Displaying items by tag: Too Much TV
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, September 1st, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by a Philly Steak sandwich and coffee.
THE CASE FOR LOCAST
I will say right up front that I am not going to weigh in on the complicated legalities of this story, or the impact it might have on retransmission fees or any other industry-related question. I just want to talk about customer satisfaction.
Despite a lot of innovation and increased competition over the past decade, the television industry is primarily still built on this complex, interconnected set of businesses that might not be able to exist if they stood on their own. And because of that and helped by a lot of media consolidation, it's incredibly difficult to build new products that threaten the current television financial ecosystem.
Locast is a non-profit company that provides a very simple service. They allow you to stream all of the local television stations that you can in theory receive with an over-the-air antenna. And it's all wrapped inside an easy-to-navigate menu system that makes watching local television a delight.
The service is useful for a couple of reasons, and that is due in part to the current broken options available to consumers. For example, I have three televisions in my home, two of them with OTA antennas. And among the many other streaming services, I pay for a subscription to Hulu Live TV. In theory, watching local television should be a seamless experience. In theory.
While Hulu Live does include many of the local TV stations, it doesn't carry The CW live, nor does it have include most of the digital subnetworks. And like every virtual live television service than YouTube TV, it doesn't offer the local PBS stations, either.
Watching the local TV stations via an antenna isn't any more satisfying. As anyone who has ever attempted to watch over-the-air HD TV stations in a metro area can tell, the experience is randomly frustrating and annoying. Some stations are only available in optimal weather conditions, and other major network affiliates are surprisingly difficult to capture with an antenna. In my case, the antenna for the local NBC affiliate is located in a direction that leaves me constantly tweaking my antenna as it randomly disappears when I least expect it. Some of the smaller TV signals are also impossible to grab, which means that I lose out on stations such as GetTV and CoziTV.
It's not any easier to watch these local stations through my local broadband provider (in my case, Comcast). Even though I get my internet via Comcast, the best deal the company can offer me for local TV stations is to provide three small digital boxes and charge me a "special affiliate fee" along with other charges. All of which adds up to about $25 a month.
All of that frustration disappears when I use Locast. It's available on a Roku app (as well as on just about every other platform). I can easily watch all of my local TV stations, including their diginets. PBS is there (although weirdly, only some of their diginets), as well as smaller stations that are impossible to get with an antenna.
Locast had been offering their service for free, but the signal was interrupted every 15 minutes unless you paid a $5.50 a month "donation."
As you might suspect, the companies that own the broadcast networks didn't like this idea and are attempting to shut down Locast. Other similar services had been shut down in recent years, but Locast had figured out a way to navigate the copyright concerns by organizing as a non-profit and only asking for small donations. But yesterday, the company suffered a setback when a judge rendered Locast ineligible to use the copyright exemption for non-profits, which allows them to stream local channels without paying broadcasters. The problem is that while Locast wasn't using the donations to make a profit, it was using some of the money to expand into other markets, which the judge said wasn't allowed under the current law.
In response, Locast announced today that it is dropping the donation and is providing the service for free.
The legal battle against the networks continues, although lawyers for the broadcast networks have asked the court to delay further legal actions until next year. And to be honest, the best thing the networks could do would be to figure out a way to come to terms with Locast. Yes, there are a lot of ramifications to offering the service, and maybe that involves charging a fee. But given that Locast has more than 2 million people using the service in 36 markets, this is an idea that customers want.
A NICE HEADLINE IF YOU CAN GET IT
If you want to see why trade publications cozy up to studios, all you have to do is look at the headline from this Deadline "exclusive," entitled 'Vacation Friends Moving Forward With Sequel Following Strong Hulu Movie Lands Biggest 3-Day Weekend Opening For An Original In Streamer’s History." Here is the opening paragraph, which includes the only snippet of news in the entire post:
Following its premiere on Hulu this past weekend, 20th Century’s Vacation Friends has become the most watched original film in its opening weekend on the streamer to date. Deadline has also exclusively learned that writer-director Clay Tarver will return to write and direct Honeymoon Friends, a sequel that will reunite the main cast and producer Todd Garner.
Now I could point out that the 21-word headline is attached to a 250-word news story. But what really matters is the two-sentence paragraph above, which might be short. But it gets across the two pieces of information that matter to Hulu and Deadline. Deadline gets first crack at the news that there is going to be a sequel to Vacation Friends. And in return, Hulu gets a headline in one of the Hollywood trades touting the big "ratings" for one of its original movies.
One problem with this trade-off is that the "ratings" headline is so lightweight that it could drift away in a warm summer breeze. "the most-watched original film in its opening weekend?" There are no numbers attached to the claim, and given the low number of original films Hulu has released, we are working with a pretty small universe of competing films. This is the streaming world's equivalent to me claiming I "consumed more Kale in a three-day last weekend than any other weekend so far." While not giving the context that high point only happened because Panera accidentally added Kale to my salad when they made it on Saturday.
CHART OF THE DAY
ODDS AND SODS
* The HBO Max app launches on VIZIO SmartCast platform TVs today. To promote the addition, HBO and VIZIO are offering a rotating selection of up to 13 titles through a unique custom carousel on the SmartCast home screen from the HBO Max epic library of titles, including shows like Game of Thrones, Titans, Doom Patrol, Euphoria, Love Life, Raised By Wolves, The Flight Attendant, Lovecraft Country, Perry Mason and more.
* The game show diginet Buzzer TV is airing its annual "Lost & Found" programming block on Saturday, September 25th, from 4:00-8:00 p.m. ET. The "found" shows include It Had To Be You, Take Your Choice, Make The Connection, Mindreaders, Showoffs and Whew!
* Netflix has announced that the entire run of Seinfeld will be coming to the streaming service globally on October 1st.
* Turner Classic Movies unveils brand refresh, new tagline to reframe its focus on film.
SEE YOU THURSDAY
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, August 31st, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by leftover wings and Diet Rite.
The newsletter is going out a bit earlier than normal. I'm heading out to take my son to first Chicago Cubs game. Although it's here in the Twin Cities and not in Wrigley Field.
ANOTHER STREAMER TO KEEP YOUR EYES ON
I probably write about small niche streamers as much or more than anyone else in the business. I'm fascinated with the ways that companies have figured out how to successfully grow a revenue stream around a marker segment that most people would ignore. I'm always on the lookout for new ideas and fresh approaches to the streaming world.
Struum launched earlier this year and it's a unique approach to niche streaming. Subscribers pay a $4.99 per month subscription fee and receive 100 credits. The credits can be used to pay for the rental of individual programs, with several thousand programs available from more than 25 content providers (growing to more than 50 in the coming months). Each provider determines how much a piece of content "costs" and here is how the Struum FAQ describes the process:
Credits required to watch vary by program, generally 1-2 credits for each short, episodes are 3-4 credits each and movies are 6-7 credits each. You can browse the titles and see the credit value next to each one.
For now, Struum is also selling extra credits at a discounted price in case you run low.
I'm fascinated by this idea, although the big challenge for this idea is acquiring enough interesting content to make this ala carte approach worth it to subscribers.
From my perspective, one of the strengths of Struum are the executives behind the idea:
Struum is the brainchild of founders Lauren DeVillier, former Head of Product for Discovery Ventures and head of Digital for Disney Channels, Eugene Liew, former Vice President of Product and Technology at Disney+, Paul Pastor, former Executive Vice President of Strategy, Revenue and Operations at Discovery Networks and Thomas Wadsworth, former lead Advanced Product Development for Walt Disney Imagineering. In addition to Eisner, the company has brought on an all-star roster of top tier entertainment and technology executives to its advisory board and executive team, including Nancy Tellem, former President of CBS Entertainment and Xbox Entertainment, Ben Pyne, former President of Disney/ABC Television Distribution, and Donald Hicks, VP Trust Policy and Partnerships at Airbnb.
I plan to test out the service this weekend and will have a fun rundown next week. I'm also working to get an interview with an executive from the company, because I have many questions....
