Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, November 24th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is already preparing some of the dishes for our Thanksgiving Day carbfest. Which may have some connection as to why this newsletter is running late today.
As is the case with pretty much every other newsletter, today's edition will be the last one of the week. And given the lack of news, a bit shorter than normal. This year in particular it feels as if we all need a mental palate cleanse and a couple of days away from our normal concerns. I plan to spend some quality time with family and friends. I hope you are able to do the same.
I also wanted to take time to let all of you know how thankful I am for your support. The newsletter has grown from less than 1,000 subscribers a year ago to more than 18,000 today. I appreciate every one of you.
AMAZON BUILDING LIVE SPORTS EMPIRE
Front Office Sports is reporting that Amazon is the front-runner to acquire a stake in the NFL's sprawling media empire. That includes the NFL Network, NFL Red Zone and NFL.com. Amazon is also the first streamer to land an NFL game package:
Starting in 2022, Amazon Prime Video will become the first streaming service to control an exclusive package of NFL games, paying $1 billion a year for the rights to “Thursday Night Football.” The relationship between NFL goes back years, including Amazon Web Services providing the computing power for NFL’s Next Gen Stats starting in 2015 and Amazon is in its fifth season of streaming Thursday games on a non-exclusive basis.
“There’s so much we don’t know about what could be in the deal,” said Ed Desser, president of Desser Media and former president of NBA Television and New Media Ventures. “The NFL is also very, very good about going to the dance with the one that brought it. Amazon has now been in the family for years. They get a preferred position just like the other major networks.”
DEADLINE LOVES EXCLUSIVES...EVEN IF IT INVOLVES MEANINGLESS STREAMING DATA POINTS
All of the streaming services are pushing out very vague viewership data points and I think it's the responsibility of journalists to treat the numbers with a great deal of skepticism. Don't just be a stenographer and pass along the "numbers." Provide some context and reinforce the fact that whatever data is being shared is of limited value.
Or you can handle the numbers the way Deadline does. That publication has received several "exclusives" lately which involve just repeating whatever facts are provided without any scrutiny, in exchange for getting the data first.
The latest example of the practice is this piece, which reports on Amazon's joy over initial viewing data from its new series The Wheel Of Time:
"We can firmly say that Wheel of Time was the most watched series premiere of the year and one of the Top 5 series launches of all time for Prime Video,” Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke told Deadline about the debut, acknowledging that the company — like most streamers — "try to figure out how transparent we are going to be in the future" with ratings.
Prime Video is among the SVOD platforms that do not disclose viewership data but Salke revealed that "there were tens and tens of millions of streams" for The Wheel Of Time in the first three days of its release, with the US, India, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany as the top countries.
Salke would not disclose further viewership information about The Wheel Of Time premiere but said that “it’s definitely trending to exceed our expectations which were high.”
Forget the issues of viewership data. Amazon won't even report how many of its Amazon Prime subscribers actually use the bundled Amazon Prime Video service each month.
But wait, we also get some vague social media datapoints as well:
In an encouraging sign for The Wheel Of Time‘s longevity, the series’ first three episode made available at launch also logged some of the highest completion rates on the service ever, Salke added. Additionally, according to third party TV-I, The Wheel of Time was the #1 series on social across all releases last weekend and is the biggest Amazon Original series on social this year.
Look, agreeing to hype some specific talking point in order to get an interview is a tactic as old as journalism. The irony is that Deadline didn't even get a good interview. Salke provides some vague "everything is going great at Amazon, we couldn't be happier" comments. Which is fine if all you want is to be able to promote "Hey, we've got this interview." But the entire piece is pretty forgettable and all it does is provide Prime Video PR with some good clips.
I'm not one of these people that thinks streaming services should be providing lots of very specific viewer and demographic numbers. But they can do better and the only way that is going to happen is if the industry press continues to press them at every opportunity.
A MESSAGE FROM NBC NEWS
NBC News NOW streams more live, original hours than any other major news organization — and we're still growing.
Hear from voices like Tom Llamas, Hallie Jackson, Lester Holt, Savannah Sellers and more.
Watch NBC News NOW for free, 24/7, wherever you stream.
DUBBING AUDIO IS EXPENSIVE
While the issue came to public attention after complaints surfaced about the audio dubbing on Nertflix's The Squid Game, dubbing audio has always been an issue for streamers. It's not just that it's difficult to find reliable dubbing services, it's that it's expensive. So much so that a number of smaller streamers have opted not to offer an English-language audio dub at all, instead relying on English subtitles.
Dubbing isn't any cheaper for linear networks and it's interesting to see how they are handling the problem. Discovery's Science Channel has been running science specials on Sunday nights and they seem to have been originally produced by one of Discovery's networks in Europe or Asia. The network has opted to dub the narration into English, but in many cases, the interviews and other audio is just subtitled. Which can be a bit awkward as you watch it, although the specials have been uniformly worth making the extra effort.
This is related to my piece in yesterday's newsletter about streaming UI/UX.
I didn't realize you could remove items frim the "keep watching" on Netflix's mobile app. But in some ways, this makes the absence of the feature on the other platforms even more annoying.
TWEET OF THE DAY
ODDS AND SODS
* If you are interested in watching successful TV chefs building the kitchen of their dreams, then you're the target audience for two new streaming specials. My Dream Kitchen: Giada De Laurentiis and My Dream Kitchen: Carla Hall will both premiere Saturday, December 18th on discovery+.
* Episodes of The Rockford Files are coming to Get TV on January 3rd.
SEE YOU MONDAY!