Disney to Buy Full Control of Hulu in Deal With Comcast ↗

    By Georg Szalai and Alex Weprin at The Hollywood Reporter:

    Disney has agreed to take full control of Hulu in a deal with Comcast, which has owned a third of the streamer ever since Disney’s acquisition of the 21st Century Fox entertainment assets.

    With this deal all but assured, I wonder what this means for Hulu’s future? Obviously, it could go one of two ways: everything gets folded into one service, likely Disney+, or they continue on as separate services.

    The part of me that likes efficiency wants one app, but that would surely turn Disney+ into a overloaded behemoth.

    Netflix Reportedly Plans to Hike Prices for No-Ads Plans After Actors Strike Is Settled ↗

    Netflix is gearing up to raise the prices of streaming plans without advertising “a few months” after the SAG-AFTRA actors strike is resolved, according to a new report.

    The streaming service is “discussing” raising prices in “several markets globally,” and likely will first increase fees in the U.S. and Canada, according to a Wall Street Journal report, citing anonymous sources. The Journal did not have info on what Netflix’s new prices will be or when they might go into effect.


    While this news isn’t definite, it also wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it happened. I’m sure somebody in an executive suite questioned why in the world they should have to suffer the consequences of temporarily lost revenue when they could just pass it on down to their consumers. After all, it was the media companies that were the true victims of the recent strikes, right?

    Right? 🙄

    Every day it seems that enshittification should become an enshrined law of the universe.

    A Tiny Announcement. ↗

    From Letterboxd co-founder, Matthew Buchanan, on the Letterboxd Journal:

    [W]e have accepted an offer for Tiny to acquire a 60 percent stake in Letterboxd, securing the platform’s future as an independently run company and part of the Tiny stable.

    Aside from the ownership change, and in line with Tiny’s core operating values, very little else will change. [Co-founder] Karl and I are still leading the team, which remains the same, but now has the additional support of a company with vast experience in helping founders through periods of growth, which Letterboxd continues to enjoy. It means we can bring you more of the features you love and deserve, at a sustainable pace.

    If Letterboxd had to be acquired, then I’m glad it was by Tiny—as acquisition firms go, they have a general track record of not being godawful leeches.

    There’s always a shiver of fear that runs down my spine whenever a company I like is bought up by something else. That rarely ends well for the users (see Twitter), most of whom are die-hard fans of the service into which they’ve poured a lot of time and love.1

    I wish the best for Letterboxd and the people who run it; I’m not going to stop using it anytime soon. Anyway, what are the alternatives? A massive spreadsheet? Not likely at this point. But I am going to keep a more watchful eye on how its user experience develops from here on. I’ve never hoped that something will avoid the Process of Enshittification more than I have with Letterboxd.

    1. Hey there! 👋 ↩︎

    I came up with a new get-rich-quick scheme that’s sure to work! While browsing the spices at my local Sprouts, I noticed a remarkable price tag. Per ounce, saffron threads work out to be $1,299.

    1. Start growing my own saffron.
    2. ???
    3. Major profits!

    Warner Bros. Discovery Says Ongoing Strikes Will Mean $300M-$500M Hit to 2023 Earnings ↗

    By Georg Szalai at The Hollywood Reporter:

    Warner Bros. Discovery has lowered its 2023 adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) forecast to $10.5 billion-$11.0 billion, a hit of $300 million-$500 million, “predominantly due to the impact of the strikes,” compared with the previously targeted low end of the $11.0 billion-$11.5 billion range.

    Let me get this straight: it’s unreasonable for writers to justifiably demand a relatively modest pay increase, but it’s the height of business savvy for Warner Bros. Discovery to lose $300–500 million in a year?

    What I’m hearing is, “I’m really upset with my face right now, so let me cut off my nose!”

    To be clear, it would cost WBD far less to pay writers a fair wage than they’ll lose this year. According to IndieWire, of the $429 million a year it would cost the AMPTP to meet the demands of the WGA, WBD would be on the hook for about $47 million. On the low end, that’s a $253 million difference in 2023 and $453 million on the high end.