MICHAEL RICHARDS IS OUT AS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF 'JEOPARDY!'
In what has turned into the worst TV host transition process since The Tonight Show, Sony Pictures Television announced Wednesday morning that embattled former replacement Jeopardy! host Mike Richards is no longer executive producer on the long-running game show:
Sony said on Tuesday that Mike Richards would immediately exit his job as the executive producer of “Jeopardy!,” completing a stunning downfall for a game-show impresario who just three weeks ago had secured one of the most coveted jobs in television as the replacement for the longtime host Alex Trebek.
“We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at ‘Jeopardy!’ it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks,” a Sony executive, Suzanne Prete, wrote in a memo to staff on Tuesday. “That clearly has not happened.”
Mr. Richards is also set to leave his role as executive producer of "Wheel of Fortune."
CONSERVATIVE TRUST IN MEDIA HAS CRATERED
Axios has a report on a new study from Pew Research Center that shows the trust of media in conservative political circles has cratered since 2016:
Prior to the Trump administration, both parties had a great deal of trust in the national media, according to Pew. But while Democrats' trust in the national, local and social media continues to hold steady, Republicans' trust in those same institutions has sharply declined.
What the study doesn't mention is that aside from the partisan reasons behind the shift, the conservative media is increasingly incentivized to claim liberal media bias because it then allows them to push their own news products. So highlighting the reporting flaws of some conservative media outlets doesn't change the fact that sowing distrust in the mainstream media isn't a design flaw, it's a revenue stream.
PARAMOUNT+ AT THE TCAS
Today is the lone day of presentations in front of the TCA critics this week and Paramount Plus unveiled a number of new shows. Panels included an executive session with Tom Ryan - President & CEO, ViacomCBS Streaming and
Tanya Giles - Chief Programming Officer, ViacomCBS Streaming (although notably with no questions from critics). Shows highlighted included Guilty Party, Star Trek Prodigy, The Game, The Harper House and Mayor Of Kingstown.
Here are a few of the things that were announced throughout the day:
* First Look: Star Trek: Prodigy main title sequence
* First Look: 'Mayor Of Kingstown'
* Paramount+'s Revival Of "The Game' Premieres On November 11th.
* First Look: Images From Upcoming Paramount+ Series 'Guilty Party'
TLC ANNOUNCES WINTER PREMIERE DATES
While the network is a bit off the radar for most people in the industry, the folks at TLC want to point out that they are the #1 ad-supported network for women in primetime. Although when it's worded that specifically, it makes me wonder what non-ad supported network gets more viewers.
Regardless, the network is definitely a destination for women and TLC has just announced a bunch of Fall/Winter season premiere dates for some of its biggest shows:
MONDAY, OCTOBER 11TH
The Family Chantal
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 10TH
My 600-LB Life
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 15TH
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16TH
7 LIttle Johnstons
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 21ST
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30TH
I Am Jazz
ODDS AND SODS
* AVOD Pluto TV is launching three new channels today: Pluto TV Pranks, British Comedy and Pluto TV 007, which includes 19 classic James Bond movies.
* Netflix has picked up the license to the classic 90s CBS sitcom Major Dad in the United States. It premieres tomorrow
* The Starz series adds Power Book III: Raising Kanan adds Letoya Luckett, Omar Dorsey, Krystal Joy Brown and Paulina Singer to the cast.
* E!'s new music competition series Clash Of The Cover Bands premieres on Wednesday, October 13th. And Kids Tonight Show premieres Thursday, October 14th on Peacock.
SEE YOU WEDNESDAY
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, August 30th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by watermelon and room temperature coffee.
NETFLIX EYES MORE THEATRICAL RELEASES
This pieces from CNBC is getting a lot of attention today, often from Netflix detractors who are arguing this is a big strategy shift for Netflix:
Netflix is eyeing a more traditional theatrical release for some of its future films, according to a report from JPMorgan out of CinemaCon.
Analysts from the firm, who attended the movie theater industry’s largest conference last week in Las Vegas, said they met with management teams from several exhibition companies who said there is a “real interest” from the streaming service to play some of its movies in cinemas for an extended period.
“Netflix desires its movies to have a bigger cultural impact,” wrote JPMorgan analyst Alexia Quadrani in a research note published Monday.
There is a lot that this story doesn't address and I think it's helpful to keep that in mind. Netflix has not been shy about saying that they see a role for theatrical runs with some of their high-profile films. But what they did resist was releasing films to theatricals with the 90-day (or increasingly, 45-day) window intact. And that's an important fact, since while this story says Netflix is exploring a theatrical run, there is no word on what that would look like. The streamer has experimented several times with short one or two week theatrical windows, primarily so films can qualify for awards.
So that's one of the big questions coming out of this piece. Are these conversations between Netflix and the theatrical chains along the lines of "Hey, would you screen our movies for just one or two weeks?" Or is Netflix considering premiering some of its films and agreeing to a 45-day window before it hits streaming? The third possibility is that it is proposing a same day-and-date release, arguing that there are some films that audiences would prefer to see in a theatre.
One idea I think Netflix should consider is offering some of its films to art house theaters and other smaller independents who have been hurt by Disney's decision to pull older Fox films from theatrical re-releases. I suspect there are people who would be interested in seeing some of Netflix's older action films in a theater and while that audience might not be not be enough to support a wide release, I suspect they would do just fine in a smaller setting.
THE FATE OF RSNS AND THE NFL TEN-YEAR DEAL IN THE STREAMING ERA
I try not to recommend very many videos in this newsletter, primarily because most of us don't have the to wade through 20, 40 or 60 minutes of conversation just to hear the 10% that is on-topic and relevant.
But this conversation from Fierce Video entitled "Monetizing The News Sports Industry" is pretty fascinating, especially if you are struggling to make sense of this very complex topic.
YOU CAN STREAM 'LOU GRANT' QUASI-LEGALLY
I've said before that my dream job would be helping to program a classic TV streaming service. And because that is the case, I tend to be especially interested in what shows aren't available for streaming and why. Sometimes I can determine the hang-up: musical rights, underlying intellectual property disputes or the lack of decent prints suitable for streaming. But there are plenty of times when I find myself just stumped by the question.
Which brings us to the Ed Asner drama Lou Grant, which ran on CBS for five seasons following the end of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Granted, a show about hard-working journalists at a big city newspaper with lots of resources feels a bit unrealistic in the world of 2021 journalism. But it's a wonderful show and I've never been able to determine why it's not more widely available.
Most of the other shows produced by MTM Productions are available for streaming and/or on one of the over-the-air diginets. But from what I can tell, Lou Grant hasn't been available on linear television since the long-shuttered American Life Network briefly aired the show about a dozen years ago.
This is extra frustrating because while the show can't be streamed legally, it is available via the quasi-legal YouTube method. As Zach Wilson mentioned to me on Twitter last night, the entire series has been available on this YouTube Channel since 2014. While I'm glad that the episodes are available to watch somewhere, I would much rather them be available in a way that would make the people who worked on the show a bit of money.
SPEAKING OF ED ASNER
One of the things that you learn from covering Hollywood is that no matter how beloved the actor, they almost certainly had beliefs that you will find troubling.
And that is certainly the case with Ed Asner, who by all accounts was a wonderful person. But he was also apparently was one of the people who believed the government was covering up the "truth" about 9/11. He narrated two films for the group Architects & Engineers For 9/11 Truth: 2011's Solving The Mystery Of Building 7 and 2020's Seven. The latter movie was described this was by the producers:
Directed by Dylan Avery and narrated by Ed Asner, Seven tells the story of World Trade Center Building 7 — from its jaw-dropping "collapse" on 9/11 to the government's blatant cover-up to the intrepid study by Dr. Leroy Hulsey and his Ph.D. students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
And then there was this 2007 statement he provided to the International 9-11 Citizens Inquiry in Toronto.
