Warner Brothers Discovery Merger Continues To Be A Shitshow For The Ages

from the synergies,-yo! dept

Remember when AT&T spent more than $200 billion to acquire Time Warner and DirecTV in the belief it would help the telecom dominate video advertising? Then remember when company leadership was so monumentally incompetent they had to run to the exits in terror? Good times.

After AT&T’s gambit fell apart, the company returned to what it’s best at (lobbying the government to crush broadband competition), and spun off Time Warner into an entirely new company, Warner Media. Warner Media then immediately turned around and announced a blockbuster merger with Discovery, creating the creatively named Warner Brothers Discovery

And it’s all going just about as well as most major media mergers go. As in, not well at all. At least not for consumers, employees, and creators, anyway. I’m sure lawyers, bankers, executives and investors are all pleased as punch by this cavalcade of colorful misery.

Hoping to prove the amazing synergies of the deal, the freshly merged company has been consistently cancelling shows and pulling any show from its streaming catalog (like many episodes of Sesame Street) because it’s too cheap to pay residuals.

They’re also super excited to sock their customers with a wide array of price hikes, given the company’s CFO believes services like HBO Max and Discovery+ are “underpriced”:

Wiedenfels suggested the company had ample room to raise prices given the strength of content on the services, which will be merged into one next year.

And then of course there are the inevitable layoffs, which pre-merger executives usually insist aren’t going to happen, right before they do. Axios, in its usual “he said, she said” approach to journalism, notes that the company is preparing for yet another round of head-lopping thanks to inflation:

Hundreds of people are expected to be laid off on the business side of Warner Bros. Discovery, via a round of layoffs that will begin Tuesday, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Executives have warned for months that the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery would yield roughly $3 billion in synergies. Rising interest rates and a weak macro-economic climate has put pressure on media companies to be more disciplined about costs.

Of course it’s not really inflation, it’s that US media megamergers are often completely fucking pointless, outside of short-term stock fluffing, tax write offs, and preposterous boosts to executive compensation. Axios forgets to mention that this is pretty much what always happens with a major US telecom or media megadeal, despite pre-merger claims that deal synergies will border on the Utopian.

Remember, this all began with AT&T’s $200 billion disaster (which came with plenty of its own layoffs, axed projects, and chaos), which the press has already forgotten about. Since then, the whole pointless series of mergers has simply gotten more pointless. Yet if you dig through US press coverage, you’d be hard pressed to find many outlets willing to call this giant, pointless turd of a deal what it is.

You have to head over to smaller, independent news outlets to find anybody being honest about what a shitshow this deal is. Ironically, busted journalism and the merger itself are both in large part thanks to our mindless obsession with consolidation and megadeals that make no coherent, practical sense. It’s all one problem, and Americans are violently dedicated to doing absolutely nothing about it.

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Companies: at&t, discovery, warner bros.

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Comments on “Warner Brothers Discovery Merger Continues To Be A Shitshow For The Ages”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Executives have warned for months that the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery would yield roughly $3 billion in synergies

Some Accounting 101 if anyone needs it: The #1 cost for a company is cost of inventory, #2 is payroll. These are the immutable and inescapable laws of business. Everything else is a distant 3rd or lower.

This means that any time an executive claims there will be cost savings from a merger, they mean layoffs. There is no other way.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Higher prices for less content, where do I sign up?

Warner Brothers Discovery: Our content isn’t valuable enough to pay the pennies it would take to keep airing it, so time to start cutting shows from our service.

Also Warner Brothers Discovery: Our content is incredibly valuable so it’s only right that we charge more for it.

LittleCupcakes says:

The author’s proferred link https://nofilmschool.com/hbo-trouble-diverse-programming sheds no significant light on the matter. It’s merely a collection of thin notions disguised as journalism (par for the course) and is in no way revelatory or incisive (much less original).

One can argue the effects on the consumer, but let’s simply be accurate here: lowered costs, increased revenue, and higher profit sounds like a rather coherent and practical plan for this merged business to pursue.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

lowered costs, increased revenue, and higher profit sounds like a rather coherent and practical plan for this merged business to pursue

The problem comes from how WBD plans to achieve that⁠—and from what I’ve read about this whole shitshow, that includes moves such as writing off/getting rid of a lot of animated shows on HBO Max, cutting down on (or stopping entirely) production on scripted dramas in favor of reality TV and sports programming, and literally cancelling a movie that was almost done. That doesn’t even get into expected layoffs, the cancellation of projects that may have been in the pipeline, and a similarly expected drop in trust from outside partners/subsidiaries.

Also: At what costs⁠—to its employees and to art and culture⁠—must WBD puruse “increased revenue” and “higher profit”? Because “Line Must Always Go Up” is how you end up with (among other things) shit like these mega-mergers that only ever seem to make things worse for everyone except the rich-ass executives who end up seeing more of the benefits than anyone else in the companies being merged.

If you want to be an apologist for unchecked capitalism, at least have the balls to admit it.

nerdrage (profile) says:

Re: Re: Zaslav might be a good little capitalist

From the perspective of “let’s turn around AT&T’s flaming disaster,” Zaslav’s moves could be rational:

What works in theatrical movies and streaming? Big IP. So Big IP is golden. Zaslav’s Big IP is DC, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. DC has been mismanaged compared with Disney’s approach to Marvel, which is to turn it into a consistent cash machine. Zaslav wants DC to be like that.

It’s unclear what strategy Zaslav can use to turn DC into a cash machine, but it is clear that the current strategy, if there is one, isn’t working. Batgirl was made under the failed regime so to avoid further damage to a mismanaged brand, he took the hit and squelched it.

Reality TV is good to focus on because it solves a big dilemma for all streamers, namely that with North America saturated, they need to grow overseas, especially in Asia, where streaming is full of free (not cheap – free) ad supported platforms and piracy is rife. Which means cost is a much bigger factor. How to make localized content on the cheap? Reality TV, that’s how.

