Tag Archives: Future TV

The Future of Netflix in the Fall of 2017

Last night, CBS made its play to remain relevant in the streaming sphere by using Star Trek: Discovery as a carrot for viewers to sign up for its CBS All Access service (which has actually been around for three years).

It’d be unfair to ask any one show to sell a streaming service, but of course that’s some of what HBO Go has done with Game of Thrones and Hulu has done more recently with Handmaid’s Tale. When Netflix was first getting into the original content game in a big way, it could be said they did that with House of Cards.

Netflix has spent so much on original content now that the shows added are benefitting from being on Netflix. Ironically, outside of the U.S. and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery benefits from being another hot, new show on Netflix: the streaming service helps sell the show.

But this doesn’t mean Netflix isn’t dealing with struggles. In fact, it’s planning to up its spending on content with the looming 2019 departure of evergreen Disney content from its service. And it hasn’t backed down from trying to get A-list names to create that content, what with this summer’s announcement that the powerhouse writer-producer Shonda Rhimes has decided to move to Netflix.

David Sims explores Rhimes’ reasoning in an article for The Atlantic. There’s creative freedom and less of a workload with Netflix series, which usually doesn’t top 13 episodes for a season while broadcast usually remains around 22 or 24 episodes. That is, as project managers like to say, a non-trivial amount. And Netflix is clearly hoping to copy something of brand management with its luring of creative talent to helm projects — since it doesn’t own copious IP like Disney.

Hollywood hand-wringing about what nightmares may come is explored further by Todd VanDerWerff in a piece in Vox, which also details the challenges the streaming services like Amazon and Netflix are having. Cancellations are now possible and debt is mounting. Nevertheless, does anyone really think we’ll go back to broadcast or even a streaming replica of it?

One of the biggest fears I hear voiced is that various streaming services will present the worst possible version of a la carte pricing — long the dream of consumers dissatisfied with bloated cable bundles full of channels they didn’t use. If CBS All Access succeeds, who else will follow suit? True, NBC is linked to Comcast and ABC is linked to Disney, but will new, more labyrinthine bundles appear de facto? For example, will Disney apportion streaming services for ABC and ESPN and Disney and, perhaps have a Marvel channel and Star Wars channel? How many nickels and dimes will come into play?

In the next two years, I think we’ll get a whole new idea of how “channels” and “networks” and “streaming services” are defined — and most of the definition will come from the media corporations eyeing profit over service or convenience. I’d love for their to be 21st century aggregators curating content, but so many of the players want as close to complete vertical integration that I don’t know if that kind of consumer-centric model will be allowed. And in fairness, I’m not sure consumers agree on a model beyond “I want to watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it,” which will likely never work 100% of the time.

If readers have additional articles and analysis they want to share, I’m sure to be writing more about this in the months to come.

(BTW, for those wanting more on Star Trek: Discovery, here’s a review from Nerdist and a review with clearly marked spoilers from Vox. I liked it, flaws and all, and will be checking out episode 3 next week).

 

Somewhere between the Nexus and Planet Hell

This is the 31st entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks. In some ways, I hope this is the penultimate entry.

And so, in a few more hours here in the United States, we’re about to see the launch of Star Trek: Discovery, the seventh (!) Star Trek TV series (yes, I’m counting the animated series, too).

I had planned on having a longer Star Trek retrospective finished by now. I’ve been working on it for a good chunk of the summer as readers may recall, but I’m still wrapping that up. In the meantime, you may be interested in my July post about what to look forward to with Star Trek: Discovery.

The stakes for Discovery are uncomfortably high. Perhaps not since The Next Generation (TNG) first aired 30 years ago has a Star Trek series got the same scrutiny about its potential success or failure — and I doubt fans will be as forgiving as they were back in the 80s, when many TV shows could try and “find their audience” for the first season or two. This was easier when you had less channels. Even TNG, which was syndicated, didn’t have the multi-faceted media competition Discovery will have now.

I’m happy to hear the beginning buzz is positive. Nevertheless, the expectations are very high both by longtime Star Trek fans and modern audiences. Many doubtless want to experience sci-fi bliss akin to being in the Nexus, that other dimension of delights favored by El-Aurians and Enterprise captains.

It’s almost certain that Discovery won’t be perfect. None of the series are. Nevertheless, it feels like knives are already being sharpened on social media, either to defend or attack the series (it’s probably because I visit a “briar patch” of Star Trek sites and Facebook pages). The dissection, dismissal, and defense of Seth MacFarlane’s recent Trek-inspired series, The Orville, almost feels like it’s a Spanish Civil War for fans looking forward to Discovery and those just waiting for it to let them down. I doubt it’ll be “Planet Hell,” but it sounds like anything less than 90% Nexus won’t do.

