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Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Friday, August 19th, 2022
Warner Bros Discovery tests the axiom "there's no such thing as bad news"
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Friday, August 19th, 2022.
THE CHALLENGE OF MANAGING BAD NEWS
Every publicist and every corporate communications person is familiar with the nightmare of trying to manage bad press. Even in the best of circumstances, there is often little you can do in the short term. Especially if you are dealing with bad press that is essentially true.
It's hard to imagine a media company getting worse press than Warner Bros. Discovery has received over the past few days. As the news spread about the number of titles exiting from HBO Max and Discovery+, the anger and outrage from show creators and fans has continued to rise. And while the coverage from the trade press has been somewhat restrained (gotta keep those ad dollars rolling in), other sites have not been so tactful. And although I don't like to focus on social media reactions, those comments have also not been pretty.
I wrote a lot yesterday about why the cuts were likely happening, so I won't repeat those comments. I will say it is interesting to me that someone who apparently works at WBD went out of their way to provide some incendiary comments to several industry reporters claiming the removal of a number of animation titles from HBO Max was driven by a desire to save money on residual payments. While that is certainly part of the calculation (since residual payments are part of the package of cost savings that come from pulling a show), someone knew those comments would be shared across the industry, sparking a lot of anger.
But as I was being interviewed about this story today, I started wondering if there was anything Warner Bros. Discovery execs or corporate communications people could have done to lessen the blow of this news. Let's face it, the headline "HBO Max Yanks 100 Episodes Of Sesame Street" is not a win for the Zaslav regime.
The obvious move would have been to have someone from the upper ranks of management give an interview laying out the rationale. Whether it's cost-cutting, taking advantage of time-limited tax breaks or just that David Zaslav was scared by Elmo as a child. A bit of transparency in this case would have gone a long way.
And since I am assuming there was some window of time between the decision making and the actual public pulling of the trigger, having some positive news to offset all of this negative press would have been helpful. If WBD had been able to say "Yes, these titles are disappearing, but we're adding X or greenlighting X," at least there would have been some sort of counter-narrative out there.
I suspect that WBD's upper management is expecting the outrage to lessen and I am sure that it will. But if there is one thing that has emerged as a constant in this streaming era is that much of the press and even some of the churn rate on major streamers is driven by the narrative of what people believe to be true. So it's probably not a positive development if Warner Bros. Discovery is seen by some percentage of the customer base and press as a company who puts money above their customers and creative partners.
Along the lines of transparency, it's well-worth reading this Deadline recounting of a meeting held today for CNN employees by CNN’s chairman and CEO Chris Licht. I'm struck by his overall approach of "we know what we're doing, so just shut up and trust us:"
According to sources who were present, Licht told CNN employees at Friday’s well-attended editorial meeting, “There will be moves you may not agree with or understand.” Some took that to mean they may not like some of the changes.
He added, “I want to acknowledge to everyone that this is a time of change. I know that it is unsettling.”
Licht also expressed some irritation over some media reports about CNN’s plans, characterizing them as incorrect assumptions. The exec stressed to staff that those fluid plans are only known by a few in CNN management’s inner circle.
This is all another example of allowing other people to fill your silence. If you aren't willing to provide some sort of public guidance - even to your employees - other people are going to do it for you. I would relatively easy to give an interview or even provide a statement providing some vague hint of the reasoning behind all of these decisions. But "just trust us" is not a viable public relations strategy. And it is especially not helpful if one of your short-term goals is to boost the company's stick price.
MANY STREAMING CUSTOMERS AREN'T TEMPTED BY AD-SUPPORTED TIER
New research from Fandom indicated a majority of paying customers plan to take a wait-and-see approach before trading down to a cheaper plan:
About 57% of the 1,000 entertainment fans in the study agreed with this statement: “I am not interested in subscribing to any subscription services that have ads.” Just 17% agreed with this one: “I am interested in paying less for an ad-supported tier if there is no free tier.” While 54% of respondents said they only pay for ad-free streaming outlets, just 8% went the other way and said they only get ad-supported ones. About 38% of people reported having a mix of both.
The interesting thing is that if you look at the full results of the study, while the first reaction of a majority of the respondents is that they will wait before deciding, they're not opposed to the idea of switching:
I would be interested in seeing numbers on how many people would subscribe to a service they don't already have if the cheaper ad-supported tier was available. I'd also like to know if the subscribers of specific services were more or less open to switching to a cheaper tier.
