Monday August 27, 2018

"Showtime is adding a couple of high-profile guest stars in Katey Sagal and Courteney Cox for the upcoming ninth season of Shameless. Sagal will play Ingrid Jones, a crazed psych patient Frank (William H. Macy) encounters in the ER, with whom he is immediately smitten. Cox will play Jen Wagner, a famous actress who’s had a problem in the past with booze. Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is hired as her sober companion when she’s in town, and she takes him on a wild ride in search of a cocktail."

Rest in peace Robin Leach.

Ditto Neil Simon.

Is it news when someone signs an overall development deal somewhere? Let me answer for you, it's not.

I tested out a few Netflix series, none of which are must watch: 

Magic For Humans is akin to The Carbanaro Effect on truTV, so if that's in your wheelhouse, have at it.

Stay Here is Genevieve Gorder's new show where she transforms rental properties from drab to fat. It's akin to anything you've watched on DIY/HGTV.

Afflicted is a show about people dealing with chronic, incurable, and debilitating diseases. It's gut wrenching to say the least.

Michelle Beadle has been jettisoned from flailing ESPN morning show Get Up! Sweet justice.

Jemele Hill and ESPN have parted ways.

"My Dad Wrote A Porno, the breakout British podcast, is finally set to be adapted for U.S. television with co-creator James Cooper revealing that a deal for the show is imminent. The podcast sees Cooper, Jamie Morton and Alice Levine read extracts of a self-published porno written by Morton's mild-mannered father."

Netflix still sends people DVDs?

HBO has released a trailer for season 3 of True Detective.

When will the next season of Game of Thrones hit the airwaves?

"The U.S. is awash in subscription streaming networks, with more than 200 of them now jockeying for viewers. But the BrewDog Network, a $5-a-month service launching today, introduces a bit of a new wrinkle. The network will deliver a lineup of cocktail, craft beer, culinary and travel shows — not from a traditional TV programmer’s perspective, but from that of a seasoned brand marketer. BrewDog is a craft beer maker with U.S. headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, and since starting out in 2007 has secured distribution in 60 worldwide markets. BrewDog co-founders James Watt and Martin Dickie got a taste of TV by hosting their own show, Brew Dogs on the Esquire Network. After NBCUniversal pulled the plug on the short-lived venture, the pair decided to forge ahead with a 24/7 network conveying the spirit of that show, which had developed an avid following."

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From TechCrunch: "Instagram has never truly failed at anything, but judging by modest initial view counts, IGTV could get stuck with a reputation as an abandoned theater if the company isn’t careful. It’s no flop, but the long-form video hub certainly isn’t an instant hit like Instagram  Stories. Two months after that launched in 2016, Instagram was happy to trumpet how its Snapchat clone had hit 100 million users. Yet two months after IGTV’s launch, the Facebook subsidiary has been silent on its traction.

“'It’s a new format. It’s different. We have to wait for people to adopt it and that takes time,' Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told me. 'Think of it this way: we just invested in a startup called IGTV, but it’s small, and it’s like Instagram was "early days."'

"It’s indeed too early for a scientific analysis, and Instagram’s feed has been around since 2010, so it’s obviously not a fair comparison, but we took a look at the IGTV view counts of some of the feature’s launch partner creators. Across six of those creators, their recent feed videos are getting roughly 6.8X as many views as their IGTV posts. If IGTV’s launch partners that benefited from early access and guidance aren’t doing so hot, it means there’s likely no free view count bonanza in store from other creators or regular users.

"They, and IGTV, will have to work for their audience. That’s already proving difficult for the standalone IGTV app. Though it peaked at the #25 overall US iPhone app and has seen 2.5 million downloads across iOS and Android according to Sensor Tower, it’s since dropped to #1497 and seen a 94 percent decrease in weekly installs to just 70,000 last week.

"Instagram will have to be in it for the long haul if it wants to win at long-form video. Entering the market 13 years after YouTube with a vertical format no one’s quite sure what to do with, IGTV must play the tortoise. If it can avoid getting scrapped or buried, and offer the right incentives and flexibility to creators, IGTV could deliver the spontaneous video viewing experience Instagram lacks. Otherwise, IGTV risks becoming the next Google Plus — a ghost town inside an otherwise thriving product ecosystem.

"Instagram gave IGTV a red carpet premiere June 20th in hopes of making it look like the new digital hotspot. The San Francisco launch event offered attendees several types of avocado toast, spa water and ‘Gram-worthy portrait backdrops reminiscent of the Color Factory or Museum of Ice Cream. Instagram hadn’t held a flashy press event since the 2013 launch of video sharing, so it pulled out all the stops. Balloon sculptures lined the entrance to a massive warehouse packed with social media stars and ad execs shouting to each other over the din of the DJ.

