When Did Doctor Evil Take Over Press Relations?

The more I read the way what’s left of the coverage of media these days, both from a trade press that should know better and an increasingly clickbait-obsessed mainstream world that appears to be increasingly unaware, ignorant or both, the more I’m believing that companies seeking attention are turning to the skill sets first made popular by Douglas Powers.

That strategic genius, who you may know as Doctor Evil, seemed to believe merely invoking the word “billion” was a way to get whomever he was “negotiating” with to take notice, quake in their boots (or Birkenstocks) and immediately give him more credence and respect than he was deserving of.

Yesterday, two legacy media companies starving for attention and relevance invoked that “B” word in an attempt to elevate the attention of anyone who might be inclined to run it.  To their credit, they succeeded–I got at least a dozen alerts from various sources about each.  Few actually offered context.  After all, that’s not what a publicist desires or even gets measured on–just whether or not they get pickups and trackable clicks.

The cycle started late Monday and continued into yesterday morning as Nielsen boldly announced, now that their self-imposed delay window for “overnight” streaming data of 21 days has finally passed, the “official” verdict on what America streamed most in 2023.  DECIDER’s Erick Massato took the bait:

Suits’ Breaks ‘The Office’s Record to Become 2023’s Most Streamed TV Show

America loves Suits. In a new Nielsen report that analyzed viewership numbers in 2023, the long-running series stood tall as the most-watched title in the streaming world, according to THR. The legal drama beat the record previously held by another long-running series: NBC sitcom The Office. In 2020, the daily lives of Dundler Mifflin employees were watched for a combined 57.1 billion minutes. Last year, Suits accumulated 57.7 billion minutes watched by streaming subscribers.  Even though Suits ended its nine-season run in 2019, the sudden rise in viewership is directly related to the fact that all episodes from the series debuted on Netflix back in August. The debut presented a perfect opportunity for people who wanted to binge-watch the series but weren’t Peacock subscribers. Viewers were also pretty committed to seeing what would happen to Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) and his team, as all episodes of Suits amount to an 83-hour watch, and it looks like a pretty good number of people happily got through that.

Massato led off his “report” with the recommended stylebook of front-loading online journalism with bullet points since younger generations apparently have markedly greater ADD than do us somewhat older codgers, with these summative pearls:

  • The sudden rise in viewership is attributed to all episodes of ‘Suits’ debuting on Netflix, giving fans the opportunity to binge-watch the series.
  •  The popularity of Suits underscores the desire of TV fans to spend long stretches of time with their favorite characters, as shorter seasons and early cancelations have become more common.

Tsk, tsk, Erick.  Sooo much of your “analysis” eminates from a slew of glossed over facts.  Let me remind you:

— The 201 half-hour episodes of THE OFFICE, with commercial time removed, account for approximately 73.3 hours.  Immediately, SUITS has an inherent advantage on tonnage alone.

— In the U.S., per Statista’s most recent estimates (extrapolating from their North American counts), there are 70 million households that are Netflix subscribers.

— If you convert those hours to minutes, and even if you only allow for the possibility that just one member of every Netflix subscribing household is watching SUITS, a quick click of a few keys on your Calculator app would reveal that if indeed all of those Netflix homes binged the whole gamut of SUITS, that one national binge would add up to 348,600,000,000 minutes.

Cue the Doctor Evil music.

Sure, we know not every single subscribing household watched even a minute of SUITS.  Plenty, based on anecdotal evidence alone, probably watched episodes more than once, and probably with significant others at the same time.  And I’m sure we both know that Nielsen STILL does not include any viewership beyond connected screens, meaning anything watched on a phone or tablet is not part of those 57.7B minutes you and the Nielsen publicity hounds seem to think is so dramatic. So maybe it’s not such a big deal, eh?

But relax, whomever still remains at Nielsen’s PR team (sure hope YOUR jobs aren’t outsourced to India or Poland), because last night the team behind Allen Media Group did you one better.  BLOOMBERG’s Christopher Palmeri breathlessly told the world that a new bidder has emerged for a pile of rocks that has been actively courting suitors, albeit behind a paywall.  Fortunately, sites like SEEKING ALPHA put out the essential elements for those of us who can’t quite afford it:

Media mogul Byron Allen made a $14.3 billion bid for Paramount Global (NASDAQ:PARA). Allen offered $28.58 each for the voting shares of Paramount, a 50% premium to recent trading, and $21.53 for the non-voting shares, according to a Bloomberg report late Tuesday, which cited people familiar with the matter. Including debt, the total value of the deal is $30 billion.  Allen’s company Allen Media Group, confirmed that he made an offer in a statement to Bloomberg News.

