We're Running out of Content
Over the past six months, we have seen major shifts in the film industry – from uprooting old Hollywood systems to more diversity on our screens. There is no doubt that the industry is trying to adapt itself to having its audience holding it accountable and to the lasting effects of coronavirus. Major institutions like CAA furloughed 300+ employees, NBC will begin layoffs this month, and, until recently, Disney’s executives experienced pay cuts. The entertainment industry has no idea when it will be able to run at full force again and because of that, we are bound to see major changes in the future of new content. In this week’s blog, we will be discussing how the industry is handling the current restrictions of filming and how that is affecting future content for the foreseeable future.
Given the lasting effects of the pandemic, new content now falls into three categories: canceled, postponed, or reworked. Of course, each situation on a film or TV show is different, however more and more productions are coming to an end of “waiting it out” and decisions must be made.
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Unfortunately, not all shows have been able to weather the storm of the pandemic and many have been canceled by their networks. Recently, Netflix canceled I Am Not Okay with This and The Society, announcing rising costs associated with filming the shows during the pandemic and cast availability as the culprits. There was a public outcry for another platform to save these popular shows, however those pleas have been met with silence. Sadly, we are likely to see more networks and streaming platforms follow suit. While several production hubs have released updated guidelines and we have a few examples of successfully completed productions during COVID-19, little guidance exists on securing adequate insurance. We can only assume that the cost of COVID-19 insurance and required precautions for high concept shows may jeopardize Netflix’s ability to break even. Hopefully, we will see these complex shows again, but for now it seems this is the end for them.
Similar to Netflix, Comedy Central canceled some of its popular shows, including Drunk History and Tosh.0. These shows have been long-running and they were still very much adored by Comedy Central fans, however the network claimed it is moving away from live-action content and into the adult animation space. While a plan like this is one that was likely made over time, we wonder whether the pandemic may have sped up the timeline for the change. Animation seems to be a more feasible venture during this time, as it has fewer variables to contend with creating content during a pandemic. Adult animation has proven to be a great market, as illustrated by shows like Rick and Morty, Big Mouth, and BoJack Horseman. Comedy Central could make a name for itself in this genre, however that doesn’t lessen the blow regarding the end of two of its much-loved shows.
Numerous productions fall into the postponed category. Earlier this year, HBO announced its highly anticipated season 2 of Euphoria was postponed with no projected return to production. The same is true for Barry, POSE, Atlanta, Macbeth, Matrix 4, and many more. It should not be a surprise that most, if not all, productions are at a halt at the moment. Most shows in this category are big money makers for their platforms, however their intricacies pose huge challenges to production during the pandemic.
Even in the ready-to-release realm, we are seeing delays. Up until recently, Disney had no U.S. release date for its highly anticipated Mulan, and that it ultimately opted to go straight to streaming, at a monetary loss. Other shows and movies like The Batman, The Witcher, Soul, Candyman, The Little Mermaid, In the Heights, and many more have pushed back their release dates to later in the year or indefinitely. The biggest issue is lost revenue, as theaters remain closed and customers do not feel safe returning any time soon. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has been the talk of the town, as Warner Bros. has appeared determined to have a U.S. theatrical release. For the past six months, the film has been delayed several times with a final release date set for September 3rd, coinciding with U.S. theaters’ scheduled reopening. Time will tell if such a risky move will pay off, and we can’t wait to see the results.
Although few and far between, some productions have made it through the confusion and successfully reworked and wrapped during the pandemic. Most notably, Tyler Perry’s Sistas made it through production without any COVID-19 complications and the second season of The Oval is set for the same path. As we discussed in previous blogs, Perry has truly been the leader on how to produce new content without compromise. Along with Tyler Perry’s shows, Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta, Netflix’s Stranger Things, and a few smaller indie productions have resumed production – with new rules and safety regulations in place. We have noticed a few trends among the successfully reworked shows and movies. Most are made in states with loose
COVID-19 restrictions, such as Georgia. And productions seem to be creating a “bubble” for their cast and crew. The bubble entails that cast and crew quarantine for two weeks, live in designated spaces for the duration of filming, undergo testing several times a week, and continue to social distance as much as possible between themselves and others on set. This method seems to be the most effective but is also the most expensive. Other methods include utilizing technologies such as green screens or zoom based software. We are seeing this used in live shows such as NBC’s Americas Got Talent for their audience members, Netflix’s The Politician for pick-up shots, and several Late-Night Shows for their new show format. While these are great methods for producing live shows and content that was expected to air earlier this year, at what point will audiences tire of being reminded of the “pandemic times?” Since most shows and movies are filmed in advance, will viewers become fatigued of content that reminds them that it was filmed during the coronavirus pandemic? And when?
While the entertainment industry is making strides toward continued content creation, it is significantly delayed compared to its usual schedule. This begs the question: when will we run out of new content? If more and more platforms are choosing to delay releases, we expect to eventually see more reruns on our screens.
Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Quibi have all reassured viewers that they are well-equipped to weather the storm and have enough content to last into 2021. However, the United States’ charged political climate makes us wonder if the health and production landscapes will improve by the start of 2021. We also question whether traditional network shows are equipped to withstand until 2021. Theme of 2020 appears to be that we will have to wait and see.
There is no doubt that the industry is doing its best to maintain as much as possible, and one could argue that a pause in new content would not be a huge inconvenience to audiences. In 2019, there were over 500 scripted television shows in the United States. That number does not include un-scripted or movies and that indicates that there may be more than enough content for audiences to watch during a break of new content. The sheer amount of shows and movies from last year likely means that viewers missed most of them. Viewed through that perspective, most of us haven’t even scratched the surface regarding available content across multiple platforms.
While we are rooting for productions to get back on their feet and churn out our most loved shows and movies, maybe we will be okay with finally getting around to watching engaging content like The Umbrella Academy – both seasons!