Animation isn’t going to help much unless it’s an animated Batman spinoff being made under the new strategy, whatever that’s going to be. First Zaslav needs to find his Kevin Feige and hire that person. Then they can craft a strategy. One step at a time.

You can complain this is all brutal and heartless, but it seems like it could work to turn around a debt-laden disaster. If not this, then what would work? Blame AT&T for causing the disaster through mismanagement.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You can complain this is all brutal and heartless, but it seems like it could work to turn around a debt-laden disaster.

And in the meantime, WBD earns a reputation as an enemy of animation in particular and the arts and culture in general. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a good way to alienate a lot of artists and such that the studio might want to work with. I know that if I were someone about to pitch an animation project, WBD would be the last company I’d approach based specifically on the bloodbath it carried out against animation after Zaslav took over⁠—and even if WBD was the last possible choice, I’d probably still consider Kickstarter first.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What works in theatrical movies and streaming? Big IP

Big properties, yes. Big titles? For theatres yes. For digital sales, yes. For streaming… not so much.

Big films creat very brief jumps in subscriber numbers, not revenue.
One of the reasons Netflix is playing with advertising.
A big film will get a some-odd percentage increase. Nearly all of them terminate before the trial period expires.

However, as we have seen with Marvel (quality) series are retention gold.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You can complain this is all brutal and heartless, but it seems like it could work to turn around a debt-laden disaster.

And exactly how do you think this is going to happen with less people involved? It’s not like debt-turning productions get produced without labor. How is reducing your grunt workforce going to help anybody?

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re:

About them? I don’t know off hand.
Disney, Marvel… we get all the properties under the same banner. And there have been quality compilation properties since.

Such combinations and crossovers if done correctly could be great for consumers.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll happily pay a few bucks more for a chance to watch Wolverine continually dismember Deadpool while Groot runs off with his body parts. 😃

And it’s the hope for these types of properties that make them, at least in theory, less-evil.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re:

“The Disney merger brought Marvel under on owner.
As a single example.”

Example of what, exactly? Which benefit was available to consumers as a result of that which wasn’t possibly without the merger?

I’ll accept to a small degree the fact that the combination of early deals on Disney+ combined with Star being added to the service and allowing a bunch of horror/sci-fi properties to the EU market was cools for us, because they had to make up for Hulu not being a thing in Europe. But, I don’t think that Prey being on Disney in Europe so that we didn’t have the have 2 subs is what you imagined when making the comment.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The ability to bring franchises together and grow them. Disney buying Fox’s entertainment assets has provided some fantastic opportunities in art.”

But, it hasn’t given you an accessible release of Song Of The South, has given you apparently censored versions of The Simpsons (at least with screen format), and AFAIK has left you with a higher subscription fee to access Disney+ and Hulu than I have in Europe with Disney+s with the Star add-on we get instead of Hulu.

There’s potentially more crossover opportunities, but I dare say that if you expect them to appear automatically without a merchandising opportunity, you’re be disappointed. Rocketeer vs. Iron Man might be cool for them, but so will a new Kardashian or whatever series. (BTW, Prey was on Disney+ here. Was it for you, or did Disney decide it was better for them to get you to pay more?).

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

has given you apparently censored versions of The Simpsons (at least with screen format)

In fairness to Disney (ugh), they did make it possible to watch older episodes of The Simpsons in either cropped widescreen or the original 4:3 ratio⁠—but only after a shitload of people complained.

Prey was on Disney+ here. Was it for you

Here in the States, R-rated films (e.g., Prey), TV-MA shows, and anything deemed “too much” for Disney+ is put on Hulu.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

To Disney’s credit they aren’t nearly as bad as what I’ve heard about the Simpsons
Vs
Peacock completely destroying ECW wrestling video. Half the library is missing and what’s missing here is so cut up it’s a joke.

Marvel is apparently acting mostly independently.
Which with Hulu leaves hope we may get a real deadpool film eventually.

I wasn’t under stating the issues with entertainment mergers. Just pointing out that for some specific fans there are some benefits

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

Peacock completely destroying ECW wrestling video

In fairness to Peacock/NBC Universal, ECW was a tricky thing to deal with even before WWE moved its content to Peacock. ECW never had the actual licenses for, like, 90% of the music it used as entrance themes, so of course WWE was going to redub it as best they could. And considering the age of the ECW tape library, that WWE even has as much of it as they do⁠—and how they have it in the shape it’s in⁠—can be considered a minor miracle.

we may get a real deadpool film

We already got two of them. Rated R for Holy Shitballs and everything.

Just pointing out that for some specific fans there are some benefits

And for everyone else, those benefits mean next-to-nothing. Not everyone is enamored with the idea of the arts turning into The Oasis from Ready Player One, where culture is essentially in stasis and characters are mashed together without rhyme or reason⁠—sometimes even in contrast to the original messages and meanings of their root works⁠—based on one old man’s love for a specific era of pop culture. Some people might get a kick out of The Iron Giant fighting a Gundam; I wonder why people think The Iron Giant being violent is a good thing.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6

Much of the most violent matches are … gone. Or edited.

I know WWE does the whole black-and-white edit for blood on TV and social media clips, but that typically isn’t an issue for the Network/Peacock. You’ll need a few examples of what you’re talking about. I’m not finding anything about major edits to ECW footage otherwise.

Any long time fan will look and tell you deadpool is prime NC-17 territory.

Anyone who knows how the ratings system works will tell you that an NC-17 rating is a box office kiss-of-death.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7

I’m not finding anything about major edits to ECW footage otherwise.

Much of the FMW crossover matches are missing.
As well as the early BJW such as Balls and Axel vs New Blood. Which was the match in the early 90s that made me aware of ECW in the first place long before WWE took notice.
I’m not finding most of the Barb wire matches. Massacre is missing much of the street right. The first Odium show has cut the riot out.

