Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why Doesn't Tyler Perry Launch His Own Network?

Tyler Perry has become a major force to be reckoned with not only in the box office but on cable television via a partnership with Oprah and her OWN network. His series, "The Haves and Have Nots," has become the most watched television show on Tuesday nights (including broadcast TV). His other two series, "Love Thy Neighbor" and "For Better or Worse" also very competitive and Perry plans to start a new television show this fall, "Single Moms Club".

With all the success that Perry's shows are having, why doesn't Perry leave the OWN network and start his own network to compete with Oprah's network which depends on Perry's shows to make a profit? Despite being best friends with Oprah, this would seem like the best solution financially for Perry to pursue. Here's why it probably won't happen anytime soon though.
  • Perry doesn't own the television rights to all of his movies. Any Tyler Perry network that ends up launching would most likely have to launch without those rights unless he can find a way to make a deal with Lionsgate. 
  • Distribution for a new network isn't guaranteed. Even though Perry's shows are successful on OWN and were successful on TBS, cable operators are being very picky about who they give space to on their dials. OWN has the backbone of the Discovery networks to gain carriage. Unless Perry is willing to cede control of a potential new network to a media conglomerate like Time Warner, Disney, Viacom etc., his network probably won't be picked up.
  • Discovery has dedicated a lot of money and resources to promote Perry's new ventures on OWN. How would Perry be able to promote on his own without giving up control of his product?
If Tyler Perry does start his own network, it wouldn't be a surprise to me if Comcast helped launch the network just as it has helped Magic Johnson and Sean Combs (Comcast is required to help launch at least 4 networks owned by African-Americans over the next eight years). 

But I believe the two most likely outcomes moving forward are either: 

A. an over-the-top paid subscription network which will debut new shows/movies that'll eventually syndicate it's content to other TV networks as well as Netflix or Hulu. It would include a live feed of various shows in the Tyler Perry library and other on-demand choices

B. An eventual increase in his ownership stake in OWN, as IndieWire suggests. Could the plan eventually be for Oprah to leave her network to Tyler Perry? Maybe Oprah moves her brand to an app with solely inspirational programming (her heart's desire) while Perry takes over network operations and has to deal with producing reality shows and scripted series.

How to Fix American Idol

I watched "American Idol" last night for the first time in a long time and I was really fascinated by how different it looks from past seasons. The show is way more fast-paced, the contestants are younger, the set is cooler, the graphics are attention-grabbing and the judges seem to know what they're talking about without butting heads. So why haven't ratings picked up for the show?

The brand is tainted. When the younger generation thinks of "American Idol," it associates the show with a dead formula even though voting for the show is more interactive and social than ever before. So what does Fox need to do to fix this problem? Here are some potential solutions.
  • This is the least likely to happen but give the show a break. Make people miss "American Idol" and put the show on one year hiatus.
  • Bring on wild card contestants with rabid social media fanbases to challenge the new contestants which judges find during auditions. Sign on YouTube cover sensations and old contestants from "Idol," "The Voice," and "The X-Factor" who were popular but never made it. Each of those potential contestants brings a new base of people that could possibly watch the show.
  • Bring back Simon Cowell or even bring back all 3 original judges (Simon, Paula, Randy) and pit two teams of singers coached by two different judging panels against each other. (Team S.P.R vs. Team Harry/Keith/J.Lo)
  • Change the format of one season to exclusively include all of the losers from past seasons. Add a "Big Brother"/"Jersey Shore" element to it where they have different challenges and are stuck living together in the same house.

ESPN Expands Into Entertainment

ESPN's New Goal: Getting Viewers Watch

ESPN continues to make it's pivot to becoming the most powerful network on TV. Already as it stands, ESPN is the most expensive network for cable operators to carry. It is also more often than not, one of the top 10 most watched cable networks on television. Now according to Variety, it is teaming up with the History Channel to promote it's new show "Vikings":
On Monday, executives at the sports-media empire will take a vested interest in helping a general-entertainment cable network launch the second season of one of its most successful scripted dramas. When ESPN fans use any of the company’s outlets today, they are likely to find promotions for History’s “Vikings,” in the form of mobile-page and web-page “takeovers” on ESPN digital properties, and, of course, in TV ads on ESPN and ESPN2 featuring veteran Kenny Mayne and Vikings character “The Seer” in three different spots touting the series. ESPN is also including print ads for the series in the March 3rd issue of ESPN The Magazine.
As part of the agreement, ESPN also set up a large replica of a Viking ship at it's annual Super Bowl party. It's pretty weird for a TV network to be encouraging it's viewers to tune in to another network but it all makes sense to me. ESPN wants to use it's influence to control some of the ad dollars which are going to hit cable dramas such as "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad".

