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The Longest Night News organizations gear up for major challenges and changes in election-night coverage, the Super Bowl of the news business

Election Night

2020

VOTE

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COVID CONCERNS QUIBI SHUTTERS CANCEL SHOWS IN STREAMING WITH PROMISE SHAKEOUT


IN THIS ISSUE

VOLUME 150 ISSUE 10 • OCTOBER 26, 2020 WWW.BROADCASTINGCABLE.COM

FOLLOW US twitter.com/BCBeat www.facebook.com/BroadcastingandCable CONTENT VP/Global Editor-In-Chief Bill Gannon, william.gannon@futurenet.com Content Director Kent Gibbons, kent.gibbons@futurenet.com Content Manager Michael Demenchuk, michael.demenchuk@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer - Washington John S. Eggerton, john.eggerton@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer - Programming Michael Malone, michael.malone@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer - Technology Daniel Frankel, daniel.frankel@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer - Business Jon Lafayette, jon.lafayette@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer R. Thomas Umstead, thomas.umstead@futurenet.com Senior Content Producer Mike Farrell, michael.farrell@futurenet.com Content Engagement Manager Jessika Walsten, jessika.walsten@futurenet.com Contributor Paige Albiniak Production Manager Heather Tatrow Managing Design Director Nicole Cobban Art Editor Cliff Newman

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2020

VOTE 8 COVER STORY FEATURES 8 COVER STORY  News organizations are gearing up to cover a complex and contentious election night and beyond that — like much of 2020 — has the potential to test their mettle like never before. By George Winslow  PLUS: Networks and station groups are reaping a bonanza from political ad spending. By Gary Arlen 14 PROGRAMMING  The pandemic has meant unforeseen costs for TV producers — and that’s led to some surprising COVIDfueled cancellations of popular and promising shows. By Michael Malone 22 SYNDICATION  The show had to go on for syndicators despite a pandemic that emptied studio audiences, posed production hurdles and saw viewers glued to the news. They’ll get a do-over in 2021. By Paige Albiniak

14 PROGRAMMING DEPARTMENTS 4 LEAD-IN 16 LOCAL NEWS 18 TECH 20 CURRENCY 24 POLICY 26 FATES & FORTUNES 28 DATA MINE 32 VIEWPOINT 34 THE FIVE SPOT

Cover: Getty Images. This page: Getty Images; Beth Dubber/Netflix; Ben Watts/CBS

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Election Night

22 SYNDICATION

Vol. 150 No.10 • October 26, 2020. B&C Broadcasting & Cable (ISSN 1068-6827) (USPS 066-000) is published monthly by Future US, Inc., 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to B&C Broadcasting & Cable, P.O. Box 8688, Lowell, MA 01853-8688. Printed in U.S.A. © 2020 Future US, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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LEAD-IN

Media Chasing Netflix Struggle Over Streaming Restructurings highlight consumer offerings as high-profile Quibi craters By Jon Lafayette jon.lafayette@futurenet.com @jlafayette

JohnStaleyPhoto.com; VIacomCBS

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ven with Netflix’s subscriber growth slowing a bit in the third quarter, trying to catch the streaming leader continues to cause pain for the media companies pivoting into the direct-to-consumer arena. ViacomCBS is the latest big media provider to reorganize its ranks to emphasize streaming, putting Pluto TV founder Tom Ryan in charge as the effort gets under way to turn CBS All Access into Paramount Plus. Discovery has renamed its “dplay” video-on-demand business in the United Kingdom as Discovery Plus, which is likely to also be the name of its long-awaited direct-toconsumer offering when the company finally gets its streaming ducks in a row. And Quibi, the high-profile, short-form mobile streaming service launched by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman with $1.75 billion invested by many of the industry’s big studios, said it was shutting down after a slow start. Quibi put the blame on the COVID-19 pandemic that kept on-the-go mobile users at home, on expensive content that skewed old and on legal problems from a company claiming a patent

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Short-form streamer Quibi, introduced at CES by co-founders Jeffrey Katzenberg (top l.) and Meg Whitman, will shut down, while Pluto TV founder Tom Ryan (above) will ramp up ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus.

on the technology Quibi was using to let people shift from watching shows horizontally to vertically and back again. “The world has changed dramatically since Quibi launched, and our standalone business model is no longer viable,” Katzenberg and Whitman said. “We have reluctantly come to the difficult decision to wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders, and say goodbye to our colleagues with grace. We want you to know we did not give up on this idea without a fight.”

Digital Dilemma

Jealously watching Netflix accumulate subscribers and command viewers’ attention, nearly all of the big media companies in TV are looking to pivot from traditional pay models to streaming, investing billions in new programming and forgoing the revenue from syndicating content at a time when competition seems to trumping cooperation. Managements are being retooled, often resulting in layoffs. Comcast’s NBCUniversal put Mark Lazarus in charge of TV and streaming and The Walt Disney Co. created a division headed by Kareem Daniel to oversee content distribution and the company’s streaming services. Jason Kilar, who cut his teeth at Hulu, is now heading AT&T’s efforts at organizing AT&T-owned WarnerMedia’s resources to prop up HBO Max. Viacom and CBS re-merged to compete in

the streaming arena, and joined the restructuring parade by placing Ryan in charge of streaming activities. Chief digital officer Marc DeBevoise, who had been heading up the transformation of CBS All Access into a grander Paramount Plus, is stepping down. “Tom is a pioneering streaming executive who has demonstrated extraordinary talent in creating a differentiated, consumer-centric service that resonates with global audiences,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement. “He will bring this same digital expertise, entrepreneurial spirit and strategic, collaborative mindset as we deliver the very best of ViacomCBS to Paramount Plus and our portfolio of streaming platforms.” Kelly Day, chief operating officer of ViacomCBS Networks International, will take on an expanded role as president of streaming for VCNI. Paramount Plus, which will have NFL football and news in addition to movies and series, is expected to launch in 2021 domestically, followed by a rollout in markets including Australian, Latin America and the Nordics. Discovery lost its direct-to-home guru when former Amazon executive Peter Faricy resigned in June. CEO David Zaslav is now counting on a team of three executives to deliver a product he’s been talking about for nearly a year and has called “the most important thing we’ll do as a company since I’ve been at Discovery.” In the U.K., Discovery Plus will have a subscription component, but Sky Q pay TV customers will get it free for a year. Zaslav said Discovery has been talking to distributors to launch a Discovery Plus, or whatever it’s called, in the U.S. That strategy has helped the Disney Plus streaming service get off to a fast start with Verizon Communications customers and made the premium version of NBCU’s Peacock TV free to Cox Communications subscribers.

No Worries Over Netflix

Netflix, meanwhile, reported a tough quarter with slower-than-forecast subscriber growth. But Wall Street analysts predicted it would continue to dominate streaming and have increasing financial success, turning cash flow positive as soon as next year. Jeff Wlodarczak of Pivotal Research said in a note that “very few players can (or will) be able to keep up with Netflix content spend levels,” meaning Netflix will continue to be the dominant global SVOD player and Disney Plus and Hulu would combine as a complementary second-tier player, “with Amazon on the periphery and there is a reasonable shot that AT&T management will screw up HBO (in similar fashion to DirecTV) as a competitor.” “The biggest losers in our view are traditional pay TV players that rely on rising per-subscriber fees and high advertising loads, don’t have other businesses to offset likely accelerating weakness in pay TV and don’t have effective DTC strategies,” Wlodarczak said. ●


LEAD-IN

THE WATCHMAN

WATCH THIS …

Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene

This Is Us This Is Us returns with a two-hour premiere on NBC Tuesday. The Pearson family undergoes a fresh batch of drama in season five. Wednesday, Martha Knows Best begins on HGTV. There’s loads of work to be done at Martha Stewart’s home in Bedford, New York. She “will prep her farm for autumn and winter, as well as share festive holiday ideas to help families safely celebrate at home,” HGTV said. On Thursday, it’s Ghost Adventures: Horror at Joe Exotic Zoo on Travel Channel.

Deutschland 89

By Michael Malone michael.malone@futurenet.com @BCMikeMalone

Wall About to Fall on SundanceTV’s ‘Deutschland 89’

Deutschland 89 starts on SundanceTV Oct. 29. Martin Rauch is in limbo during the peaceful revolution around him in Germany. Pursued by Western spy agencies and the KGB, Martin, played by Jonas Nay, is determined to finish his final job. Anna and Jorg Winger created the show and executive produce. Jorg said production was completed when COVID hit, but the virus meant editing happened at three separate apartments in Berlin. His source material for the show includes a book called The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall by Mary Elise Sarotte. Deutschland touches on how Germany has reinvented itself a number of times over the years, including stints as a communist, fascist and democratic nation. “I don’t know how many countries there are that went through so many changes,” Winger said.

That Animal Rescue Show 6

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Deutschland 83 came out in 2015, Deutschland 86 arrived in 2018 and Deutschland 89 is here now. “I always pitched it as a trilogy,” Winger said. “There are too many series that go on too long.” The final season “has many colors,” said Winger — a spy show with serious drama roots and a bit of humor, too. “We always wanted to mix the genres,” he said. Anna Winger is also behind the Netflix series Unorthodox. With Deutschland behind them, the Wingers can focus on their new projects. “Our 11-year-old asked if we ever talk about anything but work,” Jorg said.

Pets Get New Homes On CBS All Access

Also on Oct. 29 is That Animal Rescue Show on CBS All Access. About the animal rescue community in Austin, Texas, the docuseries features dogs, pigs, horses and other animals in need of a home. “The theme is, people rescue animals, and animals rescue people,” said Bill Guttentag, executive producer. His fellow exec producers include Dr. Phil McGraw and filmmaker Richard Linklater, whose movies include Dazed and Confused and School of Rock. Linklater has rescued a bunch of pigs, and saw some great stories in the world of animal rescue. His goal for That Animal Rescue Show? Ten episodes that could work as shorts at Sundance, said Guttentag. Linklater directs a couple episodes about the Body Positive Pig Pageant in Austin, celebrating swine of all sizes. Loads of Austin bands contribute to the series’ soundtrack. “It’s very authentic to the area,” Guttentag said. That Animal Rescue Show arrives at the right time, believes Guttentag. The nation may be divided on political issues, but most of us can agree on our love of animals. “We’re all looking for respite from all the horrible stuff around us,” he said. “The show is a balm for these troubled times.” ●

The Mandalorian The crew goes inside the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park made famous in Tiger King to check out ghost activity. Friday, it’s season two of The Mandalorian on Disney Plus. Jon Favreau created this live-action Star Wars series. Also on Friday, it’s Citizen Bio on Showtime. This documentary, directed by Trish Dolman, explores the biohacking movement and the scientists developing alternative medicines to prolong human life.

