V O L U M E 4 2 • N U M B E R 6 • M A R C H 15 , 2 0 2 1 • $ 6 . 9 5
HBO LEADS WAY IN NAMIC VISION AWARDS NOMS NEW STREAMERS: WEIGHING THE PLUSES, MINUSES
BYRON ALLEN WANTS TO SAVE THE WORLD
The Entertainment Studios chief on his fight for equity in media ownership — and becoming a mogul along the way
VOLUME 42 • ISSUE 6 • MARCH 15, 2021 WWW.MULTICHANNEL.COM
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6 COVER STORY FEATURES 6 COVER STORY Byron Allen fought the good fight on behalf of Black-owned media, transforming his Entertainment Studios from a syndicator to a media conglomerate in the process. He shares his story ahead of his CultureX Conversations keynote. By Paige Albiniak 18 SPECIAL REPORT: NAMIC VISION AWARDS HBO led the way with 17 nominations in NAMIC’s yearly celebration of outstanding programming that reflects the lives and experiences of diverse TV audiences. By R. Thomas Umstead
22 BUSINESS The lofty early valuations for Discovery Plus and Paramount Plus have Wall Street analysts cautioning that not all streaming services are alike. By Mike Farrell
Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne Non-executive chairman Richard Huntingford Chief financial officer Rachel Addison Tel +44 (0)1225 442 244
4 AGENDA 10 SPECIAL REPORT: CULTUREX AWARDS 19 PROGRAMMING 20 TECH 21 POLICY 24 FATES & FORTUNES 26 DATA MINE 30 VIEWPOINT 32 THE FIVE SPOT
18 SPECIAL REPORT:
NAMIC VISION AWARDS
ON THE COVER
Entertainment Studios founder, chairman and CEO Byron Allen at a 2019 movie premiere in Los Angeles.
Future plc is a public company quoted on the London Stock Exchange (symbol: FUTR) www.futureplc.com
Cover: Getty Images. This page: Entertainment Studios; Starz; I May Destroy You: HBO
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A NOTE TO OUR READERS To Multichannel News Readers: It has always been the mission of our editors to evolve at the speed of media & entertainment and that’s been especially true after 2020. Starting on April 1 we’re combining our two industry magazines — Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News — to create a single source of comprehensive journalism to better serve our fast-changing industry, audiences and advertisers. We’re adding pages, photography and data visualization and evolving our editorial focus to provide you with deeper reporting, more analysis and a broader range of feature stories monthly. Careful readers will not be surprised by this move given we first grouped these brands together digitally last summer at NextTV.com to better serve growing audiences and eager advertisers, so you’ll continue to find timely and in-depth digital coverage of the cable, broadcast and streaming sectors of the media & entertainment industry there. Our robust calendar of events and special issues will not change and our three branded SmartBrief newsletters, meanwhile, will also continue to leverage our editorial expertise and proprietary technology to curate relevant news to keep you on top of the trends and best practices that are reshaping the future of our industry. We welcome hearing from you about our journalism, our events and newsletters. You can reach me at william.gannon@ futurenet.com. Thanks, Bill Gannon, VP of Content & Global Editor-In-Chief
‘CultureX’ to Celebrate Diversity, Inclusion Event examines, honors inroads made by TV industry By R. Thomas Umstead email@example.com @rtumstead30
he entertainment industry is examining its diversity and inclusion efforts as it continues to make inroads in recognizing the business rationale for greater representation on-air, behind the camera and in the C-suites. Future’s CultureX Conversations on Tuesday, March 16, will build on the dialogue through a series of keynotes, fireside chats, panels and awards that celebrate the industry’s inclusion efforts while searching for ways to improve both the mindset and the impact of decision makers to foster a more inclusive industry. Allen Media Group/Entertainment Studios founder, chairman and CEO Byron Allen (see cover story, page 6) will serve as opening keynote speaker of the virtual conference, leading a roster of top industry executives, chief diversity officers, on-air talent and showrunners set to discuss the need for more diversity within all aspects of the industry, while revealing the strategies behind building a successful, diverse workforce. The conference is produced in partnership with The Walter Kaitz Foundation. Stage 13/Warner Bros. Digital Networks senior VP and general manager Diana Mogollón will headline a panel on the impact of diverse casts on programming acquisition and distribution, while WarnerMedia senior VPs of enterprise inclusion Karen Horne and Samata Narra will share some internal research and insights on implementing the inclusion process within a “merging” corporate culture.
Walter Kaitz Foundation executive director Michelle Ray will host a panel featuring diversity officers such as AMC Networks chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer Aisha Thomas-Petit and Ann Carlsen, founder and CEO of executive search firm Carlsen Resources, discussing their experiences and tips for ensuring equitable results in recruitment practices and hiring procedures. Regarding on-screen diversity, GLAAD chief communications officer Rich Ferraro will release the organization’s latest report on LGBT characters and storylines on TV (see Viewpoint, page 30), while AARP VP of multicultural leadership Yvette Pena will discuss the impact of content targeting the maturing multicultural audience. A highlight of the conference is the CultureX Awards, given to individuals, organizations and programs for their outstanding commitment to inspiring cultural inclusion within the television industry (see profiles, page 10). The ceremony is hosted by 2020’s CultureX award recipient, Julio Vaqueiro, the anchor of Noticias Telemundo Edicion Especial. This year’s award recipients are: Juanjo Duran, head of entertainment & multicultural, Google; Juan Williams, Fox News political analyst and co-host of Fox News Channel’s The Five; Access Hollywood, the entertainment news program known for its diverse cast and coverage of inclusion issues in the industry, with Scott Evans (pictured) accepting; and Starz, for diverse casts and storylines in series such as Power, P-Valley and Outlander, plus upcoming series Run The World, Blindspotting, Black Mafia Family, Shining Vale, Serpent Queen and Power Book II: Ghost. Starz’s award will be accepted by president and CEO Jeffrey Hirsch. ● For more information or to register, go to culturexevents.com.
STREAMERS ARE KEY TO NHL RETURN TO DISNEY DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER streaming was a key factor in the new agreement to distribute National Hockey League games, including Stanley Cup playoff contests, on The Walt Disney Co. properties. Both the league and Disney, which has pivoted from traditional media to streaming, called their seven-year pact a template for future deals and said viewers would be looking for games on the kinds of platforms Disney is building. “I know how passionate and loyal hockey fans can be growing up as a Chicago Blackhawks fan and this agreement is going to allow them to watch their favorite teams like never 4
before on our world-class platforms, including ESPN, ESPN Plus, ABC and Hulu,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in a briefing for reporters after the seven-year pact was signed. “We really look forward to giving fans unprecedented access to an incredible lineup of NHL games and programming.” Some 75 national games per season will stream on direct-to-consumer outlets ESPN Plus and Hulu. ESPN Plus subscribers will also have access to the 1,000 local game telecasts that had been part of the NHL’s out-of-market package. “This really is a paradigm-shifting deal,” said Jimmy Pitaro, president of ESPN.
The agreement with the NHL “serves as a model for rights deals of the future,” Pitaro added. “Streaming really is at the heart of this deal and this is a reflection of its role as a critical part of our future.” ESPN declined to pay a rights fee when its previous deal with the NHL expired in 2005. Hockey is attractive to ESPN now, though, as the sports leader looks to expand its audience to the NHL’s younger, growing fan base. Those fans tend to be tech savvy and are either cordcutters or cord-nevers. “ESPN Plus will now be a must-have for hockey fans,” Pitaro said. The NHL still has a second package of rights to games to sell. The package
isn’t as large and the league will work with potential partners to determine how many games will be televised on linear channels and how many will be streamed, Bettman said. Bettman said talks continue on the second rights package and that NBCU continues to express interest even with the Disney deal being finalized. “Of course they’re under consideration,” Bettman said of Comcast and NBCU. “They’ve been good partners.” — Jon Lafayette
WATCH THIS …
Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
The Blended Bunch
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
By Michael Malone firstname.lastname@example.org @BCMikeMalone
New Disney Plus Superhero Series is Marvel-ous
Double Cross with Blake Griffin mystery that unfolds through a series of average, unconnected phone calls. Also on Friday, Double Cross with Blake Griffin starts on truTV. It’s an unscripted prank show featuring the NBA star. One more for Friday, it’s season two of A Tiny Audience on HBO Max and HBO Latino. Each episode features a Latin artist performing their hit song and revealing something about the song they have not revealed before. A Tiny Audience
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a Marvel Studios project with Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes and The Winter Soldier, premieres March 19 on Disney Plus. Those characters, and actors, are well-known in the Marvel movie universe, appearing in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame. (What they weren’t in — 1985 espionage movie The Falcon and the Snowman.) “Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are spectacular actors and we felt like we hadn’t explored their stories or their backstories or their personal stories enough as Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes,” said Kevin Feige, president, Marvel Studios and chief creative officer, Marvel. “So it was always the thought that we wanted to learn more about both of them.” The characters “team up on a global adventure that
tests their abilities,” said Disney Plus, “and their patience.” Feige has long sought to put the characters center stage. “We thought if we ever had that opportunity, we’d watch a whole show with the two of them,” he said. “And Disney Plus finally gives us that opportunity.”
