I’m Matt Bellamy founding partner of Puck news and I’m covering the inside conversation about money and power in Hollywood, with my new show, the town I’m going to take you inside Hollywood with exclusive inside on what people in Show, Business are actually talking about multiple times a week.
I’ll talk to some of the smartest people I know journalists insiders, all of whom can break down the hottest topics and entertainment.
Tell you what’s really going on.
Listen now, Today’s episode is about the entertainment and media Industries tumultuous summer the streaming Wars, a come to Jesus moment for movie theaters and a dramatic revamp.
At CNN, that tells us a lot about the state of the news industry.
In short, there is a lot happening in entertainment and media right now.
And it’s been way too long since I asked questions about.
What exactly is happening so no big wind up for me today.
My guest is the actual expert on these topics who is in Credibly well-sourced on media and streamers and movies.
We’ve got Matt, Bellamy a host of the awesome ringer podcast, the town, and a writer at puc news.
He’s going to tell us what he’s hearing from his sources about the future of the Blockbuster, the demise of the romantic comedy.
The Purge at HBO Max the murky path forward for Netflix and behind all of these stories a meta question.
Perhaps The Meta question for the entire media business right now, how do streamers TV Channels and stars.
Make hits in a world that is transitioning from one off ticket sales to a crowded Battle Royale over subscription Revenue.
I’m Derek Thompson.
This is plain English.
Matt Bellamy, welcome back to the podcast, man.
Thanks for having me.
So let’s start with movie theaters.
You made this great observation in your Puck newsletter, recently, that depending on the day, that you choose to read, headlines, about the movie industry.
It’s either been an incredible year for Blockbusters or an absolute catastrophe for movie theaters.
So in June it was all, you know, top gun Maverick and minions prove the Blockbusters are back and now in August it’s like holy shit.
The 2022 box office is likely to be 1/3 down compared to 20.
Team the last pre-pandemic year and a lot of these movie theaters might be verging toward Capital, Evan bankruptcy.
So I’m confused our movie theaters back or are they dead?
I think weirdly they’re sort of both.
Because what we found over the past, you know, since we came out of the pandemic, March April, is that people will show up for the right movie.
So the studios that are releasing these movies are getting a decent return on these.
Big budget Blockbusters, people will show up there can be a gigantic hit like top gun Maverick but if you are a theater owner, you can’t just live off those five to ten Blockbusters a year.
It’s the rank-and-file everyday movies.
That come out every weekend.
There’s two or three, they don’t do huge numbers, but they bring people to the theaters.
And those are the movies that have disappeared we’re down about 30%, in the terms, of the total number of releases this year.
And You are a theater chain.
That’s a significant.
Hit the box office being down, isn’t going to impact one specific Studio.
It’s going to impact these theaters that are depending on releases from all the studios, a number to put to that.
So, Chuck Klosterman said on this podcast recently that the 21st century saw the death of the middle class of Feeling by that, he meant, we all had to be either strong anti-fans or strong fans of everything by analogy.
You could say that in Film.
The 2020s have seen the death of the middle class of film like, Blockbusters or back.
But the only thing that’s back.
So I went digging this week for some numbers to put on this thesis which also seems to be your thesis and here’s an amazing statistic between the mid 1990s and the early 2000s, the top 5 movies of each year.
Typically accounted for about 15% of the total domestic box office in 2021, the top five films accounted for 30%.
Scent of the total box office twice, its historical Norm so far this year, 42 percent.
So that is a clear statistical example of how the middle class of film is dying and the Blockbusters are just eating up the entire Market in a way that makes it look good for the Studio’s that release minions in Top Gun but just doesn’t work for movie theaters that are relying on the middle class to, you know, certain like be their meal ticket for the weeks in between these ten poles, right?
And let’s be clear.
The movies are not dying, they’re just going to stream it because the movie, you know, you look at a movie like prey which is the Predator sequel.
That just came out a few weeks ago, on Hulu, that is a movie that in the before times would have gone to theaters in August probably would have done 70 80.
Maybe, you know, it’s good.
So maybe a hundred million dollars decent hit for Disney and something that the theaters could lure people in in August, that didn’t happen this year.
Directly to Hulu because Disney thought it was more advantageous to put it there and it’s just a it’s a sort of an abdication of the relationship here.
These Studios and theaters have been in this arranged marriage for the past 75 years where they absolutely need each other to survive but they have very different business models.
And the Studios have found that in the age of streaming where their stock prices are generated in part by the number of subscribers to their stream, Um, service, they no longer have the incentive to put all this stuff in theaters.
