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.
Can Netflix get any bigger? The answer may be no.
ALSO: Leverage is back! AND: Quibi news. Yeah... really.
The earnings report from Netflix this week has resulted in two camps of people: Those heard about the millions who signed up during the pandemic and saw it as good news. But then there are others who saw the figures as troubling… an impediment to future growth.
Can Netflix get any bigger? The answer may be no.
Joe Adalian at Vulture has a really solid read about the success of Netflix during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Yet during an investor interview on Tuesday, Netflix brass were actually quite muted in their response to these blockbuster numbers, and with good reason. Given what’s going on in the world right now, this is no time to be publicly gloating about blowing past even the most positive forecasts for its first-quarter performance. But it is also a reflection of how unsustainable the first-quarter growth will likely be. Because so many people are signing up now during the pandemic, there’s a good chance the big spike in March sign-ups will end up being “essentially a pull forward of the rest of the year,” as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted during the investor call.
Taking a longer view of Netflix - what is the future of Netflix beyond this year? Some are starting to look at it as a service that is hitting its peak. How many more subscribers can it meaningfully add?
Matthew Ball said this on the most recent episode of the Recode Media podcast and it seems so incredibly on the money:
The particularly terrifying piece of this when you take a look and try to understand how much headroom is left, Netflix said years ago that they thought the United States would saturate at 60-90 million. They’re around about 63 million. So that question has started to become very real. Reed said last night that it stands to reason that if you did not add Netflix during this period of time when you are stuck at home with very few alternatives, that you’re unlikely to subscribe when this subsides. When you need less entertainment time and you have more alternatives.
The bare thesis here does have some power from the standpoint of ‘If the United States only added 1-2 million in the quarter, what does this look like in two years when at minimum there are more alternatives and at maximum all of the players, Apple TV included, Disney+ included, Peacock… have also scaled up their content operations.
23 Hours To Kill is Jerry Seinfeld’s new Netflix special. It drops on May 5.
Disney has dropped the trailer for Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, which is its show about the making of The Mandalorian. Interestingly, part of the show will feature roundtable interviews with cast and crew hosted by Jon Favreau - it seems like an echo of the show he used to host for IFC, Dinner For Five. Every week on that show Jon would host a chat with five random name celebrities while they ate food and drank. It was a great, tidy show.
Oh, and there’s a new trailer for series Snowpiercer which debuts on TNT in the US on May 17. I’m interested, but also know that even if the show is no good:
We’ll always have the fantastic movie.
It’s not as big a concern as knowing what baby’s taste like*.
(*It’s a thing from the movie… I realise out of context that sounds weird)
Cult heist show Leverage has been revived. The original show lasted for 5 seasons and has performed really well for Amazon’s streaming service IMDb TV, which has greenlit the revival.
There will be a slight casting change - Timothy Hutton is gone from the show. But joining is former-ER star and guy who would likely star in an ER revival if only he was asked Noah Wyle.
The reimagining will include new characters, including one played by five-time Emmy nominee Wyle, who also will direct two of the 13 episodes. He will be joined by original cast members Beth Riesgraf, reprising her character as “Parker”; Gina Bellman as “Sophie Devereaux”; and Christian Kane as “Eliot Spencer”– who will all be series regulars — as well as Aldis Hodge, who will return as “Alec Hardison” in a recurring role, subject to availability from his Showtime series City on a Hill, whose Season 2 will likely be filming at the same time as Leverage.
Megan Imbres, the head of brand and content marketing at Quibi, has left the company shortly after its launch. One would assume it is difficult to justify your position when Super Bowl ads and other big dollar ad buys resulted in next to no brand awareness outside of the industry.
“Megan played an important leadership role in the development of Quibi’s unique brand,” Quibi said in a statement. “She helped build an all-star content and brand marketing team that is well-equipped to transition Quibi from prelaunch to launch. We wish her all the best in her next endeavor.”
The departure of Ms. Imbres follows the exits of Tim Connolly, Quibi’s head of partnerships and advertising, and Janice Min, the company’s head of daily content, last year.
The more time I spend using Quibi, the more interested I am in it as a platform. Not all of the content is great (or good). But the first few weeks have had some compelling content that speaks to the possibilities of Quibi. Broadly, it shouldn’t actually be too difficult to sell Quibi to an audience.
And speaking of Quibi, a pair of podcasters doing a Quibi fan podcast got a cease and desist podcast from Quibi’s lawyers.
As per Huffington Post, Rob Dezendorf and Danielle Gibson were the hosts of Quibiverse. Once they got the letter from the lawyers, the podcast has shifted in tone criticising Quibi at every turn.
Gibson and Dezendorf were 17 episodes into the podcast when Quibi threw them a curveball. “They were like, ‘Well, you can’t use the name Quibi, you can’t tell anyone that you’re about Quibi, you can talk about Quibi, but no one can know through your title and you can’t have any artwork that resembles our stuff,’” Dezendorf told HuffPost over video chat. He said they had no choice but to shut everything down and considered canceling the show.
“It just felt so surreal to get a cease-and-desist from a billion-dollar company, about our fan podcast, in the midst of a global health crisis,” Gibson added snarkily of the unfortunate timing.
I have two thoughts on this:
This feels in line with the flawed thinking that goes into media companies preventing fans from capturing and sharing IP. This has been an issue since the early 00s when companies like Fox were trying to shut down fan sites. But it’s those same sites that stoke the enthusiasm that not only keeps viewers in the short-term, but also drive merchandise sales for decades to follow (oh, and then there’s the movies and reboot TV shows, etc).
Quibi’s issue at the moment is NOBODY is talking about the service or its shows. The only one to get any virality was 50 States of Fright which had a (deliberately) bonkers plot involving Rachel Brosnahan with a golden arm. And that only happened because some guy filmed his phone with another phone. The app stops users from creating screencaps or sharing video. How are people going to discover your service if you’re stopping people from talking about it?
There’s a service called Netflix that you might have heard of? Biggest video company in the world nowadays. Consider their marketing strategy from the very beginning: they courted bloggers and podcasters, giving them considerable access (heck, I’ve met Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos in person and at the time I was just a niche blogger on the other side of the world). That access generates word of mouth, fandom, and brand loyalty.
This sort of thing always happens when lawyers get involved. I’ve been involved with a couple of fan/unofficial podcasts over the last few years and as soon as lawyers get involved, everything that works about the podcast loses its legs. The one unofficial podcast I was involved with that had no significant push-back from lawyers was also the most successful. That’s not a coincidence.
According to Quibi boss Jeffrey Katzenberg, screen sharing with the TV is a function coming soon to Quibi.