Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, January 1th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by coffee and Cap'n Crunch Christmas Crunch cereal.
A WAKE-UP CALL FOR THE NFL
The NFL and its broadcast/cable partners experimented on Sunday with some non-traditional broadcasts of a couple of wild card games. And while I could be snarky and ask why it's taken until 2021 for this experiment to take place, I think the final product was rough in spots, but a definite sign of the future.
Freeform did the earlier game, a Ravens at Titans match-up the channel described as a "Watch Party." The presentation showed the game live, but had ESPN's Jesse Palmer and Maria Taylor in boxes along the left-side of the screen, along with some special guests. Palmer and Taylor made some effort to talk about the game, but the conversation often went off on tangents - many of them having very little to do with the game.
I liked the idea a lot. The presentation and flow reminded me a lot of the gaming reaction videos that are a core part of YouTube. One host or maybe several people play a game like Fortnite while providing a running commentary. Or in some cases, the provide the commentary over an aggregation of gaming highlights. The Freeform version would have been very familiar to teens who spend a lot of time watching YouTube and it's an audience that can easily be captured with a more gammified presentation.
The NFL releases ten-minute or so game highlight videos to its YouTube channel and if I were the league, I would seriously consider releasing "Watch Party" highlights reels next season. Hire some of the YouTubers who are already cranking out reaction videos for Madden and give them the opportunity to reach a new audience. And bring along some of their own.
Nickelodeon did the NFC wild card game between the Chicago Bears & the New Orleans Saints and to be honest, the goofball Nickelodeon presentation was the only thing that made the one-sided game tolerable to watch. There were a lot of expected Nickelodeon add-ons, including virtual slime cannons that went off during touchdowns. And some of the technology - like the brightly colored digital yard lines - didn't always work. But it was fun and it felt like something a kid would like to watch.
NFL Football can be a complicated game for novices and there are so many arcane rules that traditional NFL broadcasts just assume most viewers understand. Former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson did color commentator for the game, and he did an exceptional job of explaining even the simplest game rules in a way that was geared towards kids without being dumbed down. At one point, he explained that moving the ball down the field was the homework and getting the ball into the Red Zone was the test. Which is just the perfect way to describe game play to a 10-year-old.
I have no idea what the future is for these niche-specific NFL broadcasts. But I can't think of a better way to build a new generation of football fans, especially in a generation that has heard mostly bad things about the sport.
I will also note that there was an exceptional amount of ill-advised social media dragging of the experiments by older media reporters who should know better. If a broadcast is aimed at 20-year-olds and you're 60...well, maybe you should cut back on the snark and talk to some viewers in the target demographic.
DISCOVERY+ IS NOT QUIBI
The new streaming service Discovery+ has only been out for a week and I'm already seeing some analysts comparing it to Quibi. For instance, here is a bit of the comparison from Andrew A. Rosen:
My biggest issue with discovery+’s strategy is this, as I wrote on Monday:
“discovery+ reflects a bet that the limitations of the OTT model can be bulldozed with the power of TV personalities and globally known linear TV brands.”
But, when thinking about Product Channel fit, the most successful strategies outside of Netflix have either been IP-focused (Disney) or Genre-focused (AMC, STARZ).
discovery+ falls into neither bucket.
Quibi made a similar mistake, banking on the power of Hollywood celebrity and globally known linear TV brands to “bulldoze” its way into the OTT streaming marketplace.
I really like Rosen's work and he is always worth reading. But I couldn't disagree more with his premise. The old maxim "everything looks like a nail to a hammer" fits pretty well in this instance. Quibi's main problem weren't channel distribution, partnerships or "product channel fit." Quibi failed because no one has been able to convince customers to pay for a mobile-centric streaming service. It's true that Quibi would have better served if it had allowed screen sharing from the beginning, so that users could cast the video to their televisions. But that technical flaw (along with not allowing screenshots) wasn't the main cause of Quibi's demise. It failed because there just aren't many people willing to pay a monthly subscription fee to watch serialized short films on their mobile device.
