May 15, 2011


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem

>The place where the scheduling team meets is usually an executive conference room in the network’s NY headquarters.  If you’ve ever seen a movie about network TV, you’ll know the magnetic board on which  strips bearing show titles are attached and shuffled around the walls, but actually these days this process, like everything else, has been modernized.  Now the Board is electronic, which has the advantage of being available in several locations, if people still in LA or elsewhere in the building need to take a look.  (Psychologically, it also discourages people from playing with magnetized strips even after a night has been locked, as changes in plan continue to occur to them.)

It’s a long week, and especially early on when there are lot of voices being heard (see THE PLAYERS), it can be tense and unfocused.  As things reach the end-game and the occupants of the Room reduce, the mood becomes calmer.  Lots of junk food is consumed:  coffee, soda, popcorn, candy.
The process usually has a core group poring over the Board for a few hours, then breaking to meet with various constituencies as questions come up:  Research, Finance, Business Affairs, etc.  Also, even as the schedule is being put together, plans have to be finalized for the big Upfront Presentation (see THE SHOW) a few days later:  longer-than-usual “super-promos” produced (especially in recent years, as they’re simultaneously released online to the public in general, not just shown in the NY theater), talent flown in, a script written and performers rehearsed.
Since all the networks are going through the process at once, rumors are a constant undertone.  Even what sometimes purport to be full schedules may start to circulate.  What’s the competition doing?  What do they just want you to think they’re doing?  Which disinformation is coming from competitors, and which from agents who are trying to boost their clients?  Perhaps half a dozen projected competitor schedules are put together over the week, but reliable knowledge is always at a premium.  Schedules can be (and are) changed after initial announcement, but those are often seen as a sign of weakness in the press, so the hope is to emerge with the strongest schedule possible.  In the end, rumors are mostly discounted, because a network just has to do what plays to its best strengths.
Finally the schedule has to be locked, because talent needs to get onto airplanes and the Upfront presentation has to be put together.  In the course of  the week, 3 or 4 potential schedules are reduced to 2, and then finally to 1.  Usually everything is in place about 48 hours before the network’s Entertainment Divisoin President steps to that podium (although sometimes there’s a last minute tweak just a few hours in advance).
Read more:


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."