Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, January 21st, 2020. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered on weak coffee and peppermint hard candies
IS SOCIAL THE NEW DISCOVERY TOOL FOR TELEVISION?
Whether it's a traditional cable TV company like Comcast or a new streaming virtual cable service such as Hulu, content discovery is an ongoing challenge. Any service you subscribe to has more content than any one person could watch. But uncovering the things people DO want to watch is a challenge. Netflix has a reputation for using its algorithm to pop content in front of its subscribers that they are hopefully wanting to see. As any Netflix subscriber can tell you, the only worse than the recommendations on Netflix are the ones from any of its rivals. Executives at HBO Max are promising to roll out some sort of human-curated lists, but they are purposefully very vague on details.
Philo is a lesser-known virtual cable company, but it's one of my favorites. Its core business was selling custom cable bundles to college dorms, but a couple of years ago it spun off its own rival to services such as Sling. Philo's pitch is that it just offers entertainment channels - no news, no sports and no local broadcast affiliates. And by stripping out the channels with the most expensive carriage costs, they can offer 59 channels for $20 a month. A slew of channels from Discovery/Scripps, AMC Networks, Hallmark and A&E Networks, as well as a number of smaller standalone channels such as GSN, AXS TV and Vice.
The problem Philio ran into is that the major media companies that also own sports networks and/or local broadcast affiliates aren't interested in licensing just their entertainment networks. That ala-carte approach opens up a can of worms none of them wants to deal with. As a matter of fact, their retransmission deals with traditional linear cable and satellite companies are built around forcing those companies to take as many channels are possible. So Philo doesn't include any entertainment networks from Disney (Disney, Disney, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, NatGeo, NatGeo Wild) and NBCU (Bravo, Syfy, USA, Oxygen, Universal Kids). And now that Viacom is combined with CBS, it will be interesting to see if the Viacom deal is renewed with Philo when it comes up next.
But I mention Philo because they have experimented with a social component I think has a lot of promise. Just after Philo launched, one of the company engineers walked me through this really cool social interface they were testing in-house. You could "subscribe" to a show, which would not only allow you to get notifications when new episodes were airing, but it would allow the network (with your permission) to message you with bonus content and other things they believed might be helpful. You could friend other users and you could decide to share a list of what you've been watching with them. It also allowed Philo to collect the data to suggest new shows you might like, based on other people's viewing habits. Or even more specifically, based on what your friends were watching.
I was told at the time that Philo employees had been playing around with it for awhile and most of them loved it (although you could decide not to share or subscribe to anything). I was also told the technology was pretty much ready to go, but the company was waiting until the moment when it had a subscriber base large enough to make the features usable.
I have no idea if Philo plans to roll out the features anytime in the future. It's struggled a bit to grow its subscriber base and I haven't been able to get an update from the company. But it's a fascinating idea and I'd like to see someone try something new and edgy in the content discovery space.
As if you didn't know already, today begins the formal impeachment trial in the Senate. It begins at 1:00 p.m. ET, with live coverage beginning an hour or two before that (depending on the channel). All the broadcast networks will be carrying it live, along with the cable news networks and a variety of digital outlets. What's not clear is how long each day's coverage will last or when the broadcast networks will break away and push viewers to their digital news outlets. But it's going to be interesting how many people watch and which channels will end up grabbing the most viewers with its individual coverage.
Here's a rundown of the modest number of shows premiering tonight. Most of the premieres are actually just shows that are returning midseason after taking an extended break for the holidays:
1) Arrow Spring Premiere (The CW)
In the episode entitled "Green Arrow & The Canaries," it's the year 2040 in Star City and Mia Queen (Katherine McNamara) has everything she could have ever wanted. However, when Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) suddenly show up in her life again, things take a shocking turn and her perfect world is upended. Laurel and Dinah are tracking a kidnapping victim with direct ties to Mia and they need her help. Knowing it will change everything, Mia can't help but be a hero and she, Laurel and Dinah suit up once again to save the city.
2) Bless This Mess Spring Premiere (ABC)
In the episode entitled "Bad Seed," Mike and Rio must decide on what seed they want to start growing on their farm, but Rio is distracted with her own project—getting Beau and Kay’s relationship to set sail after Kay gives Beau an ultimatum that he deeply fears. Meanwhile, Jacob shadows Constance for a school project, making Rudy a nervous wreck while they discuss catching criminals.
3) DC's Legends Of Tomorrow Spring Premiere (The CW)
In the episode entitled "Lights, Camera, Action," Sara (Caity Lotz), Ray (Brandon Routh) and Mick (Dominic Purcell) are shocked to discover that the Legends have become famous. It seems that everyone except Sara is loving the spotlight, so much so that they invite a documentary crew on board the Waverider to film them as they investigate a strange new blip in the Timeline. The Legends discover that their new problem is none other than Rasputin, who happens to be straight out of hell, and it might be tougher than they thought. Meanwhile, Constantine (Matt Ryan) thinks he knows the reason behind these new blips and informs the team that it won’t be easy to defeat.
4) Fortune Feimster: Sweet & Salty (Netflix)
Southern-born comedian, writer and actress Fortune Feimster is back with her first hour-long Netflix original comedy special, Fortune Feimster: Sweet & Salty. The comedian recalls her childhood misadventures as a former Girl Scout, debutante and (disqualified) swim meet champion; her family's complicated relationship with Hooters; and how a movie helped her realize she was a lesbian.
5) Project Blue Book Season Premiere (History)
At a time when UFOs and related phenomena have piqued worldwide attention and public intrigue, season two will take a dramatic look back at where the UFO conspiracy first began and highlight real cases that ignited America’s fascination around the topic. Based on the true, top secret investigations into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and related phenomena conducted by the United States Air Force from 1952-1969, each episode will draw from the actual case files blending UFO theories with authentic historical events from one of the most mysterious eras in United States history.
6) The Conners Spring Premiere (ABC)
In the episode entitled "Throwing A Christian To A Bear," the Conners struggle to accept a Cheesehead in their midst when Becky brings her new boyfriend, a devout Christian and a Green Bay Packers fan, home to watch the Bears/Packers game. Meanwhile, Dan tries to impress upon Mark the importance of the family’s die-hard loyalty to the Bears. Ben and Darlene try to get a loan for their new magazine.
7) Word Party Season Three Premiere (Netflix)
Word Party is a vocabulary building show from The Jim Henson Company that follows four adorable baby animals as they sing, dance and play. The show invites our youngest viewers to help teach the baby animals new words, practice these new words themselves, and celebrate these achievements with a "Word Party!" Word Party is produced using the groundbreaking Henson Digital Puppetry Studio, a proprietary technology from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop that allows puppeteers to perform digitally animated characters in real time - enabling the animation to be more lifelike and spontaneous.
For a rundown of all the new episodes of television premiering tonight, click here.
TOO MUCH TV REALLY IS A THING
This newsletter is called "Too Much TV" because....well, it's hard to keep track of all the new television premiering everyday. To help you prioritize your viewing, click here to see our list of more than 400 upcoming television premieres, movies and finales. You'll find listings from more than 70 networks, as well as streaming services and web shows.
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