I was on WCCO News Radio 830 in Minneapolis today to talk about my Daily Beast story on series finales. Adam Carter and I had a great chat about some of the best and worst finales of all time, as well as this week’s fantastic Parks and Recreation finale. And we even touched on House of Cards a bit at the end. I can’t embed the audio, but you can find it here. Enjoy!
Like everyone I know, and more than 1.4 million others around the world, I’m hopefully addicted to the podcast Serial, fall’s most riveting show. (Episode 9 is less than 24 hours away!) As I wrote at Quartz,
It’s also captured our imagination in a way no TV show has done this fall, and has the kind of deafening buzz and rabid fan base that any series would kill for. The unlikely global phenomenon is also the strongest proof in years that taut, weekly storytelling trumps the increasingly-popular binge-watching method that Netflix helped pioneer.
While my own tweets occasionally flourish and become stories, in this case I was inspired by a tweet from someone else, Veep actor Timothy Simons:
The success of @serial is a pretty stellar argument against the idea of releasing all eps of a tv show at once.
— Timothy Simons (@timothycsimons) November 6, 2014
That crystallized something I’d been thinking about myself, and gave me the perfect opportunity to finally write the anti-binging story (at least when it comes watching TV’s best shows) that I’ve been mulling for months.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to counting down the minutes until Episode 9 of Serial drops!
After upending the TV industry with shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix is turning to movies. It is teaming up with The Weinstein Company for its first original movie, a sequel to 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which will premiere on Netflix (and in Imax theaters) next August. As I wrote at Quartz,
In other words, Netflix believes it can “save” the movie business by upending the traditional approach in which films are released exclusively to theaters first and not made available for home viewing until several months later. “What I am hoping is that it will be a proof point that the sky doesn’t fall,” Sarandos told the New York Times. “These are two different experiences, like going to a football game and watching a football game on TV.”
However, as I explain, saving the movie business will be an expensive proposition for Netflix. Still, Harvey Weinstein is betting that if anyone can pull it off, it’s Netflix.
Yesterday after the Emmy nominations, I went on WBAL Radio’s Maryland’s News Now, to talk about the nominations and my Quartz story about Netflix’s big success. Here’s a clip from my appearance:
I arrived in Los Angeles yesterday for TCA summer press tour, and one of my first assignments was this Quartz reaction to today’s Emmy nominations. As the streaming network more than doubled its 2013 nomination tally, from 14 to 31, it’s shifted from interloper to frontrunner.
But today’s impressive tally also increases the pressure on Emmy night. After last year’s Emmys, I wrote that Netflix was one of the night’s biggest winners, even though it didn’t win any major awards. Last year, just earning those nominations and smaller wins (like the directing Emmy for House of Cards) legitimized Netflix in the same way that early Emmy victories had once done for HBO, AMC, and FX.
This year, however, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black have catapulted from “just happy to be here” to frontrunner status. That means on August 25, Netflix needs to win one of the big trophies—outstanding comedy series for Orange, or outstanding actor in a drama for Kevin Spacey of House of Cards—to truly be considered one of television’s elite networks.
This is crazy to me. We’ve all known for years that Netflix has stubbornly refused to release any ratings information on its shows. Now, I wrote at Quartz, it turns out that not even the people who make Netflix’s most popular (we think) shows have any idea how many viewers actually watch their programming.
“It’s like, ‘I’m a hit —I think,’” Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan told The Hollywood Reporter. The lack of viewership metrics from Netflix “makes it hard to negotiate later,” she says, referring to the standing industry practice in which the stars and producers of hits shows leverage ratings success for significant raises in a show’s third or fourth season.
I also wrote about Netflix’s excuses for withholding that data — and why they don’t hold water.
I returned to The A.V. Club for a story about how much the depiction of political leaders have changed on TV from the days of The West Wing’s Josiah Bartlet. As I wrote,
Seven years after The West Wing ended its run, audiences now gravitate toward political shows like House Of Cards, Scandal, Veep, and the new Alpha House, which are all marvelous (okay, maybe not Alpha House, though John Goodman provides the hope that it might find its way), but revolve around presidents and other leaders who are either despicable, incompetent, or both. In other words, they’re just as selfish, sleazy, and/or stupid as we perceive many contemporary leaders to be.
In my latest piece for Quartz, I looked at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment’s acquisition of preschool network Sprout, and focused on one key area that the company will be looking to improve: Sprout’s paltry streaming app.
While Sprout reaches 60 million homes and boasts 1.5 billion on-demand views since its 2005 launch, its app numbers are less impressive. Sprout’s app, launched in March 2012, has been downloaded 1.5 million times. Meanwhile, the Watch Disney Junior app, which Disney debuted in June 2012, has already been downloaded 5 million times, generating more than 650 million video views. Nickelodeon, which introduced a new app for its flagship network in February,plans to roll out a Nick Jr. app for preschoolers next spring.
However NBCUniversal decides to overhaul Sprout’s app, it had better do it quick: many kids, mine including, have abandoned it completely.
As Amazon tries to play catch-up with Netflix by streaming its first original series, it’s diverting from Netflix’s playbook in one major way: instead of releasing Alpha House’s entire first season at once a la House of Cards, Amazon will make the first three episodes available at once, and then debut one new episode each week. As I wrote at Quartz,
Amazon Studios Director Roy Price said it opted for a weekly release schedule “so that customers can chat about the shows and build up anticipation,” adding that the Netflix release model kills the conversation and buildup that surrounds a traditional release of a TV show. Since Netflix refuses to release any ratings data on its programming, there is no way to tell how many people have actually viewed its original series, or how many debut episodes were viewed as compared those later in the season.
If Amazon can keep viewers enthusiastic about its new shows for weeks and months on end, it might be able to beat Netflix at its own game.
Shortly after I left People, my friend Mitra Kalita reached out to me about contributing to Quartz, Atlantic Media’s global business site, where she works as Ideas Editor. After 16 years at People, it took me a some time to wrap my brain around how to write about TV for Quartz’s readers. But today I made my Quartz debut, with this take on last night’s Emmys, and how Netflix was one of the night’s biggest winners, even though it didn’t take home many trophies:
No, the political drama didn’t receive best drama or best actor for star Kevin Spacey, as many had predicted. But the awards it did win—best director for David Fincher, and two other technical awards (for casting and cinematography) at last week’s Creative Arts Emmy ceremony—legitimized the streaming video service in the same way that early Emmy wins once did for then-interlopers HBO, AMC and FX.
I really enjoyed the challenge of thinking about TV — and an event covered by hundreds of outlets and watched by millions — in a unique way, and I look forward to doing a lot of this kind of writing for Quartz in the days and weeks to come!