Citizen Bio


COVER STORY

Election 2020

The Longest Night News organizations gear up for major challenges and changes in election-night coverage, the Super Bowl of the news business

By George Winslow winslowbc@gmail.com @GeorgeWinslow

Getty Images

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uch like everything else that has transpired in 2020, election-night coverage promises to test news organizations as they have never been tested before. “I’ve been part of election teams since the 1980s,” said David Bohrman, executive producer of CBS News’s 2020 election-night coverage. “I’ve run election coverage at CNN and NBC, and now here at CBS, and this is the most complicated election I’ve ever been part of.” Marc Burstein, senior executive producer of ABC News Special Events, agreed, citing the difficulties of producing a major election-night special in the middle of a major pandemic: “We

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Top: NBC’s political team includes Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell. Center: ABC's onair crew includes Linsey Davis, David Muir and George Stephanopoulos. Below: CBS’s John Dickerson.

are having to prepare for anything and everything. It could be the longest night or it may not be. No one knows and we have to prepare for every possible contingency.” (NBC News, the other Big Three broadcast network news arm, did not provide executives to be interviewed.) Or, as PBS NewsHour executive producer Sara Just observed: “It’s like trying to tie your shoes while riding a bicycle. We are confident we have a good plan for keeping everyone safe, but it is challenging. This is going to be a night like none other.” Much of this reflects a 2020 news cycle that has produced a slew of once-in-a-lifetime stories and tragedies. “I’ve been at CNN for almost 30 years and this is the most intense news environment I’ve ever seen,” Sam Feist, senior VP and Washington bureau chief at CNN, said during B+C’s News Technology Summit last month. “We are covering an

election, maybe the most anticipated election in our lifetime, along with a pandemic and a national reckoning over race.” “When we look back on 2020 we will think, ‘Wow, that was the most extraordinary news year ever,’ and we did it with an arm and a half tied behind our back,” Feist added. These national calamities and controversies have also spiked viewer interest in the results and significantly raised the competitive stakes for news organizations. “There are more eyes on this election than we’ve had in our lifetimes,” Cherie Grzech, VP of politics and the Washington bureau at Fox News, said.

The Most Unusual Election Night

The heightened scrutiny comes as news organizations are grappling with what might on Nov. 3 be the most unusual election night in television history.


COVER STORY

It is our biggest night and we are determined to put our best foot forward.

— Alan Komissaroff, senior VP of news and politics, Fox News

travel restrictions will make it more difficult to get boots on the ground. One thing that hasn’t changed is election night’s importance. All the major commercial TV news organizations are investing millions of dollars in new sets and technology to stand out from the competition and attract new viewers. “Election night, for us and for all the news networks, is our Super Bowl,” Fox News senior VP of news and politics Alan Komissaroff said. “It is our biggest night and we are determined to put our best foot forward. There isn’t a nook and cranny of the building that we are not using. We’ll be using every piece of technology we have been using in the past and a few new ones as well.” As in earlier years, many networks will broadcast their coverage from new sets, studios or facilities that feature the glitziest graphics and massive, high-resolution,

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CBS Broadcasting/Michele Crowe; NBC News; ABC News/Lorenzo Bevilaqua

Unlike other presidential elections, where networks covered voters casting ballots and reported the results the same day, early voting this year is hitting record levels. Mail-in voting is also expected to hit record levels, and many votes might not be counted until after Nov. 3. That, in turn, could delay results and make the process of reporting and calling races a much more complex and uncertain process. (See “The New Math of Election Coverage,” page 12.) Technology and production plans have also been upended by a pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 people. In addition to having many people work from home, networks are using more studios and control rooms to spread out employees and are revising coverage plans by recruiting additional legal experts to explain potential voting irregularities and rethinking how to deploy journalists. Many typical electionnight gatherings are likely to be canceled and

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AP; Scott Henrichsen Photography; John Nowak/CNN/Time Warner; PBS News; Newsy

COVER STORY

floor-to-ceiling walls and screens for data and results. Coverage will include big touch screens where correspondents and anchors take deep dives into results and augmented reality systems. Some networks, such as Fox News, will even be debuting virtual reality systems. The challenges facing news organizations this year may also improve the quality of coverage. For example, COVID-19 restrictions limiting in-studio guests will result in using a much wider array of sources and voices from remote locations, network executives said. “This has been kind of a breakthrough moment this year in terms of adding more people to the conversation,” Fox News’s Grzech said. Another positive development is the rapid expansion of streaming services. Their growing availability means viewers will be able to easily access a much wider array of stories and coverage, both on digital media and on broadcast networks, where TV anchors can draw on the expertise of digital teams. (See “Streaming to the White House,” page 11.) The difficulties of election coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic have also forced news organizations to integrate their operations more tightly with local stations, digital outlets and even radio organizations rather than fly reporters into key battleground states. This reporting from seasoned local journalists could provide national audiences with a better understanding of the results in those locales. CBS, for one, will add extensive coverage to CBSN by streaming 10 local feeds, while Newsy will draw on coverage from parent company Scripps’s 60 TV stations. “We have a team of four or five people who will be monitoring the local stations and we’ll be able to carry their feeds at key times,” said Matt Simon, supervising producer for PM content at Newsy, who is also overseeing election-night initiatives. PBS NewsHour will also be drawing on the expertise of local reporters. “One of the great advantages of public broadcasting is that there are over 350 stations across the country that we work with,” Just said. “They know their communities best, and throughout our programming we will be turning to a lot of those reporters for their expertise.”

Built for Primetime

The complexity of predicting races and explaining voting trends is likely to make networks even more cautious and thoughtful when providing context or caveats in their reporting. “Transparency is the watchword for us,” ABC’s Burstein said. He said coverage will explain what is known as well as what isn’t known, so viewers understand why certain information or vote totals aren’t available. “The decision desk [which calls races] is always careful and conservative, but this year we will be more conservative than ever.” For its election-night coverage, ABC News will use a renovated studio that has been

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Above: Voters in Providence, R.I., line up to cast early ballots. Top r.: PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff. Center r.: Newsy correspondent Terace Garnier. Below: Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington, D.C., bureau chief and senior VP, in the control room.

The decision desk is always careful and conservative, but this year we will be more conservative than ever. — Marc Burstein, senior executive producer, ABC News Special Events expanded to 5,500 square feet. It features 28 new video screens with about 35 million pixels, including a high-resolution video floor. A variety of features that enables moving video walls and screens will provide more flexibility to tell the story from different angles. Enhanced capabilities for augmented reality

and other graphics are also part of the mix. “We will have tools to tell the story in ways we’ve never had before,” Zach Toback, VP of news and nonfiction production and studio operations at ABC News, said. “There is video everywhere, there is video on the ceilings, all across the walls, that creates a very immersive space. It is the largest renovation that we’ve done in any facility since the early 1980s.” PBS NewsHour will be upping its production values with new LED walls that allow anchors and reporters to better display graphics and analyze results, VP of operations Matt Speiser said. Univision will show off a new set that improves its graphics capabilities and helps it follow COVID-19 restrictions. “We are trying to simulate as much as possible the expansiveness of the coverage we’ve had in the past and do an even better job this year,” said Lourdes Torres, senior VP of political coverage and special projects for the Spanishlanguage broadcaster. “We have a huge newsroom and the idea is to expand the set into the newsroom and basically have all the elements — video walls, touch screens — embedded in the newsroom.”


COVER STORY

STREAMING TO THE WHITE HOUSE Online video services are planning for record election-night viewing

Safety Must Come First

Since the start of the pandemic, the Associated Press has decentralized video production operations and set up systems for people to work at home, AP deputy managing editor for visual and digital journalism Derl McCrudden said. But for the final days of election coverage, AP will be bringing a small video production crew back into the New York and London hubs. That will allow AP to provide live election coverage for customers with the curated AP Direct channel and four other live channels that provide outlets with HD-quality video. “Many broadcasters air these feeds live around the world,” McCrudden said. ABC will be spreading out staff over four control rooms and three studios. “We are being very careful with our COVID protocols,” Katie den Daas, executive producer at the streaming service ABC News Live, said. “We will have more control rooms

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CBSN

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many Univision staffers have been working from home, with only about 25% of the typical newsroom staff on-site. For election night, though, Univision will be bringing more people into the building to supplement the remote workers. To keep staff safe, Univision will place staff in additional control rooms and spaces to maintain social distancing, a strategy many other networks and news organizations are adopting. “We will have training, special cleaning teams, security to remind people about masks to keep people safe,” Torres said. “It is really a pretty elaborate plan.”