Now there’s been a little bit of pull back on that because the Netflix stock is down about 60 percent this year and everyone was chasing Netflix, but when you look at the aggregate there is still an incentive for these Studios to wring money out of these movies, any way they can.
And for some movies Top Gun minions Jurassic world, that means theaters.
First for some movies, it means a hybrid release day and date on the streaming.
It means dreaming only.
It means you know some kind of alternative Arrangement that impacts negatively the theater owners.
I’m this is why.
I’m so glad that you’re here because you helped to edit my hot takes.
I said the 2020s have seen the death of the middle class of film that’s wrong.
It’s in the middle, the death of the middle class of theatrical releases, it’s become harder to release these sort of middle-class films and have them succeed.
You had a really interesting newsletter a couple weeks ago about the demise of the To accommodate as a successful theatrical release.
I think this is just such a interesting, little object lesson in how movies have changed because like I’m 36 years old, I was born in 1986 to me like the Heyday of film is like the mid-1990s.
Have talked about my fondness for you know, movies like you know Independence Day and twister but also First Wives Club and Alzheimer like I miss those kind of movies you know the you’ve got males, talk to me a little bit about how the new economics of Hollywood has changed.
The viability of these kind of films the romantic comedy Blockbuster.
So when you talk to movie Executives, these days they use a word called theatricality.
And basically, what that means is does it feel like something that I need to see in the theater and need to see it right now and studios are doing things to create theatricality.
Sometimes it means a gigantic movie star.
Usually it means pre branded.
Real property like Marvel or DC.
Sometimes it can be a giant budget where you have explosions.
Every 10 seconds, it needs to feel big and Urgent to get people to their horror.
Can do that, where people feel like they want to see a horror movie with others.
In a theater on opening night.
Rom-coms don’t have that.
They don’t have that theatricality even with big stars.
Now let’s look at a counter example here.
If you look at something like the Lost City, Was a romantic comedy with Channing Tatum in Sandra Bullock that came out earlier this year that movie actually did really well in theaters because they added elements to it, that gave it theatricality, they added an adventure element, it was an action.
Anything that they could put action moments in the trailer, they had an extended Brad Pitt Cameo and that movie that they put all over the trailers to make it feel like it was a star-driven romantic comedy with three big stars in it, they did things.
There and it got you know it hit those notes where Sandra Bullock is a gigantic movie star still.
And her fans said oh I can go see this movie and I can bring my husband who may like Brad Pitt.
He may like Channing Tatum so that was a, that was a way to take a rom-com and turn it into something theatrical.
But for the most part, these movies are migrating to streaming because that’s where the movies go.
If they do not feel big enough was just so interesting because, you know, when I think of like the iconic romantic comedies of the 20, 25 years.
Like, I’ll think of, you know, my wife’s favorite Manta comedy, which is had to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, in the trailer, for How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days?
There are no jungles.
There are no explosions.
There are no punches and kicks, there’s no, you know, leeches being taken off a private parts.
Either like the trailer that I remember for lost, city looked like the trailer for Tropic Thunder.
Accept, it happened to have a love relationship in the middle of it, rather than sort of, you know, this sort of satirical comedy about the nature of Hollywood.
So your, that’s what I think, that’s not an accident.
I mean, That’s what they do, that’s how they make it feel bigger than just a rom-com.
Because if you look on Netflix right now, there are things like purple hearts.
There are things like, you know, that the traditional romantic movies, those are all going to streaming.
One more statistic that I found I think is really, really important when sort of playing out the future of the movie theater business, is that if you adjust for inflation, the domestic film industry.
The domestic theatrical industry is projected to gross this year, about it.
Much as it did in 1987, that’s when you adjust the 1987, box office for inflation in 1987, the US had 20,000 movie screens in 2022.
The US has 40,000 movie screens twice, the number of movie screens do the same inflation-adjusted business.
So that tells me that one of two things has to happen and maybe both have to happen.
Number one, the number of movie screens just has to decline, the u.s. is over screened, I suppose you could say, Say a number two.
I wonder if we’ll see Financial entrepreneurship within the theater business like theaters right now are for most people, a ticket sale business, a ticket sale industry.
But for most people from most movies that they watch, most shows that they watch, it’s not a ticket business, it’s a recurring Revenue business, it’s subscription.
So I can see the future the movie industry, being both fewer screens and more subscriptions.
How do you feel about that as a potential future path for this industry?
You’re exactly right.
And I think we’re already seeing a reduction in the number of screens mean.
I live in West Los Angeles, my Landmark Theater closed, you know, the ArcLight chain closed.
Some of those theaters were bought off by AMC and changed over some of them weren’t.