Born to be wired is missing. One of the most brutal matches in US History famous enough to have dedicated books on it.
In fact I can’t find any of the BJW matches. Even Barbed wire hoodies and choke slams is cut. The DVD is 2h13m

But it’s mostly little cuts. Chair shots, many of Tanaka’s matches have been edited. Barb wire injuries. Closeups. Many cat fights have been cut or edited.
It’s clearly making the product slightly more acceptable. But still noticeable to long time fans.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8

In re: missing matches in general — Sometimes the tapes they have (even if they’re master tapes) aren’t in good enough shape to be “saved”, even by the nigh-legendary WWE video crew. Hell, sometimes there isn’t even a tape to “save”.

As for the more specific complaints about cuts and such? I would bet that Peacock already has a few standards of its own about WWE-owned content, which is the likely reason why some of the more violent ECW matches aren’t on the service (and may not be in the future). And WWE has been editing to-the-head chairshots in archival footage for years⁠—pretty much right after the Benoit tragedy, in fact.

Yes, I’m not exactly enthused about the idea that WWE controls so much of pro wrestling’s archival footage⁠—and that said control gives them the power to edit that footage for the purpose of sanitizing it, especially to please a corporate master. But like it or loathe it, that’s the reality of it, and I accept it regardless of how I feel about it.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9

I’m baling nBC here. Because these matches were on the “the network” before the move to Peacock
The last BJW matches were on the early Eastern shows in the beginning of the Extreme era with Hardcore TV. It was local KBS (Korean station) broadcasting BJW shows over night that introduced me to ECW.

Now I can understand the he idea of NBC not wanting an “exploding Barb wire 100 light tube thumb tack ball spider web scaffold ninja weapons” match on its service.
But I won’t accept flat out lies.
NBC made a promise in the deal, publicly, to the fans not to modify or remove content on the WWE network.
Memphis and BJW were corner stone territories that were vital to the ECW “revolution”.
Without Big Japan the FMW crossover would never have happened. And the iconic matches of Cactus Jack by Chainsaw Charlie the was clipped in most generic ECW adverts would never have happened.
The brutal matches of The King in Memphis were the key to his semi-real-life “hatred” on screen of ECW a decade later. His bathroom brawls (the King always wound up in the bathroom some how…) and epic chair duels…. …! Yet NBC cast aside King/abdullah.

Those two matches were both in the Top 25 most important moments For ECW.
Now a heavily modified top 10 OF ECW.

Again, it’s little things in the overall experience. But it makes one loose faith when you start counting the times.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10

NBC made a promise in the deal, publicly, to the fans not to modify or remove content on the WWE network.

And you sincerely trusted a corporation to tell you the truth, never renege on its promises, and always be on your side? Damn, son, being on Techdirt for this long should’ve taught you that corporations give no fucks about you and all the fucks about Line Goes Up, Always Forever.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11

Initially no. But barbed wire 34st massacre and born to be wired were both available rather early in the transfer so I had hope. Lol.
(No wonder on TNA/Impact’s naming of a similar series of shows).

But being a subject I can definitively discuss it helps make my greater point. About how censorship slips into the discussion of such agreements.

Disney+ is doing streaming numbers on Star Wars and MCU material than any movie would be happy to get at the old box office.
Yet the content of older materials continues to be modified.

But for all the concerns..
there are some consumer benefits from thes mega mergers. Some. And many downsides. Too often we see an AT$T or NBC and not a T-Mobile.
With entertainment a 10-20% price increase for double or triple the content is not a bad trade off.

One interesting aspect is how the discussion, even here, has flip flopped on choice in entertainment.
For some time people complained about how so much was spread over so many services.
How we needed to have more combined access.
As soon as we start getting that combining it’s suddenly so evil.

For all the other concerns: Amazon has proven to do a really good job with streaming. Good content, very rarely edited or censored.
Quality non-exploitative contracting. Positive independent investment.
I still think, as both a share holder and a user, and as a fan of film, the single best choice Netflix could make is to partner with Amazon as a subscription channel. Even as a premium one. An 80% cut of 14.99 or $19.99 and they still wouldn’t be the most expensive channel on prime. 19.99 would put them at a higher earning than subscriptions today. At $~16 per account.

Peacock is proof, services can start good and slide into the evil category. But for a long time Amazon has proven to be the best option for distribution. For the companies and for consumers.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12

there are some consumer benefits from thes mega mergers.

No. No, there are not. These mergers consolidate our culture into an increasingly small number of hands, make companies much more desperate to placate investors and stockholders by exploiting older IP (e.g., the Disney live-action remakes), and do nothing to make a vast swath of older content available to the general public (reasonable price or not).

As soon as we start getting that combining it’s suddenly so evil.

To quote a Kanye West song: “No one man should have all that power.” That’s the problem with consolidation of culture into a smaller and smaller number of hands that see no reason to start releasing physical media again: It ends up fucking over everyone. Just look at the destruction of animated shows over at HBO Max⁠—I mean, Final Space (a legitimately fun show) was written off so hard that the show can legally never be released again in any form and can never have new episodes made. The third (and now final) season was never released on DVD or Blu-ray, and now it’s been disappeared to the point where even Amazon revoked access to the show from people who bought digital copies. And the show was only written off because the end result of a mega-merger needed to cut out some of its outstanding debt. You think the suits at WBD thought about artistic integrity and cultural impact and all that shit? Fuck no, they didn’t!

If you can still believe WBD’s mega-merger is a good thing without presenting an argument that takes into account the absolute and potentially irreversible damage to arts and culture done by this merger, I can’t and won’t help you when the cops pull you over for all your unlicensed dick riding.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:13

“Just look at the destruction of animated shows over at HBO Max⁠—I mean, Final Space (a legitimately fun show) was written off so hard that the show can legally never be released again in any form and can never have new episodes made”

I hadn’t heard about that. I just checked, and here in Spain all 3 seasons are still on Netflix (HBO Max didn’t exist here until recently).

