The Big Adaptors

So, HBO, flush from well-deserved success with their adaption of 'Game of Thrones' is looking at the difficult-sounding task of adapting Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods' into a six season series.

Showtime has it's epic series, of course, as you know from hearing any reviews.

It seems the movie/premium channels are getting awful ambitious, from 'Spartacus' to 'The Walking Dead' and more.  Very ambitious.  Curiously ambitious.

I want to speculate that they may be onto something, and that movie channels may be uniquely positioned to become The Big Adaptors.  Their future may well be adapting works to films/television.

First of all, they've pretty much found Big Epic Adaptions/Series work.  Look at shows from 'Rome' to 'the Tudors' – not just the reviews, or the money, but the sheer buzz.  The movie channels can do and do all sorts of things  and get away with all sorts of things neither television networks or movies can do.  They can do the long series, the sexy ones, the seemingly impossible ones.

In fact they're obviously getting quite good at it.

These premium channels, in a way, exist in a sweet spot between "regular" television and movies.  Much as successful channels specialize in education or food, they specialize – in video.  Much as films can do big things no TV show could touch  – so do they.

They have all the benefits of both television and movies – and few of the disadvantages.

They've also pretty much learned this gives them a chance to get attention – because they can do things neither regular television and regular movies cannot.  You don't think the 'American Gods' talk didn't get HBO a ton of useful buzz?

So I think the movie channels are now positioned as The Big Adaptors, the media companies that can do the bold, weird, popular, unusual, and interesting things no other media form can do.  They've got the position, the attention, and the successes.

I can easily see a future where that becomes their big thing – sprawling, unusual, sexy, violent, controversial, and otherwise "impossible" adaptions of stories, comics, books, and more.  After the free buzz for whatever is their latest, after the money from their sources, they can then clean up with DVD/Blue-ray releases, Netflix licensing, and more.  Of course each success breeds more success . . .

Think of all the "impossible" properties out there waiting to be turned into something big.  Think of all the original properties they can do because neither television nor movies would touch them.

Now think of what it means for you:

  • If you're a writer with an "unadaptable" book – they may be the ones to do it.
  • If you want to work with adapting some properties – they're where you pitch your proposal.
  • If you want to work with interesting licensing deals – check out the movie channels.

I think the movie channels are going to be playing an even bigger hand in media in the near-to-mid future.  Pay attention.

Steven Savage