Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Thursday, May 25th, 2023
There's marketing and then there is poking the bear.
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Thursday, May 25th, 2023.
THERE'S MARKETING AND THEN THERE IS POKING THE BEAR
One of the takeaways from this week's creator credit controversy at Max is that the last thing the studios want to do right now is go out of their way to provoke the unions. It's clear that AMPTP is hoping they can negotiate a deal with the DGA before that contract expires next month. And with the WGA's strike entering its fourth week, doing something that would further strengthen the resolve of the unions is not a smart negotiating ploy.
I mention this because I heard from a few marketing people this week following my comments about the Max marketing campaign's efforts to create an emotional connection with potential subscribers. There was some pushback about my points, but I also learned some really fascinating stuff. Including a bit about a marketing campaign that had recently been floated (and shot down by top executives) at one of the big streamers. And the reason it was turned down was there was concern it would spark anger from the industry's union members.
The campaign was pitched to me as a variation of the short-lived NBC 1997 summer TV marketing campaign "If You Haven't Seen It, It's New To You!." Created by the legendary NBC head of marketing John Miller, the idea sprung from data which showed that even when someone loved a show, there were plenty of episodes they managed to miss throughout the season (this was pre-DVR and streaming networks). Unfortunately, the campaign simply reminded viewers they were in for a lot of reruns.
But the idea of reminding viewers about stuff they might have missed is a good one and in fact, that's a part of the content discovery equation that has most challenged streamers. Is there a way to surface great stuff that was missed the first time around?
This particular streamer had apparently worked on a similar idea for months, struggling to find both the right tone for the campaign as well as working out the significant logistical problems. The top promo carousel windows, email blasts and other first-level marketing and promotional tools are generally used to push either new content or high-profile catalog titles. While some spots might open up in the event of a prolonged writers strike, the plan was to devise an approach that would work even in a universe where all of the easy tools were spoken for internally.
"There's Always More Good Stuff" was one of the proposed tag lines and the idea was to highlight some shows that flew under most people's radar. The targeted shows and movies would be drawn from a list of titles that had under-performed when released. But these were also titles that had received positive press and higher-than expected completion and watch speed rates. In other words, not enough people watched the titles, but a higher-than-media number of viewers enjoyed them.
I was able to see some screen shots of a few proposed images, including a proposed email blast that would go out with suggestions after you completed a new title.
I promised not to get into specifics, but I was struck by the internal issues that ended up scuttling the proposed campaign. Every marketing department struggles with budgets and that's even more the case in recent months as streaming executives cut back on PR and marketing spend.
But this campaign would have required building out some very specific datapoints in order to provide the appropriate content suggestions. And that turned out to be a much more complex project than was originally envisioned.
The other problem was a more practical one. There was a real fear that this campaign would be seen by WGA and DGA members as some ham-handed effort to break the strike. "'There's Always More Good Stuff' might come across more like 'We're In No Hurry To Have More New Stuff,' which would not be helpful," I was told by a marketing exec. "I thought the idea was a good one even in this rough state. But yeah, it felt a bit like we were poking the hungry bear."
I would have been interested to see how this campaign would have played with subscribers. It's not necessarily going to help with subscriber sign-ups, which is another reason why a streamer might be reluctant to spend the resources on the idea. But if successful, it could definitely move the dial with engagement and subscriber churn. And both of those issues are front and center with any streaming service.
Too Much TV Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
ANOTHER ARGUMENT FOR THERE BEING AN EXTENDED WRITERS STRIKE
During a call on Thursday with analysts, Lionsgate CFO Jimmy Barge said the company will see little to no financial impact from a three-month WGA strike, which is how long the writers were out in 2008:
Asked if Lionsgate was changing financial projections based on the labor action that started May 2, he said no. “In terms of the motion picture group, I don’t think you are going to see a significant impact. Looking at the 2008 precedent of three months, up to that point, I think the financial impact for us, if any, would be modest. We’ve of course been preparing for a strike for several months and we have a significant content pipeline, completed projects, and, with our film and television library, our businesses are very resilient. So, we’re nicely poised for growth as we go into ‘24 managing the challenges,” he said during a Q&A after quarterly earnings.
Between the apparent lack of movement on both sides and the increasing level of anger from writers and directors, I am beginning to believe a strike of record-breaking proportions is in the works. A six-month strike seems more likely, especially if the DGA decides to join the writers on the picket line.
That being said, Starz's original content line is more robust than in recent years. But it's not at the level of one of the major streamers or even one of the big broadcast networks. So any impact from a strike is going to be more constrained.
TWEET OF THE DAY
ODDS AND SODS
* Season three of Sweet Magnolias will premiere Thursday, July 20th on Netflix.
* Executive produced by Stephen Curry and narrated by La La Anthony, the two-night special Black Pop: Celebrating the Power of Black Culture, will premiere June 19th on E!.
* Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, a ten-part series of animated shorts created by writers and artists in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, will premiere Wednesday, July 5th on Disney+.
WHAT IS VGLY?
One of the biggest challenges for global streamers in the U.S. is figuring out how to promote global shows to an American audience. Despite its success with some international titles, Netflix's PR team continues to struggle to get even the most basic information out about many titles. And it's even a bigger problem at Disney+, Hulu and Max. All of which have a pipeline of original non-English language originals, but no real apparent policy on how to promote them.
For example, Max has one original premiering today and it is the Mexico-produced rap drama Vgly. The series stars multi-platinum artist Natanael Cano in his debut acting role, playing the role of Lil Vato, a renowned rapper who is trying to make a name for himself and his crew.
Cano is red hot in Mexico and on Spanish-language radio in the U.S. in 2023 with two hot singles. And he recently sold out his show at the iconic Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City within hours of the announcement.
I wasn't able to get screeners of the series ahead of the premier, so I'm only a couple of episodes in so far. And while I'm not really the target audience for the series, I can see it being perfect for a lot of younger subscribers. And despite the fact that the series premiered today, there is almost no mention on it on the Max app. Nothing on the front page, nothing on the "series" page. The only mention I could find at all was on the "new and notable" tab, where a thumbnail of the series appeared under the "new episodes this week," horizontal column.
I see this a lot with global originals on the big streamers. Titles are more or less dumped onto the service in the off chance that someone might run across them. I understand the promo and marketing constraints at play here. I really do. None of the streamers have the resources to promote even just all of their domestic-produced original titles. But there has to be a solution for this, since these shows have already been produced and paid for outside the U.S. market. So any audience they find here is nothing but upside.
WHIP MEDIA 'S MOST ANTICIPATED SHOWS FOR JUNE
WHAT'S NEW FOR THURSDAY:
* Angela Black Series Premiere (Topic)
* FUBAR Series Premiere (Netflix)
* Judge Me Not (ALLBLK)
* 100 Years Of Warner Bros. The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Max)
* Riding In Darkness Series Premiere (Viaplay)
* Team Rubicon Series Premiere (The Roku Channel)
* The Kardashians Season Three Premiere (Hulu)
* Vgly (Max)
* Wild Life (NatGeo)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU FRIDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.