As was reported by several outlets both free and paid:

Mr. Byron Allen did submit a bid on behalf of Allen Media Group and its strategic partners to purchase all of Paramount Global’s outstanding shares,” the statement said. “We believe this $30 billion offer, which includes debt and equity, is the best solution for all of the Paramount Global shareholders, and the bid should be taken seriously and pursued.”

Well, of course YOU do, Mr. Allen.  The real question is, based on your recent track record, does anyone who actually can sell you an asset you covet agree?

We do know you have some press friends who tout your determination and street-saviness.  THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Alex Weprin reminded his readers of exactly how good you are, even if he raised an eyebrow or two on your chances to make this one work:

The mogul, who began his career in Hollywood as a stand-up comedian (he still occasionally performs), is known for his aggressive negotiating tactics, and an unflinching desire to grow his business. AMG added a handful of new board members late last year as it sought new expansion opportunities.

It is not clear who Allen’s strategic partners are in the offer, or if there any contingencies.

“You know how you can sum up Byron is his chess game,” Eddie Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter in a 2020 profile of Allen. “Byron played a lot of chess back in the early days. There was a group of people in town, like Berry Gordy and Jim Brown, who would fly in good players. I played Byron a lot. I’m a much better chess player than Byron. Like, nobody beats me. If I had played Byron on the clock, I would have killed Byron. But we didn’t play on the clock — we just played. And that’s Byron’s game. He’s super patient. He takes a long time between every move. He does it until you get frustrated — and then you do something stupid, and then all he needs is a little tiny crack. Just a pawn, any type of advantage, and he had you. That is Byron in a nutshell.”

Well, Shari Redstone’s done a lot of stupid things over the years, and her current suitor Yosemite Zas has certainly done his share of late.  So maybe it’s time for Sheriff Bart to take good ol’ Yosemite to the center of Rockridge and have himself an old fashioned duel to win the heart (and assets) of fair maiden?

But be wary, Sheriff, because some fellow Penske journos are even more skeptical of your chances than is Weprin.  Enter DEADLINE’s Anthony D’Alessandro:

Move over, David Ellison, because here comes Byron Allen. Bloomberg first had the news about Allen’s bid.

All of this noise comes as the media postures that Ellison’s Skydance is making an imminent play for Shari Redstone‘s stake in National Amusements, the trojan horse into owning Paramount Global. Despite all the headlines about “inching” toward a deal, there’s no there-there yet, we keep hearing.

But wait, didn’t the former host of NBC’s Real People make a $3.5 billion bid for Paramount Global’s BET and VH1 last month? An insider says that deal clearly hasn’t gone through yet.

The reported m.o. for Allen would be to sell the Paramount film studio, real estate and IP. He would keep the linear networks, plus Paramount+ and operate the streamer more efficiently (Good luck with that). If Allen were to pursue a deal, he’d be doing so at a time when there’s continued high interest rates.

I suspect D’Alessandro might have seen some of the most recent ratings for Allen’s content on CBS–the 0.1 demo that FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK delivered in prime time in December, or the six-figure numbers that even the modest success of AFTER MIDNIGHT was able to top from his decade-old reruns of COMICS UNLEASHED than CBS used as filler fodder when the strikes made third and fourth repeats of James Corden’s time-sensitive talk show a non-option.   He’s probably aware Byron didn’t–after all, he’s not even subscribing to national Nielsen ratings any more.

But lots of bankers and Wall Street analysts DO.  And even his impressive portfolio of local stations spanning the continent from Honolulu to Flint aren’t poised to take full advantage of any 2024 election upticks.  So if they were lukewarm on his BET bid, and not all that impressed by his failed attempt to buy the Denver Broncos, what makes anyone think that by upping the ante by more than seven times for the whole kit and kaboodle he is going to be any more successful?

Maybe Christopher Palmeri asked that question.  His business news site sure didn’t answer it, or even offer any upfront bullet points.

In the coming days some of the better media reporters in the country will be traveling here for a much-needed Television Critics Association tour, being held in person and with actual stars on hand to promote upcoming shows for one of the few times this decade.  (Bring your raingear, though, you’ve missed the Chamber of Commerce weather for now).  I’ll hope that a few will challenge the executives and representatives spinning numbers, as they are want to do in these forums, that sound impressive to back them up with meaningful context, competitive or historic.  A little research, even as simplistic as cross-checking some numbers against a few publicly available information websites, can add a lot to your readers’ understanding and appreciation.  They might even subscribe to your publications and newsletters.  Perhaps you might even get your “sources” to respect you that much more.  You will have the floor.  Take it.

Or as Douglas Powers might have said, do your friggin’ jobs better.

Until next time…


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