Fast Five: ‘Hamilton’ Goes Streaming, Studios Stock Fall Schedules With Foreign Content, & All Eyes Are On ‘Tenet’
May 18, 2020
As our new normal slowly returns to the old normal, the networks and studios have started to announce their plans for the rest of the year. Major films are moving over to streaming services, all eyes are on one high profile release to set the tone for the summer movie season, and the networks announce their fall schedules without any shows ready.
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF A PREMIUM SHOW?
That’s the question Matthew Ball set out to answer when he compared the value of a dollar spent between different streaming services. A lot is made of these numbers, with Netflix outspending everybody to release dozens of new shows and movies each month. However, nobody has really looked into whether these dollars hold the same value. As Ball points out, there’s a big difference between a $100 million show on Disney+ set in the Star Wars universe and four $25 million shows on Netflix based on wanting to cram as much content into the service as possible. He uses HBO as another example. The network makes far fewer shows than any of its competitors yet dominates the cultural conversation because it focuses on quality over quantity and a release schedule that allows for discovery. I bet you remember what Netflix show launched this weekend, but can you remember what Netflix’s big release was four weeks ago? Obviously these strategies are by design, but it’s worth the read to understand why one key show can be more valuable to a service than a dozen others.
US NETWORKS STOCK UP ON INTERNATIONAL DRAMAS
There’s no telling when production will be able to resume on film and TV series, but that doesn’t mean the networks are no longer obligated to release their fall schedules to advertisers. In any other year we would be knee-deep in upfronts by now, with networks dragging celebrities on stage to schmooze journalists and advertisers to sell their new shows. With no upfronts, and no footage to show off from new pilots, networks are scrambling to assemble schedules with no ideas whether or not they will have anything to air. So what do they do? They go scrounging for shows that already exist but may not have been exposed to the masses. FOX picked up L.A.’s Finest, a Bad Boys spin-off with stars Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba that aired on Charter after negotiations fell apart between NBC and Sony. NBC picked up Canadian medical drama Transplant, and the CW went all in. Not only did it pick up CBS All Access’s Tell Me A Story, DC Universe’s Swamp Thing, Canada’s The Coroner, and the UK’s Dead Pixels, but it also moved its new season to 2021. This is the first major surge in international sales since the writer’s strike of 2008 that saw Canada pilfered dry by American networks because that country's shows all tend to follow the basic network storytelling formula popularized by American dramas. ABC has yet to announce its schedule, but expect more international series to show up on the fall schedule if the production shutdowns continue into the summer.
DISNEY SENDS HAMILTON STRAIGHT TO STREAMING
When Disney spent $75 million on the filmed performance of the musical Hamilton recorded with the original cast, the studio set an October 2021 theatrical release date. In a move that’s definitely not going to thrill the theater chains, Disney announced a shift to that not only will the movie be released a full year early, it will be skipping the cinemas altogether. Now the musical will hit the Disney+ streaming service on the Fourth of July weekend to bring some much-needed entertainment to the masses who will either be stuck at home, or ignoring orders and going to large gatherings. It’s an interesting choice. Not only did Disney spend a lot of money on the movie, the original contract stipulated it couldn’t release the movie until 2021 to avoid competing with the touring Hamilton show. The studio probably had to re-negotiate and spend even more to pull this off, a decision that was probably made after the schedule shift Disney announced last month left more movies in need of release dates than they had slots. Either way, we’ll soon be able to watch what was one of Broadway’s hottest tickets ever and see for ourselves what all the fuss was about.
HBO MAX WILL NOT LAUNCH ON AMAZON
AT&T has cleared most major hurdles on its way to launching HBO Max. It will be available through cable providers, set-top boxes, and even other streaming services like Hulu, which will automatically upgrade all HBO subscribers to the new service at launch. There is one major holdout, however. Negotiations with Amazon fell through and HBO Max will not launch on any Fire devices. Daniel Frankel at Multichannel has gone in-depth on the reasons why it didn’t work out and it’s well worth the read. But what it boils down to is the financials behind Amazon Channels. Amazon allows consumers to subscribe to a variety of premium services and then disaggregates the content into one place. It’s great for subscribers who don’t want to browse a slew of apps and it’s worthwhile for smaller services that need the exposure. Amazon handles the entire process and, in return, takes 70% of the money for themselves. While HBO is available in the Channels store, major competitors like Hulu, Netflix and Disney+ are not. Even Prime Video’s content is not in Channels. So, it makes sense for any new service that wants to position itself as a major mover in the marketplace to avoid Channels as well. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t seem to want HBO Max on Fire unless it goes into Channels. This would give Amazon most of the revenue and stop HBO Max from being positioned as a competitor to Prime Video. If HBO Max is as successful as AT&T hopes, expect Amazon to cave and allow the app on Fire devices as a stand-alone. But in the meantime, give the article a read to get a better understanding of the tense negotiations that go on when the companies that own rival services also own devices.
ALL EYES TURN TO TENET TO SEE WHEN THEATERS WILL RELAUNCH
When No Time To Die was postponed on March 4th, many people thought the studio was overreacting. But it was soon followed by Disney pushing its entire schedule and Universal releasing movies direct to streaming as the country went into shut-down mode. There was one lone hold-out however, as Warner Bros.’ newest Christopher Nolan film Tenet did not budge from its July 17th release date. Now everybody is keeping a close eye on the movie like it’s a groundhog predicting how much sun we’ll have in spring. If Tenet stays, then we can expect the rest of the studios to follow suit. But if Warner Bros. announces it’s pushing the release, then we can expect the shut-down to last through the summer. Everybody is being incredibly cautious around the decision. Warner Bros. needs most of the country's theater chains to be open to justify releasing such an expensive movie and they’re going to have to make that decision soon, to have time for a promotional campaign. It’s odd to consider a world where a billboard for a Nolan movie can signal life returning to normal, but here we are.
Written by: Conrad SylviaConrad Sylvia is the creator of the The Week in Television, a private industry newsletter that recaps the week's television news in a humorous and unique manner. Throughout the years he has developed projects for studios and production companies and continues to provide freelance research on the current television landscape and international marketplace. He is also a fan of drinking in the bathtub. A full tub if he's happy, an empty tub if he's sad.