Interview: Rob Owen

Rob Owen has spent eight and a half years writing about TV for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He is also president of the Television Critics Association. He spoke to PRWeek about changes in the TV industry and the importance of the local pitch.

Rob Owen has spent eight and a half years writing about TV for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He is also president of the Television Critics Association. He spoke to PRWeek about changes in the TV industry and the importance of the local pitch.

PRWeek: What are some of the most interesting stories to come out of the industry in recent years?

Rob Owen: Certainly all of the technological advances that allow viewers to be their own programmers - the iTunes downloads, the streaming of full episodes on network Web sites. That's certainly changing the way that viewers watch and receive television shows.

PRWeek: Part of that is due to the fact that these networks know they have to keep viewers engaged in a digital age. How do you see that trend continuing?

Owen: At this point, the networks are just sort of glomming onto any new way that they can possibly get their content out to the masses. I think everyone is going to try a little bit of everything, and then they'll figure out what works.

PRWeek: Do you think Internet discussion boards about certain TV shows affect the programming at all?

Owen: I don't think that anyone is writing their television show to conform to what viewers want - at least not based specifically on what people are writing on the Internet.

I think those discussion boards can be used to offer guidance, but you shouldn't be using that to write your show... and I don't think anyone is at this point. I think they look at it with a grain of salt, but they do look at it.

PRWeek: Does the increased behind-the-scenes transparency benefit the television medium?

Owen: I think it all depends on the show. There are some shows that lend themselves to that kind of interaction with viewers, and there are other shows where it doesn't make a lot of sense. I think that's something that the show runner has to field their way through.

I think the level that we're at now is probably an OK level of interaction. There's a risk of going too far, but I don't think it ever will because the personalities of show runners are diverse enough that it's not something that everyone is interested in doing.

PRWeek: You mentioned that you get a ton of pitches from PR people. Is there anything they could be doing better?

Owen: More and more, the name of the game is going to be local. If you have something to pitch with local relevance, it's more likely going to be picked up than not.

Having said that, I think a good PR person knows that something happening in Philadelphia is not of interest to viewers in Pittsburgh. I think first and foremost, PR people need to learn their geography.

Name: Rob Owen

Outlet: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Title: TV editor

Preferred contact method: rowen@post-gazette.com

Web site: www.post-gazette.com/tv

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