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.
The future of HBO, TV, and video games!
Always Be Watching is curated by Dan Barrett who knows today's email is a little dry (but GREAT information-rich).
Fan of The Da Vinci Code will be happy to find out that NBC has just greenlit a series based on the Dan Brown book The Lost Symbol. It’s the only book featuring the character Robert Langdon that wasn’t adapted into a Tom Hanks film.
Hanks isn’t expected to be in the series. Usually, that sort of information is implied, but with so many film actors doing TV lately, it’s worth noting.
When Google launches its new revolutionary streaming video game service Stadia in November, it will roll out to the US and 14 countries that won’t include Australia. I’d assume that’s got something to do with the limitations on our local broadband network.
New DC Universe show Swamp Thing has been cancelled. This is interesting as the cancellation happens after just one episode of the series has gone out on the subscription streaming service. The cancellation of the show comes at a time where all of WarnerMedias streaming business is being evaluated, with a key focus on the DC Universe app which offers access to DC Comics-related shows and an archive of all of its comic books (they’re not actually all there yet, but the good bulk is with more books being added all the time).
Terminating the DC Universe original series makes sense to me, but I do hope it keeps the digital comic service running in some form - as a recent subscriber I’ve had a great time going back and reading every Superman book from its 1987 reboot onwards.
And speaking of WarnerMedia, there has been a lot of chatter about the pricing of its upcoming streaming service. ABW ran a story earlier this week about the difficulty discussed internally to find a price that would be competitive with Netflix, while not undercutting the $15 it charges for HBO content through existing delivery services.
All of this chatter has forced WarnerMedia to be proactive in telling the industry that everything is running smoothly. Today comes news that the service will no longer have three-tiers of paid content, as had been the original plan. It will now be the single Netflix-style service that pulls in content from HBO, Cinemax, and WarnerBros content at a cost of approx US$16-17.
I’m concerned that there haven’t been many images in today’s newsletter to make it more visually pleasing, so please enjoy this stock photo of William Conrad from the set of the 1987 series Jake and the Fatman:
While everyone is focused on the impending launch of Disney+ and how that is going to impact upon TV viewing habits, in the background Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman are building Quibi. If you need the reminder, Quibi is a mobile-first premium original content streaming service that will feature shows from big, well-known talent.
It seems like a platform with a lot of challenges to overcome, but the general messaging is not to dismiss Katzenberg. He has the track record to support him, so there may be something to that.
Yesterday, there were three Quibi articles worth your time.
The first is this feature from Digiday, offering a state of play on where Quibi is at right now as it moves towards launching:
One longtime digital and TV entertainment executive had a meeting with Katzenberg earlier this year. This executive said he went into the meeting skeptical of Quibi’s chances, thinking that this would be just “another Go90.” During the meeting, Katzenberg mentioned how he had just gotten off the phone with Justin Timberlake, trying to figure out what kind of show they would make together for Quibi. (Timberlake is hosting a show called “Inspired By,” in which he will interview other musicians and ask them about a song that inspired them to get into the industry — which will be followed by a duet.)
“Oh right, you can just call anybody you want and they will do a show with you,” this executive recalled thinking. “That was a big epiphany for me in terms of the barriers to talent and showrunners that most people have that Quibi doesn’t. If tomorrow, Samsung said they were going to create a new video platform and had some nobody as a head of the platform and this guy doesn’t know the talent, nothing interesting is gonna happen. That’s the thing tech companies underestimate pretty much at every turn. … The biggest thing Quibi has going for it is Katzenberg.”
But one key difference from Quibi’s early plans is the company’s full-on commitment to the mobile screen. In an investor pitch deck from last year, Quibi — back when it was still called “New TV” — described a distribution strategy that would include video apps for TV platforms such as the Apple TV and Xbox gaming consoles. This year, the company has moved away from that idea by focusing on creating a video streaming app that will exclusively be designed for mobile devices, sources said.
“There was a time when the company was exploring a mobile-first strategy by being available on TV devices,” said a Quibi source. “Now it’s mobile-only.”
As I recall, a lot of content was going to be filmed in both landscape and portrait to accommodate traditional home viewing screens and mobile. I do wonder whether that will likely continue to be the case - I’d presume not. IMHO all mobile content should be filmed in portrait: It’s how we hold a phone.
And then there was the news via Deadline that Quibi will debut revivals of MTV shows Punk’d and Singled Out. Do the kids even know those shows anymore?
That’s it from me today. This afternoon expect the weekly wrap of all the new shows that launched this week - ready for your weekend viewing.
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