Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Wednesday, May 24th, 2023
There are bad product launches and then there is the new Max
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, May 24th, 2023.
Today's newsletter is later than normal and a bit shorter. I've been working on updates for the story below and while I ended up with details no one else has been able to report out - including the trades - it sucked up a lot of time.
Things should be back to normal tomorrow.
THERE ARE BAD PRODUCT LAUNCHES AND THEN THERE IS THE NEW MAX
In yesterday's newsletter I wrote a bit about the Max launch and pointed out a few problematical UX choices. But I also talked about marketing and how corporate marketing and branding people like to focus on building emotional connections to the brand. When what usually matters to customers is if the product works and is considered to be a reasonable price.
As it turns out, the overriding story about Max in the entertainment press over the past 24 hours has been something that might seem trivial to people outside of Hollywood. It didn't long after the launch for people to being noticing that the writers, directors and producers of all of the TV shows and movies on Max were now lumped into one generic category named "creators."
Aside from the obvious issue of people wanting to receive the credit to which they deserve, collapsing directors, writers, producers and others into a generic category also breaks the agreements signed between the WGA/DGA and the studios.
Even worse, this move inflamed striking WGA members, who saw the changed credits as an attempt to damage the union. And the normally less argumentative DGA wasn't amused either, which is bad timing for the studios, given that they are in the middle of negotiations with that union ahead of a possible strike at the end of next month.
By Wednesday morning, the WGA and DGA had issued a joint statement complaining about the move and Warner Bros. Discovery quickly issued a statement blaming unnamed technical problems: "We will correct the credits, which were altered due to an oversight in the technical transition from HBO Max to HBO and apologize for this mistake."
But as I spoke with development people at the streamer, the explanation of what happened turns out to be even weirder than you might imagine:
I contacted a couple of product managers/engineers that I had previously spoken with off the record earlier today and was told that it wasn't clear why it had happened or who had ultimately signed off on the change. There apparently wasn't any record of how the initial change was made in the development software tracking system and the email trails, pull requests and other internal logs hadn't provided any definitive answers.
While it's not clear how the "creators" title ended up in live version of Max, I was told the title was likely a placeholder in an early Alpha build-out of the site template and for whatever reason, no one seems to have noticed it or updated it before the launch.
Having worked on the launch of a couple of major web sites in the past (although nothing at this level), this explanation makes a weird bit of sense. Things happen and if you don't have the proper processes in place, things can get missed. Although usually not things at this level.
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With a project of this size, the development software should be in place to make sure it doesn't happen. You should be able to tell in the software who entered the initial placeholder and that should have generated internal reminders to update it before launch. And then the question moves on to quality control. How did someone at WBD not notice this during the soft-launch tests?
After posting my initial reporting, I got this feedback, which I think makes a lot of sense:
I worked in Content Ops/Metadata at more than one sizeable streaming corp. (Launching the then-full Simpsons VOD library was one of many fun/stressful tasks). The idea that it was a. Accidental AND b. Unnoticed at the top through launch is comical but also believable.
What I find HARD to believe is no Metadata/Ops ppl noticed or anticipated it. As that person, the responses I've got from bringing similar things up in advance have ranged from (OMG stop/fix ASAP) to (ty we'll fix IF ppl complain) to (IDC, GOTTA launch, IGNORE). Last one SUCKS
A number of writers are still speculating on social media that the decision was intentional and someone posted on Twitter that they were told the generic credits were an effort by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav to blur the definitions of unscripted and scripted television.
As you probably have picked up on, I am not a big fan of a lot of Zaslav's decisions since the Warner Media/Discovery merger. But I have difficulty imagining this was a deliberate decision. Aside from the contractual issues, making the move would almost certainly inflame the unions and give Zaslav's already shaky industry reputation an extra large beating. Describing writers and directors as "creators" just seems like a fight that is going to provide a lot of pain for not much of an upside. Although to be fair, you can usually do pretty well ascribing the absolute worse possible intentions to any decision made by a media executive.
And along the lines, I just heard from someone fairly high up in the executive ranks at Max who assured me that the decision was not intentional. Although they were a bit opaque about how it happened and it wasn't clear to me if that was due to a lack of real answers or just an unwillingness to reveal the true explanation. Obviously, they could be spinning me for some reason. But at this juncture, the most likely answer seems to be this was the end result one big series of screwups.
AND IF YOU'D LIKE TO HAVE A BIT OF FUN AT THE EXPENSE OF DAVID ZASLAV
If you'd like the chance to have a bit of admittedly mean-spirited fun - as well as raise a little money for striking writers - you can purchase a fun "Creator" t-shirt or coffee cup at the link below. All profits go to the WGA Strike Fund. And even better, you get 40% Off with code MAYGIFTIDEAS.
Click the photo above to grab yourself a Creator cup or t-shirt. All profits go to the WGA Strike Fund
AND I'M SURE THIS IS A COINCIDENCE
Warner Bros. Discovery has posted a job for a Manager of Credits:
Reporting to VP of Business Affairs/Credits, this new Manager position joins a small Department tasked with managing the credit preparation and approval on a high-volume of Original Programming (HBO and HBO Max original productions, scripted TNETS projects) as well as various deal types such as PSA, licensed projects, acquisitions. Working with a dynamic, collaborative team in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment, the job encompasses capturing contractual, guild and other show obligations relied on by external production teams, and multiple WBD Divisions—Labor, Legal, Business Affairs, Production, Post, Marketing, Media Relations, Incentives and Finance, to name a few.
WHIP MEDIA WEEKLY STREAMING MEDIA REPORT
TWEET OF THE DAY
WHAT'S NEW FOR WEDNESDAY:
* American Born Chinese Series Premiere (Disney+)
* Chip N' Dale: Park Life Season Premiere (Disney+)
* Expedition Unknown Season Premiere (Discovery)
* Gordon Ramsay's Food Stars Series Premiere (Fox)
* Hard Feelings (Netflix)
* MasterChef Season Premiere (Fox)
* Mayans M.C. Season Premiere (FX)
* Mother's Day (Netflix)
* Platonic Series Premiere (Apple TV+)
* Survivor Season Finale (CBS)
* The Clearing Series Premiere (Hulu)
* The Parisian Agency: Exclusive Properties Season Three Premiere (Netflix)
* The Prank Panel (ABC)
* The Ultimatum: Queer Love Series Premiere (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.