I also hadn’t heard about the Amazon thing, but if there’s one thing these people really don’t want to do long term, it’s removing content people have paid for. I can’t imagine the mindset of someone who thinks that leads to anything but piracy. If you’re telling customers that what they pay for will disappear, people aren’t going to pay for that thing.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12

“Yet the content of older materials continues to be modified.”

It’s Disney. Did you somehow miss the entirety of the VHS and DVD eras? Yet, here you are supporting them getting more power…

“there are some consumer benefits from thes mega mergers”

There really isn’t.

“One interesting aspect is how the discussion, even here, has flip flopped on choice in entertainment.”

I’m not sure what you’re hallucinating here, but I don’t think so. There was a brief time when it was lauded that people had the choice to dump overpriced cable bundles so that they didn’t have to pay for dozens of religious and sports channels if they wanted to watch a certain show, then criticism that every channel felt the need to silo off content to force people to pay more again if they wanted to watch what they wanted.

The position from most here is fairly consistent and clear – the ideal thing would be to have a consumer choice where they can access content for a reasonable fee without having to pay huge sums of money and/or keep having to switch providers. Absent that, there’s a limit, and we’ll see anti-consumer consolidation of services lead to less competition and/or an increase in piracy, especially in a market where high rent, fuel and other costs are causing people to make more careful choices about their frivolous entertainment budgets.

“I still think, as both a share holder and a user, and as a fan of film, the single best choice Netflix could make is to partner with Amazon as a subscription channel.”

It’s strange to watch a self-proclaimed libertarian demand that power be consolidated to one place so that they can earn money with zero effort, but you guys don’t seem to be very consistent. Giving Amazon a 20% cut isn’t going to change the reasons why Netflix is facing some issues.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7

Anyone who knows how the ratings system works will tell you that an NC-17 rating is a box office kiss-of-death.

Maybe. Show girls and last tango were hardly failures. Over 20mil each. And considerably more on home releases.

But you don’t need the box office with streaming. And a direct to stream TV-MA is quite possible. I do have some hope based on rumours that is in consideration.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8

“Show girls and last tango were hardly failures”

Erm, what? Showgirls is widely considered a flop, bringing in just under its budget domestically (and the official budget doesn’t include prints, distribution, etc.). Last Tango came at the end of a short period where “porno chic” allowed X rated movies (this was long before NC-17) to be successful in the mainstream, but after the collapse of the New Hollywood phase, it’s unlikely to be repeated. In both cases, the problem is that once you had an X/NC-17 rating or released unrated, the options for wide distribution, advertising on TV/radio/newspapers became severely restricted.

It was possible for some movies to break through, but you’re kidding yourself about history if you think this was common. That’s why so many DVDs had “unrated/too hot for cinemas” advertising – they cut film to R to be shown in cinemas then used the extra footage for marketing later. As for how much they made later, studios are notoriously cagey about releasing non-theatrical numbers, so even though something like Showgirls undoubtedly became profitable through DVD/cable and “ironic” bad movie screenings, the exact figures won’t be known outside of studios famous for hiding profits.

“But you don’t need the box office with streaming”

No, but different market forces apply. Movies like The Night Comes For Us probably wouldn’t be as watched if they depended on a mainstream US release, but the road of Netflix releases is littered with the corpses of great TV that was prematurely cancelled even as stuff like Squid Game shows that just offering unique content can pay dividends.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9

The dvd (BD, Home Video) era is closing. And even before covid the theatre era was long past prime.

The idea of box office numbers making or breaking a film doesn’t line up with reality. Let’s take Show Girls again, which has an estimated total revenue of over $38 million.

You talk about Netflix like it’s the only option. Or even the principal one. Given how small its library is compared to prime offers as a whole?
Streaming has made the entire industry process less relevant.
Llamageddon And its million dollar purchase price joke has made over $5m on a few thousand dollars investment. https://pro.imdb.com/title/tt4642970/

I’ve mentioned before I’m finding less and less of interest on Netflix of late. But I never run out of titles on Prime or other services like NightFlight or Arrow, etc.

The return of movie pass has the ability to, maybe, get me back to a chain theatre for a film if I can find some off-hour time slot. Noon, or midnight on Tuesday type of thing. Maybe. When the shrinking population of (completely horrid and rude) movie goers is at its lowest for a show.

But I see nothing in general to lure me in to one. High prices, crap food, dirty facilities, and rude people? All for a film that will be released without cuts and edits in a month or so? If not at the same time?

And given how films can take in millions week one on purchased streaming I’m surprised big theatres even stay open… oh, wait, they’re closing regularly.

And the MPAA ratings system? Only the biggest studios use it any more for marquee brand releases.

If you really think an NC-17 or not submitted Deadpool, Spawn, etc wouldn’t do well, in or out of old-fashioned theatres…?

Disney is skipping theatrical releases on some titles in the MCU. Star Wars and GOT viewership would make any box office number look bad.
And one only needs to look at the top 25 from a precovid year box office vs home vs stream to see where the real numbers and money is.

The theatre is a relic of olde. And with that the ratings concerns.
Most films don’t even submit for ratings any more.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10

The theatre is a relic of olde. And with that the ratings concerns.

Yeah, and if you think the MPA ratings system (or something like it) wouldn’t be used outside of theaters, I point you to both the TV ratings system and the fact that the major streaming services all have some form of content warning system. (Netflix, for example, runs a brief content warning as a film/show begins to play.)

Most films don’t even submit for ratings any more.

[citation sorely needed]

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11

I didn’t say there wasn’t alternative systems. Most streaming films use the TV ratings system, which is generally self-reported.

As for the MPAA: they release weekly a list of films rated. That list is much shorter than it used to be, averaging 4-9 films per week.

Apple is completely ignoring the MPA/A system and applying the TV ratings instead for most content.

