Wednesday June 19, 2019

TruTV has renewed I’m Sorry for a 3rd season. I remain a big fan of this show and highly recommend it if you’re looking for an easy 30-minute sitcom to get into.

Tru also renewed Tacoma FD. for a 2nd season.

Netflix has canceled Chambers after 1 season.

Netflix ordered 2 more seasons of Queer Eye.

Season 2 of Yellowstone premieres tonight on Paramount.

The Edge of Democracy is now available to stream on Netflix. “Political documentary and personal memoir collide in this exploration into the complex truth behind the unraveling of two Brazilian presidencies.”

You can also now stream new Netflix film Beats. “On Chicago's South Side, hip-hop prodigy August Monroe navigates crippling anxiety and new creative frontiers with the help of an unlikely mentor.”

I thought Adam Devine’s Netflix special was very funny and very much in line with his act every time I’ve seen him live.

Eddie Murphy will make a relatively rare TV appearance in the upcoming season of Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The 11th season of the show debuts July 19 on Netflix. Murphy — who also stars in Netflix's movie Dolemite Is My Name, due later in the year — is among the biggest names sitting in the passenger seat with Seinfeld. The 11-episode season features a mix of A-listers, veteran comics and friends of Seinfeld, several of whom are making return appearances on the show. The lineup for season 11 also includes Seth Rogen, Ricky Gervais, Matthew Broderick, Jamie Foxx, Sebastian Maniscalco, Martin Short, Mario Joyner, Melissa Villaseñor, Bridget Everett and Barry Marder. Gervais, Maniscalco, Joyner and Marder have all appeared on the show before. Broderick hasn't been a guest but did help Seinfeld promote the 10th season in 2018.”

The Daily Show will air live following the Democratic Party’s first 2020 presidential primary debates on June 26 and 27. The live specials, called World War D: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble – Part I & II, will provide instant analysis and feature commentary from Perry Bacon Jr., a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight, and Howard Dean, the former DNC chair and a political consultant.

Hey, here’s a novel idea, do NOT go to the Dominican Republic for your next vacation.

Over 30M accounts watched Murder Mystery on Netflix last weekend?

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Per Variety, “[y]ou don’t need a home-improvement expert to restart Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

“Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the actor best known for his turn as Mitchell Pritchett in the popular sitcom Modern Family, will host HGTV’s ten-episode remodel of the popular home-improvement series, in which families and communities in need of help are given a massive reworking of their homes.

“‘I was so inspired by the original series and now I can’t wait to help families as the new host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’ said Ferguson, in a prepared statement. Ferguson represents a markedly different choice as host of the landmark show, which ran on ABC for nine seasons between 2003 and 2012. Ty Pennington, the carpenter and home-improvement expert, hosted the earlier run. The decision to hand the reins to Ferguson, who has enjoyed turns on Broadway as well as in Taylor Swift’s recent music video for You Need to Calm Down, suggests producers are looking for someone who can play up the feel-good aspects of the series, rather than focusing too intently on the nuts and bolts of home repair.

“‘Jesse’s participation as host ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ is one of the ways that HGTV will put its own creative lens on the series,’ said Jane Latman, who was named president of HGTV in April, in a statement.. ‘We’ll make some variations to creative aspects of the show, but it will always deliver the great storytelling that made it one of the most iconic and successful properties in television. Jesse’s a funny guy, with a warm, caring nature who will help us find the humor and joy in every situation, so that will make this a unique viewing experience for everyone.’

“Each episode of the series puts a spotlight on local people trying to help someone in their area. HGTV says the home overhauls in the episodes will include interior, exterior and landscaping—all completed within seven days while the family is sent away for the week. The series will showcase builders, designers and landscapers who race against the clock to renovate a home before the family returns from their time away.

“At its peak on ABC, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition had an average audience of nearly 16 million viewers.  HGTV will make the series available via its mobile app and other on-demand venues.  HGTV has also secured the U.S. and Caribbean rights to air 100 episodes of the original ABC program.

HGTV had considered an Extreme Makeover revival for some time, Kathleen Finch, chief lifestyle brands officer for the network’s parent company, Discovery, told Variety in January. The series had ‘always has been on our list of things to do. We just said, “Why not?” We approached ABC. We approached Endemol. We had a lot of really great conversations and we were able to strike a deal,’  she said ‘When viewers hear it’s on, they are going to say, “Well, of course.” It makes perfect sense.’ She added: ‘It was really a pipe dream for a while and we are really looking to make it all come true.’

