Who You Callin’ A Niggler?!?!?!

Right up front, let me assure you all:  the last word of today’s title is spelled WITH AN L.  Just like my last name is spelled with two.  Believe me, it’s been mispronounced more than once, and while I embrace the nickname, I still bristle when someone leaves the second “L” out of my last name.  By nature, I’m hardly the firearms-embracing type (though, I will admit, there have been lately a few encounters where I’ve begun to reassess that).

Naturally, the first time someone described me as the last word in today’s title, I did a double take.  No, check that, a quadruple take.  The person who pinned that name on me was one of the brightest and classiest hires I had ever made in my executive career, and to this day remains in my personal top three.  An absolutely brilliant, articulate and disarmingly attractive person who came as highly recommended as anyone I have ever inquired about, expert in the details and nuances of a cable industry I was charged by new top management to learn on the fly at a time when I had had zero experience in that world, and a rare New York-based talent who, for some personal reasons, actually was looking to relocate to Los Angeles on their own.  If, like me, you share the theory that your best hire is someone who compliments your team’s skill sets and has talents and assets that you know you don’t, then this person was as shining an example of all of that as any.  So to hear a word like that come from their lips, well, I was completely speechless.

Then I learned what it meant, per Dictionary.com.– a word derived from old English usage that, as a verb, was defined thusly:

to spend too much time and effort on inconsequential details:It’s difficult to be meticulous and not niggle.

I looked at my classy colleague once I looked that up and asked “Did you just dis me?”.  My disarming colleague said “My former co-workers pinned that name on me.  As a researcher, it’s a badge of honor.  You actually are more meticulous than me, and I admire that”.

So it is with that backdrop that, for a change, I offer praise to someone known as The Entertainment Strategy Guy, who defines himself accordingly at the top of his highly detailed posts:

Welcome to my weekly streaming ratings report, the single best guide to what is popular in streaming TV and what isn’t. I’m the Entertainment Strategy Guy, a former streaming executive who now analyzes business strategy in the entertainment industry.

I am exceptionally sensitive to and frequently lament how complex the task of merely obtaining, let alone putting into proper context, streaming data is.  Indeed, its very availability is one of the central issues that striking writers and actors have focused on, and these companies are beyond petrified that anyone in a position to determine stock value get any sort of legitimate handle on it.  But ESG does as comprehensive a job of it as anyone I’ve seen, present company included, because, bluntly, he’s a REALLY good niggler.

His post yesterday on his substack feed, WHICH WEEKLY SERIES WON THE SUMMER?, gave this caveat to his findings:

The streaming ratings report focuses on the U.S. market and compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranksShowlabsTV Time trend data, Samba TV household viewership, company datecdotes, and Netflix hours viewed data, Google Trends, and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of August 7th to August 13th.)

And then, with extreme and exhaustive detail, ESG crunched more numbers than a gym rat would sit-ups, and, with an awful lot of hard backup to it, declared Prime Video’s JACK RYAN as the winner.  Which is, intriguingly, a similar conclusion to a more qualitative one reached by yet another advertorial research partner of THE WRAP in their post yesterday, one that takes a sharp and necessary edge to the motivations and missteps that have come to define an awful lot about Prime Video, and, for that matter, the kind of atttiudes that have helped to contribute to the dystopian climate the industry in general finds itself in.  Per Ryan Mach:

At Amazon’s Prime Video, the push to find a hit show that would define the streaming service for viewers came from the very top. Prime had critical darlings like “Fleabag” and popular series like “The Boys,” but founder Jeff Bezos wanted something bigger, something that all of America would watch one night a week and talk about the other six. 

As the company more than doubled its spending on original TV content between 2016 and 2019, Bezos gave his team of executives a simple directive: “I want my ‘Game of Thrones.’”