This move is something which should be watched closely because of how much power ESPN can yield in the sports world and in the television world. I wouldn't be surprised if we continued to see this kind of cross-promotion between ESPN and A&E Networks which both share the same owners (Hearst and Disney). Coming soon: you might hear the Wahlberg brothers (A&E reality stars) calling a Celtics game on ESPN with Bill Simmons.

If this formula works, don't be surprised if the parent companies decide to change the corporate structure of these companies and move A&E and it's family of networks under ESPN Inc. This is just the beginning of ESPN's push to moving beyond producing sports programming.

Piers Morgan Replacement?

As you may already know, Piers Morgan is gone from CNN's 9pm timeslot, effective March. It has not been decided who will replace him yet or whether he'll stay at CNN or not. Here are some candidates CNN should consider. Some of these names have been suggested by NYDN.

  • Howard Stern - see HERE
  • Rosie O'Donnell - She's not ashamed of her politics and would be very polarizing for CNN, which is normally right down the middle. She would definitely bring in an audience for the first couple of nights but she would need someone to battle against in order to keep people interested. Rosie would've never been a star on "The View" without Elizabeth Hassleback (and vice versa). 
    • Two questions arise with this potential move: 1. She already tried coming back solo TWICE on NBC (a variety show) and OWN (a talk show) in recent years. Could she really be the answer to CNN's problems? 2. What happens when breaking news occurs? Would CNN depend on Rosie to anchor?
  • Don Lemon - He's the ultimate minority (a gay black man). He'll go toe-to-toe with anyone no matter what party they represent and he brings diversity to the very "white" primetime lineup which exists in cable news. He also has experience covering breaking news but can also cause a stir and bring buzz back to CNN which it currently lacks.
    • But, Is Lemon a big enough figure to have a constant audience which stands by his side and watches daily when there's nothing major happening? Lemon can garner a huge audience and easily beat Fox in the demo if there's a big racial issue, court case or celebrity drama in the news. But who will tune in to him for 5 days a week when there's nothing happening? If CNN hires him, they need to put him out on as many media tours as possible for mainstream America to get to know him.
  • Dan Savage - He's a sex expert who writes a syndicated column and has a fanbase full of college students. At times, he comes on cable TV to speak his mind on gay rights issues but other than that he doesn't appear on TV as much. A talk show mixing politics, current events and sex aimed for young people with guests that aren't the norm for cable news mixed in with comedy could work.
    • But, Savage is stuck in the same situation as Lemon. Does mainstream America know you well enough to tune in every night? Also, is Savage willing to give up his speaking career for a talk show which could fail? And how is this different from Dr. Drew's show which airs on sister network, HLN?
  • Joy Behar - see HERE
  • Rachel Maddow - If you can't beat her, get her to join you? That's the logic behind this potential move. Although, if Alec Baldwin is correct and Maddow secretly runs MSNBC, then why would she leave?
  • David Muir - Intelligent, good looking, and a pro's pro. He's definitely someone who people can trust when big news develops. But isn't he basically another Anderson Cooper? Also, he seems to be either next in line OR the heir apparent after George Stephanapolous to the top job at ABC News. Why leave the potential manna?
  • A panel show - No. CNN has tried "The Cycle"/"The Five" copycats twice in the 10pm hour. What makes you think it'll work in the 9pm hour?
  • Jay Leno - Probably not. He's not a good interviewer, he's not a satirist and 9pm on cable news wouldn't be the right timeslot for a "Tonight Show" copycat telecast. The intelligent high-brow audience that is usually watching CNN at that time wouldn't be entertained and the 18-49 demographic which CNN is seeking would think it's way too corny.
  • Phillip DeFranco - He's a popular YouTuber who mainstream America has never heard of but he does have millions of fans and is the main source of news for many people in the demographic which CNN seeks to grab for it's audience. He covered the conventions for YouTube and would be viewed as an outsider, which is not only a positive in politics but also on TV because viewers feel like they can relate to you more.
    • Problem is, 1. no one knows who he is 2. his YouTube enterprises are owned by Discovery Communications
  • Jerry Seinfeld - Funny guy. Check. Built in audience. Check. Experience with interviews. Check.
    • Problem is, 1. He doesn't want to do a TV talk show or else he would've done it already, he loves what he is currently doing because it's online and everywhere. 2. There's nothing that'll convince him to do it. He has all the money in the world.
  • Bill Weir - Why? Because he's been under contract with CNN for a long time and hasn't done much. It was also rumored that he was promised primetime. Problem? It's just more of the same. He's not different or captivating. He'd be great for the 7pm hour where there's not as much competition (Greta and Chris Matthews are more beatable than Maddow/Kelly). 
  • Vice News/Vocativ - Vice currently has a deal with HBO while Vocativ has a deal with MSNBC. But both entities have said openly that they're looking to sign as many deals as possible. Maybe CNN should give either outlet or some other outlet which does something similar to what they do, a whole hour each day to do live uncensored guerrilla reporting internationally.
  • House of Cards/The Newsroom - Rumor has it that Zucker has money to blow. Why not spend it on syndication rights to two hit shows which are talked about all the time but aren't available to a mainstream audience? Are either shows news? No. But they do feature storylines which take the viewer behind the scenes into how the worlds of politics and media work. You can easily have a post show hosted by a CNN anchor which relates the plot of the episode just shown back to real world experiences/current events. It'll be another way of telling the news. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Is 120 Sports to ESPN What Netflix Is To HBO?

