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Exploring The Limited Event TV Series

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Watching TV
It’s become a successful TV trend in recent years: the limited event series, in which a television show exists for a set number of episodes, generally somewhere in the 8-13 range, but this number is open to fluctuation.

Broadcast network FOX has demonstrated particular interest in this format, with a 6-episode run of “The X-Files” earlier this year. Next year, a new season of “Prison Break” will air, which is rumored to have 9-10 episodes.

Cable networks and OTT services have been pursuing this darker type of show as well, and it was reported last week that the highest paid actor in the world, Robert Downey Jr., was allegedly considering the “prestige of TV” and working on an HBO limited series.

“Good television has become more interesting than good filmmaking. In general, movies are repeating themselves — a lot of superheroes and a lot of visual effects — and you don’t get a lot of interestingly-structured dramas,” said Jose Padilha, showrunner on Netflix’s “Narcos.”

Writer freedom seems to be a benefit for this programming.

“If you’re coming in to write specific episodes in a big series,” said David Farr, writer for AMC’s “The Night Manager,” which wrapped up in May, “there’s a tendency for a writer to push it, hard, because you want to show what you can do.”

"The Night Manager" features British actor Tom Hiddleston attempting to embed into the crew of an arms dealer.



HBO has been airing “The Night Of” this summer, an 8-episode show revolving around a murder mystery in New York.

In an interview with Broadway World, showrunner Steve Zaillian expressed why he chose this type of TV series.

“Historically, the kinds of stories I'm interested in have been made as films. Now, it's TV. But since I'd had no experience in TV, I could only approach it as a film,” explained Zaillian. “HBO allowed me to make this like a film is made, to cast who I wanted to cast - many are feature actors - and to hire primarily feature film department heads … With a nine-hour film, there's a lot to keep in your head. I thought of nothing else every day for about four years.”

Seemingly, the ability to expand upon the traditional film by enhancing it with additional hours provides the allure for producing a limited series.

The 95-minute series finale for “The Night Of” will appear on HBO this Sunday, August 28, at 9 p.m. EST.



Author: Brian Cameron

Image via Shutterstock.

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Skinny Bundles Activated After Q2 2016 Subscriber Decline

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TVs
At the beginning of the week, Leichtman Research Group released some striking information: in the second quarter of 2016, the top pay-TV providers had lost around 665,000 subscribers, a new low.

“The reality is that there’s a whole new generation that’s not going to pay-TV at all, so to get a shot at reaching them, you have to go to the skinny bundle and the OTT space,” Peter Csathy, founder of media investment and advisory firm Creatv Media, told Variety.

Starting this month, a few companies are embracing new skinny bundle plans in an attempt to woo consumers who may be jumping ship.

CenturyLink, headquartered in Monroe, Lousiana, just revealed new over-the-top (OTT) products that will offer skinny bundles.

“We think [the addition of broadcast networks] will be a differentiator as we bring those local channels with the over-the-top cable channels,” said Glen Post, president and CEO of CenturyLink, on a quarterly earnings call.

While not much else is known yet, it’s currently being trialed, with an aim for public launch around the end of the year.

In early August, DISH debuted its “Flex Pack skinny bundle,” a $30/month service that features a core package of approximately 50 channels, with the ability to add more “channel packs” for an additional charge.

“Our customers are frustrated with having to pay for hundreds of channels, most of which they never watch,” said Warren Schlichting, DISH executive vice president of Marketing, Programming and Media Sales, in a press release. “Flex Pack provides a level of flexibility and control that brings our customers closer to the ideal of fully tailoring their channel lineup.”

Channels in the Flex Pack include AMC, TNT, USA, HGTV, E!, Cartoon Network, History, A&E, CNN, Discovery, TBS, Food Network, FX and TV Land.

In the upcoming fourth quarter, AT&T has stated that it will be launching smaller OTT services with DirecTV branding.

“We want to have the ability to give [viewers] pay-TV as an app,” said AT&T’s SVP of strategy and business development, Tony Goncalves. “We got to un-tether it from a set-top box.”