Now, does this change how I feel about Ed Asner? No. But it is an interesting piece of his story.
ODDS AND SODS
* Disney held unsuccessful mediation talks with alleged sexual-assault victims. And I'm guessing that if they had been successful, NDAs would have kept the allegations out of the public eye.
* FuboTV will be launching free games on its platform.
* Kentucky-produced court show Relative Justice premieres in syndication this fall.
SEE YOU TUESDAY
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Thursday, August 26th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by quiche provided by ABC.
There won't be a newsletter tomorrow. I am going to be offline much of the day doing some family stuff and short of some show business meltdown forcing me back to my laptop, the next time you'll hear from me is Monday. But the web site will continue posting things throughout Friday and the weekend.
HOW THE MLB COST MICHAEL EISNER $600 MILLION
Michael Eisner was the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company from September 1984 to September 2005 and in many ways defined the post-Walt Disney vision of the company. After he left Disney in 2005, he founded the investment firm The Tornante Company, which invests in, acquires, and operates media and entertainment companies.
Like all investment companies - particularly in the media/entertainment sphere - the company has had mixed results over the years. But one of Eisner's biggest gambles was set to pay off big this month - to the tune of as much as $600 million. Until last week happened, that is.
In 2007, the Tornante Company and the private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners bought the Topps Company Inc. for $385 million. While it's best known for its trading card business, Topps has been making nearly $250 million per year in revenue from its non-physical businesses. In fact, 35% of its total revenue in 2020 came from its confections business, which owns iconic names such as Bazooka gum and PushPop. But still, trading cards are the biggest part of its business, headed up by the company's 70-year relationship with Major League Baseball.
In the past couple of years, total revenue at Topps has soared, thanks to an increased interest in trading cards. Revenue in 2019 was $460 million and the ultimate 2021 revenue was estimated to top $850 million. The company was doing so well that Eisner had helped engineered a deal which would take the company public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that valued the business at $1.3 billion. If successful, the deal would have personally made Eisner nearly $600 million.
But that all ended last Wednesday, when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred called Eisner to let him know that the league and its players’ association had decided to end its relationship with Topps and go with rival Fanatics instead, beginning in 2026. Fanatics doesn't have any experience in the card business, but it does have about $330 million in fresh capital, as well as the backing of Jay-Z and the iconic venture capital firms Silver Lake and SoftBank. Topps was given the opportunity to beat the offer from Fanatics, but the company doesn't have the resources to get into a bidding war with a rival that has a market capitalization 14 times bigger.
Within 24 hours, the deal to take Topps public was dead and so was Eisner's chance to end 2021 with $600 million or so more in the bank.
HULU'S LOOMING CONTENT CRISIS
Variety's Todd Spangler takes a look at the challenges facing Hulu, which is set to potentially lose some or all of its shows provided by the various NBCU networks in 2022:
Starting in 2022, NBCUniversal will have the right to cancel most of its content-licensing agreements with Hulu and could decide to bring its programming exclusively to Peacock. Analysts say ViacomCBS (which has launched Paramount Plus) and Fox Corp. (which owns free, ad-supported streamer Tubi) also are likely to claw their programs back from the streamer.
While this is true, the reality is a bit more nuanced than Spangler's piece suggests. It's true that NBCU could pull all of its programming. But Comcast would have to the annual fee it gets from Hulu for providing the programming and Comcast seems disinclined to give up any substantial revenue stream. And it's a similar story with Viacom/CBS. There's no real incentive to pull content from Hulu. It's additional revenue and much of the CBS lineup is already missing on Hulu.
But Spangler is correct about Hulu's original content problem. It spends substantially less than its competitors and given that it the service hasn't expanded internationally, it seems un likely to have the resources available to compete with the big streamers. And while Hulu has managed to produce some buzzy titles, what viewing data we do have suggests that with a couple of exceptions, its original programming does better with the press than with the public.
There continues to be speculation that Disney will eventually convert Hulu into Star, which is the more adult-oriented streaming service bundled with Disney+ outside the U.S. Disney executives continue to talk that idea down publicly and it's true that the plan would face some complications given the Hulu Live TV packaging and branding. But whatever happens, its clear that Hulu continues to struggle to find its niche in an increasingly crowded market.
ABC AT THE TCAS
ABC and Disney+ did presentations in front of the TV critics of the TCA today. There were panels for BigSky, Dancing with the Stars, Queens, The Wonder Years and the Disney+ Doogie Howser update Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.
Here are some tidbits of news that came out of the sessions:
* ABC announced today that it had given the greenlight to Judge Steve Harvey, a 10-episode courtroom comedy series that will premiere in 2022.
* John Carroll Lynch will be returning to Big Sky for season two.
* ABC announced in the Dancing with the Stars panel the first two celebrity cast members as part of the 30th season, gold medal Olympian Suni Lee and pop star JoJo Siwa. They will appear on Good Morning America for their first sit-down interview tomorrow, and again when the remaining cast is revealed Wednesday, September 8th. The new season of Dancing With The Stars premieres on September 10th.
* In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort, ABC will present The Most Magical Story on Earth: 50 Years of Walt Disney World, premiering on Friday, October 1st.
* The September 22nd season premiere episode of The Connors will be the show's second live episode, with the cast doing the episode live for both the East and West coast airings.
NETFLIX MAY HIT 2.6 MILLION SUBSCRIBERS IN AFRICA BY THE END OF 2021
A new study released by Digital TV Research estimates that Netflix will end the year with 2.6 million subscribers in Africa and may more than double that to 5.8 million by the end of 2026:
Netflix’s market share will fall from 51 percent at the end of this year to 39 percent by 2026. Disney+ will launch in the region in 2022, “but only in an expected 12 countries, with 2.17 million paying subscribers forecast by 2026,” the company said. That will make the Disney streamer the No. 2 in the region in 2026, the research firm projects.
Meanwhile, Digital TV Research predicts Amazon will grow from 575,000 subscribers this year to nearly 1.93 million in 2026; and Apple TV+ is projected to climb from 121,000 to 304,000 subscribers.
The study also notes that the slow global rollout by some streamers has given smaller regional platforms the chance to consolidate its audience:
Showmax, owned by South African pay TV giant MultiChoice, is currently ranked second with an estimated 861,000 subscribers at the end of 2021. And the company predicts it will reach 2.12 million in five years.
Showmax in late August launched its eighth original in eight months, Temptation Island South Africa. And it unveiled “a diverse slate of eight more series, and three more movies,” including Showmax’s first telenovela, romantic comedy and scripted West African original.
ODDS AND SODS
* The filmed version of the award-winning Broadway musical Come From Away, will premiere globally on Apple TV+ on September 10th.
* The new Tyler Perry Studios drama All The Queen's Men premieres September 9th on BET+.
* As part of its back-to-school programming, Tubi will debut a new summer original comedy, Tales Of A Fifth Grade Robin Hood. Starring Jon Lovitz, the movie premieres on Friday, August 27th.
* Filmrise has grabbed the AVOD rights to the British drama Line of Duty.
SEE YOU MONDAY
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, August 25th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by leftover Chinese food.
A WASTED OPPORTUNITY
Maybe it's because I'm a journalist, but I generally don't like interviews in which a celebrity interviews another celebrity or industry executive. It's not that the resulting interview will always be second-rate. But celebrities tend to ask the question they care about or ones they believe the audience cares about. Rather than digging into subject matter which might not be sexy, but it's the stuff that really matters.
James Corden just interviewed head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke at the Edinburgh TV Festival and I think it's fair to say that you won't learn much after reading her comments. Oh, sure, it's interesting to learn Amazon lost out in the bidding war over Mare Of Easttown. But I defy anyone to decipher the strategy in these comments, other than "try and make stuff people will watch:"
“You’re going to see us lean into more of a bigger movie strategy around various types of content, and that will be global,” Salke added. “Also just stay tuned for the international growth, which is coming, the teams are building, the relationships are growing, the content is flourishing, and more interesting and exciting original content [is coming] every day. So [I’m] hoping to really expand our global home for talent and the success we’ve had building that thus far into a bigger international growth strategy.”
