Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Monday, January 25, 2021
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, January 25th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by hot tea and pasta salad.
WWE NETWORK MOVING TO PEACOCK IN NEW DEAL
Operating a stand-alone streaming sports service - even with a committed viewership - is challenging. And while the WWE Network currently has 1.1 million subscribers, it's battled a flurry of challenges, ranging from high churn rates and slumping viewership for its flagship talk shows to an industry trying to work around the limitations of doing live events in the midst of a pandemic. There have been rumors that the WWE has been looking for an exit from the direct-to-consumer streaming business and this morning, it was announced the WWE Network will close in March and it's content would become part of the NBCU streaming service Peacock:
In mid-March, WWE Network‘s approximately 1.1 million existing U.S. subscribers will be migrated to Peacock Premium, where they’ll continue to get access to WWE Network but will have the option to pay 50% less — $4.99/month vs. $9.99/month — and get full access to the Peacock Premium tier with ads. WWE Network also will be available on the no-ads Peacock Premium Plus plan ($9.99/month).
The terms of the deal haven't been announced publicly, although The Wall Street Journal's Joe Flint reports his sources place the cost as in the neighborhood for $1 billion for a five-year deal.
Although it's tough to judge the financial implications of the deal from outside, on the face of it, this seems like a smart deal for both sides. It allows the WWE to still monetize its digital assets while not having to deal with all of the marketing and technical challenges that come with operating a standalone streaming service. And it gives Peacock 17,000+ hours of sports-ish content, as well as access to upcoming events.
Some of the takes I've seen so far about this deal have wondered why the WWE didn't cut a deal with either Netflix or Amazon. Netflix has been pretty consistent about not being in any particular rush to add sports programming in this fashion. And given that this deal is just for U.S. streaming rights, it's not the scope of deal Netflix is interested in pursuing right now. As for Amazon...well, just imagine the company trying to wedge WWE's catalog into the hellhole of streaming that is the Amazon Prime Video app.
WGN AMERICA IS CHANGING ITS NAME TO NEWSNATION
Longtime "superstation" WGN America is changing its name and its programming. The channel will be rebranded as "Newsnation," which is being touted as the "unbiased competitor to the cable news giants."
It's not a terrible idea. WGN America has never quite found a programming mix that worked. It tried original programming, syndicated drama blocks and movies but the national audience has remained stubbornly small. And given the perceived partisan stances of the big three cable news networks, a new centrish news network makes sense. But there are lot of hurdles to overcome. While news programming is often cheaper than syndicated scripted programming, a viable news network needs to be live as many hours as possible.
But the real challenge is whether viewers will see Newsnation as an important (and unbiased) news source and are willing to give it a try. The recent shift of conservative viewers from Fox News to newer rivals such as News Max shows that viewers can change their habits. But will they in this case?
COMCAST LAUNCHING FREE HOT SPOTS
Comcast is launching 29 Wi-Fi connected "Lift Zones" in the Washington D.C. area to help connect low income families to the internet so they can do things such as homework:
Working with its network of nonprofit partners, Comcast Lift Zones will provide robust, free WiFi inside partner community centers to help thousands of low-income students and families to successfully participate in distance learning, search for employment or access other essential services.
While this move is helpful, it also costs Comcast almost nothing. If the company was serious about making it easier for low-income families to have internet access, they would ease the restrictions on their "Internet Essentials" program. That program offers a basic broadband service to households who qualify for programs like the National School Lunch Program, housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and others for a cost of $9.95 a month.
It's a great program, but it's only available to households who haven't had Comcast service in the past 90 days. So if you live in a low-income household and had to cancel your service recently or had it disconnected, then you are out of luck.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DUMB TAKE ON NETFLIX
I could do an entire newsletter that is nothing but highlights of bad takes on Netflix. Even otherwise smart journalists seem to just lose their common sense when confronted with the prospect of writing a Netflix hot take.
