Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Post by: Rick Ellis 18 November, 2021

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Thursday, November 18th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is mentally adjusting to seeing the first snow flurries of the winter.

Innovation is hard and it's even more difficult to innovate in a way that can potentially disrupt your business model. It's why Blockbuster famously decided not to buy Netflix when that company was still a DVD-in-the-mail service. It's hard to make a decision on faith and turn your back on the status quo that is still providing predictable income.

HBO has a reputation for making smart decisions, but a new oral history of the company reveals that it has made its share of bad decisions over the years. Including passing on the chance to buy Netflix for about $1 billion.

That's just one of the stories from James Andrew Miller's new book "Tinderbox: HBO's Ruthless Pursuit Of New Frontiers," which is an absolutely fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the company:

In 2005, two years before Netflix got into the streaming business, some HBO executives were pushing the company to do the same thing. They wanted HBO to use the internet to sell subscriptions directly to consumers instead of wholesaling their product to the big cable TV distributors.

A year later, after passing on that idea, HBO considered another move that would have rewritten media history: Some of its executives wanted HBO to buy Netflix, which at the time was a DVD rent-by-mail business worth around $1 billion.

Netflix is now worth some $300 billion. And HBO, which didn’t start selling its own Netflix-like service until 2015, is under pressure to keep up with not only Netflix but a host of streaming competitors, like Disney+, Peacock, and Amazon Prime Video. Meanwhile, HBO’s parent company has changed three times in the last three years.

Vox's Peter Kafka has a really good interview on the Recode Media podcast, which can be found here or on your favorite podcast service. 

My favorite story is from very early in the history of HBO, which at one point gave away free turkeys to new subscribers.


Ed Sheeran will star in a special performance for Pokémon GO Trainers (players). In celebration of the release of his new album, "=" (Equals), Pokémon GO Trainers will be able to enjoy some of Sheeran’s latest tracks as well as classic hits via an intimate, pre-recorded performance video accessible through Pokémon GO.

Debuting on November 22nd in Pokémon GO, the video features Ed Sheeran performing some of his biggest chart-topping songs, including: "Perfect," "Bad Habits," "Overpass Graffiti," "Thinking Out Loud," "First Time," and "Shivers." The performance video will be available for viewing for eight days only, beginning November 22nd at 11:00 a.m. PST through November 30th at 1:00 p.m. PST. 

Players can also redeem a special code to receive an exclusive in-game avatar item in Pokémon GO featuring Ed Sheeran’s "=" album art, which he wears during his special performance.

A new streaming service devoted to French cinema has launched in the United States and Canada. Cinessance boasts a catalogue of classic and modern French cinema. The streamer is available for $6.99 per month in the United States, and offers films with subtitles in French and English along with pay-per-view options.

Cinessance launches on iOS and Android with support at launch for casting via Chromecast and AirPlay. Support for smart TVs will be available in the future. 

Clément Monnet, Cinessance Founder & CEO, said in a statement "I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to watch a French movie and couldn’t find it online. Like many French expats, I try to stay connected with my roots and to share my culture with others, so I couldn’t be more excited to share the gift of French film via Cinessance."

I'll have a more in-depth look at the service once I've had the chance to try it out.

Variety's Brian Steinberg has an in-depth look at how NBC and The Today Show are working towards "future-proofing" the show by rolling out digital content in hopes of keeping the show relevant to younger viewers:

Guthrie’s “Marathon” short likely won’t snare the hundreds of thousands of viewers who regularly watch “Today,” but segments like it are starting to carry as much significance to NBC and its corporate parent, Comcast, as the two hours of morning TV she helps lead each weekday. NBC already produces more hours of “Today” every week than there are in the primetime schedule of its broadcast rival, Fox. But in recent months, NBC News has been expanding morning TV’s longest-running national program into something quite different. “Today” producers estimate on a weekly basis they are making 200 on-air segments, 35 streaming shows, 200 digital videos, 23 podcast episodes and 10 TikToks. The result? Executives believe “Today,” outfitted with an “All Day” video-streaming service, can compete with other big lifestyle media outlets.

So what does this look like for viewers? This might be the core takeaway paragraph:

They believe there is a large swath of young consumers who do not watch “Today” on TV, or in the morning, but would be interested in the regular newsmaker exchanges with Guthrie and Kotb; the trending topics covered by Carson Daly; Jenna Bush Hager’s book club; expanded versions of Willie Geist’s Sunday interviews; Al Roker’s dabbling in cooking and concerns about climate; Jill Martin’s “Steals & Deals”; and reams of information on parenting, wellness and consumer finance. And the best of the digital stuff can feed segments on the morning show too.

Consequently, “Today” mainstays are adding to plates that are already quite full. The streaming “all-day” channel mixes highlights, archival segments, original video programming and extended cuts of interviews that don’t fit in the regimented formats of broadcast TV. NBC distributes it via its streaming hub, Peacock, as well as the stand- alone NBC News Now service, but it’s also available on YouTube, Fox’s Tubi, ViacomCBS’ Pluto and certain connected TV services like Roku and Apple TV. Kotb and Guthrie host a half-hour highlights show each weekday that presents standout segments from the program’s four morning hours.

The real question in this (and it's not something that's addressed in the piece) is whether younger viewers will be interested in digital content from Savannah Guthrie or Al Roker. Or whether they'd rather see newer, younger faces who aren't so old-school in their presentation and thinking.

And to me, that's the weakness in NBC's digital news plans. Whether it's The Today Show, NBC News or MSNBC, there is a reliance on existing talent that the company sees as a strength. But I believe in the long-run, it's also a weakness.


TLC has announced four fan-favorite shows will be returning in the first quarter of 2022: Darcey & Stacey (January 10th), Dr. Pimple Popper (February 16th), Doubling Down With The Derricos (February 22nd) and Unexpected (March 6th)

* Hulu's How I Met Your Father will premiere on January 18th, 2022. The logline: In the near future, Sophie (Hilary Duff) is telling her son the story of how she met his father: a story that catapults us back to the year 2021 where Sophie and her close-knit group of friends are in the midst of figuring out who they are, what they want out of life, and how to fall in love in the age of dating apps and limitless options. 

* Netflix's The Crown has cast its Prince William for seasons five and six. Senan West takes over from Josh O’Conner as Prince Charles. Elizabeth Debicki will play his mother Princess Diana for the final two seasons, replacing Emma Corrin.


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Last modified on Thursday, 18 November 2021 09:23