Prime Video’s content budget hit $16.6 billion in 2022, and this year, it’s predicted to reach $20 billion even as the competition tightens spending. The search for a “Game of Thrones” yielded epic fantasies “The Wheel of Time” and  “Lord of the Rings” prequel “The Rings of Power,” as well as high-concept sci-fi shows like “Citadel” and “The Peripheral.” Amazon executives have defended the strategy and say it’s delivering. But reports say that inside the company, there’s a sense of frustration with the failure of these shows’ huge budgets to translate into huge audiences.

Data from Ranker Insights confirms the sense that Prime Video’s most costly shows are being outperformed. And not by competing streamers: Rather, Amazon’s most expensive series are failing to measure up to other Prime originals — shows that are more straightforward and often less pricey.

Ranker Insights, unlike Parrot Analytics’ worthless search engine data which THE WRAP also partners with, makes no assumption that it is reflective of anything quantitative–it produces sentiment scores.  But when put on a contrasting axis against budgets, it reveals a powerful and simplistic visual narrative.

I urge you, as I do with ESG, to give Mach’s detailed narrative some of your own niggling attention, because you’ll learn quite a bit about why there are some truly frustratingly costly and ego-maniacal decisions being made, particularly among the tech-driven media companies that are apparently more than content to drive the wedge between content creators and platforms deeper than ever.  But I do want to amplify the conclusion that Mach’s analysis came to about my Culver Steps neighbors:

From Amazon’s perspective, winning over viewers isn’t necessarily the top priority. The retail giant’s business model all but guarantees a significant number of subscribers who want access to faster shipping and other Prime perks. Bezos’ desire for a blockbuster was, more than anything, a desire to solidify Prime Video’s status as a major competitor in the streaming wars and to give it a prestige pedigree similar to that of HBO or Netflix. 

But there’s more than one way to build a brand. “The Summer I Turned Pretty” and “Reacher” may not have the kind of mass appeal that made “Game of Thrones” the topic of watercooler conversation, but taken together, they engage huge and passionate audiences. Rather than being all things to all people, Amazon is already finding success through the diversity of its programming. It may ultimately find this approach to be more effective — and certainly more affordable — than mimicking its competitors.   

In other words, if Bezos wants to buy a bigger yacht or build a larger rocket ship to make himself stand out in a cockfight against Musk and Zuck, given he has dedicated his life to impressing the hot girl in the room, good on him.  But if he was intent on fostering that kind of culture with executives who remain resolute with the kinds of gambits that simply aren’t paying off (yes, Jen Salke, defender of CITADEL, that means you), with the kind of domino effect that sort of arrogance has fostered among his peers and competitors, that continue to produce the kind of results that only measures like write-downs and layoffs can correct, well, sorry not sorry, that’s NOT cool.

And this sort of approach sadly extends even to the companies that are the tools of nigglers’ ignorance.  Earlier this week, we learned that Nielsen was laying off nine percent of its workforce, a reflection in part of the gambit their investors took when they plunked down $16 billion for a struggling brand.  Among the numerous posts in my feed about the latest round of victims of largesse who are going into the fall facing unemployment was another former colleague of mine, a 23-year veteran of the company who started out on my staff as a young, detail-oriented intern, and a favorite of the person who pinned the word “niggler” on mine.  And when it was attributed to him, a person of color himself, it initially came off as especially dog-whistling.  But I quickly assured my young colleague that, in the context of a researcher, making darn sure that L was in the mix, it was indeed a compliment.

I am truly hopeful this 23-year veteran of research wars finds a new professional home to take full advantage of his skill sets, so that he can more properly support his family.  I’d urge my other former colleague, still a respected senior corproate executive, to give him full consideration.  And, as I am want to do, humbly have asked that my name be thrown into any consideration set as well, in the pious hope that Amazon’s poor choices haven’t completely derailed any hopes for any of us nigglers.

From what we know of Bezos’ past creating his business in his Washington State garage, a shy, bookish introvert, I would strongly suspect that he has been called a niggler at various times himself.  Say what you will about his current ‘tude, he’s done more than OK for himself.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask of him to call upon his team to be smarter and more respectful executives, let alone negotiators.

Let’s all try to be better at being niggLaz with attitude, huh?

Until next time…



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