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Disney Plus; Genius: Aretha: National Geographic; The Blended Bunch: TLC; Double cross with Blake Griffin: TruTV; Tiny Audience: HBO Max
The Blended Bunch starts on TLC Tuesday. A mother of seven lost her husband to cancer. A father of four lost his wife in a car crash. They met, fell in love, and blended their vast families. Also on Tuesday, season three of Mayans M.C. revs up on FX. JD Pardo plays EZ Reyes, once the golden boy and now a member of the Mayans M.C. Friday, thriller series Calls is on Apple TV Plus. Each episode follows a dark and dramatic
Nat Geo Remembers The Queen of Soul
On March 21, National Geographic begins Genius: Aretha. It is the third installment of Genius, after series dedicated to Einstein and Picasso, and Nat Geo was eager to showcase a woman. “This felt the most exciting to us,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive VP of global scripted content at Nat Geo. “Aretha [Franklin] embodies all the different elements of what we look for in a show.” That includes a body of work that any reasonable person would consider genius, and an array of “obstacles and pressures and conflict,” said Bernstein. There are eight episodes. The series explores “Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world in the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul,” according to Nat Geo. Suzan-Lori Parks is the showrunner, and executive produces alongside Anthony Hemingway. Fittingly, Parks has received a MacArthur grant, known as a “Genius” grant. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard of Imagine Entertainment exec produce as well. Cynthia Erivo plays Franklin, who died in 2018. Courtney B. Vance plays her father, C.L. Bernstein feels Erivo nailed the challenging role. “She delivers both incredible musicianship and first rate acting chops,” she said. “She brings a tremendous amount of soul to the project.” Vance wasn’t bad either. “He’s just spectacular,” Bernstein said. ●
BYRON ALLEN WANTS TO SAVE THE
WORLD And make a little — or a lot of — money along the way
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
By Paige Albiniak email@example.com @PaigeA
yron Allen understands the power of multiplication. In the current world of streaming, subscription video-ondemand and direct-to-consumer offerings, multiplication is everything. When you charge tens of million people even just a few dollars a month, that math adds up quickly. Allen made his money in the early days of syndication, sitting at his dining-room table, making phone call after phone call and getting on planes most days of every month. But after years of sheer hustle, with Entertainment Studios’ syndicated shows adding up their ratings in every market in America, the money started flowing. In the past five years, Allen has metamorphosed from a peddler of syndicated shows to a media mogul after surprising the world with his $300 million acquisition of The Weather Channel in 2018, and then following that up by purchasing TV stations (notably including ABC affiliate KITV in Honolulu, one of 16 Allen-owned Big Four affiliated stations in 12 markets) and aggressively going after legacy station groups such as Tribune Media and Tegna. Looking ahead, Allen sees only expansion, with plans to spend at least $10 billion to acquire more Big Four network TV affiliates and to invest billions in his nascent streaming business and reach a global audience. Beyond business, Allen has socio-economic issues on his mind — including climate change, racial injustice and economic inclusion — and he’s working hard to make an impact in those areas as well. MCN contributor Paige Albiniak spoke with Allen, who is the keynote speaker at Future’s CultureX Conversations virtual event on Tuesday, March 16. MCN: You sued cable giants Comcast and Charter in February 2015 for a total of $40
billion, with you alleging that their decisions to not carry your cable networks amounted to racial discrimination. Those lawsuits were ultimately settled, but did you feel that they achieved their ends? BA: I can’t speak to those lawsuits anymore because they’ve been settled. But when I filed my lawsuits against the cable industry, it was really to start the process of creating economic inclusion. Now, we’re making sure that Madison Avenue does its part. I have found Madison Avenue, quite frankly, to be very racist in its behavior and in its lack of commitment to equity inclusion as it relates to Black-owned media. Black-owned media pretty much doesn’t exist. That’s 110% because of the institutionalized racism on Madison Avenue and among Madison Avenue’s clients. What we’ve said to Madison Avenue is that Blackowned media is completely extinct. Right now, I’m the only African-American in America in 2021 that owns a Big Four network affiliate. As a country, and as an industry, that is not a statement that should be accurate in 2021. I’m the first African-American to buy a mainstream cable network in America. Once again,
Black-owned media pretty much doesn’t exist. That’s 110% because of the institutionalized racism on Madison Avenue. — Byron Allen, founder, chairman and CEO, Entertainment Studios
as a country, we shouldn’t be proud of that. We shouldn’t be saying that in 2021. A lot of that is because Madison Avenue hasn’t leaned in. What I’ve asked Madison Avenue today to do is, I’ve said, look, as we represent 14% of this nation, we have every right to ask for 14% of your budget, which is economic parity. And we’re not asking for economic parity, we’re asking for economic inclusion. We’re asking for a mere 2%, a minimum, and I do emphasize the word minimum, of 2%, to go to Black-owned media, not Black-targeted, but Blackowned. That’s a big difference. That creates a real unique point of view, creating diversity and inclusion while improving democracy. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s aren’t doing business with me. Spark Ad Agency isn’t doing business with me. The litigators have already sent the letters out, letting them know that we’re preparing to sue them for billions of dollars. When Coca-Cola and McDonald’s aren’t doing business with me, then there’s no chance that Black-owned media will ever exist. So, in the same way I sued the cable industry for $40 billion, I will now start to sue Madison Avenue and their clients for $100-plus billion. Because what they’re doing is egregious. And when you think about the amount of money that they pull out of the Black community while not doing business with the Black community, it’s economic genocide, is really what it is. It’s economic genocide. MCN: What else do you think corporate America needs to do to promote diversity and inclusion? BA: What I would say to white corporate America is you don’t need to have a chief diversity officer. More importantly you need to — you, the chairman, the chairwoman, the leader — you need to become the chief diversity investment officer. Make sure you’re investing in people who don’t look like you and fostering greater diversity. Make sure that you are investing in women and Asian people and Hispanic people and gay people and African-American people. You need to be the leader of that.
MCN: What has the pandemic meant for Allen Media Group and Entertainment Studios? BA: The growth because of the pandemic has been what we would call meaningful. As people went into lockdown, they went home, and national and local news became very valuable. And that happens to be the business we’re in. So we’ve got, obviously, local news. National news has been very key in the battle against COVID-19, but also as we deal with climate change. Our cable networks are the fastest-growing cable networks in terms of distribution, simply because we didn’t have very much distribution to begin with. So we’ve been able to grow our distribution to where it’s something that advertisers are leaning in on. We’ve gotten a number of our networks into 40-, 50-plusmillion homes, which, outside of The Weather Channel, is key. Our syndicated shows have been growing, and because a number of the studios have abandoned first-run syndication, because they are taking their content and putting it on their streaming platforms, we’ve been able to really help step in and fill that void for stations. And our streaming has grown really in a significant way because we have Local Now. Local Now is a really unique streaming platform because it uses unique proprietary software and artificial intelligence to deliver local news, weather, sports and traffic in real time,
At left, Sasha Rionda anchors video app Local Now, which ES says now tallies about 5.8 million active users each month. The company has also succeeded with court shows such as Supreme Justice with Judge Karen, below.
MCN: Beyond Local Now, what are your plans for streaming, considering that you own all of these channels and all of this content? BA: We’re going to invest very heavily in our streaming platforms. We’re better prepared than anybody to go direct to the consumer, because we own all the premium dot-TVs and have the content to go with them. That’s why we own all the premium dot-TVs, such as cars.tv, comedy. tv, Pets.tv and on and on. We’re better positioned than anybody to go direct to the consumer with over 4 billion worldwide connected devices. We own 100% of our content, and most of it was shot without a host. We use voiceover, which means you can use artificial intelligence and put that content in 200 different languages. If you look at broadcast TV in the ’60s, ’70s, it was broad. And then in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, it became focused, and that’s when you got MTV and BET and VH1 and Lifetime and Nickelodeon and CNBC or whatever. Like then, I believe streaming is going to become focused pretty quickly. And people are going to say I have Netflix and Disney Plus and Amazon, but I also want Comedy.tv. I want Sports.tv. I want Cars.tv. You’re going to start to see us really invest heavily in our direct-to-consumer streaming content. We’ve been sitting on these URLs for about 15 years waiting for this streaming explosion. MCN: Would you take those networks and put them on Local Now? Or would you build a new streaming platform? BA: Local Now will be on its own and be an aggregator of everything free. And then some of these services will be subscription video-on-demand streaming direct to the consumer for $4.99 a month.
Supreme Justice: Allen Media Group; Local Now
meltdown in Texas. What do events like that mean for The Weather Channel? BA: Well, you know, it all goes up in a significant way, because unfortunately we are dealing with global warming and climate change. Global warming is very real. Climate change is very real. And it’s the greatest threat to human beings on planet Earth. When I first bought The Weather Channel, the network was avoiding speaking about climate change because half the people didn’t believe in it, and the other half did, and they didn’t want to offend anybody. I called all the scientists into a room and I said, “Show of hands, please tell us if we’re in trouble, if climate change is real and a threat to human beings.” Without exception, every scientist in that room raised their hand. So I decided to go with the scientists. And I said, look, we’re not going to be Switzerland here. We’re not going to pretend like this isn’t happening. And we’re not going to worry about offending people simply because we’re telling the truth. One of the first specials we did was called Race to Save the Planet. After it aired, the research department did some research on the special and found that 85% of our viewers really appreciated the information and wanted more, because they knew we were being honest. We are very committed to making sure that we are delivering the best-in-class news because that’s essential to making sure that we have a strong and well-informed society and a true democracy.
MCN: You’ve also been saying for several months now that you intend to spend $10 billion acquiring Big Four network affiliates. How is that looking? BA: We are 110% committed to investing approximately $10 billion to buy Big Four network affiliates. And we will do that within 24 months, if not this year. ● Multichannel.com
SPECIAL REPORT: CULTUREX AWARDS
Starz Shows the Power of Diversity Role: President and CEO
The report found that, on-air, 63% of series leads for Starz’s original series are people of color, more than 78% above the industry’s average. Further, 57.9% of character leads in its series are women, well above the 45.2% industry average. “We have a very specific programming mandate to showcase narratives about women and underrepresented audiences on air,” Hirsch said. “I think it’s really important that if we are going to serve that audience, you need to show that you are authentic to that mission.” Behind the camera, nearly 50% of Starz show directors are people of color — 77% more than the industry average — and 43.7% are women. More than half of the network’s showrunners are women, and 47.1% of the executive producers for its shows are people of color, both well above the industry average.
