The Fast Five: It’s a Small World After All as Disney Takes Over Television
August 19, 2019
Do you like Disney? I sure hope so, because one day, there will be nothing but Disney. It will eventually own us all. There was so much fun Disney news that AMC merging with AMC was barely a blip—a story which is only the second largest and most-confusing merger to happen last week. If AMC wanted a ton of coverage, they sure chose a terrible week because CBS and Viacom finally went to town on one another after years of teasing. But first, let’s jump right into this week’s five most fascinating stories.
The CBC went to Podcast Movement 2019 in Orlando to announce that the Canadian network will adapt its five most popular podcasts into TV shows. Alone: A Love Story and Someone Knows Something will be adapted into scripted dramas, while Uncover: The Village, Personal Best, and Tai Asks Why will become unscripted shows. Sadly, CBC’s marketing podcast Under the Influence will not get a TV spin-off but remains the podcast I keep telling people to listen to that they never download. Also, I now want to go to Podcast Movement more than anything in the world, even though I only listen to them when I want to drown out the sound of people having fun so that I can go to bed.
Podcasts recently took the place of comic books and self-published novels as the go-to material for studios to adapt into TV shows, with the success of Amazon’s Homecoming and Bravo’s Dirty John. While scripted podcasts may seem easy to adapt, audio dramas have to be dialogue-based because listening to people stare at a beautiful sunset doesn’t translate well to the medium. At least that’s what the five people who reviewed my podcast Sunset Staredown said. While these stories require a certain amount of creativity to make them visually exciting for a new audience, the originals have a rabid fanbase that may not take kindly to changes. It’s a fine line writers have to walk, but with shows in development based on Limetown and Crimetown as well, it seems to be one they are eager to take on. What’s next, Mimetown?
Disney is now the only studio to release five $1 billion grossing movies in a single year, and 2019 is far from over. Captain Marvel, Aladdin, Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, and The Lion King have all made over one billion dollars worldwide, and the studio still has Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on the way. While this new record is impressive, what’s even more impressive is that Disney accomplished it without the help of the FOX merger. Even crazier, the only other movie to pass that mark this year is Sony’s Spider-Man: Far from Home, a movie that piggybacked off the Marvel movies by taking place inside them. Industry experts believe this record will only be broken in the year 2032, after Disney has bought all the other studios and the entire theatrical calendar consists of eight movies.
Just like your two friends who have been on-again, off-again for the last ten years, CBS and Viacom finally gave up and got married because everybody else was. The companies have a complicated history that includes CBS Enterprises being renamed Viacom in the 70s, which eventually became its own company that bought CBS in the 90s, before the two companies separated again. Their most recent merger is labeled ViacomCBS, and puts Viacom’s series of networks, including The Paramount Network, Comedy Central, TV Land, BET, Nickelodeon, MTV and VH1 under the same roof as CBS, Showtime, Pop TV, and half of the CW. CBS All Access and Showtime have a combined eight million subscribers, but they could be merged with Pluto TV and the Paramount Pictures library to create another mega-streamer that uses Viacom and CBS’s catalogues as well as live television. It sure is an exciting time to be terrified about the future of the industry.
It’s important to note that while literally everybody is reporting that an Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series is very likely for Disney+, it’s as-yet unconfirmed. It was originally planned as a feature, but Solo: A Star Wars Story’s box office performance ensured Disney pulled the plug on all Star Wars spin-off films. It’s also important to note that Solo made around $400 million. But apparently a movie that grosses $400 million is so bad it can kill an entire slate of films, that’s where Disney is nowadays. At least Solo came out in 2018. Imagine how Dumbo feels being the only Disney film released this year that didn’t gross a billion dollars? While seeing McGregor back on the big screen as Obi-Wan would be great, a television series opens up plenty of new storytelling options for the writers. The show still takes place within the established Star Wars universe, so switching mediums only gives fans more Obi-Wan without having to wait four years between seasons, the way they would between feature sequels.
Back in May, YouTube announced that its original television programs would no longer be a part of the YouTube Premium subscription service and would instead be free and ad-supported. The company’s announcement came with the caveat that they really, really wanted people to keep paying for Cobra Kai, so there would be no date on when the programming would actually become free. Well, lo and behold, season one of Impulse, the Looper spin-off created by Jeffrey Lieber, is now available for everybody to watch without a YouTube Premium subscription—a good plan to increase exposure buzz for all YouTube shows. With the exception of Cobra Kai, YouTube hasn’t been able to add buzzy shows like Origin, Lifeline, Wayne or Weird City into the cultural zeitgeist. If I told you Jordan Peele followed up Get Out with a funny, sci-fi anthology TV show, would you have any idea what I was talking about? Or would you accuse me of making stuff up again, like that time I got you all excited about the hot new podcast, Mimetown?
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.