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Remember when Big Brother first hit the airwaves and everyone was despairing that cheap reality TV shows would mean the end of quality TV drama?

It never quite happened, and the man at the controls of one of the world's biggest TV drama factories says it's not likely to happen in the future either.

Paul Lee, president of the US television giant ABC Entertainment, says the future of television cannot be dumb, because in an age where shows live or die by their Twitter buzz and Facebook following, only the smart will survive.

Disney-owned ABC Entertainment is responsible for global television hits including Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Scandal and Revenge.

Broadcast television has never had more to compete with: pay TV, streaming movies on demand, YouTube and social media, but Mr Lee says TV has changed and social media is actually key to its survival.

Mr Lee, who was in Australia to address the Australian Broadcasting Digital Media Summit, contends that the multi-platform digital revolution has added to the quality of TV programming, and that the quality is higher than it's ever been.

People will always have a deep need to "lean back and listen to a bedtime story", Mr Lee said.

But technology has changed storytelling in subtle but significant ways, he said, and it's not just the technology that has become smarter.

"Storytelling itself has changed because our viewers have changed - they've become smart viewers," Mr Lee said.

"20 years ago viewers had three or four choices and they famously chose the LOP - the Least Objectionable Program.

"Now viewers have limitless choices: they know exactly what they want and how to get it; they know if a show has real buzz or artificial buzz; they know what's CGI and what's real, they know what show has product placement and what doesn't.

"They have immediate access while they're watching to everyone they've ever known and every piece of information since Babylon.

"In other words, Least Objectionable Programming, not so much for the older boomers but definitely for the Gen-Xers and the Millenials .. is now officially dead."

One thing that isn't dead, however, is broadcast television and the big, must-watch shows known as "appointment television" - once again because technology is helping.

Mr Lee said technology is driving a shift in current tastes away from the police procedurals, such as the NCIS franchise, and a return to serialised drama, and various catch-up technologies are helping build new audiences.

The "binge" ability afforded by catch-up technology, streaming on demand and DVDs, now means people who missed a first season of a drama are catching up and then watching subsequent seasons on broadcast TV.

"Traditionally, serialised shows, if you weren't in early, you wouldn't make the investment," he said.