“The new episodes will be produced by Endemol Shine North America with Sharon Levy, DJ Nurre, Michael Heyerman and Brady Connell serving as executive producers. The company also produced the original version of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” for ABC.”

Well this couldn’t make any less sense, but ok . . . .

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Per TheWrap, “Gus and Mike have some making up to do when Better Call Saul returns for its fifth season next year.

“While the finale of the Breaking Bad prequel’s fourth season will be remembered for showing Jimmy McGill’s (Bob Odenkirk) final descent into Saul Goodman, it also left Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) in a bad spot.

“‘They ended on a hard note,’ Esposito told TheWrap. ‘Certainly, things will be strained, and Mike hasn’t given his allegiance over to Gus completely.’ By the time Breaking Bad rolls around, Mike is Gus’s right-hand man and arguably his most-trusted employee, so it’s clear that next season the two will have to iron some things out between each other.

Better Call Saul showed that, at least at one point, Mike had a bit of softer side, especially when it came to Werner (Rainer Bock), whose German-based construction crew was hired to build the infamous ‘Superlab’ where Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) do most of their meth cooking. But multiple setbacks and Werner’s transgressions — which included drunkenly talking about the project at a bar and escaping so he could spend a weekend with his wife — forced Mike’s hand. He had to execute Werner, but not before viewers saw just how displeased Gus was with Mike’s handling of the whole operation.

“‘There’s going to be some moves that have to be made, some conversations between Mike and Gus that either repair, or don’t repair, the relationship. That comes down to some moral questions that may come up between both of them about how can Mike ever work for Gus,’ Esposito continued. ‘If you asked me, from my experience on Breaking Bad and going into Better Call Saul, I feel like they’re similar men. But Gus is smart, and he knows he needs someone smart, and who is not only smart, but not afraid to take action. I love the moments that you have seen thus far up to now, where we’re left at a place where “Oh, these guys are prickly with each other.” Look to see how that gets ironed out in Season 5.’

Better Call Saul is not expected to return for its fifth season until next year. Co-showrunner Peter Gould previously told TheWrap he thinks the show is coming very close to the end of the line — after all, it finally paid off on its premise: How Jimmy McGill ends up practicing law under the name ‘Saul Goodman.’

“‘I couldn’t tell you exactly how many episodes there are [left], but I think we’re closer to the end than we are to the beginning,’ said Gould back in October, admiting that he and co-showrunner (and Breaking Bad creator) Vince Gilligan are working on the Saul endgame.

“‘I don’t know that I can claim to have a nailed-down plan, or that Vince and I have a nailed-down plan for how it ends, but I can tell you we’ve talked about it an awful lot,’ says Gould. ‘This is a story that has a beginning, middle and an end.’”

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They are REALLY going for it. “Short-form digital service Quibi has already secured around $100M in advertising with six high-profile launch brands launching on the service. Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman took their Quibi roadshow to the Cannes Lions event in France to announce the ad sales, coming ahead of its 2020 launch.

“Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch, Walmart, Progressive and Google are the first companies to sign up with ‘category exclusivity’.

“Katzenberg said that an hour of Quibi content, which will be broken up in to chapters, will include around two and a half minutes of advertising, compared to around 17 and a half on broadcast television and ten on Hulu.

“Whitman said that she expects around 75% of its subscribers to pay for its advertising-backed tier, which is available for $4.99 per month, rather than its ad-less top tier.

“Other revelations to emerge from the latest presentation from the pair include the fact that around 161 people will be working on Quibi by the end of next week with 25 content executives.

“Katzenberg agreed that the roll out of 5G technology would be a boon for the short-form service, which has already signed up the likes of Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh to make content. ‘Every trend right now is putting more wind into the sails of Quibi,’ he said.

“Whitman added that it was not planning to become a ‘studio’ but rather a ‘commissioner’ of content with a focus on technology, including the ability to change the brightness of the screen through the app, audio optimization, new style of end credits and a speedy search function and increased personalization.

“‘From the beginning, this has to be the combination of the best of Hollywood and the best of Silicon Valley,’ she said.”

