Tvlip mania

A very expensive show about nothing. Netflix has agreed to pay $500m over five years for the global rights to Seinfeld. Hulu had purchased the same licence in 2015 for just $20m per year. You only get one Netflix in a lifetime and Sony has now had theirs. Or have they? Make that two in a lifetime (and counting): Viacom bought the cable rights to Seinfeld days later. The first was just one of the huge – bordering on crazy – deals presently being done by television conglomerates to create, lock in and archive content to exploit the streaming phenomenon and carve out a sustainable market share. Challenging established names like Netflix and Amazon Prime are several new players including APPLE TV+, DISNEY+, Peacock and HBO MAX. In 2020, AT&T Inc and Comcast Corp will also launch their own channels. Incredibly, more scripted television shows were made in the United States last year – 496  – than ever before. This must be one of the most fascinating capitalist brawls of our time and the fact that it revolves around the dear old tele is surprising – or, rather, would have been prior to the unification of all screens. Nobody doubts the scramble will end in a crash.


See reports on the frenzy in the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.


The WSJ reports that “Disney is making a land grab for users now and worrying about profits later on.” That struck me as a perfect metaphor. The Oklahoma Territory Land Run of 1889 was literally a race on horseback, foot and wagon wheels for alotments carved out of confiscated Indian territory. If you survived the dash, planted a flag and were registered doing so, you had a ranch. One hundred and thirty years later, TV executives are doing a modern version of the same thing. With that sort of drive comes a commensurate power to disrupt. Much to the annoyance of Australian cinema owners, Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman was financed by Netflix and subscribers won’t have to wait long to watch it at home. The old “90 day window” will become a thing of the past. This is a sequel to Uber versus taxis and it will end the same way. The disruptor wins. But do we?


“… the sheer addiction to entertainment risks sapping both commerce and citizens of ambition for worthier things.”


The fear is that the confiscated territory in this land run is the critical intelligence of populations. The “idiot box” has always had its enemies. I vaguely recall Bob Santamaria denouncing the medium – or at least a lot of the content – as an “open sewer” in your living room. That now reads as a smidgen too severe because there are wonderful and edifying gems to be found. Subscription and streaming mean people can now curate their own TV guide. Apart from so-called ‘show-verload,’ however, cultural problems persist. For one thing, the sheer addiction to entertainment risks sapping both commerce and citizens of ambition for worthier things. Even in the entertainment world, the preference for self-generating content means that one-off masterpieces may become more difficult to fund. The new war film Midway was produced by the Chinese. “It wasn’t exactly franchise material … even a critical 20th century battle doesn’t have the same kind of name recognition as Iron Man or Harry Potter,” deadpans Erich Schwartzel. That’s astonishingly dumb. I often see Great Books of the Western World (54 vols) for sale on Gumtree at a ‘take it off my hands’ price and wonder if screen-induced fog is destroying who we have always been. But choice is empowering. There’s nothing stopping us from watching what’s good and buying those books. We just have to be like Indiana Jones and choose wisely.

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36 Responses to Tvlip mania

  1. stackja

    My favorite TV shows were in 1950s-1960s. I never got the point of later shows. I’ll give these new shows a miss. Regarding Midway, why remake?Heston Fonda movie was good.

  2. I don’t know if Disney will be a threat, as all it produces nowadays is gender righteous crap. Anything that was decent is now completely destroyed now because Disney wants to lecture rather than entertain.

    We signed up to Netflix some months ago because we had it with regular TV, if there was anything worth watching, it was saturated with so many ads that it became unwatchable. What can be an hour and a half movie on TV is over two hours on Netflix (without the ads).

  3. Chris M

    This is a sequel to Uber versus taxis and it will end the same way. The disruptor wins.

    Massive debt and going broke = winning!

  4. JohnJJJ

    ” Midway was produced by the Chinese” now there’s an idea. Aside from the Japs , who else do the Chinese hate. Time to write a film script.

  5. RobK

    Every so often I see Great Books of the Western World (all 54 volumes) on sale at Gumtree for a ‘take my garbage away’ price.
    Im not much of a fiction consumer. Occasionally latch onto a tv series for idle amusement (enjoyed Les Murry, my neighbour said he had the full set of books. I’m not that keen.) but I really enjoy reading old science and technology textbooks. They’re great for a historical perspective and most are written by practical people wanting to pass on information. Hours of fun and amusement…. and a relief from rampant politics.

  6. JC

    A decade ago , the rage in the industry was bundling (through the cable companies). Cable firms absolutely ran the show and dominated. Now, it’s all about unbundling. Go figure.

    The most satisfactory thing to happen recently was that FOXTEL lost around $400 million last year. Yes!

  7. Infidel Tiger

    This is a sequel to Uber versus taxis and it will end the same way. The disruptor wins.

    Uber is now leaving several markets and looks like it will never be able to make money.

    I’m not sure what sort of business model this is.