We’re going to see a retrenchment, the second largest cinema chain in the world Cinema World arse in a world, which owns the Regal chain in the u.s. they are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and likely to go bankrupt.
AMC, the largest theater chain in the world, they Have been propped up by this weird meme stock thing that they’re doing, which is a whole separate conversation.
And most of the analysts that I talk to you say that, that’s not sustainable, we’ll see if that happens.
But the point is, the theater business is so challenge that it is necessarily going to shrink over the next couple of years because you’re exactly right.
The trends are not good and the incentives, more importantly are pointing in the opposite direction for these Studios and the chains depend on the studios for a certain Beloved product.
So the near future, as I see it pretty clearly is that you’ll have more tent poles, you’ll have more theatricality, that means more bigness and familiarity and urgency more sequels that up tations and reboots fewer screens and maybe a little bit of innovation toward recurring revenue for these movie.
Theaters, is there any way were wrong?
Is there anyway?
Just just thinking right now like what if we if it turns out that we review this conversation like a year or two from now and there’s something that we’ve said that was like catastrophically wrong because maybe be, you know, the middle class if you at release came back into theaters because it wasn’t working on streaming or maybe some little thing changed.
What is, what is the conventional wisdom around movie theaters right now that you think is flimsiest in over the next eight year or two?
I think there’s a perception that these chains cannot Evolve and that they are stuck in this model that has worked for so long.
But what we are seeing at these changes, they are leaning into subscription.
As you mentioned, the AMC, a list.
Stubs, program is actually very successful for AMC.
We’re seeing Movie Pass, try to come back.
That was this description outlet.
That tried to work across all theaters.
I when I talked to the theater owners, they want to offer more than just Just movies in their theaters.
They want to do concert experiences, I was having a conversation with one the other day, where is like, why our movie theaters, not the a new version of karaoke bars, where you can rent out a theater, you have five thousand movies to choose from and you invite all your friends to watch Top Gun and dress up like Navy aviators.
And you have your birthday party at an AMC theater and you guys make money that way.
They do some of that but they have not leaned in and I think as it gets increasingly Really desperate for these theaters.
They’re going to have to evolve or go away and I maybe I’m being you know optimistic here but I do think that some of them will evolve and they will have, you know nicer food.
They will have better experiences.
They will more like they will more mimic some of these smaller Boutique chains that have had success like the Alamo Drafthouse, which went through a really hard time in the pandemic but has a differentiated product where, you know, if you go to an Alamo Drafthouse, you’re Going to get a certain type of movie going experience that the other big chains, AMC Regal, they’re just kind of interchangeable.
So, I do think there will be there needs to be some kind of evolution of this experience.
That’s the obstacle.
Let’s dive into the streaming Wars.
The news of the season has been this summer Purge at HBO Max.
So David’s a slab.
The new CEO of its parent company.
Warner Brothers, Discovery, very famously or infamously can do the 90 million.
Dollar movie Batgirl.
He yanked more than 30 shows from HBO Max including Aquaman king of Atlantis.
He yanked, a bunch of Sesame Street episodes.
I feel like there’s a lot of confusion about why he’s doing this from both a financial perspective and a strategic perspective and I would love you to explain each of these discreetly.
So, what’s the financial rationale for yanking, or accessing?
All of these shows that he’s, theoretically already paid something for and then we’ll hit the broader.
Consumer strategy at HBO, Max after that.
So the financial strategy to fully understand it, you have to understand the precarious position that this company is in the combination of the Warner Brothers assets, which is HBO, Max, the Warner Brothers Studio, the Turner TV networks age.
All of that was combined with the discovery assets, which is all the cable channels, you know, HGTV and Discovery Channel.
Those are put into one big The by AT&T, which owned the Warner assets and it’s saddled, this new company with more than 50 million.
Sorry, 50 billion dollars in debt.
That is a gigantic amount of debt.
So the charge of the CEO David says, love is to come in and cut cut as much as he can and streamline this company.
He’s promised three billion dollars in savings initially right off the bat.
And he knows that in order for this company to survive, they have to pair it way down, and come up with a strategy that will allow it to function on a less without spending as much money.
So, that’s the background to do that initially.
He looked at the low-hanging fruit, CNN had just launched a streaming service, CN n plus.
First week, is in the job.
That’s going to save about a billion dollars.
Then he started looking at all these different assets.
Say okay, we’re combining.
These two companies we can lay off thousands of people, we have duplicative functions, great normal, Corporate America do that.
It’s going on right now.
But then he started to look at some of the unique opportunities they have and in the back row situation.
When you take over a company, there is an opportunity to write off certain assets that are not on strategy.
