The Cable Industry Thinks Cord Cutting’s Just a Fad

Despite the evidence in articles like these, TV execs can’t seem to make themselves take the impending threat to their livelihoods seriously. Some of us never learn. (And, ergo, deserve what they get?!)



by Karl Bode

One narrative that broadcast and cable industry execs use to comfort themselves late at night while sipping bourbon is that cord cutting is the realm of the foolish youngster, and that as these folks age they’ll suddenly see the wisdom in paying an arm and a leg for traditional cable. Nielsen, the TV ratings company that goes out of its way to tell the cable industry what it wants to hear, has been pushing this narrative hard lately; arguing that as the 18-to-34 demographic begins having children, the idea of giving Comcast $150 a month for huge bundles of awful channels is going to suddenly, somehow become appealing:

“We think behaviors could change once the so-called millennials start having families,” said Glenn B. Enoch, senior vice president for audience insights at Nielsen. New parents’ desire for better programming for their children will help drive them to cable, media executives have predicted.

Nielsen’s confidence appears based entirely on the fact that Millennials with kids are slightly more likely to subscribe to cable than their childless counterparts, for now:

About 80 percent of millennials with their own homes who have started families subscribe to cable, and an additional 14 percent get television with an antenna, according to Nielsen. Only 6 percent have just broadband connected to a television set. Among childless millennials who live in their own homes, about 75 percent subscribe to cable television, while 13 percent live in so-called broadband-only homes.

Of course, that doesn’t mean much. When it comes to the ratings hit being seen by traditional cable channels, children’s programming has led the charge, with parents being much happier with the flexibility of time-shifted viewing experiences like Netflix. Meanwhile, 2015 was really only the first year that skinny bundle streaming video services started to take off (Sling TV, Sony’s Playstation Vue), and the rise of affordable streaming options is only going to improve as broadcasters release their iron-like grip on licensing rights.

It’s also worth reminding readers that Nielsen is the same company that just a few years ago declared cord cutting to be “purely fiction,” only recently realizing that maybe it would be a good idea to start tracking these users’ viewing behaviors.

One major thing Nielsen’s ignoring? The rise of the “cord never,” or the customer who doesn’t have cable and has absolutely no interest in getting it….

Read it all at Tech Dirt

Streaming Video Binges Take Up Over 70% of the Internet

TV isn’t dead, after all. Instead, it’s just moved to a new location. Our laps:

a binge

by Kate Cox

Do you remember 2007? Way back then in the long-long ago times, movies came on physical discs and you binge-watched a TV series by happening to turn on the TV while a Law and Order marathon was running. Now, however, it seems like basically everything streams to us over the internet… and basically the whole internet, or at least a huge fraction of it, is for streaming.

That’s according to the latest report from Sandvine, a network analytics company that tells us, a few times a year, what exactly we are collectively using the internet for. Back in May, the company calculated that streaming video accounted for more than half of all the prime-time internet traffic in North America. Six months later, it seems our insatiable appetite for just one more episode only keeps growing.

70.40% of all downstream internet traffic (data coming from the internet to you, instead of going from you up to the internet) now falls into the category of “real-time entertainment,” according to Sandvine (PDF). That encompasses both video, like Netflix and YouTube, and also audio, like Spotify and Pandora. That’s approximately ten times the volume of the second-place catetgory, web browsing, which manages to take up barely over 7% of our collective bandwidth.

As for the video providers, big red remains the elephant in the room. Netflix alone accounts for more than a third of our internet use, clocking in at about 37% of downstream traffic. Second-place YouTube accounts for a smudge less than 18%, and third-place video provider Amazon clocks in at just over 2%. Running down the list of media providers from there, iTunes is 2.8% of our traffic, and Hulu about 2.6%. “Other” video takes up the rest….

Read it all at Consumerist

Hurtling Toward the TV Remake Apocalypse


by Peter Bradshaw

This article was originally published in the UK, but the situation is dire here in the good ole USA as well. Pity the poor TV executives who are running “dangerously low” on beloved old media content to re-imagine, re-do, and de-fang. What will they do when they – shudder – run out?

An awful crisis is unfolding in the world of film and TV writing, a crisis that I learned about when I had coffee recently with a top British producer. We are reaching peak reboot. The number of out-of-copyright pop culture figures or mythic icons who can be reinvented and reimagined for a modern age, or sexed up in their original setting, is running dangerously low.

Sherlock has obviously been done. So has Merlin. King Arthur is being done again on the big screen. Dracula and Frankenstein are always being summoned from the grave, the cultural undead; and The Mummy’s being remade – again.

My producer demanded I come up with some names. “Jekyll and Hyde?” I mumbled. “No, no, no!” she snapped. “Charlie Higson’s doing it.” “How about Boudicca?” I asked, “… revamped as a badass ninja heroine?” She shook her head: “No. Too Game of Thrones-y.”

We sat in silence, before I said: “What about Dick Turpin? He starts out as Sir Richard Turpin, the caring aristocrat played by Ben Whishaw. Maddened by injustice, he turns into a righteous avenger, robbing rich folks in their carriages?” This was greeted with an indifferent shrug. We sipped lattes in uneasy silence. If peak reboot escalates into a full-blown reboot collapse, the unthinkable will happen and we will have to invent completely new characters and new situations.

