Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Tuesday, February 14th, 2023
A Netflix exec unofficially weighs in on residuals, mini-rooms.
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, February 14th, 2023.
A NETFLIX EXEC UNOFFICIALLY WEIGHS IN ON RESIDUALS, MINI ROOMS
While nothing is certain, there seems to be a growing consensus among writers and executives I speak with that a WGA strike this summer is almost inevitable. Writers have a long list of what they consider to be "do-or-die" issues and in many cases they aren't wrong. But from the studio side, executives I speak with argue the industry is already tightening belts. So how likely are they to agree to provisions that will substantially increase costs and as a result, lead to more production cutbacks?
I spoke with a senior Netflix executive this morning off-the-record about another issue and as we were wrapping up, the topic of a possible strike came up. This executive deals with these issues on a regular basis but would not be part of the final decision making at the streamer when it comes to agreeing to new terms. This executive agreed to be quoted, but not identified. These comments have been lightly edited for clarity and to preserve some identifiable information:
"Look, I'm sympathetic to a lot of the complaints and some things need to change to keep the industry healthy. But I also am realistic about we can and can't change. Take short seasons. For us (Netflix) and for most other streamers, eight episodes is the new norm. Maybe ten episodes. That is not going to change for a lot of complex economic reasons...so then how do all of us make this work economically for both sides?
I am of the opinion that mini-rooms work best for a lot of shows. Streaming services are ordering a lot of shows that are essentially primarily written by one writer and perhaps a very small room. But how can we make that work better for the industry? The money aspect is part of a bigger pay discussion, although I'm sympathetic to the argument that a per-episode payscale isn't viable long-term. But how do we make it better for everyone without blowing up the budget? As it is, we're often shifting writing money into other parts of the production. So we need to figure this out in a way that helps writers make a living without making every show economically unsustainable. I think we can talk about changes in span and make sure writers aren't being hold so long on a project. Those are doable changes that cost money, but not the entire bank.
I'm also sympathetic to the complaints that mini-rooms and extended production schedules mean that writers don't get the same access to the set they would if they were working on a network procedural. I honestly don't know how we work that out. There's no money in the budget for flying someone to the set just to gain some production experience. But we also need to grow the industry's younger writers. Maybe that means more mentorship programs or something we haven't thought of yet.
As far as residuals - or however you want to frame the money - I hear some writers arguing for some sort of a residual on global viewing, which is as close to a non-starter as you can find from our perspective. Aside from just the bookkeeping nightmares, doing that would be contrary to every other deal we've worked out globally. More transparency is certainly coming, although I am pretty sure it won't be what most people want. But we could end up with a situation closer to what we deal with in places like France and some other European markets. Writers, directors and producers receive a quarterly recounting of the viewing numbers on any program they've worked on that was produced in that specific country. And a residual or bonus is paid based on that. They also agree to receive the viewing statements in exchange for agreeing not to publicly discuss the numbers. And honestly, that has more to do with a fear of numbers being reported out of context than not wanting them to be reported at all.
I also think giving participants access to data such as retention rates or other metrics that fall into the non-production side of the business is problematic....."
Do you have some thoughts on these comments? I have some perspective coming from several writers coming up this week as well.
To comments, simply reply to this newsletter, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll keep your feedback confidential unless you specify otherwise.
A CONTRARIAN TAKE ON NETFLIX'S PASSWORD SHARING CRACKDOWN
While in theory there is nothing wrong with Netflix making it a bit harder to share passwords, the traditional hot take outlets have spent the past couple of weeks cranking out predictable "millions of people are going to cancel Netflix if their ex can't keep using their account" pieces.
Unmade is a great publication that looks at media and the advertising world through an Aussie lens. Unmade's Tim Burrowes just posted a remarkably sane take on the issue and it tracks pretty close with my attitude:
There are plenty of users out there who really should have their own subscription if they want to use the service. I’m one of them. Some of my devices are logged in on the password of the partner of the sister of an ex. My television is logged into Netflix via the account of some bloke called Steve who rented my place on AirBNB a year back and left his account logged in. He seems to really like Animal Kingdom (the hacky US reboot, not the awesome Melbourne original).
As much as anyone can be, I’m a rational consumer. I’m wiling to pay for the service once I have to, but if there’s a legal and easy workaround, I’ll take it.