STREAMING SERVICES ARE set to have an outsized impact on this year’s Streaming net CBSN election coverage, both in terms of is adding interactive audience size and in the contributions alerts to live coverage. they will make to more traditional broadcast coverage. “There has been a lot of speculation about streaming in the news business but this year has shown that streaming is taking hold in a big way,” said Seni Tienabeso, executive producer of ABC News Live Prime, a primetime streaming show anchored by Linsey Davis. “The pandemic has really accelerated what was already happening in terms of people looking for other avenues to watch news, and you can see that in and time to explain what promises to be a very complex the audience growth. We had over 9 million people alone election. “If you are just approaching this like a horse watching ABC News Live for the first debate. That is a race for 12, 24, 36 hours or however [long] this goes on, huge number that ranks with any other broadcast.” that isn’t helpful to voters,” ABC News Live executive Tienabeso and others said the streaming services are producer Katie den Daas said. “We’re preparing for the providing audiences with a much wider array of stories long haul so that people can turn on ABC News Live and and coverage than viewers have ever seen. get the kind of information they want.” Users who open the CBS News app will be able Part of that will be improved data analytics. Journalto access 12 different live feeds from 24-hour ists from the ABC News-owned polling analysis website streaming service CBSN, said Christy Tanner, execuFiveThirtyEight.com will appear on ABC News Live, den tive VP and general manager of CBS News Digital. They Daas said. “They will be able to explain what is include a live feed of the CBS broadcast coverage, happening and why,” she said. “As we inch closer to the national CBSN feed and 10 local feeds from CBS’s election and we are inundated with numbers and pollowned stations. ing, they’ll be able to really frame and discuss what “This will give us enormous flexibility in covering those numbers might mean or not mean.” live events, races and outcomes simultaneously,” On election night, Newsy will draw extensively on its Tanner said. To make it easier for viewers to find breaking news and investigative and longer-form reporting on such subjects as voting by mail, the ballot-counting process, voter content, CBS is launching a new capability to provide suppression concerns, the integrity of the election and live, interactive alerts. “Viewers will get an interactive the Hispanic vote, Matt Simon, supervising producer for graphic on the screen when something is breaking and they will be able to use their remote to PM content at Newsy, said. “It is easy to go to roundtables of pundits and navigate to it,” Tanner said. much harder to produce analysis that is based on Streaming services will also fact and data and still find a way to make it give audiences additional compelling and interesting but that is our mission,” ways to access network feeds Simon said. on authenticated apps, streaming Pandemic-related restrictions have also prompted services or YouTube, where networks to adopt much more coordinated strategies PBS NewsHour will be streaming between their various platforms. election coverage. Fox News will have a separate control room, said VP of Univision will stream its national politics and the Washington Bureau Cherie Grzech, from broadcast coverage starting at 7 p.m. which she will talk to TV, digital and radio reporters, then ET on Nov. 3, senior politics editor Carlos route feeds to the various control rooms handling Fox Chirinos said, with digital teams filling News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Nation and breaks in the network coverage with original Fox News Radio. digital content. “You will see reporters on multiple platforms through“We will be providing a heavy focus on the local out the evening,” Grzech said. “We are definitely trying level, because all politics is local,” Chirinos said. to maximize the ability to move our people from one Fox The continuous nature of streaming services platform to another.” — GW also gives news organizations more space 11


COVER STORY

THE NEW MATH OF ELECTION COVERAGE

Fox News; NBC News; Newsy

Viewers will see significant changes in how networks report, analyze polls and results and the decision desk led by CBS News elections SYSTEMS FOR CALLING races and data analytics, and survey director Anthony Salvanto. always a centerpiece of election-night coverage, Bohrman said CBS will be using a new multiwill assume an even more important role Nov. 3 as touch screen as well as dozens of displays and part of an effort to overcome some of the widely augmented reality tools to take advantage of the publicized problems from 2016. new data. “We’ll be using augmented reality in One issue: “Exit polls showed Hillary Clinton ways that will really clarify and help viewers winning the race,” Associated Press deputy understand what is going on,” he said. managing editor for visual and digital At Fox News, Cherie Grzech, VP journalism Derl McCrudden said. of politics and the Washington And Election Day exit polls Bureau, said the Fox News Vottypically didn’t take early voter Analysis, conducted with ing into account. About 41% AP, will be a marked improveof ballots were cast before ment from exit polls and Election Day in 2016, with provide a wealth of survey those figures expected to data to analyze voting trends be much higher this year. and attitudes. “We now have a The U.S. Elections Project much more robust system that at the University of Florida NBC’s Steve Kornacki involves questioning folks a few has reported as of Oct. 20, days prior to the election and then more than 35.1 million votes had on Election Day,” she explained. already been cast in the 2020 general The network is also upgrading the way that election. In some states, such as Wisconsin data will be displayed, Alan Komissaroff, senior VP and North Carolina, the number of mail-in ballots of news and politics at Fox News, said. There will received is already multiple times higher than be upgrades to the touch screen used by Fox News 2016’s totaln Analysts have predicted more than anchor Bill Hemmer to better display voting and 150 million votes will be cast in the election, up survey data, improved augmented reality systems from 136.7 million in 2016. and new virtual reality features. The AP rethought its strategy and developed the “Virtual worlds that can be set up now through AP VoteCast product with NORC at the University video game software are now very compelling,” of Chicago. In 2018, the VoteCast team conducted Komissaroff said. “While I don’t want to tip our nearly 139,000 interviews with registered voters in hand too much, we will try to take people into 50 states. In 2020, VoteCast is aiming to do some hyper-realistic worlds to help tell the story.” 140,000 interviews between Oct. 28 and Nov. 3. New studios at ABC and Univision will also enIn addition to VoteCast, AP plays a major role in collecting vote totals, deploying stringers at county able innovative new augmented-reality systems. “Election night is very graphics-driven, very election centers around the U.S. AP’s decision desk studio-driven, so we have put a lot of focus on that will help call some 7,000 races in 2020. part of it with a new set of augmented reality graphThose efforts will also supply AP with data that ics to show the presidential, congressional and state can be used to develop election-related stories races,” Lourdes Torres, senior VP of political coverand adds people on the ground to provide inforage and special projects at Univision, said. mation on potential voting irregularities. “That Marc Burstein, senior executive producer of ABC will drive a lot of reporting, because we have that News Special Events, said ABC’s new studio will background data and know where stories are bubfeature more than new systems for graphics and bling up,” McCrudden said. augmented reality. It is part of a wider effort to “We know the stakes are unbelievably high this rethink how the results are displayed and reported. year,” David Bohrman, executive producer of CBS “Under the vote totals in the past, you had News’s 2020 election night coverage, said. “The in small, almost unnoticeable type the percent American public is frankly confused about what of precincts reporting,” he said. “This year, we election night is going to bring. How are their votes going to be counted? Are they going to be counted? will have it in big bold numbers and it won’t say percent of precincts reporting, it will say percent And how long it will take? We have to step up with of expected vote in,” to better highlight how many more and better tools to explain what is going on.” actual votes have been tabulated. As part of that effort, CBS News launched CBS “It’s a small detail, but it shows the kind of News Battleground Tracker, surveying 100,000 focus and attention we’re putting on the coverpeople from all 50 states. On Nov. 3, the data will age,” Burstein said. — GW be used for the in-studio Election Night Tracker

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Above, Fox News Channel’s new set for election day. Center, NBC political director and Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd. Below, Newsy Tonight host Chance Seales.

than we’ve ever had, so we can be socially distant. We have added hyper-filters to our control rooms. Everyone wears a mask and some people in the control rooms will be getting the N95 masks of the sort used by medical professionals,” she said. Said CBS’s Bohrman: “Everyone involved is being tested every day, everyone in the studio, everyone in the control room.” Network coverage will originate from a new set. “The studio is zoned off to separate people and to make sure there is not any movement between the zones,” Bohrman said. “This is the biggest team effort in broadcast news, but we are finding ways to do it in a COVID-safe way.” All of these efforts, executives said, will help to keep staff members safe as they report on the most unusual election of our lifetimes. Bohrman stressed the importance of overcoming obstacles and getting the story right — both for the networks and for the country. “We and all the broadcast networks know that we need to help restore the faith in the electoral system,” he said. “It has been put under a lot of doubt by a lot of people and we need to be open and above board and clear as to the numbers to provide viewers with information they can trust.” “This is our night,” den Daas at ABC News Live said. “That night might drag on for a while, but that’s OK, because this is what we do. This is why we got into journalism: To make sure we are here when Americans need someone to bring them the big story.” ●


COVER STORY

STATIONS, NETWORKS EYE BOOM IN POLITICAL AD SPENDING Huge amounts raised by campaigns take outlays into uncharted territory By Gary Arlen garyarlen@gmail.com @garyarlen

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t Gray Television, the VP for political sales cannot handle any interviews. He is “already so overworked” by the ongoing deluge of campaign commercials on the broadcaster’s 93 stations as political campaigns unleash last-minute commercial tactics, said Kevin Latek, Gray’s executive VP and chief legal & development officer. Similar ad assaults are underway throughout the media landscape as another wave of the $9.7 billion political juggernaut continues, according to PQ Media’s tally of national, state and local campaign spending. Industry observers said the money — predominantly for Democratic candidates and causes — is “unprecedented.” Everything about the process, from immense early voting to the amount of campaign funds, has forced broadcasters and political strategists to overhaul their approaches and manage ad inventory. The impact of early voting continues to keep political strategists hopping. By the day of the final presidential debate on Oct. 22, more than 40 million voters had cast their ballots, per CNN. Accompanying the start of early October voting was an unusual peak in TV advertising. For example, in Florida, about $9 million was spent per week for former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, and $6 million for President Donald Trump, the incumbent Republican. Operatives are also scheduling typical Halloween weekend ad binges just ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. So much money is in the Democrats’ war chest that strategists are trickling it tactically to state legislative campaigns, generating countless party-funded commercials for local candidates. The goal is to flip key state legislatures in anticipation of post-U.S. Census redistricting efforts. Presidential and Senate campaigns are adopting an Obama-era practice of buying time on national networks such as RFD-TV and WGN America, where viewership is concentrated in swing states. Commercial time on national networks is lower than buying broadcast station ads in expensive markets. Among the major beneficiaries are sports networks, which have gotten national buys during games featuring teams from North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio, aimed at home-state viewers.

Advertising Analytics, a research firm that tracks weekly spending, showed the Biden campaign significantly upped spending in key states such as Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina in the first weeks of October, just as early voting began. Campaigns are shifting their funds to swing states, including Arizona and Pennsylvania, as they sense shifting sentiments they can exploit with targeted ads. The result: Busy — and lucrative — schedules at TV stations in key markets.

PQ Media executive VP and research director Leo Kivijarv.