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From The New York Post: “Lindsay Lohan’s MTV reality show, Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club, will not be back for a second season, Page Six has exclusively learned — and it seems the star’s Mykonos nightclub, which serves as the setting for the show, is also closed.

“The club opened in May 2018, and the show — which follows its staff’s daily lives — premiered in January to decent ratings.

“But viewership then plummeted amid less-than-stellar reviews. The Hollywood Reporter called the show ‘vapid and tedious.’

“‘There was a renewal idea that producers hoped would perk it up for a second season,’ said a source close to the production. ‘It would be turned into a show about Lindsay and [her mother] Dina and [sister] Ali, [but] that wasn’t going to happen.’

“The show didn’t have ‘enough drama,’ the source added. ‘They wanted “breakdowns.” That’s not where [Lohan] is at with her life anymore. Their personal business doesn’t need to be aired on television; it’s already in the papers anyway.’

“Another source close to the network said it’s still trying to salvage the show.

“Meanwhile, a phone number listed for the Mykonos club on TripAdvisor wasn’t working when Page Six attempted to call.

“Another number listed on the club’s website connected to Lohan Nightclub in Athens.

“A source told us of the apparently defunct Mykonos club: ‘A friend had reservations this week, and the club just called and said that they will not be opening this season.’

“Another source vacationing in Greece last month told us that the club wasn’t open then, either.

“‘The locals said it was a waste [of time to go],’ said the vacationer.

“A social media commenter posted last month of the Mykonos club: ‘They advertised being open for [the] summer season, specifically late May. We drove past and it’s literally [deserted] . . . The Lohan sign is stripped off.’

“A Lohan rep confirmed that ‘she is not doing another season’ of the show.

“MTV didn’t comment.”

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Per Deadline, “Disruption in the entertainment business can sometimes come in unlikely forms. Witness Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, whose earnest name and humble corporate headquarters in Cos Cob, CT, belie its aggressive acquisition drive and canny knack for outmaneuvering larger rivals.

“The company’s Brooklyn-born CEO, Bill Rouhana, is a longtime media industry veteran who founded and ran Winstar Communications in the 1990s after a successful run as an entertainment lawyer specializing in film finance. In 2008, he bought Chicken Soup for the Soul, known for its eponymous, mega-selling line of books. A few years later, he expanded its operations into video-on-demand and TV programming.

“As he looked to feed the entertainment pipeline, Rouhana took the company public on the Nasdaq in 2017 and then engineered the acquisitions of Screen Media, Ashton Kutcher’s APlus.com and a controlling stake in Sony Crackle. The Crackle deal, which closed May 14, rebranded the free, ad-supported streaming service as Crackle Plus and positioned Chicken Soup as a leader in the AVOD arena. After years under the radar, AVOD has become a hot sector of late, with Viacom plunking down $340 million for Pluto TV last January and NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia both announcing big ad-supported streaming plans.

“Mike Grondahl, an analyst with Northland Capital Markets, rates Chicken Soup’s stock ‘outperform,’ with a 12-month price target of $15. Shares were trading at $7.18 at mid-day Tuesday, on light volume, and have slipped 7% in 2019 to date despite a spring surge on the Crackle news. ‘With Crackle Plus included in results, the business becomes much less lumpy,’ the analyst wrote in a recent note to clients. ‘CSSE migrated Crackle to a shared platform used by other Sony networks, reducing costs by two-thirds to about $5 million annually. … Crackle is fully integrated, so CSSE can hit the ground running with a focus on more content and adding to the ad network.’

“Rouhana recently sat down with Deadline in his compact office inside a two-story office building down the road from Greenwich that an optometrist, an acupuncturist and a liquor store also call home. The CEO discussed the path to a deal with Sony, the future of Crackle, and where his company fits into the media industry’s intensifying streaming wars. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation:

What was the entry point for you in the media business?

