Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Friday, June 10th, 2022
What Denmark can show the WGA about the battle over residuals.
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Friday, June 10th, 2022.
WHY THE WGA SHOULD LOOK TO DENMARK AS A GUIDELINE TO THE BATTLE AHEAD
The current WGA West minimum basic agreement (MBA) expires on May 1st, 2023 and it is the collective bargaining agreement that covers most of the work done by WGA writers.
Negotiations between Hollywood's writers and the studios always tends to be contentious, but the upcoming talks are likely to be more difficult than usual. The dreaded "strike" word is already being uttered by a number of writers, who argue that unless changes are made to the way they are paid, the middle-class level of writers will disappear.
The main contention is over the way that streamers are paying for the rights to programs. In the glory days of linear television, writers were both paid for their current work, but then were able to make money when the episodes re-aired in syndication. That residual money wasn't always life-changing, but what it did do was provide a steadier revenue stream for writers. It also allowed them to weather the inevitable ups and downs of the business and even pay for mundane things such a small house or maybe some college for one of the kids. The upside was even bigger for show creators, who could make millions if their name was on a substantial success.
But the modern streamer approach is to pay a small premium upfront for all the rights to a show - and that's all you get. That change, along with other moves such as shorter seasons and smaller writing rooms has had the dual impact of providing less money for writers now and cutting off the option for any future financial upside.
Many writers are arguing the upcoming MBA should mandate some sort of residual payment schedule for streaming originals and as someone who makes his living writing, it's an argument I'm inclined to agree with. But convincing big streamers to agree to that will be near-impossible and all you have to do is look at what is happening in Denmark to see what American writers might be facing.
In January of this year, the Danish Audiovisual Producers Association and Create Denmark (representing the Danish actors', screenwriters', and directors' unions) signed a new rights agreement that has led to several big streamers suspending production of new programming in Denmark.
Under the new agreement, artists who had given up their rights in exchange for a lump sum will now be paid on an ongoing basis. That is on top of a government-mandated so-called Netflix Tax, which require OTTs to reserve 6 percent of revenues generated in the country for local TV production and public TV support. Denmark is also a member of the European Union and in 2018 the EU passed a law that requires global streaming services to have at least 30 percent European content in order to operate in Europe.
As a result, Netflix has announced that it is suspending production on any originals in Denmark, and that decision has been followed by regional streaming powerhouses Viaplay and TV2 Play.
It's tempting to argue that streamers such as Netflix can't afford to have an extended Hollywood work stoppage impact its need for new content. And it's true, every streamer depends on a supply of new, buzzy shows to drive engagement and lessen subscriber churn.
And while Netflix couldn't survive indefinitely without new Hollywood originals, unlike during the pandemic, it can rely on productions from other markets to fill the gap, since a WGA strike wouldn't affect those productions. In a weird way, a strike would help protect Netflix a bit, since other rivals are less positioned to take advantage of the production shift. And an extended strike would decimate an already weakened linear television, especially if it delayed the production of programming for the upcoming fall season.
IF YOU FIND THIS NEWSLETTER USEFUL
Yesterday I passed the 24,000 mark for free subscriptions and I wanted to ask for your help if you find this newsletter useful. I only mention this every 3-4 weeks, because like you, I am weary of the some of the non-stop solicitations you find in some newsletters.
All of my Monday-Friday free newsletters remain free to all. I think keeping the newsletter free makes it much easier for readers to share it and based on the numbers I've seen, that happens a great deal. And while it's a bit contrarian to keep the newsletter free in an era where just about every newsletter has moved most of their content behind a paywall (see above) - or partnered with a newsletter network - I think the positives continue to outweigh the financial hit.
But I do receive a regular number of requests from people who want to support my work in some way. So here are a few options:
1) Share the newsletter and encourage others to do the same.
2) Buy me a cup of coffee (which is really just a way to throw a few dollars to me in a one time payment)
3) Subscribe to the paid version of the Too Much TV newsletter. I've priced it as low as I can on the Substack platform - $5 per month or $50 for the year. I'm working on some bonus stuff for subscribers, but honestly, this is mostly just an option for people who want to support the newsletter (and can afford to do so).
I completely understand the financial limitations we all work under. I certainly can't begin to pay for all the subscriptions on my list of "must read" publications. But if you're able to subscribe, I appreciate the support.
And now on to more news....
ARE STREAMERS UNDERVALUING EMAIL BLASTS?