It’s a very common thing when companies merge, it’s less common when you are in the content business and this is a DC, This movie on a very big property that everybody knows.
So he looked at the back row movie and they said, okay, is this something that we would put in theaters?
The answer to that is no, it was not greenlit to go to theaters.
It was greenlit to go to HBO Max, which was the strategy of the previous regime to bulk up subscribers by any means necessary and put the biggest projects you can on HBO Max.
So they greenlit this 90 million dollar Batgirl movie, which according to someone, I talked to who saw almost finished cut.
It was a TV pilot.
It really felt like a TV episode, not something that you would watch and Theater, which was by Design.
So they said, okay, this is not something we can put a few million dollars into and release in theaters.
It’s too expensive for streaming.
We get a tax write-off if we cut it so just cut it.
Same with the Scooby-Doo sequel, just cut it.
So that’s the, that’s the tax incentive for that.
Now, on the HBO Max Purge where they are literally taking shows off of HBO.
That is much more complicated.
Because it may seem like oh you’ve already paid for this, but there are recurring costs that come with Distributing a show.
You have to pay residuals to the talent involved.
And there are opportunities that you can have.
If you take something off of your streaming service, namely you can sell it to other buyers, you can put it on a television network, in Brazil, you can put it as part of a package of shows that you sell to a US broadcaster or To a cable network you can make money on that content and it’s just sitting there on HBO not getting tons of viewers.
So they looked at this and said, okay let’s take the, let’s try to get as most money, we can out of this and if a little bit of a few people are pissed off and they go on Twitter and complain about us, taking animated shows off the service so what will take that hit?
So I understand cutting CN n plus.
That’s just we want to save 1 billion dollars.
I understand the back row.
Asian that’s about look we don’t want to pay for a print advertising, we don’t want to pay all these marketing costs.
You don’t want to share the revenue with.
It wasn’t even going to theaters necessarily we don’t want to do all this extra spending for a movie that we don’t think it’s going to be profitable for us.
So we’re just going to access it even though it’s embarrassing because the production budget was so high when it comes to the MU to the shows and the films that were already on HBO Max and I’m not taking down, is it a little bit?
Like, if I’m like a franchise owner of like a retailer, or a restaurant and I have to A rent on all these properties but the foot traffic in front of one and let’s just say West Hollywood is going terribly.
You know, people aren’t coming into work is often.
So the foot traffic is really really shitty.
I’m still paying a certain amount of money every single month, just to rent the place.
But I’m like, wait, the best thing to do here is actually to shut down the store, stop paying the rent and then just sell off.
All of the products that are that are in the store right now just to liquidate.
What I already own.
Is it kind of like that that he didn’t like that saying the overhead?
Okay, I think of the store as being The entire genre of children’s programming, which is something that HBO is backing away from now, because they’re looking at what Disney and Netflix are doing in that space and they’re saying, you know what?
They’re going nuts on kids.
Programming we were competing and we had some stuff, but it’s not quarter the brand.
So you know what?
We’re going to take the West Hollywood inventory.
We’re going to sell it all off.
And you know what?
We’re going to make the Century City store even bigger and better.
And that’s the HBO proper Tent, the big expensive, tentpole series, Like Houses the dragon.
That’s where their bread is buttered they’re going to do more of that they say.
And they’re going to shift the strategy and try not to be everything to everyone because a lot of people are in that world in the kids were Paramount plus as Nickelodeon already.
That’s a great brand and HBO was trying to keep up with the kids programming.
They are just not going to do that now.
I’m really interested right now in the way that the streamers are trying to differentiate themselves, because they feel like in the before times, before inflation, before the pandemic necessarily, before you had Rising interest rates and these companies stock prices collapsing, there was this anticipation or this expectation.
And they could just grow and grow, and grow.
And when your fortunes seem relatively infinite in terms of growth, you don’t really have to differentiate.
You’re just trying to make as much stuff as possible but now that it seems like the pie is a little bit more, zero-sum me.
I don’t want to say entirely but a little bit.
Your summary, I see them trying to differentiate themselves and I thought that maybe one fun silly may be entirely stupid way to think about their attempt to differentiate themselves is to think about the streaming companies as restaurants.
So I have three restaurant metaphors that I want to throw at you and then, you can throw back at me any deeply-held criticism that you have?
So, this is for Netflix, Disney plus.
And Amazon Prime video will save HBO Max for the end.
So, Netflix is like Starbucks.
It’s, it’s everywhere.
It’s popular, it’s almost a utility like a lot of people.
You Starbucks is a literal public restroom that happens to serve coffee and the same way that Starbucks has surprisingly sophisticated espresso equipment and a handful of high-end Roastery locations.