"But things were rocky from the start. Leaks led TechCrunch to report on the IGTV name and details in the preceding weeks. Technical difficulties with Systrom’s presentation pushed back the start, but not the rollout of IGTV’s code. Tipster Jane Manchun Wong sent TechCrunch screenshots of the new app and features a half hour before it was announced, and Instagram’s own Business Blog jumped the gun by posting details of the launch. The web already knew how IGTV would let people upload vertical videos up to an hour long and browse them through categories like 'Popular' and 'For You' by the time Systrom took the stage.

“'What I’m most proud of is that Instagram took a stand and tried a brand new thing that is frankly hard to pull off. Full-screen vertical video that’s mobile only. That doesn’t exist anywhere else,' Systrom tells me. It was indeed ambitious. Creators were already comfortable making short-form vertical Snapchat Stories by the time Instagram launched its own version. IGTV would have to start from scratch.

"Systrom sees the steep learning curve as a differentiator, though. 'One of the things I like most about the new format is that it’s actually fairly difficult to just take videos that exist online and simply repost them. That’s not true in feed. That basically forces everyone to create new stuff,' Systrom tells me. 'It’s not to say that there isn’t other stuff on there but in general it incentivizes people to produce new things from scratch. And that’s really what we’re looking for. Even if the volume of that stuff at the beginning is smaller than what you might see on the popular page [of Instagram Explore].'

"Instagram forced creators to adopt this proprietary format. But it forget to train Stories stars how to entertain us for five or 15 minutes, not 15 seconds, or convince landscape YouTube moguls to purposefully shoot or crop their clips for the way we normally hold our phones.

"That should have been the real purpose of the launch party — demonstrating a variety of ways to turn these format constraints or lack thereof into unique content. Vertical video frames people better than places, and the length allows sustained eye-to-lens contacts that can engender an emotional connection. But a shallow array of initial content and too much confidence that creators would figure it out on their own deprived IGTV of emergent norms that other videographers could emulate to wet their feet.

"Now IGTV feels haphazard, with trashy viral videos and miscropped ports amongst its Popular section alongside a few creators trying to produce made-for-IGTV talk shows and cooking tutorials. It’s yet to have its breakout Chewbacca Mom or Rubberbanded Watermelon blockbuster like Facebook Live. Even an interview with mega celeb Kylie Jenner only had 11,000 views.

"Instagram wants to put the focus on the author, not the individual works of art. 'Because we don’t have full text search and you can’t just search any random thing, it’s about the creators' Systrom explains. 'I think that at its base level that it’s personality driven and creator driven means that you’re going to get really unique content that you won’t find anywhere else and that’s the goal.'

"Yet being unique requires extra effort that creators might not invest if they’re unsure of the payoff in either reach or revenue. Michael Sayman, formerly Facebook’s youngest employee who was hired at age 17 to build apps for teens and who now works for Google, summed it up saying: 'Many times in my own career, I’ve tried to make something with a unique spin or a special twist because I felt that’s the only way I could make my product stand out from the crowd, only to realize that it was those very twists and spins that made my products feel out of place and confusing to users. Sometimes, the best product is one that doesn’t create any new twists, but rather perfects and builds on top of what has been proven to already be extremely successful.'

"The one big surprise of the launch event was where IGTV would exist. Instagram announced it’d live in a standalone IGTV app, but also as a feature in the main app accessible from an orange button atop the home screen that would occasionally call out that new content was inside. It could have had its own carousel like Stories or been integrated into Explore until it was ready for primetime.

"Instead, it was ignorable. IGTV didn’t get the benefit of the home screen spotlight like Instagram Stories. Blow past that one orange button and avoid downloading the separate app, and users could go right on tapping and scrolling through Instagram without coming across IGTV’s longer videos.

"View counts of the launch partners reflect that. We looked at six launch partner creators, comparing their last six feed and IGTV videos older than a week and less than six months old, or fewer videos if that’s all they’d posted.

"Only one of the six, BabyAriel, saw an obvious growth trend in her IGTV videos. Her candid IGTV monologues are performing the best of the six compared to feed. She’s earning an average of 243,000 views per IGTV video, about a third as many as she gets on her feed videos. 'I’m really happy with my view counts because IGTV is just starting' BabyAriel tells me. She thinks the format will be good for behind-the-scenes clips that complement her longer YouTube videos and shorter Stories. 'When I record anything, It’s vertical. When I turn my phone horizontal I think of an hour-long movie.'

"Lele Pons, a Latin American comedy and music star who’s one of the most popular Instagram celebrities, gets about 5.7X more feed views than on her IGTV cooking show that averages 1.9 million hits. Instagram posted some IGTV highlights from the first month, but the most popular of now has 4.3 million views — less than half of what Pons gets on her average feed video.