Reaping the Bonanza

In preliminary guidance for its third-quarter 2020 financial report (scheduled for a Nov. 5 release), Gray TV said it expects political advertising revenue to be between $120 million and $125 million during the July-to-September period. That dwarfs the Q3 political ad revenue of the combined Gray and Raycom Media stations in previous campaign cycles (reflecting the January 2019 merger of the companies and divestiture of some stations). This year’s Senate races include seven of the 10 most-expensive campaigns ever, according to Advertising Analytics. Politico’s tally shows that the 14 most competitive and expensive races had campaign funds of $363 million for Democrats and $143 million for Republicans during the quarter ended Sept. 30. Democratic candidate Jaime Harrison “has raised more money than has ever been seen in South Carolina” in his race against incumbent Lindsey Graham, said Leo Kivijarv, executive VP and research director at PQ Media, a

Reaching for Everyone

PQ MEDIA ESTIMATES POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS WILL SPEND $9.33 BILLION IN 2020, REPRESENTING A 28.8% INCREASE COMPARED WITH 2016

$10,000 $8,000

$7,240

$6,000

$6,071 $4,216

$4,000

0.0

$9,326

Total political campaign media buying during presidential elections — 1972 to 2020

$2,747

$2,000 $801 $456 $599 $49 $109 $181 $308

$1,216

1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020

SOURCE: PQ Media Political Campaign Media Buying 2020

Connecticut research firm. He also cited the $100 million that former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has earmarked for Florida campaigns aimed at Hispanic get-out-the-vote initiatives, targeted to likely Biden supporters. Kivijarv said that TV stations are also benefiting from campaign ads aimed at Hispanics in states with sizable ethnic populations, including swing states North Carolina, Wisconsin and Michigan. PD Media’s data jibes with a recent Kantar Media Campaign Media Analysis Group (Kantar/CMAG) study that found a boom in Hispanic-targeted ads since September: $932 million spent on presidential commercials on TV and radio, nearly two-thirds of it backing Biden. Telemundo and Univision stations are benefiting from this spending, Kivijarv said. He also expects a splurge the week before Election Day, aimed at the dwindling number of “undecideds.” Digital advertising has been a major success story this year, said Mark Jablonowski, managing partner and chief technology officer of DSPolitical, a Democratic-focused agency. He cited Democrats’ $14 million of spending on Facebook. “Voter-targeted digital makes the task of communicating with the right voters easier than ever,” Jablonowski said. He thinks well-funded Democratic Senate campaigns could “max out their spending everywhere, including digital,” especially in states where there wasn’t “television left to buy but there is a lot of digital inventory.”

The available money has made this year’s campaign “a time for tanks, not rifles,” Republican ad consultant Evan Tracey said.“Targeting is out the window. You’re reaching for everyone.” He acknowledged that shifting sentiments have encouraged campaigns to shore up spots in contested markets, which is why money for GOP ads in Ohio was diverted to Michigan and Pennsylvania. “Everything this year is bigger,” Steven Passwaiter, VP and general manager of Kantar/ CMAG, said. He said broadcasters are “relishing the salve” of this year’s political spending after 2016, when the Trump campaign curtailed its ad spending. Kantar’s political spending estimate has climbed to $7 billion from $6 billion — still shy of PQ Media’s number. “Money is being spent differently,” Passwaiter said. He cited Biden ads on Smithsonian Channel as both an offbeat choice and an acknowledgment that cash is available to spend on niche networks. Although he’s not surprised by the spread of money throughout October, which typically gets 40% of the cycle’s ad spending, Passwaiter said there is so much money, media spending in some smaller states is “rivaling that of the top five markets.” Passwaiter said the spending could continue after Nov. 3, especially if there is an almostinevitable runoff for the Senate seats from Georgia. That campaign could run through January, he said. ●

Broadcastingcable.com

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PROGRAMMING

COVID Cancellations Axe Promising Shows Extra cost of doing business in 2020 may be too much for series that don’t break out

By Michael Malone michael.malone@futurenet.com @BCMikeMalone

Glow: Beth Dubber/Ali Goldstein/Netflix; On Becoming God: Patti Perret/Showtime

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mong the wide array of casualties related to COVID is a batch of TV shows that, due to pandemic-related restrictions, could not get cast and crew together to shoot a new season. Several of the recently canceled shows, including Netflix’s Glow and Showtime’s On Becoming a God in Central Florida, received a renewal, but ultimately, the network decided it no longer made sense to produce a new season. “The pandemic has continued to challenge schedules across the board, and although we have made every effort to reunite the cast and crew for a second season, that has become untenable,” said Showtime in a statement about On Becoming a God, which debuted in August 2019. The spate of “un-renewals,” as Rolling Stone referred to them, includes wrestling dramedy GLOW, which was set to produce season four when the virus hit; Netflix teen show The Society, which lasted for one season; ABC’s Cobie Smulders drama

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Stumptown, which was poised to produce season two; and truTV’s Andrea Savage comedy I’m Sorry, which the network had renewed for a third season. “With all of our episodes already written and partially shot, we are all still in shock and don’t have the answers,” Savage said on Twitter in late August. While they had not received renewals, Netflix’s I Am Not Okay With This and Showtime’s The President Is Missing, based on a novel by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, were canceled for reasons related to COVID. COVID has laid a significant cost upon production, between PPE equipment, testing and figuring out social distancing on set. As a result, veteran showrunner Neal Baer is not surprised to see the high number of surprise cancellations, calling it a “pure financial algorithmic decision” for the networks. “Does the show make enough money for the network in light of the cost increases?” he said. “It’s always a financial assessment at the end.” Baer, whose credits include Law & Order: SVU and Designated Survivor, estimated that COVID costs might add 20% to a budget. Alex Kurtzman, executive producer on the Star

Even shows that were renewed before the pandemic — including Netflix’s GLOW (above) and Showtime’s On Becoming a God in Central Florida — couldn’t overcome the needed hurdles to resume shooting.

Trek series, speaking on the podcast TV’s Top 5, said it tacked on an additional $300,000$500,000 per episode. “A bubble show may have been OK in the past,” said Chris Becker, associate professor of film, television and theater at Notre Dame. “But with a 20% COVID cost, that can be a bridge too far.”

Peaked TV?

No one knows when the vaccine arrives and when shows get back to the pre-COVID way of doing business, or if they ever do. It’s likely more series that may have been on the renewal bubble get axed. “Once it seems like a trend, the stage is set for it to keep happening,” Becker said. “It is established as an excuse.” Network executives did not want to discuss the thought processes behind cancelling the series they’d renewed. More than just a new virus, an array of factors goes into such a decision, such as the budget increases for cast with each new season of a show. “I don’t think they just willy-nilly cancel a show,” Baer said. “The networks are in it because they want to make shows that people like and are successful under the many measures of what makes something successful.” Time will tell what the COVID cancellations mean for the peak TV era. There are around 500 scripted shows on television, and for years, people have wondered when that number will decrease. "This is simply too much television," John Landgraf, FX Networks chairman, said back in 2015. Some networks, such as Pop TV and A&E, began cutting back their scripted slates before COVID. Others are likely to follow. “For a number of years now, people have said the bubble will burst, this can’t be sustained,” said Becker. “Everyone wonders what the catalyst will be. Maybe this is the excuse — we’re going to dial back now.” Having a series that a producer or cast or crew member has poured their heart into get cancelled is a soul-crushing experience. Having a series canceled due to an unforeseen enemy such as COVID is even more wrenching. But a hardy TV veteran moves on. “It’s disappointing, but there’s a lot of disappointment in life,” Baer said. “When you engage with Hollywood, there are no guarantees.” ●


LOCAL NEWS

Protests Keep Stations In Louisville Hopping WDRB wins ratings derby in highly competitive market

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By Michael Malone michael.malone@futurenet.com @BCMikeMalone

t’s not an easy time to be in Louisville. The protests for racial equality have been ongoing in the city, home to the late Breonna Taylor, with Jefferson Square Park the epicenter. Christy Moreno, president and general manager of WHAS, counted 140 straight days of protests as of mid October. “It’s become part of our daily routine here,” she said. The stations and their personnel have at times been targeted. WLKY’s chief photographer, Paul Ahmann, was knocked unconscious at a protest and a station vehicle was destroyed. Reporters ventured out with security guards and bulletproof vests. “Security has been nonstop for us since late May,” Glenn Haygood, WLKY president and general manager, said in early October. “It’s a very dangerous situation that makes you say you’re not leaving anything to doubt.” For the most part, the protests are peaceful. Haygood stressed that it’s a small slice of Louisville seeing unrest. “Ninety nine percent of Louisville does not look like that part of downtown,” he said. Tegna owns ABC affiliate WHAS. Hearst TV has CBS outlet WLKY. Block Communications owns Fox outlet WDRB and The CW affiliate WBKI, which has MyNetworkTV on a subchannel. Gray Television owns NBC station WAVE. Spectrum is the dominant pay TV operator. Around a quarter of market viewership is in Indiana, across the Ohio River. The stations and the Louisville CourierJournal have worked together on security.

