Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, May 20th, 2020. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by coffee. I'm also running very late with this newsletter today, thanks to the challenges of a flooded bathroom.
THE 'DEAL THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING' THAT DOESN'T CHANGE MUCH
I often joke that Netflix inspires more bad takes than just about any media company. But the truth is that news coverage of the streaming sector in general can be pretty shabby at times. Often journalists don't understand the framework of the business and sometimes they can just get caught up in a deal that SOUNDS big and earth-shattering. Even though on the business side of things, it doesn't move the needle all that much.
One story that spawned a number of unfortunate takes yesterday was the news that Apple had made a deal with Sony Pictures for exclusive rights to the new Tom Hanks movie. "Greyhound" is a WWII naval drama that was originally set to premiere in theaters next month. But Sony apparently began shopping the film quietly to streamers late last month once it was clear the theatrical business was going to remain unpredictable in the near future.
Deadline and some of the other trades pitched this acquisition as a deal that showed Apple TV+ was serious about being a player in the movie business. And that premise, combined with a Bloomberg report that revealed the not especially surprising news that Apple was actively negotiating for TV catalog for its streaming service, led to a few "Apple TV+ Is Getting Serious" stories.
But it's important to keep all of this news in perspective. Yes, the deal is noteworthy both for the size and for the fact that it's a Tom Hanks movie. But it's not going to markedly assist Apple struggles to gain new subscribers. No one outside of the Hanks family is going to say to themselves, "Tom Hanks has a new period piece movie on Apple TV+? Sign me up!" (As a quick aside, the biggest winner in the deal appears to be Sony, who bought "Greyhound" in February for $60 million and apparently made $10 million when it sold it to Apple for 15 years.)
The Hanks acquisition is good, but as Netflix's struggles with the movie business has shown, building a film library that matters to subscribers requires a number of acquisitions at a reasonable price. "Greyhound" is a solid first step, but the rest of Apple TV+'s movie library is comprised of smaller films that are nice to have, but that don't aggregate into much of a catalog.
The challenges of expanding its movie catalog is a relatively simple fix. It just requires money and patience and that is certainly doable for Apple. The bigger problem for Apple is on the television side and a piece yesterday from CNBC seems to show that Apple TV+ management doesn't have a realistic grasp on what it needs to compete against its rival streamers:
According to this person, Apple is not interested in investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the most popular shows, such as “Friends” or “The Office,” but rather to make smaller acquisitions that will add content while keeping its originals shows as the centerpiece.
Now I understand Apple's decision not to spend the money to acquire one of the big comedy TV titles. Outbidding WarnerMedia or one of the other streamers would have driven up the price past the half billion dollars or so those companies eventually paid. And even though Apple has close to $100 billion in the bank, spending that amount on one show is a risk. Although I would argue that being the exclusive home for "Big Bang Theory" or "Friends" would be worth a billion dollars in decreased subscriber churn and promotional value.
The bigger issue is the insistence by Apple TV+ executives that the service needs to center around its original productions. That might make sense if it had a solid catalog of successful original productions. But hundreds of millions of dollars into its original programming effort, the quality shows are few and far between. "The Morning Show," "Dickinson" and maybe one or two other shows are all that have registered at all with the public. And based on some of the coverage from industry trade publications, Apple continues to struggle with managing its original production process.
Given all of that, deciding to focus on originals might be a good medium-term goal. But it's almost suicidal in the short term. Giving subscribers a mix of generally disappointing originals and lower-tier acquired TV catalog isn't exactly the pathway to streaming success. It's pretty much just arguing "Hey, we're Peacock - without the extensive catalog!"
Maybe the biggest challenge for Apple TV+ is that there isn't a looming financial pressure to be successful. Like HBO Max or not, WarnerMedia is all in on its streaming future. Apple has so much available capital that it can afford to do a half-ass job with its streaming service until it eventually catches on. Apple TV+ is run like it doesn't need to be a success. Which will pretty much ensure it won't be in the near-term.