MSNBC AND RACHEL MADDOW, DAY THREE
I hadn't planned on discussing this again today, but there is another round of stories about her new contract and my standalone recap piece yesterday received a lot of attention, including a mention in CNN's "Reliable Sources" newsletter:
This piece in the Daily Beast doesn't provide much in the way of new details, but it does reinforce the point I've been making this week: that the management at MSNBC has failed to think about her replacement in a serious way and now they are literally paying the price:
That knowledge left MSNBC president Rashida Jones and her boss NBCUniversal News Group chair Cesar Conde working feverishly to secure Maddow’s new deal in what has been described by multiple MSNBC insiders as a “face-saving” move—one that has bought the pair much needed time to find a replacement.
“I don’t think they have any clue what they are going to do when she leaves,” a person familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast.
I'm told that of the various offers fielded by Maddow's team from rival networks and streamers, the most tempting was a deal from WarnerMedia that included a series of platforms ranging from a weekly HBO series to documentaries for HBO Max and CNN. No one is commenting on any of the negotiations publicly, but I was also told that at least one of the offers was more financially lucrative that the NBCU deal, but that Maddow's preference was to stay at the network if possible.
SHOWTIME AT THE TCAS
Showtime did its second of two days worth of presentations in front of the TV critics of the TCA today. Not much news coming out it, but panels with the cast of Yellowjackets, Detainee 001 and Work In Progress.
Tomorrow is a day with ABC and they apparently opted not to do a second day, which is disappointing to me. They have a number of interesting shows coming up this fall. Panels will include Big Sky, Dancing with the Stars, Queens, The Wonder Years and the Disney+ Doogie Howser update Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.
THE FOOD NETWORK'S FIRST SCRIPTED CHRISTMAS MOVIE
Well, to be precise, while it's being billed as a Food Network production, the movie is actually premiering on Discovery+ in December. Here is the info, according to the Food Network:
The film is a discovery+ entry into original scripted content and built on Food Network’s exponential popularity during the holiday season. It stars Molly McCook (Last Man Standing), Aaron O’Connell (The Haves and The Have Nots), Jae Suh Park (The Big Short), John McCook (The Bold and the Beautiful), with the network’s own Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) making her feature debut. The fictional story takes place during the holidays, set in the picturesque Peppermint Hollow, the Peppermint Capitol of the world. Candy Coated Christmas will deliver on the food-centric content that Food Network fans love and it will bring in audiences that enjoy the feel-good stories associated with the holiday season.
I have no idea if the movie will be any good and to a certain extent, it doesn't matter. Christmas movies typically are pretty lightweight and I suspect this film will be just fine. And there's no real downside for Discovery+. It's a relatively inexpensive genre and it's not as if anyone is expecting Ree Drummond to really "act." But if the movie is a success, what can we expect to see next year for the holidays? Bobby Flay starring in 'Que For Christmas?
ESPN CANCELS RACHEL NICHOL'S SHOW AFTER HER COMMENTS ABOUT A COLLEAGUE
The Sports Business Journal broke the news today that ESPN has taken Rachel Nichols off its N.B.A. programming and canceled The Jump, the daily basketball show she has hosted for five years:
The show’s cancellation comes one month after The New York Times reported on disparaging comments made by Nichols about Maria Taylor, one of her colleagues at ESPN at the time. In a conversation with an adviser to the Lakers star LeBron James, Nichols, who is white, said that Taylor, who is Black, had been chosen to host 2020 N.B.A. finals coverage instead of her because ESPN executives were “feeling pressure” on diversity.
Nichols was unaware the conversation was being recorded. Taylor has since left ESPN and joined NBC.
“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our N.B.A. coverage was best for all concerned,” said Dave Roberts, the executive who oversees ESPN’s N.B.A. studio shows.
There is a certain amount of suspicion in the sports media that the move was made partly due to her comments, but also because it gave the network a chance to get rid of a show that was critically acclaimed, but not a big ratings grabber. ESPN has recently been shuffling its schedule and The Jump was seen by some at the network as a show that had outlasted its moment.
I'M A LITTLE LATE GETTING TO THIS
The Hollywood Reporter's Seth Abramovich has am excellent interview with Brett Butler, whose addictions destroyed her hit 1990s series Grace Under Fire and in recent years has struggled to rebuild her career. So much so that she had to launch a GoFundMe campaign in order to raise money to pay her back rent payments. There are a ton of fascinating stories in the piece, but one that stuck out to me was this classic TV reboot that I would have loved to have seen:
Finding post-Grace gigs proved elusive. There was the daytime panel show that never came to fruition (getting co-hosts to work with Butler became an insurmountable challenge) and a close-but-no-cigar reboot of the 1970s detective show McCloud, in which she was set to play the title character. “[Former Viacom president] Doug Herzog was hiring me for that,” she says. “Then someone new who did not care for me took over the network. You’re not going to be everybody’s cup of anything — and I guess that might go double for me.”
SEE YOU THURSDAY
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, August 24th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by pasta and cream soda.
Today's newsletter is a bit shorter than normal. Lots of TCA-related work as well as some interviews for an upcoming piece makes for a busy day.
MSNBC AND RACHEL MADDOW, DAY TWO
There was a lot of feedback over the piece I wrote in yesterday's newsletter about Rachel Maddow, MSNBC and the network's perplexing failure to develop some possible replacements for her in-house. One notable bit of pushback came from an MSNBC executive who asked not to be identified, but who strongly disagreed with my assessment that the network had failed to develop a suitable replacement for Maddow. "We have a strong group of experienced anchors and several very talented people capable of trying to fill her (Maddow's) big shoes." To be clear, I didn't say that MSNBC didn't have anchors/hosts capable of filling the hour. My argument was that MSNBC had spent a lot of time building up it roster of anchors versed in cranking out a traditional cable news show that is heavy on contributors and other talking heads.
Which brings me to this bit of feedback:
I agree with Bill that this is the most likely scenario for MSNBC. Executives at the network like her and she has developed a nice on-camera rhythm on her late afternoon show. But her presentation and guest choices are still very much grounded in the conventional wisdom of the cable news world. Which is not at all the sensibility of the average Rachel Maddow viewer. And from what I can tell, that seems to be fine with MSNBC executives. I've spoken on background with several people there in the last week that argue while Maddow is a unique talent, viewers are responding to her likeability, not the format of her show. A stance which seems misguided at best.
I also had a few readers email me with questions along the lines of "Okay, smart guy. What's YOUR bright idea?" Which, to be honest, I hear frequently enough that I should get t-shirts made up with the phrase on it.
Given that there aren't any likely candidates in the pipeline that can be brought up to speed in six or eight months, I'd move Chris Hayes into Maddow's spot whenever she decides to leave and shift Nicole Wallace into Hayes' current slot.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Hayes is the closest to Maddow in terms of his sensibility and show format and Maddow's audience is already familiar with him. Ratings are going to dip a bit initially - they would no matter who gets her timeslot. But he has the best chance to keep the losses down to a minimum and build his own momentum with her audience. I agree with Bill Carter and the MSNBC executives that Nicole Wallace has the chops to potentially build a successful primetime show. Shifting her into the 8:00 slot and encouraging her to be more experimental and less reliant on conventional network analysts could give her the opportunity to build a distinctive show.
SHOWTIME AT THE TCAS
Showtime did its first of two days worth of presentations in front of the TV critics of the TCA today and here are some of the highlights:
* The 10-episode survival drama Yellowjackets premieres on Sunday, November 14th.
* Dexter: New Blood premieres on Sunday, November 7th. Michael C. Hall returns as serial killer Dexter Morgan in this 10-episode "limited series."
* The Bryan Cranston drama Your Honor has been renewed for a second season, which will premiere in 2022.
* Showtime has picked up late-night series Desus & Mero for a fourth season and renewed the half-hour comedy Flatbush Demeanors for second season.