This time of year, film journalists are sent DVDs of the latest releases in an attempt to persuade us to vote for them in various award ceremonies – a reminder of movies that might have slipped our minds.

One such is the excellent documentary We Are Many, all about the agony and the ecstasy of the 2003 Stop the War movement, which failed to stop the war in Iraq. When I saw this film in May, it had a happy ending. The movement turned out to be influential, helping to defeat David Cameron’s plan for military action in Syria in August 2013, with MPs telling him the public didn’t want another confrontation.

After this week’s House of Commons vote we are against Islamic State, but not for President Assad, and have no clear idea of how and where an alternative, stable Syrian government is to be found. Perhaps We Are Many will need to be re-edited to include this new, sombre ending….

Read it all at The Guardian

The Token in the Writers Room

Do TV writing diversity programs help…or are they just a new way to stitch on ye olde scarlet letter?

splashd-diversity-withtextby Rebecca Sun

In their ideal form, the mentorship and training programs that the Big Four television networks use to identify and develop new writing talent also serve to jump-start the careers of diverse writers. Such was the case for Rashad Raisani, who got into NBCUniversal’s Writers on the Verge program in 2007. Erika Kennair, who ran the program then and now is vp comedy development at ABC, pitched him for USA’s Burn Notice and worked out an unusual three-year deal in which NBCU would pay Raisani’s staff-writer (or entry-level) salary, even though the drama was being produced by Fox Television Studios. If the show decided to bring him back with the customary annual promotion the following year, Fox only would have to cover the pay difference until the NBCU contract expired. By the time Burn Notice ended in 2013, Raisani was a co-executive producer, paid no differently than the rest of the room. After helping develop NBC’s short-lived Allegiance as executive producer, he signed an overall deal with Universal TV in February and now is focusing full-time on development. “There’s no way I’d be here if it were not for Writers on the Verge because it made the decision for [showrunner] Matt Nix to hire me really easy since I was free,” says Raisani. “I also benefited from the fact that there was a diversity hire before me named Ben Watkins[now creator of Amazon’s Hand of God], and he was the star of the staff. He showed that ‘diversity’ doesn’t mean ‘second class.’ ”

Despite major strides in diversifying television with Empire, Fresh Off the Boat andBlack-ish, the stats on writers in Hollywood still are sobering: Minorities make up 13.7 percent of writers rooms while comprising 37.9 percent of the population nationwide, with only 10 individuals of color (out of 73) on THR‘s 2015 Power Showrunners list. There are no stats available on how many minority writers made it in TV without going through a program, though one Latino alum jokes: “John Ridley had to win an Oscar to get a television show.” Which is why new-talent development and “inclusion” programs, such as the ones every single broadcast network supports — no doubt part good business, part public relations, part social conscience — are a key part of writers room staffing. Like college scholarships for minorities, these programs are all about removing as many barriers to entry as possible, including financial ones. But with every good intention can come inadvertent side effects, from writers of color who are perceived as less qualified to the subsidization of first-season salaries that can lead to a “freebie” mentality among showrunners toward those scribes.

Read it all at Hollywood Reporter

1,715 Scripted Shows and Nothing On?

Some people are sooo hard to please!

mr_robot_s01e10_stillby Tim Goodman

Five years ago, there was no House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black. Amazon was shipping products, not signing Woody Allen to make television. Nobody thought Jerry Seinfeld, creator and star of one of TV’s greatest series, would make a show for the Internet.

Around that time, I was hired as THR‘s chief television critic, and I would like to think that I knew big changes were coming to the industry — but maybe not this big.

As we burst out of the Golden and into the Platinum Age of Television, the total number of series (and distribution platforms) soared, leaving audiences drunk on choice. It goes almost without saying that qualitatively, television is off the charts today — even with two of the best dramas, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, no longer on the air. There were a total of 213 scripted series in primetime (8 to 11 p.m.) in 2010, broadcast and cable combined, according to data provided by FX Networks. Now there are more than 400, counting broadcast, cable and streaming. Throw unscripted into the calculation, and in 2014 there were a staggering 1,715 shows in primetime. Who would want to sit at a desk and count how many more appeared in 2015? When is it all too much?

What can’t be overstated about the giant swell in TV offerings is the stress it has put on both creator and audience. It’s a gold rush out there for content creators. Everybody wants content. There are more people willing to distribute it than ever. And there essentially are no constraints on what can be depicted.

The downside? Viewers can handle only so many new shows. While they’re certainly expanding their DVR playlists, they’re also less likely to watch in a timely manner and more likely to give up on a show quickly because there is no lack of shiny new options everywhere they look. What this means is you can create a gem like Manhattan, but that doesn’t mean viewers will seek it out it on WGN America. And you can hatch an off-kilter little drama called Fortitude — Michael Gambon! Stanley Tucci! Christopher Eccleston! — but try finding people who’ve ever heard of it, or of the cable channel, Pivot, that airs it.

Read it all at Hollywood Reporter