Time Inc.-Backed 120 Sports Launch Internet

A major announcement was made today involving the NBA, NHL, MLB, Sports Illustrated and Silver Chalice (owners of Campus Insiders). Each of the mentioned entities has decided to come together to launch a 24-hour digital sports network which will feature a mix of live and on-demand sports highlights/news/talk shows.

Could this be the challenger that actually makes noise against ESPN? Is this ESPN's Netflix problem?

Possibly but unlikely. It all depends on what kind of content and access this network can provide which different from what ESPN and the league-owned networks already provide. For example, sports documentaries are becoming a hot trend among sports networks lately and the archival footage which all these leagues and Sports Illustrated have access to could be used to produce documentaries which challenge ESPN's "30 for 30" series. 

If the site has easy navigation, then sports fans may flock to the site to look for the highlights they want to watch rather than wait for them to air during "SportsCenter"'s rundown. 

The sports leagues involved probably won't put live games on this new website but it would be beneficial to the site if each league offered it's own version of "NFL RedZone" during the season. This would definitely give 120 Sports a leg up.

This new site might create a dent in "SportsCenter"'s ratings but it is unlikely that the dent would be noticeable and it is also unlikely that this site will take down ESPN on the TV side or digitally until it can get some type of rights to live content.

Any talent hired yet?

The only talent we know of that is currently involved are Michael Kim, formerly of ESPN and Dave Ross, formerly of Fox 5 in Washington, DC. We also know that there are over 100 full-time producers, editors and anchors who are already hired. 

If this network wants to be anywhere near successful, it needs to find outspoken personalities who appeal to sports fans.

How does this affect NBA TV rights negotiations?

It is believed that Turner is favored to renew their TV rights with the NBA because of how well Turner has operated the NBA's digital properties. But this deal may be a sign that the NBA is not scared of ceding it's digital operations to other partners like the MLB should an agreement with Turner not be reached.

The MLB, which will be operating 120 Sports, used to operate the MLS's website, so it has experience operating other sports leagues' websites. Because the NBA and MLB have sealed a relationship through the launching of 120 Sports, it wouldn't be a shocker if the NBA sold it's digital rights to the MLB.

Will SI and the other leagues keep their own separate video units?

Yes. Although at some point, I wouldn't be surprised if this was no longer possible. If 120 Sports catches on, I don't see why the leagues or SI would waste money and resources producing two different types of the same video. Vice versa, if 120 Sports doesn't catch on, then it might be easier for one of these partners to go back to producing video solo.

This partnership brings a weird conflict to each partner involved because for example, if both and have produced and posted their own versions of highlights to a Heat/Thunder basketball game, which video does the NBA want to garner more views/ad money?

Does this affect SI's journalistic integrity?

This is something which is to be determined. USA Today faces the same obstacle with the MLB because they co-own their own sports website, Sports on Earth.

Will this be similar to "The Whistle"?

Sort of. If you're not aware, "The Whistle" is a sports website aimed for kids co-owned by MLB, NFL, other sports leagues and private investors. It features videos that give viewers a behind the scenes look at players and their lives as well as tutorials of how to become a better player in any given sport.

This venture will probably diminish the amount of attention which the MLB and NHL (NASCAR too, which is involved with The Whistle and 120 Sports; the NBA is not involved with "The Whistle") will pay to "The Whistle".

Who are 120 Sports biggest competitors?

