A YEAR OF LIVING (LESS) DANGEROUSLY
A year after COVID-19 lockdowns halted productions and spiked broadband demand, networks and distributors are getting creative in their attempts to return to a new normalcy VOLUME 42 • NUMBER 5 • MARCH 8, 2021 • $6.95
HOW INCLUSION CAN POWER COVID RECOVERY
NETFLIX SHOWS SHINE BRIGHTEST AT GOLDEN GLOBES
VOLUME 42 • ISSUE 5 • MARCH 8, 2021 WWW.MULTICHANNEL.COM
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10 COVER STORY FEATURES
10 COVER STORY One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, both programmers and distributors are getting creative in their attempts to adapt to a new normalcy. By Mike Farrell 4 AGENDA Streaming services took center stage at the 78th Annual Golden Globes, with Netflix picking up the most trophies for programming such as The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit. By Michael Malone
16 PROGRAMMING 18 TECH 20 POLICY 22 BUSINESS 24 FATES & FORTUNES 26 DATA MINE 34 THE FIVE SPOT
4 AGENDA Cover: Getty Images; The Walking Dead: AMC; The Crown: Netflixs. This page: The Walking Dead: AMC; The Queen's Gambit: Netflixs
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32 VIEWPOINT The arrival of Women’s History Month serves as a reminder that a committment to workplace diversity and inclusion can help fuel the industry’s recovery from the worldwide COVID-19 crisis. By Maria Brennan, WICT
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Netflix Grabs Crown At Golden Globe Awards ‘The Crown’, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ clean up, and Pop TV’s ‘Schitt’s Creek’ stays strong
The Crown: Des Willie/Netflixs; Judas and the Black Messiah: Glen Wilson/HBO Max; The Queen’s Gambit: Phil Bray/Netflix; Schitt’s Creek: Pop TV
By Michael Malone email@example.com @BCMikeMalone
etflix was the big winner at the 78th Golden Globe Awards, bagging top drama with The Crown and best limited series with The Queen’s Gambit, and with those series’ stars racking up prizes too. Schitt’s Creek, which premiered on Pop TV but built a mass audience on Netflix, got top comedy. Tina Fey hosted the primetime event from the Rainbow Room in New York and Amy Poehler from the Beverly Hilton, where a collection of vaccinated first responders were in attendance. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association awards the Golden Globes, and the consortium took some heat in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 28 affair. That there are but 90 members that vote for the Golden Globes has long made for oddball picks now and then, but the Los Angeles Times also reported that none of the voters are Black. Midway through the three-hour production, HFPA brass addressed the criticism. “Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital,” said VP Helen Hoehne. “We must have Black journalists in our organization.” Black artists were nonetheless wellrepresented among the winners. The first prize, for supporting actor in a drama film, went to Daniel Kaluuya for his work in HBO Max’s Judas and the
And the Globes went to (clockwise, from top l.): Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin in The Crown; Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah; The Queen’s Gambit’s Anya Taylor-Joy; and Catherine O’Hara of Schitt’s Creek.
Black Messiah, about the battle between the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, and the FBI. Kaluuya played Hampton. Kaluuya’s remote response initially had connectivity issues, setting an ominous tone for the virtual awards. Eventually his words came through. “We’re here to give until we’re empty, and I gave everything,” Kaluuya said. John Boyega got the next award, for best supporting actor in a series. He was in the Steve McQueen-directed Small Axe on Amazon. Later on, Chadwick Boseman got best actor in a motion picture drama for his work in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Boseman died in August, and his widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, spoke on his behalf. “He would say something beautiful,” said an emotional Ledward. “Something inspiring.” Receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award, Jane Fonda cited Small Axe and Judas and the Black Messiah, among others, as projects that gave her empathy and opened her mind across this difficult past year. She pushed Hollywood to be more inclusive. “Let’s all of us make an effort to expand that tent so that everyone rises,” said Fonda. Norman Lear got the Carol Burnett Award for TV achievement. “He paved the way for all of us who follow,” said Tina Fey of the 98-year-old producer. “I’ve never lived alone,” Lear said. “I’ve never laughed alone.” Catherine O’Hara got best actress in a comedy for her work in Schitt’s Creek and Jason Sudeikis got best actor in a comedy for Apple TV Plus’s Ted Lasso.
Best actor in a limited series went to Mark Ruffalo of HBO’s I Know This Much Is True and best actress in a limited series went to Anya Taylor-Joy of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit. The Queen’s Gambit got best limited series. Best actress in a drama went to Emma Corrin of Netflix’s The Crown, Corrin beating out Olivia Colman from the same series. Corrin plays Princess Diana. Best actor in a drama stuck with The Crown, as Josh O’Connor got the prize. He plays Prince Charles. The show was again saluted when Gillian Anderson got best supporting actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. Best TV drama went to, yes, The Crown, beating out HBO’s Lovecraft Country, Disney Plus’s The Mandalorian and Netflix’s Ozark and Ratched. Upon getting best TV comedy for Schitt’s Creek, Eugene Levy called the award “a lovely vote of confidence in the messages the show stands for,” such as inclusion. Schitt’s won against Netflix’s Emily in Paris, HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant, Hulu’s The Great and Apple TV Plus’s Ted Lasso.
Netflix, ‘Borat’ Rack Up Wins
Netflix did well in terms of the movie awards. Its The Trial of the Chicago 7 won best screenplay and Rosamund Pike won best actress in a comedy for I Care a Lot. Best actor in a motion picture comedy went to Sacha Baron Cohen for Amazon’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. He joked that Donald Trump was contesting the result amidst reports of dead people voting. Borat then took best comedy movie. “This movie couldn’t have been possible without my co-star,” Cohen said. “I’m talking, of course, about Rudy Giuliani.” Andra Day got best actress in a motion picture drama for her work in The United States vs. Billie Holliday. Best motion picture drama was given to Nomadland (which, like Billie Holliday, is on Hulu). Director Chloé Zhao called the film “a pilgrimage through grief and healing.” “We don’t say goodbye,” Zhao added. “We say, see you down the road.” ●
Roku, Nielsen Set Table For Addressable Ads Deal gives Nielsen more data for cross-platform measurement By Jon Lafayette firstname.lastname@example.org @jlafayette
treaming and advanced TV advertising took a big step towards convergence as Roku and Nielsen made a deal focusing on strengthening their grips on advertising and measurement. “This is somewhat of a watershed moment which should spell out to many TV buyers that the space is evolving rapidly,” said Paul Silver, global chief strategy officer for MIQ, a programmatic intelligence company. “The assumption has always been that TV will soon look more like digital in every facet of the planning and buying lifecycle. The truth, in this case, is that a digital player is becoming more like ‘TV.’ Perhaps the reality is the market will meet in the middle ground.” In the deal, Roku acquired Nielsen’s advanced advertising business, including its automatic content recognition (ACR) and dynamic ad insertion (DAI) technologies and their associated patents. The acquisition puts Roku in a position to enable addressable advertising not only on its streaming platform, but in linear broadcast and cable as well. Nielsen, which has been selling off businesses to focus on its One Nielsen plan for measuring programming and advertising across all screens, gets an important customer in Roku as well as a wealth of data coming from Roku’s extensive user base.
“We believe it’s fair to question why Nielsen was flirting with this [addressable ad] business in the first place,” Sanford C. Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger said in a research note. Placing ads is very different from measuring them, Juenger said, and “independence is core to Nielsen’s trusted, third-party role as the industry currency.” Roku will integrate Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings for advertisers into its OneView media sales and advertising platform. It will also enable programmers that work with Roku to implement Nielsen Digital Content Ratings via the platform. The businesses Nielsen is selling don’t have “anything to do whatsoever with Nielsen’s current or future measurement capabilities or process design,” Juenger said. On the other hand, delivery and execution of addressable ad campaigns “is a business that Roku is already in and has designs to make much bigger,” he said. The deal could make Roku, whose advertising revenue growth in the streaming segment
The acquisition expands Roku’s reach beyond connected TV into other aspects of advanced advertising.
