NBCUniversal Executive Vice President, Lauren Zalaznick is responsible for changing the landscape of an entire network because of her innate ability to recognize audience trends. The Bravo Executive changed the networks programming towards the reality television we all love to hate including the Real Housewives franchise and shows like Top Chef.
In a TED speech held by Zalaznick, she explores the relationship between human consciousness and television programming. The findings in her research showed a common association between the two in that society ultimately determines what shows are put on TV. Depending on the political, economic and social climate, audiences seek TV programming that reflects their moral state. In a time where political and economic morale is low, Zalaznick shows trends that the two are dependent on one another.
In the last 20 years, popular television made a drastic change in the programming that was put out with comedy sitcoms like FRIENDS and Seinfeld ending and more “judgement” reality TV shows becoming popular such as Survivor and American Idol where people’s fates where decided by audience viewers. This shift in programming reflected the country’s state in the early 2000’s when morale was low due to major events such as September 11th. Zalyznyck argues this correlation to be the fact that audiences were able to redeem a sense of control in a time where most Americans, in particular, felt they did not have much control over anything.
No matter how we feel about the TV programming that is out there today, the research Zalaznick provides directly reflects “the moral, political, social and emotional need states of our nation”. The fact that Lauren points out we watch an average of 5 hours of TV a day, also shows that television takes up a major part of our lives.
This speech is particularly interesting to me because I have always felt that audiences want to see new creative shows, but what her studies find, is that those shows do not necessarily make popular TV, but our nation’s subconscious is what fuels what we collectively consider popular and entertaining. By understanding this point of view, it can be very beneficial to the writers out there pitching their ideas to networks in the future, if they take into account the political and social climate into their storylines.