Net’s inclusion efforts lead the way on screen and behind the scenes By R. Thomas Umstead firstname.lastname@example.org @rtumstead30
hen Starz’s hit series Power concluded its sixth and final season in February 2020, it finished as one of the top-rated series on premium TV and the platform’s most-watched series among AfricanAmerican viewers. Power, with its diverse cast, was the network’s most successful series, but it wasn’t Starz’s only inclusive show. The programmer, in fact, overindexes on people of color and women featured in lead roles when compared to the rest of the industry, with such dramas as the Power spinoff Power Book II: Ghost, as well as P-Valley, Outlander, Hightown and American Gods, according to UCLA’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers. Other shows formerly on the service — such as Vida, produced by Tanya Saracho and featuring a predominately Latin cast; the LeBron James-produced Survivor’s Remorse; and The Spanish Princess, developed by Emma Frost — offer evidence that Starz is no Johnny-come-lately in its on-screen commitment to diverse images and storylines. Not willing to sit on its diversity laurels, Starz in February announced its intentions to lead the diversity conversation both in front of and behind the camera through its #TakeTheLead campaign, which sets out to
create a template for how the industry can achieve its representation goals. The network’s continual commitment to diversity and inclusion has earned Starz the CultureX Corporate Commitment to Inclusion in Television Award. “It’s our corporate responsibility to really try to make an impact in society and to improve representation on and off the screen so that the Hollywood world looks more like the world we live in today,” Starz president and CEO Jeffrey Hirsch said. “It’s not just a tagline — it’s who we are and what we do everyday. It’s really our single focus in terms of the organization.”
Sharing Best Practices
Starz plans to launch a series of “Transparency Talks” with various media organizations and featuring thought leaders versed in diversity to discuss best practices toward improving inclusion efforts. The talks will culminate later this year in the Starz Summit, which will showcase the company’s own commitment to creative diversity through offering opportunities to the next generation of voices. “We hope that we have great participation from the industry and the public, and really bring great conversation and debate around these topics,” Hirsch said. Starz looks to lead by example. A recent report from the Center for Scholars & Storytellers shows just how Starz has executed its vision for greater ethnic and gender representation in all aspects of the company.
Award: Corporate Commitment to Inclusion in Television Why They’re Being Honored: Starz earned this recognition for its corporate commitment to inclusion on screen and behind the scenes. Shows such as Power, P-Valley and Outlander, as well as upcoming series such as Run the World, Blindspotting, Black Mafia Family, Shining Vale, Power Book II: Ghost and Serpent Queen, exemplify Starz’s commitment to on-screen inclusion. Behind the scenes, 75% of the company’s executive leadership team are women and 50% are people of color. This far exceeds the industry average.
The network’s mandate to foster more diversity within its company also extends to the executive offices, Hirsch said. Threequarters of its executive leadership team are women, with 50% of those women people of color. He added the numbers are a great starting point, but he hopes to continually improve on them going forward. “It’s a mandate that we use to make all of these decisions in the company,” he said. “I do believe that these numbers will continue to increase as we start to put more shows on the air that fit our mandate.” Indeed, already in development for Starz is another Power spinoff, Raising Kanan; the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson-produced series Black Mafia Family; as well as new drama series Shining Vale from writer Sharon Horgan and starring Courteney Cox; The Serpent Queen, based on the life of French Queen Catherine de Medici; and comedy series Run the World, created by African-American producer Leigh Davenport. “I’m very excited about the slate of programming and I’m eager to get into it,” Hirsch said.” ●
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson in the hit Starz original series Power.
Starz president and CEO Jeffrey Hirsch
SPECIAL REPORT: CULTUREX AWARDS
Google’s Juanjo Duran: Leveling the Playing Field for Diverse Programming Entertainment executive works toward equity in content distribution By Stuart Miller email@example.com @sfmsfm5186
uanjo Duran’s job at Google has evolved from overseeing multicultural content to also taking care of general-market programmers. As head of entertainment & multicultural at Google, Duran is responsible for relationships and growth within Google’s platforms and ecosystems (Android, Chrome, Google Play and especially Google TV, where he focuses much of his attention), partnering with the likes of Peacock, HBO and Discovery. Ironically, he said, that shift was actually important for how multicultural content was seen within the company and beyond. “We needed to make sure multicultural content is treated the same way as any other type of content, and the only way to do that was to merge those teams and make sure it is the same priority,” Duran said. “A lot of companies have good intentions and a grasp of what opportunity multicultural content might bring but the reality is that it's always exceeded by general-market priorities. We at Google treat it all the same way.”
A Passionate Technophile
Duran, who is being honored at the upcoming CultureX Conversations event (March 16) for Executive Commitment to Inclusion in Television, had studied business and was always passionate about technology. But he never imagined he’d leave Mexico, work for a company the size of Google or end up in the media, dealing with content. He came to America from Mexico in 2004 to work for Televisa, the huge content company, and has lived in Miami, Florida, since then. (Now 45, he is married with two sons.) After Televisa, he spent eight years at YouTube, overseeing content partnerships for the U.S. Hispanic market and then heading the Spanish-Speaking Americas. Duran is a super-organized thinker: Ask him a question and he is prepared with a long response that also answers your next three questions. As a “wannabe engineer,” he is also
very curious about how things work, although he said he sometimes has to remind himself not to get bogged down in details and to delegate. He said his strong suit is “my ability to connect with people and understand their needs has helped me work with our partners.” Jonathan Zepp, head of Media & Entertainment Global Partnerships for Google Platforms & Ecosystems, agreed. He said he has always been impressed with how Duran “artfully leverages his diverse set of skills and personal experiences to build partnerships that enable inclusive and diverse content experiences." Those partnerships, Duran said, are about getting the content and “allowing it to flow freely within our ecosystem so we’re connecting the content with the users.” The company is also beginning to focus on women-led services and LGBTQ verticals. Emphasizing multicultural content is about doing the right thing, but it is also “a big business opportunity,” he said, adding that every company should have this approach. Duran said that in 2020, as society started focusing more on social justice, Google was well situated. While they don’t own content, they are able to choose what to put up front. “We want to educate people and make them think,” he said. “And we want to go deeper so people see that hate speech toward Black folks may be different than hate speech toward Asian-Americans.” “We focus on U.S. Hispanic, Black American and Asian-American content,” he said. “We want people to be able to see, for instance, movies aimed at a Black demographic all year, not just when it’s Black History Month.”
Looking Out for Little Guys
Duran said his team is bullish on helping smaller services play a role, too. “There’s tons of multicultural content, but sometimes these companies get stuck trying to compete with the big guys,” he said, pointing to companies like Kweli TV, FlixLatino, CanelaTV and BlackOakTV. “We sometimes fund them and we work with them on the back end to showcase and popularize their content.” Another crucial factor to Duran’s approach is to make sure services imported from, say, Asian countries, are not only included “but are
Juanjo Duran is a Google TV gatekeeper. JUANJO DURAN
Role: Head of Entertainment & Multicultural Company: Google Award: Executive Commitment to Inclusion in Television Why They’re Being Honored: As head of entertainment and multicultural at Google, Juanjo Duran makes daily decisions that reflect the company’s commitment to inclusion on screen and behind the scenes.
treated the same way as U.S. services. Pushing them is extremely important for us and adds another layer of interest.” “This team has a passion for doing the right thing and giving a voice to everybody,” he said, “but it’s not just this team, it’s all of Google. There is a lot of cross-functional alignment with promoting all these demographics, across departments like merchandising, marketing, public relations and sales.” Next up for Duran is a new challenge: taking Google’s brand of multiculturalism global. “We are in the exploration process to learn how to tackle this,” he said. “We understand that multiculturalism doesn’t look the same in the U.K., Brazil and India. But later this year or next year, we’re going to be investing in and delivering on multiculturalism around the world.” ●
SPECIAL REPORT: CULTUREX AWARDS
Viewers See More Of Themselves in ‘Access Hollywood’ In its 25th season, entertainment show has worked hard to be more diverse By Michael Malone firstname.lastname@example.org @BCMikeMalone
ccess Hollywood’s commitment to inclusion is evident both in the cast of the entertainment show and the array of stories told on it, as the syndicated staple evolves to better reflect the nation that watches it. Senior executive producer Maureen FitzPatrick described a “shifted landscape” within Access Hollywood that began a few years ago, and saw more diverse staffers hired, and more women promoted into management roles. “We needed our staff and our storytellers to reflect the viewers,” she said. “The viewers are diverse.” Part of NBCUniversal, Access Hollywood premiered its 25th season in September. Daytime show Access Daily debuted in 2010. For its diverse hosts and coverage, the show is receiving a CultureX Award at the CultureX Conversations virtual event on March 16. All staffers are encouraged to pitch stories at the morning meeting, meaning a more varied batch of ideas is floating around each day. Host Scott Evans mentions some 50 people in on the meeting some days, many tossing out pitches. “It’s not just senior show staff,” he said. “A P.A. can pitch a segment. A runner can pitch a segment.” Access Hollywood offers the latest entertainment news, along with true-crime headlines. While celebs will always be the primary focus, the story lineup made more time for topics such as fashion, hair and makeup, which meant screen time for individuals who are not household names or faces. “The audience sees a reflection of themselves,” said FitzPatrick, who joined NBCUniversal in 2018.
That had Access Hollywood well-positioned when viewers’ attitudes toward entertainment shifted in 2020. After COVID hit, Access Hollywood did lots of stories on those FitzPatrick called “the unsung heroes in our country” — first responders helping America handle a grave crisis. Viewers appreciated hearing about people who don’t top-line films or have hit songs. Just after George Floyd’s death in May, Evans contacted senior producer Mike Marson and said the show had to do something meaningful on the Black struggle in America. Marson’s response, according to Evans, was, “We’re already on it.” In June, Access Hollywood premiered a 30-minute special called “A Celebration of Black Voices.” Offering the viewpoints of a range of Black personalities, from celebrities such as Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson, to people behind the scenes in Hollywood, the special also detailed the unrest happening around America. Evans shared what he saw at protests in Los Angeles. “I was encouraged to speak
Show: Access Hollywood Award: Program Reflection of Inclusion in Television Why They’re Being Honored: The award is presented to Access Hollywood to recognize its diverse cast and its coverage of television industry diversity and inclusion efforts.
authentically about what I was experiencing,” he said. “A lot of shows, particularly entertainment shows, wouldn’t use that kind of content.” Years back, Evans said a segment on hair would feature blonde and brunette locks. Nowadays, “it’s kinky, wavy, curly and straight,” he said. “It feels honest and authentic.” Access Hollywood has also worked hard to better reflect other minority communities, FitzPatrick said, and LGBTQ viewers too. The show’s cast reflects America, even if it is a little better-looking. Access Hollywood hosts are Mario Lopez, Kit Hoover and Scott Evans, and the correspondents are Sibley Scoles and Zuri Hall. Lopez, Hoover and Evans host Access Daily. “The five of them really like each other,” said FitzPatrick. Some 90% of the Access Hollywood staff has been working from home, and countless interviews have been conducted via digital platforms. FitzPatrick mentioned how frequently the program was pre-empted in 2020 due to COVID updates and press conferences. “We hung in there,” she said. “We’re happy that COVID will soon [subside] and we’ll get people back in the studio.”