By the end of the decade, it seems likely that every pay-TV company will have some at least one skinny bundle option, if not more. How will it impact subscriber rates?


Author: Brian Cameron

Image via Shutterstock

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Is Your Sports Metadata Inundated with Inaccuracies?

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Sports on TV
With the current excitement surrounding the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, it’s important to keep in mind that sports metadata is powering EPGs, entertainment platforms and apps, ensuring that viewers are informed about the events, athletes and action.

However, what should be considered is the provider of this sports metadata – many vendors are known for their poor quality and outdated information, as well as errors, issues and flaws.

Whether it’s football, soccer, basketball or baseball, some companies just can’t seem to get it right.

In this example, a metadata service has mistakenly displayed the flags for Sweden and Belgium during the UEFA European Championship, when the match is obviously between Portugal and France.

Here, a vendor has failed to take into account coaching staff changes for the BYU Cougars football team. Bronco Mendenhall left in December 2015; Kalani Sitake is the current head coach.

A summary writer for this data business is under the impression that the United States men's national soccer team is “led by Kyle Beckerman.” While he is on the roster, the captain is actually Michael Bradley.

Despite the fact that the title indicates that the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing the Boston Celtics, the Atlanta Hawks are mentioned in the game description by this sports data provider.

The National Fastpitch Coaches Association called out this metadata company when it incorrectly classified the ‘National Pro Fastpitch Draft,’ a softball event, as baseball – something that could affect content discovery.

It’s 2016, but this television app has artwork from two years ago for the NCAA basketball tournament.

And there are multiple errors in this hockey game description. Pittsburgh won the last meeting, 5-3, on March 13; the company here suggests it was the other way around, on a different date!

Be sure that your TV platform, on-screen guide or app has the correct sports information and statistics for your viewers by selecting a metadata provider that is up-to-date and accurate.

Author: Brian Cameron

Image via Shutterstock.

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TV Leaders Share Thoughts During Summer 2016 TCA Tour

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As the fall season of television approaches, executives and contributors are embarking on the Television Critics Association (TCA) summer press tour to promote new shows and discuss the state of the industry, providing remarks on broadcast and OTT.

Here’s a look at what many of them have been saying.

NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt championed broadcast TV, observing that the peacock network has “defied a lot of the doom-and-gloom, downward trends we've been hearing about network television."

However at the same time, Greenblatt emphasized an expansion of NBC’s streaming plans, and suggested that it was dabbling with a few concepts.

"We’re in a unique position because our sister company is a cable company and the OTT strategy is a competitive take from what the cable business is," said Greenblatt. "Whatever we do in that space, we want to do something that is not an affront to the cable business or distributors. So we’re trying to craft something that is a good thing for them as well. So we’re not there yet, but hopefully in the very near future we’ll have something to talk about. In the meantime, we’re doing a lot of toe in the water approaches.”

“Anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of viewing is done off the linear network,” Greenblatt later told Broadcasting & Cable.


Fox Television Group chief Dana Walden also lauded network television.

“Our shows become part of the national conversation, they are hitting a nerve. You can’t have that elsewhere, particularly on OTT,” stated Walden.

Walden recognized that the broadcast TV space has been particularly competitive in recent years.

It “has not been the flavor of the month, and for good reason,” Walden said, considering the rise of “shiny new services that wowed you and cable networks that won your attention with fantastic shows that would never have survived on broadcast.”


Writer and executive producer David E. Kelley, known for numerous network dramas, made waves by moving over to Amazon and stating he wouldn’t return to broadcast.

With Amazon television shows, "you're trusting that your audience is going to sit down and maybe watch the whole series in a week. You don’t have to remind them what they saw an hour and a half ago. You can be more efficient in your storytelling and you can just go deeper,” Kelley said.

“We have some pretty deep and dark character arcs within [upcoming show “Goliath”] that really require a lot of patience with the audience, patience that I'm not sure a broadcast regime is going to give you,” Kelley added.

YouTube original content head Susanne Daniels, who previously worked as a programming executive at MTV, touted streaming too.

