of Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs, but the rights to that character are currently unavailable.

Despite the wreckage of cancelled shows in his wake, Bryan Fuller seems to have no problem getting work. He has been developing an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel American Gods which just got picked up by Starz, where he will serve as showrunner. Fresh off cancelling Hannibal, NBC has decided to keep working with Fuller, bringing him on as a writer and executive producer for their remake of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi series, Amazing Stories. So if all of his past projects have been cancelled, why do networks still want to work with him?

First, as we saw before, shows get cancelled for reasons other than just low ratings, and low ratings can be caused by a multitude of things potentially out of the creator’s control. Networks know this. They also know that Fuller’s programming is consistently loved by critics. It’s possible that the wider public isn’t responding to his programming because of it’s dark nature. All of the shows Fuller has created thus far have had to do with death and other macabre themes, which might turn off some potential viewers, so there seems to be a need to present his ideas in a way that is pleasing to a wider audience. Fuller already has a very passionate fanbase. They even voted Pushing Daisies the winner of Esquire’s “TV Reboot Tournament”.

We obviously can’t know what network executives are thinking, but I think they know Bryan Fuller produces fresh, creative shows and does them well, it’s just a matter of the right idea, at the right time, marketed in just the right way, and when we get there, it’s going to be something to behold.

Olivia Guns

Piracy: Stealing the Industry’s Booty

It’s a Thursday evening, you’re tired and just looking to have a “chill” evening. Maybe you’ll invite that girl or guy you’ve been chatting with on social media over, but then what will you do? You could pay five dollars at Marcus Theatres, but realistically that is just too expensive of a price to pay for a movie, especially on a college budget. So you do the next best thing (or so you think…) and hop on Kickasstorrents or The Pirate Bay to stream that new film you’ve been wanting to see. You hope to impress your date by entertaining them without spending a dime or leaving the house, but let’s take a look at what’s really being forfeited here.

The Pirate BayWhen you look at the bigger picture, the one that resides outside of your janky two-bedroom apartment, you would see the industry is losing a lot by people streaming pirated films. According to, some independent film distributors, such as Wolfe Video, have seen their profits cut completely in half by piracy. This could result in projects being scrapped altogether for fear they won’t make the big bucks. The other thing you should consider is when you neglect to pay for your content, is that someone’s salary somewhere could potentially be affected. Do you want to explain to little Jimmy that his parents won’t be able to feed him because you “can’t afford” five-dollar movie night?

But the industry is fighting back. Since most of the time it’s streaming and convenience that you want, they created popular pay for sites that people are more willing to buy into to get their content. These services include such as Netflix, Hulu, HBOGO, Spotify, and Itunes. I bet you never suspected you were fighting a battle against the pirates while partaking in “Netflix and Chill.” Not only can any of these be downloaded as an app to your favorite technological device, but they are also a pay monthly service giving you a ton of great content for one low price that even you can afford (at least we should hope so.)

Of course, there are still a few loopholes to this method of fighting piracy, one being password sharing.

Sharing your password with someone outside of your family or household is very common and in a report by Variety is apparently taking away $500 million from the industry. However, it doesn’t seem to have any negative effect on them as of now, but don’t be surprised if these guys start cracking down in the near future. You might need stop using your grandma’s lover’s son’s college roommate’s password, and get your own one of these days.

Sam Fickett

ESPN Cuts Costs–Will Sports Fans Cut The Cord?

The ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports,’ ESPN, is headed toward a future that will feature its cable channels unbundled from the current cable/telco model. At least that’s what a large majority of millennials assume…

espn_topsearchThe financial model that encompasses ESPN’s array of content and its marketability has evolved immensely in just the past decade. While ESPN is the ‘Worldwide Leader’ when it comes to cutting-edge ideas, content production, timely and breaking sports reporting, marketing, and acquisition of talented media personalities — all which are critical to viewership in the sports medium — they are not viewed as the ‘Worldwide Leader’ when it comes to their offerings that can be categorized as ‘cord cut content.’


Recently ESPN has been receiving attention for a reason it would prefer not to, cost-cutting.

Just last month, the ‘Worldwide Leader’ laid off 300 employees, and while those layoffs were dressed by Disney and ESPN President John Skipper as a consequence of rising rights costs — specifically their nine-year $24 billion dollar deal with the NBA — multiple sources made sure to indicate that the impact of ‘cord-cutting’ cannot go overlooked either.