    But yeah, it’s the writers who are the real problem. 🙄

    It must be nice to lose that much money and not have to worry about also losing your job. I don’t know what WBD CEO David “I’m Super Good at Business” Zaslav has done to make his position so secure, but if anyone else in the world lost their company that much money, they’d never work in their industry again. Instead, these overpaid ghouls keep failing upward while the writers are increasingly unsure if they’ll have homes and food to rely on soon.

    Make no mistake—it’s not “Hollywood” that’s the issue here. The blame for these strikes rests 100% on the shoulders of inept executives like Zaslav.

    Streaming TV costs now higher than cable, as ‘crash’ finally hits ↗

    From Ben Lovejoy at 9to5Mac:

    As little as a year ago, a popular set of streaming services added up to a total cost of $73 per month – compared to $83 for an equivalent cable package. But the latest round of streaming price increases has pushed that cost to $87, says a Financial Times analysis, making it more expensive than cable.

    Good job, dummies. You became the very thing you swore to destroy!

    Also, from Karl Bode at Techdirt in a related article:

    If you hadn’t noticed, it’s not just good enough for a publicly traded company to provide an excellent, affordable product that people like. Wall Street demands improved quarterly returns at any cost, which, sooner or later, causes any successful company to begin cannibalizing itself to feed the “growth for growth’s sake” gods. Mergers, price hikes, offshored labor, whatever it takes.

    While high level executives and some shareholders benefit from this enshittification, there’s just an endless list of casualties from this process, whether it’s product value, quality, customer satisfaction, customer support, employee pay, jobs, or even the long-term health of the company itself.

    Capitalism was a mistake.

    HBO Max Renamed as Max ↗

    From J. Clara Chan:

    Warner Bros. Discovery on Wednesday unveiled Max, its refreshed streaming service combining programming from both the original HBO Max streaming service and Discovery+.

    Good job, Zaslav, et al. You took the prestige of and brand affection for HBO and turned it into a muck of “Max.” A small part of me hoped that the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO would course-correct away from this graceless endeavor. At the very least, they could have come up with a better name. Even better, they could have kept the HBO Max and Discovery+ apps separate instead of the weird tack of creating this new combination service and keeping Discovery+ around and unchanged.

    But grace doesn’t appear to be in their wheelhouse. Like Zapp Brannigan piloting an orbiting restaurant, Zaslav is full steam ahead on seeing what the heck is going to stick to the wall this time.

    By removing HBO from Max’s branding, WBD is also hoping to appeal to a wider audience that may have previously turned away from the streaming service due to HBO’s high-brow reputation and higher price point. [WBD’s president, JB] Perrette said removing HBO from the branding was a part of “preserving and protecting the most iconic trailblazing brand in entertainment.”

    And yet, they’re still using the style of the old HBO logo in the new Max logo!1 That filled-in “a” in “Max” bears a striking resemblance to the familiar filled-in “o” in “HBO.” Despite what WBD may say, HBO is still a brand with a large and important audience. This amalgamation doesn’t seem like protection. It feels like a lack of confidence in their new product.

    And anyway, I thought the point of Discovery+ sticking around was to appeal to that “wider audience.” What, then, is the point of continuing to offer two separate apps—Discovery+ and (now) Max? I understand why they’re keeping the former around. The HBO catalog probably won’t appeal to those who want an endless supply of reality shows. But surely the inverse is true, as well.

    We’ll have one focused streaming service that meets the desires of those who use it and one unfocused mess crammed full of stuff that’s likely to confuse and/or frustrate many. As I wrote last August, it’s going to be unpleasant scrolling past, for instance, a giant banner image of 90 Day Fiancé to get to Succession. That kind of silly experience is nowhere to be found on successful rival services like Disney+.

    Way to dilute a strong brand in the name of sticking it to AT&T, guys. I’m sure this new service and pricing 4K resolution content into a more expensive tier won’t lose you loads of previously invested fans.

