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Correction: Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Thursday, November 3rd, 2022
A few thoughts about Warner Bros. Discovery. And global productions
My apologies, I sent out the draft version of the newsletter instead of the final copy. Here is the shiny (and hopefully less error-filled) final draft.
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Thursday, November 3rd, 2022.
A COUPLE OF THOUGHTS ABOUT WARNER BROS DISCOVERY EARNINGS
Warner Bros. Discovery released its Q3 earnings at the close of the market today and I'm sure you've seen the highlights by now. But here are a couple of other thoughts:
* It continues to be of interest to me that WBD has excluded certain groups of subscribers from its overall numbers for global direct-to-consumer subscribers. The company simply refuses to provide any guidance about why or how many subscribers aren't being publicly counted. But based on the groups that are being excluded, my guess these products are shedding massive numbers of subscribers and WBD executives don't want those losses to impact their overall numbers. Those excluded subscribers include domestic and international Cinemax subscribers, international basic HBO subscribers & people who subscribe to DTC products, other than Discovery+, HBO and HBO Max. The latter group would include services such as Boomerang.
* CEO David Zaslav said in the investor's call today that he is planning on leaning into devoting more resources to familiar franchises, which he said included Harry Potter and Sex and The City. I have real doubts that a Harry Potter movie would work given the continued controversy around J.K. Rowling. And Sex And The City? I mean, maybe another half-ass semi-reunion movie? Otherwise, what would the plan be? Do a reboot?
* Based on comments today from WBD streaming and games CEO JB Perrette, who said when HBO Max and Discover+ combine and relaunch early next year, the resulting product is going to be more expensive and the ad-supported tier will likely have twice the current ad load:
While Perrette and his colleagues didn’t offer any precise guidance on pricing or details about subscription tiers during the call, they didn’t sound like they’d be shy about making aggressive moves (especially given the company’s challenged financial shape). Perrette noted that by blending Discovery+ with HBO Max, two more specialized offerings are becoming something of interest to an entire household, theoretically making it a better value for the money.
Assuming they are right about the number of people who currently subscribe to both services and welcome the upcoming mash-up, I suspect they are working with a very narrow band of increases that can generate revenue without severely impacting churn. Zaslav and Perrette seem to believe that they can combine both services together, knock a couple of dollars off of stand-alone price for both and everyone will be happy.
And I see absolutely no indication they have any data that supports that belief. In fact, I was told on background by a fairly high-placed WBD executive that the company had commissioned a market study to test some of these questions and found that about one third of current Discovery+ subscribers were not firmly interested in subscribing to a combined HBO Max service and another 22% reported they were "unsure." The number one reason given was "lack of interest in programming," followed by potential costs.
TWEET OF THE DAY
MYTH OF THE GLOBAL STREAMING HIT
The Entertainment Strategy Guy has a piece in The Ankler about global movie and TV streaming productions and his overall point is that no one is watching them. And so by extension, why are Netflix and other major streamers producing them?
The argument is well put together with lots of charts and data. This is another one of those topics that he and I have went back-and-forth over in the past, and I'm not going to go down that rabbit hole again. Other than to note that I am still not convinced IMDB reviews are a great judge of how popular a show or movie might be. Or to be specific, how many people have seen it. But I could be wrong.
I did want to mention a bit of nuance that is important to consider when trying to decide whether or not the streamers - especially Netflix - should be devoting so many resources to productions outside the United States. Especially non-English language productions.
They don't have a choice. By my count, there are at least 30 countries that have some sort of governmental mandates that require spending some fixed portion of revenue from local subscribers on local productions. In some cases, the laws directly require the money to be spent on local productions. In other cases, streamers are taxed some fixed percentage of local revenue. But that "tax" can instead be spent on local productions.
Aside from the obvious problems with those mandates, a lot of these countries don't have especially robust local production capabilities or enough trained crew to support Netflix's needs. So in many cases, the streamer is essentially building those capabilities from scratch. Even if they didn't want to commit those resources, they have no choice.
The other wrinkle in this is that in many markets, the only way to compete is to offer original local content, in the local language, with some smattering of local familiar faces. Even if the productions are only popular in that region, it's the only way to compete with local streamers. So even if those local productions don't travel well to North America and Europe, it's one of the costs of doing business.
People like to say that this is a business built on hits and that is indeed the case. There's also a nuanced "but..." to keep in mind, however. Data is important and extremely useful. But there are also other factors that come into play in these discussions and they are often overlooked.
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SPEAKING OF NEWSLETTER AND RELYING ON DATA
Joe Adalian's latest "Buffering" newsletter takes a look at Roku and it's a good overview of what is going on with that streaming device/streaming service/ad sales company.
This paragraph jumped out at me. It was a discussion of why the made-for-Roku film Weird shot in Los Angeles:
Roku’s focus on making sure Weird became a buzz magnet for the company even extended to decisions it made regarding the film’s production. While most modestly budgeted movies for streaming look to keep costs down by shooting in Canada or some other area with lower production costs, Roku agreed with Funny or Die’s desire to have the movie shoot in Los Angeles. Even if it made the movie a bit more expensive, “that allowed for anybody and everybody who might want to do a cameo to come swing by, and that’s indeed what happened,” Eilenberg explains. “The comedy community and so many people have so much love for Al that it just sort of started to snowball from there.” The result: Weird is overflowing with bold-faced names (Quinta Brunson! Jack Black! Conan O’Brien!), all of whom have already helped boost social chatter about the film.
That decision is a perfect example of a situation when ignoring the data (or at least, putting in context) is a great decision. From a financial standpoint, shooting in L.A. was a dumb idea. And there's no real way to quantify what the impact of having all of those cameos in the film means for viewer numbers and engagement. But it was the right move, even if there's no way to prove it.
WHAT'S NEW FOR THURSDAY:
Here's a quick rundown of all the new stuff premiering today on TV and streaming:
A Wesley Christmas (BET+)
Blockbuster Series Premiere (Netflix)
Chris Redd: Why Am I Like This? (HBO Max)
Hip Hop Homicides Series Premiere (WE tv)
Kold X Windy Series Premiere (WE tv)
Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty (HBO Max)
Marvel Studios Assembled: The Making of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (Disney+)
Mountain Men: Ultimate Marksmen Series Premiere (History)
My Sesame Street Friends Season Premiere (HBO Max)
Panayotis Pascot: Almost (Netflix)
Rehab Addict Lake House Rescue (HGTV)
Sesame Street Season Premiere (HBO Max)
The Capture Season Two Premiere (Peacock)
The Dragon Prince Season Four Premiere (Netflix)
The Really Loud House (Nickelodeon)
The Suspect Series Premiere (Sundance Now)
Titans Season Premiere (HBO Max)
Tut's Lost City Revealed (Discovery+)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU FRIDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.