    Lots of disruption going on, but so far only cash is being burnt.

  8. JC

    Who owns pornhub?

    Here
    Pornhub was founded by web developer Matt Keezer as a website within the company Interhub, and launched on 25 May 2007.[15] In March 2010, the company was purchased by Fabian Thylmann as part of the Manwin conglomerate, now known as MindGeek

    And.
    You can’t make this shit up.

    Since 2012, Pornhub has hosted several events and campaigns to raise awareness of certain issues or raise money, as well as to help promote their brand.[48] The first of these events took place in New York City on 24 April 2012, with the introduction of the “Boob Bus”.[49][50][51] The tour bus travelled to five scheduled stops at several NYC landmarks, and was intended to raise awareness of breast cancer by offering free breast exams for passers-by, as well as teaching self-examination techniques to use at home.[50] Double-board certified plastic surgeon Dr. David Shafer was present to give the exams and teach women how to perform self-exams, and pornographic actress Bree Olson acted as a cheerleader for the event.[50]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornhub

  9. Caveman

    I found an app called Tubi , it streams free content , just have to put up with a couple of adds no big deal.
    They do have some good movies but if you like Japanese dubbed Gamora movies old sci fi like Plan 9 from Outer space,and heaps of old B grade flicks it’s not bad to pass some time away.

  10. Midway was produced by the Chinese

    I’ve watched a number of Chinese feature films on YouTube and Netflix and they are actually very good. The production values, story lines and special effects are as good as any from the US. In many ways the production values and story lines are far better than the current crop coming out of the US.

  11. The thing is Uber doesn’t need to survive, JVC isn’t a world beater anymore and they changed everything at one point too…

    Society benefits from the competition. The companies can look after themselves.

  12. C.L.

    The old thieving taxi monopoly is never coming back, that was the point.
    Disruption on that definitional level wins.
    Same with cinema screening embargoes. Owners can refuse to run a film (as some of them have said they will) but a Netflix doesn’t really care whether The Irishman gets a run in Parramatta or not.

  13. feelthebern

    When Disney buys p0rnhub, you know that’s peak pricing.

  14. C.L.

    Here’s one idea for whining cinema owners: stop charging people $55 for an icecream and maybe they’ll come back.

  15. herodotus

    How many episodes of Nigella do you have on your PVR C.L.?

  16. Nah C.L.

    Let them die, turn them into spacious and affordable housing.

  17. FelixKruell

    The disruptor wins. But do we?

    Isn’t it the opposite? The disrupters burn cash, with no profit in sight. We get more content than ever, much of it good or great, for less than cost price.

  18. feelthebern

    Go to a cinema & patrons talk non-stop.
    Got to my couch & watch the same thing without the fcking jibber jabber.

  19. Gab

    I never got the point of Seinfield. Boring and banal.

  20. C.L.

    Felix, I think its a novel argument to make that history’s business disruptors lose.
    ??

    As for winners, yes, I end by saying we are spoiled with choice.
    But we’re becoming more moronic as a people because of this growing obsession with screen entertainment.

  21. Squirrel

    “Netflix has agreed to pay $500m over five years for the global rights to Seinfeld. ”

    This is why we need QE and negative real interest rates – so that the “animal spirits” of capitalism can be liberated to work their creative, entrepreneurial magic……..

  22. Howard Hill

    $500, 000, 000 for Shitfeld Seinfeld, my god. Wasn’t it Channel O that’s repeated it 19 times?

    They can all go broke as far as I’m concerned. Too busy watching real life stuff from indi content creators on youtube and the like and you actually get to learn some stuff and see real truth.

  23. FelixKruell

    CL:

    Felix, I think its a novel argument to make that history’s business disruptors lose.

    Some disrupter do win, but many lose. In this kind of race for market share over profit, it’s inevitable. Witness the first tech bust in the early 2000’s. For every iPhone there’s a blackberry. For every Facebook there’s a MySpace.

    My point was more that consumers do fine out of this – it’s one of the best examples of the benefits of capitalism.

  24. Bruce of Newcastle

    If they tried to make Seinfeld today the characters would perforce be a black lesbian, a young white tranny and an Asian person who identifies as a sprig of broccoli.

    You can therefore see why Netflix is so desperate to get the original Seinfeld rights.

  25. Mother Lode

    I think Seinfeld himself said that they would not make his program today. It would now be seen as self-absorbed to the point of indulgence.

    Kids now devote their lives to causes. There is no joy. The earth is a spinning top which has started wobbling as its energy dissipates, dipping and careening wildly before righting itself briefly for smaller and smaller intervals. The kids have time and again been abruptly thrown off their feet by things like AGW, eruptions of gender and sexuality injustice, raaaacism, the resurgence of Nazism – all completely fictitious.

    But they can only respond to anything now with constipated earnestness, outrage, and blame. Seinfeld with his observations of the endearing quirkiness of individuals could only be understood by the kids as examples of injustice, which is to say they would not understand it at all.

