Future of TV Briefing: How the future of TV has shaken out so far in 2024

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This Future of TV Briefing covers the latest in streaming and TV for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

This week’s Future of TV Briefing recaps the top stories from the first six months of 2024.

  • The mid-year review
  • VidCon’s Gen Z attendees speak out
  • Paramount seeks streaming merger, Netflix & Amazon reignite programming market, ESPN surrenders NBA games and more

The mid-year review

In a streak of unprecedented years, 2024 is still panning out to be a pretty eventful one. 

Consider that this year has already seen the launches of a major ad-supported streamer and a seismic generative AI tool as well as the will-they-or-won’t-they rollercoasters of Paramount and TikTok finding new parent companies. And that’s not to mention the repercussions from 2023’s, ahem, unprecedented work stoppage.

At the halfway point of 2024, here are five stories that sum up the year so far.

The post-strike fallout

After last year’s dual writers’ and actors’ strikes came to an end, some industry experts expected a race to return to production and dealmaking. Not so much. Actually kinda the opposite.

While shows have returned to set and deals are being done, the strikes seem to have catalyzed the correction that the entertainment industry was undergoing ahead of the work stoppages. Major media conglomerates, such as Disney, NBCUniversal and Paramount, are nearing the points at which they expected their streaming services to turn a profit and are getting even more cutthroat in their cost-cutting measures to reach the mark. As a result, the market for shows has shrunk.

According to the official Los Angeles area film office FilmLA, the volume of production has started to recover, but the number of shoot days in the first quarter of 2024 still fell short of the Q1 2023 mark. And as The Hollywood Reporter has documented, writers and actors have been struggling to secure sufficient work.

Amazon Prime Video’s ad entry

If Netflix’s foray into the ad market in 2022 indicated streaming’s shift to a dual-revenue model, then Amazon Prime Video’s entry in 2024 confirmed the dual-revenue model’s primacy among streaming service owners.

Not only did Amazon make Prime Video’s ad-supported tier the default for all of its subscribers, but in turn, it raised its price for ad-free subscribers. Streaming service owners that were much earlier to the market are trying to similarly, if retroactively, drive subscribers to their ad-supported tiers by raising the price of their ad-free plans as well as packaging their ad-supported services into bundles with other streamers. 

Yep, the bundle is back. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are bundling up. So are Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery. And Apple TV+, Netflix and Peacock. Not all bundles are on the rebound, though. The pay-TV bundle, for example, continues to fall, with even streaming pay-TV services starting to see a drop-off.

Paramount’s no-sale

At the start of the year, a big question was who would end up acquiring Paramount. At the half-year mark, the answer is no one. Though, this being Paramount, that could change as quickly as majority shareholder Shari Redstone called off the Skydance deal. Update: Late on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Redstone has changed her mind and agreed to sell Paramount parent National Amusements to Skydance Media after all.

Nonetheless, it hasn’t been business as usual for Paramount. The owner of CBS, MTV and Pluto TV replaced its single CEO with a three-CEO structure — in the middle of its sale talks and weeks ahead of upfront season. 

The trio are looking to sell at least parts of Paramount to cut costs. To what end? Well, to survive the decline of its traditional TV business, for one thing. But also possibly to make the company more attractive to other potential buyers, like its latest suitor Barry Diller.

The TikTok ban

A fool’s bet would be wagering which gets sold off first: Paramount or TikTok. With TikTok there’s at least a stronger sense of urgency for a sale now that the U.S. government has formally compelled ByteDance to either sell the short-form video service or shut down its U.S. operation.

But TikTok executives have been pretty steadfast in the company’s willingness to fight the divest-or-die decree. And as with the third-party cookie, advertisers don’t seem all that panicked into racing to redirect their TikTok budgets. Nor are publishers planning to abandon the platform. Even at VidCon last week, there wasn’t much talk among creators about the platform’s potential exit. Concern, sure, but more in the form of a shrug and a “we’ll see what happens next year.”

OpenAI unveils Sora

Concerns are definitely stronger when it comes to the coming onslaught of text-to-video AI tools like OpenAI’s Sora.