Whatever stigma x/NC-17 once had has been lost outside of theatre release. Which is no longer a primary source for income.
One need only filter TVMA to see how many top rated films and shows are doing well on streaming despite the rating. Assuming they use any rating at all, Amazon require one and YouTube will simply through up a content price of necessary.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12

they release weekly a list of films rated. That list is much shorter than it used to be, averaging 4-9 films per week

Can you think of a reason why fewer films have been released in the past couple of years that might have driven down that average from where it was even three years ago?

Whatever stigma x/NC-17 once had has been lost outside of theatre release.

No, it really hasn’t. Again: Showgirls performing like it did at the box office put the kibosh on plans by major studios to make NC-17 films. Streaming companies might be more willing to take a chance on such films, but I don’t forsee some kind of grand return for NC-17. A “hard R” (or its TV-MA equivalent) is good enough for virtually anything a studio would want to make.

One need only filter TVMA to see how many top rated films and shows are doing well on streaming despite the rating.

So what? That doesn’t mean they’re successful only because of being TV-MA. Squid Game was successful not because of the violence in and of itself, but because of the story that justified those displays of violence.

Some of the most beloved and successful movies in history didn’t feature gratuitous violence and nudity. (I mean, look at E.T. as an example.) Blood and/or boobs alone do not a successful movie make⁠—and I point to Showgirls (which had so many boobs on display during its runtime that it might have desensitized some people to the sight of a bare breast) as proof.

NC-17 films are not going to make some kind of grand comeback. Even if they do, it’ll be limited to streaming (and to whatever companies are okay with funding NC-17 films). The major movie studios won’t risk releasing a bomb just so one of their films can have a sex scene that goes further than the ones in, say, Blue is the Warmest Color.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:13

Can you think of a reason why fewer films have been released

According to DVDNow and Stream Central, there hasn’t been less films. Just less theatrical releases. IMDB has thousands of films for 2022 from the US alone.
You premise doesn’t explain the 6 years of box office reductions before covid either.

No, it really hasn’t

Given how many films just skip the theatre, no rating required?

grand return for NC-17

Neither do I. There’s just no point in submitting a film for a costly rating any more for the vast majority of films. The exact same thing that would pull an NC-17 plays as a standard TVMA.

only because of being TV-MA

I didn’t say they were. The opposite, they were successful despite the ratings.

NC-17 films are not going to make some kind of grand comeback

If anything i expect most films to just bypass the film ratings system entirely. Not that Regal takes runs films it’s one more mail for ratings. Assuming much in the way of theatre survives long.
Sure, many films still get rated. A handful each week!
But don’t kid yourself. The films today that deserve such a rating simply skip it.
Many are looking at the “Blonde effect” of a soft R film getting an NC-17 as the MPAA being so out of touch the system may implode.

It’s simply no longer needed unless you are targeting a release below R.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10

Oh, and one more thing.

The idea of box office numbers making or breaking a film doesn’t line up with reality. Let’s take Show Girls again, which has an estimated total revenue of over $38 million.

Movie studios and theaters tend to evenly split (or close-to-evenly split) the revenue from a movie ticket. This results in a specific and widely held principle for film revenue: A given film must make at least double its production costs at the box office to be considered a success. Movies that break even in this regard aren’t necessarily “bombs”, but they’re not successes in the sense that they make what could be considered a profit.

The production budget of Showgirls was between $40mil and $45mil. (I would assume that marketing costs were not included in that budget.) To have been considered a box office success in its original run, Showgirls would’ve needed to make about $90mil; it made $38mil because of both the NC-17 rating (which lowered the potential number of tickets sold by default) and the poor critical reception.

Now, of course a film can have a legacy beyond its box office take. Showgirls didn’t do well at the box office, but it became a cult classic in the vein of other “so bad it’s good” movies. But studios want films that will make them money first and foremost. Showgirls was the only NC-17 film to date with a wide theatrical release; its box office performance should tell you why.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11

Again, the thought in box office income is outdated, generally. Big films are making millions and winning awards without every entering the theatre.

One thing we have seen during covid is even in the states that stayed open, more income came from Disney and Amazon simultaneous releases, from streaming purchases than the box office.

It’s a simple fact. Outside of entrenched executives, the theatre is not the target it once was. Even subsidiaries of the big companies that skipped the theatre are now using the television ratings. Eg, Netflix.
Submitting to the MPAA costs money. Tv rating is free.
We have less than half the pre covid theatre count in operation in this country today. On top of the already falling theatre use covid has ended the draw.

You may personally enjoy them. But the population that does is declining.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12

the thought in box office income is outdated, generally.

Not really. Studios dipped into exclusive-to-streaming content because of the pandemic, but by and large, they wanted theaters to open up again because they needed the money⁠—especially from international theaters (coughchinacough).

< Big films are making millions and winning awards without every entering the theatre.

And that’s cool for those films, but that isn’t (and can’t be) every film.

One thing we have seen during covid is even in the states that stayed open, more income came from Disney and Amazon simultaneous releases, from streaming purchases than the box office.

Yes, that may be true for those films released in that way, but given that the pandemic had closed theaters for a good while…well, it’s not exactly irrational to think the box office takes for those films would’ve been comparable to what they made via pay-to-stream had the pandemic not fucked everything up.

(Also: Dude, stop ignoring the pandemic as a primary cause for why things have been fucked up for movies the past two years.)

Outside of entrenched executives, the theatre is not the target it once was.

Maybe not in the States, but certainly in international markets, where it can take far longer for U.S. films to show up on streaming services thanks to copyright laws, censorship boards, and all other kinds of bullshit. And the theatrical experience is still valued in the States to some degree. If it weren’t, Top Gun: Maverick wouldn’t have made a billion dollars with its exclusively theatrical release.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:13

in the States

You have a good point there. My view point is limited to the US.

Dude, stop ignoring the pandemic as a primary cause for why things have been fucked up for movies the past two years

US theatres were failing before covid 19. You can’t blame 8 years of slipping ticket quantity on things that happened LONG after they ran and left the screens. I don’t know how things are in your country for theatre use. Here it’s been in decline for near a decade.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:14

You can’t blame 8 years of slipping ticket quantity on things that happened LONG after they ran and left the screens.

