The Business of Showbiz: Viacom vs. DirecTV

Who Won The War: DirecTV Or Viacom?
By David Lieberman

DirecTV seems to have the edge in my non-scientific checks with industry watchers who monitored the contract dispute that for 10 days prevented 20M satellite customers from seeing Viacom’s 17 channels. But there are champions for both sides — and nobody outside of the companies knows enough about the financial terms to make a solid case for his or her view. Here’s what I’m told: DirecTV’s first year payment to Viacom in the seven-year deal is a double-digit percentage step up from what it was paying before, but less than the 30% that DirecTV said Viacom initially wanted. After that, DirecTV’s outlay for Viacom’s channels will rise by mid-single digit percentages each year. The deal gives DirecTV the right to stream Viacom programming to its customers — both inside and outside of their homes — via the satellite provider’s TV Everywhere program. And it doesn’t have to carry premium movie channel Epix, but has the option to pick it up.

When the talks initially broke down, Viacom said that its channels accounted for about 5% of the nearly $10B that DirecTV spent on programming last year — about $500M. Some say that the new deal would bring that to 6%, or $600M, but that’s in dispute.

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It’s articles like this one that make us fall in love with Deadline.Com all over again. Was that too much information? We really don’t want to give too much information…

My TV Review Part Two

by Robin Reed

Last week, I talked about my history as a television viewer. Now let’s talk about something more recent.

First, one final nostalgic show reference: I always watch “The Wild Wild West” when I come across it. I don’t know why.

All righty then. I come not praise or condemn TV in general, but I do want to discuss its business model. I actually have to go back to radio again. In the early days of radio, no one could figure out how to make money on it when anyone could pick up the signals for free (or rather, for the cost of a radio.) Big companies were poised to sell the home receivers, but no one would buy them if there was nothing to listen to. Vaudevillians, musicians, and other performers thought it would be a new way to find an audience if they could get paid to do it.

I don’t know what genius thought to start charging advertisers, but the idea became the basis for radio, then TV, now a lot of the internet, NASCAR, signs in sports stadiums, and on and on. We live in an advertising-saturated culture. And I don’t like it.

It was while attending my first college (which went bankrupt after my first year) that I first learned that TV doesn’t sell shows to the audience. It sells the audience to advertisers. Every time I sit down to watch TV, it sells ME.

The old Nielsen ratings system, which used a laughably small sample of audience members, was the basis of the huge amounts of money TV charged for commercials. I guess cable can more accurately tell how many TV sets are tuned to what channels. The result is the same; TV shows are created to attract eyeballs to the shows so the number of eyeballs can be the basis of ad rates.

Attracting eyeballs to the TV is not the same as creating entertaining, interesting or enlightening television. One major way to attract viewers is to make the shows numbingly stupid. This explains Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, judge shows, TMZ, The Bachelor, Survivor, Big Brother and many others. Of course, if shows appeal to stupid people, then there must be a lot of stupid people out there. But the business model of TV wants people to be stupid and even get more stupid over the years. The stupider they are, the more money there is to be made.

I always hated soap operas, but they are beacons of sanity and intelligence compared to most daytime TV now.

When advertising is the basis of a culture, then no one objects to it taking over everything. Everything is for sale, and selling is everything. We now sell the very names of our public spaces to large corporations.

Then cable came along, what used to be called pay TV. We pay a healthy chunk of cash to get TV, and we still get commercials. We pay in precious time in our lives AND we fork out the monthly fee.

The recent revolution in “Reality TV” is based on such shows being very cheap to produce, and yet popular. All moneys not put into the production go into the producers’ pockets.

Advertising based TV came to fruition with the infomercial, which cuts out any kind of programming entirely. People still watch. Hell, many people have their TVs on all the time, as background, or when they’re not in the room. I will admit to watching an occasional infomercial, but at least I turn the thing off when I’m not watching at all.

I have some experience being in the audience of infomercials. I was paid. No one in an infomercial is there just because the product is wonderful. They clap when they are told to. They laugh when they are told to. If they ask a question they have been given the question on a piece of paper and ask it exactly as written.

It is clear to me that the advertising culture has a lot to do with the corruption of our political system. For one thing, campaigns only put forth information that can be conveyed in thirty or sixty seconds. Also, by charging political campaigns the same rates they charge McDonald’s and Procter and Gamble, they make congressman and senators spend most of their time calling donors, rather than actually legislating.

Not that the TV industry could solve that problem, laws need to be passed banning political ads and requiring free air time for campaigns. That won’t happen, the system is too far gone.

When I watch TV now, I never sit down at a specific time. There are too many other ways to see what I want, when I want, many of them without commercials. Mostly I flick on the TV just to see what there is to see. I tend to watch cable reality shows like “Pawn Stars,” “Mythbusters,” “American Pickers,” “Storage Wars,” etc. When I do this I don’t want to see a particular show, I just want some moving images and sound to suck into the black hole between my ears. Besides, the Internet has replaced TV as my primary time-waster.