That serve pretty fancy coffee.
Netflix, is this incredibly widespread popular public utility?
That seems kind of middlebrow but also is always reserving a bit of it’s late for Oscar and any fair.
So it’s mostly mid twit.
It’s mostly middle-class.
But it’s has a couple of stuff.
They really want to be Prestige Disney, plus is like Dunkin Donuts.
It’s fundamentally a kids food place.
Like, but somehow most, the clientele is actually adults.
Like, these are doughnuts, it’s cake with icing on it but like, people are eating it adults are getting it for 40 years old and it’s like, yeah, okay, fine.
You have sugar care for infants or 50, if you’re Ben Affleck or 54 benefits, right?
And it’s the same with this knee plus like Disney plus is Pixar and superheroes, but it’s fundamentally.
Ali like for children ages, 0 to 100 like that would be their tablet other and and you’re right because Disney says that the majority of their customers on Disney plus are adults with no children which is a shocking.
Stat to me a shocking staff but not shocking.
If you think of them as Dunkin Donuts because Dunkin Donuts serves cake for breakfast but somehow Ben Affleck is there every day.
Amazon Prime video is like wah wah and if you don’t live, the New Jersey area, this is going to be a little bit tougher for you.
But why is basically this very popular convenience store, kind of like a mega 7-Eleven, but it also serves some original food and that to me is what Prime video is.
I use Amazon Prime video, mostly to rent movies and buy movies.
When I realize that they’re available to rent and buy.
But every once in a while, I’m hanging out in Amazon Prime video and I’m like, you know what?
Yes, I will watch Bosch.
I will watch a few episodes of Reacher and this kind of the same way that like you’re in the Wawa, you’re buying your whatever.
Or gum and your aspirin and then you’re like, you know what, I could really use a hoagie and so you make use of the ready to go features.
So that brings me at last to HBO Max which really stumps me because I’m actually not sure what zsasz is trying to build here.
Like is it a place for adults, like Prestige and drama and Dragons?
Is it, is it something else?
So I gave you way too much with that prompt, but if you have any objections to my metaphors, let me know and go with HBO.
I think there is a restaurant analogy here because for much of its existence HBO was trying to be, let’s call it a Ruth’s Chris for you to pick your National fans Morton’s or, you know, something like that Mastro’s these days where it’s a national fancy steak house, where there were a lot of people that it was for.
But there were just as many people, if not more that it was for, it was not for and you knew when you saw the HBO, And that this was either for me or it was not for me.
What they’ve tried to do with HBO Max over the past couple of years is introduced some fish and some Veggie options and things that will bring in a different clientele into the fancy restaurant.
And that seems to be the model for HBO Max now.
What’s coming is they’re going to mash it up with Discovery.
So they’re going to essentially try.
To take the Mastro’s and combine it with an Outback Steakhouse and then maybe throw in a couple Big Macs from McDonald’s and see if they can bring more people into this.
Let’s call it a food.
Court of meat where there’s the fast version.
There’s the mid-level version and then there’s the dirt.
Cheap 90-day fiance version of the hamburger and they’re going to see if they can take that Global and compete with.
They Netflix with that kind of product and I’ll be honest, like I am in the Target demo for HBO.
I you know, I am a white male in his 40s, who loves premium television HBO is for me, but over the past couple years, they’ve done stuff that my wife loves and they’ve done, you know, more women oriented, she loves the flight attendant and you know, she was watching more of the reality stuff.
So there they think that they can create this You know, appeals to men, appeals to women, appeals to premium appeals to down Market all in one place.
And whether that works will see the last question I have for you about the streaming Wars is that looking at these companies right now?
And we’ll take these four and maybe just throw in apple if you like, but you got Netflix Disney plus Amazon, Prime video HBO Max and then Apple, I’m not even going to try to think of a restaurant metaphor for Apple, but is there one of these companies?
That you think is particularly well suited for the next year of growth.
Like if we came back this conversation, one year from now and we were going to award to Crown one of these companies, the winner of the last 365 days.
Is there one of them that you think the short medium term future is most Rosie for It’s a complicated question because some of these Services don’t actually have to make money if you are apple or Amazon, like you are a cog in a much larger operation where you know the viewership of Amazon Prime is probably going to go up with the Lord of the Rings show.
That’s premiering in early September.
But the goal of that is yes to bring more people into the ecosystem but it’s also to sell more toilet paper and get people on the platform.
Form to ultimately by other things.