PARAMOUNT PLUS LAUNCHES BUT HAS STREAMING PEAKS TO CLIMB AFTER MUCH FANFARE, ViacomCBS has launched Paramount Plus, its direct-toconsumer streaming services. Paramount Plus may be the last of the big Plusses the industry sees for a while. Most of the other media companies have already dived into the streaming stream and the competition to scale up to the levels of Netflix and Disney will be intense. From a distribution standpoint, Paramount Plus got off to a solid start, with a presence on the big streamers, including Roku and Amazon Fire TV. 6
Comcast has it also. Unlike Disney Plus, HBO Max and Discovery Plus, Paramount Plus did not have a mobile partner offering it free to ramp up its launch. The initial version of Paramount Plus, a bulked-up, rebranded version of CBS All Access, costs $9.99 a month and is ad-free, except for the live feed of CBS. A more ad-supported version, costing $4.99, is expected in June. It will not have the live CBS feed. Subscribers will be able to watch more than 30,000 episodes and a large number of films from ViacomCBS’s brands, as
rocketed in the fourth quarter, an addressable player in traditional linear as well. “We’re excited to work alongside our publishing partners and bring the same benefits to linear by enabling real-time replacement of traditional ads with targeted ads,” said Alison Levin, VP, ad sales and strategy at Roku. “Our goal has always been really simple: just to make TV a better experience for everyone.” Nielsen had been testing its addressable DIA technology with a large group of programmers, including ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, Fox and WarnerMedia. “Owing to the partnerships that Nielsen brought to the table, Roku could reasonably address households more precisely across major stations and networks in live, linear scheduling,” MIQ’s Silver said. “This has just catapulted Roku out of CTV and into the TV big leagues.” Bringing the industry closer to convergence could be a benefit to some media and a threat to others. “Everybody in the industry recognizes the need for there to be greater cross-platform currency alignment,” E.W. Scripps CEO Adam Symson said. “The idea of a buyer being able to buy on-air and online impressions more easily and for those things to line up will benefit on-air, quite frankly.” Dynamic ad insertion will also be important, particularly as broadcasters transition to the ATSC 3.0 format. Symson said Scripps is participating in experiments with multi-versioning and programmatic. “We’ve made a big investment in our over-the-air share and expect to be able to monetize that and increase the yield as the technology allows us to do it.” ●
45 days after their theatrical release. ViacomCBS told analysts it expects to increase its number of global streaming subscribers to well as live news 65 million to 70 million and sports. by 2024 from the current The SpongeBob 30 million. It also expects Movie: Sponge on Sponge streaming revenue to grow to the Run is available at On the Run $7 billion annually. launch along with Kamp “Competitive pressures for Koral: SpongeBob’s Under the top spots in consumers’ videoYears. Paramount Plus also has its own, subscription preferences only keep updated versions of shows ranging from becoming more intense, and the path to 60 Minutes to The Real World. profitability or the ultimate margin profile With the Paramount name on the door, for ViacomCBS’s services remain unclear the service will also be offering films to us,” RBC Capital markets analyst from Paramount including A Quiet Place Kutgun Maral said. — JL Part 2 and Mission Impossible 7 just
WATCH THIS …
Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
The Masked Singer Season five of The Masked Singer is on Fox Wednesday. Niecy Nash is guest host as Nick Cannon recuperates from COVID. Returning panelists are Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke. Thursday, it’s season four of Cake on FXX. The show is “a handcrafted assortment of bite-sized shorts carefully curated and served up as a tasty treat for the mind,” according to FXX. On Friday, movie Cherry is on Apple
Rock the Block
By Michael Malone email@example.com @BCMikeMalone
Rock the Block: HGTV; Genera+ion: HBO Max; The Masked Singer: Michael Becker/Fox; Cherry: Apple TV; Kid 90: Hulu
Pennington Ready to ‘Rock’ on HGTV
Season two of Rock the Block is on HGTV March 8. Ty Pennington hosts the home-makeover show, which sees design experts work on identical houses, seeing which one can most maximize the value. The winner gets bragging rights and a street named for them. Two-person teams are a new wrinkle. “Two people work together, trying to create one cohesive design,” Pennington said. “That works sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t.” Contestants include Mike Holmes (Holmes on Homes), Alison Victoria (Windy City Rehab) and Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent (Nate and Jeremiah: Save My House). “It’s great to see how these artists go through their process of design,” said Pennington. Most every contestant is “in over their heads” at some point, according to the host. He added that the
“chaos” sometimes gets cut out of design shows. Not so much on this one. “On Rock the Block, you see the good, the bad, the ugly,” Pennington said. Pennington previously hosted Trading Spaces and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He doesn’t mind adding a little chaos to the Rock the Block mix. Said Pennington, “I love throwing wrenches and surprises into their plans.”
Talking About My ‘Genera+ion’
Genera+ion begins on HBO Max March 11. The dramedy comes from 19-year-old Zelda Barnz and her father, Daniel, who executive produce along with her father, Ben. (See Review. page 16.) Frank and funny, the series is about a group of high schoolers exploring modern sexuality. Zelda took to writing as a small child. She was obsessed with fairies as a young child, her fathers said, and would fill large notebooks with what they called “fairy narratives.” One can’t help but wonder if there was some awkwardness when Zelda shared her more risque Genera+ion scripts. “It was strange discussing some of the topics in our show at first,” she said, “but it got to the point where it was, if I want this show to be everything I envision, I really need to be honest.” Added Daniel Barnz, “Sometimes I’m still blushing really hard.” Zelda considers Freaks and Geeks, and the way “it captures teen angst but also joy,” an influence. She also mentions Fleabag, while her fathers toss in Friday Night Lights. The trio aims for authentic queer representation in the show. “Their queerness is a big part of who they are, but that’s not all of who they are,” Zelda said of her characters. “They have personalities beside their queerness.” Lena Dunham, a fan of Daniel and Ben’s film Cake, is an executive producer. Zelda called her “an amazing mentor.” Added Ben: “We started developing this and it felt very much in her wheelhouse. So we approached her [Dunham] and it all took off from there.” ●
TV Plus. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the film follows an army vet who robs banks to support his opioid addiction. Tom Holland stars. Also on Friday, documentary Kid 90 is on Hulu. Soleil Moon Frye, who was the child star of Punky Brewster, breaks down hundreds of hours of footage of her and her friends growing up in Hollywood and New York. Sunday, the Grammys are on CBS. Trevor Noah hosts.
A YEAR OF LIVING (LESS) DANGEROUSLY Twelve months after COVID-19 lockdowns halted productions and spiked broadband demand, networks and distributors are getting creative in their attempts to return to a new normalcy By Mike Farrell firstname.lastname@example.org @MikeFCable
Getty Images; Inset: The Walking Dead: AMC
ometimes art imitates life a little too closely. For the hit AMC show The Walking Dead, the lockdowns, social distancing and related protocols associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, which is nearing its one-year anniversary, presented a particular challenge. How do you keep arguably the largest cast and crew in scripted series production safe while at the same time ensuring that new episodes of the still-popular show continue to be produced? For AMC Studios, the production arm of parent AMC Networks and the producer of The Walking Dead, it was a truly collaborative effort. All across the television industry, distributors and programmers have walked the fine line between being able to get out their products, satisfy their audiences and customers and meet growing demand, all while keeping their employees safe. For cable operators and networks, that has meant adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols and finding new ways to deliver products to consumers. For programmers, it has also meant in some cases finding ways to limit cast sizes and production crew exposures in unique ways. The premise of The Walking Dead comes uncomfortably close to an all-too-familiar reality — a global pandemic of questionable origins causes widespread death leading to a zombie apocalypse and forcing the non-zombie survivors to find a safe haven. For the show, which finished its 10th season in 2020 and was headed into its 11th and final season later this year, the dilemma was how to keep the cameras rolling and the 250-person crew — including 22 actors — safe during a real-life pandemic. After some thought, executives, producers, showrunners and writers on the series came up with a unique solution, creating six episodes as an extension of its 10th season that would focus on specific characters and require smaller casts. “Creative people are creative,” The Walking Dead executive producer and showrunner Angela Kang said
in a Twitter video on making the extended 10th season. “If there is any superpower that we have as people that are making television or movies, is that we are supposed to think of out-of-the-box ways to do things. So I think you’ve really seen people stepping up to figure out how to make these processes possible at a really difficult time for everyone.” AMC Networks chief operating officer Ed Carroll said the decision to produce the six extended episodes was made to keep people safe, but it also resulted in some of the best programming in the show’s decade-long run. “Many of the best episodes of The Walking Dead are the ones that are based on character,” Carroll said in an interview, adding that the show wouldn’t have lasted as long if it relied only on the zombie scare. “You really need to care about the characters. … We were able to do that and get everyone back to work safely, and take a very big show and make the set quite a bit smaller, but I think creatively accomplish some of our best storytelling.”
