Streaming Service Consolidation
There are too many products chasing too few consumers.
A series of stories at Mediagazer right now:
Hollywood Reporter (“Layoffs Hit HBO Max: Casey Bloys Reshapes Leadership Structure“):
As expected, layoffs have hit Casey Bloys’ HBO Max and HBO teams.
An estimated 14 percent of Bloys’ teams — an estimated 70 people — have been let go as part of the workforce reduction following the merger of WarnerMedia with Discovery. The moves are the latest step in cost-cutting for the combined Warner Bros. Discovery under CEO David Zaslav.
HBO Max and Discovery+ will be merged into one service next year. Executives are currently debating a new name for the service as sources say much of the discussion is if the HBO name remains part of it or if a more broad name for the service would work better. There are no cancellations as part of Monday’s layoffs. HBO will also not be a tile on whatever the new combined platform is. Budgets are also not being impacted as sources say they will only grow to meet the growing prices for content and top talent.
Hollywood Reporter (“Activist Investor Dan Loeb Calls On Disney to Cut Costs, Explore ESPN Spin Off“)
As his investment firm, Third Point, builds its stake in Disney, activist investor Dan Loeb sent a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek outlining his call for how the company can unlock value in the near-term — and at the top of his list is cost-cutting.
“Disney’s costs are among the highest in the industry, and we believe Disney significantly underearns relative to its potential,” Loeb wrote in a memo sent on Aug. 15. “We urge the Company to embark on a cost cutting program that addresses both margins and the disposal of excess underperforming assets.”
The New York-based hedge fund manager also is calling for Disney to evaluate whether to spin off its ESPN business and integrate Hulu directly into Disney+ platform. While noting several “advantages” that Disney has in keeping its sports powerhouse brand in its bundle of direct to consumer content — ESPN+ currently has 22.8 million subscribers — Loeb wrote that “we believe that a strong case can be made that the ESPN business should be spun off to shareholders with an appropriate debt load that will alleviate leverage at the parent Company.”
DEADLINE (“The CW Poised To Get New Corporate Home As Nexstar Confirms Plan For 75% Ownership Stake; Mark Pedowitz To Remain CEO“):
The CW is about to enter a new ownership era, as local TV giant Nexstar Media Group has confirmed a pending deal to acquire a 75% stake in the 16-year-old broadcast operation.
Warner Bros Discovery and Paramount Global will each retain a 12.5% ownership interest in the CW and continue to produce scripted content for the network. Nexstar had not previously addressed months-long press speculation about the move, but finally confirmed it Monday morning in an SEC filing and press release.
Nexstar, the No. 1 owner of local TV stations in the U.S. whose portfolio also includes cable network NewsNation and digital brands like The Hill, is a logical new boss of the CW. It already owns the largest collection of affiliates of the network, giving it a clear incentive to try to make the CW flourish. Longtime parents Paramount and Warner Bros Discovery (each of which has been reshaped themselves through major mergers in recent years) have both been looking to tighten up their balance sheets.
Created in 2006 as a way of consolidating at UPN and the WB, the CW has been a 50-50 venture between the various owners of CBS and Warner Bros since then, generating a string of shows with youth appeal like Vampire Diaries, Arrow, Gossip Girl, Riverdale and All American. Viewership on the linear network, consistent with that on across broadcast TV, tends to be 50 and older, but the network’s free, ad-supported streaming app and social channels draw younger, avid audiences concentrated in the desirable 18- to 34-year-old demographic.
Reuters (“Walmart enters streaming deal with Paramount+ in race with Amazon“):
U.S. retailer Walmart Inc (WMT.N) on Monday struck a deal with Paramount Global (PARA.O) to offer Paramount+ streaming service to the subscribers of its membership program in a push to better compete with Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).
Members of Walmart+ will get access to Paramount’s “essential” plan, which costs $4.99 per month and includes commercials. It also offers a $9.99-per-month service without ads.
Paramount+ offers original series and popular movies from brands and production studios, including BET, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, as well as several sporting leagues such as UEFA Champions League.
Walmart+ membership costs $12.95 per month or $98 per year and includes free shipping on orders and discounts on fuel as well as a free six-month subscription to Spotify’s (SPOT.N) premium music service.
The service rivals Amazon’s Prime, which also offers free shipping as well as video and music streaming services and has around 200 million subscribers. An Amazon Prime membership costs $14.99 per month or $139 per year.
Granted that one of these stories is about broadcast rather than streaming (although CW does have a streaming app) the confluence certainly seems to suggest that the long-expected shakeout is starting to occur. We’ve gone from a cable bundle that everyone hated to too many streaming services to keep up with.
