A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
2020 TV Predictions. ALSO: Farewell Friends.
Always Be Watching is written by Dan Barrett at the dawn of a new year.
Happy new year Always Be Watching subscriber. As always, I thank you for your continued support. If you have a friend who you think might like this, please consider hitting the Forward button on the email and telling them to consider subscribing. It’s mostly free.
Like many of you, I spent NYE last night having a drink with some friends and will spend today again with friends sharing a lunch. To my international readers, have a great night out - be safe and have a good time.
While we enjoyed ourselves last night, it was impossible to forget that right now across Australia, communities and firefighters are dealing with severe fires that have cost lives, homes, business’, and townships. Several human lives have already been lost, with hundreds of thousands of animals killed. If you have a few spare dollars, can I suggest making a donation to the many volunteer firefighters risking their own lives right now. This article from The Guardian is well-detailed on how you can donate.
Five 2020 TV Thoughts
With the new year, I thought I’d start the year with five things I’m expecting across TV this year.
Anyone expecting the ‘streaming wars’ to scalp Netflix will be sorely disappointed. But, this year in the US the Warner Bros service HBO Max will launch along with NBC service Peacock. In Australia, expect to see the new Foxtel streaming service launch. All of this puts pressure on Netflix to prove its continued value to subscribers. My prediction: Low growth for Netflix in the US, but continued growth globally.
Apple TV+ will continue on as a quiet achiever. I’m not expecting any of its new shows to become huge zeitgeist hits, but I suspect a few will get some chatter online. The challenge for the service is making sure it has at least 1 show running at any time that keeps viewers hooked in. As soon as viewers find a lull of a couple of weeks, they’re likely to cancel their subscriptions. This is the danger of launching a subscription service with such limited content.
Broadcast viewership will continue to trend downwards as viewers are given even more choice. But expect networks to try and engage viewers more across multiple platforms. It won’t be enough to watch couples getting married on a reality show - you’ll be downloading the companion podcasts and reading a lot more officially sanctioned material online.
More TV of varied lengths. On streaming services we’ve seen shows which change episode duration episode to episode. I’d expect much more wild variation of this as platforms become even more experimental - especially on fringe shows aimed more at younger people.
ViacomCBS will be clearer about its digital strategy moving forward - while I think that will involve deeper investment in Pluto TV and CBS All Access in the US, I’m going to be watching to see whether 2020 brings greater investment in its Australian and UK assets. That can have flow on effects to international broadcasters and streamers - there simply may no longer be the option to buy the big CBS and Showtime shows going forward.
US Netflix subscribers have just a few hours left to watch Friends on the service. It’s gone at midnight. Source: Uproxx
Roku stock is up 300% in 2019, with its value expected to increase more in 2020. Source: Complex
Bloomberg has a look back at the value of Netflix over the past year. Its value has increased 4000%.
The impact of streaming on the entertainment industry is difficult to overstate. Movie-theater chains have struggled against this new form of competition, while the cable industry has faced an exodus of “cord cutters” abandoning traditional television. Roku Inc., which operates as a platform for streaming services, recently predicted that ad revenue related to streaming would soon eclipse that of traditional TV, while even non-media companies like Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. have been making investments into original content in a bid to keep users in their “ecosystems.”