Keeping It Positive
Our nation’s struggles have tweaked what people want to watch. Viewers want more positivity, FitzPatrick said, and information on making their home lives a little brighter, whether it is related to cooking or clothing. “In times of change, we shift our programming to meet the needs of our audience,” she added. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s ongoing struggles, depicted in their March 7 interview with Oprah Winfrey, are of great interest to viewers, and the Tokyo Summer Olympics, scheduled to start July 23, are a huge draw, too. “We love celebrating athletes and their backstories and their rise to success,” FitzPatrick said. She is optimistic Access Hollywood’s momentum will continue once the world gets back to relative normal. It got started when the show set out to reshape itself years back. “The key is knowing who the audience is,” FitzPatrick said. “That’s our country. Those are our viewers.” ●
Access Hollywood’s diverse on-air cast — including (from l.) Sibley Scoles, Scott Evans, Kit Hoover and Mario Lopez and Zuri Hall— reflects the nation’s ethnic composition.
SPECIAL REPORT: CULTUREX AWARDS
Juan Williams Brings an Alternative Voice to Fox News ‘The Five’ co-host adds diverse perspective to network’s politics coverage By R. Thomas Umstead email@example.com @rtumstead30
s an accomplished TV news journalist, radio host, newspaper reporter and author, Fox News on-air host Juan Williams has participated in an industry’s slow evolution toward greater inclusion and acceptance of diverse images and viewpoints over his career of more than five decades. Currently co-host of Fox News Channel’s political news program The Five, Williams has offered a unique perspective on breaking news and current events since joining the then-nascent network in 1997. Williams, who has authored books about the African-American experience including Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 and Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, will be honored at the CultureX Conversations event (March 16) for Talent Reflection of Inclusion in Television. In an interview, Williams said he was recently reminded that the industry still has a ways to go in its diversity efforts. In 2020, PBS initially invited Williams to speak as part of a show about that summer’s racial protests following the May death of George Floyd. Before he could respond to the invitation, it was withdrawn, because the producer felt Williams’s Panamanian ancestry excluded him from the AfricanAmerican centered conversation. “If someone who has written best-selling books on this very topic, regardless of the person’s birthplace, you would think that’s a source of information and perspective,” Williams said. “Yet here you have a white PBS host turning away from somebody on the basis of their birthplace. It’s just bizarre.”
Progress Proceeding Slowly
Williams does feel the media business has become more diverse, with more change on the way. “I’m 66 years old now, so I’ve seen a lot of transitions,” he said. “It’s almost like Forrest Gump — he finds himself at various moments in history and these transitions. There’s been a tremendous transition since I started on the print side as an intern at the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. When we think about race and ethnic diversity in terms of
staffing, it’s been an incredible shift.” Prior to Fox News, Williams worked for a decade at National Public Radio after working 23 years as a writer for The Washington Post. “When I was coming along, if you saw someone like [syndicated news host] Tony Brown, it really stood out, because there was just about no one else,” Williams recalled. “That was true on the local and national news side.”
‘Change Is Coming’
“Change has come in very small increments, but it is coming,” Williams said. “It’s something that’s been difficult, because America media is a power base, and it's hard for people to welcome newcomers to power and to cede power, and information is power. Part of that information is what the person who is giving you that information is saying, what he looks like and what their perspective on the news is. This is all part of what I call the changing face of America.” He agreed with the premise that he, as a person of color and having a more liberalleaning political perspective, has helped expand the Fox News audience. “I think there’s no doubt about it, and I have some interesting ways of judging that fact,” Williams said. “I’m a real human being. I go outside, go to church, to the ballgame, pass through the train station, go to the airport and to the grocery store. So people, especially Fox News’s most ardent viewers, come up to me and say ‘I don't agree with you, but I like you.’ This is so interesting. It’s like I am given permission in their mind to come into their home, and I am an alternative point of view that they value. To me this is tremendous because it means I have some value in the overall package that is Fox News. “The second part of that is I run into minorities who have a liberal political perspective and maybe don’t watch Fox News often, but what they say is, ‘Thank God you’re there. I’m glad someone is there to chal-
Role: Fox News political analyst, Co-host of Fox News Channel's The Five Company: Fox News Channel Award: Talent Reflection of Inclusion in Television Why They’re Being Honored: Juan Williams has been a consistent voice for rational thinking as it applies to inclusion on-air, especially in his coverage of public affairs stories.
A Fox News on-air personality since 1997, Juan Williams is well-established in Washington both personally and professionally. lenge people and to raise another point of view.’ “The demographics of the country are undergoing a tremendous shift,” Williams observed. “I think now the census has it at about 40% of the American population made up of people of color and heading higher. We've never been there before. If you look at the young people in the country, disproportionately over 50% of people under 18 are people of color, which is a huge audience. “So if you look at everything from movies to news to television and music, you see that increasingly the successful organizations are the ones satisfying a more diverse market and population. “When we come out of this pandemic phase and start getting open again — especially in the aftermath of what happened last summer — I think now we are comp elled in terms of business interests to do a better job of representing different perspectives with this increasingly diverse demographic.”●
SPECIAL REPORT: NAMIC CULTUREX VISION AWARDS AWARDS
HBO Leads Pack In NAMIC Vision Awards Nods Premium net on top with 17 nominations for excellence in inclusive content By R. Thomas Umstead firstname.lastname@example.org @rtumstead30
S.W.A.T.:CBS/Sony Pictures Television; Doc McStuffins: Disney Junior; John Lewis: In His Own Words: BET Networks; Insecure: HBO; I May Destroy You: HBO
ore than 30 networks, streaming services and digital companies, led by HBO, garnered 2021 NAMIC Vision Awards nominations as part of the diversity organization’s annual recognition of excellence in inclusive programming. WarnerMedia’s HBO led all programmers with 17 nominations across numerous categories (and its streaming companion, HBO Max, had two on its own). HBO dominated the “best performance in a comedy” category with three nominations for Insecure (Jay Ellis, Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji) and one for I May Destroy You star Michaela Coel. Tracy Morgan of TBS’s The Last O.G. rounded out the category. The Last O.G., Insecure and I May Destroy You will also vie for best comedy series along with HBO’s Betty and Pop TV’s One Day at a Time. Nominees for top drama are CBS’s All Rise, AMC Plus’s Gangs of London, HBO’s Lovecraft Country, CBS’s S.W.A.T. and Showtime’s The Chi. Networks and streaming services earning multiple nominations included BET, Nickelodeon, TBS, Lifetime, CBS, Pop TV, A&E, NBC News, ESPN, Epix, HBO Max, Food Network, Cleo TV and Vice. NAMIC in April will announce the winners of the Vision Awards, which honors programming that reflects the lives, spirit and contributions of people of color and mirrors the diverse composition of the viewing audience. “We are proud to honor the programmers and storytellers who intentionally work to create enriching and entertaining content that embraces diversity and inclusion,” NAMIC president and CEO A. Shuanise Washington said. “Now more than ever, this content is essential to fostering greater understanding and acceptance.” ●
Amphibia – Disney Channel Doc McStuffins – Disney Junior Santiago of the Seas – Nickelodeon T.O.T.S. – Disney Junior Vampirina – Disney Junior AWARDS & HONORS
2020 BET Awards – BET Networks CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute – CNN Urban One Honors – TV One BEST PERFORMANCE – COMEDY
Jay Ellis: Insecure – HBO Issa Rae: Insecure – HBO Michaela Coel: I May Destroy You – HBO Tracy Morgan: The Last O.G. – TBS Yvonne Orji: Insecure – HBO BEST PERFORMANCE – DRAMA
Aunjanue Ellis: The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel – Lifetime Jonathan Majors: Lovecraft Country – HBO Jurnee Smollett: Lovecraft Country – HBO LaRoyce Hawkins: Chicago P.D. – NBC Shemar Moore: S.W.A.T. – CBS | Sony Pictures Television CHILDREN’S
Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism (CNN & Sesame Street) – CNN Santiago of the Seas – Nickelodeon The Crystal Maze – Nickelodeon Unleashed – Nickelodeon We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest – HBO
Betty – HBO I May Destroy You – HBO Insecure – HBO One Day at a Time – PopTV The Last O.G. – TBS
Enslaved – Epix John Lewis: In His Own Words – BET Networks NBC News Primetime Special: America in Crisis – NBC News Seeing America with Megan Rapinoe – HBO Vice News Tonight: “Underlying Conditions: Coronavirus Devastates Navajo Nation” – Vice Media Group
DIGITAL MEDIA – SHORT FORM
African Voices: Miss Universe – CNN Blackface and Hollywood: A TCM Original Production – Turner Classic Movies “Books Before Boxing” – NBC News Digital “Movements That Transformed Our World: The March Continues” – NBC News Digital “Pandering to Black Voters Isn’t New” – NBC News Digital DOCUMENTARY
Be Water - ESPN Blackfeet Boxing: Not Invisible – ESPN By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times of Godfather of Harlem – Epix First Ladies: Michelle Obama – CNN The Long Road to Freedom – Dateline DRAMA
All Rise – CBS Gangs of London – AMC Plus Lovecraft Country – HBO S.W.A.T. – CBS | Sony Pictures Television The Chi – Showtime FOREIGN LANGUAGE
En La Línea: Latinoamérica – Discovery Networks Latin America / US Hispanic Pusong Pinoy Sa Amerika – GMA Pinoy TV Veneno – HBO Max LIFESTYLE