Along with laying off 300 employees ESPN has also received more attention for its cost-cutting by parting ways with a number of their highly-recognizable/highly-paid personalities. Most notably their former mid-morning shock-jock Colin Cowherd, former editor-in-chief Bill Simmons, as well as the provocative host of ‘Olbermann,’ Keith Olbermann. All of whom had long, respected, and storied ESPN careers before their dismissal this past summer.

Former ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte wrote about the shutting down of Simmons’ former passion project, Grantland, at and provided an insider’s perspective into the dynamics that revolved around its closing.

While there are multiple sources that have indicated the impact of ‘cord-cutting’ for ESPN, there is quite possibly no voice (or in this case, written word), short of their President John Skipper that could have come from a more respectable and profound voice than that of their former ombudsman Lipsyte (since dismissing Lipsyte in December of 2014 ESPN has not hired a replacement).

In his article for Lipsyte remarked;

“ESPN is currently besieged by the rising cost of buying the rights to show sports events, the declining profits in audience fees and advertising revenue as people cut their cable cords, and Disney-ordered budget cuts.” (Lipsyte, The Nation, Nov. 2015)


PayPerPersonTo fully understand the impact of ‘cord-cutting’ on the ‘Worldwide Leader’ it is critical to know the share of consumer’s cable bill that ESPN currently occupies. According to a article from July, which cites a Wall Street Journal report, cable providers are by far paying more to offer their subscribers ESPN than any other network. $6.04 is the going rate for ESPN within a cable bundle, $4.56 more than the next closest cable network, TNT.

This gross cost burden to cable companies bundles, along with an emergence of options to view the Worldwide Leader without ‘the cord,’ has made the conversations about ESPN ‘cutting their cord’ plentiful and consistent. However, pontifications — predominantly from millennials — have gone as far to assume that ESPN will have no other choice than to ‘cut their cord’ sooner than later if they wish to remain feasible in today’s climate of sports content offerings. This line of thinking is not completely incorrect, however, it is reckless to assume that a cable channel with as much, and sometimes more, exposure and ratings than the likes of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC would suddenly feel inclined to completely ‘cut their cord’ and depart from traditional cable.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has acknowledged dropping cable subscription numbers for ESPN, and even went as far to tell CNBC’s Squawk Box that he sees ESPN as a media property that could eventually be sold a la carte, much like HBO, but, that will not happen in the next five years.

Iger went on to say while appearing on the popular CNBC show;

“Technology is the most disruptive force that so-called traditional media … is facing.” [But] we decided to view technology as a friend, not a foe, to bring better customer experiences across all of our businesses from making media look crisper on HD televisions to mobile and online viewing apps to enhanced attractions at theme parks.” (Iger, CNBC’s Squawk Box, July 2015)


When evaluating comments by Disney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN President John Skipper, along with taking into consideration their continually strong cable ratings in relation to their competitors I find it hard to believe the train of thought that predominately comes from my millennial peers that ESPN is destined to ‘cut their cord’ or die.

In my mind, the proof is in the pudding that there will always be ESPN channels available to cable subscribers as long as there is cable television. ESPN has made tremendous strides in their digital platform offerings, enough so that consumers that prefer to not have traditional cable can get their fill of sports content through ‘Watch ESPN,’ the ESPN mobile app, and other digital offerings from the Worldwide Leader.

Could there be a ESPN app available for purchase for those without a cable subscription in a half-decade, similar to Time Warner’s HBO Now endeavor? Sure. For the reasons I hashed out in this blog such as the rising costs of content rights and the gradual decline of cable subscribers. That said, indications are clear that the Worldwide Leader is still a ways off from needing to ‘cut their cord’ to sustain and thrive in today’s ever-changing media climate.

Cole Bair

Spotify: Who’s the Real Enemy?

Music is the most universally emotional device in the world. Whether it’s a first world country full of technology or a tribe of indigenous people with a bunch of handmade drums, music plays a role in their culture. There’s something about music that allows people to connect to emotions. Whenever I’m feeling nostalgic, I put on The Early November.

With that being said, it’s obvious that the music industry is a multibillion-dollar industry. But the question remains, how do these companies get music into the listener’s hands? Since there is so much money involved, the market is plenty saturated. The mainstream methods of my youth were CDs. One would go to their local Sam Goody, Hastings, or Best Buy and pick up the album of an up and coming artist on a Tuesday. However, that has changed drastically.

spotify streamingIn 1999, Napster was created to allow anyone to file-share music. Due to the legal infractions on copyright, it didn’t last long. Fast-forward to 2006, Spotify was founded. Rather than file sharing, Spotify allows listeners to stream music on an ad-based platform or pay up to $9.99 for an ad-free listening experience on the go with access through smartphones.