ONE LAST THOUGHT
A few analysts were highlighting that Netflix was part of the negotiations to acquire "Greyhound," but was outbid. There was a bit of cackling over the fact Netflix lost out, although I was told late yesterday by a source at Netflix familiar with the negotiations that the company decided the title wasn't worth $70 million. I was also told that when it comes to bigger titles and A-list actors, Netflix now prefers to produce in-house or with a partner. As an example, the source pointed the recent Chris Hemsworth action film "Extraction." That film costs a similar amount of money to "Greyhound," but had a wider potential audience. And work has already begun on a sequel, also headed to Netflix. Netflix was trying to be more strategic, I was told, and overpaying simply to have a Tom Hanks movie was more about optics in the industry than anything else.
Here is a rundown of the new shows premiering today....
1) At Home With Amy Sedaris Season Three Premiere (truTV)
Each week the show touches on a specific theme and features imaginative characters, how-to demonstrations, special guests, and more. Subversive twists take segments in delightfully eccentric directions as Sedaris demonstrates her cooking, crafting, and homemaking skills. New topics explored this season include preparing for a baby, the do's and don'ts of travel, how to celebrate Easter, and what to expect on a first date.
2) Ben Platt Live From Radio City Music Hall (Netflix)
Actor and singer Ben Platt performs in a sold-out show recorded at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
3) Dinosaur Cold Case (Smithsonian)
It's the ultimate cold case. A Canadian miner working in Alberta’s oil sands hits a large, strange object. But this is no ordinary jumble of fossilized bones. It’s one of the world’s most perfectly preserved dinosaurs – 18 feet long with head, shoulder spikes, and skin. From the front, it looks as if it was walking around yesterday. Scientists determine that it’s a new species of armored dinosaur and name it Borealopelta. But how did it die? And why is it so far from home?
4) Jay Leno's Garage Season Premiere (CNBC)
In this episode, Jay hits the road to meet people who’ve had the courage to throw caution to the wind and go for it. He surprises country superstar Blake Shelton by taking him for a spin in a vintage pick-up truck with a “royal” connection. He goes head to head on the track with comedian turned professional racing car driver Adam Carolla in an endurance race. And Jay takes his life into his own hands when he agrees to teach Saturday Night Live legend Norm MacDonald how to drive.
5) Man Fire Food Season Premiere (Cooking)
Roger Mooking makes two pit stops in the South for a little sizzle and a lot of smoke. He starts at Comfort Farms in Milledgeville, Ga., a nonprofit organization where retired veteran Jon Jackson helps fellow vets adjust to civilian life by teaching them how to farm, raise animals and cook. Jon often hosts cookouts to thank and feed his community, and Roger joins him to cook a whole mutton seasoned with garlicky rosemary paste and slow-roast cauliflower, broccoli, beets and onions. Roger then heads to Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q in Bessemer, Ala., for classic, open brick-pit barbecue. He learns the tricks of the trade from seasoned pitmaster Van Sykes, who has been stoking coals since he was 8 years old. They season 250 pounds of picnic pork with salt and load it into a 15-foot pit heated with hickory wood. The pork is then sliced, topped with just enough vinegar-based barbecue sauce and sandwiched inside a toasted bun with sliced pickles.
6) Rebelión de los Godinez (Netflix)
When Omar's grandfather forces him to get a job at a tech company in Mexico City, he meets a quirky ensemble of nine-to-fivers...and some nemeses.
7) Small Town Throwdown (Discovery)
All across the Internet, there are articles with click-bait headlines like "The Most Boring Town in America," "Smelliest Town in America" and "Drunkest Town in America." But how does one even determine that? And who comes up with this kind of stuff? Comedian Mo Mandel is on a mission to find out by trekking across America to visit the places with the worst reputations.
8) The 100 Season Premiere (The CW)
Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and her friends attempt to rebuild Sanctum as a new threat rises in the woods.
9) Ultimate Tag Series Premiere (Fox)
Each week, competitors must vault, dodge, tumble and dive their way through several different epic, three-dimensional courses. All the while, the contestants will be chased by resident Taggers.These larger-than-life characters have a range of incredible and jaw-dropping athletic skills. For the contestants, there is one simple rule: Don’t Get Caught.
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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