The first of those six episodes aired on Feb. 28, titled “Home Sweet Home” and focusing on Maggie Rhee, who left the series in season nine and is played by the returning Lauren Cohan. Other episodes are focused on Saviors’ leader Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). COVID-19 protocols were the same on the TWD set as in all other AMC Studios productions — having an on-site epidemiologist; constantly testing and monitoring crew and actors for the virus; thoroughly cleaning before, during and after shooting; practicing social distancing; and essentially keeping people segmented. But in the six new episodes, the writers and producers crafted narratives that gave them the ability to use two different directors and shoot them in a sequence that kept one unit away from another. “What you have to do is rethink the entire operation, so your actors are only with the actors they need to be in a scene with and the crew is only coming into direct contact with other crew members that are essential to do their job,” Carroll said. “You’re minimizing the number of people on an active set, and I include network executives in that. We would normally be making set visits for all sorts of reasons. We’re just not doing that.
I think you’ve really seen people stepping up to figure out how to make these processes possible at a really difficult time for everyone. — Angela Kang, executive producer/ showrunner, The Walking Dead
We’re having our interaction with the cast and crew via Zoom or Teams. When you take a big show that is a multifaceted compilation and you reduce it as best you can, you break off small segments of the operation and keep them as discrete as possible.” The Walking Dead was unique in that it lent itself to character studies. Other series on the AMC slate won’t likely go the same route. “As we’ve all gotten better at the protocols, we think we can go back to a larger canvas of storytelling for season 11 and certainly for our other shows as well,” Carroll said. “Ideally, if you think about years from now, if people are catching up on a show, you wouldn’t want them to be able to say, ‘Oh, those must have been the COVID episodes,’ because they look and feel different.” AMC Studios is getting back into its production stride, Carroll added. Better Call Saul was expected to start production on its final season in early March, and season 11 of The Walking Dead is in production in Georgia. Prequel Fear the Walking Dead started production earlier near Austin, Texas, although there were some delays because of the frigid weather in that state. AMC also is more than halfway through shooting the premiere eight-episode season of Kevin Can F**k Himself, and is starting production on the second season of Walking Dead: World Beyond. Later this month, production starts on 61st Street, a criminaljustice series based in Chicago. Production for many of WE tv’s reality programs has been ongoing, either via Zoom or other means.
The Walking Dead: AMC
Other Production Restarts
Many other content companies have resumed production in one form or another, including Fox Entertainment, which said it is adjusting and adapting for the “new normal” when it returns, with all scripted series — 9-1-1, 9-1-1 Lone Star, Prodigal Son, The Resident and Last Man Standing — in production. In addition, all of the studio’s pilots that were ordered last year have been in production and are scheduled to deliver in mid-to-late March, including comedy This Country from Jenny Bicks and Paul Feig, based on the BAFTAwinning BBC format, for 2021-22. Fox Entertainment is also creating new pathways for projects, including opening writers’ rooms for two dramas with an eye toward series orders: Our Kind of People, a co-production with 20th Television, based on the acclaimed novel, from executive producers Lee Daniels and Karin Gist; and an untitled music drama. Fox Entertainment added that its animation efforts, including its in-house studio Bento Box, which produced The Great North, Bob’s Burgers, Duncanville and upcoming series Housebroken, has been largely unaffected by the pandemic. Bento Box has added new crew members since the pandemic began and also will produce an untitled Dan Harmon animated comedy scheduled to premiere in 2022. It was about a year ago, March 11, 2020, that the World Health Organization called the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, with the first statewide stay-at-home orders issued shortly
Extending Circumstances AMC Networks’ solution to the production halt spurred by the pandemic was to create six character-driven episodes in an extended season 10 of its hit series The Walking Dead, using smaller casts and crews.
Episode 1017: “Home Sweet Home”
thereafter. To date, the pandemic has claimed more than 2.5 million lives globally (including more than 500,000 in the U.S.), forced millions of people to work or go to school from their homes and impacted nearly every aspect of everyday life. While hopes have been heightened by the slow but increasingly steady rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the deceleration of cases in the U.S. and elsewhere, for the TV industry it is anything but business as usual. For starters, the pandemic is far from over, even as there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. While the number of daily cases was down in the U.S. in January and early February, according to the Center for Disease Control, it began to tick up toward the end of the month. According to reports, there were 77,804 new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of Feb. 25, up from 55,195 as of Feb. 21. That number started to trend down again — there were 50,925 cases on Feb. 28, down 26% in the past two weeks, with 1,129 new deaths, down 21%. New strains of the virus were found in Houston and other parts of the country, but as vaccinations increase and funding for more widespread deployment is baked into the $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief bill currently before the Senate, optimism that cases will continue their steady decline is high. Stay-at-home orders, implemented to halt the spread of the virus, also helped drive cable broadband subscriber growth to record highs, as the top three publicly traded cable operators added more than 4 million high-speed internet customers in 2020. While that level of growth isn’t expected this year, many operators are looking how to address the market as more consumers return to the office. At Mediacom Communications, the focus has been on making higher speeds available to its customers. Broadband speeds of 1 gigabit per second are now accessible in all of its markets, and the payoff has been strong. The need for speed has been evident at the company. Mediacom reported a threefold increase in 1 Gbps customers year-over-year, and said 14.6% of its broadband subscribers take the 1 Gbps tier. That
Top right: The Walking Dead used smaller casts and crew and special protocols to produce an extended season 10. Below: AMC chief operating officer Ed Carroll.
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) has returned with a story she is not ready to share, even when her past catches up to her. The safety of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is at stake again. Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie fight an unseen and unknown threat. Director: David Boyd Writers: Kevin Deiboldt & Corey Reed
Episode 1018: “Find Me”
An adventure for Daryl and Carol (Melissa McBride) turns sideways when they come across an old cabin. It takes Daryl back to the years when he left the group after Rick disappeared as he relives a time that only the apocalypse could manifest. Director: David Boyd Writer: Nicole Mirante-Matthews
Episode 1019: “One More”
Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) search for food and supplies to bring back to Alexandria. Small tragedies lead to bigger tragedies as faith is broken and optimism is fragmented when they are put to the ultimate test. Director: Laura Belsey Writers: Erik Mountain & Jim Barnes
Episode 1020: “Splinter”
Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), and Princess (Paola Lázaro) are captured and separated. Princess struggles with memories of her traumatic past and tries to escape one way or another with the help of Ezekiel. Director: Laura Belsey Writers: Julia Ruchman & Vivian Tse
Episode 1021: “Diverged”
Daryl and Carol come to a fork in the road and head their separate ways. With each going into their own type of survival mode, the easiest of challenges become much harder. Will their individual journeys be the tipping point needed to mend their friendship, or is the distance between them permanent? Director: David Boyd | Writer: Heather Bellson
EPISODE 1022: “Here’s Negan”
Carol takes Negan on a journey, hoping to minimize the increasing tension. Negan reflects on the events that led him to this point and comes to a conclusion about his future. Director: Laura Belsey Writer: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
compares to about an 8.5% take rate for 1 Gbps service on average nationwide, according to OpenVault Broadband Insights. While most operators aren’t expecting the same broadband growth this year, some are looking closely at how their customers’ work habits could change. Some anticipate a hybrid approach between office and home will become more of the norm. “As things start to open up, we see customers that will still work from home permanently or on a hybrid basis and will continue to want to have a better connection that can give them that comfort that they can get their work done,” Mediacom senior VP customer service and financial operations Tapan Dandnaik said. To that extent, Mediacom has raised speeds for some levels of service and boosted usage allowances. The current usage allowance levels are 1, 2 and 6 Terabytes for its 100 megabits per second, 300 Mbps and 1 Gbps tiers. “We want customers to get the best speeds and the best service and make sure what we have for the customers is the appropriate service at the appropriate price point, so there is value in what we’re offering,” Dandnaik said. Charter Communications added more than 2 million broadband customers in 2020. While the No. 2 U.S. cable operator did see some customers migrate to higher speeds, chief operating officer John Bickham said that for the most part, subscribers found they could do a lot with less. Charter raised minimum speeds in most of its markets to 200 Mbps last year, and offers 400 Mbps and 1 Gbps service as well. Bickham said there are a few markets where 100 Mbps is still the minimum. “We saw some upgrading,” Bickham said. “But fundamentally, if you have a 100 Mbps level of service in your home and it’s solid, there is hardly anything you can do that requires more speed. ... If people want a high level of speed, we’ll sell it to them.” Cable operators across the board moved to incentivize workers that had to remain in the field, either through bonuses or other means. Charter pledged to raise the minimum wage it paid hourly workers to $20 per hour by 2022, and said it is well on the way toward that goal. Charter also has teamed up with healthcare company Matrix Medical to vaccinate employees who want it on-site. According to executive VP, human resources Paul Marchand, the plan is to establish 50 to 60 megasites at Charter facilities across the country, working with local and state health departments to secure dosages and vaccinate employees that request it. Marchand added the company realizes that employees do and will have alternatives to get the vaccine — some are already getting it if they qualify — and that is OK, too. But he added that vaccines are expected to become more widely available in the coming weeks and Charter wanted to be prepared. “I can envision in the next four to six weeks on-site, maybe starting in one or two locations and building over time, we will be able to provide shots to our employees,” Marchand said. The pandemic accelerated cable’s longdesired plans to move toward self-installation.