Certainly, a lot of folks will simply take advantage of trial or discounted subscriptions to binge-watch shows and then cancel, subscribing to only one or two of these at a time. But, even then, it gets confusing figuring out what shows are on where. (Yes, you can Google it. But it’s a lot harder than it was when everything was there on the DVR.)
Further, while relatively few of us are watching scripted programming “live” anymore, there’s still the matter of live sports. This, too, has become increasingly aggregated and the most popular content—namely NFL and college football—is diversifying further in upcoming contracts.
At some point—and it seems to be starting—services will merge or fall by the wayside.
The streaming services are simply following the path of every emergent industry, consolidation and bankruptcy of participants. At the early years of the 20th century there were hundreds of automobile manufacturers and that has winnowed down to a relative handful with multiple brands.
Translation: Offload Disney debt onto ESPN so Disney can take on more debt to shovel in the form of dividends to my hedge fund.
As all hedge funds do, it is called looting assets and hoping to leave a live carcass.
The other thing is that it looks like ESPN is getting shut out of the next Big Ten media contract which is likely to hugely hurt ESPN’s value, so there’s a “spin thus off while we still can” aspect to it
Kind of like what is happening with Sears.
The whole point of streaming was no commercials and being cheaper then cable. If we need to have 8 different subscriptions at over $10 a month and unskippable ads, we’re essentially paying for cable again. Folks may want to see specific streaming-only shows but that’s what trial subscriptions are for (or sharing passwords or watch parties). Eventually it’s going to be cheaper to have cable and have a friend willing to share their streaming platform of choice.
I have all the streams. Literally all of them. And of course: nothing’s on.
I avoided watching the finale of Better Call Saul last night because I was too tired to give it the attention it deserves. And I didn’t want it to end. BCS may be the single best TV show ever, just superb in every single way – script, acting, cinematography, score, it is just flawless.
But it’s over.
We’re watching The Sandman but in the first-up slot, the one where we’re also cooking or ordering Door Dash, and catching up on email. It’s in the background noise position. There are some excellent shows – Hacks, As We See It, We Are Lady Parts, The Baby, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, For All Mankind – but their seasons are 6-8 eps generally so they don’t really do the job of being reliable entertainment on any given night. They aren’t replacements for something like Friends, or The Good Wife for example.
Disney+ is worthless to us. Their Star Wars stuff is lame, their Marvel stuff is same-old, same-old, and is Pixar still even a thing? Hulu has Only Murders In The Building, but that, too, falls into the ‘watch it while we read stuff online’ slot. Netflix meh, Paramount+, Peacock, whatever.
HBO max has taken the HBO reputation for excellence and diminished it a bit. Now Zaslav seems to think HBO and Discovery are a match and I think he’s nuts. HBO is Gucci, Discovery is Wal-Mart. HBO is blue, Discovery is red. I don’t get it.
What’s missing is a Friends, a Seinfeld, a 30 Rock, shows that were both good and there for at least a few months out of the year, and were re-watchable in a way that more recent sitcoms don’t seem to be. We often get more satisfaction from hate-watching some dreck like Blue Bloods.
So much content on so many platforms and somehow, still, nothing’s on.
I consider myself lucky in that I don’t often resent the passing of an era, however much I enjoyed it. As George Harrison (and millions of others) said, “All Things Must Pass”. Something will take its place.
I’m about to cancel Disney. Maybe HBO. And for network viewing I find I come out ahead just buying $2 episodes from Apple iTunes, with a substantial discount for the entire season, and all previous episode purchases credited towards the season price.
Unfortunately, there are a few things that are coming out that you can’t buy this way. Apple only has “Letterkenny” through season 7, and “Only Murders In the Building” isn’t available at all. Worse, even though it is a Hulu production, you need the premium subscription to avoid commercials. And I very definitely would rather not watch TV or movies than to watch them with commercials.
@Stormy Dragon: If I am not mistaken, they only had second rate Big10 before (at least in football). ESPN is putting all of their money into SEC. And maybe they get into the bidding on the lesser big conferences (ACC, Big12, PAC12) when they come up.
@Michael Reynolds: There seem to be a couple of issues with TV shows today.
1. There are very few that allow you to jump into the series in the middle and not feel like you are lost.
2. Viewers (at least at my house) hate waiting for new episodes so with few exceptions wait until a whole season is out and then binge watch. There are a few exceptions for shows my wife and daughters discuss with friends.
