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Week In Review:  Peak TV Isn’t Good For Actors and Writers, Fox To Launch FoxNation OTT App

There’s a fantastic article in Fast Company (hat tip to Jeff DeLong for bringing it to my attention) about how peak TV and the new streaming economy are screwing over midlevel actors, writers, producers and directors. The top level people are making out like bandits, scoring seven- and eight-figure development deals, but everyone else is left holding the short end of the stick.

The culprits? Much shorter seasons (10 episodes vs 26), no residuals (they are quite lucrative and tended to hold people over in between shows), and streaming companies who insist on paying lower fees because they’re “digital.”

Apple, always the white knight, is the only tech company working with the unions to make sure that actors get paid TV-level wages.

Why It Matters

Many people (myself included) had assumed these were boom times for anyone in the creative community, that actors and writers were likely juggling multiple offers and roles.

What the article makes clear however, is how much of a “Tulip Bubble” the industry is in right now with all the original content being produced.

One huge issue, as I’d mentioned on Cheddar TV the other day, is that TV is an art more than a science and with over a thousand new series in production, there’s going to be a major talent shortage—not many people have what it takes to create a hit show. That’s doubly true when you realize that even with all the right pieces in place—“A-list” actors, writers, directors and producers—a TV series still may fail because for one of any number of reasons all those great talents just didn’t click.

It’s also an issue because Hollywood depends on the existence of that middle tier, all the actors, writers and showrunners successful enough to make a decent living from being in the business full time, the ones who provide a reliable pool of full-time talent and inspire others with the notion that you don’t need to have Bradley Cooper-level fame to have a successful career as an actor/writer/producer/director.

Without that middle level, there will be even fewer people to staff all those new shows, to provide them with the sort of expertise they’ll need to make a go of it.

And that makes it even more likely the content bubble will have a major implosion.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a distributor and you’re thinking of producing a bunch new series, you may want to take a deep breath and let this whole content bubble thing shake out.

If you’re an advertiser, you may want to think about whether anybody’s going to actually have time to watch any of those new series you’re being asked to advertise on and whether or not they’ll be any good.

If you’re a streaming company, be like Apple: sign the union contracts and make sure that your talent gets paid a living wage. Because no matter how well targeted a show is, if it isn’t good, nobody’s going to watch it. And if your talent is unhappy (and/or working a second job to make ends meet) it becomes far less likely that they’re going to deliver they kind of show that audiences deem to be worth watching.

Something to think about.


2. Fox News To Launch FoxNation OTT App

Now that NewFox is free of Disney, it’s making its first OTT move, launching the Fox Nation OTT app aimed at hardcore Fox News fans. The app will cost $5.99/month or $64.99/year (a 10% savings).

Why It Matters

On the surface this seems like a confusing move—launching a subscription news service when your competitors (CBS and NBC) are offering theirs for free.

But Fox News is no ordinary news service.

It has a strong and loyal fan base who will presumably happily pay for the service which is being billed as a complement to the main Fox News site rather than a replacement.

That’s the same strategy used by Disney on their ESPN+ site, which is also marketed to hardcore fans, albeit of sports rather than right-wing news.

It will be interesting to see how Fox plans to roll out the app too. ESPN made two very smart moves by (a) launching Plus as an upgrade to its free ESPN app which already had millions of users and (b) striking a deal with American Express so that AmEx sponsored the first month of membership, which no doubt drastically improved uptake.

Fox does not appear to be offering any freebies, but it will be interesting to see whether the app is pushed out as a one-time upgrade to the existing Fox News app or as a brand new app.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser and you want to reach Fox News’s hardcore base (older and less coastal) this is an ideal place for you and you can run advanced ad units on it too, no doubt.

If you’re a competing news provider, you should monitor the uptake on this and see what lessons there are for your own service.

If you’re Fox, you should realize how valuable the first party data you’re getting about your users is and run with it. I’m guessing there are many organizations and a certain political party that would love to have your mailing list.