Netflix and Disney Follow Different Strategies on Streaming TV

As the streaming industry matures and evolves, we're seeing companies deploy different strategies to attract customers. Time Warner's HBO has been successful using prestige dramas like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and True Blood to build a user base, and augments these shows with a vast catalog of video and TV content. Disney's upcoming streaming services are likely to leverage blockbuster movies from Pixar, the Star Wars franchise, and Marvel to bring in customers.Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) has created its share of hits, but the company is also deploying a much wider content strategy than the big studios. Instead of investing in a few blockbusters that become immediately identifiable to consumers, it's spending $8 billion in 2018 alone to develop 700 TV, film, and stand-up comedy specials. What remains to be seen is if consumers want the hits or if they're willing to wade through a sea of content to find the diamonds in the rough.Image source: Getty Images.Precision versus scattershotNetflix and streaming TV don't have a perfect corollary in the world of traditional media, but there are some examples of a similar content strategy that we can point to as a measure of financial success.In the table below, you can see the number of movie releases in the top 100 of Box Office Mojo's rankings for 2016 and 2017 and the corresponding domestic box office. You can see that Disney releases very few movies each year, while Fox, Time Warner, and Comcast's NBC Universal take more swings at the box office.StudioReleases 2016-2017Gross U.S. Box OfficeAverage Box OfficeDisney (NYSE: DIS)18$5.21 billion$289.5 millionFox26$2.84 billion$109.3 millionTime Warner (NYSE: TWX)31$3.83 billion$123.5 millionNBC Universal (NASDAQ: CMCSA)28$2.91 billion$104.1 millionSource: Box Office Mojo.What's incredible about this table is that Disney hits a home run nearly every time it releases a film. In 2017, $289.5 million in domestic box office would have ranked a movie No. 9 of all films released Continue Reading

Film is dead, long live TV – Nicole Kidman joins Elisabeth Moss’ series ‘Top of the Lake’

TV’s golden era just got a big boost from a red head. After a year of negotiations, glamazon A-lister Nicole Kidman has joined "Mad Men" star Elisabeth Moss on the critically acclaimed BBC thriller, "Top of the Lake." It’s not even the only TV project she’s starring in this year — reinforcing that notion that appearing on television is simply more presitigious than being in a theatrical movie. Along with “Top of the Lake,” Kidman will soon be appearing in a new HBO series, "Big Little Lies," and shares the spotlight with other glamorous red carpet regulars like Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. And like so many other TV stars, Kidman is also making TV commercials - last year she starred in a spot for Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways. Three big film stars exclusivly now starring in roles that couldn’t exist 20 years ago when the movie industry shunned television as its less cool little brother and limited its stars’ exposure to movie channels that aired films long after they left the theaters. The game has changed significantly. With ticket sales for theatricals falling to near record lows, Hollywood executives have opted to spend their big budgets on sequels like “Barbershop 2” “X-Men,” “Transformers.” Quality roles are few and far between. But not on television. This is why having Oscar-winning Kidman starring on TV shows is a big deal. The fact is that TV has been enjoying a “golden age” since the day “The Sopranos” debuted in 1999. More and more big directors, producers and stars who might have sniffed at television two decades ago are fighting for prestige projects on HBO, FX, AMC and others. Not all filmmaking experience translates well - legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese pretty much bombed earlier this year with his rock ‘n roll cable series, “Vinyl.” And last year, film Continue Reading