Christmas Cookie Challenge – Food Network “Iconic Harlem Restaurant on Small Business Survival During COVID-19” – NBC News Lens of Culture – Cleo TV Man Fire Food – Cooking Channel Turkey Day Sunny’s Way – Food Network
ORIGINAL MOVIE OR SPECIAL
Between the World and Me – HBO One Day at a Time: The Politics Episode Animated Special – Pop TV Robin Roberts Presents: Stolen By My Mother: The Kamiyah Mobley Story – Lifetime Sherman’s Showcase Black History Month Spectacular – IFC The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel – Lifetime REALITY
Just Eats with Chef JJ – Cleo TV Lens of Culture – Cleo TV Made from Scratch – Fuse Top Elf – Nickelodeon We’re Here – HBO REALITY – SOCIAL ISSUES
Blackfeet Boxing: Not Invisible – ESPN United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell – CNN Vice on Showtime: Losing Ground – Vice Media Group Voices Magnified: Locked Up in America – A&E Voices Magnified: Policing in America – A&E SPORTS
Field of Dreams … Deferred – Turner Sports Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel – HBO SC Featured: “Bubba” – ESPN SC Featured: “El Paso Strong” – ESPN The Shop: Uninterrupted – HBO VARIETY/TALK SHOW
HA Festival: The Art of Comedy – HBO Max Tamron Hall – Syndicated The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion – HBO Max Wilmore – Peacock Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It! – HBO
Networks Look Overseas For Their Next Big Series More global hits get imported amid pandemic-related production delays REVIEW
(Nat Geo, Sunday, March 21 at 9 p.m. ET) NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CONTINUES its Genius franchise with a focus on the life of R&B music legend Aretha Franklin. Much like its first two Genius projects about Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, Genius: Aretha is defined by the excellent performance of its lead star, Cynthia Erivo. It doesn’t take long for Erivo to embody the look and aura of the legendary singer. It also doesn’t take long for Erivo to deliver her wellestablished musical vocals to Aretha’s biggest and well-known hits, opening the series with a rendition of Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” during a live 1967 concert performance. The series also doesn’t wait long in delving into Franklin’s personal life, which has been mostly private and undisclosed to most observers. In just the first episode, viewers will learn of Franklin’s initial experiences with racism as a child; her complicated relationship with her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin (Courtney B. Vance), a well-known Detroit Baptist minister nicknamed “The Man with the Million Dollar Voice;” her often-turbulent early marriage; and her experiences as a young mother. Viewers will also get a glimpse of Franklin’s grit and determination to be a star, as well as her natural musical abilities. Franklin was a self-taught pianist, and in one scene depicting a recording session, she explains to a group of musicians her vision of how a song should sound not through intricate musical terminology but through her own language and vibe. The mostly white musicians quickly pick up on Franklin’s cues, resulting in one of her biggest hits. The eight-episode series will take viewers through Franklin’s life and career, from her chart explosion and literal coronation as the “Queen of Soul” at a concert, to her unabashed support for the Civil Rights Movement, to her awkward but eventually successful transition through several changes in musical styles and trends. Fans of Franklin as well as of the Genius franchise will certainly not be disappointed in Genius: Aretha. National Geographic will air all eight episodes of Genius: Aretha across four consecutive nights beginning March 21. — R. Thomas Umstead
By Michael Malone email@example.com @BCMikeMalone
ts name may stem from the U.S. of A., but there’s a decidedly worldly vibe to AMC these days. In fall 2020, the network launched a pair of acquired U.K. dramas, Gangs of London and The Salisbury Poisonings, on streaming service AMC Plus. Its second season to be a co-production for AMC, Gangs premieres on the linear network Sunday, April 4. Salisbury, for its part, debuted on AMC in late January. The next import up for AMC is U.K. thriller The Beast Must Die. Starring Jared Harris and Cush Jumbo, the drama makes its U.S. debut later this year and will stream on BritBox U.K. Dan McDermott, president of original programming at AMC Networks and co-head of AMC Studios, said imports have been key to AMC’s schedule for years. “It’s been part of our strategy from the beginning,” he said, mentioning Humans, Top of the Lake and The Night Manager. “When COVID hit, we needed to maintain our robust pipeline, and we did step up our efforts at that time.”
Amidst production lags brought on by COVID, and viewers’ increasing comfort level with overseas series, AMC is but one network filling out its schedule with imported programs. NBC ran Canadian dramas Transplant and Nurses in the fall, and has ordered a second season of Transplant. Apple TV Plus debuted Israeli spy thriller Tehran in September. The CW started years ago with ITV (U.K.) series Penn & Teller: Fool Us, and has moved on to Canadian dramas Trickster, Coroner and Burden of Truth, and competition series The Great Chocolate Showdown, which premieres later this year. The CW also debuted Italian series Devils, with Patrick Dempsey, last fall, and has aired U.K. drama Bulletproof and U.K. satirical competition series Killer Camp. Kevin Levy, executive VP, program planning, scheduling and acquisitions, said the imports were “integral” to The CW’s schedule in late 2020, as the network pushed its season start to January. “Once the pandemic hit, we had to get more aggressive to find completed product to bolster our schedule,” Levy said. “We had the infrastructure in place, and needed that when we shifted our schedule.” The pandemic has been a catalyst to what was already in the works,
AMC Networks president of original programming and co-head of AMC Studios Dan McDermott says the programmer has imported hits like Gangs of London (above and below) even before the pandemic.
according to Zak Shaikh, VP of media and entertainment at Magid. American talent can be hard to come by in the 500-scripted show universe, and the streamers’ seemingly bottomless troves of content have prompted more global tastes among viewers. Netflix, for one, has had hits with Peaky Blinders, Derry Girls and Lupin, among other overseas series. “The streamers want U.S. subscribers and they want overseas subscribers,” Shaikh said. “Viewers have become more comfortable with accents.” They’re less comfortable with subtitles, he added. Mary Dalton, Wake Forest professor of communication, said that may change, as she sees students get more accustomed to foreignlanguage television. “Canadian imports and shows from the U.K. are a lower bar for students to clear because of language, but I support all types of stories that take students out of their comfort zones and expose them to different cultures,” she said. Reinforcing the notion of American viewers finding comfort with programming beyond the U.S., the top comedy at the Golden Globes last month was a Canadian import in Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek, while the top drama was The Crown, a Netflix original about the U.K.’s royals that is produced in the U.K. As stuck-at-home viewers dig deeper into their streaming platforms for fresh programming, they’re getting more and more familiar with foreign series. “Americans are just looking for good storytelling,” said CW’s Levy. “The boundaries have expanded.” Hollywood set the standard for quality programming, according to Shaikh, and the rest of the world is upping its game. U.S. networks appreciate the effort. “I see this continuing,” said McDermott. “We’ve had our oar in this water for years. It’s important to us now, and it’s going to be important to us going forward.” ●
Gangs of London: AMC/Sky; Genius Aretha: Nat Geo
T-Mobile Comes to MobiTV’s Rescue Court docs reveal $34 million loss, plan for bailout by biggest customer By Daniel Frankel firstname.lastname@example.org @dannyfrankel
obiTV, one of the biggest suppliers of technology to smaller cable companies looking to downsize their roles in the video business, is getting bailed out of a financial bind by its biggest customer, T-Mobile. According to a flurry of filings tied to MobiTV’s late-February bankruptcy filing in Delaware, the Emeryville, California, video-tech vendor generated about $13.5 million in revenue in 2020, but sustained an operating loss of about $34 million. MobiTV is now asking the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to allow it to borrow $15.5 million from T-Mobile so it can pay its employees, keep the lights on and keep going. It has also hired a representative, FTI Consulting, to oversee its restructuring and sale process. “Although the company projected significant and material subscriber and revenue growth for 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and related stay-at-home orders materially impaired the company’s growth opportunities,” said a declaration by MobiTV chief financial officer Terri Stevens that was included in the Chapter 11 filing. “As a result, the company found itself with limited liquidity and at risk of default under its debt agreements.”
Received a PPP Infusion
According to the filing, MobiTV’s losses were only partially offset by $3 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the federal government. “Prior to the petition date, the company engaged in extensive negotiations with the pre-petition lender and T-Mobile regarding, among other things, a
tive (NCTC), which represents 850 small cable operators, and its smaller MSO and telco clients include Mississippi’s C Spire, Windstream Communications, Vast Broadband and MCTV. As these companies have ditched increasingly lower-margin traditional quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM)based video services, they’ve relied on MobiTV’s turnkey solutions, which let them supply their customers with appbased solutions they can use on popular off-the-shelf OTT devices like Roku. MobiTV lists 76 full-time salaried employees on its payroll, as well as 10 hourly workers. It counts 125 customers in its bankruptcy filing, along with $19 million in assets and $75 million in liabilities. Among its biggest debt obligations, MobiTV owes $4 million to cloud computing company Rackspace, $3 million to Silicon Valley Bank and $2.9 million to patent pool MPEG LA. Founded in 1999, MobiTV has raised more than $213 million through numerous venture capital funding rounds. The company’s plan to continue operating — and even increase its marketing spend amid the restructuring process — must still be approved by the Delaware court.
