Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Friday, July 30th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by memories of the beach...
I am not back from vacation, but I am home and here with a mini-newsletter. I'm back for real beginning Monday.
I managed to mostly stay away from work-related news this week and what little talking I did about television was trying to explain to "civilians" why they couldn't watch more of the live Olympic coverage on Peacock. And while I understand all of the business reasons why NBCU had to protect their linear Olympic partners and split the live coverage over multiple platforms, it was an incredibly difficult decision to explain to consumers. And, while I'm no marketing expert, I suspect that the average consumer's expectations for what they can watch at "America's Home For The Olympics" was a bit different than what they found when they logged into Peacock.
Speaking of Peacock, I am astounded by the number of entertainment outlets that posted headlines this week touting Peacock's reported "54 million signups" metric. Sign-ups are only a slightly less mushy data point than tracking how many people downloaded the Peacock app. Even the subscriber number without context has limited value, since Comcast is providing a free subscription to its television subscribers.
The numbers I really want to learn are the ones Peacock is not going to provide publicly. How many paid subscriptions does Peacock have? How many people continued their subscription after their pre-launch annual subscription deal expired recently? (FWIW, Peacock offered me a deal to reup my Premium subscription for a year at the discounted rate). How many people who received a free subscription via Comcast or another MVPD have actually regularly used the service?
I find myself remaining skeptical that Peacock is building a value proposition for potential subscribers. It's not the service's problem launching originals, although that certainly remains a problem. Like Paramount+, Peacock just seems like it's not part of the conversation for most people and that's an issue in the long-term.
ON THE PR FRONT
I'll try not to get too inside baseball with this, but it's worth noting that the virtual TCAs begin next week, with the network and streaming service presentations to critics happening a few days a week over a six-week period. I finally decided to join this year after a decade or so of back-and-forth conversations about its role in the changing face of television. For what it's worth, I'm proud to be part of an organization filled with a lot of talented critics. I still believe the way TV shows are promoted often feels relatively unchanged from 20 years ago. But that's more of a industry problem than one with the TCA or any other specific organization.
One consequence of the pandemic for critics was that most of the interview opportunities and press junkets moved online. Which was really helpful for people like myself who are located outside of the Hollywood/NYC entertainment news complex. It gave me access to people I wouldn't have been able to speak with otherwise and I hope that doesn't completely disappear. Although I am already hearing from some networks who are moving back to live events, even if they are held in socially distanced venues such as driveins.
I know Zoom calls can be exhausting, especially when you are an actor or creator who has to spend the entire day speaking with journalists. But I can't help thinking that doing a series of ten-minute video calls from home is a lot easier than doing those horrible press junkets at some Hollywood-area hotel.
I DON'T CARE ABOUT MICHAEL CHE
One of the upsides of working for myself is that I get to choose what stories matter to me. So while the "troll says something stupid on social media" story has become a reliable traffic generator for entertainment sites of all sizes, I tend to ignore them even when I'm not on vacation. And I certainly wouldn't wade in a with a quick hot take on Michael Che's Instagram jokes about Simon Biles.
I will say that the incident illustrates what I dislike about his work on SNL and his HBO Max series, That Damn Michael Che. There is a strain of modern comedy that can best be described as "smug six-year-old pretends to be surprised when you are insulted" and Che mines that point of view with all the humor and predictability of late-stage Jerry Lewis. Che says the things he does because he confuses being cutting edge with being a jackass. And in more ways that he would probably like to admit, Che is not all that different than political trolls such as Ben Shapiro, who have managed to carve out successful careers saying stupid things, laughing at anyone who takes his comments seriously and then moving on to the next topic. I refuse to get sucked into this Ferris Wheel of ginned-up outrage, no matter how outrageous the comments might be.
Back in the dinosaur days of Twitter, it used to be common on Fridays to share the Twitter handle of people you believed were worth following. I figured I should end this mini-newsletter on a more optimistic note and I decided the best way would be to revive the "Follow Friday" tradition.
If you are a fan of Big Brother, you should be following Linda Martindale, who has been recapping the show for AllYourScreens. Her Twitter handle is @ThePopCulWriter and she knows the show as well as anyone I've read. I'm proud to have her contributing to the site and I'd appreciate if you'd give her a follow.
SEE YOU ON MONDAY WITH A FULL-SIZED NEWSLETTER!