The story of the last week in American and around the globe was the election of President-Elect Joe Biden to the American presidency. Will this impact the entertainment industry? Assuredly, though exactly how remains to be seen. And as I wrote on Friday, we’re still counting votes to see who will win control of the legislative branches and by how much. We’ll have weeks/months to unpack that.
The election, though, wasn’t the only news. So let’s do a run through of the other stories of last week (or so).
Other Contenders for Most Important Story
Judge Judy to IMDb TV
Judge Judy is headed to IMDb TV for the next generation of her daytime legal show. Given that she hosts one of the of the most popular shows on TV period, this is news. Frankly, as Rick Ellis pointed out in his newsletter, if this show costs the same as say a Borat 2, it could be actually be a more cost effective move for Amazon Studios, even if it is less buzzworthy. Unlike a big film, that only draws in viewers once, Judy Sheindlin has loyal fans who tune in everyday.
With two caveats.
First, the challenge for Amazon is whether those older viewers will figure out how to tune into IMDb TV and other streaming services. Maybe Judge Judy can act as a draw…or IMDbTV will act as a pseudo-exclusive platform that essentially means she loses her ability to reach her audience. The Joe Budden/Spotify example I brought up a few weeks back, in other words. Broadcast is ubiquitous whereas free streaming TV adoption is not.
Second, CBS bought the rights to all the episodes of Judge Judy (the show) back in 2017 for $95 million. Meaning someday Paramount TV will have Judge Judy. Or HBO Max. Or Discovery TBD. Plus she’ll still be in syndication via repeats. Do viewers of Judge Judy need new episodes? That remains to be seen.
Disney+/Globo Plan a Bundle in Brazil
As Disney+ plans to enter Latin America, they’re partnering with telecom firms, as they have around the globe. In Brazil, they’re partnering with Brazilian leader Globo and will be offered as part of a bundle, though they’re calling it a “shared subscription”. I love this strategy for Disney, as I’ve said before. It allows immediate penetration into key markets and Disney content is seen as must have for major telecom providers.
T-Mobile Enters the Streaming Wars
Another telecom company is offering another virtual MVPD. This time it’s T-Mobile with their offering of “TVision”. However, TVision is already running into trouble as cable channels are making noises that T-Mobile is violating the terms of their deals due to what channels are offered in what packages.
Frankly, virtual MVPDs are just tough businesses to be in. They don’t really solve any problems for customers, and the only reason they’ve gained market share is that they’ve offered severe price discounts. Like Youtube TV, DirecTV Now and others before it, T-Mobile seems to be offering a deal which is too good to be true, 30 channels for only $10. It likely won’t last.
Roblox Is Going to IPO
Kid focused video-game company Roblox is going public, having filed confidentially for an IPO. Roblox has an interesting approach, since they let users design games, which means they have a lot of games for very little cost to Roblox. Throw in some hefty doses of social, and the platform is very popular with the kids. (Though, it has some risks, as I highlighted in a newsletter a few weeks back.) In all, this is a company to watch, like a less buzzy Fortnite.
Streaming service Starz has reached 9.2 million streaming subscribers, though how exactly this is calculated is, as always, confusing. Does this mean streaming only? Or more likely folks who subscribe anywhere, but have streamed content? If it is a legit 9.2 million streaming-only subscribers, that’s a great number.
Either way, the news came as part of their earnings call, and other articles indicated that Lionsgate is willing to spin Starz into its own company. Which could be a sign that efforts to sell Starz have finally ended, or this is a way to sell the company without having to actually sell it via the traditional process.
Hulu/Youtube TV Dropping RSNs
More bad news for regional sports networks. Hulu has live sports, but won’t carry regional sports networks, apparently. As a result, Sinclair wrote down the value of their regional sports networks by half. Partly, this does reflect that Sinclair overpaid for the channels, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they overpaid at the time. In a non-Covid-19 timeline, they may have been fine. Still, over the entire sports ecosystem, RSNs may be the first weak point. Though…
Utah Jazz sell for $1.6 Billion
For all the worries about cord cutting impacting sports valuations, we haven’t seen it yet and the Utah Jazz sold for a tremendous price tag given their market.
Entertainment Strategy Guy Update – Esports
Are esports trending up or down? I’d say neither, but the bad news headlines I’ve seen recently worry me.
On the good side, Learfield IMG is launching a collegiate esports league since the NCAA has mostly punted on allowing esports. Toss in “VENN”, a streaming only esports channel that recently launched and you see the rush to make money off esports.
On the bad side, you see the folks rushing out of esports. Both ESPN and Cheddar are shrinking their esports coverage. There are also rumors that VENN is having trouble with its audience. Moreover, Overwatch league switched commissioners this spring.
The question is whether this is because esports is really, really popular but folks don’t want traditional style sports coverage, or whether it just isn’t that popular yet? As I’ve been writing for a while, I think it’s the former: esports is growing, but some of the numbers about it’s popularity are wildly overhyped. As such, the reason why no one is watching esports content is because it isn’t popular enough to demand that coverage. (Indeed, whenever traditional ratings are used, esports viewership is anemic. Then another excuse is brought up that esports fans don’t watch via traditional channels. Maybe! Or maybe it just isn’t as popular in raw viewership terms.)
I’d also make a clear distinction I don’t see enough: esports does not equal live-streaming video games. They overlap but do not necessarily need to both be true. Folks can love watching people on Twitch, but also esports leagues could come and go and never really break through. And while I remain skeptical on esports, you won’t find that skepticism for live-streaming.