Prime time features a wealth of new TV series this summer

As the days heat up, so does TV's prime time. With summers no longer reserved strictly for reruns and reality fare, here's a sampling of original programming to keep your DVR in overdrive. Don't forget to take a look at some of these shows, as well as a few of your old favorites. The Good Guys May 19, 8 p.m. (Fox/Ch. 5) Before this night's "American Idol," Fox previews this new comedy take on the typical cop drama from "Burn Notice" creator Matt Nix. "Guys" stars Bradley Whitford as Dan Stark, a former big-shot Dallas detective who is past his prime, and Colin Hanks as his partner, Jack Bailey, a snarky detective whose lack of people skills around the office has landed him the task of keeping Dan out of trouble. The official series premiere is June 7. The Bachelorette May 24, 9 p.m. (ABC/Ch. 7) She left "Bachelor" Jake Pavelka to save her job, but now fan-favorite Ali Fedotowsky is back for love. Fedotowsky, 25, will have the opportunity to date a variety of men in hopes of finding "the one" for her. The series moves to its regular 8 p.m. time slot the following week. So You Think You Can Dance May 27, 8 p.m. (Fox/Ch. 5) It's back! And so are your favorite former contestants. This season puts a different spin on the competition by pairing new contestants with series alumni, including Stephen (Twitch) Boss from season four and Lauren Gottlieb from season three. 100 Questions May 27, 9:30 p.m. (NBC/Ch. 4) After rejecting multiple marriage proposals, Charlotte Payne, played by Sophie Winkleman, has joined an online dating site and must fill out a compatibility survey of 100 questions with the help of her friends. Reliving poignant moments of her life leads Charlotte on a journey of self-discovery. Wipeout June 1, 8 p.m. (ABC/Ch. 7) Tonight's sneak peek episode is a "Wipeout Blind Date"-themed special. Twelve single guys and 12 single gals pair up to take on the obstacle course together. New stunts include the Overdrive, Bruise Ball and Spin Cycle. Continue Reading

‘Ghostbusters’: Where Are They Now?

   BILL MURRAY (Dr. Peter Venkman) One of the early "Saturday Night Live" stars, Murray (top left), now 58, has worked with director Wes Anderson on "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" and "The Darjeeling Limited." He received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for "Lost in Translation," directed by Sofia Coppola, and recently completed production on "Zombieland" and "Get Low," which co-stars Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek. Murray also lent his voice to Anderson’s upcoming animated feature, "Fantastic Mr. Fox."   DAN AYKROYD (Dr. Raymond Stantz) This funnyman-turned-Blues Brother (and Oscar nominee for "Driving Miss Daisy") has had a consistent presence on the big and small screens. Aykroyd, 56, appeared in 2007’s "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," and had a recurring role on the sitcom "According to Jim." Offscreen, the Canadian native is pursuing a more "spirited" passion as creator of Canada’s Crystal Head Vodka.   SIGOURNEY WEAVER (Dana Barrett) Known for her larger-than-life performances in the "Alien" series, Weaver (above left), 59, is about to hit the big screen in yet another otherworldly role. She plays Dr. Grace Augustine in the much-anticipated James Cameron flick "Avatar." Earlier this year, Weaver came down to Earth for the Lifetime original movie "Prayers for Bobby," a story of a gay teenager’s suicide and his conservative mother’s road to repentance.   HAROLD RAMIS (Dr. Egon Spengler) Despite being one of the film’s lesser-known stars, Ramis, 64, has had a consistent writing, directing and acting career since "Ghostbusters." He played Seth Rogen’s dad in "Knocked Up," had a role in "Walk Hard" and is in the new Jack Black-Michael Cera comedy "Year One," which he directed and co-wrote.   WILLIAM ATHERTON (Walter Peck) After getting his big break in "The Sugarland Express" Continue Reading

Overused Steve Phillips falls back on bashing columnists

The voice coming out of the radio Tuesday belonged to Steve Phillips. This is the same gentleman who on May 17, during ESPN's Mets-Giants cablecast, said he is not a big believer in talk radio. Since Phillips is often, almost daily, heard on ESPN-1050, a sports talk radio station, this might suggest that he is comfortable lying on national television. Either that or the former Mets' general manager is delusional. Whatever. On Tuesday, during his regular appearance on the Michael Kay show, Phillips provided evidence he fits the profile of many sports talk pontificators. Some of these gasbags actually believe any criticism of them is born of personal animosity. That's always a great way of dismissing negativity and avoiding legitimate criticism. That's where Phillips was last week as he tried to explain New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro's critique (that's putting it mildly) of him. Phillips said the scribe must have a "personal issue" with him and "more than anything" was just looking to "pick a fight." Why? Because Vaccaro made a legitimate point, saying the faculty of Bristol Clown Community College was engaging in weird science by putting Phillips, whom he described as a "failed fiasco of a GM," on its marquee "Sunday Night Baseball" team with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. "This is precisely what every sports fan should have to endure, the ramblings of a failed sports executive on national airwaves," Vaccaro wrote. "I happen to believe that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Phillips did not try to counter every pinhead personnel move by him that Vaccaro reported in the column. Instead, he played the sympathy card (cue the sad violin), saying: "I have a forum based on my 25 years in the game. ... I've got to put food on my table for my family." Tears began forming. Let's throw a benefit. Kay then mentioned that "another columnist" had also taken issue with Phillips. When Phillips recited a portion of the Daily News headline ("... Phillips Continue Reading

