A Day of Tipping Points. Thanks To Actual Data.

Julius Caesar may have advised to beware the Ides of March, but he never said much about the Ides of August.  Perhaps he was predisposed to liking it; after all, the month is named after his brother.

But unlike the events that befell him on March 15th, plenty of which didn’t quite work out to the benefit, the events of August 15th were, for a change, not too bad for moi.

For one, there was apparent progress at long last in the WGA-AMPTP talks, though perhaps not as much as some early reports about the potential degree of breakthrough that might have been possible.  But as STRIKEGEIST’s Elaine Low dutifully reported, while perfection remains elusive, progress apparently was made:

Per Bloomberg on Monday: [The AMPTP] has agreed to ensure humans are credited as writers of screenplays, rather than replacing them with artificial intelligence. The companies will also share data on the number of hours viewed on streaming services, so writers can see how popular their programs are, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private negotiations.

And according to Variety, the AMPTP had on Friday offered to address the guild’s ask for staffing minimums in TV writers rooms, giving “showrunners significant authority to set the size of the staff, according to the sources, with an additional factor for the size of the show’s budget.” The outlet then reported this evening that (t)he guild has continued to hold to its proposal for a minimum staff size for TV writers, though it offered to lower the minimum by one writer. But the WGA was unimpressed with the AMPTP’s offer to give showrunners the authority to hire up to a certain minimum, which would increase based on the production budget.

So it would appear that the issue that has seemed to have moved past the are you f—ing kidding me stage to a tipping point moving toward a resolution would seem to be the disclosure of data.  Yay for us. And good timing, considering one of the other headlines that was screaming across the internet yesterday as it was once again time for Nielsen’s exceptionally valuable GAUGE report, with the ever-intrepid Jon Lafayette of NEXTTV.COM crowing:

Broadcast and cable’s share of viewing dropped below 50% (to 49.6%) as streaming hit a new high in July, according to Nielsen.

Broadcast’s share was 20% in July, a new low, down from 20.8% in June. Cable had a 29.6% share, down from 30.6%. 

It’s the first time cable’s share had been below 30%. It’s worth noting that cable had a 40.1% share as recently as June 2021.

Streaming’s share rose to 38.7% in July, the highest since Nielsen began issuing monthly reports, and up from 37.7% in June.

All of that is fact.  What got a little conflated were the type of headlines that implied that the tipping point of streaming content now reigning supreme was the story.  Which, as he typically does, the prolific “media cartographer” Evan Shapiro promptly noted this morning that that wasn’t quite the truth:

(T)he headlines from MediaPostVarietyThe Hollywood Reporter et al, all screamed that “Linear dropped below 50% for the first time!!!” They all positioned the report as “Linear vs Streaming.”

This is just factually incorrect.

Much/most of FAST is Linear. And a good deal of the usage in what these outlets call “Linear” comes from streaming vMVPDs like YoutubeTVHulu Live, Sling TV and Spectrum Reach.

So simplifying this data down to “Linear vs Streaming” misses the point, misinterprets what’s actually in there, shows how little we’ve learned from the Media apocalypse, and proves how ill-prepared we are for the new era of TV – which we are now in.

If you think reading IS fundamental, hit the link: Go inside the Gauge with me, and join in retraining our brains for what’s actually coming next…


And if you think I AM being nitpicky, or if you have any questions, please feel free to drop your comments below!

No, Evan, at least in my book, you’re not being nitpicky at all.  I first got excited about this kind of tipping point against cable nearly 20 years ago when I was analyzing how cable networks were being distributed in top local markets to plan for spot TV buys.  In Dallas-Fort Worth, an atypical DMA where two otherwise geographically media markets are reported together (think if Washington and Baltimore were combined), around that time we learned via Nielsen data that satellite services (DIRECTV and Dish) made up more of the distribution for the FOX cable networks than the local cable companies did.  We saw that as a tipping point and began to move funds we’d otherwise spend on local cable systems to national campaigns on those providers, and saw greater efficiencies as a result.   Not immediately, but eventually.
The same is likely true for what we learned yesterday.  And what I saw, and what Evan parenthetically reminded, is to me where the real potential for data transparency lies:
Streaming reached its highest share yet, as YouTube continues to be the most watched channel on TV, with Netflix at #2.
And as Lafayette added:
Netflix was No. 2 at 8.5%, up from 8.2%…(I)llustrating the shift from linear TV to streaming, Nielsen said that Suits — a former cable TV series — had more than 18 billion minutes of viewing on Netflix. That contributed to Netflix’s 4.2% increase in viewing in the month. Nielsen noted that a year ago, Netflix original Stranger Things had 18 billion viewing minutes for Netflix.
Indeed, a significant reason why Netflix was #2 with a bullet was because of a show originallly produced for linear TV more than a decade ago, that has simply shifted screens.   And a central point to why it’s so much of a tipping point in the strike negotiations that at least the idea of sharing data is now closer to being a reality.
We previously shared reporting how one of SUITS’ earliest writers and creators, Ethan Drogin, made $259.71 in residuals despite this success.  THE WRAP’s Loree Seitz added on with this insight from one of the show’s on-camera talents:

Ray Proscia, who played recurring character Dr. Lipschitz on “Suits,” told TheWrap he’s also not expecting to receive a sizable check in the next quarter despite the show’s massive viewership. He’s one of the thousands of striking actors who believes streaming residuals should be success-based — even though it’s far from clear what constitutes “success” when viewing is subscription-based.

“You’re talking about any business, if a product that is being supplied by a company is used over and over and over again, I believe the person who invented that product should get a piece of that,” Proscia told TheWrap. “In the case of ‘Suits,’ I invented Dr. Lipschitz… It’s not as if another actor is taking the role and then continuing on… It is my likeness. It was my performance. It is my creativity.”

Noting that he had a smaller role in the legal drama, Proscia listed main cast members Gabriel Macht, Sarah Rafferty and Rick Hoffman as the stars that “are the show.” “The fact that they’ve created these characters that have made the show so popular, they should be rewarded in kind,” Proscia said.

People like Proscia and Drogin have significant upside with data in hand.  And then there’s the additional potential of the impact such measurement can have on YouTube.  Yes, THE most-viewed streaming source and, per Nielsen, the largest individual destination for content.

Sure, YouTube benefits from clips of content traditionally viewed on linear platforms in long-form.  Even the snarky combination of Baloney (THE TOWN’s Matthew Belloni) and Wry (Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw), while discussing the future of ESPN on Belloni’s Ringer-verse, noted that while, in past years, an NBA fan would have likely watched the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies live on a outlet like NBA TV, they were more than satisfied watching clips of the induction speeches on YouTube.  Indeed, You Tube is a default destination  for the rapidly growing generation of cord-nevers, short-form content of all kinds becomes the default.  And THE INFORMATION’s Jessica E. Lessin made note of how that matters financially:

(N)early 45% of YouTube’s viewership in the U.S. happens on televisions. What’s more, advertisers plan to spend up to 20% more on YouTube in the fall compared with last year as Hollywood’s labor strikes persist. My colleague Sahil Patel had both those stories here and here

So data matters, and content creators on YouTube can benefit in a manner similar to the way that Proscia posits by utilizing a model that writers and actors are seeing in their own agreements with the platform.  What’s more, YouTube content creators can employ facial recognition codes to guarantee the identity of who is being viewed, thus assuring validity.  Such data can be immensely valuable to advertisers and brand managers.  And what a wonderful opportunity for a third party platform to augment their offerings with it.  (Nielsen, are you paying attention?!?!)

I’ve been having my own sidebar discussions on this very topic, and let’s just say there’s been some forward progress made in that area.  Not enough to disclose publicly, but enough so that I’m not a basket case.

And that goes in line with additional progress I made yesterday toward closing of a few other lingering issues.  One professional, two personal.  Nothing again to report of consequence.  But progress, indeed progress, in ALL areas.  If our ultimate goal is to seek that rather than the perfection that we know eludes all mortals, then, indeed, the Ides of August were pretty, pretty good from my perspective.

I REALLY hope my tipping point has happened.  And I sure hope these others continue in favorable trajectories as well.

Until next time…


1 thought on “A Day of Tipping Points. Thanks To Actual Data.”

  1. I’m hopeful they can learn to code…..or mine coal. We’ll be fine without them. Look at the crap they put out in Hollywood. It’s time for it to be put out of our misery. Reruns of The Rifleman and Doc Martin will more than suffice. We don’t miss the rest. Karma. It’s everywhere it needs to be.


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