Playing In the Band(width)
If you think about years from now, if people are catching up on a show, you wouldn’t want them to be able to say, ‘Oh, those must have been the COVID episodes,’ because they look and feel different.
Bandwidth consumption spiked in March, the early days of the pandemic and lockdown orders, according to cloudbased solutions and tools provider OpenVault. Monthly Gigabytes of Usage
500 2020 2019
SOURCE: Open Vault Broadband Insights
— Ed Carroll, chief operating officer, AMC Networks Comcast claims that more than two-thirds of its total installations are done by the customer. At Charter, self-installs are at about 80%. That pace is likely to continue. “Don’t undersell self-installation,” MoffettNathanson principal and senior analyst Craig Moffett said. “It’s here to stay, and the MSOs will only get better and better at it.”
While all the emphasis has been on the general public working from home, most cable employees had to perform their tasks remotely and have performed amazingly well under the circumstances. For some workers — especially customer-service representatives — remote work could be permanent. “Work-at-home CSRs are a game-changer, particularly if we go back to having a tight labor market like we had pre-pandemic,” Moffett said. “Among the biggest costs in running call centers are recruiting and training new employees, and one of the biggest reasons for turnover in call centers is lack of childcare. The ability to have CSRs working from home is transformational.” At Mediacom Communications, about 95% of CSRs work remotely, Dandnaik said. But he added that anything could change. “The thing is, we’re in March and if you asked me the same question in June, I hope to be able to say we have some kind of rotation,” Dandnaik said. “I think things are evolving. At some point in the future, I don’t know when, we will come up with the ideal hybrid approach to make sure we are adjusting to the new normal.” Mediacom will be flexible with its employees and take their personal situations into consideration, he added. “We operate in 22 markets,” Dandnaik said. Where our call centers are, we have 10 or 12 locations. Every market is different and every situation is local.” Bickham said he expects the return to normalcy will most likely happen at a gradual pace.
Law of Averages The average broadband household in Q4 used a mountain of data in 2020, as the pandemic forced normally outside activities (work and school) indoors. Average Bandwidth Usage
Average Downstream Speed
Average Number of Connected Devices
SOURCE: OpenVault Broadband Insights
Speed Demons As stay-at-home orders began to become more prevalent across the country, so did the demand for higher speeds. According to OpenVault, demand for 1 Gbps service more than doubled between Q1 and Q4 of 2020, while demand for sub-100 Mbps service shrunk. 20 Mbps - 40 Mbps
10 Mbps - 20 Mbps: 3.52%
Under 10 Mbps: 3.4%
1 Gbps: 3.75%
50 Mbps - 75 Mbps
500 Mbps - 900 Mbps: 4.25% 200 Mbps - 400 Mbps
100 Mbps - 200 Mbps
50 Mbps - 75 Mbps
20 Mbps - 40 Mbps 10 Mbps - 20 Mbps: 2% Under 10 Mbps: 4.4%
100 Mbps - 200 Mbps
1 Gbps 500 Mbps - 900 Mbps: 3.7%
200 Mbps - 400 Mbps
SOURCE: OpenVault Broadband Insights
Live Sports Events Are Moving to Streaming Paramount Plus, Peacock, ESPN Plus building up large sports content portfolios By R. Thomas Umstead email@example.com @rtumstead30
Champions League: Cristi Preda/Getty Images; Genera+ion: Jennifer Clasen/HBO Max
s the traditional TV sports industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 shutdown of live events almost a year ago, it faces another body blow in the near future from the increasing migration of sports content to digital platforms. At its March 4 launch event, ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus promised to offer a significant amount of live sports-event streaming in its new iteration, joining rivals such as NBCUniversal’s Peacock, Disney’s ESPN Plus and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max that are offering or are planning to offer live sports events previously available only to subscribers of the cable bundle. Despite disappointing ratings for several big-ticket sports events over the past few months — audiences for both the College Football Playoff Championship on ESPN Jan. 11 and CBS’s Feb. 7 Super Bowl LV telecast were significantly down compared to last year — sports remains one of the few television properties that commands a sizable live viewing audience. The genre’s loyal fan base is a desirable target for new, upstart streaming services looking to build their subscriber numbers. “While sports ratings have dropped during a very difficult year, out of the top 100 shows last year, around 75 were sports events,” TV sports consultant Lee Berke said. “Every new television platform since radio has offered up sports, and that has replicated itself again and again. The streaming services are no different.” That reality was made very clear during ViacomCBS’s Feb. 24 streaming presentation for Paramount Plus. The SVOD streaming service — which took over for CBS All Access on March 4 — plans to offer more than 1,000 live sporting events a year, according to ViacomCBS president and CEO Bob Bakish. This fall, Paramount Plus will stream all of CBS’s regular-season NFL telecasts and will become the new home of Inside the NFL, which currently airs on Showtime. Paramount Plus will also have UEFA Champions League and Europa League games, as well as live National Women’s Soccer League contests. Last month, CBS All Access live-streamed CBS’s broadcast coverage of Super Bowl LV. “Paramount Plus will be the leader in live
sports,” CBS Entertainment Group president and CEO George Cheeks said during the presentation, adding that sports is the service’s No. 1 acquisition driver. NBCUniversal’s Peacock is already a major player in live sports streaming, having secured English Premier League games. NBCU’s decision to discontinue NBCSN will give Peacock more live sports content, although high-profile NBC Sports properties, such as the National Hockey League, will move to USA Network. The service will also offer live event programming from the Paralympics, including medal round action in wheelchair basketball, and is expected to be a major outlet for the Tokyo Summer Olympics. The $9.99-per-month Peacock ($4.99 with limited commercials) has also secured content from the streaming WWE Network, including rights to the pro wrestling outfit’s monthly pay-per-view events, including Wrestlemania. Other sports-centric services like ESPN Plus continue to secure high-profile events — the service currently distributes UFC pay-per-view events and has a long-term boxing agreement with Top Rank — putting continued pressure on traditional television networks to secure high-profile sports events in the future. Most observers believe events like the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series and NCAA men’s basketball tournament will remain on broadcast and cable services in the near term. But valuable content, such as regular-season college and pro games, could make the move. “You’re going to reach a point in the next couple of years where viewers will begin to say there’s not a lot of difference between ESPN and ESPN Plus,” Lee said. “It’s an easy programming strategy — sports are exclusive, nobody else has it and it draws passionate fans that tend to shift to new technologies.” ●
Paramount Plus’s dive into sports programming will include exclusive U.S. rights to UEFA Champions League soccer.
