To solve the streaming SVoD woes, C-suite honchos should apply a journalistic trait when hiring their operation executives: Find those who don’t know anything.
Looking at the big mess created by streaming SVoD platforms, perhaps it’s time for corporate honchos (i.e., bigwigs) to tackle the selection of operational executives using a journalistic approach: Hire someone who doesn’t know anything so that he/she has to become informed and research any and every story well. (By the way, the word “honcho” comes from a Japanese word for “group leader.”)
The concept isn’t new. Indeed, my good friend, the late Norman Horowitz (1932-2015), who ran Screen Gems, CBS International, Polygram, Columbia Pictures TV, and MGM, used to call me twice a week to tell me the same thing over and over: “No one knows anything!” Perhaps he was quoting American screenwriter William Goldman, who wrote, “nobody knows anything” in his 1983 book, Adventures in The Screen Trade. Now, in his new book Breathless, American science writer David Quammen repeats the maxim: “No one knows anything.” And he should know since he practically predicted the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 in his previous book Spillover, published in 2012.
Today, it is with dismay that I realized how little attention entertainment executives paid to the warnings about the opportunities and pitfalls of streaming TV services.
Since 2019, when SVoD became all the rage, VideoAge has been advising execs to proceed with caution in order not to harm a well-oiled, well-defined, and profitable broadcast TV model.
Instead, propelled by Wall Street, those executives in charge of the entertainment industry pushed for the demise of traditional television in the process of trying to strengthen their streaming services. Media analysts used to receive regular links to articles predicting the end of linear television, and about the expected riches that streaming media would bring.
Now that the streaming business model has proved to be unsustainable, and Wall Street became “disillusioned” with it, executives have found themselves with two troubled operations.
Perhaps, this is the time to, once again, recalling two old (but still good) business maxims: “Don’t fix what ain’t broken” and “don’t mess with a winning formula.”
At times I feel like I’m a medium, in the sense that I can anticipate events (in addition to being in the print “medium” business). So, on the strength of my track record, I’m venturing to make a few predictions. The main one is that the streaming service war will end soon — before they all cannibalize each other. After all, streaming will become like cinema releases. The new box office will be the amount of TVoDs, or number of subscribers driven by a particular movie or TV series.
In effect, the U.S. will be going back to the pre-1948 “Paramount Decrees” era, when the large Hollywood studios controlled the motion picture industry through their ownership of film distribution and exhibition. Today, streaming constitutes a form of distribution that replaces or replicates theatrical distribution, as was the case prior to 1948. Now, it’s called “platform exclusivity.”
(By Dom Serafini)