These Are TV’s 7 Biggest Questions for 2018 at the TCA Winter Press Tour

From competing with Netflix to how Disney will change Fox

The TCA winter press tour will spotlight the TV industry's most pressing issues. Source: Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

While CES becomes a bigger spotlight for television each year, the industry’s premier January event continues to be the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, which begins today at the Langham Huntington in Pasadena, Calif.

More than 200 television journalists and critics are gathering for the TCA’s semiannual event (there’s also summer press tour each July/August), featuring 14 days of panels, set visits and receptions that will spotlight new and returning shows from dozens of broadcast, cable and streaming outlets. (As usual, Adweek will be filing stories extensively throughout.)

Many networks used the summer press tour to set their agendas for the coming season—most notably, the five broadcast chiefs pushed back against the narrative of declining linear ratings by insisting that their shows are stronger than ever, thanks to their dominance on digital platforms. Now, the winter press tour will highlight the TV industry’s biggest issues for 2018, all of which are likely to permanently alter the medium’s landscape in the coming months.

These are the seven biggest questions about the future of TV that the winter press tour will tackle over the next two weeks:

What is the future of the 21st Century Fox TV properties that will—and won’t—be bought by Disney?

Last month, Disney announced that it will acquire 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion, after spinning off some Fox assets into a company that will tentatively be called New Fox. While Disney doesn’t expect the deal to close for another 12 to 18 months, there are major questions about what will happen to the Fox TV properties heading to Disney—including FX, Fox’s TV studio, National Geographic and Fox’s 30 percent stake in Hulu (all of which will join Disney assets like ABC, Freeform and ESPN)—as well as the properties not included in the deal, like Fox, Fox News and Fox Sports.

Many of the top execs of these Fox assets will have their first chance at press tour to publicly discuss the future of their networks and their own roles, starting today with Fox Television Group chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who jointly oversee both the Fox TV studio (which is Disney-bound) and the Fox network (which isn’t).

How will sexual harassment scandals continue to reshape TV?

The onslaught of sexual harassment allegations over the past several months has affected almost every network appearing at press tour, which has led to an exodus of some of TV’s biggest names in front of and behind the camera. (Among them: Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Kevin Spacey.) TV execs and creators alike will be grilled at press tour about the fallout from the past few months and what they’re planning to do to stamp out sexual harassment.

Can ABC successfully revive American Idol?

Of all the new shows this season, the biggest—and riskiest—addition by far was ABC’s decision to revive American Idol. The controversial move dominated the May broadcast upfront week, with rivals taking plenty of shots at ABC, while the network insisted its big swing will pay off. We’ll see if critics have warmed up to the show during ABC’s TCA day on Monday, when reporters will talk with the execs and talent involved with the new version of Idol, and start to determine whether ABC’s decision to bring the show back in March was brilliant—or boneheaded.

Will Hulu continue its momentum when The Handmaid’s Tale returns?

A year ago, Hulu dazzled winter press tour critics with the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, which went on to be named the TCA Program of the Year, and then won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama. Now it’s time for Hulu to prove that Handmaid’s Tale has   plenty left in the tank for Season 2—which will be paneling at press tour—and reveal whether its high-profile new dramas like The Looming Tower (which follows the counter-terrorism divisions of the FBI and CIA in the late ’90s as they follow Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda) and cop drama Hard Sun are worthy successors to the Elisabeth Moss drama. With both Netflix and Amazon skipping press tour yet again, this is Hulu’s chance to dominate the streaming spotlight.

Will the Paramount Network give USA and TNT a run for their money?

It’s been almost a year since Viacom CEO Robert Bakish revealed his plan to rebrand Spike as Paramount Network, creating a general entertainment network that the company hopes can compete alongside USA and TNT for audiences and ad dollars. As Paramount Network launches on Jan. 18, Viacom is giving the network its TCA coming out party, where execs and talent will either soar or stumble out of the gate with shows like Waco (a limited about the deadly 1993 standoff between the FBI, ATF and David Koresh’s Branch-Davidians) and drama Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner.

With the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, how big will NBC’s demo lead be this season?

NBC already has a healthy lead among its rivals this season in the 18-49 demo, which will only increase with February’s unbeatable one-two punch of Super Bowl LII and the Winter Olympics. The network will take the demo crown no matter what, but if it can engineer ratings gains for both events—and it will be sharing its plans for programming enhancements over the next two weeks—it could end up with the biggest demo lead over its rivals in several years.

Can anyone compete with Netflix?

Netflix will be skipping press tour yet again, but the streaming service—which will spend as much as $8 billion on original content this year—will be on the minds of every network that travels to Pasadena. How can anyone compete against those seemingly limitless (and advertising-free) resources? The industry needs to come up with answers—fast—and we’ll hear some of those solutions at winter press tour.


@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
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