This seemed like a great outlet for artists to get exposure through digital distribution and to make a little money on the side. You can find pretty much any song from any artist on there. However, there have been mixed reviews about whether or not this is good for the music industry.

Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify last year. She believes that Spotify is robbing artists of money and squashing creativity. Swift told Business Insider, “I’m always up for trying something. And I tried it and I didn’t like the way it felt. I think there should be an inherent value placed on art.” She went on to explain that streaming has greatly decreased the amount of money artists can make.

Spotify DownloadDaniel Ek, CEO of Spotify feels differently about their distribution model. Ek explained in an article that “Our whole reason for existence is to help fans find music and help artists connect with fans through a platform that protects them from piracy and pays them for their amazing work.” He continued stating that the real enemy is piracy. Piracy is how listeners are stealing from artists. Spotify has paid out $2 billion dollars to artists since it’s inception. That’s compared to a whopping $0 that piracy has contributed.

Victory recordsIt’s clear that Spotify has paid out artists compared to other venues like Pirate Bay. But there is some shady stuff going on. Last week, I was feeling nostalgic again and I tried to pull up Hawthorne Heights to only find that it has been removed from Spotify. In anger and frustration, I began to blame Victory records for removing their artists from Spotify.

After a little digging, I found that Spotify is allegedly the one to blame at this point. The record label was quoted in a Rolling Stone article saying, “Victory Records’ catalog of music was pulled from Spotify last night [Monday] as a result of Spotify not properly paying publishing revenues due to Victory Records’ artists in blatant violation of US Copyright laws.” However, it came out that Victory records is not paying their artists and holding all the profit. Spotify will likely resolve this issue with Victory Records once they make some form of agreement to pay out artists properly.

The way people are receiving content whether it is movies or music is evolving into a streaming method. Ek said Spotify is not only streaming, but mainstreaming. It will affect content creators regardless, but is it wise to go against the grain? Ironically enough, the week after Taylor Swift pulled 1989 from Spotify, it was the number one downloaded album on Pirate Bay.

Peter Seifert

Syndication’s Best Friends: Distributing a Hit TV Show

My all-time favorite television show is Friends. My bedroom is literally Friends-themed complete with three posters (one of which is the French painting from Monica and Rachel’s apartment), my collector’s box set of the complete series, and a throw pillow covered with inside jokes from the series to bring it all together.

I was only 79 days old when the very first episode aired, placed strategically between Mad About You and Seinfeld. Despite being oblivious to the first few seasons, I distinctly remember growing up with this television show. My family would sit down altogether and watch it at 8 o’clock every Thursday night religiously; we would never miss an episode. I was able to catch up on some of the episodes from earlier season I didn’t remember through reruns, so I felt as though I really knew these six friends as if they were my own. I remember watching the final episode on May 6, 2004 and crying the whole second half of it. It couldn’t be over?! There would never be another Friends! Nooo!!!

Friends CastBut then there were rumors about a reunion! One of the show’s creators, Marta Kauffman, explains in a Friends 20th Anniversary Oral History” that there are many reasons as to why they won’t do another episode. One reason is that the show was all about their one-line pitch “it’s that special time in your life when your friends are your family” and once the friends have their own families, it changes. Former NBC President, Warren Littlefield, also ads that because the ending of the show was so satisfying, the cast was nervous about a reunion. He says they figured “if they can’t do it as well as they did it, then why do it?”

While there may never be another new episode of Friends produced, that doesn’t mean that you’ll never be able to relive those ten precious years with the friends. There are more ways to watch these episodes now than ever before. You can catch some reruns on Nickelodeon, TBS, and Comedy Central, even if you are in Canada, UK, Serbia, Australia, or Greece! They are also now available through online streaming via Netflix, Stan (the equivalent to Netflix but in Australia), or on The other way you can access these episodes is by buying them on DVD or digital copy on iTunes or Amazon Video. Although it has been over ten year since the series finale, Friends is more accessible than it ever has been and by being available on so many windows, it’s capturing entirely new audiences, many of which weren’t even born when the show was first aired!

There is a certain nostalgic element for many Friends fans, and Time Warner knows how to capitalize on that by even sending fans back in time to be able to tour the famous coffee shop the friends notoriously congregated at. For the show’s 20th Anniversary, a pop-up Central Perk was constructed in New York, allowing fans to tour the temporary replica of Central Perk for four weeks last September. Below is a video of a performance of the Friends’ theme song “I’ll Be There For You” by the Rembrandts, at the pop-up location last year, starring a special guest!

