Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, August 17th, 2020. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by coffee and sugar-free candy.
IT'S BEEN A FEW DAYS.....
I know that I mentioned previously that this newsletter would take a couple of days off while I launched the updated version of AllYourScreens. But "a couple of days" turned into nearly a week, thanks to a pretty painful launch process. There is still much to tweak - including replacing the current temporary logo - but everything is working and it's nice to have a site that is functional on mobile devices and allows me to properly surface all of the new daily content. Now the big task of manually moving over 10,000 pieces of older content will begin.
For more background on the move, check out this editor's note.
IS THERE A NAME FOR A COMPANY THAT KINDA WORKS DESPITE ITS CULTURE?
I've long been fascinated by the company culture at Viacom, which seems to be the biggest impediment to the company's long-term success in the streaming era. But the recent death of Sumner Redstone has resurfaced a lot of the complaints about Viacom's use of permalancers and an overall terrible record when it comes to crediting (and rewarding) freelance people who create important IP for the company. If you're not familiar with the issue, this recent Vanity Fair piece by Gideon Yago is a good place to start:
It was inexplicable what it took to become an actual employee at Viacom in the eight years I worked there. If you were on staff at a channel before Viacom acquired it, you were okay. Anyone after had their career defined by Redstone’s rules. That meant having workers labor for days, often weeks, straight, without any discussion of overtime; routinely firing employees just shy of the legal mandate to provide them benefits, only to rehire them days later and restart the clock on their contracts; blacklisting permalancers who attempted to organize; and the wholesale I.P. theft of young workers who didn’t know any better. Though not credited, I was in the room when a 24-year-old P.A. originally pitched the idea for what became the blockbuster franchise My Super Sweet 16. She received a $125 day rate. My former permalance colleague who came up with and pitched the format that became Jersey Shore was given, I believe, a Starbucks gift card. I never had it quite that bad; I was just sent to cover the invasion of Iraq without health insurance. (ViacomCBS declined to comment for this story; MTV did not respond to a request for comment.)
Yago's stories only scratch the surface of the allegations I've heard over the past couple of weeks and more emails come to me every day. Allegations that Viacom's teen-oriented cable channel Nickelodeon ignored years of HR complaints about producer Dan Schneider because he was creating hits for the network. IP theft, misuse of funds and wholesale manipulation of employment terms in order to dodge requirements that would have forced Viacom to hire freelancers as full-time employees. There is a book to be written about a company culture that seemed to be willing to sacrifice future growth and the building of relationships with talented creative people in an effort to wring every last penny of profit out of the revenue stream.
And I would argue that the longtime culture at Viacom is the biggest impediment to building a successful post-linear business. Company executives at both CBS and Viacom have for years been willing to sell off valuable streaming rights to their biggest titles in order to temporarily goose their bottom line. And for all of the talk about rebooting CBS All-Access as a streaming home for Viacom's many IP assets, the company is also simultaneously making deals like the recent one that is sending the Comedy Central shows The Other One, South Side and Awkawfina is Nora from Queens exclusively to HBO Max.
The company culture has also had an impact on Viacom's ability to work with a generation of talented writers, producers and other below-the-line talent. If you are in the 25-40 age range and work in the industry, you've no doubt heard the horror stories from co-workers and/or experienced a few bad times yourself. Despite all of the technology changes, television is still very dependent on relationships. And in entirely too many cases, Viacom has not just burned the bridge, they have danced on the ashes and screamed "what are you going to do about it?"
This isn't to say that there aren't a lot of talented people working for Viacom right now. But that company legacy is an underrated factor in Viacom's efforts to reboot its linear cable channels and build a more robust streaming future. Watch this space for more specific coverage in the coming days.
VERIZON ADDS FREE DISNEY STREAMING BUNDLE FOR SOME PLANS
Verizon has expanded its deal with Disney and will now offer subscribers to its Play More Unlimited and Get More Unlimited packages a free bundle of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+.
Everyone is already offering their hot takes on what this means. I won't dive into mine today. But I am curious about how many of the ESPN+ subs are the result of being part of a free or reduced cost bundles. ESPN+ is also part of a Disney bundle promoted by Hulu and I've seen it heavily discounted other places as well.
MIXED NEWS FOR MOVIE THEATERS
Variety takes a look at the results of a new survey which reveals that while consumers believe the pandemic has threatened the future of movie theaters and concert venues, they're not convinced that the answer is federal aid for those industries:
ODDS & SODS
There's a new article in the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies entitled and "Financialized Hollywood: Institutional Investment, Venture Capital, and Private Equity in the Film and Television Industry." The article is paywalled but the author does a nice breakdown of the highlights in this Twitter thread.
Condé Nast has named Marcus Samuelsson as an adviser and guest editor for Bon Appétit.
Here is a rundown of the new television programs premiering today:
1) Amy Schumer Learns To Cook Season Two Premiere (Food)
Generally when you describe a series as "an acquired taste," it means that you personally found the show annoying and pointless. But maybe someone's experience will be different. Amy Schumer and her husband are back for another season of pandemic-influenced cooking lessons and let's just say that for me, season one of the show was an acquired taste.
2) Bad Chad Customs Season Premiere (Discovery)
"When it comes to cars, there’s only one master builder in the world who can take scraps of junkyard metal and turn them into award-winning, one of-a-kind creations. But after getting a taste of small-town success, he’s ready to take his business legit and rebrand to become an international success."
3) Crazy Awesome Teachers (Netflix)
"A ragtag bunch of teachers and students team up to take back the money that a dangerous gangster stole from them."
4) Glitch Techs Season Two Premiere (Netflix)
"The video game monster hunters are back for another season."
5) Punk'd Season Two Premiere (Quibi)
This is Quibi, so no, I haven't seen any of the episodes from season two. Although I suspect it won't be any more entertaining that season one, which made me long for the presence of Ashton Kutcher. Something I thought would have been impossible to accomplish.
TOO MUCH TV REALLY IS A THING
This newsletter is called "Too Much TV" because....well, it's hard to keep track of all the new television premiering everyday. To help you prioritize your viewing, click here to see our list of more than 400 upcoming television premieres, movies and finales. You'll find listings from more than 70 networks, as well as streaming services and web shows.
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