Sora’s unveiling in February sent shockwaves across the TV, streaming and video industry because of how photorealistic its moving images appear to be. OpenAI then went on a bit of a campaign to show off its generative AI video model to film and TV studios. 

Not that the ChatGPT owner is the only AI proprietor trying to woo the entertainment industry. Google and Meta are reportedly trying to secure deals with studios to license programming to train their respective AI video models. And to think, just a year ago, AI was the sticking point prolonging the writers’ and actors’ strikes.

This article has been updated to reflect the news that Shari Redstone has reportedly agreed to sell National Amusements — and, by extension, Paramount — to Skydance Media after all.

What we’ve heard

“If they’re posting on YouTube with AI, then what is the point of making videos when AI can give you the whole thing?”

VidCon attendee on creators using AI for videos

VidCon’s Gen Z attendees speak out

VidCon — the annual Comic-Con for the digital video creator crowd — is really the only acceptable venue for me to talk with teens and twentysomethings about their video-viewing habits. So each year I try to take full advantage by interviewing attendees about their favorite and least-favorite video apps. This year I also solicited their thoughts on creators using AI. Check out their responses in the video below.

Numbers to know

$4.7 billion: How much the NFL may have to pay after losing a class-action suit over its Sunday Ticket package.

2.3 million: Number of people who watched the June 23 WNBA game between the Chicago Sky and Indiana Fever, a viewership record for any women’s professional basketball game.

$970 million: Amount of debt that Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is carrying, as the company has filed for bankruptcy.

What we’ve covered

Programmatic pushes its way into the upfront bazaar:

  • Agency execs said a larger percentage of upfront spend this year is being handled programmatically.
  • Programmatic has been a growing part of the upfront market over the past few years.

Read more about the upfront’s programmatic market here.

The upfront market is only now picking up steam, as buyers push pricing rollbacks on streamers:

  • This year’s upfront is a buyers’ market, which helps to explain its glacial pace.
  • Streaming services are lowering their prices amid the inventory oversupply.

Read more about the upfront market here.

YouTuber Dr Disrespect’s inappropriate conduct seemed to be an open secret in the industry:

  • The creator was banned from Twitch for allegedly sexting a minor.
  • Sponsors and business have distanced themselves from Dr Disrespect.

Read more about Dr Disrespect here.

How programmatic is opening up the Olympics to advertisers:

  • NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. Discovery are selling Olympics streaming inventory through programmatic private marketplaces.
  • The media companies have to assuage ad buyers’ concerns that the programmatic sales could open up the inventory to unsavory advertisers.

Read more about Olympics advertising here.

Why Toys”R”Us used OpenAI’s Sora to create an AI-generated video:

  • The retailer’s use of the text-to-video AI tool has received mixed reviews.
  • Toys”R”Us has posted the video to YouTube and Instagram but has yet to run it as an ad.

Read more about OpenAI’s Sora here.

What we’re reading

Paramount seeks streaming merger:

Paramount’s broader M&A plans may be on ice, but the media conglomerate is looking to combine its streaming service Paramount+ with another company’s, such as Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max, according to CNBC.

ESPN surrenders some NBA games:

As part of its renewed deal for NBA rights, the Disney-owned TV network agreed to air fewer regular season games in exchange for securing expanded international and digital rights, according to Sports Business Journal.

IATSE’s AI agreement:

The entertainment union representing film-and-TV crew members has reached a deal with the major studios that includes language prohibiting the studios from outsourcing AI use to non-union members and allowing its members to charge for AI tools they use, according to Variety.

Netflix & Amazon reignite programming market:

The two companies are almost double-handedly reactivating the market for new TV shows, with both Netflix and Amazon greenlighting more scripted shows in the first quarter of 2024 than they have in years, according to The New York Times.

The post-strike fallout for health benefits:

Despite Netflix’s and Amazon’s spendy Q1, the programming market is still pretty weak, leaving some entertainment union members falling short of the earnings thresholds required to qualify for health benefits, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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