Another interesting thing that sparked my attention in the Friends: 20th Anniversary Oral History” article was that even though the show ended over ten years ago, the six stars are STILL making good money off of the show’s residuals. Because of syndication revenues, the show rakes in $1 billion dollars every year, of which each of the six stars receive 2%, calculating out to each star making $20 million every year the show is in syndication; that’s a lot of money for not doing a thing!

Another source of revenue is their DVD and digital sales. By reissuing the complete series in new editions and in box sets, they continue to make so-called “collectors” items for nostalgic fans. Additionally, not only are the episodes sold on iTunes and Amazon Video digitally, when they sold to Netflix the episodes were bought for $500,000 each. The fourth way they scrap up some revenue in this television series diversification article is through their merchandise, especially Trivia Games (some of which are pictured below, and I own them all!), large Central Perk mugs, and even soundtracks. They have a huge cash cow and are still working on milking it dry.

Friends Game    Friends trivia game   Friends Scene It

One more thing that amazed me about the money involved was this show was how much the actors were paid, with their per episode rate climbing from $22,500 in the first season to $125,000 by season six. For season 7, negotiations got messy, with the big six securing $750,000 for each episode though season 8. But in season 9 rates were raised one last time to $1 million dollars per episode for seasons 9 and 10. This really gives you an idea of just how much this series was making, and how this translated to cast salaries.

Our Friends are not going away any time soon. The billions of dollars in syndication and digital revenues will continue for years to come. Friends is here to stay, so let’s relive those ten years with Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler, Monica, and Ross again and again! And as far as where the big six stand now…could they BE making any more money?

Ali Holtz

Star Wars: The Rights Unleashed

Let’s travel to the studio of Lucasfilms in the summer of 1977. George Lucas had just finished filming Star Wars: A New Hope. Struggling to find someone to take his film to theaters he turned to Paramount films to distribute to their large theater chains. Paramount was skeptical of the premise, at the time Paramount was skeptical of a futuristic fantasy sci-fi film. Similar films had been unsuccessful up until this point, so Paramount shot Lucas down. Struggling even more Lucas took the film to 20th-Century Fox. (Fox: Fox was willing to take a leap on the film but required that Lucas sign over the rights to the film in perpetuity. Feeling this was his only chance to get the film out to the public Lucas signed over the rights to the first film. This, is where a series of issues have made the retail of the beloved saga a logistical nightmare.

Star Wars CastFast forward to 2012. Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion acquiring all of their work, except for the first 6 Star Wars films. Fox helped distribute the first 6 Star Wars films holding the physical distribution rights until 2020 (2020: They also still hold all rights for the first film.

In this new day and age digital distribution has taken the reins from the mighty TV and Film distribution companies by allowing people to select what they want to view and when they want to view it. So, when it came to the rights of the Star Wars films the original deal between Fox and Lucas had no way of knowing that their films would eventually hit the internet and be distributed through these new avenues. When Disney bought Lucas Films they also bought the digital distribution rights to the last 5 movies of the saga.

Walt Disney Star Wars LogoNotice how I said the last 5 movies? When Fox gained the rights to the first film they gained the entire intellectual property in perpetuity. So in order for a complete saga to be released Fox and Disney had to come to a deal that allows them to distribute the series together. On April 10th 2015 the two came to an agreement and have allowed for the distribution of the entire saga as a whole on digital distribution. The entire trailer brings about a giddy sense of wonder (at least for me).

So let’s talk about the future. In 2020 the last five films for the series will make their way back to Lucasfilm (aka Disney). By this point Disney is planning to have not only the next three films in the saga distributed, but they are also planning to have the the first three branch off stories done as well ( Adding another six movies to the lore of the Star Wars universe should bring about a new era of merchandising and dedicated fans.

But, in order for the entire twelve-film box set to be released, a deal between Disney and 20th Century would have to be reached. Disney wishes to capitalize on the full girth of their newly acquired property but no box set would be complete without the original film. Fox on the other hand knows that they hold the key to a powerhouse of distribution revenue. Only time will tell how these two giants will work out their issues, but one thing is certain, they people want a complete box set.