They had a camera installed at Jefferson Square Park to keep an eye on protests, and met with the acting police chief to share concerns. “We put down our competitive urges and shared a lot of information on safety,” Moreno said. The Kentucky Derby was held in September with no spectators due to the pandemic. “It’s such a showcase for our community,” Dale Woods, WDRB-WBKI president/general manager, said. “That was such a disappointment.” It’s hardly all doom and gloom in DMA No. 48. The beloved Kentucky Bourbon Trail is

booming, and TV advertising is picking up. “We definitely see some businesses returning to normal, and certain businesses are actually thriving,” said Moreno, singling out home improvement. WDRB, whose call letters are short for Derby, is a ratings beast. The station won the September race in viewers 25-54 at 6 a.m., 5 and 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., posting a 1.83 in the latter, ahead of WLKY’s 1.30, WAVE’s .98 and WHAS’s .85. WDRB is a force in households too, though it was WLKY that took tight races at 5:30 and 6 p.m. in September. At 11 p.m., WDRB averaged a 4.06, WLKY a 3.36, WHAS a 2.32 and WAVE a 2.27. Independently owned stations are uncommon, but family ownership is an asset for WDRB. “We’re not reporting to Wall Street every quarter,” Woods said. “We’re here to have the best product for our viewers.” Woods marked his one-year anniversary at the station Oct. 1. WDRB also celebrated the one-year anniversary of a 5 p.m. news, with Judge Judy sliding over to 7 p.m. Political advertising is rolling, as Mitch McConnell battles Amy McGrath for his Senate seat. “If you’re watching TV in Louisville, you’re going to see McConnell and McGrath ads,” said Haygood, who noted a “very strong” fourth quarter in the works. Louisville’s lively food scene and strong corporate culture, including UPS and GE, have the market poised for recovery. “There’s a lot of hurt here, and a lot of repair that needs to be done,” Moreno said. “But people here are really dedicated to making Louisville a better place to live.” ●

WLKY reporter Shaquille Lord (top) and WDRB reporters Valerie Chinn (c.) XXXXXXXXXXX and Travis Ragsdale XXXXX XXXXXX have covered XXXXX XXXXX XX Louisville’s XXXXXXXX ongoing protests.

Top: WDRB News; Sidebar: WHAS

WHAS RESHAPES NEWS SINCE ARRIVING IN Louisville in 2018 after running news at KUSA Denver, WHAS president/general manager Christy Moreno is focused on improving the news content at the Tegna station. The 4 p.m. news has shifted into “a more conversational show,” Moreno said. Hayley Minogue anchors. Born and raised in Louisville, Minogue understands the local vibe. “She’s got a really interesting way to look at news,” said Moreno. “Since she’s from Louisville, she gets the people here. She puts her flavor on the show.” Julie Wolfe is WHAS news director.

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Late news relaunched last November. “Night Team” branding was brought back from the decades of yore. Doug Proffitt anchors. “We’ve changed the mood and feel of the show,” said Moreno. “We’ve tried to make it a can’t-go-to-sleepuntil-you-see-the-end-of-the-show kind of show.” For the 244 days before the relaunch, the 11 p.m. news got a 5.2 household share. For the 244 days after, the share stood at 6.3. “We’ve had really great success there,” Moreno said. — MM

Doug Proffitt


TECH

HUMAX PIVOTS TO THE CONNECTED TV DEVICE BIZ

TCL Quietly Expands Android TV Selection Chinese smart TV maker’s sets propelled Roku to streaming dominance. Can it do the same for Google?

TCL; Humax

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By Daniel Frankel daniel.frankel@futurenet.com @dannyfrankel

n a move that could signal a shift in dominant streaming platforms, Chinese electronics company TCL has begun shipping 4K/Ultra HD-capable smart TVs based on the Android TV operating system to the U.S., adding to the sub-$200 MSRP HD Android TV sets that were introduced over the summer. In September, TCL quietly introduced its 4-Series model sets, powered by Google’s streaming video operating system, in 50-, 55and 75-inch configurations, priced at $349, $399 and $799 respectively, and available exclusively at Best Buy. A 43-inch 4K/UHD Android TV, priced at $199, has been introduced to Target shoppers, according to TCL’s website.  TCL is currently the second-biggest shipper of smart TVs to the U.S., controlling 14% of the market vs. 32% for leader Samsung, according to Statista figures released in September.  TCL has risen to that position based on popular, low-priced TVs powered by the Roku operating system. In June, the manufacturer began also shipping sets based on Android TV.  Until recently, those TCL Android TV sets were 3-Series iterations with HD resolution and fewer features (the more expensive 4K/ UHD sets have three HDMI ports, for example). TCL’s 3-Series Android TV-

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powered HD options include a 32-inch, 720p set priced at only $130, and a 40-inch 1080p model priced at $200. TCL hasn’t published any sales data on its Android TV product line. But Best Buy reviews of the more established 3-Series sets have been as enthusiastic as the positively received Roku models. Google has had some success proliferating its Android TV OS into the homes of pay TV operator subscribers. And it has become a popular licensed OS for streaming device makers including Nvidia, TiVo and Dish Network’s AirTV.  But Google has ambitious goals of one day having its OS overtake Roku and Amazon Fire TV for dominance of connected TV homes, both in the U.S. and abroad. Google is in the process of trying to rebrand Android TV. It’s now marketing a new Chromecast dongle based on the OS, and it calls the device’s operating software “Google TV.” Over the next few years, as it refreshes the software powering everything from third-party dongles to smart TVs, it will also change the name of the OS from Android TV to Google TV. But smart TV is front and center of Google’s strategy. Just as TCL used Roku’s popular operating environment to fuel its rise in the U.S., Roku has used the fast uptake of TCL smart TVs to get to a point at which it now touts 43 million active users. Google is hoping TCL can do the same thing for its OS. ●

TCL’s latest 4-Series model sets are powered by Google’s Android TV operating system.

COUNT KOREA’S HUMAX as the latest pay TV set-top maker to stop trying to beat cord-cutters and attempt to join them. The tech vendor has introduced the Aura, a new Android TV-powered, DVR-equipped streaming device built specifically for cordcutters in the United Kingdom. The Aura packages a three-tuner digital video recorder, 4K HDR image resolution and all the accoutrements of Android TV — notably the Google Play Store and Google Assistant. Humax is marketing the Aura as the very first DVR built for the U.K.’s Freeview Play streaming service, which includes 70 live and nine free, over-theair broadcast VOD channels. The product is not being sold in the U.S. The set-top comes in a 1-terabyte iteration, retailing for £249 ($323) and a 2TB version ($262). Humax said the Aura will be sold through Amazon, various U.K. consumer-electronics channels and directly via Humax.  Like CommScope, Technicolor and other set-top makers that have served the global pay TV market, Humax is looking for new revenue channels amid a recessionary pay TV business. Humax will now try to play catchup in retail channels for a cord-cutter consumer base, against entrenched competition that includes Roku and Amazon.   “Aura is designed to sit at the heart of a family’s home entertainment experience,” Humax sales director Rob Peacock said in a statement. “The very first Freeview Play recorder to be built on the Android TV platform, it provides a fully integrated environment that reflects the preferences and favorite content of the individual or family — with lightning-fast access to everything they need in one place, and outstanding picture quality. With such an extensive array of features, users will never miss their favorite show, movie or sporting event, and thanks to a combination of Google technology and the Humax Aura app, they can enjoy the freedom of entertainment on any screen or device, wherever and whenever they wish.” — DF

Humax Aura


CURRENCY

“Once people get there, they stay and it’s pretty sticky,” Lewis-Mahon said. The NFL team has been promoting Jags at Home via digital and social channels. The team sells and keeps the advertising revenue. Sparx’s technology was used by ESPN — The Walt Disney Co. is one of its biggest clients — to power a second-screen experience during the Raiders-Saints NFL Monday Night Football megacast on Sept. 17. The Orlando Magic employed Sparx while the NBA team was locked in the Walt Disney World bubble after restarting its season. The team used social media to encourage fans to download the app and win prizes with predictive and trivia games during pregame, in-game and half-time contests. The application helped the Magic collect valuable data while engaging with fans. During the hockey season and playoffs, the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks ran a similar program with Toyota as the key sponsor. Sparx also worked with NESN in Boston, rolling out predictive game content during Red Sox MLB telecasts. On-air graphics promoted the interactive activities, which were talked about by on-air talent. With legalized sports gambiling becoming more widespread, the company sees a future where its app and predictive games could be used to promote providers like FanDuel, Draft Kings or MGM Bet and connect fans to sports books. Sparx also recently struck a deal with the Mountain West Conference in college sports and expects to begin interactivities for Fresno State in late October. As with other forms of technology, COVID-19 has had an impact on adoption of Sparx technology. “The pandemic has been awful but it really accelerated people’s buy in and the need to get more involved in the digital world, so it’s fast-forwarded everything,” said Colin Hornett, chief creative officer at Sparx. “The amazing thing about our platform is it works if there’s people in-venue or not, because we’ve actually cut our teeth on live TV,” said Hornett. “Once everyone comes back, all of our technology can move to in-venue. That’s what the Orlando Magic are talking about,” Annison added.

Sparx Flies as Teams Try To Keep Fans Engaged Second-screen apps help maintain stadium sponsorships By Jon Lafayette jon.lafayette@futurenet.com @jlafayette

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ith sports happening in mostly empty stadiums, teams and TV networks are turning to Sparx Technology to connect with fans and retain sponsors. Sparx Technology is the new name being used by iPowow, which created interactive, ad-supported second-screen applications for local stations during newscasts, for Fox Sports during football games and for ABC during the Oscars. “In addition to voting and polling as a platform, we got into predictive gaming,” said Al Thorgeirson, who became CEO of iPowow a year and a half ago and rebranded the company. Sparx recently launched a product called Stream Hub, which is getting traction by helping organizations replace live events and interactions with virtual activities. “This new product opened up a whole new world to us,” Sparx head of global sales Kevin Annison said. Sparx has been working with teams in each of the

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four major sports leagues. One example of what Sparx can do is Jags at Home, created for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. “They were looking for a product that would allow them to keep their in-stadium sponsor activation with few or no fans in the stadium,” Annison said. “We had to figure out a way that we could allow people to interact and engage from home and have a little bit of fun along the way.” With Jags at Home, fans can join online while watching the team play on TV. The team has online talent commenting on the game between plays, in real time, and encouraging viewers to participate in games where they try to predict what will happen on the field. The application has a leader board, so fans can compete. Each quarter winners are crowned and awarded cash and prizes. Jags at Home also makes real-time stats available, lets fans chat with one another and has a module for sponsors. Anderson said the experience is designed to be similar to what fans would see and hear on the Jumbotron if they were in the stadium. Jud Lewis-Mahon, executive producer at Sparx, said tens of thousands of Jaguar fans have been interacting via the app and that average tune-in time has been about an hour and a half.

Events Move to Stream Hub

The Jacksonville Jaguars are using Sparx technology to power their “Jags at Home” platform (above). At left, Sparx technology CEO Al Thorgeirson.