"Fitness guides from Katie Austin averaged just 3,600 views on IGTV while she gets 7.5X more in the feed. Lauren Godwin’s colorful comedy fared 5.2X better in the feed. Bryce Xavier saw the biggest differential, earning 15.9X more views for his dance and culture videos. And in the most direct comparison, K-Pop dancer Susie Shu sometimes posts cuts from the same performance to the two destinations, like one that got 273,000 views in feed but just 27,000 on IGTV, with similar clips fairing an average of 7.8X better.

"Again, this isn’t to say IGTV is a lame horse. It just isn’t roaring out of the gates. Systrom remains optimistic about inventing a new format. 'The question is can we pull that off and the early signs are really good,' he tells me. 'We’ve been pretty blown away by the reception and the usage upfront,' though he declined to share any specific statistics. Instagram promised to provide more insight into traction in the future.

"YouTube star Casey Neistat is less bullish. He doesn’t think IGTV is working and that engagement has been weak. If IGTV views were surpassing those of YouTube, creators would flock to it, but so far view counts are uninspiring and not worth diverting creative attention, Neistat says. 'YouTube offers the best sit-back consumption, and Stories offers active consumption. Where does IGTV fit in? I’m not sure' he tells me. 'Why create all of this unique content if it gets lower views, it’s not monetizable, and the viewers aren’t there?'

"For now, the combination of an unfamiliar format, the absence of direction for how to use it and the relatively buried placement has likely tempered IGTV’s traction. Two months in, Instagram Stories was proving itself an existential threat to Snapchat — which it’s in fact become. IGTV doesn’t pose the same danger to YouTube yet, and it will need a strategy to support a more slow-burn trajectory."

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Per Deadline, "Sacha Baron Cohen ended his grand experiment seven-episode Showtime series Who Is America tonight with a disturbing segment in which Baron Cohen’s Italian photographer alter ego Gio Monaldo sat with O.J. Simpson and tried unsuccessfully for three minutes to get the former football great to admit he murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. 

"Simpson sat for the duration of the segment that described him as 'American hero and women’s rights activist.’ After some banter about making new friends, Monaldo brings in his Italian girlfriend, Christina, who doesn’t respond when Monaldo describes him as a Buffalo Bill and famous football player. When he mimics a stabbing motion toward her neck, she lights up and exclaims, 'O.J.! Oh my God! Nice to meet you!' She exits and after Simpson calls her gorgeous, Monaldo says sure, but often he wants to kill her. It is one of numerous entreaties to get a rise out of Simpson, who continues to deflect with a hearty laugh. 'Hey, I didn’t get away with nothing.' Monaldo finally gets down to business: explaining that his client, Sheik Mansour, is obsessed with Simpson’s acquittal and will pay to hear the truth. Simpson didn’t take the bait. But there was a high-five in there.

"How in the world did Baron Cohen get in a Las Vegas room to ask such questions of Simpson, who was acquitted of the double murder in 1994 but served nearly a decade for complicity in robbing a sports memorabilia dealer, who was caught in a sting operation staged in a different Vegas hotel room? I’m told it wasn’t easy and that Baron Cohen’s intention was to elicit a confession. The gateway was one of Simpson’s lawyers, who took a payout to put Monaldo in a room with Simpson, acting as a middleman for the fictional Sheikh, who was prepared to pay a seven-figure sum to hear Simpson say what really happened that night, a confession to be delivered while the Sheikh was having sex with a prostitute. Monaldo would have to hear the confession, before his client would pay up.

"This took preparation that included Baron Cohen spending hours with a former lead interrogator for the FBI, an expert in drawing out confessions. It also involved creating credible cover stories for the Sheik and Mansour, so that the lawyer who pocketed the fee and others could Google and feel they were dealing with real people. When Simpson didn’t take the bait, Baron Cohen’s Monaldo character had to be content with essentially calling Simpson a murderer continuously for a three minute stretch. The result is well, creepy. Said Monaldo: 'What I hate about the press is you make a tiny little slip, and that’s all they remember you for. You’re not the O.J. the touchdown. You’re not the O.J. the movie star. You kill two silly people and suddenly, you’re O.J. the murderer.'

"Simpson didn’t know he was on camera, as this was one of the few examples where a hidden camera was used."

Here's the truth...production worked through Simpson's attorney who had Simpson execute what he thought was a contract to receive a fee for a private meeting, but what was actually a release. Production did pay Simpson a small fee (NOT seven figures) and because of the careless execution of the release, the segment made it to air.

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Per The Wall Street Journal, "[k]nocking Netflix is easy. Critics say the streaming company can’t grow without big spending, making it impossible to turn a profit. But that assessment misses the key insight driving Netflix’s success, and why the stock is likely to climb again after last month’s tumble.