3. The long wait between seasons when action in past seasons matters.
4. Cancelations of shows with long drawn out storylines do not inspire a rewatch or new viewers.
(No Spoilers Here)
I discovered Bob Odenkirk on some used Larry Sanders Show DVDs that I got several years after Sanders was over. I knew a Stevie Grant in my drug days. He booked local bands at local bars.
I have never seen Breaking Bad. When I learned that Odenkirk was doing BCS I always tried to time my road trip vacations so I might catch the show when I would stop for the night at a motel. That netted me all of one or two episodes just a few months ago. And last night.
I have heard Odenkirk interviewed on the radio. Can’t remember the first time and all I recall is him relating how his wife ragged on him about being too demanding of their young son.
Just last week NPR did an interview with him about the finale of BCS.
Oh yeah. He attended my alma mater Sleepytown U and never graduated. Neither did I.
Golden Girls is exclusive to Hulu, so I keep that. Great British Bakeoff is exclusive to Netflix, so I keep that. Both are perfect background noise / “comfort food” tv. Paramount+ has everything Star Trek series and The Good Wife / The Good Fight, plus most of my competitive reality “junk food” tv.
But the ones I watch most often with active intent are BritBox and Acorn. Mainly for murder mysteries, Britcoms, and panel shows. Brokenwood or Miss Fisher, followed by an epsiode of 8 out of 10 Cats or Would I Lie to You? is an excellent evening of television.
I agree. All serial, nothing episodic.
This is what killed Atlanta for me. Take a couple of years off, then come back with none of the continuing characters and pretend it’s a series? No. Artists have to be free to indulge themselves, but I don’t have to care.
When my wife and I were first starting to write Anim*rphs (trying to avoid fan searches) we naturally wanted to make each book unique, with no repetition aside from premise and characters. In a rare example of an editor telling us anything useful, a Scholastic editor (since passed) pointed out that series by their nature have repeating structural elements, so new story absolutely, but you have to ground the reader in the familiar first. We’d never really thought about it. 54 books in the main series and they all started with, “My name is…”
A few years ago, everyone was creating their own streaming platform, whether it made sense or not. Totally reasonable and expected to see them collapse into one another.
I’m more surprised that the “with commercials” tier continues to exist and that some of the platforms want to add one.
It’s probably just my own grumpy stubbornness, but if something I want to watch is on a platform with commercials — even if I can pay even more to avoid the commercials — I will start looking to see if it might fall off the back of a truck somewhere. Commercials just make content feel cheap, and not worth paying for.
Roku is the absolutely perfect price point for me. Free. Plus Cracker and I get to diss back and forth about major actors appearing in uncredited cameos in Naked City or Peter Gunn.
Somehow, Netflix and (something else) are bundled into my “Seniors Special” T-Mobile account. So, IF I remember to tune in to catch up with GBBO, I do.
I pay $7 a month for Hulu (I think) so SWMBO can catch up on the shows there that she can’t live without. Nothing much for me there, but occasionally…
Pulled up Acorn and BritBox for free trials, binged everything I could try, and left. Maybe I’ll come back later this year to binge stuff I missed. And maybe not.
Apple? HBO? Discovery? To me, giant sucks, so I don’t even try. Ditto Paramount.
If I need background noise besides the tinnitus, SWMBO will have L&O or BB on the evening loop. With a book in my hands, I barely notice.
@KM: The whole point of streaming was “only take what I want” but we seem to want everything. 🙁
@Gustopher: Easy. Commercials==Mo money and consumers were created to have someone to lie to.
I can’t see Sandman working well that way. The main character is effectively a marble statue and everything happens around him and to him. I think you would miss a lot that becomes important later.
Also, wow, that really is some 1980s queer representation there in Sandman — the positive 1980s queer rep. Utterly faithful to the comics, and utterly dated. It’s all a little seedy and the characters are defined by their queerness rather than being characters who are queer. (See also Doom Patrol based on Grant Morrison’s run from the same era, with Danny the Street, the very queer positive teleporting sentient street, complete with gay neighborhood and burlesque). It’s very Queer As Freakshow — not as an attack on queer folks, but as queer folks making a defiant stand when under attack. And a very tender look at Queer As Freakshow.
I’m a little surprised that the queer representation wasn’t updated a bit. And I’m really curious to see how younger queer folk respond to it.
MMORPGs had a problem that I think the streaming services are likely to face. They ran on a subscription model too, and they faced what they called “content vultures”.