GENERA+ION (Debuts March 11, HBO Max) HBO MAX LOOKS to offer an authentic view of the lives of diverse youth with its new original series, Genera+ion. Executive produced by Lena Durham and created by the father/daughter duo of Ben and Zelda Barnz, the series revolves around a group of high-school students trying to find their identities while fitting in within a conservative town. That reality is shown early in the pilot, when star athlete and popular gay student Chester (Justice Smith) is flagged by the school principal for his third dress-code violation in the first month of school for sporting an eccentric, midriff-cut shirt and tight pants. He’s sent to see a guidance counselor (Nathan StewartJarrett) who seems to connect with Chester, who isn’t as secure in himself or in his surroundings as he appears on the surface. Other characters, such as twins Nathan (Uly Schlesinger) and Naomi (Chloe East), unveil the ups and downs of relationships as both hold revealing sexually-themed secrets that threaten but ultimately strengthen their bond. Each episode reflects the perspective of one or more students, and at times those perspectives are derived from the same party or school activity, providing a unique view of how each character perceives the same sequence of events. Genera+ion, much like other teen-themed series from HBO like Euphoria, doesn’t sugarcoat the experiences of its teen protagonists, but instead gives an often dark but refreshing look at a diverse group of vibrant, troubled, sometimes excessive, social-media driven and ultimately impressive young people. HBO Max will stream three episodes of Genera+ion on March 11, two additional episodes on March 18, two episodes on March 25 and one episode on April 1. An additional eight episodes comprising the second half of the season will debut later this year. — RTU
Amazon Gains Google TV App Support for IMDb TV Support for more Android TV devices on Fire TV to come By Daniel Frankel firstname.lastname@example.org @dannyfrankel
ontinuing a thaw among the Silicon Valley giants in regard to over-the-top video distribution, Amazon’s IMDb TV streaming service is now supported by Chromecast with Google TV, as well as smart TVs running the new Google TV OS. Support for other devices built on Google’s Android TV platform will arrive “in the coming weeks,” Amazon said in a Feb. 24 statement. The news came just one week after Apple said its Apple TV app was supported by the Google TV OS. As for Amazon’s free-to-consumer, ad-supported IMDb TV service, it already had intrinsic distribution on Amazon's Fire TV device ecosystem, as well as Roku and Microsoft Xbox gadgets. Amazon hasn't released an active user metric for IMDb TV specifically, but it said recently that it has 55 million monthly active users across its ad-supported channels. Amazon has been investing in its AVOD platform to the level of original shows. Notably, on Feb. 26 the service debuted Top Class: The Life and Times of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers, a six-part docuseries focused on
Sports docuseries Top Class premiered on IMDb TV on Feb. 26.
the high school basketball team of LeBron James’s son, Bronny. Google TV is the successor to Android TV, overlaying advanced search and recommendation features. So far, several smart TV makers, including Sony, have signaled their intention to integrate the new OS into their 2021 TV set shipments. But the broader field of Android TV devices will take several years to switch over to Google TV. Android TV and its successor remain niche factors in the overall connected TV market. For example, in a recent Conviva survey of what devices U.S. consumers used to stream the Super Bowl earlier this month, only 4% used Android TV/Google TV, with 1% using Google's legacy Chromecast OTT device. ●
AT&T TV TO ALLOW UP TO 20 SIMULTANEOUS STREAMS AT&T SAYS IT’S listening to its homebound customers and increasing the number of simultaneous streams available on its AT&T TV platform to 20 from three. The change won’t affect the price of the service, the telecom said. Notably, users can only engage in 20 simultaneous streams from one IP address. Out-of-home streams — those not tied to the same internet protocol address — are limited to three. Also, some of AT&T’s programming deals restrict it from offering 20 simultaneous streams for certain networks, notably Fox channels, Starz, Showtime, the NHL Network and PBS. AT&T said it is also turning its 500hour DVR service, a $10-a-month add-on, into an unlimited recording offering. The 20-hour cloud DVR, which comes with the base service, is unchanged. AT&T finished 2020 down another 5.1 million subscribers across its four pay TV platforms. It has struck a deal to spin off DirecTV, U-verse TV and AT&T TV Now into a separate company with private-equity firm TPG. — DF
Top Class: IMDb TV; AT&T; TiVo
TIVO PATENT JUGGERNAUT TIES UP VODAFONE, SHARP TIVO AND ITS new parent company, Xperi Holdings, have renewed two more patents, inking intellectual property licensing extensions with U.K. telecom Vodafone and Korean consumerelectronics giant Sharp. Since TiVo settled its four-year IP battle with Comcast in November, the company has also struck deals with Cox Communications, TCL and Sony. Vodafone, which operates video services across Europe and parts of Africa, providing more than 22 million customers with TV/video, will continue to have access to TiVo
products including content discovery, conversational voice and insight data analytics. “With this extension of TiVo’s services, Vodafone is maintaining its service offerings and keeping audiences engaged in the hugely competitive entertainment landscape,” Matt Milne, chief revenue officer for Xperi, said in a statement. Under its multiyear exemption, Sharp will use TiVo’s “G-Guide” products, including G-Guide HTML, G-Guide xD and remote schedule recording service, across compatible television and Ultra HD Blu-ray recorder products in the
Vodafone and Sharp have extended their IP licenses with TiVo. Japanese market. This includes the latest Aquos-branded 8K TVs. Xperi, which controls more than 10,000 patents and patent applications, said during its third-quarter earnings
call that it expects its IP licensing business to generate around $350 million in revenue in 2021. Xperi reports fourth-quarter earnings on Feb. 23. — DF
Biden DOJ Backs Sharing 6-GHz Band for WiFi Administration supported Trump FCC’s decision in court brief By John Eggerton email@example.com @eggerton
he Biden and Trump Justice Departments have at least one thing in common: Both support opening up the entire 6-GHz band for WiFi, a move pushed by cable operators and computer companies. The Federal Communications Commission, under then-chairman Ajit Pai, voted unanimously last April to allow all 1,200 megahertz of the 6-gigahertz band to be shared with unlicensed WiFi, the regulator’s latest move in freeing up more spectrum for connecting 5G in-home devices — to enable video streaming and video calls — and for connecting internet of things (IoT) devices to the web. The WiFi Forward coalition, whose members include NCTA–The Internet & Television Association and Google, has said that opening up the GHz band, combined with the FCC’s plan to free up 5.9 GHz spectrum, also for unlicensed WiFi, will add at least $183.44 billion to the U.S.
economy over the next five years. The FCC voted in October 2020 to free up the lower 45 MHz of the 5.9 GHz band for wireless broadband while transitioning the remaining upper 30 MHz to the latest iteration of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications and cellular vehicle-toeverything (C-V2X) technology. Broadcasters, telecoms and electric utilities, all using the 6-GHz band, tried to get the FCC to reconsider the decision, concerned about interference from
Getty Images; FormulaNone /Josh Lintz/Wikimedia Commons
MAINE A LA CARTE LAW ISN’T DEAD YET A U.S. APPEALS court has given cable operators hope that they won’t have to start offering channels and even individual programs a la carte in Maine. But the fight may not be over, and over-the-top platforms and satellite providers could conceivably be brought into the discussion. In 2019, Maine passed a law requiring cable operators, but not other video distributors, to offer every channel and program a la carte, rather than bundled in a channel or tier of channels. Customers would have to buy the basic package before having the a la carte option for other channels and programs. Reports that the court had thrown out the law were premature. Instead, it upheld an injunction against enforcement as currently written, but suggested the law could be rewritten to pass constitutional muster.
