The showrunner’s skills and responsibilities in the creation and production process of fiction series in the contemporary North American television industry
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Universidad de Navarra
ShowrunnerTV seriesMedia production studiesTelevision industryTelevision authorshipNorth America
Higueras-Ruiz, M.-J., Gómez-Pérez, F.-J. & Alberich-Pascual, J. (2021). The showrunner’s skills and responsibilities in the creation and production process of fiction series in the contemporary North American television industry. Communication & Society, 34(4), 185-200. [10.15581/003.34.4.185-200]
SponsorshipGovernment of Spain FPU 15/00737; Project National Plan "Transmedializacion y crowdsourcing en las narrativas de ficcion y no ficcion audiovisuales, periodisticas, dramaticas y literarias" (2018-2020) CSO2017-85965-P; University of Granada
Contemporary fiction TV series production in North America is characterized by the showrunner figure’s importance. This paper aims to study the concept of “showrunner” as executive-creative producer, analyze the competencies and responsibilities carried out by them during the production process of TV shows according to personal and professional factors, and examine their position within the current television market. For this purpose, a literature review on fiction TV series production and television authorship has been conducted. After this, adopting the focus of media production studies, a qualitative methodology based on in-depth personal interviews has been used, which was carried out with a selection of thirty-six significant executive producers and writers of contemporary American TV series. The findings indicate the relevance of this profile from a historical perspective, and particularly in recent years. Although there is a basic scheme of tasks developed by the showrunner in each phase of the production process, we find differences in this actuation due to personal –sex and nationality– and professional –format/gender and channel– characteristics in this industrial context. The showrunner develops an executive-creative dual profile to maintain the project’s coherence according to the established vision. Their influence over the TV series’ creative features contributes to reflection on television authorship and its attribution to this figure.