Adam Rogers has a great piece in Wired which charts out the very tricky bit of navigating Star Trek: Discovery needs to do as it attempts to win over longtime fans, fill corporate coffers, and become the poster child for how to be a flagship show for a streaming service. Check it out before you check Discovery out. I’m sure I’ll compare notes with some of you on the aforementioned social media.

I’ll be back for at least one more Crisis entry.

Questions of Quality and Quantity in Prestige TV

So now that summer is over, including that show with the dragons, you may be wondering, “What shows are actually coming back this year?”

Jen Trolio and Caroline Framke over at Vox have answers.

This is one of those perennial Vox pieces I’m glad they do every year, because there’s a lot of shows. In fact, some might say there’s a glut of shows out there, which has led to occasional questions of whether we’re at “peak TV.”

Incidentally, I previously linked to a piece discussing what “peak TV” might mean anyway, but I find the way Variety tracks it is works for me: the number of scripted series. The concern, then, is not necessarily that we would exhaust the supply of talented storytellers making the various series, but that the series become so numerous that too many of them fail to find an audience and economic security (i.e., continued survival).

Todd VanDerWerff explores this more in-depth (also in Vox), including both the cyclical nature of notions of TV being horrible and then wonderful as well as the ways in which the quantity of media coverage on a particular TV show does not necessarily track to its quality.

Recommended Reading: The Long Tail Wags

Vox’s resident media prognosticator, Todd VanDerWerff, picked up on something in the CW’s recent renewal announcement: renewing low-rated Crazy Ex-Girlfriend may represent a new way of evaluating –and valuing– TV shows in today’s media landscape.

All three of my longtime readers will recall how I am avidly interested in the future of TV. For those of us non-full-time filmmakers, knowing all the viable paths to sustainably scratching our creative itch is of intense interest and constant examination.

I’m intrigued that not only does a show’s ratings weigh less heavily in the equation, but that it appears a show’s popularity among critics appears to have risen AND that a show’s “binge worthiness” on platforms such as Netflix is now a significant factor.

Cable Defeats Cord Cutters?!?

On my Twitter feed, I frequently use the hashtag “#futureTV,” because I’m borderline obsessed with how TV is transforming, both in terms of how it’s getting made and how it’s being viewed (or “consumed” if you want to be extra biz-speaky).

So this past holiday weekend, while our Netflix connection seemed to strain under the weight people travelling to Stars Hollow, I re-read Todd VanDerWerff’s piece in Vox about how Netflix –and cord cutting in general– will fail. Cable will win.

Fine, 2016. Give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it, why doncha?

Kenneth Ziffren in the Hollywood Reporter delves in deeper on the numbers side of things to explain why he thinks “skinny bundles” are not going to survive on their lonesome… and that many of these new content sources can only work by being “additive” to the existing albeit evolving TV infrastructure. I suppose skeptics might point out that Mr. Ziffren –one of the founders of media law firm Ziffren Brittenham— might have an interested in maintaining the media status quo. And I’m sure I’m not the only consumer who doesn’t care that “unbundling” and moving to an “a la carte” system could destroy $100 billion worth of market capitalization. But the financial powers that be surely care — and it might affect what we as consumers can watch (given my social media feeds, anything that interferes with future travels to Stars Hollow may be grounds for bloody revolution).

And finally, there’s this piece by David Sims in The Atlantic about how Disney and Fox have come to an agreement with Hulu to offer live TV via Hulu. Talk about the plot thickening.

In part, I still find it frustrating, because so much of the energy seems to be about establishing content fiefdoms that bigwigs hope will become the standard — or at least realize “attractive market capitalization” — as opposed to “offering a damn fine service that consumers love.”

I mean, I know the financiers don’t like to admit consumers want what they want when they want it, but it was ever thus.

It’s just now we know we can sometimes get it.

More on Peak TV and how TV Production is Changing

So, one of the things I obsess about, when my synapses are not otherwise engaged is what the future of TV looks like and how TV programs are being made.

So I was very interested in a pair of articles I read this past January about the idea of “Peak TV” as well as one earlier this month about the potential production pipeline problem HBO may have with new shows.

And of course, I enjoyed the nuts and bolts article about making The Americans.

So it was great to read this cover story in Vulture by Josef Adalian and Maria Elena Fernandez about how “Peak TV” is putting a strain on the whole tv/film industry apparatus and causing all sorts of shifts in how TV gets made.

