Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Thursday, August 26th, 2021

Post by: Rick Ellis 26 August, 2021

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Thursday, August 26th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by quiche provided by ABC.

There won't be a newsletter tomorrow. I am going to be offline much of the day doing some family stuff and short of some show business meltdown forcing me back to my laptop, the next time you'll hear from me is Monday. But the web site will continue posting things throughout Friday and the weekend.

Michael Eisner was the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company from September 1984 to September 2005 and in many ways defined the post-Walt Disney vision of the company. After he left Disney in 2005, he founded the investment firm The Tornante Company, which invests in, acquires, and operates media and entertainment companies.

Like all investment companies - particularly in the media/entertainment sphere - the company has had mixed results over the years. But one of Eisner's biggest gambles was set to pay off big this month - to the tune of as much as $600 million. Until last week happened, that is.

In 2007, the Tornante Company and the private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners bought the Topps Company Inc. for $385 million. While it's best known for its trading card business, Topps has been making nearly $250 million per year in revenue from its non-physical businesses. In fact, 35% of its total revenue in 2020 came from its confections business, which owns iconic names such as Bazooka gum and PushPop. But still, trading cards are the biggest part of its business, headed up by the company's 70-year relationship with Major League Baseball.

In the past couple of years, total revenue at Topps has soared, thanks to an increased interest in trading cards. Revenue in 2019 was $460 million and the ultimate 2021 revenue was estimated to top $850 million. The company was doing so well that Eisner had helped engineered a deal which would take the company public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that valued the business at $1.3 billion. If successful, the deal would have personally made Eisner nearly $600 million. 

But that all ended last Wednesday, when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred called Eisner to let him know that the league and its players’ association had decided to end its relationship with Topps and go with rival Fanatics instead, beginning in 2026. Fanatics doesn't have any experience in the card business, but it does have about $330 million in fresh capital, as well as the backing of Jay-Z and the iconic venture capital firms Silver Lake and SoftBank. Topps was given the opportunity to beat the offer from Fanatics, but the company doesn't have the resources to get into a bidding war with a rival that has a market capitalization 14 times bigger.

Within 24 hours, the deal to take Topps public was dead and so was Eisner's chance to end 2021 with $600 million or so more in the bank. 

Variety's Todd Spangler takes a look at the challenges facing Hulu, which is set to potentially lose some or all of its shows provided by the various NBCU networks in 2022:

Starting in 2022, NBCUniversal will have the right to cancel most of its content-licensing agreements with Hulu and could decide to bring its programming exclusively to Peacock. Analysts say ViacomCBS (which has launched Paramount Plus) and Fox Corp. (which owns free, ad-supported streamer Tubi) also are likely to claw their programs back from the streamer.

While this is true, the reality is a bit more nuanced than Spangler's piece suggests. It's true that NBCU could pull all of its programming. But Comcast would have to the annual fee it gets from Hulu for providing the programming and Comcast seems disinclined to give up any substantial revenue stream. And it's a similar story with Viacom/CBS. There's no real incentive to pull content from Hulu. It's additional revenue and much of the CBS lineup is already missing on Hulu. 

But Spangler is correct about Hulu's original content problem. It spends substantially less than its competitors and given that it the service hasn't expanded internationally, it seems un likely to have the resources available to compete with the big streamers. And while Hulu has managed to produce some buzzy titles, what viewing data we do have suggests that with a couple of exceptions, its original programming does better with the press than with the public.

There continues to be speculation that Disney will eventually convert Hulu into Star, which is the more adult-oriented streaming service bundled with Disney+ outside the U.S. Disney executives continue to talk that idea down publicly and it's true that the plan would face some complications given the Hulu Live TV packaging and branding. But whatever happens, its clear that Hulu continues to struggle to find its niche in an increasingly crowded market.

ABC and Disney+ did presentations in front of the TV critics of the TCA today. There were panels for BigSky, Dancing with the Stars, Queens, The Wonder Years and the Disney+ Doogie Howser update Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.

Here are some tidbits of news that came out of the sessions:

* ABC announced today that it had given the greenlight to Judge Steve Harvey, a 10-episode courtroom comedy series that will premiere in 2022.

* John Carroll Lynch will be returning to Big Sky for season two.

* ABC announced in the Dancing with the Stars panel the first two celebrity cast members as part of the 30th season, gold medal Olympian Suni Lee and pop star JoJo Siwa. They will appear on Good Morning America for their first sit-down interview tomorrow, and again when the remaining cast is revealed Wednesday, September 8th. The new season of Dancing With The Stars premieres on September 10th.

* In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort, ABC will present The Most Magical Story on Earth: 50 Years of Walt Disney World, premiering on Friday, October 1st.

* The September 22nd season premiere episode of The Connors will be the show's second live episode, with the cast doing the episode live for both the East and West coast airings.

A new study released by Digital TV Research estimates that Netflix will end the year with 2.6 million subscribers in Africa and may more than double that to 5.8 million by the end of 2026:

Netflix’s market share will fall from 51 percent at the end of this year to 39 percent by 2026. Disney+ will launch in the region in 2022, “but only in an expected 12 countries, with 2.17 million paying subscribers forecast by 2026,” the company said. That will make the Disney streamer the No. 2 in the region in 2026, the research firm projects.

Meanwhile, Digital TV Research predicts Amazon will grow from 575,000 subscribers this year to nearly 1.93 million in 2026; and Apple TV+ is projected to climb from 121,000 to 304,000 subscribers.

The study also notes that the slow global rollout by some streamers has given smaller regional platforms the chance to consolidate its audience:

Showmax, owned by South African pay TV giant MultiChoice, is currently ranked second with an estimated 861,000 subscribers at the end of 2021. And the company predicts it will reach 2.12 million in five years.

Showmax in late August launched its eighth original in eight months, Temptation Island South Africa. And it unveiled “a diverse slate of eight more series, and three more movies,” including Showmax’s first telenovela, romantic comedy and scripted West African original.

* The filmed version of the award-winning Broadway musical Come From Away, will premiere globally on Apple TV+ on September 10th.

* The new Tyler Perry Studios drama All The Queen's Men premieres September 9th on BET+.

* As part of its back-to-school programming, Tubi will debut a new summer original comedy, Tales Of A Fifth Grade Robin Hood. Starring Jon Lovitz, the movie premieres on Friday, August 27th.

* Filmrise has grabbed the AVOD rights to the British drama Line of Duty.


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Last modified on Thursday, 26 August 2021 16:25