So it’s a it’s a it’s not a apples-to-apples comparison here, but I will say that the service that seems most Prime for growth right now is probably Hulu because Hulu is benefiting from a lot of attention from Disney right now, Disney owns the majority of Hulu, it took it over and its acquisition of fox and Comcast NBC owns 30% still, but Disney controls who And they are really putting a lot of money.
You see it with shows, like only murders in the building and dope, sick and the Dropout, and it’s become this kind of this venue for the adult-oriented shows that aren’t going to Disney plus, but our quality, and you’re coming from all of these, Disney and Fox Studios, and the FX shows are all on Hulu now.
And if I had to bet on one, I’d probably say Hulu is poised for the most growth.
Now will Hulu exist in three or four years we actually We don’t know because Lulu is in the US only and Disney is likely a ultimately going to combine Hulu would Disney plus into one Mega service, like they have and the rest of the world.
But for now, I think Hulu is delivering on that promise of being a venue for adult oriented more quality programs, right?
Yeah, it who is his little bit like the the expanded Steakhouse Red Lobster owned by Disney their attempt to go a little bit older although ironically it’s and it is it’s really interesting.
That the majority or maybe plurality of Disney plus viewers are adults without children.
I mean that’s such an interesting fact when they send that Wilds, my jaw dropped because, you know, listen, I have a young kid Disney plus, is a utility for me.
I need to have it, he will go absolutely ape shit.
If you can’t watch part, 2 on a Saturday morning.
But, you know, Star Wars fans are there that many Star Wars and Marvel fans out there that they are subscribing, just for this with no children.
And the answer that I guess is.
Last thing I want to talk to you about is CNN.
And here we are staying underneath the Warner Brothers Discovery umbrella, because CNN is a part of that company.
But the network just brought in a new head.
Chris licked, the used to be the executive producer of Stephen Colbert’s late-night, talk show, and lift comes in, and one of the first major decisions he makes.
And again, this is after the shuttering of CN, n plus is to fire Brian stelter, who’s the host of the Media show, reliable sources and this obviously comes after, you know, several months of hand-wringing about CNN Plus in the future of this network.
Tell me what you think licked is trying to do at CNN because it seems like his theory is that we need to make our product less.
Overtly partisan less, overtly anti Fox News and I have major questions about that strategy.
Because I think that a lot of the most successful news personalities and new shows right now have a clear antagonistic identity.
They are clearly against something and for something.
And it’s so interesting to think that he’s trying to carve something out that isn’t as for or against something in the discourse as CNN has been.
So tell me a little bit about what your sources tell you licked is up to right now.
And it’s this is a fascinating topic because it dovetails off what you and clothes.
When were talking about the other day about the rise of the hate culture and being against things, because cable news has really thrived with that exact ethos.
If you watch Fox News, it is not necessarily about how great things are in certain areas.
It’s about the negativity towards things that are bad and people that are bad and do not have your best interest and CNN in the Trump years had defined itself under its previous, Chief, Jeff Zucker.
And as being anti Trump as standing up to the outrageousness and the offensiveness of the Trump era and its hosts night after night, would point out the alarming thing that Donald Trump did that day.
Brian stelter as being a media guy, the media became the story with Trump and Trump was doing things that were overtly anti-media.
Brian stelter at the urging of Jeff Zucker was standing up to that and saying we are pro democracy.
We are Anti, you know, bullying by the president, and we are going to stand up for media.
So Brian never saw it as being partisan.
He saw it as being pro-democracy promo media, but the perception is that Brian is part of the resistance, if you, for lack of a better word or that he was, you know, anti-trump, he would be made fun of on Hannity and on Tucker and what Chris lick did when he came in to CNN, is he said, all right, we’re We are going to reposition CNN as not being partisan or perceived as partisan.
We are going to be the down the middle nonpartisan Network the home for everybody.
If you watch Fox you can also watch CNN and it’s not going to offend your worldview.
And the first thing he did was get rid of one of the avatars for the resistance CNN and there will be more is interesting because I kind of appreciate in the abstract what Is trying to do but I also just don’t think it’s going to work at all.
Like BBC is not particularly popular in the u.s.
America is not particularly popular.
If you poll Americans and you say, hey do you want to down the center new source that you can trust that Centrist?
That’s neither right nor left that covers Wars and famine and drought all over the world.
The important stories brought to you without bias, you up and up, and up, and up, everyone’s gonna say, yes.
Everyone’s gonna be like, everyone’s going to?
And then click over 25.
Fox News because Hannity is telling them what they want to hear fucking bingo.
So I’m just very I’m confused or maybe just curious that someone.
So clearly smart is Chris left and you go to this guy’s Wikipedia page, I don’t know him.
Personally you maybe you spoken to him?
I don’t know him.
