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Show Runners


Producers have existed as part of the film and television ecosystem for as long as these creative fields have been around. But the emergence of the distinct role of show runner can be traced to the 1980s when television screenwriters began to receive more power from networks and production studios. Critically-acclaimed network shows such as Hill Street Blues began to hire staff writers instead of contract writers and give these writers more production responsibilities. A corresponding trend was the growing popularity of cable channels such as HBO and Showtime, which required more writers to come up with ideas for new content. To meet demand, the production studios gradually began to rely on writers to pitch, create, and manage new shows, and the position of writer-producer emerged. The number of television and cable shows—and executive producers—continued to grow, and a need developed for a shorthand way to refer to the top executive producer for a show. The term “show runner” was created to classify executive producers who had ultimate power over a production. Today, show runners play an extremely important role in generating more content—and more profits—for television and cable networks and production companies.

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