Yahoo and ESPN. These two sites fight for #1 and #2 in the comScore list of top sports websites throughout the year. 120 Sports' traffic will be counted into Sports Illustrated's stats (currently #9). SI's ability to move up in the rankings will determine how successful 120 Sports is.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CBS Thursday Night Football: Coming Soon

The NFLcalendar may be changing. (Gene J. Puskar / AP)

In a surprise move, CBS announced early Wednesday afternoon that it won the rights to the NFL's Thursday night package. This package was originally seen by media observers, before it launched, as the key for NBCSN or FS1 to build themselves into legitimate rivals vs. ESPN. 

But the NFL had other plans and decided to use it for it's own network which lacked carriage among many major cable operators. It proved to be a hit ratings-wise for NFLN averaging 8 million and MVPDs such as Time Warner and Cablevision finally picked up the network but the games never caused much buzz among NFL fans.

Because of this, the NFL decided to sell the games to a broadcast network, which has a way bigger audience and can promote Thursday night games way better than the NFL could do on it's own. NBC's SNF package is successful because NBC reaches a lot of people and because NBC has a lot of places it can go to promote it's Sunday night game. The NFL wanted the same thing for it's Thursday night games.

The problem? The deals which NFLN signed with cable operators came with the promise that the network would deliver fans with exclusive primetime games. So how do you solve both problems of trying to increase hype for Thursday night games without leaving NFLN with an empty chest? Here's the solution:
  • CBS will buy the rights to broadcast 8 early season (week 2-week 9) Thursday night NFL games on their network.
  • As part of the deal, the NFL Network will simulcast all 8 CBS games + air 6 EXCLUSIVE late season (week 10-week 15) Thursday night NFL games (except Thanksgiving) and 2 EXCLUSIVE Week 16 Saturday night games (a doubleheader).
  • CBS will produce ALL 16 games which air on CBS and the NFL Network throughout the season putting the NFL out of the game-producing business.
  • Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be the hardest working NFL crew on television next season. They will call ALL 14 Thursday night games which air on either CBS or NFL Network. 
  • According to Awful Announcing, Nantz and Simms will work a partial slate of Sunday games this year on CBS while taking other Sundays off. There may be some weeks where Nantz/Simms work a Thursday night NFLN game and a 4:25 nationally televised Sunday afternoon game on CBS and there may be some weeks where Nantz/Simms only work the Thursday night NFLN game while taking off on Sundays.
  • There's no word yet on who will call the Week 16 Saturday after Christmas doubleheader on NFLN but I wouldn't be surprised if Nantz/Simms called at least one of those games and then traveled to their Week 16 CBS game for Sunday, pulling double-duty.
  • Pre-game, halftime and post-game coverage will be co-produced by CBS and NFLN's personalities similar to how CBS and Turner mix their personalities together for March Madness.
  • CBS will promote this package of games throughout the season on CBS, CBSSN, Showtime and CBS Sports Radio.
Questions I'm Pondering - 

1. Why did the NFL pick CBS? Reports are saying that CBS' bid was the most reasonable. CBS has rights for the 2014-2015 season with an option to renew the deal in the 2015-2016 season depending on the NFL's preferences. Here are some other key factors which I think helped their cause:
  • Last year, an Oakland Raiders/San Diego Chargers game originally scheduled to be televised on CBS had to move from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night due to a playoff baseball game which occurred the night before (stadium workers didn't have enough time to set up for the football game). 
    • Because of this, CBS was forced to move the game to the NFL Network. CBS produced the game while NFLN produced the pre-game/halftime/post-game bits and the overall production was seamless. The two companies co-operated with each other nicely and that previous working relationship, as small as it was, definitely helped in setting first impressions.
  • CBS has experience co-producing sports programming. Turner Sports and CBS have been producing the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship together since 2011 and the production has been seamless. CBS and Cumulus also co-own and co-produce CBS Sports Radio.
  • CBS's willingness to give up their A-team for another network's package must've really helped their bid. Even though they're not as likable as they used to be, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms provide fans with familiarity and experience which TNF's past play-by-play teams didn't have.
2. Who Will Replace Nantz/Simms On CBS When They're Off? It all boils down to Ian Eagle/Dan Fouts or Greg Gumbel and whoever he's paired up with for next season. The real question though, is who will replace Ian/Dan OR Greg/TBA when one of those two teams is moved up to the #1 game of the week. I wouldn't be surprised to see CBS borrow a play-by-play announcer from Turner (Brian Anderson, Ernie Johnson) like they already do with Marv Albert. A sleeper? Brent Musburger?