WHAT'S ON TODAY:
Here is a rundown of the new television programs premiering today:
1) All American Stories (The CW)
Ths special profiles eight incredible athletes who overcame unimaginable obstacles in their relentless pursuit of greatness. Yogi Roth sits down with each athlete and as they share their story in a unique and powerful way, with additional insight and commentary provided by co-host Spencer Paysinger, who triumphed over his own obstacles to make it to the NFL
2) A Little Late With Lilly Singh Season Premiere (NBC)
Comedian, actress, social media sensation, producer and author Lilly Singh bring her unique perspective to late night. Singh hosts celebrity interviews, talks current events, performs musical and sketch comedy, plays games and more.
3) CRACK: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy (Netflix)
In the early 1980s, the crack epidemic tore through America’s inner cities like a tsunami, ravaging all in its wake. Decades later, the destructive effects on people’s lives, families and communities are still deeply felt. Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy examines not only the personal devastation caused by the drug, but also the shadowy origins of the crisis and the resultant, ongoing marginalization of Black and Brown people trapped by the U.S. prison and healthcare systems.
4) Finding Joy Season Two Premiere (Acorn TV)
Encouraged by her stint as an internet sensation, the thirtysomething lifestyle vlogger Joy Morris (Huberman) establishes her own video channel and continues to try new things outside of her comfort zone to help achieve happiness and fulfillment. She hopes to make it big as an online influencer, but attracting subscribers and sponsors is harder than it seems.
5) Independent Lens: A Day In The Life Of America (PBS)
Director Jared Leto crafts a sweeping yet intimate cross-section of America shot on a single July 4th in 2017 with 92 film crews fanning out across each of the United States and Puerto Rico to capture A Day in the Life of America. A gargantuan production shot over a single 24-hour period across the country, the film weaves a wide range of beliefs and backgrounds into a rich tapestry of life.
6) Straight Up Steve Austin Season Premiere (USA)
WWE Hall of Famer "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and a celebrity guest get real, heading out to different cities across America to take part in one-of-a-kind adventures, while swapping stories about their lives and careers. It’s a unique twist on the standard interview show, with no studio, no couch and no cue cards -- just a straight up good time and good old-fashioned American fun.
7) Street Outlaws Season Premiere (Discovery)
Oklahoma’s Top Ten List has produced the fastest street cars in history. But when the 405 focused on dominating the track in No Prep Kings, other street racers and their teams have risen to the top as they and their cars have gotten faster. Now, it’s a new era and the OG of the streets, Chief, has a plan to build this crew better...stronger...and faster. But they’ll have to push their cars – and themselves - harder than ever. No one can dominate the street like the 405. And to prove it, Chief drops a bombshell this season that will up the stakes of street racing in America forever.
8) Street Outlaws: Mega Cash Days Season Premiere (Discovery)
All of the Street Outlaws all-stars are back, but this time, it’s every man or woman for themself. While no strangers to the popular Cash Days, these drivers have never seen a double elimination competition to this scale. With more racers and more money on the line, they’re gearing up for a MEGA race with A $600,000 prize pool on the line. Hosted by race-master Boosted GT (Chris Hamilton)
9) Ty Breaker Series Premiere (HGTV)
Popular carpenter, craftsman and designer Ty Pennington will help conflicted homeowners decide whether to overhaul their current home or renovate a different property to suit their needs in the new HGTV series Ty Breaker. Premiering on Monday, Jan. 11, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, each of the eight hour-long episodes will feature one of HGTV’s savvy design experts: Alison Victoria (Windy City Rehab), Grace Mitchell (One of a Kind) or Sabrina Soto (The High Low Project), as she tries to persuade the family to let her create a beautifully customized new place. Meanwhile, Ty, who spends quality time with each family to find out about their property’s problem areas, will strive for clients to stay put and enjoy a whole-home renovation. The friendly competition will up the ante between Ty and the starring guest expert as each vies to impress clients with stunning home renovation options. Two design plans will be presented, but only one will be the "Ty Breaker."
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