Daily Digest: Disney's Upfront Jedi Mind Trick
Ad buyers seemed utterly unalarmed by the picketers and the strike
Another day, another entertainment conglomerate that won’t say the quiet part loud.
An energized WGA picket line marched outside of Disney’s upfront on Tuesday afternoon, but inside the glass fortress of the Javits Center, nary a chant could be heard. Which was well enough for the Mouse House, given that it was very focused on reminding all the media buyers in the Jimmy Kimmel-less auditorium just how much live sports and how many sports anchors and how many former pro sports players the company has to offer.
It was only after Sports Hour ended — the Manning brothers are very charming, but still — and a lengthy segment on live news ended, that Disney acknowledged that it even has a scripted business. Two Kardashians were on stage and Khloe mentioned Kim’s upcoming arc on American Horror Story. Naturally.
Of course, it should be noted that Kevin Feige and Kathleen Kennedy later brought out the big guns with crowd-pleasing Marvel and Lucasfilm trailers, and this marked the latter’s first time at upfronts, which is nothing to sneeze at. And FX had its own showy march for a promotion of the long-gestating and highly anticipated Shogun. All well and good.
But when Ryan Seacrest (likely in lieu of scripted talent) initially arrived to tell us, more than an hour into the presentation, that “I have a very special job today,” you would not have been faulted for wondering if he was going to follow that with… “to help you forget about the writers strike.” (He was there to provide a quick rundown of all the scripted TV, from 9-1-1 to Abbott Elementary, that Disney actually has on tap.) Disney’s ABC, it should be noted, unveiled today a fall broadcast schedule devoid of new original scripted fare.
NBCUniversal execs had the wherewithal to briefly mention the strike on stage yesterday. (Fine, they said the quiet part… at a low decibel level.) But Disney’s decision to not mention the crowd of angry writers picketing below the window strikes me as an odd dance with reality, given that every media buyer had to cross a picket line to get inside the building.
Of course, what do I know — nearly every media buyer I then chatted with, before and after the presentation, said the writers strike was not going to foreseeably impact their work much in the near term, and who’s to say how it might impact their work in future quarters. They seemed unalarmed, which probably means that Disney has reason to be unalarmed, at least as long as they have at least one Manning brother to put on air.
Tomorrow, Warner Bros. gets its day in the sun at Madison Square Garden.
Elsewhere on The Ankler…
In today’s column, Richard Rushfield takes a look at the cracks in the industry coming to light in week three of the strike, and the various battle lines being drawn across town. On the DGA vs. WGA front, Rushfield writes: “Are the directors negotiating with an intransigent AMPTP so they can say they tried? Or are they showing support now for the writers so they can see they stood behind them as far as was possible?”
In the meantime, a series of other faultlines in the industry have begun revealing themselves this week, encompassing showrunners, Netflix, SAG and even broadcast TV (remember that?). Let’s roll through them and what is being whispered behind the scenes.
One of those whispers: the rumor that Netflix is the single hardliner on the studio side. “Whatever the truth, whatever The Service's intransigence, the legacy studios haven't broken with them yet, which leads one to assume they can't be that far apart. So far,” he writes.
Read the rest of the story at The Ankler, with a subscription.
Today in Strike News
In a show of solidarity with Broadway workers impacted by the strike, the WGA has agreed not to picket the Tony Awards on June 11, which will move ahead in an altered format to honor the guild’s demands. (The Hollywood Reporter)
$429 million. That’s how much the WGA estimates its demands will cost the studios for a year — a number lower than what companies will end up paying if the strike continues on its current trajectory. (Variety)
“Writers and their bosses are facing a risk that they didn’t in 2007: a risk that viewers will exit Hollywood’s closed system entirely for social media apps such as TikTok and YouTube, which are already increasingly competitive with Netflix among younger audiences,” says WaPo columnist Megan McArdle. (Washington Post)
Picket Sign of the Day
And just like that… seen on the streets of New York.
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