CEO: Company’s Still in Business
CEO Charlie Nooney said MobiTV is still selling its TV platform (above) to small cable and telco clients.
potential auction sale process in the context of a Chapter 11 proceeding,” Stevens wrote. “Ultimately, the company, the pre-petition lender and T-Mobile mutually determined that, among the strategic alternatives to be considered, the company should prepare for a potential sale process that could be implemented through the filing of Chapter 11 cases to maximize the value of the company.” MobiTV designs and sells technology, some of it cloud-based, that allows pay TV operators to transition to app-based video platforms. T-Mobile is using MobiTV’s tech in TVision, the virtual pay TV service it launched in November. But the company’s roots in the cable business run deep. Notably, MobiTV’s technology is also being used in Sparklight TV, the new app-based video platform being developed by Cable One. It has an agreement with the National Cable Television Coopera-
On the day of its Chapter 11 filing, MobiTV chairman and CEO Charlie Nooney sent a letter to clients, assuring them that the filing “does NOT mean the company is going out of business. We will continue to provide live and on-demand video solutions to our customers and will continue to review our services through the case proceedings.” MobiTV reports having 125 customers. The company declined to say more about the 2020 downturn beyond the statement that it was hit hard by stay-at-home orders and other pandemic-related conditions. “The company derives its revenue from contracts with its subscription television customers, T-Mobile, and certain other broadband and cellular service providers, who utilize the company’s IPTV application,” Stevens wrote in her filing. T-Mobile launched its TVision in early November under great fanfare. But almost immediately, the platform received pushback from programming partners, including Discovery, which accused T-Mobile of confining their channels to tiers in ways that didn’t meet the terms of their program licensing contracts. T-Mobile quickly pivoted, moving 33 networks that were previously available only in the $10-a-month Vibe tier to the more robust Live packages at no extra cost to the customer. Did T-Mobile tank TVision’s margins when that happened? That’s tough to say. But when the wireless carrier announced fourth-quarter earnings early in February, it didn’t mention its new pay TV platform even once. ●
White House Backs Online Political Ad Disclosures
Familiar bill would also beef up reporting on television and radio spots By John Eggerton email@example.com @eggerton
he Biden White House has put its muscle behind HR 1, a bill that would extend political ad disclosures to online advertisements on the largest digital platforms, beef up content disclosures for political spots and other content on television and make existing disclosures more prominent. The bill — the first of the new session, as its name suggests — was introduced Jan. 4 and passed the House earlier this month. It will be a tough sell in the Senate. Republicans are likely to filibuster it, but the filibuster is also in jeopardy, as Democrats contemplate getting rid of, or at least modifying, the procedure that allows a single senator to delay passage of a bill. If so, the bill could and likely would return following that move. Democrats have long tried to legislate enhanced disclosures in response to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision extending speech protections to corporate political ad expenditures. But they also upheld regulations on electioneering communications, including the disclosure requirements, saying that was a tool to ensure voters were making informed decisions about all that protected political speech resulting from the High Court’s elimination of the ban on corporate funding of TV and radio ads. A previous incarnation of the bill did not get any love from the prior Trump administration, or Republicans in general, and failed
to get sufficient support from Democrats. But the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, and the election-fraud claims that helped spark it, have added fuel for campaign reform. It also helps that the Democrats are in control of the White House, House and Senate. “The administration supports House passage of HR 1, the For the People Act of 2021,” said the Office of Management and Budget in an official statement of White House policy. “In the wake of an unprecedented assault on our democracy, a never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people, and a newly aggressive attack on voting rights taking place right now all across the country, this landmark legislation is urgently needed to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections,
President Joe Biden’s administration is pushing for package of HR 1, a bill that would bolster political ad disclosures.
and to repair and strengthen American democracy.” In addition to curtailing gerrymandering and boosting voting rights protections, the bill would reform the campaign finance system to “amplify the voices of the public, not the powerful.” Among other things, the bill would change the language that applies to “radio” to “audio,” meaning online audio as well as broadcast, and change references to “television” to “video format,” which would incorporate streaming. The bill would mandate that online platforms maintain files of political ads for public inspection, as broadcasters are currently required to do, and that those buying the ad time provide the requisite information for the file, which includes a digital copy of the ad, a description of the target audience, the average rate charged for the ad, the name of the candidate and the office they are seeking, as well as the election to which the ad refers. The file would have to be retained for at least four years. For a candidate ad, it must include the name of the candidate, the authorized committee and the committee treasurer. “Online platform” is defined as “any public-facing website, web application, or digital application (including a social network, ad network or search engine).” But it only pertains to those platforms with “50,000,000 or more unique monthly United States visitors or users for a majority of months during the preceding 12 months,” which would include YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. The bill would also require broadcast, cable and online platforms to make “reasonable efforts” to ensure political ads are not purchased by foreign nationals, directly or indirectly. In the interests of giving the public more tools to combat election disinformation, the bill would require the Federal Election Commission to conduct a study on “media literacy with respect to online political content consumption among voting-age Americans,” including recommendations for improving critical skills when it comes to consuming political content in general, and online political content in particular. ●
A NEWLY REINTRODUCED bill would resolve the issue of unlicensed spectrum, the currency of cable WiFi hotspots the country over, being undervalued as an economic force by the government. The Government Spectrum Valuation Act would require the government to put a value on all its spectrum “if the spectrum were reallocated for the use with the highest potential value of licensed or unlicensed commercial wireless services that do not have access to that spectrum as of the date of
the estimate,” the bill said. The issue of undervaluing unlicensed spectrum has been a bipartisan one, so there is hope that this time around, with the added emphasis of an Internet of Things world and a rural digital divide that unlicensed can help connect, the bill could finally pass.
In 2015, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), then ranking member and now chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, pointed out in a spectrum hearing that unlicensed spectrum was a driver of innovation. But even though that spectrum has been calculated to pro-
vide a $220 billion annual boost to the economy, Pallone said, the Congressional Budget Office scores freeing it up at “zero,” meaning that while CBO scores auctioning spectrum as worth billions to the treasury, it treats freeing up unlicensed bandwidth as though the government wasn’t getting anything for that valuable spectrum. NCTA–The Internet & Television Association has estimated WiFi “will generate $995 billion in economic value for the United States in 2021.” — JE
WIFI COULD FINALLY GET ITS ECONOMIC DUE
Islands in the Streams Despite early growth spikes, analysts caution that not all streaming services are alike By Mike Farrell firstname.lastname@example.org @MikeFCable
Paramount Plus; Dicovery Plus
iscovery Plus and Paramount Plus, the two latest big entrants in the streaming wars, came out of the gate swinging, but despite some impressive early subscriber-growth numbers, some analysts were wary of what appear to be very lofty valuations. Discovery launched Discovery Plus on Jan. 4 and about seven weeks later said the service had attracted about 11.3 million global subscribers and was on track to finish February with more than 12 million customers. That impressive growth — about 7 million more subscribers than the 5.2 million Discovery said the service had in December, just prior to its official debut — helped drive the company’s stock price to the stratosphere. Discovery shares have
more than doubled since the Jan. 4 launch of Discovery Plus from $30.63 each to $64.25 on March 5. There was some question as to how many of those 7 million additions were actual paying customers. Discovery has a promotional agreement with Verizon Communications where customers of the telco’s unlimited wireless plan the streaming service for free for six months. For the most
Both Paramount Plus (above) and Discovery Plus (below) are off to strong starts.
part, though, analysts were cautiously optimistic about the service’s growth potential. “More than half of these net additions appear to have come from the U.S., which is likely benefitting from the Verizon promo,” Barclays media analyst Kannan Venkateshwar said in a February research note. “While the headline figures are encouraging, it is tough to know what the underlying economics for this base are at this stage.”
Paramount Plus Hits Heights
At the same time, enthusiasm has been strong for ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus service, which launched globally on March 4. While the company hadn’t released subscriber figures for the new service, a beefed-up version of its former CBS All Access offering with new and library content from all of the programmer’s networks, mobile analytics company Sensor Tower estimated there were about 900,000 downloads of the Paramount Plus app during its first two days. Some analysts expect Paramount Plus to attract as many as 75 million customers by 2025. ViacomCBS stock has been on a similar run as Discovery based on that streaming enthusiasm. Shares have doubled since Jan. 4 from $36.60 to $74.01 on March 5. Since November 2019, when The Walt Disney Co. launched Disney Plus, streaming has been the only part of the video content
business that has excited Wall Street. While the space has been dominated by three heavy hitters — Disney Plus, HBO Max and Peacock — there are other smaller offerings from programmers like AMC Networks (AMC Plus), FuboTV, Pluto TV and more. Sports-centric FuboTV stock reached 545,000 subscribers in Q4, a 73% increase over the prior year period, which helped drive up its stock more than 10% at the beginning of the month. But it is just those stock price increases that have some analysts scratching their heads.
Recalculating Linear TV’s Value
In a research note in late February, Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger wrote that Discovery was trading at about 16 times its 2023 estimated cash flow and ViacomCBS was trading at about 25 times 2023 cash flow. By comparison, Facebook trades at about 16 times cash flow estimates and Google about 17 times. “We understand there are plenty of smart investors who are less negative than us on the decline of linear TV, and a more positive than us on the DTC potential for these companies,” Juenger wrote. “But does anybody really believe Discovery and ViacomCBS have similar/better growth and sustainability than Google and Facebook?” Wells Fargo Securities media analyst Steven Cahall, who puts Discovery’s stock multiple at about 15 times cash flow and ViacomCBS at about 13 times, also had no explanation for the market’s valuation of the shares. He estimated that Discovery was trading on about 10 times core EBITDA and 5 times forward direct-to-consumer revenue. For ViacomCBS, he estimated the split was 9 times on core cash flow and a similar DTC valuation. “We cannot fully explain the changes to valuation but our gut is that it has more to do with non-Media issues (e.g. low rates, Growth to Value, retail/quant, de-risking) than Media (e.g. DTC, improving economy for ads),” Cahall wrote. “... it’s the unknown unknowns to worry about, the things we don’t know we don’t know. We can’t explain these stock reratings fully, which means we can’t tell if they’re defensible or if they’re fleeting. As long as that’s the case, the market will chase valuation rather than be
STREAMING GAINS The number of global streaming video subscribers is expected to increase substantially by 2025, according to Barclays media analyst Kannan Venkateshwar. (In millions) 2020
SOURCE: Company reports and Barclays estimates
SLOW RIDE Once thought to be the savior of the pay TV model, virtual MVPD subscriber growth has slowed over the past few years. (In thousands)
7,507 10,036 11,988
SOURCE: Company reports, MoffettNathanson estimates and analysis
STOCK AND TRADE Shares of Discovery and ViacomCBS have soared since January as investors appear encouraged by direct-toconsumer moves by both companies. STOCK PRICE 1/4/21
STOCK PRICE 3/5/21
SOURCE: Yahoo Finance
Paramount Plus (below) generated some 900,000 downloads over its first two days, per Sensor Tower.
normative (our current tact as well), and for Media investors we simply advise to limit or hedge exposure in these three stocks until the dust settles.” In a March note to clients, Venkateshwar proposed a new way of valuing legacy media companies like Disney, Discovery and ViacomCBS that have pivoted toward a growth business like streaming based on customer lifetime value. For many companies that have entered the streaming realm, he noted, cash-flow estimates for the new service make up the bulk of their enterprise values in the early days. He pointed to Discovery and ViacomCBS, where the next three years of estimated EBITDA account for 42% and 45% of their respective enterprise value. For Disney, it’s 19%.