This weekend's bad Netflix take came from Scott Mendelson at Forbes, who noted that the 2013 theatrical release Homefront (starring Jason Statham) was currently the most-watched film on the streaming service. So if that's the case, then why is Netflix pouring all of that money into creating original movies?:
As far as its momentary popularity on Netflix, it’s their most-watched movie at the moment, it’s another example of the streaming platform being just as popular (if not more so) for old-school grindhouse action flicks as prestige TV and network binge favorites. I’ve written my share of posts about films like Jennifer Garner’s Peppermint and Zoe Saldana’s Colombiana being momentarily popular, and Liam Neeson’s Unknown had a run near the top just before Honest Thief opened theatrically last week. Meanwhile, in a skewed irony, Anthony Mackie’s Outside The Wire (a Netflix original) is now sitting below the Open Road/Millennium studio programmer. Why spend a fortune on Netflix actioners when studio discards pull in solid viewership for potentially a fraction of the price?
Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos reportedly remarked in 2019 that spending $115 million on JC Candor’s Triple Frontier, a muscular actioner starring Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Pedro Pascal, Charlie Hunnam and Garrett Hedlund may have been a mistake. To be fair, since then, Netflix has paid up for the Dwayne Johnson/Gal Gadot/Ryan Reynolds action comedy Red Notice and is allegedly giving $200 million to the Russo Bros. for the Chris Evans/Ryan Gosling actioner The Grey Man, while the Russo-produced Extraction (starring Chris Hemsworth) is allegedly Netflix’s most-watched original movie ever. Nonetheless, the continuing popularity of third-party star-driven actioners like Unknown, Homefront and Jessica Chastain’s Ava implies that “new to you” action flicks may be good enough for the Netflix consumer base.
I could spend a lot of time carefully dissecting this idea and explaining why it's so ill-conceived. But honestly, I don't think even Mendelson is really being serious. He knows the business well enough to know that it doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. In fact, it can't be, because no streaming service can produce 100 of its own content. And no service can remain viable if they rely strictly on licensed content. It's not just the cost of that content. It's that there isn't enough new-ish content available and there is guarantee about the quality. And quality does matter, no matter how effective your marketing might be.
WHAT'S ON TODAY:
Here is a rundown of the paltry number of new television programs premiering today:
1) ATL Homicide Season Premiere (TV One)
On September 13th, 2010, Vince & Quinn respond to a shooting at a gas station where 19-year-old Ladeddrick Love was gunned down while his pregnant wife and toddler were both in the car.
2) Lucille Ball: Life, Death & Money (Reelz)
Legendary star Lucille Ball is known as one of the greatest comedians of all time. On the air for six seasons she cemented her iconic status in I Love Lucy where she and first husband Desi Arnaz pulled in astronomical ratings. It's also here that Ball forged her way to becoming a leading lady off screen as executive producer later launching mega movie and TV franchises including Star Trek and Mission Impossible. When she passes away in 1989 her sizable estate of $40 million is split among her two children and second husband Gary Morton. Unlike many celebrities Ball left behind a will and testament but even with one so clearly written her estate becomes entangled and bitter.
3) My Feet Are Killing Me Season Premiere (TLC)
Dr. Ebonie's skills are tested as she attempts to diagnose a patient with feet that are covered in huge, wart-like masses.
4) Reunions Series Premiere (Acorn TV)
This contemporary French-language series (with English subtitles) centers on two half-brothers of different races and economic backgrounds who meet each other for the first time after the death of their father and inherit a failing hotel on the paradise island of Réunion. The two long-lost siblings and their families must make huge sacrifices and band together to save the resort.
5) Snowpiercer Season Two Premiere (TNT)
Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, Snowpiercer centers on the remnants of humanity, who inhabit a 1001 car, perpetually-moving train that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out in this riveting television adaptation based on the critically acclaimed movie and graphic novel series of the same name.
This newsletter is called "Too Much TV" because....well, it's hard to keep track of all the new television premiering everyday. To help you prioritize your viewing, click here to see our list of more than 400 upcoming television premieres, movies and finales. You'll find listings from more than 70 networks, as well as streaming services and web shows.
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I'll be back with another one tomorrow. If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.