I haven’t spoken to him, but this guy is incredibly successful in his clearly incredibly bright, but this strategy to me just seems from a profit standpoint not from a journalistic standpoint necessarily, but from a profit profit standpoint seems to go against meant by strut most strongly held opinions.
About how news works.
So I do know Chris and he is very smart and he’s one of the savviest people I’ve ever met about media.
He knows exactly what’s going on in any given moment, but you have to understand that CNN under its current owner.
CNN is not trying to win the ratings war, or at least, they’re not saying that they are trying to D politicize the brand and they say that the brand globally is the most important.
Port thing in the most valuable asset and if they can make CNN a less toxic and less controversial brand than they’re going to do that even if the ratings suffer.
So that’s the framework that they are working with.
Now will there be a cost there?
CNN makes more than a billion dollars in profit and if the ratings come down necessarily the revenue will come down but that may happen anyways because we are living in a environment that linear television networks are really struggling and Going to decline anyway, so maybe they believe that a Centrist and for everybody.
CNN is a better long-term strategy, but I agree with you, I don’t think that that seems pollyannish to me, that that’s out of the 80s and 90s where there was the news and everybody like, now that that is, that is a fiction.
You look at the country.
And yes, the media is responsible in part for that, but people don’t tend to want that and we’ll see if CNN can make them want that.
Is there anything that I’m missing about the business of CNN itself?
Like, when I travel sometimes and in like international airports, I’ll see CNN International and you know, there are a lot more countries that CNN International airs in than CNN errors in potentially because CNN is somewhat specific to North America.
Is it possible?
That part of the strategy here is to de-risk the brand for CNN International and that that is a sort of surprise.
Source of revenue and profit that I’m overlooking.
When thinking about, you know, CNN’s like, you know, Sunday lineup, First of all, the CNN brand outside.
The US still is largely that.
If you go around the world, it doesn’t have that resistance.
Donald Trump era, CNN brand to it.
Now in some countries that they have a little bit of that, but CNN International has largely been spared.
If you talk to David zasloff, which I have about this, it’s more about bringing the u.s.
CNN brand in line with that.
And that’s where the power play is.
Now in the US, The Carriage fees that CNN gets forth from the cable companies.
You know, they make money two ways they make it on advertising and they make it on Carriage fees that the cable companies pay to see an end to carry it.
They believe that if you have a stronger and more Centrist CNN you can get pricing power for Carriage because more people are going to demand to have CNN.
Yeah, and that’s where they’re going to think now.
I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that.
I think if you make it plan, you’re not going to have the super vans that say I need to have it.
Which fox has, if you, if a cable company dared take off Fox their switchboard would light up the next day CNN.
Hmm, maybe less so because people feel less strongly about it.
I think it’s still it’s still a hugely, important asset and eight or nine times a year.
CNN is indispensable on January.
I was watching CNN for 12 hours a day, if there’s a Russian invasion, if there’s, you know, a major news event, CNN is still the place to go.
And that is still part of its brand, but it’s all the other nights that they have to worry about.
Okay, let’s question for you.
You had a really interesting conversation with Bill Simmons, a few months ago, about the Twilight of the evening, talk show where the late night talk show and to a certain extent, one could say that we’re living in a period where Where the television talk show is clearly in overall structural Decline, and it seems to be replaced in part by the proliferation of podcast.
I’m not trying to be like grandiose here to say that.
Like, you know, I’m the new, whatever it CNN or MSNBC.
It’s the thousands of me, the millions of me.
The fact that there are simply so many different carefully.
Differentiated identities in podcast land that, you can develop a personal relationship with that, to a certain extent.
I Sir, if that’s taking time and emotional energy away from all of these fixtures have cable TV, I totally agree.
I mean, in a past generation, someone like yourself who’s an author and kind of public intellectual.
Your big goal would be to get five minutes on The Tonight Show to talk to your audience and they would get a little taste of you.
Now, you have your own show you, I can get as much Taste of Derek Thompson as I want, and I don’t need to wait for that five minutes spot on.
Jay Leno or whatever that you used to have, so it’s absolutely changed.
I think the entire culture has changed them in the celebrity culture.
The whole nature of the talk show where you would get 10 minutes with a major star, promoting a movie.
This also goes back to your conversation with Chuck the other day.
Is that the that used to be the mono culture where if you did Leno on a Thursday night that was big because your movie was opening and everybody would see you there.
Now, chances are, you’ve been on your Instagram, talking to your fans directly.
You put tick tock Out.
You’re on, you’re on social media, you’re doing press across the board, you’ve done five podcasts, that is completely obliterated, the value of those shows.
And what happened is, you guys talked a little bit about how the relationship between the public.