“We reach over a billion people every single month, including more 18-to-49-year-olds on mobile alone than any broadcast or cable network I’ve ever worked for. This platform has more power to reach an audience and be more influential than traditional television,” Daniels said.


FX Networks CEO John Landgraf revealed research demonstrating a major increase in OTT distribution, and projected the creation and release of approximately 500 original shows across broadcast, premium, basic cable and streaming for 2016.

"This is simply too much television. My sense is that 2015 or 2016 will represent peak TV in America, and that we’ll begin to see declines coming the year after that and beyond,” said Landgraf.

When it comes to broadcast and OTT, this season's TCA seems to indicate that the battle for viewers has never been more intense.

Author: Brian Cameron

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Experiencing the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics with Streaming Technology

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2016 Rio Summer Olympics
This Friday, August 5, the Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will occur, and the Games will be ongoing until the evening of August 21.

There are many ways to view and engage with the various competitions, as audiences will be utilizing more than just their televisions to tune in.

A study released today by Phunware found that 77% of consumers say they’re likely to access this year’s Olympic events and content on a mobile device.

“Today’s consumers want more control over their media experiences. They expect access to the content and information they want, when they want it, and traditional television and even web viewing just doesn’t align with those expectations,” said Alan S. Knitowski, Chairman and CEO of Phunware, in a press release. “Mobile gives them that level of customization and on-demand accessibility, so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing consumers turn off the TV and turn to mobile to stay connected, especially when it comes to some of the biggest media events of the year like the Summer Olympics.”

NBCUniversal is the official network for the Olympics in the U.S., and it plans to air approximately 6,755 hours of sports programming.

If you’re a pay-TV subscriber, the action can be viewed on the NBC Sports Live Extra App, which itself will stream 4,500 hours of content.

U.S. military members will be able to stream the Olympics for free by selecting the “Exchange” as their provider.

“With 4,500 hours of streaming—1,000 more than London—including nine TV networks and connected TVs for the first time, we certainly anticipate record-setting consumption for Rio,” said Rick Cordella, SVP and General Manager of Digital Media at NBC Sports Group.

NBC is also launching a new app: NBC Olympics: Rio News & Results, which will feature medal tables, video clips, athlete biographies and more.

Microsoft Azure is assisting NBC with the live streaming aspect.

“We always strive to deliver more content in real time to more channels and devices around the world,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft. “During the Sochi Olympic Games, NBC Olympics had more than 1 million concurrent live viewers watching a collective average of 600,000 hours of coverage per day. We are planning for even greater viewing numbers for Rio, and are excited to power the experience again using Microsoft Azure.”

For the first time ever, NBC will make virtual reality a part of the Olympics via the Samsung Gear. Eighty-five hours of VR content will be available.

“The world’s greatest sporting event is always a showcase for cutting edge technology, and we’re thrilled to partner with Samsung and OBS to bring our viewers even closer to compelling Olympic action with virtual reality,” said Gary Zenkel, president, NBC Olympics. “Olympic fans can be transported to iconic venues such as Maracana Stadium for an unprecedented view of the Opening Ceremony, and Copacabana Beach for an immersive beach volleyball experience in the sport’s ultimate setting.”

In Canada, CBC/Radio-Canada is handling the streaming coverage with its CBC Rio 2016 app for iOS and Android.

According to the CBC website, “there will be up to 23 online channels with over 4,000 live streaming hours.”

And in the UK, the BBC will be offering comprehensive access to the Games, with more than 3,000 hours of sports.

“The BBC’s coverage of London 2012 was the most watched TV event in UK broadcasting history and we are committed to bringing the same high quality, in-depth coverage to Rio 2016. The incredible offering across all our platforms will deliver every moment of the Games through a truly interactive, personalised experience, while at the same time fully immersing audiences in this iconic sporting event just as we were so proud to do four years ago,” said Barbara Slater, Director of BBC Sport.

 As is the case every four years, champions will rise, and records will fall. We can’t wait to see the medal count in the end.

Author: Brian Cameron
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