Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, May 18th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by cinnamon coffee and leftover pasta.

IS MGM REALLY WORTH $8-$10 BILLION?
There are numerous reports today that Amazon is close to acquiring MGM Holdings Inc. for a price that has been reported everywhere from $8 to $10 billion. If that sounds like a lot, it certainly seems to be on the face of it. MGM has been attempting to sell itself for a number of years and several companies - including Apple - apparently value the company at closer to $6 billion. And last December, a piece in the Wall Street Journal valued the company at about $5.5 billion. So why would Amazon pay such a premium for MGM, other than the fact that it can?

I spoke with several people at Amazon this morning on background and while they declined to even confirm on the record that a sale was in the works, we did play a game of "well, if we WERE interested, this would be why."

* Obviously, the crown jewel of the MGM library are the James Bond movies. But thanks to a unique deal MGM has with the Broccoli family, Barbara Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson retain an enormous amount of control over the franchise. They currently serve as the final arbiter on everything from the scripts to the casting to the promotional materials. A situation one of my sources described as "not a deal breaker, but worrying." I was told Amazon executives have had at least one meeting with the duo in an effort to wrestle creative control away while allowing them to retain their current split of the profits. It's not clear whether that effort was successful, but I'm told that Amazon executives have already explored the idea of a young James Bond TV series, along with a vague plan to roll out some made-for-Amazon movies set in the Bond cinematic universe.

The older James Bond movies have been available for streaming on just about every major streaming service, but the prize for Amazon would be the exclusive rights to upcoming Bind films, with the expectation that the movies would shift to a same day-and-date release or an Amazon exclusive some point down the road.

* MGM Holdings owns a lot of well-known intellectual property, although I was told that ownership on several of the more well-known titles was not as clear cut as publicly reported. While it isn't as popular as it was in the 1990s and early-aughts, the Stargate franchise is an obvious starting point for any reboot efforts coming out of MGM.

* The content library of MGM Holdings is massive and includes the post-April 1986 MGM film and TV library, the MGM animation library as well as third-party animated films released by MGM, Orion Pictures (which includes a large number of smaller studio projects), the pre-1994 Castle Rock Entertainment library, as well as most of the Cannon Group and Dimension Pictures library. It also includes the post-1952 United Artists library, which includes nearly 200 pre-1947 Monogram Pictures films as well as the library of ZIV Television programs.

My sources tell me that the library would be of great interest to Amazon because it would serve multiple purposes. Many of the better-known titles have been extensively licensed to AVODs in recent years and one plan would slowly remove those from the market before making them Amazon exclusives. Some of the titles would become part of the Amazon Prime library, but the lions share would be rotated through IMDb TV. That ad-supported service is an increased focus for Amazon and the MGM library is seen as a steady provider of titles. There has apparently also been some talk of using some of MGM Holdings deeper catalog to launch at least one subscriber-supported Amazon Channel - most likely a classic movies channel. But I was also told that idea was in the more-than-speculation-but-early-planning stage. 

Is this all worth $8-$10 billion to Amazon? Keeping the library away from rivals certainly has value and there is enough in the library for the deal to make financial sense if it's exploited correctly.  My concern is that Amazon's biggest weakness has been its streaming UX and content discovery. It's easy to imagine a scenario in which all of this great content gets buried in the streaming world's worst interface.

DISCOVERY UPFRONTS ROUND-UP
As you might expect, this morning's upfront presentation from Discovery Inc. was heavy on new programming announcements. Here's a link to a long list of renewals, new shows and specials for the big Discovery linear networks, as well as Discovery+.

There weren't many big surprises, although it was announced that beginning later this fall, all 13 of the Discovery Go apps will include content from all of the other Discovery networks. The logical question is that if all of the TV Everywhere apps are going to include similar content, why not just have one TV Everywhere app for all of the networks? Apparently it has something to do with the agreements with the various TV providers, although I have reached out to Discovery for clarification.

One theme that came out several times during the presentation is that despite all appearances to the contrary, the streaming service Discovery+ is "complimentary" to its linear television channels, not seen as an eventual replacement. But aside from the programming moves that make that assertion not quite accurate, a couple  of data points about the digital audience stood out for me. One, that 18% of Discovery's audience is digital-only. And that the average Discovery+ subscriber is watching an average of 3 hours a day of programming. Which seems like a large number for a service that is supposed to be "complimentary."