Broadcasters are trying to get the FCC to rescind its bandwidthsharing plan, citing interference with electronic newsgathering (ENG).
unlicensed broadband access devices. When the FCC rejected that petition, they sued the commission in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which has principal jurisdiction over the regulator’s decisions. AT&T, the lead party in the suit against the FCC, other telecoms and utility companies use the spectrum for backhaul. And while the telecoms are all for expanding WiFi, they said the FCC was opening up the entire band without what they argued were sufficient protections for incumbents. Broadcasters favored protecting those already using the band for electronic news gathering (ENG) by reserving 80 MHz exclusively for journalists, saying there was too much risk of harmful interference to that even-more-crucial service in a time of pandemic. The FCC, though, was convinced it could open up the entire band and still protect the incumbents, including by employing power limits. The Biden administration agreed, to the applause of Google and cable operators. Justice joined with the current FCC on a brief to the appeals court to that effect. The DOJ said it was satisfied the FCC knew what it was doing in imposing technical and operational limits on WiFi use of the band and deferred to the FCC’s expert judgment that those would prevent harmful interference. Citing their indoor and outdoor use of the band for ENG, broadcasters were back at the FCC late last month contending there were “no 6-GHz unlicensed deployments that would provide real-world experience supporting the commission’s already tenuous conclusions about the likelihood of interference to licensed services.” ●
singled out cable speech for regulation, but excluded satellite or online video distributors, and said the law was pre-empted by the federal Communications Act. They then sought a preliminary injunction to block the bill’s implementation while the There is definitely a high bar for grantlegal challenge was heard. ing the injunction, as a Maine district The 1st District concluded that a la court did, and for upholding it, as the 1st carte is a speech regulation that requires U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has done — heightened scrutiny, another high bar including likelihood that the cable operaand one that Maine conceded its tors and programmers challenging evidence did not clear. The it would win at trial. So there district court granted the was definitely cause for injunction, saying that some celebration. while the law did not Comcast, A&E, Cimpinge on cable SPAN, Discovery, The operators’ editorial Walt Disney Co., Fox discretion it did single Corp., NBCUniversal, them out for dispaViacomCBS and rate treatment. New England Sports The appeals court Network (NESN) sued Maine State agreed that the law imMaine Gov. Janet Mills, House plicated speech and, given state Attorney General Aaron Maine’s concession, affirmed Frey and and various cities and the district court injunction. But the 1st towns in federal court. They argued the District ruled the law was not pre-empted law was unconstitutional because it
by the cable act, leaving open the possibility a different a la carte law might pass muster. The appeals court made it clear it was simply affirming that the lower court was reasonable in granting the preliminary injunction against enforcement based on the law as written and the evidence presented by the state, not whether or not an a la carte video law could be constitutional if crafted differently. The appeals court agreed with the lower court that the Maine law, which required cable operators to offer individual channels and programs, implied speech and thus required a higher level of legal scrutiny. Maine conceded its case can’t meet that heightened scrutiny. But the legislature could always rewrite the law along lines the court suggested. “We leave open the question of whether [the law] would trigger ‘singling out’ concerns if it applied across the board to all pay TV systems, including satellite- and internet-based ones,” the court said. — JE
Dish: No Partner Needed For 5G Wireless Dance
“material” amount of cash to keep the Boost business going. Dish said in the 10-K filing that T-Mobile notified it in February that it will decommission its 3G CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network, on which the Boost Mobile service runs, on Jan. 1, 2022. That, Dish said, would would have a “material adverse effect” on its wireless business, forcing the satellite company to either migrate Boost customers more quickly to a network it hasn’t yet built, purchase an enormous amount of new handsets to allow Boost customers to access T-Mobile’s 4G network or brace itself for a torrent of wireless customer defections. Dish seems to be gearing up for the defections. “It’s hard to upgrade, to go from a phone that works great and works in their territory, and then go to another phone that won’t even work on our network because we’re 5G,” Ergen said on the call. “Then we have to upgrade them again. So if you run the numbers on that, there would be significant fallout from that, in my opinion.” Providing new handsets to Boost customers wouldn’t just be a logistical nightmare, it may be impossible to execute,” Ergen added. “I don’t even think we could get the supply of the phones that we would need,” Ergen said. While Boost has been a help as Dish continues to move forward with its wireless buildout plans, it’s real value may be in the pool of potential customers it presents for the 5G service when it becomes available. Boost has been losing subscribers since Dish took over in July, shedding about 363,000 customers in Q4 and 212,000 in Q3, a worse pace than its peers. Its value as a springboard for Dish’s 5G service is now in question.
Chairman Charlie Ergen says funding is in place, but questions remain in prepaid phone market By Mike Farrell firstname.lastname@example.org @MikeFCable
ish Network chairman Charlie Ergen said the satellite-TV operator expects to light up its first wireless market in Q3 and doesn’t need a strategic partner to help offset the cost of deploying what he called a state-of-the-art 5G network. Ergen, speaking on a conference call with analysts about Dish’s fourth-quarter results, didn’t give specifics about that first wireless location other than it would be “an NFL city.” Ergen said he expects to meet the federally mandated deadline of providing service to 20% of the country by June 2022 and to 70% by June of 2023. He also put the brakes on any speculation that Dish would need a deep-pocketed partner to fund construction of the wireless network. Now, fresh off a convertible notes offering in December that raised $2 billion, and with about $4 billion in cash on the balance sheet, Dish has the funding it needs.
Going It Alone
“I think we always thought we might need a strategic partner when we didn’t have any capital,” Ergen said on the conference call. But just like in the early days of satellite TV, once the company’s vision became clear and it began to hit execution milestones, a partner was no longer needed, he said. “Ultimately, we got confident enough and good enough in what we were doing, that it just made sense to keep the equity,” Ergen said. “And it didn’t make sense to give up the equity. I think we’re probably in a similar situation today, in the sense that we do have enough capital on our balance sheet today to build our network.” In the past, Ergen had estimated the wireless network would cost about $10 billion to build, although some analysts have said that figure may be dangerously low. In a research note, Barclays Group media analyst Kannan Venkateshwar wrote that the lack of a need for a partner means that Dish’s balance-sheet health is going to be more important than ever, especially since the 5G network isn’t expected to reach meaningful scale for at least two or three years. He pointed out that Dish’s decision to raise $2 billion through a note offering that converts to equity could mean it couldn’t find any partners.
“The fact that the company issued equity-linked paper recently is likely another indicator of the lack of willing strategic partners and its need to limit carry costs to manage its cash flow,” Venkateshwar wrote. While Dish has been accumulating spectrum for years, it got a big boost as part of the conditions surrounding T-Mobile’s $26 billion purchase of Sprint last year. As part of those conditions, Dish agreed to buy about $3.4 billion worth of 800-Megahertz wireless spectrum from T-Mobile and paid $1.4 billi on for Sprint’s prepaid wireless business, Boost Mobile. Boost, with about 9 million subscribers, has provided a steady stream of cash to Dish: Revenue was $1.4 billion in Q4. But Dish said in its 10-K annual report filing late last month that it might have to pony up a
A Big Setback
Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen downplayed speculation that the company would seek a wireless partner with deep pockets.
BOOST NEEDED Boost Mobile, which makes up the bulk of Dish’s prepaid retail wireless business, has been slipping over the past two quarters (in thousands, expect percentages). Q4 2020
SOURCE: Company reports
In a research note, MoffettNathanson principal and senior analyst Craig Moffett wrote that Boost was expected to provide a retail brand, store locations and a customer base that could eventually be converted to Dish’s 5G network. That arrangement now appears to be in danger. The analyst said having to migrate Boost customers to 5G quicker means it could be a “very challenging year ahead, both for subscribership and for costs.” Dish may be able to get some relief from the federal government, or at least more time to migrate customers. Asked on the call if he had contacted the Federal Communications Commission about T-Mobile’s CDMA shutdown, Ergen said he hadn’t spoken to the agency personally, but it is possible one of his staff may have. He said he believed T-Mobile’s decision to discontinue the CDMA service was anti-competitive. He noted that Boost customers are “economically challenged,” and that removing one of their options to access affordable wireless services, especially during a pandemic, seems to go against the motivation for allowing Dish to buy the service in the first place — to establish a fourth national wireless provider. “We are one of four providers,” Ergen said. “Washington picks winners and losers, and they make policy that affects people one way or the other. And we’ve had some good luck, we’ve had some bad luck with that as have others.”●
FATES & FORTUNES
People Notable executives on the move BRIEFLY NOTED Other industry execs making moves
CBS TV STATIONS
CBS Television Stations has named Darryll Green as VP and general manager of WFOR-WFBS Miami. He had been VP and general manager of Scripps-owned Fox affiliate WFTX Fort Myers, Florida.
