Franchise "Fatigue", A Startup Postmortem, A Giant Moon, Next in Social, Seltzer
|Aug 7||Public post|| 1|
One thing I don’t like about our new streaming (TV) era is the unpredictability of release schedules. Here, I don’t mean weekly — I mean yearly. I’ve run into this a number of times recently where I recalled that we liked previous seasons of a show, go to check if a new season is coming soon, and just cannot find that info. Netflix and Amazon are basically silent until right before a show is coming back and we may get a “new season coming soon” note. Googling it usually has some guesses, but just as many spammy SEO sites on the topic. Searching on social media is generally no help since we’re all in the dark.
I don’t miss the old Fall TV lineup schedules, and I like rolling releases, but I’d like a little more consistency between shows. There’s a very real downside for Netflix and the like too: out of sight, out of mind. If a show is gone for too long, with no new season in direct line of sight, will people still care when it comes back? Certainly if it’s Game of Thrones with a two-year hiatus. And I guess if it’s Curb Your Enthusiasm with its random releases. But what about, say, The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes?
It’s hard to pick one thing to quote in this post from Matthew Ball, so I’ll pick many — still just a taste, the whole thing is well worth the read:
Nearly all the decline in theatrical consumption has instead come from a reduction in the frequency of attendance by the most intense moviegoers. This reiterates the idea of secular decline; those who loved the product most, love it less each year.
Indeed, virtually all of the drop in moviegoing over the past 20 years has been from the long, predominantly indie tail of the box office. The top 25 titles, which represent roughly 50% of annual grosses, sell the same number of tickets per capita as they used to.
As to why…
Over the past 40 years, viewers have added more high-quality screens and sound systems in their homes, the quality of television content has improved, the ability to access this content (e.g. ad free and on demand) has improved, and bigger (and more social) alternative entertainment experiences have emerged, such as Call of Duty and Fortnite. This is similar to the first secular decline of theatrical attendance. Before household TVs emerged, audiences attended the theater 40-70 times per year – after all, it was the only way to watch video news (attendance peaked during World War II). As families added more TVs to their homes (thus allowing family members to individually watch), consumption dropped.
Today, movies earn their keep by displaying content that is best able to defeat at-home consumption and alternatives – to persuade audiences to turn off Netflix, get in their cars, drive to a movie theater with convenient showtimes and available seats, park, buy $10 tickets, sit through 10 minutes of commercials and 20 minutes of trailers as the adjacent seats fill up with strangers, watch the film for 150 minutes while holding off the restroom, then drive home. The only way studios can reliably do this is by offering a spectacle that simply needs to be seen on a big screen (Avengers: Endgame) or has such cultural relevance you can’t wait until the home video release to catch up (Us, or again, Avengers: Endgame). It doesn’t seem to matter if a film like Booksmart is terrific (it is), widely available and evangelized.
And so what has Hollywood done to combat this?
Why spend $50MM on a film that, at best, might return $25MM when you could spend $200MM and, if it works, build a franchise that might generate $100MM twice a year from spinoffs, derisk the launch of future sequels, and produce more ancillary profits with merchandise? It no longer matters if audiences don’t want a given franchise – they’re going to get it. And if they’ve already rejected it once, they’ll get it again. What should studios make instead? Non-franchise movies that are wanted even less?
That’s why the talk that there’s “sequel fatigue” is silly. In fact, it’s the opposite. Sequels (and remakes, reboots, etc) are increasingly all anyone is going to, and also all Hollywood is making. Sure, there are underperforming ones here and there. But really only so much as there are always going to be underperforming movies. It may not be a zero-sum game, but it’s close to one, and getting closer with all Ball lists above. The biggest and best blockbusters have eaten the smaller, non-blockbuster films, and increasingly they’re now eating the smaller blockbuster films too!