We started with TV series, which sounds kind of stupid, but it’s anything but that because what we were doing was creating revenue and EBITDA and building relationships with sponsors. The way we did it was by having all of our series be 100% funded by sponsors and we would keep all the rights. The trade for a sponsor was a couple of things. You could count on the fact that you wouldn’t be embarrassed by the programming – this YouTube worry that sponsors have (‘I might appear next to something disgusting!’). We’re a loved brand. Sponsors knew us. And you could see they were struggling with how they were going to reach customers because the more fractionalization, migration, DVR stuff, SVOD stuff, there were fewer and fewer places where ads were being watched. If they could get a message into a show itself, if they could find a way to integrate their messaging into the content, that would be a big advantage to them. So, all of our series – I guess we’ve done 11 now over four years – every one has been that model.

How did the Screen Media deal come about and what did it do for you?

We bought it for two reasons. One, it had a 23-year track record of buying finished programming and re-selling it around the world at a profit. And we thought, OK, now we’ll be able to buy finished programming, distribute it around the world, keep the AVOD rights, keep the VOD rights and have made money doing it that way too. So now we had a program creation business and a distribution business, both of which would give us access to content. And they had a library. And they had Popcornflix. So we were now actually in the VOD business.

Once Sony announced in the summer of 2018 that they were exploring strategic alternatives for Crackle, how did you end up with that prize when no one saw you coming?

By understanding our advantages. If you’re in [Sony’s] shoes, you’re not happy with the results for a long time. You don’t know quite why. You have a new company with new leadership. Your focus is on producing and distributing in traditional markets. Your parent company [Sony Corp.] is saying, ‘We’re going to be profitable from here on out. We’re not going to be investing in things that lose money.’ And yet, you know, you absolutely know that the leading network in a space [AVOD] that without question is going to be really big. So how do you actually deal with that? When they announced last July that they wanted a partner, they weren’t kidding. That was the best answer for them. So when they gave Moelis & Co. the job of figuring out what to do, Moelis went out with a book and they got mostly offers to buy. For us, the road was a little more circuitous because they wouldn’t give us the book. We were too small.

But you eventually got the book?

Yes, and when we finally got it, I was so excited. It was such a mess! But it’s really not. And I thought, it’s going to put off most of the people who should buy it and the guys who will bid will try to low-ball.

How was it a mess?

They had a business plan in there that was driven by the current approach to the business.

Meaning a lot of spending on expensive original programming?

It required you to have an appetite for meaningful investment on a money-losing basis for an extended period of time. So, you looked at our two companies. I had the fifth-largest AVOD business at the time, in Popcornflix. I was at 3 million [monthly active users] a month. They were at seven. Together, we were incredible. They also had their ad-rep business, which was another five million people that we would add to it. They had a great sales force.

What about companies like Pluto, which says it has 16 million users? Are they a direct competitor?

They’re not in the same business we’re in. They’re an internet streaming business. They’re a bundled cable business that’s online. It’s not VOD. I don’t even understand how that makes any sense. I think it’s a stupid, short-term business that has to disappear, for two reasons. One, consumers are being trained to get what they want, when they want it. To be able to start it and stop it as they choose. They’re being trained not to accept linear programming. Over time, the people who are coming on are going to absolutely reject that form of programming. Two, the premise of internet streaming is there being hundreds of cable channels and by definition there will not be. Because between subscriber fee losses and reduced ad returns, you will not be able to stay in business if you are a cable channel. So their programming sources are going to disappear.

So this pushed you toward the on-demand approach of Crackle.

Putting our VOD businesses together gave us scale for advertisers that would really change the way they could interact with this space. The kind of scale that would encourage them to pay us higher CPMs and scale that would turn us into the go-to place for a certain kind of advertiser, which has already started to happen. And we had the same approach, which was true VOD. Two big libraries. Our library was 3,500 films and TV shows. Theirs was the same. Putting them together was going to give us a plethora of content and the ability to create even more networks if we chose to and start to organize them around a thought, around a certain kind of programming.

But you have a very different view of original programming.

Our strategy was making money, and we didn’t need to spend too much money on originals, which, when you looked at the numbers, didn’t really drive traffic. Which was kind of interesting. Traffic was driven by library. We looked at their situation and said, ‘The library is driving your business.’ We’re in that early phase of this [streaming] business where, just like Netflix used to be all library and nothing else, this is where we are in AVOD. That’s going to change, by the way. It has to.

Why else did your offer for Crackle stand out?