    1. Something I just learned while trying to find an image of the new Max logo. Searching for “max logo” or “new max logo” returns predictably unhelpful results. Max is such a common word. Good luck to anyone trying to find more information about Max in the future through an internet search. You’re going to get a lot of nonsense. ↩︎

    HBO Max, Discovery+ to Merge Into Single Streaming Platform Starting in Summer 2023 ↗

    Looks like my fears about HBO Max becoming more like Discovery+ were completely warranted. Since the merger was approved earlier this year, it was always going to end up this way. But it’s one thing to talk about it and another thing to see it happening.

    Further evidence from Variety that things are going to get weird: ‘Fixer Upper’ and Other Magnolia Network Shows Coming to HBO Max in September. There’s a fair chance that we’ll soon have to scroll on past enormous banner images of such illustrious shows as 90 Day Fiancé, Alaskan Killer Bigfoot, I Love a Mama’s Boy, World’s Most Evil Killers, and My Five Wives to get to The Sopranos and Game of Thrones.

    I enjoy stuff like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives as much as the next person, but I don’t think it should share space with The Wire. Conversely, I’d bet that people who love what’s currently on offer at Discovery+ don’t want to see the sort of stuff that’s on HBO Max mixed together.

    More concerning is the recent spate of original programming that’s recently been canceled or removed from HBO Max. These include:

    And they’ve also announced that kids’ content will be cut, which is a damn shame. For anyone of a certain age, i.e., my age, the WB cartoon shows from the ‘90s were revolutionary.

    I’m sure I’m missing some, but that’s already a hefty list. With the way things have been going lately, I’m sure it’ll grow longer.1

    A little over a year ago, I said that AT&T (the former owner of Warner Bros.) CEO, John Stankey, was one of the worst things to happen to the studio and HBO. It turns out that I was too early in that assessment: Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav is hard at work destroying what made HBO the powerhouse source of original storytelling it used to be. If former HBO CEO Richard Plepler was dead, he’d be rolling in his grave. Right now, he’s probably just shaking his head in frustration.

    I’m hoping that my concerns will end up being unfounded. Perhaps some good can come out of this messiness. Deadline did also report that Zaslav said about HBO and HBO Max:

    We’re going to spend dramatically more this year and next year than we spent last year [and] the year before.

    Who knows what that’ll actually mean in the long term. I hope it won’t include abandoning all scripted television, as Screen Rant reports. However, given the figurative bloodbath that’s been occurring, I’m not going to hold my breath.

    If you’re looking for a new place to enjoy excellent storytelling, I continue to heartily recommend just about everything on Apple TV+. Give Ted Lasso, For All Mankind, Severance, and See a try. They’re clearly building a brand focused on longevity and, most importantly, quality. It reminds me of what the old HBO used to be.

    1. My greatest concern now is that the wonderful Harley Quinn will be among the next to go. ↩︎

    Netflix Admits Some Shows Won’t Make It To Ad Tier, In Talks With Studios Over Licensing Deals ↗

    By Peter White for Deadline:

    Netflix plans to launch its advertising tier in early 2023, but not all of the shows that are currently streaming on the service will make the cut.

    Obviously, they’ll still be offering all of their original content, as confirmed by the article, but this is a peculiar licensing issue. Either these studios don’t want their shows played with ads or there needs to be a new deal struck anytime the status quo changes. I’m betting on the second one. Rarely are things simple when media companies are involved.

    Or there’s some mystery third reason. Your guess is as good as mine there; I’m no industry insider.

    I’m certain this ad-supported tier will actually be a boon for Netflix—their pricing is exceptionally high and this new tier should be far more affordable. It’ll be great for people who can stand ads playing during their shows and movies.

    I’m not one of those people.

    Limiting the number of available shows probably isn’t going to make someone interested in this new tier think twice about signing up. It’s not going to convince me to downgrade, though. Fewer content options and unskippable ads? That sounds like a nightmare. No thank you, sir!