3 new shows this week, all directed by women

It was 2006. Daniel Britt was traveling 250 miles every week to get to an acting class in Chelsea, Michigan. Yes, it was a little crazy. But Britt was already in his late 50s and he wanted to soak up everything he could about acting.Chelsea, you see, is the home of the Purple Rose Theatre Company, founded by film and TV actor Jeff Daniels. The town is small – barely 5,000 people – but because of Daniels’ involvement, the quality of the creative activity at the theater is quite high. And it proved a life-changer for Britt.“While I was there, they had a public reading of this play – ‘Guest Artist’ – and the class was invited to attend,” recalls Britt. “I was taken with it instantly.”It’s not Daniels’ best-known script. But it is filled with incredibly impassioned dialogue about creativity and theater and many of the qualities – both positive and negative – that make us human. In fact, the tone of the play sometimes presages a viral video of a speech that Daniels would give in 2012 as news anchor Will McAvoy in HBO’s “The Newsroom” (See it here: – Note: There is some coarse language in the scene.)And “taken with it” barely begins to describe Britt’s response to the play. He did a few performances of it at Hamilton’s Mad Anthony Theatre Company in 2010.“I remember one night, standing on the stage and looking down, I saw tears and sweat at my feet,” says Britt. “I knew in that moment that there was something very special about this play. I feel this play. I feel it very personally.” MORE:  Review: Kaplan New Works Series at Cincinnati Ballet MORE:  Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra saw attendance rise at Summermusik festival this year MORE:  New Shakespeare theater a dream – on stage and offBritt, along with actors Carter Bratton and Michael G. Bath, opens a Continue Reading

On target

"I felt like, looking at these kids, 'How old are they?'" Wahlberg says. "I was looking at the videos, and I didn't know anybody except J.Lo. They're asking me who do I listen to, what's going on in music now. I'm feeling old. It's something where I felt like I got over a hump a year or two ago. Feeling mature, feeling comfortable - like I'd made it out of something." Wahlberg is all of 35, but it does seem like he has been around forever - and that he has made it "out of something," and into Hollywood A-lists. He has been a rapper (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch), Calvin Klein underwear model, supporting player ("The Basketball Diaries," "Three Kings," "I heart Huckabees," "Four Brothers"), and occasional top-lined star ("Boogie Nights," "The Italian Job," "Invincible"). However, until Martin Scorsese's Best Picture and Director-winning "The Departed," which earned Wahlberg the film's only Oscar nomination in an acting category (one-upping Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin and newcomer Vera Farmiga), none of these movie roles put him on the map. In fact, Fuqua says he ran the numbers on Wahlberg's films and discovered that they've done better than those of actors who are better known (and paid more money) than Wahlberg is. "Everybody started getting in a bit of a panic because big filmmakers called with big movies and big offers," Wahlberg says of the "Departed" fallout. "I sat down with my manager and my agent and said, 'We've just got to continue to do what we've been doing.' You can't all of a sudden jump into a world of graphic novels, stuff that I can't connect with directly in some sort of way. I like reality-based stuff." "Shooter," opening Friday, is a case in point. Wahlberg plays a retired Marine sniper who is asked to make a risk assessment concerning a possible presidential assassination. It's a setup to make him the fall guy for a real assassination, a role he resists by taking a few bullets and dishing out Continue Reading