Now, to toot my own horn for a moment, this is nearly exactly what I expected to happen (it wasn’t that hard to see, as it was already starting to happen) when I wrote this post nearly five years ago. We’re in the… wait for it… endgame of this trend now. The next phase is for content to start out on the streaming platforms and if it proves popular enough, it then “graduates” to a theatrical release. This is why Disney, which will soon launch Disney+ with the MCU fully — both theatrical and streaming-exclusive content — in tow, is and will remain the king.
Good post, with lots of insightful lessons in hindsight, from Scott Belsky, about a professional network he started which didn’t work out.
If you haven’t had a chance to read yet, this report by Justin Scheck, Rory Jones, and Summer Said about a futuristic city Saudi Arabia has been trying to build, is really something. The core list of what was to be included:
1. Flying Taxis: Scientists might take a flying taxi to work. “Driving is just for fun, no longer for transportation (e.g. driving Ferrari next to the coast with a nice view),” planning documents show.
2. Cloud Seeding: The desert won’t always feel like the desert. “Cloud seeding” could make it rain.
3. Robot Maids: Don’t worry about household chores. While scientists are at work, their homes would be cleaned by robot maids.
4. State-of-the-Art Medical Facilities: Scientists would work on a project to modify the human genome to make people stronger.
5. World Class Restaurants: There would be fine dining galore in a city with the “highest rate of Michelin-starred restaurants per inhabitant.”
6. Dinosaur Robots: Residents could visit a Jurassic Park-style island of robot reptiles.
7. Glow-in-the-Dark Sand: The crown prince wants a beach that glows in the dark, like the face of a watch.
8. Alcohol: Alcohol is banned in the rest of Saudi Arabia. But it likely won’t be here, say people familiar with the plan.
9. Robot Martial Arts: Robots would do more than just clean your house. They also could spar head to head in a “robo-cage fight,” one of many sports on offer.
10. Security: Cameras, drones and facial-recognition technology are planned to track everyone at all times.
11. Moon: A giant artificial moon would light up each night. One proposal suggests it could live-stream images from outer space, acting as an iconic landmark.
I mean, just when you think you can’t top robot maids you get robot dinosaurs! And then, boom: robot martial arts! Glow-in-the-dark sand! A fake moon! A giant one! How can you not love consultants? As noted on Twitter, this list reminds me of one thing:
Lots of good thoughts and ideas from Danny Trinh about “what’s next” in social. Danny’s entire career thus far has basically been dancing around and with the next big trends: Digg (a social news curation service — which probably needs to exist again), Path (a more private social network — which definitely needs to exist again), and Free (a social network to see which of your friends want to hang out, and where — which will at some point exist again). Timing is everything. (Interesting use of Notion too.)
The American fixation with fizzy water dates back to the 18th century, when Joseph Priestley, an English-born chemist and theologian, happened on a way to infuse water with carbon dioxide by suspending a bowl of water above a vat of beer. Johann Jacob Schweppe, the founder of Schweppes, developed a method for manufacturing and bottling carbonated mineral water based on Priestley’s discovery, and the stuff came to be called soda water after the English chemist Richard Bewley noticed that adding sodium carbonate to water made it much more able to absorb carbon dioxide.
Modern carbonated water is made by injecting pressurized carbon dioxide into water, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has toyed with a SodaStream.
I had no idea about the connection between beer and sparkling water! Science!
I’ll also take this opportunity to note that even though I work in tech, I have never been a fan of LaCroix. Blasphemy, I know. But I think basically all the flavors taste awful. It’s always a matter of finding the least awful one (which is simply Lemon, for the record). And so I’m happy that other brands, like Spindrift, are seemingly overtaking it. (Though the branding history remains fascinating.)
A Couple Recent 500ish Posts
Some thoughts following the epic Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer — and how that ties into Pete Sampras.
There are so many streaming services now. With many more coming this fall and next year. Don’t be shocked if piracy picks up again as a result. And that may just push the powers-that-be to work together for a more unified experience…
(h/t Robert Stephens)