Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, August 2nd, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by coffee and a week's worth of that sweet vacation sleep.

Offering theatergoers the chance to see a highly anticipated movie the night before its official opening day is a time-honored Hollywood tradition. But I believe this is the first time that the special preview idea has been extended to a streaming service. On Thursday, WarnerMedia is premiering its new movie Suicide Squad at a special preview, which will take place simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max:

I think this is a really smart idea, although I haven't seen it receive a lot of attention. The number of people who are going to watch the movie on HBO Max is already baked in, but this special preview should provide some extra social media buzz, which in theory will drive more people to the theaters and help the weekend box office.

Andrew A. Rosen's Monday Briefing newsletter 
does a nice job of framing what I also believe is the most important aspect of Scarlett Johansson's lawsuit against Disney - it's about transparency and forcing media companies to back up their numbers with actual receipts:

Because any revenues from PVOD distribution may fall outside of the contract language of “wide theatrical distribution” (the lawsuit seeks to include PVOD within it), Disney may have no legal obligation to disclose anything more than the $60MM figure it has shared with both the public and with Johansson and her reps.

We, as investors and observers, have no idea how the $60MM is calculated. But neither does Johansson and her reps because there is no contract with Disney for PVOD distribution.

Disney has not told us how many Disney+ subscribers downloaded Black Widow - we are left to infer it based on the $29.99 price point (so 2MM est.). But, the $29.99 price point may be inaccurate. An average price may include new sign-ups for Disney+ ($33.98 with Disney+ Hotstar or $35.60 without Hotstar), and may even include Disney+/ESPN+/Hulu bundle sign-ups who bought Black Widow in that $60MM number ($43.98).

So, $60MM more likely reflects a weighted average of different consumers. Or, it simply may be a public-relations-driven, financially engineered figure that has no independent verification outside of Disney’s DTC accounting team, and no legal recourses for confirming it except via a lawsuit.

It's one thing for Disney to release SVOD revenue numbers to the press in an effort to frame the box-office story of a movie. The press don't have any leverage and all they can do is decide whether or not to put those numbers in a headline. But it's another thing entirely to release the numbers without any explanation of how it was compiled and then ask talent to simply accept the word of the studio. You are going to see more of these battle in the coming months, as Hollywood begins to shape the next generation of contracts.

Reese Witherspoon’s media business, Hello Sunshine, is selling itself to a firm backed by private-equity giant Blackstone Group, the companies said, part of a plan to build an independent entertainment company for Hollywood’s streaming era:

The companies didn’t disclose the terms of the deal. People familiar with the matter said it values Ms. Witherspoon’s company, whose production slate has included programming such as the HBO drama “Big Little Lies,” at about $900 million.

The as-yet-unnamed media venture Blackstone is backing will be run by former Walt Disney Co. executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs. Hello Sunshine will be its first acquisition. Ms. Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine Chief Executive Sarah Harden will join the board of the new company and will continue to operate Hello Sunshine.

Blackstone is spending more than $500 million in cash to purchase shares from existing Hello Sunshine investors, including AT&T Inc. and Emerson Collective, some of the people familiar with the matter said. Ms. Witherspoon and some Hello Sunshine executives and investors will roll over the remaining equity into ownership stakes in the new company Blackstone is forming.

You are going to read a lot of hot takes in the coming days making predictions about the ramifications of this acquisition. The truth is that no one has a clue at this early point whether or not this is a wise move for Witherspoon and/or for Blackstone. Saying "only time will tell" sounds like a lame response. But in this case, it's also the wisest approach. At this point, there are too many unknowns to formulate a reasoned opinion.

Ariana Grande is the latest musicians to give a virtual performance inside the Battle Royale game Fortnite. She'll be headlining Fortnite's upcoming Rift Tour concert series, which runs August 6th-8th. Travis Scott and Marshmello have both given in-game Fortnite performances in recent months.

Players who attend the event will receive a special pink umbrella and other items and challenges will be available during the event.

In the next 10 years, Comcast is committing $1 billion to reach 50 million people from low-income families with the tools and resources they need to succeed in a digital world.  We’ll do this by connecting people to low-cost $10 Internet at home, equipping community centers with free WiFi and working with thousands of nonprofit community organizations, city leaders, and business partners to create new opportunities, particularly in media, arts, technology, and entrepreneurship. Learn more

* Along with her work for Fox Sports, Erin Andrews is also an ambassador for the Fox-owned ad-supported streamer Tubi.

* Remembering one of MTV’s rare scripted shows: the one-season series Dead At 17.

* Amazon has released a premiere date for its TV series based on Lord Of The Rings. Spoiler: you have some time to wait.

* News Corp is making a big B2B acquisition, buying the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) for $1.15 billion in cash, for a company that will make $130mn this year; that is an almost 10X revenue multiple, which sounds a bit crazy. 

* CuriosityStream is launching a linear channel in parts of Europe.

1) Obama: In Search Of A More Perfect Union (HBO)
"The three-part documentary chronicles the personal and political journey of President Barack Obama, as the country grapples with its own racial history. Through weaving together conversations with colleagues, friends and critics, interspersed with Obama’s own speeches, news interviews and a ton of never before seen footage & photos, the series takes us through Obama’s childhood and his perspective as the son of a white mother from Kansas and an estranged African father, his spiritual formation by a generation of Black leaders and his desires and hopes for a more inclusive America. By detailing the story of one man irrevocably bound to the history of a country."

2) Pray Away (Netflix)
"Survivors and ex-leaders of the so-called "conversion therapy" movement speak out about its harm to the LGBTQ community and its devastating persistence."

3) Shiny Flakes: The Teenage Drug Lord (Netflix)
"Max S. reveals how he built a drug empire from his childhood bedroom as a teen in the real story behind the series "How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)."

4) Top Secret UFO Projects: Declassified (Netflix)
"Though claims of extraterrestrial encounters have long been dismissed, many believe the existence of UFOs is not just likely, but a certainty."

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