Fiction--notably in series or serial form--is the world's most popular type of television. The international market for TV fiction was long dominated by productions from North America, but today other countries are making their own programmes, often taking the form of family sagas or social dramas which are winning a wide following.
THE outbreak of the Second World War set back the emergence of television in the United States as it did elsewhere. The new medium did not really take off until 1946. It then developed so fast that it was soon seen as a threat by film production companies, already unsettled by the 1949 antitrust law that prohibited the Hollywood studios from combining the production, distribution and exploitation functions.
In 1953, some studios launched a counter-offensive based on technological developments such as CinemaScope, 3-D, Cinerama and stereophonic sound, as well as on superproductions with huge sets, spectacular special effects and casts of thousands. This was a clever strategy, for television with its tiny black and white screen hardly seemed capable of competing with wide-screen epics like Ben Hur, El Cid, Spartacus or The Alamo. It was also shortlived, however, for such productions were by their nature exceptional. Besides, the studios' position was ambivalent: while setting themselves up as rivals of television, they were also signing agreements with intermediary organizations and with the TV channels themselves to produce programmes, sell film rights and hire out equipment.
Television started with one great advantage: the three …