And the media has almost switched where the public is now kind of a check on the media, where the media was the representation of the public in the past.
Now if you are Jimmy Fallon and hosting the Tonight Show, Your interview with celebrity B, let’s call it Mark Wahlberg or Jennifer Lawrence in order to get celebrities to come on your show.
You have to be completely fawning and totally Promotional and absolutely sycophantic to that guest and where’s the value in that and that goes through the entire media ecosystem.
Now, in order to get participation, you see Beyonce Beyonce does the cover of Vogue.
Beyonce is choosing the photographer.
She is dictating.
The at the, the terms of the interview if there even is an interview, some of these magazines will just let you write your own story now, and that is a complete flip of what it used to be.
Where Vogue was so powerful that they would send their own person.
They would send their photographer and Beyonce had to bow down to boat.
She has her own channels invoke, says, no to her.
She has her own channels to go Vogue needs Beyonce.
More than Beyonce needs vote.
So, that relationship has absolutely flipped and So what we find is that the social media universe and the public at large becomes the check on that.
People are more negative towards Beyonce in the real world because all of these media outlets need her, it’s such an important point that in the 1980s.
Vogue was the platform and Beyonce needed Vogue.
And now the on say has more followers on kick your platform then Vogue.
So Beyonce is like, I am the platform you need me and if I’m going to be on your cover you’ll take Traction from me and not vice versa.
And I think back to your talk show thing, you know, in going back to like, Johnny Carson, getting your five minutes as a stand-up comedian on.
That was it.
Your career was made if you got that think about how quaint that feels today and how many different ways, there are four stand-up comedians to break through.
There is no equivalent of Johnny Carson where it is a tastemaker, you can become huge in so many different ways and that that has really changed the entire ecosystem for these late-night shows.
And you know the proliferation, if you love, if you love John Oliver, you know, they put HBO puts his main segment on YouTube the next day.
So what, where’s the value there?
If you love Trevor.
Noah, it’s all available in tick-tocks and on his Instagram and that just takes away the value of those shows.
And by the way, Trevor Noah has a podcast, it’s certainly true that that I love the way the truck put That there was this sort of 3, tier situation in decades, prior where you had celebrities or at least at the top critics media in the middle than audiences at the bottom.
And now, they’ve all just rushed onto the same stage and they’re in the same melee, and it’s not that everyone is equal, it’s not a perfect leveling, you still have Beyonce with x million, Instagram, followers and me with like 17.
But the fact that these platforms are levelers and allow individuals, to build platforms or build followings that are larger than media organizations, totally scrambles, the relationship.
Between celebrity media and daughter.
Don’t get me wrong there.
Brand still do matter.
Beyonce is still doing Bo it’s she’s not just putting herself.
Adele is still doing vote.
People are still going on, Howard Stern, and Leno, and all these other things as part are not Leno, but it’s Fallon.
But as part of a traditional media rollout, so these brands, do bring a Halo where you can, you’re more likely to get a press impact.
If you do Leno, then if you put another post on your Instagram.
So I don’t want to say they’re meaningless. but the power Dynamic has completely changed to where if there is a moment, you know, the let’s say the what it, pick your celebrity meltdown moment, whether it’s Tom Cruise on Matt Lauer or you know anything, those kinds of things rarely happen anymore because the media Outlets are very very scared of the celebrity and you can take this back to the very first thing that we were talking about just to give people the sense of a kind of return, you know, one of the outcomes of all All of these individuals in the audience.
All these media individuals, all these celebrities building their own platform is that you have an abundance of stuff to look at from your couch.
And when the couch becomes, as interesting as it is in the late summer of 2020, to the movie theater just isn’t quite as special, especially to teenagers, which were the dynamic with the demographic that have been driving movie theater attendance for many, many decades, the 20th century.
And so, all of these things, click into each other.
Like, at the end of the day, attention isn’t so perfectly finite.
There’s only about 16 hours that people are awake and conscious during the day, there’s only so much.
They can consume and the more there are all of these platforms and all these people scrambling for our attention.
And all this leveling, it means that the older Gatekeepers here specifically, the movie theaters don’t have the same default cachet in culture that they used to.
And so they have to change with the times as well.
They absolutely do because the fragmentation, I mean, you know, this is not a new concept of fragmentation of the media ecosystem has Laced movie theaters in a precarious place theatricality.
What is theatrical?
Why am I going to the movie theater?
You have to answer that question.
If you’re going to put a movie in theaters and increasingly the Studio’s.
Cannot now felony.
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What I’m hearing newsletter at puc.
Thanks so much man.
I’m Jerry Thompson.
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