Small screen, big future

Keshet Media Group hosts its second annual conference on innovation in television in the Holy City this week.

John Morayniss, CEO of EOne Television 370 (photo credit: Courtesy of Keshet TV))
John Morayniss, CEO of EOne Television 370
(photo credit: Courtesy of Keshet TV))
'This is the second Golden Age of television,” says John Morayniss, the CEO of EOne Television, which develops, produces and distributes all types of television series. He is on his way to Jerusalem for INTV, the second annual conference on innovative television sponsored by the Keshet Media Group, which will take place in Jerusalem at YMCA on November 4 and 5.
The conference will feature 26 speakers from the international television industry. The keynote speaker will be Bob Greenblatt, the chairman of NBC Entertainment, who in his previous position as president of Entertainment for Showtime Networks oversaw such hit shows as Dexter and Weeds.
In addition to Greenblatt and Morayniss, the speakers’ list features Avi Nir, the CEO of Keshet and Gideon Raff, the creator of the Israeli series, Prisoners of War, which was adapted into Showtime’s Homeland.
There will also be television executives and producers from around the world, including Sandra Stern, the COO of Television for Lionsgate (whose productions include Mad Men, Anger Management and Orange is the New Black); Marc Korman, partner and agent for WME Entertainment’s literary development division, whose clients include the creators of Law & Order and Glee, and Rick Rosen, board member and head of television development at WME Entertainment; Caryn Mandabach, the creator of Nurse Jackie; and Gary Carter, the chairman for Northern Europe of the Shine Group UK.
Morayniss thinks that this is the perfect moment for such a conference.
“It’s like the second coming of television. That whole independent feature world, where adults could go to see interesting movies, is gone and everything has moved to TV,” Morayniss explains. His company, EOne, is the international distributor of The Walking Dead, and Morayniss has executive producer credits on dozens of series, including Rookie Blue and Haven. “Every so often you get a Walking Dead episode that’s as big as Sunday night football, that gets higher ratings than everything on [non-cable] broadcast television.”
One, which is based in Los Angeles and Toronto (Morayniss lives in California but started out in Canada), has its own development teams.
“Sometimes, someone pitches us something, sometimes we generate something internally, and sometimes, like with The Walking Dead, we play the role of a distributor.”
Morayniss, who runs the TV group for the EOne Studio, is as excited about the changes in the entertainment industry (“Sometimes you roll out something slowly, sometimes you distribute all at once”) as he is about his first visit to Israel.
He has wanted to visit since high school, but it’s never worked out – until now. “I’ve got relatives in Haifa. And even though I haven’t been here yet, obviously I’ve always felt a strong connection to Israel.”
Now that Israel has become a powerhouse in the international entertainment industry, with such US shows as HBO’s In Treatment and Showtime’s Homeland, and, most recently, CBS’s Hostages, adapted from Israeli series, it makes sense for a television conference to be held in Israel.
“It’s all gotten more global,” he says, noting that the Israeli television series Catching the Sky (Litfos et ha shamayim) that starred Yoram Hattab, about a family in which the father becomes an Orthodox Jew, is being developed for two different international cable markets – one in which the father becomes an Evangelical Christian, and another in which, like the series, he becomes a more observant Jew.
But while we in Israel may feel as if the local television industry has been singled out for glory, Morayniss says “great storytelling is coming from a lot of non-English speaking territories.” He mentions Amy Poehler, the Saturday Night Live alumnus and star of the series Parks and Recreation, who is executive producing new show with her brother Greg, Welcome to Sweden, a fish-out-ofwater comedy about an American executive in Sweden.
“Most of the cast is Swedish. We didn’t think it would sell, it was so quirky. So much is about the quality of the writing,” Morayniss says.
Through his work in television, Morayniss has learned that life can be unpredictable. He started his career as a lawyer but “hated practicing law.” However, when his legal work brought him into contact with the television industry, he saw a different future for himself.
“I love being on the creative side,” he says.
His advice for young people interested in working in the television business is simple: “Get in the door somewhere. Network as much as you can.
People are so open. Build up those relationships.”