The world of TV programming is one of many twists and turns as the developers seek to cut into the heart of the story. Right now, alternative news sources, such as social media and news websites, are rising in prominence. Traditional news outlets must adapt to survive and thrive in the new media environment. For major television networks, this means developing engaging, multi-platform content that generates revenue and attracts new audiences.
Since he started at CNN 16 years ago, Richard Dool has worked on the production and business sides of the network. Based in London, he is the head of development and partnerships for CNN International. He and his team generate half-hour-long features across different verticals, including documentaries, food, and sports. They create ideas from scratch and work with sales to pitch these multi-platform editorial series to potential global sponsors. It’s Dool’s job to take the idea and create CNN-worthy programming. “My team will try and figure out what is an angle that’s interesting for us and our audience that we would want to do because it’s always audience first,” he said.
These are Dool’s three keys to success when developing programming for networks.
1. Learn the news fundamentals
Dool credits much of his success at CNN to working as a producer for Lou Dobbs, Anderson Cooper, and Jane Velez-Mitchell, among others. He wrote for their shows and web pages, supervised graphics and video editing, and managed social media accounts. When he moved over to the development side of CNN, the production experience allowed Dool to succeed in his new role as he imagines early in the development process what a program’s story and visual elements could be.
“Having that grounding in news and having that experience of working through our fact-checkers and working through our standards and practices so often on news stories… we take the same lens to the features content,” said Dool. “I need to know what makes sense for CNN and what works for us, so I see myself as a protector of the brand.”
2. Use in-house production
Outside production comes at a premium, and CNN already has a robust operation in-house. Dool said in most cases, in-house teams are cheaper, more efficient, and know how to preserve CNN standards and practices “We are very efficient with our spending on our side,” he said. “Partly, that’s because we have a big team – people in the right places – and we can also share resources with the network. So, a lot of our costs are built in already. We have staff producers, reporters and hosts, staff shooters, and staff editors. We have the facilities and the bureaus.”
Because of CNN’s global presence, they have a network of contributors and staff on location Dool can rely on, eliminating travel costs and related expenses. Dool also takes advantage of CNN talent, instead of outside presenters, removing the need to pay exorbitant talent fees. Talent from outside the company is used mainly by CNN in the US when they want a program or original film to stand out and attract viewers other than their regular news audience.
3. Start with the small things
Though newcomers always want to jump into the thick of it, Dool says it’s better to start with the small tasks — tedious as they may be — to learn the ropes and get noticed. Coming into the TV industry, you should say yes to every request for help. “When that more senior producer needs help with something,” he said, “they’re going to go to the person that’s easy to work with and wants to help. That’s how you get experience.”
Developing great programming is tricky, and you will fail many times while doing so. Those that succeed always pick themselves back up and keep moving forward after they stumble and fall. The future viability of TV news requires the will and dedication to craft compelling stories to engage audiences and entice new viewers. For more on media valuations, visit Veristrat.