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.
Disney's new international streamer?
ALSO: Big changes to protect HBO Max. AND: Perry Mason's opening titles are awesome.
Today’s ABW newsletter starts with some really wonky industry shifts. HUGE news. But still, I appreciate that’s not for everyone. Scroll down for some fun articles about actual TV you watch.
Kilar WarnerMedia exec firings
In May AT&T launched its huge new streaming product HBO Max. To say that the launch has not gone smoothly is an understatement. Subscriber numbers haven’t wowed, the launch content didn’t really excite many people, and there has been major brand confusion with what an HBO Max even is alongside established digital platforms HBO Now and HBO Go.
It’s been a bit of a mess.
Soon after launch former Hulu chief Jason Kilar was appointed WarnerMedia CEO. His appointment was seen as a sign that AT&T were so committed to streaming that they appointed one of the most-respected voices in streaming as head of the entire media division.
We’re now starting to see what his appointment has meant for the company: a major re-organisation that has seen some of Hollywood’s best known TV executives shown the door. Gone: Bob Greenblatt and Kevin Reilly. Promoted: Andy Forssell (formerly of Hulu), Ann Sarnoff (the current Warner Bros CEO who will add a newly created Studios and Networks Group, adding HBO, HBO Max, TNT, TBS and TruTV to her existing portfolio which had been focused on movies), and Casey Bloys (who expands his role as content chief at HBO to now cover HBO, TNT, TBS, and TruTV).
So, Hollywood execs are being moved around. So what?
The key thing is that the company is now being run by a tech guy, and two premium content chiefs. And not old-school broadcast TV execs.
But here’s what to look for:
The company is less focused on wholesale (ie making TV shows for its customers: TV networks) and more on making shows for the consumer. As a viewer you might think this is how TV works already. It isn’t.
A re-prioritisation of bringing income from outside the US. Jason Kilar wants 70% of revenue coming from the global market. This presumably means making content with more of a global focus and, quite likely, taking what is seen as the future of the business, HBO Max, international.
Straight after the departure of Greenblatt and Reilly was announced, THR’s Kim Masters and Natalie Jarvey had an interview with Jason Kilar. If you’re interested in the future of WarnerMedia, this is a great interview to use as a foundation going forward. READ: THR
All of this will have an impact on what we watch as consumers (Warners are one of the Top 3 content companies globally), but also for those of you in the business: this will dramatically shift what content is going to be available on third party platforms in the years ahead (that content deal with Binge in Australia definitely feels one and done).
International streamers cause Aussie companies pain
Last week in ABW were stories about the launch of horror streamer Shudder in Australia and the impending launch of a rebranded CBS All Access in a number of international territories (in Australia it operates as 10 All Access). This is all part of the evolution of US streaming services - they only really make sense financially and for their share price to Wall Street if the services scale up internationally to compete with Netflix.
I’ve been writing about this for years - but in 2020 we’re starting to see/feel its impact internationally here in Australia.
Last week, ViacomCBS, which owns TV production business Showtime and local television network Ten, became the latest US media heavyweight to announce plans to launch its own local streaming service in Australia. This means new Showtime content such as Halo and American Rust will not be available for local players to buy. It is another reminder that Stan and Binge need to evolve fast if they want to continue to compete against some of the world’s most powerful technology and entertainment companies.
Keep this in mind for the next story…
Hulu not going international? Hello Star?
With the launch of streamer Disney+, it was no secret that Disney also had international plans for Hulu - extending its footprint beyond the US (and a service in Japan that licensed the Hulu brand). But Disney has been a bit quiet in the last few months on the topic.
It’s because Hulu likely isn’t going international. Instead, international streaming audiences should instead look to a potential new branded streamer - Star.
Taking its name from the pay service in India Hotstar, Star expected not to license content in the same way that Hulu does. Rather, it would instead draw upon content from Disney’s archives. Expect content from ABC, FX, Freeform, Searchlight, and 20th Century Studios. Also, I’d assume you can expect Hulu originals and Touchstone films added to the mix.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek:
“In terms of the general entertainment offering internationally, we want to mirror our successful Disney Plus strategy by using our Disney Plus technical platform, bringing in content we already own and distributing it under a successful international brand that we also already own, which is, of course, Star,”
Hearing Chapek talk about the model for Star and considering it in terms of the Disney library, its brands, and what it has already done with Disney+… it makes me wonder what the future is for Hulu as well.
“Hulu aggregates third party content; this will not...Hulu has no brand awareness outside of the US.”
Is an international Hulu dead? Is Star going to be scaled globally? Expect more clarity on this at an upcoming investor day.
One of the best shows of 2020 has proven to be HBO’s Perry Mason. While the show made a few questionable choices in terms of its structure (the first few episodes lack the humanity we see in later episodes and come across as too dour for no real benefit - plus the decision to have him working as a PI for the first few episodes with zero interest in the law never pays off), but the entire production is absolutely gorgeous with from the outstanding casting through to the production design.
Something I love to bits is the show’s opening title card. We don’t get a lengthy title sequence, but rather the title operates as a throwback to early cinema, while also integrating into the world of the show by having characters and cars pass through and block the on-screen text.
Collider has this fantastic look at the creation of those titles. The most startling thing to me? The titles are the work of Michael Riley at Shine Studio who was only contacted in March of this year and pitched their idea in April.
For a show so meticulous with its design, it astounds me that this only came about just a few months before launch.
At the beginning of the season the title card was “more conservative,” but from the second episode on, they employed “a little bit more creative liberty” since the audience knew the show that they were watching and what to expect. And that the title cards were carrying on the spirit of the old-school storytelling with a very modern edge. They weren’t concerned with characters or objects obstructing the titles either, since HBO signed off on the copyright information being partially or fully covered.
This is how it ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
It looks like Disney is retreating on physical media. If you’re after new release theatrical titles, Disney and Pixar branded animated films, or Star Wars and Marvel-related projects, you’re going to still be able to buy them in a physical form (Disney will still support 4K Ultra HD). But the catalog… it’s streaming-only going forward.
The upcoming Home Alone and Hocus Pocus releases on 4K Bluray are likely the last catalog titles to get a release. This impacts not just the Disney catalog, but also the deep library of newly-acquired 20th Century Fox titles.
One of the great pop culture curiosities from the last few years is what Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trekmovie would have looked like. I don’t think I’m alone in just assuming that this would never be made. And that’s certainly how it is starting to shake out.
Apparently the film, written by The Revenant’sMark L. Smith, was going to be set on Earth in a 1930s gangster setting. Kind of a throwback to the season 2 episode from The Original Series A Piece of The Action.
For the time being, they (movie executives) are currently working out what they want from the Star Trek movie franchise.
Last week ABW pointed to an article at CNN celebrating the life-long body of on-screen work by actor James Hong. Star of Lost Daniel Dae Kim has gotten behind a campaign to get Hong a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Christopher Eccleston is back as Doctor Who* for 12 more adventures - only in audio form. The audio series from Big Finish Productions will launch in May 2021.
[*And yes, I know the character is not actually named Doctor Who. But it’s also true that you’re a massive dork for having a problem with the fact I named him Doctor Who.]
Woke is a new Hulu series debuting on Sept 9. It stars Lamorne Morris (New Girl) as an artist who starts being confronted about racial inequality by animated inanimate objects shortly after an encounter with aggressive San Francisco police officers.
Also coming to Hulu is season 2 of Pen15. It returns Sept 18.
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