    On top of all this, Netflix has been losing subscribers (albeit at a slower rate than predicted), so I’ll be curious to see how this new shake-up shakes out.

    What a weird day (and world).

    I’ve never been more happy to be on Micro.blog.

    I often try to think about what I can do to make the world a better place.

    I was reminded of a serious problem recently: Why don’t the number of hot dog buns in a package ever match the number of hot dogs you can get? Six buns to eight dogs? Madness.

    What better way to improve the world than create a company that ends this madness once and for all? Coming soon: The eight bun package! Sure to revolutionize barbecues everywhere and make the world just a little bit nicer.

    Discovery Closes $43 Billion Acquisition of AT&T’s WarnerMedia ↗

    Discovery completed its $43 billion acquisition of WarnerMedia from AT&T on Friday to form new company Warner Bros. Discovery, Variety has confirmed.

    WarnerMedia owns HBO, HBO Max, CNN, Warner Bros., DC Films, New Line Cinema, TBS, TNT, TruTV, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Turner Sports and Rooster Teeth, among other brands, and is part owner of the CW Network along with Paramount.

    Discovery is the parent of Discovery Plus, Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, Turbo/Velocity, Animal Planet, Science Channel and OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).

    What’s going to happen now will be, to say the least, mysterious and interesting. Here’s hoping that they can keep everything in their respective lanes. I don’t care to see a bunch of gritty, HBO-style reality shows.

    Ruby Rose explains why she left Batwoman, alleges injuries and dangerous working conditions ↗

    Gabrielle Sanchez, writing for The A.V. Club,

    Speaking about her own injuries as Batwoman, Rose explained that she underwent emergency surgery for two herniated discs, with doctors telling her she could have been paralyzed.

    The actor said she was required to return to work 10 days after her surgery, with [Warner Bros. TV executive Peter] Roth telling her the crew would lose their jobs and it would cost the studio millions if she did not promptly return. She also alleged Roth hired a private investigator to trail her after she left the show.

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a terrible thing to read, and what happened to her is inexcusable. Combined with the recent story about the grotesque treatment Gal Gadot received from Joss Whedon during the reshoots of Justice League, and a clearer picture starts to form. See also: Ray Fisher’s hellish time on the same set.

    It’s more evident than ever that Warner Bros. and the people running it are rotten to the core. It’s a damn shame. The company has a long history of bringing great entertainment to audiences for decades. I have serious doubts that anything there will change unless they raze it all to the ground and start over again.

    The WarnerMedia-Discovery merger continues to roll along. Say hello to Warner Bros. Discovery!

    A less creative and exciting name there could not be, but I guess that’s not the point. I can’t wait for the upcoming app which will surely be named: HBO Discovery Max+.

    Bezos says Amazon should “do a better job for our employees” after union vote ↗

    Bezos is concerned about these glaring and long-standing issues with Amazon only now that he’s leaving the accountable CEO position?

    Just more fuel to add to the fire of him basically being a villain.

    Speaking of AT&T and its acquisition of Time Warner, and therefore also HBO, the whole deal has always disappointed me.

    On the one hand, HBO Max has done well for AT&T. It got 4.1 million new signups in its first month of existence, which is nothing to sneeze at. Even more impressive is that it’s accomplished this while demanding $15 a month, making it one of the most expensive streaming services available. By all accounts, it’s a big success for AT&T. No doubt it was helped along by the COVID pandemic; when we’re all stuck at home, it helps to have excellent and fresh programming to consume.

    The decision to premiere feature films that otherwise would have been theater exclusives on the service was another boon for them. Sure, it upset many people involved with both the entertainment and theater industries, but their objections were never going to sway business daddy AT&T. Until HBO Max starts losing money, nothing will deter them from their present course.