ABC ENTERTAINMENT HEAD ON THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ABC & HULU
THR's Leslie Goldberg has an interview with ABC Entertainment president and Hulu Originals head Craig Erwich, and among other things, he explains how Hulu and ABC complement one another:

People look to ABC to be inspired and informed; it’s an aspirational brand. Live events, family comedies, shows about heroes — like Grey’s Anatomy, Station 19 and The Good Doctor telling the stories of the frontline workers — these are shows that people can come together around. Those are good hallmarks of what people look to ABC for. All of those shows are on Hulu the next day and are consumed by the Hulu audience. Hulu is a different experience. It’s an on-demand platform and people are curating their own set of content of what they want to watch and when they want to watch it. These shows on Hulu are intended to drive conversation and maybe tackle subjects or themes that might not be as broad as ABC. The thru line is creative excellence and do these stories reflect our world? And then the tones and concepts are almost secondary considerations.

He also talks about his decision to cancel Rebel after only five episodes:

[Rebel creator] Krista Vernoff is brilliant. She’s a vital partner to us and part of the Disney family. She created something very special there. Given the show and given our partnership with Krista, we gave it a really big launch. We focused a lot of our efforts across the entire company in telling people about this show and unfortunately the audience didn’t amass the way it needed to. We tried to give the decision and the show every benefit of the doubt, but ultimately we just couldn’t find a path forward.

Did you discuss holding off on the decision on the show’s future until after the show finished its run? NBC is doing the same with its midseason bubble shows that are still airing their seasons.

It was a very carefully considered decision and one we tried to be methodical about. Part of the process was examining the behavior in terms of on demand viewing and catch up. How is it performing days after its performance on multiplatform viewing? And there was just not a trend there toward continuing to build the audience. Ultimately that’s what led to a very difficult decision.

This is just another reminder of how important that next-day and catch-up viewing is to the success of broadcast shows. 

ODDS AND SODS
*  Deadline is reporting that the Disney Channel has renewed The Owl House for a third season ahead of its season two premiere.

* Paramount+ has announced that season five of The Good Fight will premiere on June 24th. 

* Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming at Crown Media Family Networks, is stepping down in June.

* Season two of the zombie series Black Summer is coming to Netflix on June 17th. It's a show that skirted under the radar of critics with its first season, but it was a non-stop thrillfest and it garnered a lot of social media buzz when it dropped.

ICYMI:
Here are links to some recent pieces I posted on AllYourScreens:

Why NBCU Should Renew 'Debris' (And Move It To Peacock)

What Primetime Broadcast TV Shows Are New/Renewed/Canceled For Fall 2021?

Five Reasons Why The WarnerMedia/Discovery Merger Is Probably Going To Cost You Money

CLASSIFIEDS:
Experience The OZY FEST
OZY Fest, the one-of-a-kind festival described as "TED meets Coachella," is back for a virtual celebration of great entertainment and the biggest conversations, streaming live May 15-16. Hang out with Dr Fauci, Condoleezza Rice, Sevyn Streeter, Malcolm Gladwell, Tig Notaro + more. Register now.

Want to advertise in this newsletter? Email me at rick@allyourscreens.com


TODAY'S PREMIERES 
1) Broken Harts (Discovery+)
On a coastal section part of Highway 1 in Mendocino County, California, a car was found upside down at the bottom of a 100-foot cliff. Inside police found the bodies of  two adults, later identified as Jen and Sarah Hart, and three children. From the very onset, it seemed more than a normal traffic accident, and it continued to be a confusing and shocking story - both for the local community and the online supporters who had followed the family’s adventures for years.  They were known as a couple leading an idyllic life. Two white women who adopted six black children, promoting a core mission of activism, travel, and community service. As the story of the crash circulated, many began to wonder how this could have happened to a family like theirs, and if maybe the life they showed to the world, wasn’t exactly what it seemed. Expanding upon the hit Glamour podcast and article, this two-hour film peels back the façade this family carefully curated, exposing chilling patterns of abuse, and multiple systems that failed to protect the lives of six innocent children. 

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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.