“‘Empire’ is Affecting the TV Business in More Ways than You Realize”

“LAS VEGAS — During its first two seasons, a lot has been said about how Fox’s Empire has changed the face of TV. But its role in elevating the visibility of black families on television is just part of how this soapy success is making an impact.

With pilot season in full swing, network Upfronts (broadcast networks’ annual pitch to advertisers) around the corner and a host of first-year TV shows that will soon have writers rooms to staff, the so-called “Empire effect” is being felt stronger than ever across various areas of the television business — and FoxTV Group chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden couldn’t be prouder of that.

As networks — including Fox — begin laying the groundwork for fall, the pair, joined by Bryshere Grey and executive producer Ilene Chaiken, highlighted some of the ways they’re seeing the true impact of the groundbreaking series two years into its run during a panel at the National Association of Broadcasters conference, taking place in Las Vegas this week.

Highlighting the importance of diversity behind the scenes

The discussion about diversity behind the scenes is not a new one — study after disappointing study have pointed out the problems behind the scenes for years — but what shows likeEmpire have gone on to prove is that well-rounded, diverse characters can only hit the page when there’s a room of diverse voices to make them come to life.

“I think Empire was so important to the television business and a push into programming that more fairly represents the viewing audience,” Walden said. “I will say, though, I just fundamentally believe … diversity starts behind the camera.”

Empire, she said, is a prime example, pointing to executive producers Lee Daniels and Danny Strong.

By ordering shows with diverse behind-the-scenes teams, Walden said she and Newman can avoid the pitfalls that come with trying to meet a diversity “mandate” or “retrofitting a project to check boxes…”



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