It was their ambivalence, I understood they really didn’t want to sell it. But they also didn’t want to have the obligations of keeping it. They were in this Never-Never Land — ‘We’d love to own it, but not have to fund it, not have to run it, not have to think about it. But wouldn’t we love to own it?’ And I went to them and said, ‘You can own half of it — 49% — if you let me control it, if you let me take over the responsibility for it. I’ll fund it. I’ll take care of it. And you can keep 49% of it. So long as you change your head to where ‘we’re an investor.’ And start thinking about ways you can invest the great competencies you have in this business in ways that are productive. Give us access to your library on a reasonable basis. Figure out how to share technology costs, so we reduce that. Give us free reign on your lot and in your buildings for a year or two. Do things that help us, where you can help us, where it’s really no cost to you. And that’s where luck came in. We presented a credible plan and a proposal that left them exactly where their hearts were: half-in, half-out. But we were the only ones who did that. Everyone else started offering checks.

Does Sony have a chance to exit in the near term?

No. What there is is a very complex deal structure where they get an option to get out in a year.

Do you think that could happen?

It’s all about investment. It’s all about being like a Google. Being like a high-tech business. That’s what I told them. I said, ‘Look, guys, look at the big tech companies. You admire them, you respect them. You think they’re smart. They don’t try to incubate little companies inside themselves. They go make investments. They put entrepreneurs in charge and let them do the heavy lifting.

So is it a partnership or an acquisition?

From an accounting point of view, it’s an acquisition. In industry terms, it’s definitely a joint venture. We’re working together to build it. But see, what happened to this was, it became us versus a really big check. Because right in the middle of this, the Pluto deal happened [with Viacom]. And boom, the phones started ringing off the hook. And I was worried at that point that we lost it. Because all of a sudden there’s tons of cash, we didn’t hear from anybody for two weeks. The good news was, we had them believing at that point. So the debate for Sony became, ‘take a check now and risk that two years from now this thing is worth $5 billion and it’s the leading AVOD business and we used to own half of it or all of it. We took this tiny little check and we’ve given up a strategic asset.’ It’s not just a business. It’s a strategic asset in the industry. If $80 billion [in linear TV advertising spending] moves over to AVOD, that pie is going to be cut up in a few places and there are going to be some big companies.

What impact did NBCUniversal’s announcement have on the process, when they said in 2020 they are rolling out a major AVOD service across 52 million households in the Comcast and Sky pay-TV footprints?

So you look at all this — this is happening, and Sony is going, ‘We could take a $300 million check, or we could believe that this is a big opportunity and we have the biggest with this thing.’ The combination mattered. The other 3 million [from Popcornflix] really made a difference. Now, we were the biggest. All the library we had. If you just looked at our business and how we ran it, if you were them, you would want us to run your business. It wasn’t like we were some other guy, who didn’t run an AVOD business. We were the next biggest. Which very few people understood. No one understood Popcornflix was as big as it was. We were growing it as fast as we could and had plans to grow it even further. So we said, ‘Hey, how about putting them together, and let us run it for you? And let’s make you a lot of money, and you could buy it from us later if you want.’ So they said yes.

I’ve heard you use “Chicken Soup-y” as an adjective — in reference to something that reflects the family-friendly, optimistic values of the company. So, how Chicken Soup-y will Crackle Plus be?

It won’t be. It’s going to have the same voice it does now. We didn’t do anything to Popcornflix either. The real question is, are we going to change the name of the company? Right now, the name is misleading.

Is a name change under consideration?

Yeah. We’d definitely have to consider it because we’re now so big that Chicken Soup for the Soul is only one part of what we are. The name is kind of limiting and sends the wrong message. It’s kind of like a hip fake. It’s really not telling what we are. And you have to go underneath the name to get to who we are. And that may not be the smartest thing for us.

Sony spent some money doing presentations for Crackle during the NewFronts or TCA or in those kinds of industry settings. Will we be seeing more of that?

No. Not now. Makes no sense. It’s stupid.

Tubi is spending a good amount of money trying to make a splash in AVOD. Do you see them as a competitive threat to Crackle Plus?

What good does spending money do you when you’re not able to sustain your business? So let’s say they’re a legitimate alternative.

Why are you so quiet compared with Tubi?

They’re making a lot of noise because they want to sell the company.

They almost did.

If Tubi sells for anything close to what they’ve been asking for, our company is worth billions. I’m rooting for him.”