A TAKEDOWN OF SONY PICTURES TELEVISION OVER ITS HANDLING OF THE 'JEOPARDY' TRANSITION
Vulture's Joe Adalian has written a pretty savage recounting of the many ways in which Sony Pictures Television botched the decision of who should host its long-running game show Jeopardy! following the death of Alex Trebek:
Sony, of course, has tried to dismiss the idea that Richards picked himself, noting that he didn’t have the final call and that other execs took over the formal selection process once Richards emerged as a serious candidate. The studio told the Times that the decision was ultimately made by Vinciquerra, and a person familiar with the situation confirmed to Vulture that he was involved from the start and had the last word — after consultation with other Sony execs, including some with considerable knowledge of the game-show experience. But at least one Hollywood TV vet I spoke with remains dubious. “I am sure [Vinciquerra] was not all that involved in this until the shit hit the fan, and now they need to clean up the mess,” this insider told me.
But let’s assume Vinciquerra was hands-on in the search for Trebek’s successor. In a way, that’s even more damning. While an exec at his level would surely have a voice in such a consequential call, there is no way someone with as many other responsibilities and priorities as Vinciquerra (who is very much not known as a creative exec) is best-equipped to make what is, in the end, a casting decision. It would be like Jeff Bezos having final say on who should star in Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings series: not unimaginable, but not good.
ODDS AND SODS
* Here's a first look at the upcoming Irish drama series Kin, which premieres September 9th on AMC+
* Netflix UK has ordered three new unscripted shows, including Snowflake Mountain, Dated & Related and Dance Monsters.
* Although it hasn't been confirmed, I've been told that the Battle Royale game Fortnite is adding a Shang-Chi skin on September 2nd.
* Saved By The Bell hits Netflix (in The US) on September 15th. That includes all the episodes from the original series plus The College Years and both TV movies: Hawaiian Style and Wedding in Las Vegas.
* Season two of Love On The Spectrum will premiere Tuesday, September 21st on Netflix.
* The three-part true crime special Doctor's Orders premieres Friday, September 3rd on Discovery+. The special tells the story of a member of the Pagan motorcycle group who testified against a brother in order to escape prosecution over some drug charges.
SEE YOU WEDNESDAY
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, August 23rd, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by Mac & Cheese and antacids.
MSNBC'S RACHEL MADDOW PROBLEM
News broke over the weekend that cable news network MSNBC has come to an agreement with its lead talent Rachel Maddow. Reporting suggests that the deal will eventually result in Maddow cutting back on her schedule, although it's not clear if that means she'll adopt a late-era Johnny Carson schedule of more vacations and shorter work weeks or if she'll transition to a weekly show. But regardless, it's clear that by this time next year, what we know as The Rachel Maddow Show likely won't exist in its present form.
Which is a huge problem for the news channel, given that Maddow is by far the network's most-watched talent. And casting a wider net, her show is unlike any other cable news show on the air right now. She and her staff spend most of their days working on the show's "A Block," which is a sprawling opening segment that can last more than 20 minutes without a commercial break. The segments tend to be tied to the top story of the day, but her presentation is part history lesson and part Paul Harvey's "Rest Of The Story." She brings context and unexpected details to even the most overreported issue. It's not unlike writing a novella five days a week and it's a primary reason why Maddow is reportedly getting burned out by the process.
But the rest of her show is also unique in the world of cable news. She doesn't interview pundits and rarely speaks with MSNBC contributors who aren't legal or historical experts in their right. In fact, a number of those people now working for MSNBC as contributors were first exposed to the network on her show. The Rachel Maddow Show flaunts every convention of cable news in general as well as MSNBC's approach during the rest of its schedule. And given her success, I remain perplexed that MSNBC hasn't made more of an effort to develop talent that is complementary to her work.
I've been reporting on MSNBC for decades, since I wrote a number of pieces recounting the reasons behind Phil Donahue's exit from the network back in 2003. And if there has been one constant through the years, it has been the tension between the management at NBC News and MSNBC. NBCU and NBC News have always seen its primetime schedule as a necessary evil. It's what they believe might bring viewers to the network. But they also believe that will keep them is the rest of the day's reliance on good old traditional journalism. So much of the talent and show-building efforts at MSNBC have centered around veteran NBC talent such as Chuck Todd and Andrew Mitchell, along with "newer" talent such as Katy Tur. The network's management did realize that it needed younger, more diverse anchors. Especially those with ties to the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
So when it was time to add new fill-in MSNBC anchors, or build-out the original news coverage on NBC's streaming service Peacock, executives primarily hired diverse voices and then had them produce shows that are slightly more millennial versions of Meet The Press. When you look at the shows in Peacock's "The Choice FROM MSNBC" tab, while the anchors represent a wider variety of points of view than you might find on the MSNBC mothership, the presentation is disappointingly familiar. I suppose it's a great training ground, since anchors such as Zerlina Maxwell, Joshua Johnson and Medhi Hassan have become frequent guest anchors on MSNBC. But how does that help solve the problem with MSNBC's primetime schedule?
On a side note, I'd love to hear someone at Peacock explain to me why there are only 5 days worth of any of their "The Choice" available for viewing? It's not a licensing problem, the shows are created in-house. It would seem to me that having an archive of these interviews would be useful.
But getting back to my main point. Rachel Maddow is a singular talent. But there are also other singular talents out there to be discovered. And when they are discovered, they need to be put into an environment where their talent can be nurtured and they can develop their own individual voice. Rachel Maddow's first months on MSNBC were often cringy uncomfortable until she found her rhythm. Chris Hayes has taken years to way to the point where he is doing his own show in a way that is unique and valuable to the audience. I don't understand why MSNBC hasn't taken advantage of Peacock and used that streaming platform as a place for experimentation, instead of a graveyard for Deadline episode and clips from NBC News shows.
IS THE WEEKLY RELEASE OF 'TED LASSO' SEASON TWO EPISODES HURTING THE SHOW?
At least once a week some TV critic cranks out a hot take complaining about streamers and their tendency to release an entire season in one bingeable content dump. So it's refreshing to see someone argue that having a TV show released on a "one episode per week" schedule is a bad creative decision. And that's just the argument being made by Decider's Meghan O'Keefe, who argues that critics tend to love the current season of Apple TV's Ted Lasso a lot more than the public, because they've seen the entire season and know where's heading:
If Ted Lasso Season 2 had been released all at once, I don’t know if the conversation would be this heated. It’s not just that if you binge the first eight episodes, you get a better sense of the overall story arc for the season. When Ted Lasso is watched weekly, folks have more time to obsess over episodes individually, i.e. focus on the places where each episode was weakest. Most people came late to the Ted Lasso Season 1 party which meant they binged the first season. You know, the season that made them fall in love with the series. They got to enjoy how the story’s momentum built and didn’t have the time to examine each episode on its own.
THE BEST TAKE YOU'LL READ ON CNN'S 'THE HISTORY OF THE SITCOM'
I don't usually highlight someone else's review, but this take on CNN's The History Of The Sitcom is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it's written by an executive who worked at NBC during its golden "Must See TV" years. And given that he is now (mostly) retired after spending a number of years at Fox, he is free to say what he wants. And man, does he have some strong feelings about the series:
Putting on my PhD cap for a second, there is a term in labelling theory called "retrospective interpretation" where the past is filtered through a point of view in the here and now to validate that point of view. The show runner (not Bill) had an agenda and, rather than giving us eight episodes on the history of the sitcom we were offered eight hours of how corporate media perpetuated racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic and transphobic myths and IT IS ONLY NOW THAT THIS SAME CORPORATE MEDIA IS GETTING IT RIGHT. A lot of this story was being told by people too young to have been around for most of the history of the sitcom which was pretty fucking hilarious. They didn't live what they are critiquing.