But I can blame COVID for hastening that slip into a full-on slide⁠—which is exactly what happened.

I don’t know how things are in your country for theatre use.

Dude, what gave you the impression that I’m not American? For fuck’s sake, it’s like the trolls all think I live anywhere but the States…

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:15

But I can blame COVID for hastening that slip into a full-on slide⁠—which is exactly what happened.

All covid did was accelerate the inevitable. Rather than a slow death over the next 20 years, it happens in 5 or ten, maybe.

what gave you the impression that I’m not American

Your commentary that made it appear you had no clue just how bad the theatre industry has been here BEFORE covid.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:16

“Rather than a slow death over the next 20 years, it happens in 5 or ten, maybe.”

Define “death”. No more multiplexes who only show what a handful of corporations are selling being replaced by venues who care about their product might be a shift, but that doesn’t sound so bad to me.

“Your commentary that made it appear you had no clue just how bad the theatre industry has been here BEFORE covid.”

As usual, it depends on which data you cherry pick and which data you choose to ignore because it’s inconvenient.

Pre-COVID, there were more and more movies released than ever before. There were also way more screens. Since you mentioned 2018, a quick glance shows that Black Panther was #1 released on 4,084 screen, and there were 993 movies released theatrically. In 1998, there were 338 movies released and Titanic was shown on 3,265 screen. It doesn’t seem that going back to 1998 levels would cause the system to collapse.

There was also a difference in the types of venues in many places, ranging from the multiplexes that show the same 6 movies across 30 screens, to the more adventurous indie chains that promised a good experience over replacing projectionists, ushers and ticket desks with buttons and prayers.

There’s room for all sorts of theatrical experiences, and people will continue to pay for them. Maybe the days of going to a crappy multiplex where the projectionist has been replaced by a button and there’s nobody able to kick out the people talking on their phone are over. But, it will continue to thrive.

There will always be cinemas, just as there’s always theatres, opera houses and music venues and so on. They might not be as important as they were at some points recently, but they will exist, and people who care about the art will support them even if you prefer to watch Tubi (which is in itself a fine outlet for many movies that either would not get theatrical distribution or which had it in the past but await rediscovery).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:16

Oh, and the slow death might need to be defined overall in other ways. 2018 had the highest overall domestic box office in history, the ticket sales were the thing in question, although those were up 7% since 2017.

There’s a good argument to be had that the medium budget movies that used to pad out studio schedules have been replaced with high risk blockbusters and low budget thriller/horror/etc. movies, while entire genres have been shipped out to streaming and TV. But overall the industry seemed relatively healthy outside of the “Disney will insist you play their new movie and take 60% of revenue, forcing you to overcharge even further for popcorn” issue that plagued the big multiplexes.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:17

might need to be defined overall in other ways

True. For one thing she total gross is not the best counter.

Look at what the top films were!

We have 4 MCU films
Star Wars
Jurassic World
And the Rock who always brings bank

There’s a dozen Disney films in the top 20.

Look at 20, top 8 are Disney
DC
Stephen king

Ow you take gross from BOM or IMDBPro and filter out world wide.
Now you have a very different list after the top 15 or 20 in terms of revenue.

There’s a near 50, million dollar difference between that 20ish spot and 30

And THAT is my documented point. The industry, in the US, is literally hanging on 10-20 big films per year.

I looked up last week’s actual numbers between the journal Streaming Now and the site NDRD.
And looked at the IMDBPro list; showing both limited and full theatrical releases.

Last week had 8 MPA/A rated releases in theatres. 16 more unsubmitted wide releases. And 19 limited releases.
The same week had 281 first run home media releases. 3 on VHS, so yes, “there will always be”.
There were 607 streaming releases (limited to the few dozen services monitored).

Yes, there will always be theatres and people willing to drop $20+ per person to go.

But let’s return one more time to the experiment that was Show Girls. A film with a $20some million budget that had a total revenue double that.
Today, it would just skip the theatre and the rating.

Most films from the last decade never crack 1mil in the box office. And do many times more revenue outside of theatres.

The era of the film theatre is dead.
They will always still be there, but we’re long past the majority of films even considering a national screen release.

And with that my original comment. An uncut, uncensored, Deadpool or Span or whatever could make serious money today. Despite the film ratings system. The Blonde episode proves that today, just like Hays, the opinions of the film industry ratings board has little to do with the consuming public interest.
Much like previous censorship regimes, film, comics, etc… when big companies, even through subsidiaries, start bypassing the system completely, the writing is on the wall.
Theatres will continue. And as it is now, most films that run will be G or PG13. Even R is dying out. Dwarfed by unsubmitted releases over the last 5 years in theatres.

The box office revenue is no longer a driving factor for the vast majority of films. Not when you can make many millions without ever entering the theatre.
And when you don’t need an MPA/A rating, they tend to skip it and use the TV self applied system. The value of a rating of G or PG is still there. Maybe PG13. But anything higher is pointless outside the theatre. TV14 and TVMA dominate streaming well beyond any rating above G.

Sources:
boxofficemojo
newdvdreleasedates
IMDBPro
Streaming now (print journal)
Amazon Prime Video

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10

You’re all over the place with your argument, as usual.

You responded to the accurate claim that NC-17 reduces box office options by citing a movie that was released nearly 20 years before NC-17 existed, and a notorious 1995 flop. Now, when challenged, you’re trying to shift to the box office climate of 2022.

“If you really think an NC-17 or not submitted Deadpool, Spawn, etc wouldn’t do well, in or out of old-fashioned theatres…?”

Spawn also being considered a flop, although it made more money than Showgirls.

“Disney is skipping theatrical releases on some titles in the MCU”

I’m not sure about upcoming titles, but this is not true right now. They’ve released some Pixar movies direct to streaming, but not MCU.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11

My response was that motion picture ratings today is absolutely pointless.