Stream Hub is also being used by charities to create engaging fundraising events, including for Coach Art and the Hospital for Special Surgery. During the event, videos play and viewers can participate in silent auctions and make donations. Features have been added to make events private through a registration and password process, and to display a “thermometer” to show how close the event is to reaching goals. “The evolution of Sparx over the years has been dynamic and client centric. The response to marketplace changes and challenges, not the least of which is COVID-related, has propelled our diverse growth,” added Rich Goldfarb, a former Fox executive who is now on the company’s advisory board. ●


SYNDICATION

Syndicators Shift Focus to 2021

‘Kelly,’ ‘Tamron,’ ‘Drew’ expected to return, with ‘Nick Cannon’ joining them

By Paige Albiniak palbiniak@gmail.com @PaigeA

Barrymore: Ben Watts/CBS; Cannon: Michael Becker/Fox

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or syndicators, 2021 will be something of a do-over. The shows had to go on even with the pandemic raging, so the vets returned to their sets and CBS Television Distribution’s rookie talker, Drew Barrymore, launched in its roomy Manhattan studio without a live audience. What all of the shows have been met with is a challenging production process, no energy from in-house viewers and depressed daytime ratings. Viewers are glued to the news, with all of the cable news channels up significantly year-to-year. CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC are up 44%, 21% and 14% in viewers, respectively, according to Nielsen. Combined, the three news channels have more viewers than the next 11 cable channels. In the third quarter, Fox News was TV’s mostwatched network on either broadcast or cable for the first time in its history. Pre-emptions for news and sports have remained constant this fall. Huge news events, such as the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump’s contraction of the coronavirus and the Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, have kept viewers consuming news like never before. Sports also returned, forcing networks and stations to scramble to make room for

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the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA playoffs, MLB’s shortened season and the NFL, not to mention golf’s U.S. Open and tennis’ French Open. Politics, besides pulling away viewers, also is crowding out promo time. Many stations are stuffing their inventory full of as many political ads as possible, leaving little room for promotion of new shows. For Drew Barrymore, all of that has made for a much tougher-than-normal launch. In the week ended Oct. 11, the show averaged a 0.6 live-plus-same-day national household rating, per Nielsen. That’s somewhat soft but not that far from what sophomore talkers Kelly Clarkson and Tamron Hall, tied at a 0.8 in that same week, are doing. Drew was sold in two-year deals and is expected to return for season two. Drew will join Tamron Hall, which the ABC stations have renewed for a third season, and Kelly Clarkson, which has not been officially renewed but is expected to be. NBCUniversal is clear that it’s grooming Clarkson for Ellen DeGeneres’ time slot, which is at 3 p.m. on most NBC-owned stations, no matter when that show comes to an end.

‘Ellen’ Fate in Question

When that might be is an open question, considering how much bad press Ellen received over the summer and how depressed its ratings are. Season to date in households, Ellen is down 42% compared to last year, more than any other talk show. Ellen DeGeneres also is taking Fridays off, with a guest host filling in, and the show sees even bigger ratings dips on those days.

The pandemic has made for a tougher-than-normal launch for talker Drew Barrymore. Meanwhile, DebmarMercury is moving forward with plans for Nick Cannon next fall.

Things are also changing at the company that produces Ellen, with WarnerMedia laying off thousands of employees — including Rick Meril, executive VP, general sales manager, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, and Donna Redier Linsk, head of Warner Bros.’ first-run production arm, Telepictures, who left the company in August. WarnerMedia also has closed its sales offices everywhere except Los Angeles, leaving only two syndication sales representatives on staff. That said, Mike Darnell, president of unscripted and alternative television, remains at the company with oversight of first-run development, and WarnerMedia has said it is still in development on new first-run shows. The company also intends to continue supporting the first-run shows it currently has on the air, including Ellen, Extra and TMZ. But with WarnerMedia’s emphasis on HBO Max and streaming, many are questioning how committed WarnerMedia is to first-run syndication. Competitors said they don’t want to see Warner Bros., which has been a major force in syndication, exit the business. “I want Warner Bros. to be in the business and I want them to do first-run syndication,” Debmar-Mercury co-president Mort Marcus said. “[More competition] makes everything more relevant and it keeps the business vibrant. I don’t believe in a world where we’re the only supplier.”

‘Cannon’ Aims for ’21

With all that as background, syndicators are prepping for 2021 and beyond. Debmar-Mercury expects to bring Nick Cannon to market after having been forced to put the show on hold due both to the pandemic and to anti-Semitic comments Cannon made on his podcast. Now efforts are underway to remount the production for next fall. CTD also is looking at shopping a daytime talker starring Niecy Nash of Claws and Reno 911!, sources confirmed. The show would be produced in partnership by Ben Winston, James Corden’s Fulwell73 and CTD, with CTD distributing. Other syndicators are bringing to syndication already-produced programs. NBCUniversal will offer stations for fall 2021 a strip version of its primetime staple, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Sean O’Boyle, executive VP, general sales manager, NBCUniversal, said. NBCU did this successfully with repackaged episodes of Dateline and with scripted procedural Chicago PD, which is now out of syndication and airing on Fox-owned MyNet. Also on deck for next year is Fox’s reboot of You Bet Your Life, hosted by Jay Leno, which was originally developed for the network. That show is expected to be slotted in access time periods on Fox-owned stations in major markets. “Stations need product to drive people to local news and other dayparts, so you can’t give up on syndication,” said one syndication executive. “Now, more than ever, people should be leaning into it. I think there’s a lot of opportunity going forward but stations need to participate in that.” ●


POLICY

Supremes’ Thomas Lays Down Section 230 Marker

Aligns with calls for reining in judicial expansion of social media immunity By John Eggerton john.eggerton@futurenet.com @eggerton

T

he critics of Section 230, and they have been multiplying in recent weeks, have a friend in high places: the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Clarence Thomas has weighed in strongly on the side of those who argue the lower courts have stretched the section beyond its original statutory meaning, something judicial conservatives, which would include Thomas, have issues with in general. He may even have a like mind in the judge likely to become newest member of the court. Thomas has an issue with Section 230 specifically, and is rooting for an opportunity to take it up in the Supreme Court. His commentary on the Hill and by FCC chairman Ajit Pai as the issue burned hot in the runup to the Nov. 3 election. Section 230 is the provision of the Communications Decency Act that grants social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter immunity from civil liability for how they choose to moderate third-party content, either taking down content some might argue should stay up, or leaving up content that others think should come down. It’s actually the only provision left after the rest of the act was struck down by the courts.

U.S. Supreme Court

Wide-Ranging Effects

Changes to the provision could affect not only social-media giants, but the comment sections on TV station websites and internet service providers that arguably are covered under the “computer services” definition of those subject to the section. The FCC has signaled it plans to follow President Donald Trump’s lead and “clarify” the section, apparently in a way that will regulate third-party content within Section 230. That will almost certainly be taken to court by tech giants who have plenty of money to wage a legal war and who have argued that if they become liable for social media content on their sites, it could chill speech or blow up their business models entirely. That means the issue could well wind up in the Supreme Court. The issue has become a flashpoint because it has driven political opposites together in questioning whether tech giants need or should get that blanket immunity, and whether that shield has been used to protect

24 Broadcastingcable.com

sex trafficking, meddling in elections, censorship and more. But it has also divided them over whether the section is being used to censor conservative speech by the liberalleaning Silicon Valley set. The president, in part driven by his ire at Twitter for flagging and burying some of his tweets as violations of its policies against misleading speech, wants Section 230 reined in or eliminated. But Hill Democrats have issues with the section as well. And so, apparently, does Justice Thomas. Thomas outlined his issues in a lengthy commentary on the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal of a case involving Section 230. Thomas actually agreed the court should not hear that case, which dealt with whether the section provided immunity for content blocking technology, but apparently felt strongly enough about the immunity for content blocking itself to weigh in at length — usually the court simply releases a list of appeals it is denying, called the “cert” list, with no explanation. But Thomas, who is reticent in oral argument, is not so in his periodic cert explanations. Thomas said he was writing to explain “why, in an appropriate case, we should consider whether the text of this increasingly important statute aligns with the current state of immunity enjoyed by internet platforms.”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wants the high court to weigh in on Section 230 immunity granted to online platforms.

He clearly feels it does not. “Adopting the too-common practice of reading extra immunity into statutes where it does not belong, courts have [granted] sweeping protection to Internet platforms,” Thomas said. He argued that “paring back the sweeping immunity courts have read into Section 230” would not ipso facto lead to defendant liability. “It simply would give plaintiffs a chance to raise their claims in the first place,” he said. On the other hand, he said, extending the clause beyond its statutory underpinnings, as he argues has happened, has “serious consequences.” Critics of Thomas’s view see serious consequences as well. Holding websites liable for content they edit in any way, as Justice Thomas proposes, could, conversely, discourage websites from attempting to make hard calls, such as by blotting out objectionable words, including racial epithets, while leaving other content up,” said Berin Szóka, senior fellow at tech policy think tank TechFreedom, in reaction to what he called Thomas’ unwarranted judicial commentary. Attorney Floyd Abrams, who has argued over a dozen cases before the Supreme Court, agrees that kneecapping Section 230 would definitely chill speech. “The easiest way that the Twitters of the future can avoid problems like this is not to fact check, no matter how false the information is, no matter how outrageously false the information is,” he said in an interview with Sirius XM radio following release of the executive order back in May. Thomas may have support from the judge expected to become the court’s newest member.

