Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Wednesday, June 15th, 2022
If I ran CNN...
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, June 15th, 2022.
CNN’S PROBLEM ISN’T ‘THE BIG LIE,’ IT’S THE BIG YAWN
New CNN president Chris Licht is discouraging staff from using the phase "the big lie" to refer to former President Donald Trump's false claims about the 2020 election:
On a Tuesday conference call with management and show executive producers, Licht was asked for his thoughts on “the big lie,” and said he preferred that staff avoid the term. He made clear this was a preference, not a mandate, but staffers have taken it as a clear directive from the new boss.
He encouraged producers to instead use the terms “Trump election lie” or “election lies” in banners and graphics.
According to a source, Licht argued that using “the big lie” makes the mistake of adopting branding used by the Democratic Party, thereby weakening the objectivity of the network.
The temptation is to see this not-a-mandate as another reflection of John Malone's desire to move CNN away from what he describes as "opinion television." In this case, Licht has a point. It is Democratic branding, and as long as CNN is still referring to the efforts as a "lie," I'm not going to get too wound up about the specifics of this semi-directive.
Still, I remain skeptical about CNN's apparent "move towards the middle." The universe of cable news viewers is small and remains stubbornly old. There is little indication that there is a yearning in these viewers for a voice in the middle - whatever that means. Even worse for CNN, cable news viewers who are conservative are going to see the network as left-leaning no matter that changes are made. Because in today's environment, reporting on a story that is bad for one side is seen as bias. In a world where "bad news is biased news" is the watch word, it's difficult to see how CNN can somehow be seen as strictly non-partisan by either the left or the right.
If I were running CNN, I'd worry less about optics or being seen as non-partisan. Instead, I'd use the network's formidable resources to carve out a different take on the news. Skew populist, which might be tough to do when your network is part of one of the biggest media companies in the world. Take on the semi-monopolies that control large segments of the country's economic engine, focus on stories that resonate with people no matter their political compass. Take the Adam Conover approach to complex news stories. Define the problem, explain the behind-the-scenes issues and then use your shows to drive the conversation.
Make a few moves that are pure PR stunts, but will also set the tone. Make a pledge not to hire any network contributors who have worked in national government in the past five years. Hire a network ombudsman, with the authority to follow complaints about coverage wherever they may lead. Use CNN's local affiliates for story ideas and to drive conversations that are both unique and difficult for cable rivals to match.
In other words, break the mold as much as possible. Set CNN apart not with some false equivalency test for news coverage, but by being fair AND different. Don't be afraid to be critically of rivals or of the network itself. Program CNN as if it's a scrappy up-and-comer with a minimal budget. Lean into the lessons learned by generations of talk show hosts. Create the story, drive the conversation and force everyone else to talk about your coverage.
All of which is probably why I'm not running CNN.
IS SYFY GOING TO BE REBRANDED?
Syfy UK has announced it is changing its name to Sky Sci-Fi and with the name change comes an expansion of the programming focus to include shows that have a paranormal, horror and action.
The channel is owned by Comcast and it leads to the question of whether they might a similar rebranding effort coming soon the American Syfy network. It already airs a number of non sci-fi movies and shows, so there might be a good case to be made that a rebranding makes sense. The network definitely has struggled in recent years to garner attention for its small slate of original programs, but I'm not sure that a rebranding would solve that problem.
I reached out to Syfy to see if I could get a comment, but there hadn't been a response by the time this newsletter was being assembled.
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TWEET OF THE DAY
SHOULD STREAMERS BE TAKING A NOTE FROM THE NY TIMES?
No matter whether we're talking streaming services, monthly coffee plans or news organizations, subscription-based businesses are a constant challenge. When people can unsubscribe at any moment, you're constantly concerned with subscriber churn, acquisition costs and maintaining a level of content that makes your offering feel like a good deal worth paying for each month.
The NY Times has had a great deal of success with digital subscriptions, recently hitting ten million subscribers with a goal of topping 15 million by 2027. While there are a number of factors behind that success, one primary reason is that the company has focused more on selling bundles that include multiple Times products, including news, cooking and games.
And when industry analysts talking about a "rebundling" in the streaming video industry, the NY Times model is what comes to mind for me. Not a bundling of streaming services into some modern-day variation of the traditional cable bundle. But a bundle of a large streaming service with other complimentary products.
That is certainly only one of the motivating factors behind Netflix's move into gaming. In large part because mobile gaming is a good way to retain subscribers, particularly when they can play games without ads and without needing an internet connection.
But aside from that, there haven't been a lot of efforts to bundle complimentary services together or offer additional features that would lessen subscriber churn.
I have some thoughts, but before I talk about mine, I'd like to hear from you. What sort of features or add-ons do you think streamers could use to build out their content bundle? Reply directly to this newsletter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll include your thoughts along with my own in tomorrow's newsletter.
ODDS AND SODS
* Apple TV+ has renewed Swagger for a second season.
* The Max Original series, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin will debut its ten-episode season on Thursday, July 28th with three episodes.
* The nominations for the 2022 Television Critics Association Awards will be released tomorrow at Noon ET.
WHAT'S NEW FOR WEDNESDAY
Here's a quick rundown of all the new stuff premiering today on TV and streaming:
Cheech Marin's Chicano Art Tour (Ovation)
CMT Crossroads: Black Pumas & Mickey Guyton (CMT)
Dear Pony: Keep This Between Us (Freeform)
Family Reboot Series Premiere (Disney+)
God's Favorite Idiot Series Premiere (Netflix)
Love, Victor Season Three (Hulu)
Iron Chef: Quest For An Iron Legend (Netflix)
Observations On Film Art No. 47: Reflections In And On Yi Yi (Criterion)
The Wrath Of God (La Ira de Dios) (Netflix)
30 For 30: Dream On (ESPN)
Web Of Make Believe: Death, Lies, & The Internet (Netflix)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU THURSDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.