I personally have completely lost interest in police or investigation shows. Especially if someone finds a body at the beginning of every episode. Is police work really the only interesting thing that humans do?

There are good TV shows. Shows done by people who care, and work hard to make their shows good. I watch those shows online, or on Netflix, or on DVD. The rest of TV is there to keep me from having to deal with the real world. And I don’t mean “The Real World.”

I watch a lot of crappy TV, but I try to avoid the ones that make me feel guilty for contributing to the lessening of the IQ of the human race. Yes, “Psych,” I’m talking to you.

To the people who make the good shows, I say keep doing it. I’m sure you know that your audience appreciates it. I’m sure you also know that your industry doesn’t really care how hard you work or what you do, as long as there are eyeballs that can be sold.

BREAKING BAD Creator-Writer-Showrunner Talks about…BREAKING BAD

Sure beats listening to (just about any) star:

Creator Vince Gilligan Talks BREAKING BAD, How His Vision for the Show Has Changed over Time, the Possibility of a Movie and More
by Tommy Cook

“Because I said so.”  Have four words ever been so chillingly, yet rousingly, delivered? Walter White’s Season Five conversation ender put the definitive mark on his transformation from mild-mannered science teacher to ruthless drug kingpin.  The brilliance of Breaking Bad is that this transformation can be viewed either as a triumph of Nietzschean ‘Superman’ ethics or as the moral turpitude of hubris run amuck.  Sure Walter White is a badass – but he’s also a very bad, bad man.  Breaking Bad is one of the only shows in recent memory that can ‘have its cake and eat it too’ – at once both celebrating and decrying Walter’s actions.  How does it get away with this? Because it’s just so freaking good… ‘Because it says so’.

…[T]oday…,creator Vince Gilligan discusses how his vision of the show changed (or didn’t) since day one, takes exception to the notion of Walter White as a sociopath, puts down any Breaking Bad movie rumors, and more.  For the full interview, hit the jump.

Season five is going to be split in half.  Where are you in filming currently?

VINCE GILLIGAN: We finished shooting the first eight about three weeks ago and I finished doing my pass on the editing of episode six.  I still haven’t watched the final two episodes of the first eight; but I’m real happy with the first six.  I have every confidence that the final two will be just as great because they were directed and written by some very smart folks.  So that’s where we are.  We’re almost through the first eight.

Are we going to see you explore the relationship between Walt’s two sons: Jesse and Walt Jr.?

GILLIGAN: I do see Walt Jr. and Jesse as different sides of the same son.  The coy[est] answer I can give is that we will continue to deepen the viewer’s understanding of all these characters as much as we can.  There are a lot of revelations yet to be played out throughout the final sixteen.

Has your vision for how the show will end changed from day one to now?

GILLIGAN: Immensely.  There’s my vision of the show and then there’s of how it would be received.  I can’t believe I’m here at Comic Con talking about the show.  I didn’t believe for the longest time it would see the light of day. I  didn’t think we would even shoot a pilot.  And then once we did shoot a pilot, I had trouble believing it would go on air as a series.  And then when it did go on air for a year/year and a half, I thought the most story we could possibly milk out of this thing would be three years.  And now look here we are at the beginning of season five.  My vision for how things would shake out and how much people would enjoy it continues to astound. But as far as the story goes, we have abided pretty closely to the original pitch we gave to Sony – which was we’re going to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface. We have abided by that.  All the twists and turns of character we have produced over the seasons – I certainly have not seen all of them coming.  My writers and I have come up with them week-by-week and day-by-day.  But the ultimate point of the show: taking a good man and, by will, transforming himself into a bad man.  That was always with me from the beginning.

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Now if only they would put Gilligan’s pic on the posters, like they do Aaron Sorkin’s.

SLEDGEHAMMER Gave Us This – What Will BULLET IN THE FACE Bring?

Just, you know, musing.

For those not quite in the know: Alan Spencer, TVWriter™ and LB buddy, created/wrote/produced both series. You’ve missed your chance at first-run SLEDGEHAMMER, but BULLET IN THE FACE debuts on IFC next month.

And, speaking of BULLET IN THE FACE, Dish Network has dropped IFC and all the AMC networks. Which could be a problem for viewers, humor aficionados like us, BULLET IN THE FACE as a series, and even the godawful rich and successful Alan Spencer.

Big guns and helicopters and bombs and the pretty actors and actresses that support them cost money. Help Alan indulge his expensive habits. Dish subscribers don’t have to take this lying down. Find out what you can do.

And while we’re at it, Dish customers have also just been screwed out of:

Okay, so KENDRA and BRAXTON are no big deal, but the others – c’mon.

Sledgehammer loves America