Hugely Profitable And Consolidated Streaming Platforms Suddenly Too Cheap To Pay Residuals And Writers, Or Keep Niche Shows Online

from the dysfunction-junction dept

We’ve noted repeatedly that as the streaming sector grows and consolidates, it’s revealing many of the same problems we saw inherent in traditional, shitty, cable TV. As in the need to provide Wall Street improved quarterly returns at any cost has them doing the sort of things common in the traditional cable sector they used to criticize and disrupt (see Netflix’s password sharing cash grab).

Elsewhere, we’re seeing the byproduct of mindless consolidation results in other problems. Such as with the AT&T/Time Warner/Discovery mess, a series of utterly pointless mergers that have made the end product decidedly worse, while resulting in thousands of layoffs, price hikes, companies too cheap to pay artist residuals, writer strikes, and widespread annoyance and angst.

Warner Brother Discovery has been too cheap to pay artist residuals, resulting in a lot of popular shows being pulled from the company’s HBO Max streaming platform. We’re seeing the same thing over at Disney+, which apparently has proven unable to keep shows they’ve just recently produced — like Willow — online and available to a handful of customers via streaming.

The reason we’re given is that the same giant media conglomerates that spent hundreds of billions of dollars on pointless megamerger sprees, and received tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks for doing absolutely nothing, suddenly can’t afford to pay their writers a living wage, or keep shows like Willow available to consumers:

Streamers like Disney+ have to pay rights-holders and content creators continually in many cases to keep their content on their platforms, but often that content is being viewed by too few people and isn’t driving new subscriptions. As such, these businesses see cuts as obvious ways to save money during turbulent times.

The cuts are occurring at the same time that corporations are once again flexing their muscles in the wake of a brief shift of power toward labor during peak COVID. As the narrative goes, this kind of belt tightening is only wise given the “turbulent times” and a purported recession (?) waiting in the wings. You’re lucky to have a job. Sit down and shut up.

In reality, chipping away at your own streaming catalog is one of several ruthless determinations made by bean counters who are no strangers to wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on failed luxury amusement parks and massive megamergers, but somehow now can’t afford to maintain user access to a relative handful of niche programming:

So who decides which shows should get the boot? Bean counters, mostly, who consider the cost of carrying library content based on how much is paid toward residuals, participations and royalties. That is weighed against viewership and a title’s ability to lure more subscribers — like The Office on Peacock, for example — and create less churn. Ahead of Showtime dumping titles, Chris McCarthy, President/CEO, Showtime and Paramount Media, said that “we will divert investment away from areas that are underperforming and that account for less than 10% of our views.”

But again, it’s not just less popular shows like Willow getting the axe. Sesame Street and other popular kids’ programming have been shown the door. Mad Magazine was an early casualty of merger mania. There’s logic-driven belt tightening, and then there’s just being fucking cheap.

Routinely lost in the conversation is all the endless promises of “untold synergies” that accompanied decades of mindless media consolidation. Synergies that were supposed to have made these companies lean and resilient long ago. In reality, that consolidation instead created a massive, wasteful mess fraught with consistent managerial incompetence that’s increasingly catching up to the industry:

On Tuesday morning, subscribers took to social media to complain that they were having problems logging in to Max, which is replacing the three-year-old HBO Max service. As reported by users, the issues spanned the website as well as mobile apps including iOS and connected-TV apps on Roku and Samsung TV.

It’s growth for growth’s sake. Change for change’s sake. And dealmaking for dealmaking’s sake. Usually simply to generate tax write offs and let incompetent media executives fail upwards while pretending they’re savvy dealmakers.

You’ll notice that how much money gets wasted in mindless consolidation, pointless megadeals, and sustained managerial incompetence kind of gets lost in the weeds when it comes time to explain why streaming catalogs are shrinking, prices are rising, writers can’t get paid, and layoffs abound. But harmful and often pointless consolidation remains a primary reason streaming is slowly turning into the terrible cable TV sector it used to make fun of.

Filed Under: cable tv, mergers, streaming, streaming tv, video, wall st., willow, writers

Companies: warner bros. discovery

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