Juenger continued that the multiples are so far beyond his estimates as to the value of those businesses that “it’s not much worth debating next quarter’s or next year’s advertising or distribution revenue or margin or [free cash flow], or whether 7 million DTC net adds in launch quarter (at mystery ARPU) is awesome/ok/ terrible.” Discovery Plus and Paramount Plus joined “old school” streamers Disney Plus (launched on Nov. 12, 2019), HBO Max (launched on May 27, 2020) and Peacock (launched nationally on July 15, 2020) to compete for consumer entertainment dollars just as the traditional pay TV market hit another all-time low. Multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) — cable, satellite and telco TV companies — lost a collective 6 million subscribers in 2020, another record decline in what has been a steady stream of “worst-ever” years. Pay TV subscriber losses have broken records every year since 2015. At the same time, virtual MVPDs like Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu Plus Live TV, Fubo TV and Pluto TV started to show some signs of slowing down. Hulu Plus Live TV lost about 100,000 customers in Q4, while the entire segment itself added about 515,000 new customers in Q4, less than half the 1.3 million it added in Q3.
vMVPDs Don’t Meet Expectations
In a research note, MoffettNathanson principal and senior analyst Craig Moffett wrote that whether the vMVPD segment’s nearly 12 million customers is impressive is still up for debate, it still has fallen far short of the expectations of just a few years ago. Back in 2015, when vMVPDs were expected to capture almost all of the subscribers shed by traditional distributors, the hope was that the segment would save the pay TV category. Now, as vMVPDs have increased prices — Hulu Live and YouTube TV each charge about $65 per month — the segment has become like much of the rest of the video industry, a pricing play. “What has become increasingly clear is that SVOD and AVOD are simply better mousetraps for a very large number of customers, particularly those who aren’t sports fans,” Moffett wrote. “The problem they are trying to solve is not means of distribution — frankly who cares whether the bundle is delivered encoded in MPEG or IP? — but instead one of price. For most customers, the answer is not to replace the existing bundle of networks at a somewhat lower price, but instead to blow up the bundle entirely and replace it with SVOD and AVOD subscriptions that are by almost any measure a better solution.” ●
FATES & FORTUNES
People Notable executives on the move BRIEFLY NOTED Other industry execs making moves
BAI Communications has tapped Andrew McGrath as global chief commercial officer, based in London. He comes from Vodafone, where he was senior VP of Vodafone Carrier Services for the past eight years.
Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media Family Networks has elevated Jennifer Lee Temple to senior VP, brand design, part of a restructuring creating the Crown Global Brand Group. She was senior VP, print, video & web design.
Lissa Grunfeld was promoted to VP of brand production and operations at Crown Media Family Networks, overseeing the Brand Production & Operations Division. She had been VP of design production.
Crown Media Family Holdings upped Michael Grover to VP of brand marketing, assuming oversight of all marketing campaigns for the programmer. He had been senior director of marketing.
DAZN Group has named Kevin Mayer chairman of its board of directors. Mayer is the former chairman of direct-to-consumer and international at The Walt Disney Co., where he launched Disney Plus and ESPN Plus.
LiveXLive has named Andy Vick as head of programming and executive VP of StudioOne, the company’s newly formed content division. He was president of virtual reality and immersive entertainment at STX Entertainment.
Revolt Media, the music programmer owned by hip hop star and entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs, has elevated Detavio Samuels to CEO. He had been chief operating officer of the company since June of 2020.
E.W. Scripps has named J. Michael Durnil, Ph.D., as executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He most recently was the executive director of the Simon Youth Foundation in Indianapolis.
Richard Steiner was named head of digital for the new national television division of E.W. Scripps, Scripps National Networks. A longtime Turner executive, he helped build the Watch TCM and FilmStruck streaming services.
Beatriz Pedrosa-Guanche was tapped as senior VP, corporate communications at Univision Communications in Miami. She has served in senior positions with Apple, Burson-Marsteller, Brazil Telecom of America and Verso Technologies.
Kristy Chan was named senior VP, marketing and publicity, unscripted television at Warner Bros. Television, leading all marketing and communication initiatives. She was VP, publicity, at TBS, TNT and truTV.
ACA Connects has tapped John Higginbotham as executive VP and chief operating officer, responsible for all operations and staff. He had been the independent cable trade group’s EVP of membership and finance.
Caroline Persinger has rejoined ACA Connects as grass roots manager of the industry organization. Also, ACAC promoted Tomeika Slappy to assistant to the president and CEO from executive assistant. … Crown Media Family Networks also promoted Danielle Mullin to senior VP of brand marketing and ad sales marketing from senior VP, marketing; Leilani Gushiken to senior director of brand production from director of EPK and gallery production; Joe Kordash to senior director of brand motion graphics from director of creative design; and Lyn Smith to senior director of brand editing from supervising editor. … NBC Sports EDGE and PointsBet have added Sara Perlman as a sports betting host and content creator. Perlman had hosted Talk the Line for Fox Sports during the 2020 NFL season. … Brian Chisholm was promoted to senior VP, strategic partnerships at Los Angeles-based ad tech firm OpenX. … At Revolt, chief finance officer Colin McIntosh added duties as chief operating officer, and Deon Graham was promoted to chief brand officer, Combs Enterprises, from VP of digital.
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 (March 1-7)
MOST-SEEN TV ADS
Brands ranked by the greatest increase in TV
Brands ranked by TV ad impressions
Nerf Spend Increase:
GEICO ▲ 290%
Est. TV Spend:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
Est. Media Value: $2,861,807
Estimated media value of in-network promos On the strength of 279.4 million TV ad impressions, an NBC promo for new sci-fi drama Debris takes first place for the second week in a row. Cable dominates the ranking this time, with Food Network at No. 2 for Tournament of Champions, HGTV taking third for Rock the Block and Disney Channel in fifth for a PSA-style “Show Us Your Skills” promo using network talent. Fox took fourth place to hype The Masked Singer. Notably, the Fox spot had the highest iSpot Attention Index number (158), meaning viewers were on average 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).
Est. TV Spend:
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
2. Tournament of Champions, Food Network
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
3. Rock the Block, HGTV TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
250,093,214 $920,791 234,297,001 $1,686,928
4. The Masked Singer, Fox TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
5. Show Us Your Skills, Disney Channel
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
Fox and Friends
Spend Increase: Spend Within Industry: Top Network:
TV Ad Impressions:
Total TV ad impressions within all U.S. households, including national linear (live and time-shifted), VOD plus OTT and local
PGA Tour Golf
Est. TV Spend:
Top Network: Comedy Central
TOP 5 PROMOTIONS
TV Ad Impressions: 279,442,640
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
Est. TV Spend: Interruption Rate:
1.06B $18.8M 2.27%
Top Show: College Basketball
Paramount Plus Spend Increase:
TV Ad Impressions:
Domino’s ▲ 154%
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
Neutrogena (Skin Care) Spend Increase: Est. TV Spend:
Law & Order: SVU
T-Mobile TV Ad Impressions: Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
Top Show: NBA All-Star Game
AFTER HUGE 2020, CABLE NOW CONTROLS NEARLY 70% OF U.S. WIRELINE BROADBAND
MCN’S MOST VIEWED Top stories on multichannel.com, March 3-10 1. Charter Says Broadband-Only Customers Are Now Using 700 GB of Data Per Month
THE EIGHT BIGGEST U.S. cable companies collectively added 4.819 million wireline broadband customers in 2020 and now control approximately 69% of the U.S. fixed internet market. The 4.86 million total fixed broadband customers added last year by the 16 largest providers, accounting for 96% of cable and telco customers, were the most since 2008, according to Leichtman Research Group (LRG). Telcos collectively added 39,535 to the total, a huge turnaround from losing 590,000 in 2019. The overall pandemic-year customer growth performance represented a 190% uptick over the industry’s 2019 expansion. The surge by cable providers, which generally offer customers more bandwidth than telcos, was led by Charter Communications, which added 2.215 million
customers, and Comcast, with 1.971 million net new broadband subscribers. LRG president and principal analyst Bruce Leichtman, who has been tracking the U.S. broadband industry since 2001, said he can’t remember a time when cable’s share of the market was bigger. “With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, there were more net broadband additions in 2020 than in any year since 2008,” he said. “The top cable and telco broadband providers in the U.S. cumulatively added about 4,860,000 subscribers in 2020, compared to about 5,100,000 subscribers in 2018 and 2019 combined.” Verizon Communications led all telco providers with 173,000 customer additions. — Daniel Frankel For more stories like this, go to nexttv.com.
SUBSCRIBERS AT END OF Q4
NET ADDS IN 2020
2. Charter’s Spectrum TV App Blackout on Roku Edges Toward Two-Month Mark
3. Tegna President Dave Lougee Apologizes For Mistaking Black Board Candidate for Valet
4. DirecTV’s Over 3 Million Lost Customers In 2020 Accounted for Nearly Half Of All Cord-Cutting
5. Comcast: Streaming Accounted for 71% Of Downstream Traffic Last Year
To read these stories, go to multichannel.com.