Here are some interesting tidbits from the article (many of which I’ve read in some form elsewhere albeit separately):

  • “Peak TV” isn’t a fanciful phrase. Scripted shows doubled from 2009 to 2015 from about 200 per year to 409 per year.
  • Leading actors for shows are commanding great per episode rates, but this has led perennial guest star/character actors making peanuts compared to what they used to. (Sort of income inequality in microcosm)
  • More writers have more chances to tell their stories
  • Showrunners and shows themselves don’t earn as much on the back end as they used to
  • All the upsurge in production means experienced crews are worth their weight in platinum

All very interesting. It probably makes you wonder what the future holds. Will major disruptions to the current trends in TV production mean a loss of quality? Will reality TV make a counterattack? Will multi-camera sitcoms? The Left Shark?

For indie filmmakers, a big question is when, where, and how these trends or changes in the trends might amount to more opportunities. As the article notes, the 90s/early naughts were great for indie features, but now, free capital is flowing to TV series on the multitude of new channels and platforms.

Indie filmmakers, including those here in the DC area have appeared to take note. In that past decade, indie filmmakers have realized “web series” could be the road to more traditional series and many have worked to try and find out a path to make that possible. In the end, the bottom line is how the filmmaking, the storytelling can be a career.

For those of you outside the DC-Baltimore area, you may not know we have scores of professional theaters, thousands of actors, and plenty of film and video production. That said, and despite shows like House of Cards, Veep, and Turn being shot in the area, we’re not mentioned in the same sentence as Atlanta or Vancouver or Toronto.

For all the rising costs, those cities and their requisite local industries appear to offer value to producers trying to make the latest engaging TV shows. Can DC offer that value filmmaking in the decade ahead? I know many fellow filmmakers would like that to be the case.

As the Dust Settles on a TV Season

I tweeted out Vox’s rundown of shows that were renewed, canceled, or ended via the Team J twitter a couple weeks ago, though it’s since been updated further.

Last Tuesday, they not only updated that list, but Todd VanDerWerff did a great rundown of the various reasons a show might get canceled. Within that explanation comes a great overview about how TV shows make money.

For those of us looking to understand the economics of making television, especially as we wander into the future of more streaming, it’s a great read.

Recommended Reading: The Rise and Fall of HBO?

I’ve been thinking about “Peak TV” and such from a couple of articles I talked about back in January. Of course, one of the issues with TV or any cinematic development is that you need something of a development pipeline.

As Walt Hickey’s article on FiveThirtyEight last week goes into, that might be one of the biggest issues facing HBO right now. Apparently, Game of Thrones may be shorter lived than some of us hoped.

Star Trek Fans: Rules of Acquisition

This is the sixth entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

No worrisome things today, just more information on the new Star Trek series, set to arrive at CBS’s new “All Access” channel in January 2017.

Over at a site called Trek Core they’ve summarized a speech CBS president Les Moonves gave to CBS investors recently at a conference. (For those interested, they have the link to the full speech).

My main takeaway was that they were pretty sure the numbers would be there to support scripted programming like Star Trek. They’re looking to this as a good way to do international distribution too, profits from the international market being an every-growing facet of Hollywood equations.

I don’t mind that, because Trek does strive to be universal — okay, at least pervasive in the Alpha Quadrant.

Anyway, it’s good to know because it seems a short time ago, before scripted dramas clearly made a comeback, studios and networks were all about reality television and how to maximize dollars earned. Scripted narratives were nasty, cumbersome expensive things.

If they’re confident in the money earned from distribution, they may feel comfortable giving decent funding to the series, so there won’t be a situation like there was with the Ferengi when they first appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

"Should we return fire, Captain?" "No, we don't have the budget."

“Should we return fire, Captain?”
“No, we don’t have the budget.”

Hey, interesting considering yesterday’s post about profit vs. purpose, huh?

Star Trek Fans: A New Hope?

This is the fourth entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

“A new hope?!?,” you Trek partisans cry. Yes, I went there. But stay with me, because although the tomfoolery (Garth-foolery?) of the Axanar lawsuit continues, CBS went ahead and announced the showrunner for their new Star Trek TV series: Bryan Fuller.

Yes, someone who has both written for Star Trek and led critically acclaimed shows.

This bodes well. Search your feelings: you know this to be true.

UPDATE, 2016-02-26: Yeah, some of you thought this was a thin thread to rest a new hope on, didn’t ya? Well guess who else has signed on? Nicholas “Khaaan” Meyer, that’s who. Yeah, you glass half-empty fans will worry about continuity holes from Chekov to gaseous anomalies, but tell me that doesn’t give you a whale-sized smile.