"What Netflix understands is that getting subscribers and, just as important, keeping them, is everything in the new media environment. The definition of success has shifted from how many eyeballs a channel can grab on a given night to how effectively a piece of content helps to retain subscribers month after month. That insight has propelled Netflix far ahead of Hulu and prompted the costly takeover between Comcast and Disney for 21st Century Fox assets.

"It is also why Netflix is sweeping up Hollywood talent. Last week Netflix wooed Kenya Barris, the creator of Black-ish, away from Disney, signing him to an exclusive, multiyear deal. Netflix has also nabbed producers Ryan Murphy from 21st Century Fox and Shonda Rhimes from Disney. It is expected to book $8 billion in expenses this year, though it will likely spend closer to $12 billion, according to Michael Morris, a media analyst at Guggenheim Securities. To some, those numbers seem excessive, but by spending to have the best content, Netflix is locking in its subscribers and locking out its competitors.

"Netflix’s great advantage over its rivals is it doesn’t need to show profits, as long as the subscriber numbers keep climbing. Profits can come at Netflix when its has locked in enough subscribers who keep paying for content at higher prices.

"The major risk for Netflix is that it somehow miscalculates what its subscribers want and doesn’t draw in as many as expected. That happened last quarter, when the stock tumbled 14%. But Netflix has had many tumbles over the years, and strong growth has resumed. Thanks to its algorithm, Netflix knows better than anyone else what kind of content it needs and when to launch it to keep subscribers happy.

"Disney’s streaming services, set to launch next year, are the only possible threat to Netflix. But Netflix has a giant lead; it will take Disney years to catch up, in part because lots of Disney content is still licensed to Netflix.

"Admittedly, the bar for Netflix shares is higher now, and investors are nervous about whether it can keep growing at the same levels. But Netflix has plenty of eyeballs still to sweep up—not only in international markets like India and South America, but also at home, where cord-cutting continues apace.

"Netflix’s big lead may be its most important strength. It can keep bringing in talent, which will bring in new subscribers and keep existing ones happy. It will take a powerful competitor to break that cycle."

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Per Vulture, "[m]aybe, just maybe, after 12 seasons, we’ll finally find out Penny’s last name. (Our money’s on Smith!) With The Big Bang Theory officially set to bow out on CBS in May after a remarkable 279 episodes, one of the show’s “big three,” Kaley Cuoco, has penned a note on Instagram showing equal parts shock and gratitude that the end is near.

“'This ride has been a dream come true and as life changing as it gets. No matter when it was going to end, my heart would have always been broken in two,' she wrote. 'Drowning in tears, we promise to bring you the best season yet. To the fans, our crew, families, Chuck Lorre, Warner Brothers, CBS, and everyone who has supported us for so many years, thank you. We are going out with a bang.' Cuoco’s character, Penny, has settled into domestic bliss with Leonard (Johnny Galecki) at this point, and, since we’re in a gambling mood, we’d be willing to bet Penny becomes pregnant sometime this season. That, or the two get divorced and fake-eat in peace. Equally good options!

"Fellow lead Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon, also wrote a thoughtful Instagram message to mark the end of an era. 'Something else I feel grateful for — and this gratitude needs no time to "sink in" or become more ‘realized; this grateful-feeling is always with me but is multiplied in this moment of us announcing our final season — but I feel such intense gratitude for our devoted viewers who are the actual reason,' he wrote, 'we have been graced with the opportunity to explore these characters for 12 years of our lives.' Let the race to find its sitcom replacement begin. You up, Modern Family?"

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From The New York Post: "Bethenny Frankel opened up Sunday about the “excruciating-sudden” loss of on-and-off again boyfriend Dennis Shields.

“'It’s hard to breathe & I appreciate you giving me the space & support to try to do so,' the Real Housewives of New York star tweeted to followers. 'It’s excruciating-sudden death is no closure & constant ?s & memories. Our relationship is current so it’s painfully raw. Trying to stay healthy & move through it w tears & close friends. Xo'

"Shields was found dead in his Trump Tower apartment earlier this month of a suspected OxyContin overdose. He was 51 years old.

"Following the funeral, Frankel 47, posted a photo of Shields on Instagram, as he cuddled with her late dog, Cookie.

“'Rest In Peace my sweet babies who gave me endless unconditional love. #nowandforever,' Frankel shared.

"Shields reportedly proposed to Frankel in April.

“'He proposed to her with a ring in April. She wasn’t wearing the ring,' a friend of the Skinnygirl founder told People. 'There were some hurdles to overcome before she could make that level of a commitment. She loved him. He’s her family and her best friend and her confidante. Her partner and her business partner.'

"Frankel and Shields began dating in 2016."