TOTAL TOP CABLE SOURCE: The companies and Leichtman Research Group. LRG estimate *
Includes recent small acquisitions/sales and LRG pro forma estimates
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 cable programs ranked by viewer engagement Ratings Rank
Telecast (Week Ending Feb. 28)
It Was Always You
The Walking Dead
Tyler Perry's Sistas
90 Day Fiance
When Calls the Heart
Girl in the Basement
The Curse of Oak Island
La Rosa de Guadalupe
Married at First Sight
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
The Walking Dead: AMC; Charter
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.)
Data provided by
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 broadcast programs ranked by viewer engagement
Telecast (Week of Feb. 28)
Vencer El Desamor
Buscando a Frida
¿Te Acuerdas De Mí?
9-1-1: Lone Star
NCIS: Los Angeles
NCIS: New Orleans
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 MARCH 1 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.
Ginny & Georgia
Share of binges: 2.30%
Share of binges: 2.25%
Share of binges: 1.85%
Share of binges: 1.23%
Share of binges: 1.15%
LAST WEEK: 5
LAST WEEK: 1
LAST WEEK: 2
LAST WEEK: 4
LAST WEEK: 3
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
NCIS: Los Angeles: Ron Jaffe/CBS; Peacock
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
LAST WEEK: —
Attack on Titan Grey’s Anatomy
Share of binges: 0.96%
Share of binges: 0.82%
Top five stories on nexttv.com, March 3-10 1. Peacock Startup Lost $914 Million for Comcast 2. Charter Says Broadband-Only Customers Are Now Using 700 GB of Data Per Month 3. Cord-Cutting’s Worst Year Ever: Analyst
Share of binges: 0.75%
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Share of binges: 0.66%
Networks reflected don't include every viewing platform available nor total viewing in share of binge
Share of binges: 1.02%
NEXT TV’S MOST VIEWED
To receive “The Binge Report” and other TV Time reports, visit https://www.whipmedia.com/subscribe/
4. E.W. Scripps Plans to Take Over-the-Air Nets Over the Top 5. Charter’s Spectrum TV App Blackout on Roku Edges Toward Two-Month Mark To read these stories, go to nexttv.com.
Most-Watched Shows on TV Of all the live, linear minutes watched by VIZIO smart TVs March 1 - 7, 1.65% of the time was spent watching college basketball. See what other shows captured the most watch-time* in the graphic below
Oprah's interview with Meghan and Harry, which aired on CBS on Mar. 7, captured 0.55% of all live, linear minutes watched during the week — and it was No. 1 for watch-time that Sunday, with 3.44% of all minutes watched.
Via Vizio’s Inscape, the TV data company with insights from a panel of 17 million active and opted-in smart TVs. Data is linear, live TV only and includes all episode types (new and reruns). Rankings are by percent share duration, deﬁned as "of all the live, linear minutes watched last week, X% of the time was spent on show Y")
Rich Ferraro, GLAAD @glaad
Charting the Course Of TV Representation GLAAD’s Rich Ferraro tracks how LGBTQ people are portrayed in media
t the CultureX Conversations virtual event on Tuesday, March 16, Rich Ferraro, the chief communications officer of GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, will engage in a discussion about LGBTQ characters and storylines on television, a topic the organization has been studying for years and honoring at its GLAAD Media Awards since 1990. Ahead of the event, Ferraro and GLAAD shared some topical questions and answers about the subject for Multichannel News. MCN: We have seen a shift over the past several years in the number of LGBTQ stories that have been told on TV. Do you think the growth in LGBTQ stories as a whole accurately reflects the diversity of the community? What stories are still underrepresented on TV? Rich Ferraro: Over the past several years, we’ve certainly witnessed an overall growth in LGBTQ representation on television, but it’s no secret that many of those stories have centered on white cisgender gay or lesbian experience. Not until recently have we started to see a larger expansion of LGBTQ stories about people of color, as well as stories that spotlight diverse identities within our own community. Shows like Pose, Veneno, Vida, 9-1-1: Lone Star, Love, Victor and many others have paved the way for more diverse stories about LGBTQ people of color to be told. A promising finding from this year’s Where We Are on TV report was that racial diversity of LGBTQ characters is up on every platform, which is something GLAAD has been calling on from the industry for years. However, we’re still seeing underrepresentation of many groups within our own community, including bisexual and transgender people, disabled LGBTQ people and people living with HIV. Specifically, this year’s report found that there are only three characters on television who are living with HIV — all appear on FX’s Pose — which is down from nine characters the year before. Earlier this year, GLAAD an-
nounced that it is calling on the industry to erase stigma through authentic storytelling by introducing no less than three new regular or recurring LGBTQ characters living with HIV each year.
Shows like FX’s Pose offer a more diverse picture of the LGBTQ community.
MCN: How have LGBTQ stories and characters evolved since you started at GLAAD in 2008? RF: When I started, it was a major news story when a gay character was introduced and we often worked with publicity teams to prepare crisis communications plans to anti-LGBTQ backlash. Just a year after I started at GLAAD is when Modern Family premiered on ABC. At the time, it was revolutionary for a gay couple to be depicted in such a positive and multidimensional way on broadcast television. Each week, Cam and Mitchell’s relationship
The findings of this study send a clear and powerful message to brands that including LGBTQ people in ads, TV and films is good for business and good for the world.
appeared on TV screens across the country, most likely introducing many Americans to their first gay parents. Now those crisis communications plans are not only not needed, but LGBTQ characters are the root of extremely celebratory earned media and social buzz. Series like Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek, which has a pansexual character as a lead and a gay man as an EP, has been sweeping the biggest award shows in Hollywood. Groundbreaking shows like FX’s Pose and HBO Max’s Veneno have made history for trans representation, both on and off screen, and continue to highlight the importance of spotlighting and amplifying trans voices of color. MCN: Last year, GLAAD and P&G released the first-ever ‘LGBTQ Inclusion in Advertising & Media’ study, which found that consumers are extremely comfortable with LGBTQ images in media and look favorably on brands who include LGBTQ people in their ads. How does this research shape the focus of GLAAD’s work to improve LGBTQ inclusion with networks and advertisers moving forward? RF: The findings of this study send a clear and powerful message to brands that including LGBTQ people in ads, TV and films is good for business and good for the world, and should act as a catalyst for greater inclusion across industries. Nearly 70% of non-LGBTQ people who saw us in film, TV or ads said they favored a brand that included us. In advertising, we know that significant work still needs to be done given the absence of LGBTQ representation. GLAAD will soon begin work with P&G and the Association of National Advertisers’ Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing to develop a set of best-in-class practices and standards for brands and companies to follow when approaching LGBTQ inclusion in advertising, specifically focused on prioritizing impact and ensuring accurate and authentic representation. ● For more information about the CultureX Conversations event, go to CultureXevents.com.
THE FIVE SPOT
Warren Hutcherson Executive Producer, ‘Raven’s Home,’ Disney Channel Comedy veteran kept successful series on the right track
isney Channel’s successful live-action comedy series Raven’s Home continues its fourth season March 19 with new episodes executive-produced by veteran Warren Hutcherson. Hutcherson — who took over production of season four in 2019 after the untimely death of Eunetta Boone, season three’s executive producer — has kept the show among Disney’s most watched and co-viewed shows, with a mix of comedic and family-oriented storylines revolving around series star Raven-Symoné. Hutcherson, whose career spans from performing standup comedy in New York in the 1980s to writing for such shows as Saturday Night Live, The Bernie Mac Show and Living Single, spoke with MCN senior content producer R. Thomas Umstead about making the switch to writing kids-targeted programming and the opportunities for writers and producers in a multiplatform television environment.
Raven’s Home: Disney Channel
You’ve previously worked on successful adult-targeted comedy series, so how difficult was it to adjust to writing for a younger target audience? I didn’t feel like it was that big of an adjustment. Most of the shows that I’ve worked on in my opinion are family shows. Obviously, there were subjects that Disney was not going to tackle, but it’s pretty much the same.
How was your experience working with Raven-Symoné, and are you surprised that she and the show continue to connect with viewers? Not at all. Raven is very professional. Throughout her career she learned all the right lessons as far as being in front of the camera, and she was really eager to learn about what happens behind the camera. She had a vision of what she wanted to do, and I was fortunate because she had a lot to do with the decision of me stepping into the leadership position at the show. We both said, ‘Let’s achieve as much as we can with the show,’ and I’m always going to respect her for that. From a producer’s standpoint, is this the best time to be in the business given the emerging content distribution platforms available? I think this is the best time to break into the industry. Back in the day, you would write a script and hope somebody read it. You had to show value to people who had some kind of connection in the business, and I feel those days are gone. Today, you could be 12 years old and start a YouTube channel, and if it turns into something huge, the industry will come to you. There are so many platforms available now that if you really want to get your voice out, then you can. If people are really compelled by that voice, then the money tree will shake in your direction.
BONUS FIVE All time favorite TV show? There’s a tie for first place: Barney Miller and The Bernie Mac Show. Favorite podcast? The Joe Rogan Experience. Vacation bucket destination? The Maldives, although I think it’s sinking. Books on your nightstand? It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump by Stuart Stevens; Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Wilkie. Shows on your must watch list? Speechless and Superstore.
African-Americans are increasing their industry presence both in front of and behind the camera. Having experienced similar periods where Black content was popular only to eventually fall out of favor with distributors, do you think the current industry momentum is sustainable? It’s a really good question. If you look at the ’90s, that was true: They made a lot of Black shows and then they stopped. So there’s a sort of cyclical thing that happened in the industry up to now. What I do like now that makes me think that things might be changing is that you have a few more Black creators higher up in the food chain. That creates a situation where there’s going to be some consistent storytelling. But I’m also a realist. What I want to see is consistent good storytelling. I don’t want to see a Black version of Gilligan’s Island. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? I’ve been so enthusiastic about being a father that I really hadn’t thought about it. The one thing I’ve been thinking about is doing a one-man [stage] show. Or I could write a show and do it on YouTube. ●
Multichannel News - March 15, 2021