Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Friday, November 19th, 2021

Post by: Rick Ellis 19 November, 2021

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Friday, November 19th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is listening to this Spotify playlist called "Coolest Jukebox In Your Favorite Southern Dive Bar."

I think one thing about Disney+ that is clear to both supporters and skeptics of the streaming service is that it needs more breakout shows that aren't simply brand extensions of Marvel and Star Wars IP. The Information's Jessica Toonkel has a good look at some of the issues standing in the way of that happening. And while there are a myriad of factors, a primary one is related to the way the service greenlights new projects:

More than a dozen current and former Disney employees, along with people who work closely with the company, told The Information that part of the pipeline problems stem from a decision by Disney CEO Bob Chapek a little over a year ago to separate the teams responsible for creating content from those controlling budgets and distribution. The changes have added an extra layer of meetings and discussions before decisions can be made on everything from budgets for new projects to renewals of existing ones, they say.

For example, even though Disney executives first saw a script in the spring for a Percy Jackson series for Disney+—based on a character from the fantasy novel franchise who discovers he’s the son of the Greek god Poseidon—the show isn’t expected to start shooting until early next year, according to two people familiar with the situation. The Disney reorganization, along with a series of executive departures, has bogged down the production of the Disney+ show, which was originally announced in 2020, said current employees.

Contrast that with Netflix, where recent reorganizations have given multiple executives the ability to greenlight projects in their particular area of expertise. Also, regional production heads also have the ability to greenlight and produce programming independent of the home office, which has allowed the company to simultaneously create content across the globe. 

By contrast, a recent company reorganization at Disney seems to have made the situation worse, leading to internal battles over who can approve projects and make decisions on core questions such as budgeting:

The goal behind the new structure was, in effect, to let the distribution and creative sides of Disney’s businesses focus on what they do best, similar to how Netflix is organized. But the new structure left many issues unresolved for Disney employees.

For example, Rice’s team is in charge of content marketing for TV shows when those shows first air. After that, however, it’s unclear who is responsible for marketing those shows when and if they appear as reruns on other Disney platforms.

Meanwhile, there’s a disconnect between how members of Rice’s and Daniel’s teams view each other. Members of Rice’s organization see their counterparts in distribution as the people who effectually control the pipes that funnel their content to viewers, and believe they should stay out of creative decisions, people familiar with their thinking said. But executives on Daniel’s distribution team believe they should have some basic input on  the shows going on their platforms and networks, the people said. After all, the distribution executives have access to data on the types of shows that perform well for them.

A larger and more difficult problem to solve is the more existential question of "What Is A Disney+ Show?" A lot of attention is spent by analysts on the issue of whether Disney+ should add more programming for adults without kids. But the problem is deeper than that, since executives seem to be unsure of how mature they want even family-oriented programming to be on the service. Which has led to some awkward decision-making:

Even seemingly tame show themes sometimes sparked controversy within Disney, though. “Big Shot”—a show created by David Kelley about an NCAA basketball coach who gets fired for his temper and ends up coaching a girls’ high school team—originally included a scene where female characters bullied another girl. But Disney+ executives weren’t comfortable portraying bullying and cut the scene, said a person close to the development of the show. ​​

I also have one overall reaction to the piece. After dealing with the various PR and marketing divisions at Disney, these issues seep into every aspect of their streaming businesses. It's often unclear what the marketing message is for content and as a result, some really good original programming at Disney+ (and to a lesser extent, Hulu) has just gotten lost due to muddied messaging.

When the streaming service CBS All-Access launched, one of the first original shows was Star Trek: Discovery. And as additional Star Trek-related original programming premiered (Picard, Lower Decks), executives were very proud of their decision to license the shows to other rival streaming services outside of the North American market. In fact, I remember one executive bragging about the fact that a deal that licensed Star Trek: Discovery to Netflix across the rest of the globe was lucrative enough that it covered the production costs of the show.

But now it's 2021, CBS All-Access is now Paramount+ and that service is beginning to roll out globally. So Viacom/CBS is clawing back global rights to that original programming. Unfortunately for fans, that has meant a delay in watching new episodes of their favorite Star Trek shows:

"A lot of fans, in the UK and around the world, are outraged that they'll have to pay for yet another subscription service to enable them to see Discovery, and eventually the rest of the Star Trek TV series,” says Leckie. Glenn van t’Hof, a Dutch Star Trek fan, is more blunt. “What a dick move to announce this two days before the supposed European release date,” he says. “This is no service to the fans.” Leckie believes the move—which prevents people outside the United States and Canada from seeing season four of Discovery until 2022—will drive many toward pirated versions of the show. The rights deal with Netflix for Star Trek covered 190 countries and territories—but Paramount+ will only be available in 45 countries by the end of 2022. “That leaves three-quarters of their market unable to watch without piracy,” says Leckie.

Verve has a look into one of Netflix's under-appreciated strengths - the money and effort the company has put into its technical infrastructure, including Open Connect:

When many of us fire up our favorite streaming services, we often bump into various fury-making problems: stuff freezes, controls don’t work, or the service crashes entirely. None of these are ideal, but all seem to have become a widely understood cost of cord-cutting. For example, Disney Plus crashed its very first day because its software couldn’t handle the demand (and then it buckled again under demand for WandaVision). HBO Max is so fundamentally broken that its own leadership has admitted that the app is a mess. Even Instagram, whose Stories feature makes it a kind of streaming service in its own right, crashes so frequently it’s started alerting its users when it’s borked. Streaming can be maddening!

A service’s guts, the engineering behind the app itself, are the foundation of any streamer’s success, and Netflix has spent the last 10 years building out an expansive server network called Open Connect in order to avoid many modern streaming headaches. It’s the thing that’s allowed Netflix to serve up a far more reliable experience than its competitors and not falter when some 111 million users tuned in to Squid Game during its earliest weeks on the service.

I'll have more details on Monday to remind you, but here are a few things to watch for next week: JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass (Monday, Showtime), Black & Missing (Tuesday, HBO), Masters of the Universe: Revelation (Tuesday, Netflix), Hawkeye (Wednesday, Disney+), The Beatles: Get Back (Thursday, Disney+), A Castle For Christmas (Friday, Netflix) and How To Win With John Wilson (Friday, HBO Max)


In the most predictable news of 2021, someone has pirated every NFT.

The Roku Channel says it plans to produce up to 50 original shows in the next two years.

* Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2 will premiere January 9th, 2022 on Crunchyroll. 

* Unity agreed to acquire film director Peter Jackson's Weta Digital visual effects studio for more than $1.6 billion.

* The HBO Max original unscripted competition series Finding Magic Mike premieres December 16th.

* Cinedigm has announced that its streaming channel TCN (The Country Network) has just launched on the Roku Channel.

* Growing Up Hip Hop season six premieres January 6th on WE tv.


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Last modified on Friday, 19 November 2021 10:23