3. Will CBS/CW Affiliates Broadcast Non-CBS NFLN Games? The 8 exclusive games which NFLN will be airing without CBS will most likely be simulcast on OTA affiliates of each team playing in those games. It's a practice which has been done for years going back to the days when ESPN aired "SNF". Will NFLN's exclusive games now air only on CBS/CW-affiliated stations? Or will they still air on whichever OTA affiliate pays the most for the game? It'll be pretty awkward to hear CBS's announcers on another station not affiliated with CBS.

4. Will NFLN Help CBS Transform It's Studio Shows? CBS has been struggling with "The NFL Today," which has failed to beat "FOX NFL Sunday" in the ratings and because of this, there's been talk that CBS wants to revamp the show. Will CBS outsource all of it's studio shows to NFLN in LA? Or will CBS fly NFLN analysts to New York to try and spice up "The NFL Today"'s current team? Could Rich Eisen take over for James Brown or could they end up co-hosting together? Or could "The NFL Today" go bi-coastal with studio teams working together in both LA and New York at NFLN and CBS' respective studios?

5. Will The Quality of Games Improve? The NFL's goal of moving TNF to CBS is so that TNF reaches ratings which are just as high or even better than SNF, which averages 22 million viewers weekly. The combined ratings of CBS and NFLN may help TNF get close to that goal but if the quality of games suck and we have matchups such as Jaguars-Browns every Thursday, then TNF's outlook will not change anytime soon.

In my opinion, even if TNF has quality matchups next year and beyond, it still won't reach the numbers that SNF or MNF garner unless all the games are aired on CBS or another network which has mass carriage. NFLN's carriage has improved by a lot over the years but it's a network which is STILL not available in many homes with basic cable. For example, in my town, you have to have the digital basic package to get the NFL Network and there's not many people who have that package compared to the regular basic cable package.

6. Why Would CBS Want A Primetime Game? They're #1! Because it's the NFL! More NFL = more opportunities to promote CBS programming. This also includes shows which air on other networks owned by CBS such as Showtime and CBS Sports Network. For example, Jim Rome could do a weekly commentary in the vein of Bob Costas which might help draw his shows on TV and on radio more attention.

Also, according to the ESPN Book by Jim Miller, CBS has always shown major interest in primetime football and inquired briefly over the years about taking over either SNF or MNF.

7. What Happens To CBS' Fall Thursday Lineup? According to the New York Times, all of CBS's Thursday shows will premiere after the Thursday night package is over on November 7th. Before then, there's a very good chance that The Big Bang Theory will be moved to another night to prop up some of CBS's other shows before moving back to it's normal Thursday timeslot.

8. Will Phil Simms Leave "Inside the NFL"? Yes. Unfortunately, the Collinsworth vs. Simms battles which ruled "ITNFL" on Showtime are over for at least next season according to Neil Best of Newsday. No word on who would replace Simms but I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the current "NFL Today" analysts moved to the telecast permanently. Boomer Esaison, who has a plethora of duties, might be a better fit for "ITNFL" because he won't have to commit as much time to the show as he does with "The NFL Today". Simms may also depart from his role on CBSSN's "NFL Monday QB".

9. Is CBS Done Acquiring Sports? Maybe or Maybe not. CBS recently lost the US Open but this move definitely helps CBS garner back any ad revenue they may have lost from losing the acclaimed tennis tournament. On the same day CBS announced it's new NFL deal, CBS also announced that it will be airing an NBA-produced documentary about the Summer League on the day before Selection Sunday. This deal to air the doc could've happened simply because sports docs are a hotbed for many networks nowadays and because this specific documentary has a basketball theme. But wishful thinking could also signal that this could be the start of a deeper relationship between the NBA and CBS.

10. Is The NFL Locked Up After This? As mentioned before, this Thursday night CBS arrangement will only last for one year as of now. If successful, the NFL could renew the deal for one more year but after that, it's highly likely that all the games will move back to NFLN exclusively in the 2016-2017 season. Is there any other package which desperate NFL suitors like Turner and Google could bid for in the future? It doesn't look like it.

NFL Sunday Ticket is up for bid currently but all signs lead to DirecTV renewing with the NFL. The NFL hopes to expand to 18 games at some point and will also expand it's wild card playoff slate so there's a chance the NFL could sell the new playoff games which emerge separately from the ones which currently exist but that likelihood is also slim to none. Even if it did happen, it would most likely go to a current rightsholder before Turner or Google took it.

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