As we know, content discovery is challenging and one of the most effective ways to reach subscribers is by email. Which is why you see most streamers sending out email blasts promoting TV shows and movies that have just been added to the service. But while those email campaigns are fine, they are really used as blunt instruments and the personalization that is used is primarily driven by what that individual subscriber has watched in the past.
If the goal is to get email recipients to visit a web site, few media companies are better at it than the old Scripps-owned networks such as Food and HGTV. They use contests and giveaways as a method of boosting engagement and gathering demographic data. And there's no reason why streamers couldn't do the same.
For instance, I receive daily email reminders about a couple of HGTV and Food Network-related contests: the giveaway of an HGTV dream house and a $10,000 cash giveaway from the Food Network. The dream house giveaway has become an annual event for HGTV and it involves a related linear TV special and plenty of cross promotion. But the more interesting contest for me is the $10,000 giveaway. It seems to happen once a month and readers can visit the sites for both networks each day to enter.
$10,000 is a lot of money for the average person, but for the amount of engagement the two web sites receive, it's likely one of the bigger bargains of their marketing campaign. Some subset of people are visiting each site once a day (and they can sign up for emails to remind them to visit). The initial entry they fill out asks the standard array of demographic questions, but also how they watch the network, including which platform. Other daily entries will offer up other emails to opt-in to or ask them to choose their favorite shows. Assuming the average monthly response rate is 100,000 people (and that's likely a fraction of the real number), Food Network is getting a bevy of marketing info and engagement with the brand for about 10 cents a user.
A streamer could easily set up the same thing. Do a $10 or 20K monthly giveaway. Plug it first in the regular email blasts and when people respond, give them the ability to receive regular reminders. Create a splash page for the contest which is accessible via the web or mobile. It can include both the contest info and a tease or two for streaming content that is changed out daily. Also create specific vertical emails participants can opt in to in order to boost content discovery: true crime would be a perfect example.
While this type of email campaign doesn't reach the subscribers viewing via a smart TV or app, it is a great way to connect with a portion of the subscriber base. And it allows the streamer to collect data they would have trouble obtaining otherwise. Particularly if that subscriber is being billed for the service by a third party.
DEADLINE'S UNFORTUNATE 'REVIEW' OF THE JANUARY 6TH HEARINGS
It isn't often that one of the major Hollywood news outlets is forced to completely rework a piece by one of its primary editors. But that happened Thursday night, after Deadline's Senior Editor, Legal & TV Critic Dominic Patten posted a "review" of the January 6th primetime hearing that was filled with reality TV references and a bunch of random complaints about its entertainment value. I was not impressed and this piece got to part of the problem:
Patten never quite says how he thinks the hearings should be paced or produced, although readers might get the sense that the point of this piece is just to be purposely contrary, as well as being something that conservative media can link to tomorrow in order to show "see, even Hollywood thinks the hearings didn't amount to anything."
It's fine to have an opinion about the January 6th hearings, but billing your unconnected moaning as a review is a bit like writing a piece about the destruction of the Hindenburg and complaining that the explosion didn't seem all that scary up close.
Within a couple of hours, the piece had been completely reworked, removing the mentions of The Apprentice, Survivor and Mark Burnett, among others. Editor's also attached an apology to the top of the piece, which is now labeled a "commentary."
ODDS AND SODS
* As part of its Geeked Week celebration/marketing event, the company announced multiple new games based on Netflix series. Among the game titles announced for the streaming service were The Queen’s Gambit Chess, Spiritfarer, Shadow & Bones: Destinies, Reigns: Three Kingdoms, Too Hot To Handle and Poinpy.
* Former NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield has inked a new multiple-year overall deal with Disney that covers his production company, Littlefield Co., through 2026.
* Kim Cattrall has signed on to star in the upcoming Netflix series Glamorous, in which Cattrall will be starring as a makeup mogul.
WHAT'S NEW FOR FRIDAY
Here's a quick rundown of all the new stuff premiering today on TV and streaming:
A Tribute To Bob Saget (Netflix)
Beyond Infinity: Buzz And The Journey To Lightyear (Disney+)
Bunk'd Season Premiere (Disney)
Fairfax (Prime Video)
First Kill (Netflix)
For All Mankind Season Three Premiere (Apple TV+)
Hollywood Houselift With Jeff Lewis Series Premiere (Freevee)
Lovely Little Farms Series Premiere (Apple TV+)
For All Mankind Season Three Premiere (Apple TV+)
Peaky Blinders Season Premiere (Netflix)
90 Day Fiance: Love In Paradise Season Two Premiere (Discovery+)
The Essex Serpent Season One Finale (Apple TV+)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU MONDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.