    If they would not make Seinfeld today they should ask themselves why not. And if the answer is that it would not attract a big enough audience, probably best not to purchase it.

  26. Entropy

    Mrs entropy has become addicted to k-dramas on Netflix. This I would find amusing except we share the account. Consequently if I happen to want to watch something, the browser window is full of Korean shows to the almost exclusion of my preference, 80’s action flicks. Fortunately it seems Koreans are partial to them too.

    The interesting thing with recent entrants is the strategies of Disney and Apple.
    Disney has this enormous back catalogue, and will not be afraid to use it to gain market share. I would be worried if I was Netflix.
    Apple has an enormous back catalogue in its iTunes rental model. Yet it has not managed to get deals for its new Apple TV+ service.
    So it has gone the other way, offering original content only, starting with a very limited range. The other difference is the price, Apple TV+ is cheap. Especially if you bought any Apple hardware recently. You get it for 12 months free. I think for many people that will be the right price until Apple can hold up a larger catalogue of content. Thing is, it can use the streaming service as an extra enticement into its ecosystem, so it can continue to mark huge margins on its hardware. It doesn’t need a lot of paying customers for its streamer. And in the end, I guess it can always sell the rights to the content if it doesn’t work out.

  27. C.L.

    Mrs entropy has become addicted to k-dramas on Netflix. This I would find amusing except we share the account. Consequently if I happen to want to watch something, the browser window is full of Korean shows to the almost exclusion of my preference, 80’s action flicks.

    Sure, Entropy. We believe you. 😉

  28. FelixKruell

    Entropy:

    Consequently if I happen to want to watch something, the browser window is full of Korean shows to the almost exclusion of my preference,

    You can easily setup multiple users, so that all suggestions pertain to your own tastes.

  29. a reader

    Few of these streaming services will last. But the biggest problem will be for sports who got greedy. As they move from the cable tv money (already limiting their audience for a short term financial gain) to their own bespoke streaming services (further limiting it) they will find their audience is gone.

    If you look in America where all the big sports want to have and charge for their own streaming services. Instead of people paying 1 fee (or putting up with ads which I am happy to do for FTA) to watch everything they;re interested in, the fragmentation and cost means people are choosing 1, maybe 2 sports. Give it 10 years and they will have shot themselves in the foot.

  30. Sam Duncan

    “Disney is making a land grab for users now and worrying about profits later on.”

    Well, they aren’t making a very good job of it. They’ve cranked the DRM up so high that Disney+ simply doesn’t work in many browsers. And…

    “I don’t know if Disney will be a threat, as all it produces nowadays is gender righteous crap.”

    Old Disney movies to get a politically correct makeover for new streaming service Disney Plus”.

    … in a way, I’m kind of glad it doesn’t.

    “Wasn’t it Channel O that’s repeated it 19 times?”

    Heh. The UK must be the only country in the Anglosphere where Seinfeld wasn’t a hit. The BBC had the rights and put it out at midight on Sundays. Or whenever it could be bothered; the time was never the same from one week to the next. I remember one week a double-bill was scheduled which simply didn’t appear. In fact, I don’t think those episodes have ever been shown over the air here. They’ve certainly never repeated the series. It’s seen in Britain as something of an obscure cult classic. Anyway, I’m glad I have the entire run on DVD.

  31. Jannie

    Hope their bubble bursts. I want my free TV.

  32. Iampeter

    I often see Great Books of the Western World (54 vols) for sale at Gumtree at a ‘take it off my hands’ price and wonder if screen-induced fog is destroying who we have always been.

    The entertainment medium, whether it be TV, books, movies, etc, acts as the transmission belt for the dominant ideas in our culture.
    If you are a religious/traditionalist collectivist, that believes the individual should be sacrificed for the greater good, then you should LOVE everything that’s out there right now. Popular culture is awash.

  33. Kneel

    “…on Netflix.”

    Got a geo-unblocker (USA Netflix account)?
    If yes, try:
    http://pluto.tv
    It’s got two “sources” – curated “free” content (movies, TV shows etc that are already free if you know where to look – they just aggregate a list for you) and “partners” like MTV, Disney etc who supply “MTV Pluto”, “Nick Jnr Pluto” et al.
    Several hundred channels of “live” tv (so you don’t have to pick a show, just a genre really) plus on demand content.
    Some channels are very focused, others are more “variety”/”entertainment”.
    Free, so worth a look – but without a geo-unblocker, you won’t see most of it.

  34. Anthony

    @bemused

    We signed up to Netflix some months ago because we had it with regular TV, if there was anything worth watching, it was saturated with so many ads that it became unwatchable. What can be an hour and a half movie on TV is over two hours on Netflix (without the ads).

    I think maybe you’re thinking Foxtel? Netflix has no adds, same with Stan etc. Foxtel Now and the free to air streaming services have lots of ads.

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