One Defines The Other in The World of TV

Creating a brand based upon adaption of genre.

Its the ultimate working of niche. To think that this would be commercially viable in the world of TV is somewhat contemptuous. Sure, one can exhibit nothing but film noir if one is in the world of film. But nothing but sci-fi? Nothing but medievals? It can’t be possible on our TV screens can it?

Well, no. Or at least not really. I would argue that in this way genre works differently in the world of TV than what it does in the world of film. In film, genre is something of an honour. Not to say that genre is well liked, or much heralded – far from it – but at least it stands for something and is, to a certain extent, important.

In TV, genre is less definable and less important. Sure, there are cop shows. And those medieval pieces I mentioned before. But they’re more (or less) than that. They don’t necessarily need nor have a care for sticking to the generally held rules of that genre even if that is the centre of its diegesis. For example, a show like Game of Thrones doesn’t feel the need to stick to the confines of a period piece set in a fantasy world, instead they implant characters with English accents (thanks Matt). Go figure.

The point I am getting at here is it would be extremely difficult to establish a commercially successful TV business model that is solely based on exhibiting genre pieces. As such, we’ve seen TV shows that attempt to adapt this mantra and abide by the rules of genre fail to make it off the ground. So too, those that are blatant mixes of pop culture hardly work either. Think Lawless or Dot Comedy.

As a result, the business models that work in TV have generated shows that work – hybrids such as Mad Men, Game of Thrones and Spartacus have all done extremely well. The business model behind them? HBO, Starz or AMC. To quote HBO’s tagline – ‘It’s not TV, it’s HBO’.

Indeed, HBO has worked to bring us Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and True Blood. Each distinct in the way it craftily establishes itself as a distinct medieval, crime, or even fantasy show. Yet each is able to appeal to a wider audience through a mix of romance, comedy and even to some extent horror. These are long form dramas that hold mass appeal across a range of additional genres while remaining loyal to their distinct genre context.

So what is HBO? It’s a successful business model. It doesn’t tie itself to any certain genre. Rather, it embraces a plethora of hybrids. And what a happy medium it is.


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