One of the less-understood facets of entertainment journalism in 2016 is that a certain percentage of a journalist's daily story output is based primarily on facts gleaned from a press release. An example of this are stories that don't need any additional context: premiere dates, executive changes, standard announcements and casting information. Granted, the Hollywood trade outlets have taken the "rewrite the press release" to a new level by negotiating for early access to the press release to they can slap together a quick, rewritten "exclusive." But at the end of the day, it's all a pretty easy piece of journalism.
Unless, of course, you don't understand the basic facts contained in the press release. Which can lead to some embarrassing mistakes in your story.
On Tuesday, Lionsgate and Vimeo announced a deal which would allow Vimeo to sell Lionsgate's TV content in its global TV marketplace. Here is the press release and the details seem pretty clearly laid out in the release:
Lionsgate will supply Vimeo's global store with virtually its entire catalog of television series led by the blockbuster Orange is the New Black, the Golden Globe-nominated dramedy Casual, the hit series The Royals, the iconic Emmy Award-winning drama Mad Men and other catalog titles including Weeds, Nurse Jackie, Boss, Blue Mountain State and Manhattan. Lionsgate movie titles will be added to the Vimeo service for rental in the U.S. subsequent to launch.
Despite the clarity of the release, an amazing number of entertainment news web sites somehow convinced themselves that what the release actually meant was that Lionsgate was licensing content to Vimeo for a new OTT streaming service that will compete with Netflix, beginning in October.
Granted, both companies have some skin in the OTT market. Lionsgate owns several niche OTT services and Vimeo owns a company that provides a turnkey service for companies who want to run their own OTT service. But neither of those services is mentioned in the press release.
The Hollywood Reporter got the story only somewhat wrong. Their coverage just quickly rewrote the press release, but it added a bit of incorrect context:
By investing in TV fare, Vimeo is looking to compete against Netflix as a streaming service. "They (Lionsgate) are the first of many top Hollywood studios we expect to attract in the months to come," Diller added.
The piece in the A.V. Club seems based on a post in Deadline, which was apparently based on the press release. Either the Deadline piece was tweaked at some point or the A.V. Club writer just really misunderstood their story. But regardless, the A.V. Club piece doubled down on the streaming component with the paragraph show above.
But the winner in today's edition of "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" was the Investors Business Daily, who went full-Netflix in their headline (shown in the image at the top of this story. As a bonus, they also referred to Lionsgate in their headline as "Lions Gate."
What all three stories had in common was that none of the reporters had checked with anyone at Vimeo or Lionsgate to make sure they correctly understood the basic facts of the story,
I reached out to Vimeo and within a few minutes received confirmation that the deal is not an effort to compete with Netflix:
This television store will be part of Vimeo’s marketplace not a branded SVOD channel.
All of this matters for two different reasons. First, in this aggregation-friendly news environment, this story is likely to be inaccurately repeated for the next week. But even more importantly, the actual news story is important. Vimeo's efforts to launch a global transactional TV marketplace is of real importance to Hollywood. But unfortunately the real news was partially buried by sloppy aggregation.