Users would let their subscriptions lapse, wait until the new expansion was released and then renew. All their stuff would have been preserved. They play the new expansion through all the content, then cancel their subscriptions.
Translating to a streaming service, you wait until all the shows you want to watch are available, subscribe, binge watch them, then cancel. Yes, they try to structure pricing to discourage this, but there’s only so much they can do.
That and people going out more than a year ago are the things giving this impetus, it seems to me.
I just wish Sandman would find a story. First half Dream is escaping imprisonment and re-capturing his tools. Then, suddenly Dream is a supporting player in a story-line involving a girl finding her long lost brother. WTF?
Queer representation has gone through the cycle from ‘they’re funny cause they’re queer,’ to, ‘they’re just like regular folks,’ to, ‘they’re perfect and unquestionable because they’re queer,’ to, ‘look everyone, we have queer characters, praise us!’ Not necessarily in that order.
I really despise the Hollywood, ‘look at how progressive we are, please don’t hashtag us!’ Enough with the whole, ‘first ____ to be ____!’ I mean, first female dwarf of color?’ Seriously?
This all flows from the identity politics approach to fiction whether books, TV or movies. Personally I never make a character about their sexuality, gender, race etc… I don’t hire characters to represent, I hire them to do a job. When you make it about do instead of be you avoid the obvious traps.
@Michael Reynolds:..Queer representation has gone through the cycle from ‘they’re funny cause they’re queer,’ to, ‘they’re just like regular folks,’ to, ‘they’re perfect and unquestionable because they’re queer,’ to, ‘look everyone, we have queer characters, praise us!’ Not necessarily in that order.
The things I learn (if IMDb can be believed).
When I was checking on how I rememberd this:
I stumbled on this:
No, currently ESPN and Fox have first dibs on Big Ten regular season games via and overly complicated system (they take turns picking weeks to be “theirs”). On a particular week they then take turns picking games, with whoever’s week it is going first, and then the leftovers go to the Big Ten network
The only disadvantage ESPN has currently is Fox gets to pick a weekend first and always takes week 12 so that they can get the Ohio State-Michigan game, but after that ESPN has access to plenty of good Big Ten games
@Gustopher: “I’m more surprised that the “with commercials” tier continues to exist and that some of the platforms want to add one.”
I used to be surprised by this, too. I’ll always pay the premium for the ad-free service, and if it doesn’t exist I’ll find something else to watch. But then I remembered that Americans hate paying for the things they desperately need — like roads and power plants and first responders. They seem to think that being asked to pay for something they use is the worst kind of oppression, no matter how deeply their lives are impoverished by their refusal to allow taxes to rise. So how can I be shocked when they’re willing to give up ten to twenty minutes of every hour just to save five bucks a month?
@Jay L Gischer:
My wife and I just switched out Showtime for Starz, for that very reason. Previously, we had dropped EPIX to get Showtime. So, yes, that model is alive and well. Currently, I’ve cancelled my Apple TV+ and Paramount+ accounts. Apple TV will come back when Ted Lasso and/or Severance return. Paramount+ may never come back. Don’t know yet.
My problem is that each service has at least one thing I really love.
Peacock it’s the Premier League
ESPN+ it’s LaLiga and the Bundesliga
HBO Max – Winning Time, Hacks
Hulu – The Old Man
Disney+ – Pixar Marvel, and StarWars (Screw you, Reynolds)
Netflix – Foreign Films
Amazon Prime – Jack Ryan, Hanna, Man in the High Castle (complete)
And so one and so on…
@Michael Reynolds: “Queer representation has gone through the cycle from ‘they’re funny cause they’re queer,’ to, ‘they’re just like regular folks,’ to, ‘they’re perfect and unquestionable because they’re queer,’ to, ‘look everyone, we have queer characters, praise us!’”
Isn’t this the same cycle for every group gaining representation in the media? First there were no Blacks on TV or in movies, then there were wacky Black characters, then every judge or doctor was Black, and then finally Black actors could be cast a normal humans. And Asians and people of Central or South American descent and on and on…
@BugManDan:..second rate Big10…
My first read of that was second rate Bingo…
I realize that as “default human with no identity whatsoever”, you’ve never lacked for representation, but for those of us actually in minority identities, I doubt you can ever appreciate how much less lonely it is to find a character who has the same problems you do, knowing you don’t suffer alone, that other people see you, and that there is hope things can get better.
And I’d love for my life to be less about what I be, but sadly, I’m not the one who decided to make what I be a target.
This especially made me laugh given how much leaning-in to queer-coded villains is such a thing in LGBT culture.