    On the other hand, HBO as we knew it before the acquisition is gone and will likely never return. The blame for that lies entirely on the shoulders of AT&T’s CEO, John Stankey.1 In an incredibly detailed and well-researched CNBC article, Alex Sherman details the rocky process of this acquisition. The article boils down to this quote from a former HBO executive:

    If HBO stood for anything, it was making a product for the customer, not the advertiser. It’s not as though John is unpleasant. He doesn’t throw stuff. He just knows much less about television than he thinks and won’t be debated.

    Is Time Warner and HBO’s acquisitions by AT&T good for business, or at least the business of AT&T? Undoubtedly. This opens up a bevy of new revenue opportunities, which will, in turn, make the bottom line of the telecommunication giant look great. However, I don’t believe this will improve the quality of the content that’ll appear on HBO Max in the coming years. HBO was doing just fine without AT&T’s heavy, leading hand before the acquisition. You can expect the familiar HBO quality to get watered down as AT&T spreads the focus to areas that have never mattered to past HBO. In an interview with Jillian Morgan at Realscreen, executive vice-president of original non-fiction and kids programming, Jennifer O’Connell, says:

    There is a ton of weight on unscripted… We’re doing dating, we’re doing social experiments, we have competition shows, we have really big competition shows… That is an area that, for example, our colleagues at HBO, they are not necessarily in that space so deeply, so it’s very rich, very fertile ground for us to dig into.

    There’s nothing necessarily wrong with unscripted programming. It’s enormously popular for a reason—people flock to those shows in droves. However, it was never HBO’s area of interest. AT&T doesn’t care about that history. It cares about making money, and there’s a lot of money to be made in unscripted, non-HBO style content.

    If you’re looking for a future replacement for HBO, the service that’s making the strongest play is Apple TV+. Netflix has become flooded with content that’s aimed at appealing to the broadest number of viewers. A service like Hulu has an advertising-supported pricing tier, meaning their content is ultimately beholden to other entities. Disney+ has shown that they’re interested in telling unique stories, but they’re doing it off the springboard of their massive library of previously made content.

    The only service out there that’s charting a unique course is Apple TV+. They’re walking the HBO path of debuting movies and shows that will, over time, grow to be a body of impressive work that’s all their own. They’re going to stumble along the way—even HBO was never perfect—but they’ll catch themselves and improve on their mistakes. They’ve invested too much money already to just ditch all their hard work. I’m looking forward to seeing where they’ll go.

    It’s just a damn shame about HBO.

    UPDATE: From a 9to5Mac article published on April 13, 2021: Apple TV+ features the highest-rated content of any streaming service, study says. Seems like Apple TV+ is already beginning to deliver on my estimation of it being the new HBO.

    1. I’m going to put aside the baffling issue of a telecommunications company deciding to purchase a visual media company for now. Nonetheless, it’s a strange pairing. Should the quality of the content available on HBO Max begin to degrade, surely this business arrangement will be the culprit. ↩︎

    Amazon workers vote against unionizing at Alabama warehouse ↗

    Suhauna Hussain and Jenny Jarvie reporting for Los Angeles Times:

    Over half of the 3,215 employees who cast ballots by mail since early February voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which led the effort to unionize employees at the facility in Bessemer, Ala., according to a preliminary tally Friday overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

    What a damn shame. This could have been something positive, not just for the employees at this particular Alabama warehouse and not just for all Amazon employees, but for workers everywhere. Instead, it suggests that it’s okay for the heavy boot of all too powerful corporations to remain on the backs of the people those corporations need the most—their employees.

    On the other hand, perhaps the exposure this unionizing effort has gained is still a good step in the right direction.

    I wasn’t alive when labor unions were at their peak in this country, but I would hazard an educated guess that things were better back then. At the very least, more progress was made than it is now.

    The public vote count came after more than a week of the labor board reviewing and certifying each ballot cast behind closed doors, with representatives from both the union and Amazon contesting the eligibility of some ballots. The union said about 500 ballots total had been challenged, largely by Amazon. The union said it intends to challenge the results.

    We’ll see what comes of that.