Buy Roku vs. its 4K streaming rivals? How it compares to Apple TV, Fire TV

Roku is well positioned to maintain its spot atop the streaming video device competition.The Los Gatos, Calif.-based tech company helped usher in the streaming video market in 2008 with its first set-top box for watching Netflix. Now, you can get more than 5,000 channels and watch 500,000 movies or TV shows on the latest Roku devices.The Roku basics: the device connects to your TV and your home broadband network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Using Roku's easy-to-use menu, you can choose from a variety of channels including Amazon Video, HBO Now, Netflix, and Showtime, as well as live subscription TV services such as DirecTV Now, Hulu, Sling TV and Sony's PlayStation Vue. Once you select them, they are downloaded and stick on your Home menu like apps on your smartphone.Roku earlier this month refreshed its lineup and now offers five different streaming devices including the entry-level Roku Express ($29.99), which connects via Wi-Fi to deliver HD content to your TV. With more consumers buying 4K TVs, Roku now has two devices that support 4K video, with even more detailed images than HD. The Ultra (99.99), about the size of a coaster and 0.85 inch thick, handles HD video, standard 4K video and 4K video in high dynamic range (HDR) with improved contrast and a wider range of richer colors. The $69.99 Streaming Stick+ also supports 4K HDR; the $49.99 Streaming Stick handles standard HD.Under Streaming Channels, Roku has a 4K section that directs you to the growing number of channels with content in the higher resolution format (it is often referred to also as Ultra HD and 4K Ultra HD). You can head to Netflix and quickly find its 4K shows including Stranger Things and Narcos. In Amazon Video, the 4K offerings include TV series such as Transparent and Tin Star.Roku quickly launched each service with crisp 4K video streaming in seconds. (For 4K video, Amazon and Netflix recommend Continue Reading

HE SAID WHAT? Gumbel’s final thoughts now must-see TV

Considering the controversy Bryant Gumbel created with a portion of his Olympic soliloquy ("Try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that make the Winter Games look like a GOP convention") on the Feb. 7 edition of HBO's "Real Sports," what might he be planning for Tuesday (10 p. m.), when the show returns for its 108th episode. Why is that number significant? Well, in the first 107 shows, not many paid much attention to Gumbel's closing monologue, which, more often than not, reflects a singular perspective on the world of sports. A perspective that may just be troubling to those who think theirs is the only opinion that counts. The most hilarious thing about the firestorm Gumbel generated was not just the scholarly reaction to his commentary, which went something like this: "If a white guy said it he would have been fired. " No, it was also the fact it took over a week for anyone to react to Gumbel's words. If what he said was so troublesome, so darn offensive, why were the offended parties so late to pounce? What this proves is there are many - even some people Gumbel ticked off - who don't stay up until 10:50 p. m. to catch his closing comments that end each and every "Real Sports" program. Think about it. If any of the outraged folks ever watched the entire show, including Gumbel's closing monologue, they would have even more to complain about. Anyone who regularly watches "Real Sports" knows Gumbel leans toward the provocative - even when he is talking about a subject as bland as Bud Selig. So, it would be absolutely no surprise Tuesday night if some of Gumbel's harshest critics - along with those who, because of the controversy, will be watching "Real Sports" for the first time - stay up to see what he has to say. Yeah, it makes me wonder if Gumbel might use his regular platform to respond to his critics. HBO Sports boss Ross Greenburg said that won't happen. "I don't want to put Continue Reading

Tom Brokaw details his cancer challenge in new book; HBO tries to thwart pirates by refusing to hand out preview DVDs

The newsman’s most important assignment ever: surviving. Longtime NBC News star Tom Brokaw says he had no clue how much of a struggle he faced after being diagnosed with cancer in 2013. “I’ve done several stories and documentaries on health care and cancer,” he told us, “but I didn’t have a full appreciation of the personal struggles until my diagnosis.” Brokaw, 75, has been public about his struggle with multiple myeloma. But he’s still far more familiar for his anchoring and contributions at NBC News — and for writing books about the people he dubbed “The Greatest Generation,” World War II vets. After learning that he was sick two years ago, Brokaw started to keep a journal. It was a way to deal with the illness, which is now in remission. The journal, he says, became his new book, “A Lucky Life Interrupted,” out May 12. Writing helped him cope with the myeloma, which affects blood cells in the bone marrow. Other life preservers for Brokaw: Meredith, his wife of 53 years, and the rest of his family. He leaned on them during his darkest moments, he says. “My family, including a doctor daughter, was indispensable,” he says. “They helped organize my pill regimen, brought the grandkids by, ran errands (and offered) lots of gossip and moral support.” And then there was his other love: television. “I'm very grateful for ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Downton Abbey,’ and sports,” he says. **** In a digital age, pirates come in all shapes and sizes. That’s what we learned last week when HBO representatives told TV critics they will no longer be sending out DVDs with programs to be reviewed. Instead, a select few will be granted access to the pay cable channel’s new VIP media site. That’s where episodes of shows like “Veep” will be available to be streamed Continue Reading