As Cord Cutting Grows The Disney Channel Has Lost 72% of Its Average Audience
by Luke Bouma
This week, The Information wrote an expansive story about Disney and Netflix as Disney gets ready to launch Disney+.
What was maybe the most shocking news was that since 2014 the Disney Channel has lost 72% of its average audience. This is a huge decline for any company especially one that relies heavily on ad revenues like Disney.
It’s not just Disney who is in trouble. BTIG, a research group focused on topics like TV, has reported that network ratings are down on average 18% in 2019 compared to 2018. The biggest drop is ABC, which is seeing its viewing down 22% in the ever-important 18-49 demographic….
Cold war intrigue is upon us this spring — not from Washington, D.C. or the Kremlin, but from ABC. Viewers need only turn to the alphabet network on Wednesday nights at 10:00 pm to catch the ambitious new hour-long espionage series Whiskey Cavalier.
The lightweight spy spoof/buddy comedy follows the escapades of an inter-agency group of agents who join forces to save the world from the worst the enemy has to offer.
Scott Foley (The Unit, Scandal) stars as Will Chase, an FBI super-agent whose official designation is ‘Whiskey Cavalier.’ He’s earned a reputation as a top-level spy, yet his mojo is currently on the fritz due to a nasty breakup with his fiancee (the as-yet unseen Gigi) six months earlier.
In the pilot episode, Will met and matched wits with his no-nonsense CIA counterpart, Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan), as the two pursued rogue NSA systems analyst turned hacker Edgar Standish (Tyler James Williams, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders), who was wanted for treason after he amscrayed from his department with covert intelligence files.
With their competitive natures, Will and Frankie (whose own field designation is ‘Fiery Tribune’) played a dangerous — and often comic — game of one-upmanship in order to deliver Standish to their respective agencies. Their rivalry in turn became the greatest threat to the success of their mission.
But when the Russians showed up to steal Standish from both of them, Will and Frankie were forced into an uneasy alliance that not only thwarted their opponents but led to Standish’s vindication.
Their bosses were so impressed by the joint venture that they decided to keep Will, Frankie, and Standish together in an inter-departmental effort between the FBI, CIA and NSA. Joining them are a support team of fellow spooks: Dr. Susan Sampson (Ana Ortiz, Ugly Betty), a top FBI profiler who also happens to be Will’s analyst; and CIA Weapons Specialist Jai Datta (Vir Das), the only person in the world Frankie sincerely trusts.
Then there’s Ray Prince (Josh Hopkins, Quantico, Cougar Town), the FBI’s Head of Evidence Response. Ray wants to be a part of the team, too. Problem is he’s incompetent and untrustworthy — and could very well be a double agent.
The five mismatched agents must pull their resources while keeping their egos in check. To protect their true identities from the rest of the world (particularly their enemies), the team poses as a group of friends partnering up to open a New York Irish pub called ‘The Dead Drop.’ In essence, it becomes their batcave.
Will and Frankie make for an interesting pair. Their strengths and weaknesses could either make or break their missions. Will is emotionally needy, while Frankie is withdrawn and unavailable. Yet despite their differences, these two oddball agents have somehow made a mutual connection. There’s always a chance that they’ll end up satisfying each others needs, which might lead to romance. But let’s hope they’re able to become friends first.
Whiskey Cavalier is one of the more ambitious programs to hit network TV recently. ABC placed an initial order for 13 episodes, then sent the cast and crew packing. The series is set in different foreign locale each week, but rather than recreating the world on L.A. soundstages, the producers opted to add authenticity by filming on actual locations in and around Prague and other areas of the Czech Republic. Production commenced on September 8, 2018 and wrapped on February 23, 2019, just one-day before Whiskey made its high-profile debut following this years Oscars telecast.
Not everyone, however, is thrilled with the lighter moments of the show. Whiskey is a ‘dramedy, ’ but today’s audiences may not be as open to the genre as past audiences were. It’s like trying to sell fans of Daniel Craig’s James Bond on “Moonraker” or “Octopussy.” It’s become a sore spot with many viewers.
Yet one look at the names of those working behind-the-scenes on Whiskey and suddenly the programs often comedic tones will make a little more sense. The show was created by David Hemingson (Just Shoot Me) and produced by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs).
The reasoning behind the move, according to Scott Foley in early interviews, is that there’s so much violence and hate in the real world — and on TV — that they wanted to do something that would provide fans with both thrills and a bit of escapism.
Once Foley signed on, he packed up his entire family — his wife Marika and their three young daughters — and made the six-month shoot in Prague an extended family affair. The girls even attended school there for a semester.
The series got off to a great start with its post-Oscar show preview, scoring impressive numbers (including an 85 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer) and positive reviews.