The Walt Disney Co. has named 20-year veteran Susan Fox as senior VP, government relations, based in Washington, D.C. She had been VP, government relations, focused on issues affecting traditional and digital media interests.
Marc Buhaj was named VP of unscripted series and specials at Disney Branded Television, overseeing nonfiction content for Disney Plus and unscripted content for Disney Channels. He was senior VP, programming and GM for Disney XD.
ESPN has elevated Kaitee Dailey to VP. Dailey, who joined the sports programmer in 2009, had been senior director, ESPN Social, and will continue to oversee the social media team.
Flora Kelly was upped to VP at ESPN, responsible for leading the new Brand Strategy & Content Insights team, with focus on the ESPN brand, content development, sports trends, fandom and audience expansion.
Nexstar Media Group has named Chris McDonnell as VP and general manager of WPIX New York, which it runs under a local marketing agreement with owner Mission Broadcasting. He was VP and GM of KRON San Francisco.
Jeff Chapman was named VP and general manager of Jonesboro, Arkansas-based Ritter Communications’s fiber-to-the-home business sector. He was executive VP, operations at NorthState Communications.
Kim Williams has been named chair of the board of E.W. Scripps, effective as of the May 3 retirement of current chairman Rich Boehne. Williams served as a senior VP and partner at Wellington Management Co.
Kim Howitt has joined WarnerMedia Kids & Family as senior creative executive, a new post. She comes from HMH Productions, the studio of publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where she was head of development.
Miranda Higham was named senior VP and head of communications, international, at WarnerMedia, the lead communications executive outside the U.S. She had been senior VP, corporate communications at 21st Century Fox.
Dan Reiss has joined Univision Communications as chief growth officer. He comes from Turner, where he had been executive VP of advanced advertising products, branded content, integrated marketing and head of Turner Ignite.
Univision Communications also added Dan Aversano as senior VP, analytics and advanced advertising. He had been senior VP, ad innovation and programmatic solutions at Turner prior to the AT&T acquisition.
ABC Owned Television Stations promoted Chad Matthews to VP and general manager of WABC New York. He was the station’s news director for the past three years. … Jessica Burress has joined Accuweather TV Network in State College, Pennsylvania, as senior producer. She had been an executive producer at Spectrum News 1 North Carolina. … Mike Emanuel advanced to chief Washington correspondent at Fox News Channel. He had been chief congressional and senior political correspondent. … The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has named Carryl Pierre-Drews as senior VP, marketing and communications, and Jeff Murray as senior VP, public policy. PierreDrews had been VP of marketing at Fullscreen; Murray had been senior manager of government relations at Accenture. … NBCUniversal’s advertising sales and partnerships unit has hired Yusuf Chuku as executive VP, heading a new client insights and strategy team. He had been global chief strategy officer at ad agency VMLY&R. NBCU also promoted Jenny Burke to executive VP, advertising strategy, and Tom Stevens to executive VP, advertising and partnerships.
Data provided by
Ad Meter Who’s spending what where
PROMO MOJO Our exclusive ranking of the programming that networks are promoting most heavily (Feb. 22-28)
MOST-SEEN TV ADS
Brands ranked by the greatest increase in TV spend (Feb. 22-28)
Brands ranked by TV ad impressions (Feb. 22-28)
Nissan Spend Increase: Est. TV Spend:
Liberty Mutual ▲ 1121%
Amazon Prime Video ▲ 448%
Est. TV Spend:
Total TV ad impressions within all U.S. households, including national linear (live and time-shifted), VOD plus OTT and local
Est. Media Value: $4,796,714
Christopher Polk/E! Entertainment
Estimated media value of in-network promos On the strength of nearly 315 million TV ad impressions, an NBC promo for sci-fi drama Debris takes first place. The network also landed second place for a 2021 Golden Globe Awards promo. MTV, the sole cable network in tje ranking, grabs third to hype Floribama Shore, while CBS took fourth to promote Clarice and ABC fifth for Soul of a Nation. The Debris spot had the highest iSpot Attention Index number (115), meaning viewers were on average highly likely to watch it all the way through (vs. changing the channel, pulling up the guide, fast-forwarding or turning off the TV).
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
2. 2021 Golden Globe Awards, NBC TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
3. Floribama Shore, MTV TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
4. Clarice, CBS
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
5. Soul of a Nation, ABC TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
NBC Nightly News
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
Top Show: College Basketball
Domino's ▲ 246%
Est. TV Spend: Top Network:
Est. TV Spend:
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend: Interruption Rate: Top Show:
1.58% Blue Bloods
Hulu Spend Increase:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry: 232,321,678 $1,483,127
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
TV Ad Impressions: 314,563,764
TOP 5 PROMOTIONS
NBC Nightly News
Spend Within Industry:
Est. TV Spend:
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T-Mobile ▲ 173%
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Data provided by
COWEN: 33% OF CABLE TV SUBS ARE ON PROMOTIONAL DEALS
MCN’S MOST VIEWED Top stories on multichannel.com, Feb. 22-March 3
CORD-CUTTING FOR bundled pay TV services in the U.S. is now a widely accepted fact, with cable operators largely emphasizing broadband connectivity and media companies having mostly moved on to prioritizing direct-toconsumer streaming. But the pace of change has to be concerning. With Dish Network’s reporting of fourth-quarter earnings Monday, we can tally the trajectory of the four biggest U.S. pay TV providers and say decisively that the velocity of the erosion is increasing. The rate is slightly down from 2019’s record pace, but it’s still more than double the 2018 rate. While Charter’s Spectrum TV service actually gained 56,000 subscribers in 2020 amid a massive expansion of the cable company’s high-speed internet customer base, Comcast, AT&T and Dish Network each experienced accelerated pay TV customer losses. Combined, the Big Four operators — publicly traded
(Video subscriptions in thousands)
3. C ord-Cutting Still Nearly Double For the Big Four U.S. Pay TV Providers Over 2018
4. H ouse Dems Pressure Distributors to Justify Carrying Fox News, Others
5. O rby TV Shuts Down, Directs Customers to Dish
For more stories like this, go to nexttv.com.
‘Big Four’ Pay TV Providers
1. Ergen: ‘We Stumbled’ With Sling TV 2. I s Comcast Getting Ready to Expand Xfinity Flex Out of Footprint?
companies with video subscriber counts exceeding 10,000 — lost 5.625 million customers in 2019. In 2020, they lost 5.139 million subscribers. Including its DirecTV satellite platform, its sunsetting U-verse TV, its IP-based AT&T TV product and its discontinued AT&T TV Now virtual MVPD, AT&T lost 3.261 million pay TV customers in 2020. That’s only slightly better than the nearly 4.1 million video customers lost in 2019. Sure, AT&T’s massive pay TV losses in 2019 and 2020 skew the picture. But Comcast saw its rate of attrition nearly double from 732,000 in 2019 to 1.408 million in 2020. And Dish Network lost a combined 526,000 subscribers across its satellite and Sling TV vMVPD platforms last year. In fact, Sling TV lost 118,00 customers in 2020. — Daniel Frankel
To read these stories, go to multichannel.com.
SOURCE: Next TV
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 cable programs ranked by viewer engagement
Telecast (Week Ending February 21)
The Curse of Oak Island
Chronicle Mysteries: Helped to Death
Mix Up in the Mediterranean
Tyler Perry's Sistas
When Calls the Heart
La Rosa de Guadalupe
WWE Monday Night Raw
Married at First Sight
The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice
The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice: Lifetime; Comcast
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.)
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 broadcast programs ranked by viewer engagement
Telecast (Week Feb. 21)
Premio Lo Nuestro 2021
Vencer El Desamor
NCIS: New Orleans
This Is Us
NCIS: Los Angeles
9-1-1: Lone Star
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 FEB. 22 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.