Topic at Barrett Hearings

During her Supreme Court confirmation hearing Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tried to get Judge Amy Coney Barrett to weigh in on the section, citing Thomas’s comments. Citing Thomas, Hawley said that the courts, at the behest of Big Tech, had dramatically rewritten the section, including changing the liability standards and the distinction between publisher and distributor liability, and extending it to product defect claims. Barrett said she had not ruled on a Section 230 case, but when asked, in general, what she thought the “danger” was of courts departing from statutory text and substituting their own judgment, she weighed in. Barrett said that without respect to the specific section, the danger of courts going beyond the language of statute was that it “subverted the will of the people.” She said that since judges are not elected and serve for a lifetime, if they misconstrue or bend statutes to their idea of what would be good public policy, then it deprives the people of the chance to express the policies that they want through the democratic process." Hawley said he was convinced that was what had happened with the courts and Section 230. ●


FATES & FORTUNES

People Notable executives on the move BRIEFLY NOTED Other industry execs making moves

A+E NETWORKS

COMCAST

CROWN MEDIA

DISNEY

A+E Networks in New York has hired Matthew Glotzer as executive VP, strategy and business development. He comes from digital media firm Intertrust Technologies, where he was chief financial officer and head of strategy.

Dalila Wilson-Scott was promoted to president and chief diversity officer at Comcast Corp., responsible for overseeing diversity, equity and inclusion activities. She will continue to lead the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation.

Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media Family Networsk has tapped Robin Thomas as executive VP, consumer insights, strategy & analytics. Based in Los Angeles, she most recently was senior VP, research, at WGN America.

The Walt Disney Co. has named Kareem Daniel chairman of the Media and Entertainment Distribution group, part of a direct-to-consumer-focused restructuring. He had been president, Consumer Products, Games and Publishing.

ESTRELLA

JJP

NBCUNIVERSAL

NICKELODEON

Estrella Media has tapped René Santanella as executive VP, digital & streaming media. He comes from Sony Pictures Television Digital Networks, where he had been senior VP, head of ad sales and operations.

Unscripted TV producer Jeff Jenkins Productions (JJP) has promoted Jonny Cogut to VP of development. He had been director of development, shepherding projects for such outlets as Facebook Watch, Netflix, Lifetime and TLC.

NBCUniversal named Linda Yaccarino chair, global advertising and partnerships. Yaccarino, who heads national and global ad sales for all of NBCU’s platforms, will now oversee local ad sales, including TV stations and RSNs.

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson has joined Nickelodeon as VP of news programming and executive producer of the rebooted Nick News. She comes from CBS News, where she had been a producer on 60 Minutes.

SCRIPPS

SCRIPPS

WJLA

WNJU

E.W. Scripps Co. has tapped Lisa Knutson to lead the company’s new national television networks business, contingent on its acquisition of Ion Media. She had been executive VP and chief financial officer.

Laura Tomlin advanced to chief administrative officer of E.W. Scripps Co. Former executive VP, national media, she will lead human resources, information technology and enterprise strategy, with a focus on consumer technology,

Stacey Rusch has joined Sinclair Broadcast Group’s WJLA Washington as morning traffic anchor and lifestyle host on Let’s Talk Live. She had been traffic reporter and lifestyle contributor at Fox’s WTTG Washington.

Telemundo-owned WNJU New York has added Carlos Zapata to its news team as a general assignment reporter. He comes from Telemundo’s KXTX Dallas, where he was an anchor/ reporter.

26 Broadcastingcable.com

Alyra Liriano, counsel for privacy and compliance at Comscore, was named deputy regional president of the New York region of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA). … Deloitte has elevated Kevin Westcott to lead its U.S. technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) industry consulting efforts. He previously served as the global TMT consulting leader and the U.S. sector leader for the TM&E industry. … Discovery Education has named SMASH CEO Eli Kennedy to its board of directors. … Online and internet services provider EarthLink added Brigitte Wright-Roy as senior VP, customer operations. She comes from Sprint, where she led worldwide inside sales and operations. … Peter Glättli was elevated to director of research and development at communications networks company Riedel Communications He had been head of research and development at Riedel’s Zurich, Switzerland location. … Sinclair Broadcast Group has named Darrell Davis as VP of enterprise business transformation. Davis had been VP and chief process improvement officer of enterprise process management at Xcelerate Solutions.


DATA MINE

Data provided by

Ad Meter Who’s spending what where

PROMO MOJO Our exclusive weekly ranking of the programming that networks are promoting most heavily (Oct. 12-18)

BIG SPENDERS

MOST-SEEN TV ADS

Brands ranked by the greatest increase in TV spend (Oct. 12-18)

Brands ranked by TV ad impressions (Oct. 12-18)

1

1

GEICO

Honda

Spend Increase:

▲ 291%

$12M

Est. TV Spend:

12%

Completion Rate:

Top Network:

FOX

Top Show:

Neutrogena (Skin Care) Spend Increase: Est. TV Spend:

▲ 198%

$3.7M

1. Street Outlaws, Discovery

Total TV ad impressions within all U.S. households, including national linear (live and time-shifted), VOD plus OTT and local

Est. Media Value: $1,816,278

Estimated media value of in-network promos On the strength of just under 273 million TV ad impressions, a promo for Discovery’s Street Outlaws is No. 1. The street-racing series sets the competitive tone for the ranking, followed by promos for game show Supermarket Sweep (ABC) in second place, the 2020 CMT Music Awards in third and reality competition The Voice (NBC) in fourth. Disney Channel closes out the list with a network promo celebrating Disney princesses. Notably, the Disney spot has the highest iSpot Attention Index (117) in our ranking, meaning viewers were on average

Discovery

highly likely to watch it all the way through (vs. interrupting it by changing the channel, pulling up the guide, fast-forwarding or turning off the TV).

28 Broadcastingcable.com

TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

272,980,009 $1,816,278

2. Supermarket Sweep, ABC TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

266,175,603 $2,302,881

3. 2020 CMT Music Awards, CMT TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

4. The Voice, NBC

TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

261,917,128 $1,703,600 254,413,022 $3,581,424

5. Princesses promo, Disney Channel TV Ad Impressions  Est. Media Value 

236,254,180 $2,890,114

$9.7M 86.68

CBS

Top Show:

▲ 172%

$7.1M

Progressive TV Ad Impressions:

970.7M

Est. TV Spend:

$20.8M

27%

Completion Rate:

Top Network:

NBC

Top Show:

Est. TV Spend:

88.44 NFL Football

4

Oculus VR Spend Increase:

MLB Baseball

3

Spend Within Industry:

4

1.1B

Est. TV Spend:

Top Network:

Est. TV Spend:

TV Ad Impressions: 272,980,009

TV Ad Impressions: Completion Rate:

Spend Increase:

TOP 5 PROMOTIONS

Liberty Mutual

13%

Amazon Prime Video

89.67 MLB Baseball

2

Spend Within Industry:

3

1.5B $26M

Est. TV Spend:

Spend Within Industry:

2

Street Outlaws, Discovery Channel

TV Ad Impressions:

Verizon ▲ 116%

$4.7M

TV Ad Impressions:

916.9M

Est. TV Spend:

$23.4M

Spend Within Industry:

56%

Completion Rate:

Top Network:

NBC

Top Show:

5

91.22 NFL Football

5

Fasenra

Amazon

Spend Increase:

▲ 75%

TV Ad Impressions:

904.8M

Est. TV Spend:

$2.2M

Est. TV Spend:

$15.7M

Spend Within Industry:

33%

Completion Rate:

Top Network:

CBS

Top Show:

94.77 NFL Football


DATA MINE

DESPITE ONLY 2.2 MILLION Q3 ADDS, NETFLIX STILL DOMINATES THE WORLD INVESTORS MAY HAVE been disappointed with Netflix’s 2.2 million global subscriber additions in the third quarter. But as this graphic illustrates, there are very few regions in the world in which the service doesn’t dominate subscription streaming. Indeed, as the global map provided by streaming aggregation hub JustWatch

shows, there are some exceptions; Amazon Prime Video is top dog in India and in Poland; Turkey’s BluTV dominates in its domestic market; and Qiyi is the biggest online subscription streaming platform in China. But Netflix has more subscribers everywhere else. — Daniel Frankel For more stories like this, go to nexttv.com.

KTBY-KUYR anchor Maria Athens

The Streaming Service with the Most Subscribers

B+C’S MOST VIEWED Top stories on multichannel.com, Sept. 21-Oct. 21 1. Anchorage Mayor Resigns After ‘Inappropriate’ Relationship With Anchor 2. AMC Plus Now Available Via Apple, Prime Video 3. Amazon Channels Offering CBS All Access With Ads 4. Peacock Picks Up Most New Streaming Subscribers 5. YouTube TV Dropping Sinclair Sports Networks To read these stories, go to broadcastingcable.com. SOURCE: JustWatch.com. Market leader per country as of Oct. 20

STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 cable programs ranked by viewer engagement Ratings Rank

Telecast (Week Ending Oct. 11)

Network

Stickiness Index*

1

14

Vice Presidential Debate

MSNBC

174

2

767

Vice Presidential Debate

C-SPAN

152

3

2

Vice Presidential Debate

Fox News Channel

144

4

56

90 Day Fiance: The Other Way

TLC

144

5

60

My Best Friend's Bouquet

Hallmark Channel

141

6

99

Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit Stage Death

Hallmark Movies

141

7

5

Vice Presidential Debate

CNN

140

8

597

Vice Presidential Debate

Fox Business

139

9

69

Karen Kingsbury's A Time to Dance

Hallmark Channel

138

10

451

Betrayed By My Husband

LMN

135

Stickiness Rank

FOX News Democracy 2020, Vice Presidential Debate: Fox News; Facebook

*

The Stickiness Index looks at viewer engagement based on several factors. A higher number indicates more of the audience is tuned in for the duration of the telecast. * TV Engagement ratings powered by Comscore’s TV Essentials. (Sorted by social media activity.)

Broadcastingcable.com

29


DATA MINE

Data provided by

STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 broadcast programs ranked by viewer engagement

*

Ratings Rank

Telecast (Week Ending Oct. 11)

Network

Stickiness Index*

1

100

Exatlón Estados Unidos

Telemundo

143

2

73

Imperio de Mentiras

Univision

142

3

72

Tu Cara Me Suena

Univision

140

4

131

Enamorándonos

UniMás

138

5

69

Todo Por Mi Hija

Telemundo

137

6

80

Médicos, Línea De Vida

Univision

136

7

10

Vice Presidential Debate

ABC

136

8

14

Vice Presidential Debate

NBC

134

9

101

Dulce Ambición

Univision

130

6

2020 NBA Finals

ABC

130

Stickiness Rank

10

The Stickiness Index looks at viewer engagement based on several factors. A higher number indicates more of the audience is tuned in for the duration of the telecast. * TV Engagement ratings powered by Comscore’s TV Essentials. (Sorted by social media activity.)