But in its regular Wednesday night timeslot, viewership has dropped consistently over the past five weeks, and analysts are predicting that the future of Whiskey Cavalier will most likely ride on how the two episodes scheduled for April 10 and 17 perform in the ratings.
Perhaps Standish can hack into the Nielsen computers.
Doug Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Check him out on IMDB.
Who’d a’thunk that Disney’s upcoming streaming service would appear so darned inviting? The way this TVWriter™ minion sees it, if Disney+ fulfills a quarter of its potential, it could – and should – put half the cable networks in the world out of business.
by Peter Sciretta
Today, the Walt Disney Company rolled-out their plans for their upcoming streaming service Disney+ during an Investors Meeting. Now that we finally know more of the details for this service, here’s a round-up of all the original television series announced and rumored for the service.
The Mandalorian: Executive produced by Jon Favreau, the first live-action Star Wars series is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic. Dave Filoni, Deborah Chow, Rick Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Taika Waititi are directing episodes. The series has a reported budget of $100 million. Timing: Available at launch
Cassian Andor: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor Diego Luna will reprise his role as Cassian Andor in a new live-action series that will follow Cassian “during the formative years of the Rebellion.” “The rousing spy thriller will explore tales filled with espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire.” The Americans executive producer Stephen Schiff is the showrunner. Alan Tudyk repries his role as K2-SO. Timing: Year Two
Obi-Wan Series: This has been rumored but unconfirmed. The rumor mill suggests that Ewan McGregor would reprise his Star Wars prequels role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in a limited series story set between the Star Wars prequel and original trilogies.
Untitled Star Wars Craft Docuseries: A new docuseries taking a focus on the legendary master craftspeople who brought the galaxy to life over the years.
WandaVision: Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles as the vision and Scarlet Witch in this limited series. Jac Schaeffer is the writer/showrunner. Timing: Year Two
Loki: Tom Hiddleston reprises his role as Loki in this limited series. “Sources say the show will follow Loki as the trickster and shapeshifter pops up throughout human history as unlikely influencer on historical events.” Michael Waldron, a writer for the anarchic and ambitious animated series Rick and Morty, has been hired to serve as showrunner. Timing: Year Two
Unreleased episodes of several high-profile TV-shows including American Gods, The 100, Bless This Mess, and Knightfall have leaked online. The leaks appear to come from promotional screeners, some of which carry revealing watermarks. The pirate releases are sponsored by a Russian gambling site.
Roughly a decade ago, new episodes of TV-series regularly found their way onto the Internet, before appearing on TV.
These leaks were often linked to promotional screeners, which are generally sent out to reviewers and critics at the start of a new season.
In recent years these TV-screener leaks have become rarer, but a series of pirated releases that have appeared over the past several days is one of the largest breaches ever. While the source is unconfirmed, all signs suggest that a serious security hole has been exploited.
It all started when a new episode of The CW’s hit series “The 100” leaked online, weeks before the sixth season officially premieres. Soon after, a pattern started to emerge when three unreleased episodes of “American Gods” came out too.
The leaked American Gods episodes show the typical hallmarks of a promotional screener.
There is a clearly visible “For Screening Purposes Only” message popping up, for example, and the name “Jessica Silvester” is visible as a permanent watermark throughout the episodes….
Where we are now, via the WGA Negotiating Committee last Friday:
Last Saturday, at the agencies’ request, the Guild gave them six days beyond AMBA expiration to provide us with a fair offer. They have not done so. Among other unacceptable proposals, the agencies insist on continuing their major conflicts of interest. They insist on continuing to produce and be our employers. Their “offer” on packaging is to share 1% of their packaging fee with writers. Here is the response David Goodman presented this afternoon at the bargaining table to the proposal the ATA made yesterday.
So there is no settlement. The membership voted by 95.3% to implement an Agency Code of Conduct if a negotiated settlement was not reached, and elected leadership set today as the deadline. As of midnight tonight, every agency will be required to become a signatory to the Code. And under WGA Working Rule 23, WGA Current members cannot be represented by agencies that have not signed the Code.
So what happens now? In a strike situation, we all know that we are to refrain from crossing the picket line or writing for a struck company, and we’re asked to show our solidarity by picketing, which is the public and moral face of our dispute.
In this situation there are two actions required of all members: First, do not allow a non-franchised agent to represent you with respect to any future WGA-covered work. Second, notify your agency in a written form letter that they cannot represent you until they sign the Code of Conduct.
Linked here is the form letter, in plain and respectful language, which accomplishes this task. Members who are represented by agencies not signed to the Code of Conduct must e-sign the letter. This letter also protects you legally in case of any future commission dispute. The Guild will forward all letters en masse to the appropriate agencies in a few days. Many of you will also want to inform your agents personally. We encourage you to do so and to ask them to sign the Code.