Let me be very clear. Even for what it was attempting to communicate it was awful. Each hour was supposed to be a different way of letting us know how sitcoms perpetuated capitalist myths of the family, outsiders, various sexual orientations etc. but they were repetitive. they used the same comedies to make different points, They used dramas and said they were comedies. They focused on several niche shows that were not viewed by large numbers of people but were darlings among the TV intelligencia. I don't think they ever even described what a sitcom was other than it was generally a half hour. Certain observers were used over and over and over and over again.
All I'm saying here is that this was not the history of the sitcom. Without breaking a sweat I could have laid out eight episodes which would have told the story in a much more entertaining and informative way and.....oh yeah even addressed the issues that this series did in such a ham handed way.
NETFLIX ANNOUNCES RELEASE DATES FOR A NUMBER OF FALL & WINTER ORIGINAL MOVIES
Typically, Netflix releases the premiere dates of its upcoming original movies individually, in order to maximize the amount of press coverage. But the streamer announced a number of premiere dates today in one big group. I suspect the change had two goals. The first was just to remind subscribers that there are a number of movies they are going to want to watch, so they shouldn't think about dropping their subscription. It's also a bit of shade-throwing going into the fourth quarter. "Hey, you can talk about HBO Max or Disney+ all you want. But we have a lineup that is as good as anyone." And I can't help suspecting that there is also a bit of flexing when it comes to Netflix deciding to release so many of its upcoming films of Wednesday, which Disney+ is now using as its favorite day of the week to release new projects.
Here is a list of all the titles they announced, and it's worth noting that a few of the films will have a brief theatrical window before premiering on Netflix:
Afterlife of the Party: On Netflix
Worth: On Netflix
Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali: On Netflix
Kate: In select theaters and on Netflix
Nightbooks: On Netflix
Schumacher: On Netflix
Intrusion: On Netflix
The Starling: In select theaters Sept. 17, on Netflix 9/24
My Little Pony: A New Generation: On Netflix Sept. 24
Sounds Like Love: On Netflix Sept. 24
No One Gets Out Alive: On Netflix
The Guilty: In select theaters Sept. 24, on Netflix 10/1
Diana: The Musical: On Netflix
There’s Someone Inside Your House: On Netflix
Found: On Netflix
Night Teeth: On Netflix
Stuck Together: On Netflix
Army of Thieves: On Netflix Oct. 29
Hypnotic: On Netflix this October
Fever Dream: In select theaters and on Netflix this October
The Harder They Fall: In select theaters Oct. 22, on Netflix 11/03
Love Hard: On Netflix
Passing: In select theaters Oct. 27, on Netflix 11/10
Red Notice: On Netflix
tick, tick…BOOM!: In select theaters Nov. 12, on Netflix 11/19
Bruised: In select theaters Nov. 17, on Netflix 11/24
Robin Robin: On Netflix Nov. 24
14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible: On Netflix
11 Prisoners: In select theaters, on Netflix this November
A Boy Called Christmas: On Netflix this November
A Castle for Christmas: On Netflix this November
The Princess Switch 3: On Netflix this November
The Power of the Dog: In select theaters Nov 17, on Netflix
Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas: on Netflix
The Unforgivable: In select theaters Nov. 24, on Netflix 12/10
The Hand of God: In select theaters Dec. 3, on Netflix 12/15
Don’t Look Up: In select theaters Dec. 10, on Netflix 12/24
The Lost Daughter: In select theaters Dec. 17, on Netflix 12/31
Back to the Outback: On Netflix this December
Mixtape: On Netflix this December
Single All the Way: On Netflix this December
SEE YOU TUESDAY
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Friday, August 20th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by pasta and caffeine.
My apologies in advance for any typos today. I am having issues with one of my eyes today and have discovered that typing while squinting is not the optimal way to work.
BROADCAST TV SHOWS WORTH WATCHING THIS FALL
After writing a bit about broadcast television PR efforts in yesterday's newsletter, I received a few questions from people asking about the upcoming fall season. In particular, which new shows I would recommend.
That's a tougher question than you might think, because there are some shows that I haven't seen yet, or have only seen a sizzle reel. And if I've seen the pilot already, I can't talk about it yet due to embargoes. What I can say is that here are the shows I'm most looking forward to seeing, based on publicly available info:
The Big Leap (Fox)
This is one show I can talk about, since Fox screened it at the Austin TV Festival. It's a show-within-a-show about a group of wannabe dancers auditioning to be part of a reality TV series called "The Big Leap." The contestants who make it through the season will star in a production at the end that will hopefully make them stars. Scott Foley plays the appropriately slimy producer and any show with Piper Perabo is worth watching. But to be honest, what sold me on the show was the mostly unknown cast, who are delightful. Like an unsettling number of shows this fall, its based on a UK reality series. But the show it most reminds me of is Fox's late-lamented baseball series Pitch. While the two shows don't have much in common when it comes to the premise, the feel is very similar as the characters struggle to find the place they were meant to be.
I am a big fan of multi-camera working class sitcoms, and based on the description, this new comedy sounds like it would be right in my sweet spot. Pete Holmes plays a Midwestern husband and dad who is laid off from his auto factory job. His solution is to try and make a living as a pro bowler, which honestly sounds like something I would do. Chi McBride - who plays the standard Chi McBride role better than anyone - is Archie, the owner of the local bowling alley. Working class comedies live or die on their authenticity and I'm optimistic about this show based on the fact that one of the EP's is Mark Gross, who worked on Mike & Molly as well as the under-appreciated The Man With A Plan.
La Brea (NBC)
I know very little about this show than what NBC has shared in the logline:
"An epic adventure begins when a massive sinkhole opens in the middle of Los Angeles, pulling hundreds of people and buildings into its depths. Those who fell in find themselves in a mysterious and dangerous primeval land, where they have no choice but to band together to survive. Meanwhile, the rest of the world desperately seeks to understand what happened. In the search for answers, one family torn apart by this disaster will have to unlock the secrets of this inexplicable event to find a way back to each other."
But I'm a sucker for high-concept adventure dramas, although if the past decade or so has taught audiences anything, it's too not get attached to complicated, non-procedural dramas on broadcast TV. (RIP everything from Flash Forward to Debris)
The Wonder Years (ABC)
I've seen the pilot and while I can't share any of my thoughts about it, I can state the same thing I thought before I had seen any footage. While I am generally not a fan of reboots, it's refreshing to see the studio going beyond just changing the cast from an all-white group to all black. They've reset the show to late 1960s-era Montgomery, Alabama, which opens up an entirely new world for the show to explore. Plus, if you're judging a show's potential by its cast, having Don Cheadle and Dule Hill is a very positive sign.
LOOKING BACK AT THE 1991-1992 PRIMETIME SEASON
I've written a bunch about how many older television shows aren't available for streaming, which essentially renders them invisible to modern audiences. The irony has not been lost on me that while most shows from the 1991-1992 season aren't available on a streaming platform, I've been able to find examples of just about every series that aired that season on YouTube, no matter how obscure or short-lived. Which is great for fans and researchers. But terrible for any of the financial stakeholders.
THINGS ARE GETTING CLOSE ON A NEW 'MANIFEST' DEAL
Remarkably, it sounds as if a deal for a new season of Manifest is now likely, although I hear things could always fall apart at the last minute. Representatives for Warner Brothers Television and Netflix have been working on a plan that would bring back the show for at least one more season. That's due in large part to the success of the show on Netflix when it added the first two seasons to the service in June. There have been several problems to work out along the way. Netflix prefers to have global rights for any licensed program, but Warner Brothers Television had licensed off the show to different players in different markets outside the U.S. While that complicates matters, it's a similar situation to the problems faced when Netflix wanted to pick up additional seasons of Lucifer. I'm told that while not all of the language has been hammered out, the licensing part of the deal is apparently considered close to a done deal.
