Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, January 12th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by iced tea and tomato soup.

My apologies for running a bit late today. I spent all morning and early afternoon doing interviews for Apple TV+'s Losing Alice and for an upcoming HBO Max series I can't talk about yet. 

IS THE ROKU/QUIBI DEAL WORTH IT?
There has been a lot of speculation about whether the recent deal by Roku to pick up Quibi's content is a good idea. And the bottom line is that no one outside of Roku has the slightest idea. There have been several reports that the deal cost Roku less than $100 million, although the estimates are all over the place. That seems like a good deal on the face of it. It gives Roku exclusive access to programming few people have seen, with a number of well-known stars. But there is so much we don't know about the deal and Roku is like every other company in the streaming sector - their commitment to transparency is lukewarm at best.

The assumption seems to be that Roku is obtaining access to all of Quibi's content, although I haven't seen any official confirmation of that. And in fact, I have heard from several people who created programming for Quibi who are quite insistent that their content can't be licensed off without their permission. I do know that the original deal Quibi cut with its programming partners is that the rights would revert back to the production company after about 5 years. So given that, at best Roku could license most of this content for a maximum of four years.

So I suppose the deal is a net win for Roku. If they were indeed able to get most of the content for less than $100 million, there is definitely an opportunity for them to run ads against the programming and perhaps even end up net positive. But with so many details of the deal left question marks, who really knows?

NETFLIX AND THEIR 2021 MOVIE SLATE
Netflix is getting a lot of press attention today after releasing a rundown of their 2021 movie slate, which includes at least 71 films. Netflix Film Chief Scott Stuber spoke briefly with Variety about the streamer's filmmaking ambitions and while he doesn't offer up a lot of specifics, it's an interesting read:

I’m excited for "Red Notice," the scope and star power of that. I think Jennifer Garner’s "Yes Day"is a really terrific family movie and we’re committed to doing more live action family films. We’re really moving it around and looking at opportunities. We also have some incredible dramas, like with Jane Campion. I think Zack Snyder getting back into the zombie world where he and I started together back with "Dawn of the Dead "and bring it full circle with "Army of the Dead."

The Chernin "Fear Street" trilogy is going to be an interesting cadence. We have three movies that are completed, and we can get those out relatively quickly. You never have a chance like that. The challenge of sequels is, “Does anyone want to do it?” In the last 15 years, the most interesting bet was when New Line went after the “Lord of the Rings” stuff in succession, and had the ability to have those films so quickly. To be able to get these films out as quickly will be fun.

You can argue about whether Netflix can continue to spend for content on the level they are right now or how much competition that is going to come from Disney+ and HBO Max. But they have clearly found a production model that allows them to minimize their downside as much as possible while still getting access to many of Hollywood's biggest stars. The cast lists for some of these movies is just staggering. For example, here is the cast for Adam McKay's sci-fi movie Don't Look Up

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, Timothee Chalamet, Ron Perlman with Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep. Additional cast includes Ariana, Kid Cudi, Melanie Lynskey, Himesh Patel, Matthew Perry and Tomer Sisley.

Another thing worth noting is that this movie slate covers just about every genre: YA, animation, science fiction, action, rom-com, etc. It's an impressive bet and while there is no way to determine quality or popularity, the cream of this slate would likely be a highlight year for most studios.

AT&T IS KILLING OFF AT&T NOW
There is so much going on today that I barely have time to touch on this. But AT&T has confirmed that it is killing its vMVPD AT&T Now. It's not unexpected and I could do a deep dive on the industry trends that made the service a challenge. But at the end of the day, it might just come back to being another example of a traditional cable/satellite trying to wring the same margins out of a virtual service as it does out of a legacy brand. 

I remember receiving a flier for AT&T Now that promoted a $49.99 a month price, which was more than reasonable and slightly below market rate. But when I looked at the fine print, the price was only for the first year of a two-year contract. The price more than doubled in year two and didn't include addons such as a $9 a month "broadcast fee." It doesn't matter how well you execute your business plan if your product is priced way outside of the industry norm.

SPEAKING OF STREAMING AND FEATURE FILMS
I recently spoke with some of the creative people behind the Tom Hanks film Greyhound, which premiered on Apple TV+ about six months ago. We were discussing the technical challenges of taking a movie that was created for the big screen and tweaking it to feel at home on a television. And cinematographer Shelly Johnson made an interesting observation. He said that while a theatrical release would have been ideal for a number of reasons, the upside of it premiering on Apple was that the company was invested in promoting it as much as possible to maximize the deal. So six months after the release, it is still being promoted on Apple TV+ home screens and they are still working to get the word out to every possible viewer. "If we had a theatrical release, the film would have been out of the theaters in a month, gone on to on-demand, DVD and now I'd be watching it on some cable channel," he explained. "I do like this attention."

DISCOVERY+ IS NOT QUIBI, PART DEUX
In yesterday's newsletter, I wrote a bit about Andrew A. Rosen's comparison's between Discovery+ and Quibi. He and I had a bit of a conversation on Twitter about my comments and I wanted to pass along his comments here:

Quibi *did* fail through lens of product channel fit. It aimed for mobile as a channel, and built a product that didn't "fit" in the mobile streaming space. It bet on Hollywood talent to "bulldoze" over that lack of fit. discovery+ is making a similar mistake - there is nothing unique in the streaming app except for some content from some talent. Why is discovery+ a better alternative to Discovery in linear channels, which has found scale with more passive viewing behaviors?

discovery+ is A product for streaming, but does not offer anything unique for consumers of streaming services. Like Quibi, its bet is on its talent to make up for that lack of a unique value proposition for OTT streaming.

The short version of my response to him is that while Discovery execs might not want to admit it in public, the future of Discovery+ in the U.S. lies with super-fans and cordcutters. There are millions of viewers who primarily watch some or all of the Discovery Communications networks. And given that almost none of their programming is time-sensitive, it's easy to see a future in which many viewers combine Discovery+ with a broadcast antenna and end up with a pretty good "bundle." In fact, even with recent price increases, you could combine Discovery+, Netflix, basic Hulu and free versions of Peacock and HBO Max into a $20 or so a month bundle that would give you more television than you could ever watch.

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.