Share of binges: 1.98%
Share of binges: 1.74%
Share of binges: 1.27%
Share of binges: 1.26%
Ginny & Georgia
Share of binges: 1.14%
Attack on Titan
Share of binges: 1.04%
Top five stories on nexttv.com, July 13-29
Share of binges: 0.99%
1. Ergen: ‘We Stumbled’ With Sling TV
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: 5
LAST WEEK: 6
LAST WEEK: 10
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: 8
Share of binges: 0.81%
Share of binges: 0.80%
Share of binges: 0.79%
Networks reflected don’t include every viewing platform available nor total viewing in share of binge
To receive “The Binge Report” and other TV Time reports, go to https://www.whipmedia.com/subscribe/
NEXT TV’S MOST VIEWED
2. Is Comcast Getting Ready to Expand Xfinity Flex Out of Footprint? 3. Cord-Cutting Still Nearly Double for the Big Four U.S. Pay TV Providers Over 2018 4. House Dems Pressure Distributors to Justify Carrying Fox News, Others 5. AT&T to Spin Off DirecTV, Pay TV Units with TPG
This Is Us: NBC; Sling
LAST WEEK: —
To read these stories, go to nexttv.com.
Data provided by
By Maria E. Brennan, WICT @wicthq
How Diversity and Inclusion Will Drive Pandemic Recovery Women’s History Month offers a reminder that committing to workplace equality pays off
f there’s one thing the global COVID-19 crisis has made plainly clear, it’s that the world is a better place when we are treated as equals. And while equality for all people is the law of the land, there is also compelling research which demonstrates that parity is the bedrock for becoming a better, stronger, more profitable company. Women’s History Month and International Women's Day provide the perfect opportunity to remind corporate leaders of the benefits companies reap when they place a premium on workplace equality. As the oldest and largest organization dedicated to empowering and advancing women in the cable media industry, Women in Cable Telecommunications understands well that our industry is fueled by data. That is why WICT is passionate about highlighting the data that supports the business case for gender diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), placing it front and center in our communications. We’re in good company, because many experts believe that stronger DEI is vital to a faster economic recovery in the face of the ongoing pandemic. Organizations that treat DEI as a business imperative will enjoy demonstrable benefits. A way to do that is to follow the Four Pluses of Parity — increased innovation, profitability, recruitment and employee retention.
In our industry, many women are on the front lines of this pandemic helping to fortify and galvanize workforces. Women must have a seat at the table, in good times as well as bad, for companies to innovate at a faster rate than homogenous companies. According to human-resources consultancy Bersin by Deloitte, inclusive companies with women in all their ranks are more than one and a half times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. And Boston Consulting Group found that companies with above-average diversity within their 32 Multichannel.com
management teams have innovation revenue of 45% versus 26% for those with belowaverage leadership diversity. To experience a significant jump in innovation revenue, leadership teams need to be at least 20% female. And that increase jumps even higher when the percentage of diverse leaders increases. When it comes to profitability, as noted in the World Bank’s 2020 Women, Business and the Law report, “Equality of opportunity is good economics.” In fact, it is estimated that women’s lagging participation in employment and entrepreneurship costs the global economy about 15% of GDP. And on average, within the first 24 months of appointing female CFOs, companies see a 6% increase in profits and an 8% better stock return, per Bloomberg. Furthermore, research shows that company profits and share performance can be close to 50% higher when women are well represented at the top, according to McKinsey & Co.’s Diversity Matters report. At a time when workforces have been reduced amidst dwindling returns, recruiting top talent is more crucial than ever before. Today’s job seekers have access to a remarkable amount of information at their fingertips when undergoing a job hunt or career pivot. Companies that demonstrate their commitment to DEI have a distinct recruiting advantage over companies that do not. In fact, a recent survey from Glassdoor
Maria E. Brennan, CAE, is president and CEO of Women In Cable Telecommunications.
In this age of social awakening, with the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements at the forefront, workforce parity has become a mandate.
found that 76% of job seekers said a diverse workforce was important when evaluating potential employers. In this age of social awakening, with the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements at the forefront, workforce parity has become a mandate. In order to fill that ever-important pipeline of women rising through the ranks in the industry, we must strive to be more inclusive than ever before. Finally, organizations that develop diverse teams and inclusive workplaces tend to be better at retaining their people. Retention is an important issue for companies due to the significant cost of replacing and retraining employees.
As we continue to navigate the pandemic, we hear many success stories of women leading skillfully during times of crises. These aren’t merely anecdotal accounts. New research from Harvard Business Review shows that having women leaders in a company’s ranks gives employees a greater sense of teamwork and higher workplace morale. The research found that the engagement level of those working for female leaders is significantly higher than average, showing that female leaders express more awareness of fears that subordinates might be feeling, show concern for well-being and demonstrate confidence in their path forward. Our industry is in rare air and deserves a resounding shout-out for allowing WICT and our diversity partners at NAMIC to measure and benchmark workplace demographics and diversity, equity and inclusion practices. Not many industries are that forthcoming. Participation in the WICT/NAMIC PAR (Pay Equity, Advancement Opportunities and Resources for Work/Life Integration) and AIM (Advancement Investment Measurement) surveys demonstrates a commitment to transparency and a dedication to improvement. And because as we all know, what gets measured gets done, there is no better time than now to get it done. ●
THE FIVE SPOT
Wayne Brady Host/Executive Producer, ‘Game of Talents’ ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ host says there’s an appetite for feel-good fare
ame of Talents, a variety series that showcases the hidden talents of mystery performers, premieres on Fox Wednesday, March 10. It follows the season five premiere of The Masked Singer, and is hosted by Wayne Brady, who won season two of Masked Singer. On Game of Talents, contestants guess the talent of the performer — say, comedy, dancing or fire-throwing — before they perform. Produced by Fremantle, the show offers more than $200,000 in prize money each episode. “Can the contestants spot the fire dancer from the spider wrangler or the gospel singer from the contortionist?” said Fox. “Can you??” Brady, who also hosts daytime’s Let’s Make a Deal, shared his thoughts on Game of Talents. “If [viewers] want a good time and want to escape and want to cheer some people on and see some ridiculous yet awesome acts, tune in,” Brady said. He spoke with MCN senior content producer Michael Malone. What drew you to Game of Talents? Fremantle said they had a property that was part talent show and part game show, and they wanted my take on the talent piece. Helming Let’s Make a Deal for them for 12 seasons, I think they trust my taste and the fact that I know what I’m doing as a host.
I’m a big fan of talent — I like to push people to the forefront. So it seemed like a really great fit. Who do you consider an influence among game show hosts? I never set out to be a game show host, so I don’t have an influence — I just do what I do. In my book, a great host is someone good at being a version of themselves instead of putting on the this-is-my-host persona. That rings very false to me. That’s why, even in the beginning, I was [hesitant] to even accept the job because I didn’t want to step into the Guy Smiley/game show host pattern. Any hosts you watch where you say, they’re doing a great job? Like all of America and the world, Alex Trebek. Alex, God bless him, was the standard in terms of what he brought to that position and the respect he had. I always felt that Alex Trebek knew all the answers; I always thought he didn’t even need to look at the card. He just filled you with ease. I think that’s the best thing about a host. What makes Game of Talents right for 2021? It’s a day and age when people need to feel good about what they’re viewing. You can turn on the TV and news channels or any social media channels to hear the bad news and see the horrible crap happening.
BONUS FIVE TV shows on your watch list? Buried by the Bernards (Netflix), WandaVision (Disney Plus) and 90-Day Fiancé (TLC). All-time top TV show? I love smart comedies, shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Favorite app? Music Notes because it lets me carry around sheet music in a simple way and TikTok because it is such a great way to discover a lot of talent. Books on your nightstand? Time Siege by Wesley Chu, A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney, King Maker by Maurice Broaddus.
What’s a recent memorable meal? Thanksgiving dinner at my house. We were able to get my family in one place and cook together, but also just reflect and give thanks that during this pandemic we are all OK and safe.
Wayne Brady looks forward to giving contestants a chance to change their circumstances on Game of Talents.
But to be able to see people win money, which is what I enjoy doing on Deal. On Game of Talents, we give people the opportunity to change their circumstance for a second and that’s a beautiful thing. We give talent a chance to show themselves off and that’s another beautiful thing. Talent should be rewarded and should be high-fived. What’s your hidden talent? The ability to not cook well is my superpower. Don’t get me wrong: I can cook, for a bachelor. If there was one thing my mom made sure I could do before I left her house, it was, you will be able to cook for yourself. I can cook eggs. I can cook steak and eggs. I’m very good at peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — I’m super-adept at that. ●
Multichannel News - March 8, 2021