We know you may have questions about exactly how to deal with your agent. We have linked here to a set of rules of implementation and FAQs that clarify how to deal with agencies that are no longer franchised. It is important that you read both the rules and the FAQ carefully. If you have additional questions about your situation, you should contact the Guild at: email@example.com.
We know that, together, we are about to enter uncharted waters. Life that deviates from the current system might be various degrees of disorienting. But it has become clear that a big change is necessary.
We will not only stand together, we will stand up for each other, lean on each other. We can do this.
WGA-Agency Agreement Negotiating Committee
And from David A. Goodman, President of the Writers Guild of America West, on the same day:
I just wanted to respond to your proposals, because I feel it’s necessary that we be honest about where we are. We granted the one week extension with the sincere hope that we could reach a solution, and there have been a few moments of hope. On the subject of independent features, we appreciate the constructive dialogue we have had. I know it’s the feeling of the feature writers on our committee that the conversations and negotiations have been productive, and that we are close to finding an agreement on that issue that will both protect writers and allow agencies to be properly compensated for the important work they do in this area.
Unfortunately, it is the feeling of this committee that this is the only area where we we’ve made progress. Your proposals on information sharing are entirely inadequate. You continue to refuse to recognize the primacy of the Guild and our legal right to the information as exclusive bargaining representative for writers. Any consultation with an attorney experienced in labor law would confirm you are legally protected in this area, and some of you know it from your own experience with the sports unions. CAA is required to turn over the contracts to the NFLPA within 48 hours. The overwhelming majority of our members want their deal memos, contracts and invoices to go directly to the Guild, and any member that doesn’t will have avenues of recourse directly with the Guild.
Your presentation on packaging was a little confusing, not because we don’t understand it, but because you claimed that we didn’t, and then made a presentation that was very close to the speech I gave to our members. Our overall description of the mechanisms of packaging fees was exactly the same. Though we appreciate that you were listening to Mike Schur’s discussion of how important mid and low level writers are to us, your proposal of .8% of your backend of new series in no way realigns your incentives with these writers. You are still receiving money from our employers for access to us, and keeping 99% of the profits of your backend. It does not change your incentives at all. It is not a serious proposal and we reject it.
On your diversity fund proposal, the fact is, it shouldn’t rely on this negotiation. The moral obligation that our industry provide access and opportunity to underrepresented artists of our community is an obligation that we have only begun to address. While we applaud your willingness to confront issues of diversity and inclusion, it shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip. You should know the comment of the diverse members of this committee upon hearing your proposal, was “We’re not pawns.” We also reject that proposal. And if you really feel that the program you proposed would make a difference, you are free to spend the money you pledged outside of this negotiation.
You have chosen to make no proposal on your affiliates, except to take a “wait and see” approach, which you did not present to us in this room, and so many of us only found out about when we read it in the trades. Even if you had presented it to us, it would still be unacceptable. Despite your protestations to the contrary, these production companies are not independent of your agencies, your private equity investors openly talk about how your leveraging representation of clients to create a production business is why they invested. While we acknowledge that you have made favorable talent deals, they are clearly a loss-leader strategy. We do not need to “wait and see” to know they will disappear when the business settles in. We reject this proposal.
As I said, we granted the week’s extension as a sincere effort to try to find a solution. But it is clear to us that we are not appreciably closer. We are willing to continue meeting with you when you provide a proposal that truly addresses our expressed concerns, but our Friday deadline has arrived and we are moving forward with the implementation of our Code of Conduct and the enforcement of our WGA Working Rule 23. Thank you.
For those who’ve been asking me for more info about what’s happening, the Industry trades have some excellent articles:
To those who’ve been asking for my personal opinion on whether or not the current WGA strategy will work, let me say that I’ve been thinking long and hard about not only the issues but the practical political outcome of where we are right now (i.e., firing our agents), and although I’m not nearly so eloquent as David A. Goodman, where I am boils down to this:
For what it’s worth, my experience has been that in any gathering of writers I’ve been at, the majority is made up of writers who either feel horribly let down by their agents or are upset about agents in general because they haven’t been able to obtain representation.
The specific current issues aside, so many writers feel trapped by agency agreements they wish they could escape or resentful at the agencies that rejected them as clients, that I’m confident that the vast majority of the Guild’s voting members will do what it takes to say, “Buh-bye” to their agents or just plain, “Fuck you” to the agencies as a whole.
After which they’ll fall into a huge funk, second-guessing what they’ve done and living in a state of neurotic terror about potential consequences.
I say the above with no small about of certainty because, well, because I’ve been a member of this Guild for 50, yep, 50 years, and that’s what we always do.
This could be a very long and bitter battle unless the ATA wises up and, having been reminded that ethics exist, starts being guided by them.