It’s the same as news masthead paywalls. I’m subscribed to The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and the Australian Financial Review because I need to be, in order to see the content. But it feels silly to pay to access the Sydney Morning Herald when Google’s incognito mode, along with duplicate content on The Age and the Brisbane Times, is an easy workaround. The day that ends, I’ll start paying.
Many consumers are more resentful than me about having to start to pay for something though. Consumer psychologists can probably explain why - whether it’s the case that people don’t put a fair value on something they haven’t had to pay for, or because they have made a psychological leap of deciding it ‘should’ always be free.
Look, I understand the complaints. My mother-in-law has a profile on my account and I think she mostly uses it to watch the occasional episode of NCIS or Criminal Minds. She doesn't use Netflix enough to justify paying for another subscription, so once the crackdown comes, she'll lose her access. But it isn't the end of the world.
Apparently Netflix will be using IP addresses to track usage and assign a "home" location. Which is not an optimal approach if you are someone who travels a lot. But honestly, while a crackdown might lose Netflix some subscribers, I suspect it will primarily be those people who don't care much about the service anyway.
I've heard some rumors that whatever the new HBO Max service is called will also have roll out some sort of password-sharing crackdown scheme. Although I think at this point, all of the other major streamers are willing to let Netflix take the heat on this issue in the short term.
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LIFETIME ANNOUNCES NEW SLATE OF ORIGINAL MOVIES
Lifetime has announced its new Spring lineup of original movies, with its trademark mix of familiar faces and stories "ripped from the headlines":
Saturday, March 11th
Girl in the Closet, starring Tami Roman (Truth Be Told, The Ms. Pat Show) and multi-platinum artist Remy Ma, inspired by actual events of a young girl who was imprisoned in a basement and closet by her own aunt.
Saturday, March 18th
Keshia Knight Pulliam (A New Orleans Noel) headlines The Hillsdale Adoption Scam, inspired by the story of a couple who turn to adoption only to discover the baby they were waiting for was all part of an elaborate scam to steal their money.
Friday, March 24th
Mena Suvari (American Woman) stars as a successful business woman whose life begins to unravel after welcoming the sister she never knew she had into her life in Twisted Sister
Saturday, March 25th
Tamala Jones (Castle) pulls double duty as executive producer and star of Every Breath She Takes. The movie also stars Tisha Campbell (Uncoupled), Brian White, (The Black Hamptons) and Jackée Harry (Days of our Lives) and is the story of a woman who begins to question if her late husband is really deceased or if she is on the brink of losing her mind.
Sunday, April 9th
On Easter Sunday, Tatyana Ali (Fresh Prince of Bel Air) stars in the biopic Giving Hope: The Ni’Cola Mitchell Story, telling the inspirational story of Mitchell who created the influential Black youth program Girls Who Brunch.
Saturday, April 15th
Michael Michele (Ali, ER) and Savannah Lee Smith (Gossip Girl) star in the teen drinking drama Drunk, Driving, and 17
ODDS AND SODS
* CMT Crossroads: FOR KING + COUNTRY & Jimmie Allenpremieres Tuesday, February 28th on CMT.
* Season three ofStar Trek: Picardis premiering Thursday and if you've been lukewarm about the show's first two seasons, these new episodes will make up for it.
*Gilmore Girls helped me grieve my mom after she died of cancer. A touching piece from Huffington Post writer Sarah Hunter Simanson.
*Warner Bros. Discovery launches eight FAST channels on Tubi. In case you're wondering where you can watch all those shows that were dropped from HBO Max.
* If you need a distraction, here's a two-hour Spotify playlist of Northern Soul songs.
* Ted Lasso returns for the third and perhaps final season on Apple TV+ March 15th. It's interesting that Apple is premiering it on Wednesday, instead of its typical Friday release.
* Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story debuts May 4th on Netflix.
* Reelz has has ordered another 90 new episodes ofOn Patrol: Live.
TWEET OF THE DAY
WHAT'S NEW FOR TUESDAY:
All The Places (Netflix)
A Sunday Affair (Netflix)
Heartbreak Island (Discovery+)
In Love All Over Again (Netflix)
Inspector Rex Season Three Premiere (MHz Choice)
Irish Crime Series Premiere (MHz Choice)
Jim Jefferies: High N' Dry (Netflix)
Love Trip: Paris Series Premiere (Freeform)
Perfect Match Series Premiere (Netflix)
Re/Member [Karada Sagashi] (Netflix)
The Romantics (Netflix)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU WEDNESDAY!
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