The exact quote; “or not submitted Deadpool, Spawn, etc wouldn’t do well”

Or not submitted…!

Amazon doesn’t care. Hulu has a nice selection of unrated and TVMA films. Tubi is full of them.

As for disney:
Disney has dozens of MCU titles that skipped the box office. Opting instead for short series. A system that has locked in subscriptions. Each new series brings in more money.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12

“Disney has dozens of MCU titles that skipped the box office. Opting instead for short series”

Oh, I get you. Instead of sticking to verifiable facts, you made up something in your head to pretend you’re right. As usual.

In other words, there are no MCU movies that skipped theatres, but if you pretend that their related TV series were really movies then you don’t have to admit you were wrong.

“Amazon doesn’t care. Hulu has a nice selection of unrated and TVMA films. Tubi is full of them.”

Different markets operate differently. How insightful :rolls eyes:

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:13

I’d have to actually do some math but a quick glance it IMDBPro release listings shows about 10% of film releases in the US were in theatres in 2018.
Given how tiny the market is of ratings submissions overall, one can conclude logically that there is not much interest in the streaming era.

Disney has redirected films announced as planned films to + miniseries. You can interpret that however you want.
I choose to see it as + being successful and theatre attendance not recovering post state (or city) level shutdowns, as Disney bypassing the theatre.

Roll your eyes all you want. The film ratings system is dying. There is simply no reason to submit films unless it’s one of that few percent of releases heading to the theatre. And then only if you intend an audience under 18.
Last week over 100 original releases came out on DVD. I don’t have numbers for streaming first releases, but I’d put money on many hundreds over all.

Yet the MPA/A only had 8 ratings in the same week. If a company knows or expects an NC-17 they simply bypass the process completely. No matter what the theatres think, the content of the 17 film is no longer an issue for the film consuming public.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:14

“I’d have to actually do some math but a quick glance it IMDBPro release listings shows about 10% of film releases in the US were in theatres in 2018.”

Which mainly raises the questions of why you cherry picked that particular year, and why you’re trying to divert a conversation that started with theatrical releases over to other media.

“Disney has redirected films announced as planned films to + miniseries.”

They’ve also redirected TV shows into movies. But, those are inconvenient for your narrative.

“The film ratings system is dying”

Said Jack Valenti in the 70s.

“There is simply no reason to submit films unless it’s one of that few percent of releases heading to the theatre”

…and the NC-17 rating is poison to those titles, and unrated makes things difficult, which was the point you were arguing with when you brought up 50 year old movies before you decided that arguing about other markets was more convenient.

“Last week over 100 original releases came out on DVD”

How many were new releases that never had a rating, and how many were titles that had theatrical screenings with MPAA approval? It doesn’t necessarily matter to the market as a whole, but most titles on disc and the services you’re rambling about had a rating at some point. This is likely to continue – the most valuable part of rating is guidance for parents, and while you don’t care if a movie is NC-17 or unrated, plenty of people do care if it’s a PG vs PG-13.

“No matter what the theatres think, the content of the 17 film is no longer an issue for the film consuming public.”

No, the people who go to theatrical releases will be swayed by ratings and/or the advertisers and other external pressures have an influence even if the theatres themselves would be find with the higher rating or unrated titles. The fact that you can watch a movie in a different market without a rating is not a relevant point about the pressures of that market. You might as well be arguing that gasoline prices don’t matter because you prefer fully electric cars. There’s truth there, but it doesn’t matter if the subject of the discussion is different non-electric models having different gas mileage.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Disney buying Fox’s entertainment assets has provided some fantastic opportunities in art.

On one hand, Disney owns a shitload of properties that it can exploit.

On the other hand, Disney owns a shitload of properties that it can exploit.

The problem I have with mega-mergers and buyouts like WBD and Disney buying Fox is in how these mergers consolidate pop culture under a single umbrella. Consider the following: As of right now, Disney controls not only every last one of its own films⁠—which includes the vast majority of American animated feature films⁠—and TV shows (animated and live-action), it also controls anything made by Fox, LucasArts, Marvel Studios, and Pixar. That isn’t just the MCU⁠—that’s the Alien franchise, the Predator franchise, the Indiana Jones franchise, the Avatar franchise, the Fox-owned Marvel films (e.g., the Deadpool and X-Men films), the Die Hard franchise, the Ice Age franchise, the Planet of the Apes franchise, every Pixar film (feature-length and short), and the entire gotdamn Star Wars franchise⁠. And none of that even addresses the idea of licensing⁠—Marvel vs. Capcom fans know about how much of a pain in the ass that can be, considering the lack of a console/PC re-release of the older Vs. Series games.

Look at all that pop culture that’s in the hands of a single entity. Look at how much control Disney has over our modern mythologies. Now imagine how Disney can fuck with the availability of it all.

Who needs pay-once-to-own-it physical media releases of Disney+ shows when they’re all available on Disney+ for a modest monthly fee? Watching content in its original form is so passé now that Disney can edit movies and shows into a more family-friendly form that Disney+ can carry. And if a franchise happens to perform poorly and need some time away from the public view, well, that’s a good enough reason to remove that content from Disney+ (and any other streaming services that might carry it).

Whatever “opportunities” are opened up by these mega-mergers is undercut by the fact that we’re letting mega-corporations consolidate pop culture into a smaller-by-the-decade number of hands that live and die by capitalism. Consider the WBD situation: Sure, WBD could’ve probably cut executive compensation to make up for a bunch of its debt, but since that wasn’t going to happen, the company axed a shitload of animated shows from HBO Max, cancelled an entire goddamn movie that was damned close to being a finished product, and moved to axe scripted shows on TBS and TNT (reportedly in favor of cheaper-to-produce trashy-ass reality television and sports-related programming, including the existing shows for All Elite Wrestling).