THE WEEK OF JULY 20 TV Time users track the shows they're watching on TV via the TV Time app. That data is then used to determine the most-binged shows of the week in the U.S.

1

The Haunting of Bly Manor

Share of binges: 5.74%

2

Schitt's Creek

Share of binges: 3.98%

3

Emily in Paris

Share of binges: 1.66%

4

The 100

Share of binges: 1.64%

5

The Boys

Share of binges: 1.49%

6

Criminal Minds

Share of binges: 1.12%

Top five stories on nexttv.com, Sept. 21-Oct. 21

7

Grey's Anatomy

Share of binges: 1.04%

1. AT&T Pushes Back on DirecTV Satellite Disposal Fees

8

Lucifer

Share of binges: 1.00%

2. Ops Brace for Second Wave of Cord-Cutting

9

Big Brother

Share of binges: 0.87%

10

The Office

Share of binges: 0.87%

LAST WEEK: —

LAST WEEK:1

LAST WEEK: —

LAST WEEK:5

LAST WEEK: 4

LAST WEEK: 7

LAST WEEK: 9

2020 NBA Finals 1: Wally Skalij /Getty Images

LAST WEEK: 6

LAST WEEK: —

LAST WEEK: —

Networks reflected don't include every viewing platform available nor total viewing in share of binge

30 Broadcastingcable.com

To receive "The Binge Report" and otherTV Time reports, visit https://www.whipmedia.com/subscribe/

NEXT TV’S MOST VIEWED

3. AT&T: Taking a Mulligan on Media 4. Google Officially Rebrands Android TV as Google TV 5. AMC Plus Now Available Via Apple, Prime Video To read these stories, go to nexttv.com.


DATA MINE

Ratings Favorite television networks among American millennials TODAY.YOUGOV.COM

1

Cartoon Network

71%

4

National Geographic Channel

66%

1

Nickelodeon

71%

5

HBO

65%

1

Discovery Channel

71%

6

AMC

61%

2

Animal Planet

68%

6

ABC

61%

3

PBS

66%

6

Food Network

61%

Methodology: Based on an average sample size between 742-1,643 US millennials who had a positive rating of these networks between October 2019 - October 2020

Broadcastingcable.com

31


VIEWPOINT

Mr. President, Have You No Sense of Decency? The truth — and a chief executive who won’t embrace it — matters B+C Editorial

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

D

onald Trump has proved himself to be uniquely ill-suited to the challenges of his job and to this difficult moment in history, a moment whose difficulty is, in part, of his own making. The president has systematically undercut the other branches of government that are meant to be the checks and balances on his power. At a time when the country is politically divided, he sows even more division with tweets and statements that often have a problematic relationship to the truth, on the order of a distant cousin several times removed. The truth matters, and what the president says matters not just to him, but an entire country. His attacks on the media, including his assertions that reporters are enemies of the people in league with his opponents and could, perhaps, use a good roughing-up by his supporters, have consequences he either doesn't acknowledge or tacitly approves. Back in the weeks before the 2016 election, the Committee to Protect Journalists declared then-presidential candidate Donald Trump a threat to press freedom “unknown in modern history.” He has done nothing as president to leaven that harsh assessment. The president pathologically refuses to accept responsibility or criticism, and appears to weigh everything by whether he can take credit for it as a personal “win” or reframe defeat as victory. Those who can’t concede their mistakes can’t learn from them and can’t help repeating them. Taking a page from the Nixon White House, then rewriting it for the digital age, President Trump has used his position to try to get back at a host of perceived media enemies, whether it is suggesting the AT&T-Time Warner merger should be blocked because he doesn't like CNN, or threatening broadcast licenses when a story airs that rubs him the wrong way, or going after social media with a broad brush dipped in vitriol, or taking his marbles and going home when, after contracting COVID-19, he backs out of a virtual televised debate. Trump promised to be more presidential than any president. That definition apparently includes obstructing a national referendum on race relations by preventing

32 Broadcastingcable.com

any government contractor, and there are many of them in the communications business, from conducting diversity training classes that even suggest there is a history of systemic racism or sexism in this country. There has obviously been a big push by industry, including cable and broadcasting, to address that undeniable racism — discrimination, for example — has prevented minorities from having access to broadcast licenses and the boardrooms and back rooms where secondary deals, and billions of dollars, were made. In an executive order issued Sept. 22, the president called it a “pernicious and false belief” that the country is “an irredeemably racist and sexist country.” The order requires clauses in government contracts preventing

President Donald Trump speaks during his first debate against former Vice President Joe Biden.

Those who can’t concede their mistakes can’t learn from them and can’t help repeating them.

diversity training that includes that belief. The “irredeemably” in that order is an overstatement meant to shield the order from the condemnation it so richly deserves. Diversity training is all about the belief that the country is redeemable through education and understanding, followed by a collective acceptance of responsibility for past action or inaction, ideally then followed by a commitment to create a fairer and more just society for all. The president’s order attempts to short-circuit that process. We applaud NCTA-The Internet & Television Association for standing up to the president and that executive order. It signed on to a letter earlier this month that said the president’s order was disconnected from reality, that reality being “ongoing racial inequality and inequities in America.” On the issue we are, selfishly, most interested in — a vigorous and free press — as we have said on this page before, the media is hardly above criticism in the passion play of Donald Trump’s rise to the highest office in the land. But that is a separate issue from this president's petty and dangerous digital broadsides in rally speeches and mean tweets, which would be troubling in times without a pandemic and a racial reckoning. We said back in April the president needs to stop. He hasn’t. It is time for the voters to escort him out.

Fresh Start?

But we want to end on a hopeful note. At the end of last week’s hearings on a new Supreme Court nominee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, who was strongly opposed to both the nominee and the timing of the Republicanbacked effort to place her on the court ASAP, called the hearings some of the best she has ever participated in and praised Chairman Lindsey Graham for the way they had been conducted. She said it left her with some hope for bipartisan legislation on other topics in the future. For his part, Graham told Feinstein she was a “joy to work with.” He also said whatever happens in the presidential election, if he returned to the Senate he was committed to “starting over” and trying to find common ground. Whoever returns to Congress and the White House after the Nov. 3 referendum on the last four years on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and the Hill, may it be so. ●


THE FIVE SPOT

Chris Davies

EVP of Marketing and Distribution, BBC Global News International perspective on U.S. news gains traction with audiences

C

hris Davies is the executive responsible for overseeing the marketing, audience insights and distribution divisions for BBC World News and BBC. com. The BBC World News 24-hour channel, and programs such as BBC World News America, distributed to PBS stations, have seen gains in the United States that led to 32.5 million weekly viewers, up 50% year over year, according to the U.K.-based broadcaster. BBC World News reaches 112 million viewers worldwide, part of a massive audience of 438.4 million accessing BBC News weekly. Davies, based in London, joined BBC Worldwide in November 2010, coming from British Airways, where he was head of digital marketing. He chatted with B+C content director Kent Gibbons about BBC World News and news consumption trends in general.

BBC World News has been growing in the U.S., but can that continue with the problems for networks of cord-cutting? To be honest, I think live news TV is relatively resilient, because people want to be able to access a live news channel on a TV when they need it, at that particular moment. There are certain parts of the industry that will probably be affected more by cord-cutting and catch-up TV and OTT. But for us, as a live news service, it’s additive at the moment rather than reductive.

Chris Davies; Richard Kendal

Shows like a rebooted BBC News with Katty Kay are helping Chris Davies (r.) build up U.S. audiences.

34 Broadcastingcable.com

That leads to my second question, which is, where have you been gaining U.S. subscribers and viewers? What are the platforms that are doing that for you? We’ve seen a big spike and increase in audiences across PBS, to start with. We also saw a 50% increase in audiences basically across all TV, so that's PBS and our own channel, in the last year. A lot is down to the news cycle. The coronavirus story has been huge for everybody, of course, and we saw internally record upon record for audience numbers. The really good news for us is that, if you compare our situation now versus the situation last year, we’re still holding on to that big spike of audience. Are any new programs on the channel especially clicking with viewers? Well, we have been really pushing Outside Source, which is a program which PBS takes and is also on BBC World News. Basically, Ros Atkins is standing in front of a live TV screen, showing stories as they come up on social media and discussing them. That show's proven very popular. And we’ve recently redesigned and rebooted our Washington bureau. It looks fantastic. We’ve got BBC News with Katty [Kay] and Christian [Fraser], which is looking really smart. The U.S. elections: Has that been good for distribution and viewing of your channel? We are seeing lots of global interest in it. It’s a huge story that everyone's interested in, wherever you are.

BONUS FIVE What current TV shows are on your DVR? If that includes SVOD then I’m just finishing Ozark and onto AMC’s The Terror. All-time favorite TV show? Band of Brothers Which apps do you use the most? Naturally the BBC News app! What books are on your nightstand? I’ve just started Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Tell us about a recent memorable meal — where and what did you eat? My first post-lockdown meal treat was at the excellent Gymkhana restaurant in Mayfair, London.

In the U.S., you’re growing, but not at a mega level. Is it still a good U.S. business for you, this channel? Yeah, it absolutely is. It obviously isn’t as big as the CNNs and the Fox Newses, we all know that. But it performs a unique role. What's really good for a U.S. audience is to have the option to come to an impartial news service that has a global perspective, that tells a story that you can make your own mind up about. Backed up, then, with really good distribution by PBS. And then of course, we’ve got our website, bbc.com. We’re doing a whole lot of podcasts. Put it all together, it's actually quite a good reach story across all of our different platforms. ●


9000

Profile for Future PLC

Broadcasting and Cable - October 26, 2020  

Broadcasting and Cable - October 26, 2020

Broadcasting and Cable - October 26, 2020  

Broadcasting and Cable - October 26, 2020