The bigger challenge right now seems to be negotiating new deals for the cast and crew. Even after an extension granted by the actors, everyone's contracts expired in late July and everything has to be renegotiated. The terms of a streaming deal are different than on a broadcast show, which means the new deals have to include a number of adjustments. But I'm told that the biggest hangup is just getting everyone's schedules cleared to sign on for a full season. In one case, a cast member may end up coming back to Manifest, but their role on the show may be in second position to a deal they recently signed for a different series. It doesn't sound as if there is anything going on that can't be solved, but the complexity of it all has drawn out the process longer than anyone would have preferred.
Bu while everyone waits for the final decision, let's look at an excerpt from an interview I did in July with Manifest creator Jeff Rake about the future of the show and how he's used social media to keep the fans engaged:
Another aspect of the show that makes it very effective on social is the storytelling itself. To your point, we're a broadcast, serialized mystery. A show that defies the norm of what has been succeeding on broadcast in recent years. You would arguably have to go back to Lost for the last time where there was a home run with a broadcast serialized mystery. And look, Manifest isn't that. We're done fine on broadcast. We had three great seasons on broadcast. Obviously, NBC felt the numbers weren't strong enough to keep us going. I think they're thinking twice about that now, given the strong showing we've had on the platforms.
But getting back to your original point. It's important to take social very seriously when you are launching a show in the modern era. You can make the argument that there's a level of expectation among consumers of entertainment that not only will they be able to watch a show, but that they'll also be able to somehow on social with the storytellers - creators, writers, directors, actors or crewmembers. Or at the least, a vibrant social community engaging in the conversation throughout the season. It's almost become the new normal. And I think because a show has an upside in growing popularity in the face of adversity - case in point, Manifest . Canceled by NBC, blows up on a platform, social blows up again talking about it. And it becomes arguably the most talked-about show for the summer of 2021.
SOMEONE WORTH REMEMBERING
In the 1970s, when cable television was still very much an uninspiring local business in rural towns, Gustave M. Hauser undertook a bold experiment that helped usher in the modern era of multichannel digital cable television. He has died at 91:
In the 1970s, when Gustave M. Hauser, an international lawyer, was chairman and chief executive of Warner Cable Communications, cable television was still very much an uninspiring local business in rural towns, providing little more than $5-a-month connections to homes that otherwise had no access to television.
Prodded by his boss, Steven J. Ross, Warner Communications’ iconoclastic chairman, Mr. Hauser undertook a bold experiment in Columbus, Ohio: building a service that helped usher in the modern era of multichannel digital cable television.
In December 1977, Warner unveiled QUBE, an experimental cable system offering a package of 30 themed channels that provided movies, sports, children’s programming and documentaries. The system not only offered customers content unavailable on broadcast television; it also introduced new technology to bring that content to them. QUBE’s innovations included the first set-top boxes and remote control devices for cable.
SEE YOU MONDAY
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Thursday, August 19th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by a Tuna Salad sandwich from Panera.
BROADCAST TELEVISION PROMOTION IN 2021
There are a lot of obvious structural differences between broadcast television and streaming services. But from my perspective, one of the biggest is the way each industry markets and promotes its shows. In a world where new shows are premiering every day of the week, 52 weeks a year, getting out ahead of the premiere with your marketing and PR efforts is a must. There is nothing more frustrating than getting pitched on a show 2-3 weeks before the premiere. It not only creates time constraints for me, but it also doesn't do your show any favors. There is a lot of competition for the limited amount of attention the average viewer can devote to television. And part of the challenge for any network or streaming service is just breaking through the clutter and getting their show on the viewer's radar. In most cases, you can't just depend on the tried-and-true PR efforts to make an impact. You need more than a couple of pieces in the trade magazines to have an impact in the marketplace.
I've made this argument a lot over the past few years, but I was reminded of it today when I reached out to the publicist heading up coverage of a broadcast network procedural premiering in early October. "Oh, we aren't at the point where we're ready to start booking coverage ideas yet." Thinking about these things 6 weeks out might have sounded like crazy talk in 2011. But in 2021, I genuinely believe that promoting shows should be a non-stop job. It's not just a matter of sending out a couple of screeners or setting up a few interviews. Networks should be providing a steady stream of promotional content to fans and to the press. Not all of it will hit the mark - frankly, maybe only 20% will end up being effective. But in such a crowded media environment, it's the only way to have an impact.
Which brings me to the CBS comedy United States Of Al. The show returns for a second season on Thursday, October 7th, and it's fair to say that the show wasn't a shoo-in to be renewed last Spring. I liked the show a lot, and even though it isn't perfect, it's a comedy that has carved out an unusual corner of television. The show centers around a Marine combat veteran struggling to readjust to civilian life in Ohio and the Interpreter who served with his unit in Afghanistan. It's hard to imagine a comedy with a more torn-from-the-headlines feel, and the events now unfolding in Afghanistan make it even more likely that new viewers might be lured into catching up on the first season.
Now I am well aware that the current situation in Afghanistan is fairly horrific, and being seen as trying to capitalize on the current airlifts could be a PR disaster. But there are ways that United States Of Al can be brought into the public conversation in subtle and even helpful ways.
The first way is just getting the show in front of people. If you visit the CBS section of Paramount+, the "trending" tab includes everything from SEAL Team to Perry Mason. But there's no mention of United States Of Al. Viewers have to be searching for the show to find it buried halfway down the page in the comedy section. There should be targeted digital advertising highlighting the premise of the show. As well as scheduling a four-episode "marathon" of episodes on CBS. Get the main cast out there talking about the show in a general way. Or even better, donate money to one or more of the organizations trying to get Afghans out of the country. A message of "yes, we're a comedy, but the show is built on the special relationship between these two men, and we want to highlight these real-life examples" could be an effective and still uncontroversial PR effort. And part of that messaging is to offer interviews and other content to non-traditional outlets that are read by people most interested in the real-life rescue efforts.
For all I know, these discussions are already taking place at CBS. I hope they are, because these targeted promotional efforts could have an impact on the resettlement efforts. And they can also raise the profile of a show that barely survived season one. In a broadcast television world where slumping ratings are the new norm, adding even a few hundred thousand new viewers can have an outsized impact on the future success of any show.
NETFLIX'S GLOBAL PRODUCTION AMBITIONS
Netflix presented some of its programming to TV critics on Thursday, and it was interesting to see that the streamer focused almost entirely on its global television production. Three shows were highlighted with panels and all of them - The Witcher, Lupin, and Money Heist - are produced outside the U.S. And much was made by Netflix executive Bela Bajaria about the popularity of international productions in the U.S. One statistic was that 97% of all U.S. Netflix subscribers had sampled at least one non-English series in 2021. She also noted that Lupin was the most popular Netflix original series launched in 2021.
One of the ongoing battles I have with other TV industry analysts is about Netflix's efforts to create a truly international production and distribution system. A number of U.S. media companies produce local content in multiple countries and territories. But because the perception was that most local content didn't travel globally, the programs were rarely shared across the language barrier. For nearly every major media company, the mantra is that English-language content is adored globally. But non-English content has a natural audience ceiling and it's foolish to put money into efforts to change that.
Speaking with Netflix executives on background, it's clear that the company's efforts to create a global presence were driven by efforts to solve several different problems. Ten years ago, it was clear that Netflix was going to end up losing most of its licensed content as studios began clawing back content to run on their own streaming services. The best case scenario was that Netflix would be able to retain some of it, but at a cost that would make profitability almost impossible.
But creating IP from scratch is challenging in the best of circumstances. Yes, you can buy or develop TV shows and movies based on IP from other mediums such as graphic novels. But you ultimately run into a variation of the problem you have with licensed content. There is a finite amount of great English-language IP, and there is a lot of money and different companies are chasing it. Creating enough original English-language programming to fill a streaming service is nearly impossible. It's worth noting that for all of the talk of original Disney+ or HBO Max originals, most of the content on those streaming services is still catalog material. And that was a problem for Netflix, since it didn't have an existing catalog of content to stripmine.