Mega-mergers only ever benefit the executives, both outgoing and incoming. Everyone else gets screwed one way or another. That includes the general public.

nerdrage (profile) says:

here's the cherry on top

…there are rumors that Comcast is going to buy Warner Bros Discovery when Zaslav whips it into something resembling shape. Oh joy. Because they’ve done so well with Peacock.

But there’s also a rational factor to this. Streaming content is wildly overbuilt. Netflix spent years overspending by greenlighting everything in sight, most of which failed. Competitors thought they needed to follow suit and soon realized they were bleeding money. People seem to just want their Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Marvel, Game of Thrones etc spinoff series. Those are guaranteed to make money. Look at how bad Boba Fett and Obi Wan were, yet they were hits.

There will be occasional one-offs like Stranger Things and Severance but it takes a lot of failures to stumble across one of those. Really too pricey of a business model unless you’re Amazon or especially Apple.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

People seem to just want their Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Marvel, Game of Thrones etc spinoff series. Those are guaranteed to make money.

They’re likely to make money, but not guaranteed. Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain⁠—or the rain of cash that comes from relying on known IPs. Eventually, people will burn out on essentially being sold hollowed-out self-referential copies and pastiches of older material. When the bubble bursts and those franchises you listed are no longer able to hold the public’s attention like they used to, studios are going to be in for a rude-ass awakening.

The test for this is going to be the next couple years of Marvel movies. Middling to poor reviews of Marvel’s Phase 4 efforts haven’t stopped their films and shows from being box office juggernauts, but that can’t hold forever. Eventually, a Marvel property will bomb⁠—even if only in the context of Marvel’s now-typical box office performances⁠—and when that bubble bursts, nothing good will come of it.

Netflix had a good idea in trying to create its own original properties. But they threw way too much at the wall, and only a handful of shows/movies ever stuck. Those mistakes aren’t likely to be repeated by the likes of Disney⁠—they’ll make different, possibly worse mistakes…like, say, relying on Star Wars content that refuses to leave behind the era of the Skywalker Saga.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The only way marvel bombs out completely is if they take some PC spin and change the property‘s history. Marvel is full of alternative characters to begin with. And has always pushed the boundaries from just off to the side.
and even when they throw in bizarre, What If isn’t exactly a failure.

As for star wars, you can’t “leave behind” skywalker in the future because the family is the core of universe. Npi.
But you can ‘move on’ and that’s exactly what they need to do. Moving away from the dictatorship of the Jedi order and exploring the force and its adherents.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The only way marvel bombs out completely is if they take some PC spin and change the property‘s history.”

Weird. Most of the complaints I’ve heard recently are from people who have zero understanding of the history.

“As for star wars, you can’t “leave behind” skywalker in the future because the family is the core of universe”

The Skywalker saga, not the universe. The reason it has been as successful as it has been is the rich universe that doesn’t depend on that particular bloodline. Some of the best content has been the stuff that doesn’t deal with them, IMHO.

Time will tell how the future goes for the series, but I think at this point it’s largely agreed that some of the best content in that universe has come from when they didn’t stick to Skywalker’s bloodline and the worst is when they slavishly tied it to them. Some of the best came from Skywalker as well of course, but when people complain it’s usually not about quality. Same as with Marvel – the loudest whiners are from people who think Miles Morales or She Hulk are new inventions.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The only way marvel bombs out completely is if they take some PC spin and change the property‘s history.

You…you really don’t know much about the history of Marvel Comics, do you? I mean, they literally defied the censors of the Comics Code Authority to publish a Spider-Man story made on the recommendation of the U.S. government⁠—and in doing so, they humiliated the CCA into eventually weakening the Comics Code.

As for Marvel bombing out at the box office: Genre fatigue is a thing, and it’s only exacerbated by the fact that the most advertised releases in theaters these days are big budget genre blockbusters (e.g., Marvel films, DC films, the Fast & Furious franchise). Spectacle alone isn’t enough to sustain the box office⁠—it will eventually crash, and an explicit Marvel failure will likely be the first domino. Given that two Phase 4 films are the lowest-rated films on Rotten Tomatoes (Thor: Love and Thunder at 64% and Eternals at 47%) and one of those only barely broke even at the global box office (Eternals), I’d bet on that failure happening well before the end of the planned Phase 6.

As for star wars, you can’t “leave behind” skywalker in the future because the family is the core of universe.

That’s exactly the problem, though. By making the franchise all about this one family, the galaxy seems that much smaller. Think about this: In all three trilogies, the character who becomes central to each trilogy’s story comes from Tatooine in one way or another. That already makes a single planet literally the most important in the galaxy despite it being a backwater desert planet compared to, say, Coruscant. That the first two characters are from the same family and the third eventually chooses to use that family’s name makes things worse.

Now consider the spin-off shows and films. Every one of them, from Rogue One to The Mandalorian to the gotdang Holiday Special, take place at some point between the events of The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens. There hasn’t yet been one show or movie set beyond⁠—or before⁠—the events of the Skywalker Saga. And making things worse are all the “I clapped” nostalgia bait moments of these spin-off projects. Solo, for example, had to fit nearly all of Han Solo’s major life events⁠—befriending Chewbacca, winning the Millennium Falcon, making the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, and even choosing his name⁠—into not just a single film, but a span of a few months at best.

The focus on this one specific era of the franchise’s fictional history ignores all the stories that could be told outside of that narrow context. Some of the games explore pre-Skywalker eras; the Knights of the Old Republic games do this fabulously, from what I hear. The animated anthology Star Wars: Visions didn’t rely on those “I clapped” moments⁠—and if anything, an anthology series set within the Star Wars universe but not focused on the Skywalkers (or their adventures) might be a great idea for a future show. Think something along the narrative structure of Cowboy Bebop…only without thinking about the Netflix version, because bleah. It doesn’t even have to be about the Jedi and the Sith⁠; hell, I’d love to see a Star Wars show that is explicitly not about the Jedi, the Sith, or even the Empire.

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