Thomas Winkelman

Vimeo On Demand: Demanding Distribution

Major distributors got you down? Are you sick and tired of the Major Studios taking your script and just beating it with a Nerf toy until you don’t recognize it? And are you sick and tired of them taking such a huge cut that you couldn’t even pay for the coffee that you had the intern run and grab you? Well have no fear because there is a new form of distribution out there for films and TV series!

Vemeo On DemandVimeo on demand offers a great deal to film and television creators. Not only is their service ad-free, but they take only 10% of the revenue generated. Usually creators have to go through a long process where they sacrifice a large amount of profit and possibly script edits. This article explains specifically how Vimeo on Demand allows creators to launch their content.

Through Vimeo, creators get to create their own product page that is completely customizable. The product page is where the trailer will display and a customizable banner.  Creators determine how much their content costs, if it can be downloaded, or if it can only be streamed and how much it is to rent.

FeralCurrently no blockbusters have been distributed through Vimeo. The hope is that eventually it will become established enough that Speilberg might create his own film and distribute it though Vimeo to keep profits and creative freedom. Speilberg explained in this article how his films have been denied funding and distribution. The fact that Speilberg can have issues making it on the big screen was a scare to all of us aspiring filmmakers out there, at least until Vimeo on Demand rolled around.

Even though Vimeo sounds like a cure-all distributor there are still issues. A lot of films depend on financial aid from distributors to get their films out there and views. Because even if you can keep 90% of profits on your 10,000 views it is nothing compared to getting a fraction of millions of views. So how does Vimeo approach this issue? This article talks about the importance of word of mouth through Vimeo and how social media can pump out your content. Another hope is that as Vimeo’s library of original content grows that people will start to dig through the site and discover what might have fewer views.

This link above will take you directly to a film on Vimeo. I encourage you to check out the page and watch the trailer to get a feel of what this site has to offer. In the end what do you think? Can Vimeo stand up to the Big Screen or even other content distributors like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu?

Taylor Bluemel

Production & Distribution of Independent Film & Television

Producing independent media is romanticized by many who enter the field of film or television with the hopes of making their mark. Most know the industry is demanding and the effort in ideas, quality, and work usually are the main factors of making the romanticized dream production that will be accepted and recognized by the industry. But one of the key barriers to fulfilling this dream is the concept of distribution and how it affects every aspect of filmmaking and should be one of the major considerations when planning for an independent production.

Joseph Turow of the Media Industries Project for the Carsey-Wolf Center emphasized the importance of distribution at the Net Worth: Media Distribution in the Digital Era Media Industries conference, where he stated “distribution is at least as important as production for players in a media industry, for the audiences that the production firms target, and for the society in which all this takes place.”

Over the past year I have been involved with a feature film project as well as a project for cable TV. One of the things I have learned through developing and producing both projects is that distribution is crucial to the film and television industries. In developing an independent production, you need money for the production itself, but then also money to market the film to jump-start the distribution process.

the summerland projectFor the feature film, The Summerland Project, money had to be allocated for: actors with names recognizable to the distributors, cameras that recorded in cinema quality, an excellent music score, and sophisticated special effects. None of this would have mattered if these elements weren’t used in the “right genre,” like science fiction, action or comedy, that would entice distributors to buy the rights for the film. Stacy Parks of states that “distribution in reverse” is simply reverse engineering your film for distribution.

After production, independent producers try to sell the finished product to any major or smaller distributor who would release it first to theaters, second to home entertainment (Blu-Ray and digital download), and finally to cable channels. The American Film Market is a great place for producers to take films and meet with distributor agents in hopes of getting their productions sold. For The Summerland Project, the producers took this avenue, as they knew the production had a solid genre, with named actors who could get distributors interested in carrying the film.

Alternatively, independent producers can self-distribute the film which requires heavy investment in marketing to agents in order to get the film seen. Usually this process involves submitting to various festivals so that the film can be seen by, and hopefully picked up, by smaller distributors.

   Auction Insider         History Channel

For the TV show, Auction Insiders, we used the festival circuit to showcase the documentary aspect of the reality series, and then entered the pilot in various television festivals. Auction Insiders was selected as one of the top 16 finalist in the New York Television Festivals (NYTVF) A&E 360 Unscripted Development Pipeline Contest.

After the pilot was selected into the this contest, my company, Bus-Stop Productions, and Fuzz Dog Entertainment, were able to pitch the show to executives from the History Channel. The production is currently in negotiations with the History Channel for a development deal.

As I have worked on the development of these productions I have appreciated how my graduate studies in media distribution are complementing the first-hand knowledge gained from working with people that are established in the industry.

Eric Benson