Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, October 12th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is trying to get caught up on all of its unread emails.
NETFLIX CO-CEO TED SARANDOS AND THE ART OF THE TONE DEAF EMAIL
I don't write much about Bill Maher because at this point, the only purpose of his HBO series is to give the nation's hot take commentariat something to complain about on Saturdays. The entire process is predictable to the point of being soul-sucking. Maher says some unimaginatively stupid thing, people write about him and then he follows up by mocking his critics as being thin-skinned and clueless. He's television's answer to a guy standing on a street corner calling people names until someone finally punches him. Then he complains and calls the cops. Maher is a professional troll and while I admire his career ingenuity, I'm in no mood to help him by highlighting his latest trollness.
I have come to the point where I feel the same way about Dave Chappelle. Yes, Chappelle is a comedy genius. Although I don't think anyone is as funny as he is convinced he is. But in recent years, Chappelle has embraced his inner old guy and cranked out a series of comedy specials that are an uneasy mix of lazy joke telling and purposefully provocative bits that he knows will enrage some segment of his viewers. It often feels as if Chappelle realizes on some level that the current comedy scene has passed him by. So his answer is to become this generation's Don Rickles: a tired, predictable crank who alternates between repeating insulting characterizations and shrugging off criticism with a half-hearted "I kid, but I love everyone!"
Click here to read the rest of my piece on the Chappelle email from Ted Sarandos.
It's also worth noting that I am hearing Sarandos is sitting down with a major publication to do a "clarification" interview. Which is a pretty good indication that things on the PR front are not going as well as expected.
THERE ARE PREDICTIONS AND THEN THERE ARE PREDICTIONS
Even analysts whose careers involve making predictions on the future of television and streaming will admit that most estimates are at best a bit of leap of faith. Predicting out a year or two is relatively easy, but once you get out past that you are making assumptions based on a set of facts that will likely change in ways you can't predict.
Still, companies make lots of money writing up projections that no one will ever fact check. Which brings me to this piece in The Hollywood Reporter, which reports that a study from Digital TV Research projects Disney+ will surpass Netflix in total global SVOD subscriptions in 2026:
“Three platforms will control nearly half the world’s SVOD subscriptions by 2026,” according to Digital TV Research. “Disney+ will be the biggest winner, overtaking Netflix in 2025. Disney+ will add 140 million subscribers between 2021 and 2026 to bring its total to 284 million. About 121 million of Disney+’ subscribers (43 percent of its total) in 2026 will be in the 13 Asian countries under the Hotstar brand.”
If some of these figures sound unlikely, then you are not alone. I heard from a number of people on Monday (including some from Netflix and Amazon) who questioned the conclusions.
It's difficult for me to crunch the numbers, since I don't have a copy of the report and can't doublecheck the methodology. I did spend some time comparing some of the previous projections by Digital TV Research and while they do an okay job with projections a year out, some of their long-term estimates are painfully off. Like this projection from 2018:
The Netflix estimate isn't horrifically far off - maybe 30-40 million away from the likely number. But the Amazon estimate is off by 100 million or so. Which is outside the margin of error for anyone.
Still, nothing is as embarrassing as this 2018 projection from Ark Invest, which suggested Netflix could have 400 million global subscribers by 2023.
WALMART LAUNCHES MASSIVE ONLINE DESTINATION FOR NETFLIX-BRANDED MERCHANDISE
One of the biggest criticisms of Netflix from media industry analysts is that the company doesn't have the type of marketable titles that can spin off consumer merchandise hits.
It appears that the streaming service disagrees and on Monday it announced a wide-ranging deal with Walmart that includes a large online destination for Netflix fans called "Netflix Hub At Walmart." The digital store will showcase come of Netflix's most popular shows with items that range from hats and action figures to a Bluetooth cassette player. Some of the items will also be available on a limited basis in some Walmart physical stores.
This is not the first time Netflix shows have spawned related merchandise and the company had previously had a deal with Target for a line of Stranger Things merchandise. But this hub is by far the largest deal signed by the company and it comes days after a deal with the UK online retailer Zavvi for Squid Game merchandise.
One of the notable aspects of the Netflix/Walmart hub is that there is a big focus on the streaming service's kids programing, including the wildly popular Cocomelon and the Netflix original series Ada Twist, Scientist. The latter show was the result of a production deal Netflix made with writer/producer Chris Nees, which well may become one the smartest deals the company has made in recent years.
Walmart and Netflix are also currently running a promotion for the Netflix series Nailed It. In the promotion, fans who buy a baking kit at Walmart can participate in a virtual bake-off on October 16th and October 23rd. You can find more information on that promotion on this page.
A Walmart spokesperson told me on background that the merchandise will be regularly updated to reflect the interests of Netflix viewers. And according to the spokesperson, the decision to make the merchandise primarily available online allowed the companies to produce smaller runs of some items and be more agile about the mix of merchandise offered to consumers.
TWEET OF THE DAY
ODDS AND SODS
* Epic Games may make a Fortnite movie.
* Crackle has just added the 1986 ABC drama Starman to its classic TV lineup. Set 15 years after the John Carpenter movie of the same name (which you probably don't remember now), the series stars Robert Hays.
* Sony Pictures TV set to acquire producer Bad Wolf
SEE YOU WEDNESDAY!