In the end, the best option for Netflix was to leverage the global production capacity that is already in place - talented writers, producers and actors who haven't been able to break through to a global audience. And a bonus for Netflix has been that the talent has been relatively speaking more cost-effective than American-based productions. At least for now.
One of the factors that has been instrumental in Netflix's international efforts has been its willingness to spend substantial amounts of money to not only subtitle every non-English title, but provide dubbed audio in up to 30 languages. One Netflix executive I recently spoke with said that providing the dubbed audio can up viewership by "upwards of 75%," although they declined to be more specific.
Those efforts bring two advantages for Netflix. First, it creates a barrier to entry for competitors who are either unwilling or unable to devote the resources to widespread dubbing. HBO Max has been providing audio dubbing for some of its non-English productions, but typically only in 4-5 "major" languages. And for smaller American streamers who focus on international productions, the lack of the financial resources necessary to dub every production makes their efforts to add subscribers even more challenging. When I spoke with Topic General Manager Ryan Chanatry several weeks ago, he acknowledged that Netflix's practice of always dubbing non-English language productions makes things more difficult for his service:
One of the frequent discussions in the industry when it comes to larger streamers such as Netflix is whether or not American audiences are comfortable watching foreign-produced productions. Are they willing to embrace shows that include dubbed audio or subtitles? And it sounds like that isn't necessarily an issue for your subscribers?
So I think we are naturally attracting those viewers who are most inclined to watching subtitles. But the challenge that we're facing is that Netflix and now HBO, to a large extent, are defaulting foreign-language shows to dubbing. And setting up the expectation that everything you watch will be available with English audio.
And it's an interesting question that we're exploring. Who is the Money Heist or Call My Agent audience, who will watch a show that has dubbing?. And is that slightly different than the audience who watches subtitled shows? Or is it vastly different? And that's the big challenge for us. We want to bring the most engaging stories from around the world to our service. And I don't want subtitles to get in the way of that.
But right now, I think we're focused on using subtitles, and we'll explore if there's a place for dubbing on the service and how that works in the U.S. over the next year or so.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that one of the biggest challenges for any streamer with international ambitions is figuring out how to deliver seemingly personalized viewing options to viewers across a wide variety of languages and cultures. It's no longer enough to say "Hey. everyone loves Spongebob or Seinfeld, we'll be fine."
I AM PRETTY SURE THAT THIS IS THE FIRST TEN MINUTES OF 'WESTWORLD'
Disney wants the robots in its parks to come alive. One goal: Setting them free from the confines of the rides and letting them wander walkways to turn the parks into, as one executive put it, "inhabited places:"
In the back near a black curtain a little wrinkled hand waved hello.
It was Groot.
He was about three feet tall and ambled toward me with wide eyes, as if he had discovered a mysterious new life form. He looked me up and down and introduced himself.
When I remained silent, his demeanor changed. His shoulders slumped, and he seemed to look at me with puppy dog eyes. “Don’t be sad,” I blurted out. He grinned and broke into a little dance before balancing on one foot with outstretched arms.
One advantage of developing a Groot robot is that it only has to learn to say three words.
ACM AWARDS HEAD TO AMAZON
In a first for a long-televised awards show, Amazon Prime Video has obtained the exclusive rights to the 56-year-old Academy of Country Music Awards, bringing the linear property fully into the streaming world:
Talks between the ACM Awards and CBS reportedly broke down after last November’s show drew a record low 6.3 million viewers. At the time, Dick Clark was seeking $22 million to reup for annual distribution rights, according to Variety.
“This historic partnership with ACM, [Dick Clark parent company] MRC, and Amazon Prime Video meets the industry’s need to bring awards shows to the forefront of the streaming world — exactly where fans are consuming and demanding content,” ACM’s outgoing board of directors chair, Ed Ward, said in a statement.
In theory, streaming the ACMs could provide new revenue streams for both Amazon and the various music labels and artists if Amazon was competent enough to integrate links to buy music and other merchandise into the awards show. But given that the streamer has a interface that many people consider the worst in the industry, I don't have a lot of faith in Amazons ability to create a world-class integrated viewing and ecommerce experience for viewers.
SEE YOU FRIDAY
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, August 17th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by lots of Ginger Ale.
AS IF THE GLOBAL STREAMING MARKET ISN'T ALREADY CONFUSING ENOUGH
Comcast and ViacomCBS have announced plans to launch a new subscription video on demand service in more than 20 European territories encompassing 90 million homes. The partnership between ViacomCBS and Comcast will be structured as a joint venture, with equal investment and joint control. No subscription price has been announced.
Once the service passes regulatory muster in the various countries, Sky/Showtime will be available in mid-2022 in Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. SkyShowtime is being described as a "complimentary service to the recently announced Sky/Paramount+ joint service that was recently announced for the UK, Italy and Germany.
“With the launch of SkyShowtime we are well positioned to utilise our global content engine to create a compelling streaming offering, quickly and at scale, with a smart strategic phased investment," explained ViacomCBS Networks president and chief executive officer International Raffaele Annecchino. "SkyShowtime represents a huge opportunity to accelerate our market expansion and build a leadership position in SVOD in Europe."
“Our new streaming service, SkyShowtime, will combine the best of the US and Europe with iconic brands and world-class entertainment for millions of consumers in more than 20 new markets in Europe,” added Sky group chief executive Dana Strong. “On the heels of Peacock coming to Sky, this partnership provides an innovative approach to quickly scale internationally and monetise content across Europe. Drawing on the strength of the incredible programming from NBCUniversal, Sky, and ViacomCBS, and powered by Peacock’s platform technology, SkyShowtime will provide a truly compelling line-up for the whole family and strong brand recognition across these regions.”
NAT GEO NETWORK AT THE TCAS
The Disney-owned National Geographic Networks presented some of its programming to TV critics on Wednesday and here are some of the highlights:
* Nat Geo Greenlights Three Unscripted Adventure Series
* Nat Geo Wild Gives Thanks 'Fur' Its Stable Of Veterinarians With Super-Sized Serving Of Vetsgiving
* Nat Geo And Westbrook Studios Announce Five-Year, First-Look Unscripted Deal
POSTED WITHOUT (MUCH) COMMENT
Fox News is requiring all employees to enter their vaccination status into a central database — and requiring masking in confined spaces.
FACTOID OF THE DAY
I've written extensively about some of the reasons why older television shows aren't available for streaming. Some of the problems make sense once you look at the problem. But there are dozens if not hundreds of TV shows that aren't streaming for reasons that aren't readily apparent. Often, it just seems to get down to the fact that it would require a few contractual tweaks and the industry conventional wisdom is that no one watches old TV shows that aren't one of the few iconic titles. So the shows remain unavailable for streaming and in 2021, that means the shows may as well not exist.
Titus was a comedy starring Christopher Titus that aired for three years on Fox from 2000-2003. As far as I can tell, it was never available in syndication and it has never been available for streaming. After years it trying to make the show available legally, Titus posted all 62 episodes on his YouTube channel late last year. And that is a solution that might be fine for fans of the show. But it doesn't earn any revenue for the studio or for any of the other potential profit participants.
I believe to my soul that the streaming services are wrong about older television shows. There are plenty of shows that could be streaming with a modest expenditure of time and effort. I am frankly astounded that none of the streamers that are associated with major studios have bothered to strip mine their extensive catalogs for streaming.
ODDS AND SODS
* Fox has renewed Masterchef for a twelfth season.
* HBO Max has renewed the dating reality series FBoy Island for a second season.
* Roku has ordered four full-length episodes of Reno 911 after acquiring the show alongside the rest of Quibi's programming slate earlier this year.
* DCD Rights and Runtime Media are partnering to launch a Bridezillas channel for the various AVOD platforms.
* The three-part documentary Nuclear Family premieres September 26th on HBO.
SEE YOU THURSDAY
Tomorrow Netflix and Starz are presenting to the TCA. Nielsen will be revealing some SVOD numbers at Noon CT that I'll cover in tomorrow's newsletter. Some interesting stuff, although it's under embargo until then.