ADVENTURES IN THE MANIPULATION OF STREAMING NUMBERS
I am accustomed to seeing all sorts of embedded video ads which won't let you pause them or will automatically open up a third-party ad page if you try to get rid of it. But today was the first time I has seen an entire episode embedded in an ad unit:
The embed is an ad from Pluto TV which streams complete episodes from the service - in this case on a TV Line page. From what I can tell, there aren't any ads in the stream (at least not that I saw). But if you let the stream run, the episode will end and a new episode will begin automatically. So presumably, if you are one of those people who has a TV tab open for five or ten days, the stream will be live the entire time. Which is a clever (if fairly evil) way to boost video stream numbers. And since the audio for the stream comes with the audio muted as a default, it you didn't scroll down to the lower part of the page, you might not know it was even there.
ODDS AND SODS
* You’ve seen the gray flooring. You know its lifeless hue even if you haven’t been house hunting recently. The stuff is in old-house-rehab shows on HGTV, in the house next door that’s now on the market for the second time in nine months, in the ads for at least one but probably several new condo buildings in a rapidly gentrifying part of your city.
* ABC is developing a sequel series to the quirky ’90s legal dramedy Ally McBeal, with a Black female lead taking over for Calista Flockhart’s title character.
* Previous seasons of Criminal Minds, The Originals and Reign have returned to Netflix after a three-month absence.
COMING NEXT WEEK
Here's a rundown of coverage planned next week at AllYourScreens.com. Shows marked with a * are ones which I had a screener for ahead of time and the reviews will post whenever the appropriate embargo lifts. Other will be reviewed after they premiere, typically within 24 hours. There will also be a number of interviews, including with Lost Ollie creator Shannon Tindle and Russell Hornsby, who portrays Don King in Hulu's Mike:
SUNDAY, AUGUST 21ST:
*Ghosts Of Devil's Perch Series Premiere (Travel)
House Of The Dragon Series Premiere (HBO)
*The Killer Nanny (Investigation Discovery)
MONDAY, AUGUST 22ND:
*Anne (Acorn TV)
*Kevin Can F&*k Himself Season Premiere (AMC)
TMZ Investigates: What Really Happened to Richard Simmons (Fox)
TUESDAY, AUGUST 23RD:
Cinderella: The Reunion (ABC)
Nightmare Of The Wolf: Bestiary (Netflix)
The Law Of... Series Premiere (MHz Choice)
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 24TH:
*Betraying The Badge Season Premiere (Vice)
Katrina Babies (HBO)
* Lost Ollie(Netflix)
* Mo Series Premiere (Hulu)
Running With The Devil: The Wild World Of John McAfee (Netflix)
* Welcome To Wrexham Series Premiere (FX)
THURSDAY, AUGUST 25TH:
Everything I Know About Love Series Premiere (Peacock)
* Little Demon Series Premiere (FXX)
* Mike (Hulu)
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season Three Premiere (Paramount+)
That's Amor (Netflix)
FRIDAY, AUGUST 26TH:
Best Feet Forward Series Premiere (Apple TV+)
Delhi Crime (Netflix)
* Drive Hard: The Maloof Way (Netflix)
* Life By Ella Series Premiere (Apple TV+)
* Loving Adults (Netflix)
Samaritan (Prime Video)
See Season Three Premiere (Apple TV+)
Seoul Vibe (Netflix)
* Watcher (Shudder)
WHAT'S NEW TODAY
Here's a quick rundown of all the new stuff premiering today on TV and streaming:
Bad Sisters Series Premiere (Apple TV+)
Echoes Series Premiere (Netflix)
Glow Up Series Premiere (Netflix)
Good Sex Series Premiere (Discovery+)
Making The Cut (Prime Video)
Orphan: First Kill (Paramount+)
Sprung Series Premiere (FreeVee)
Surfside Girls Series Premiere (Apple TV+)
The Cuphead Show! Season Premiere (Netflix)
The Assistant (Netflix)
The Girl In The Mirror (Netflix)
The New York Times Presents: Superspreader (FX/Hulu)
The Secret Lives Of College Escorts (LMN)
The Next 365 Days (Netflix)
Todo Por Lucy (Prime Video)
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.