Monday, July 27, 2020

This Week's Variety Cover: R.I.P. Cable TV

For this past week's Variety cover story, my colleague Kate Aurthur and I took a deep dive into the world of cable TV, and how the major conglomerates are adjusting their business models as viewer habits quickly change. We've been buoyed by the response so far — and check out that kick ass cover! An excerpt:
Pundits had long predicted the death of broadcast TV, while basic cable feasted on a dual revenue stream of subscriber fees and advertising revenue. But that gravy train started going off the rails when the streaming services arrived. At first, Netflix was a friend, supplying yet another source of revenue and even acting as a marketing tool — helping to turn AMC’s “Breaking Bad” into a much bigger hit during its final season of originals on AMC, for example.

But as AMC soon learned, consumers began thinking of “Breaking Bad” as a Netflix show — and Netflix was using acquired library content to quickly change viewer habits. Last year, the streamer launched more original programming than the entire cable TV industry had a decade earlier.

Meanwhile, “cord cutting,” once pooh-poohed by the cable industry as a myth, has become a real threat: The number of pay-TV households peaked in 2010 at 105 million; now it’s down to approximately 82.9 million. And a study last year by eMarketer forecast that number to dip to 72.7 million by 2023. Now, it’s cable that’s on the ropes — and struggling for survival.
If you haven't yet, read on here.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Comic-Con at Home: Mike Moderates the 'Phineas & Ferb The Movie' Panel

Well, it sure wasn't the same thing as being at the San Diego convention center, in front of fans, and braving the crowds of attendees in cosplay. But nonetheless, Comic-Con International went on this weekend, via an at-home edition. My small contribution this year was moderating the "Phineas & Ferb" panel, featuring reators and executive producers Dan Povenmire (also known as Prof. Doofenshmirtz) and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh (Major Monogram), director Bob Bowen and stars Ashley Tisdale (Candace), Vincent Martella (Phineas), Maulik Pancholy (Baljeet), and Dee Bradley Baker (Perry the Platypus). We shared an exclusive sneak peek of Disney Plus's upcoming "Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe" and discuss the origins of the animated series, plus a lot more. (You may recall I moderated and helped organize the "Phineas & Ferb" farewell panel in 2015.)

Watch this weekend's panel below:

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Thursday, July 16, 2020

15 Movies About Los Angeles That You Need to See

Well, now I've got quite a bit of work to do. My Variety colleague Pat Saperstein, of Eating LA fame, has put together a list of 15 movies about L.A. that capture a part of the city you might know about — and it's an excellent list. No "Chinatown" or "L.A. Confidential" here, as you know plenty about those worlds.

But I love this list, and I'm embarrassed that I haven't seen enough of them. This is amazing quarantine homework. The one I would have added, of course, is "Midnight Madness," which inspired my L.A. race, which then morphed into the The Great Los Angeles Walk!

Here are Pat's picks, and she elaborates about them here:

"The Exiles" (1961)
"Targets" (1967)
"Model Shop" (1969)
"The Outside Man" (1972)
"Shampoo" (1975)
"Up In Smoke" (1978)
"Killer of Sheep" (1979)
"Breathless" (1983)
"Repo Man" (1984)
"To Live and Die in L.A." (1985)
"Into the Night" (1985)
"Less Than Zero" (1987)
"Mi Vida Loca" (1993)
"Devil in a Blue Dress" (1995)
"The Kids Are Alright" (2010)

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

MIKE ON TV: How the Coronavirus Pandemic is Impacting Summer and Fall TV

I was on Canada's CTV Newschannel last Friday to discuss how the production shutdown is impacting summer and fall TV schedules... and the short answer is, no one still quite knows when or how TV shows will return. Watch above.

Right now the industry is still in a bit of a holding pattern, especially given the spark in COVID cases. Several of the networks have announced fall schedules that feel like optimistic pipe dreams, as production really needs to be underway by August. Networks like Fox and The CW have stockpiled already-produced content, including international shows, to bide their time in the fall before (hopefully) having new episodes of their shows ready in January. The streamers are in better shape, obviously, since they have more content in the can, but even that will run out at some point. Talk shows have continued from home, and are slowly becoming more elaborate -- with some looking at ways to move back to a studio without audience (like "Conan"). Then there's still the question of the Emmys, which take place on Sept. 20, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, and what that might look like.

As for those of us covering television, it's perhaps never been busier. The business has been impacted by COVID in so many different ways that it's hard to keep up with all the angles. The national conversation about systemic racism in the country and its impact on popular culture also has many ramifications on the business. Add that to the ongoing business of television -- deals are still happening, shows are still being picked up/renewed/canceled, executives are still being hired and fired... and also, this is the year that multiple streaming services have launched, including HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi, further disrupting an already completely disrupted industry.
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