This may not be the show for you.
Seriously, the idea behind it is that Morpheus/Dream is incapable of change. Things happen to him that come to a head and then try to force the change — things that he basically ignores as beneath him. The imprisonment, the regathering of his domain, the missing kid…
Morpheus is unwilling or unable to take agency.
@MarkedMan: @Gustopher: @wr: It takes all kinds to make a world. I look at commercials as probably my last remaining link to popular culture and my only source for information that causes me to shop anything in the grocery store other than produce, meat, and dairy. Beyond that, I stream mostly Tubi, Roku, and Hulu, so my lost time for commercials is very low. An hour-long show from network TV takes ~50 minutes to watch on Hulu or Roku. Not a bad deal.
The original comics were written at a very different time. It’s just deeply weird to see how authentic the show is to the comics, and how completely anachronistic it is. The queer struggles now and the queer struggles then are different, and here we have a very aggressive 1980s Queer Agenda — somewhat separatist because of the times, and shoved away with the other “freaks,” with a message of “go on, you should be free to be the freak you want to be” rather than the current “yes, queer people just want to go to college and get a mortgage and live a normal life”.
It’s a period piece in a culture shift, presented without commentary on the culture shift, and not even really presented as a period piece.
MR didn’t word it well, but I believe what he’s saying is that there’s a difference between “I’m going to create a gay character!” and then trying to figure out how he fits into the story (or just shoe-horning him in), and “I’m going to create a master detective”, and then deciding that he’s a trans Latino Buddhist because it fits the way the character interacts with the story.
Much better representation in the latter, and far fewer cringe-worth stereotypes popping up.
@wr: I guess people answer their phones too. Barbarians who spend their lives being interrupted by bullshit. No wonder they are always so angry.
I used to work with an Angry Russian Buddhist. Not my favorite person to work with. Trans Latinx Buddhist seems better — and I am betting they would be Latinx rather than Latino, as it is the gender non-conforming Latin* community that seem to be the only Latin* people to embrace the term.
(The star is just a wildcard, not an attempt at creating another term… the set of people who would identify as either Latino or Latinx)
It’s not an either or thing. If a writer is setting out to write about what it’s like coming to the realization that you’re gay and what happens after you reach that realization, then that necessarily is going to require creating a gay character specifically because they’re “a gay character”.
That’s not the same a tokenism.
Funny thing is a lot of LGBT people are starting to feel like the assimilationists may have sold them a bill of goods as the “college and get a mortgage and live a normal life” never actually arrived, so I’m not sure this agenda is as aggressively 80s as you think it is. Indeed the reason this show is coming out now may be a reflection of a growing liberationist mindset in the LGBT community.
Yep, pretty much the same, apparently inevitable cycle. Doesn’t make it any less irritating. I just sit there watching and thinking, OMG, can we please skip ahead to the part where it’s normal?
@Stormy Dragon: That’s as much a factor of the decline of the middle class as anything about queer assimilationists selling an empty bill of goods. A couple of entire generations have been sold a bill of goods.
If queer folk can code, that middle class life is waiting for them though.
Not saying there is no discrimination, just a lot less, and options for the openly queer are far greater than they were at the time Sandman was written.
And the fights are different. We’re fighting to keep rights against a backlash rather than fighting to gain rights.
@Stormy Dragon: Ah, I thought fox had first dibs always and then the rest got split up between whoever else had some stake. Admittedly, I don’t care about the B10 in the least.
Right, but part of that is that coding has often been uniquely tolerant of “be free to be the freak you want to be”.
@Stormy Dragon: I meant code as in write computer programs. It’s the only career that still reliably leads to a middle class life.
(It took me far too long to make sense of your comment until I realized we were using entirely different meanings of code. 🙂 )
This isn’t triggering anyone?
Ok, how about this: the backlash against Latinx comes mostly from people who just kind of wished queer folks would stop being so queer.
(Used to be that just using “Latinx” was a reliable gentle troll…)
I meant code as in write computer programs too. You can be really weird and still get work as a computer programmer in a lot of ways that wouldn’t work in other professions.
There’s a reason why the “the internet is secretly run by furries” stereotype exists. 😉
@Michael Reynolds: Part of your confusion stems from the source material. Sandman was one of the first ongoing comic series to intentionally cordon itself off into miniseries designed for graphic novels. The first half of Season 1 covers the first graphic novel, Preludes and Nocturnes, and the second half of Season 1 covers the second graphic novel, The Doll’s House.
So it feels like two different stories to you, because it is.