Myles McNutt – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A New Brand of Tea Leaves?: The 2015 Emmy Awards Mon, 21 Sep 2015 04:23:07 +0000 Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 12.20.58 AMPredicting the Emmy Awards is a fool’s errand, even in the grand scheme of the fallibility of award predictions: whereas the Oscars have precursor awards (primarily the Guilds) with voting base overlap, the Emmys have no such preview, leaving experts to effectively read tea leaves.

However, this year came with a new brand of tea leaves, brought on by a significant change: whereas past years have seen winners determined by a limited blue-ribbon panel of voters in a given peer group, this year the voting was opened up to all members of said groups, meaning the voting pool increased exponentially. Reporting speculated that this could dramatically alter the winners, skewing toward populist series and diminishing the impact of the episode submissions that were typically considered crucial variables in the blue-ribbon panels’ decisions.

Accordingly, this year’s predictions narrative had more weight than usual, pushing those who were following the story to see each early win as a marker of a given narrative. And it didn’t take long for such a narrative to emerge, even if I joked about it being premature when I called it early on: HBO swept through the broadcast like the behemoth it once was, laying waste to numerous records in the process. Game of Thrones shattered the record for most wins by a series in a single year well before it won for Outstanding Drama Series, and Veep won three awards—including the fourth consecutive win for Julia Louis-Dreyfus and second for Tony Hale—before it emerged to dethrone Modern Family and take HBO’s second-ever win for Outstanding Comedy Series. Combine with Olive Kitteridge’s near-sweep of the Limited Series category—losing only Supporting Actress—and you have the most dominant performance for a single channel or network in recent Emmys history. It’s the first time that a single channel has taken home the TV Movie (Bessie), Limited Series (or Miniseries), Drama, and Comedy awards in the same year since the TV Movie category was added in 1980.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 12.21.52 AMThere are a large number of conclusions we could make based on this. We could discuss how the opening up of the voting pool privileged a show like Game of Thrones that has both large viewership and strength in the creative arts categories whose voters were previously unlikely to vote in the program awards. We might ask if the accessibility of HBO programming—both through elaborate screener DVD boxes sent to voters and through the ease of HBO Go/HBO Now—makes it more likely that voters have seen shows on the channel, versus some of the competition. We can ponder how the potential dilution of submitted episodes’ importance to the process privileged past winners and nominees with whom voters were familiar (thus giving Veep an advantage over newcomer Transparent, which won Lead Actor and Directing Emmys for Amazon Studios).

And yet here’s the thing about awards: we’ll never know. Although the social media consensus on my feed seems to be that Game of Thrones would have been more deserving in earlier seasons, or that Transparent was breaking more ground in comedy than Veep’s political satire, there’s every possibility Emmy voters felt Game of Thrones had its strongest year yet and Transparent was a drama masquerading as a comedy and dragged down by Maura’s unlikeable children. It becomes easy to forget in efforts to “solve” the Emmy voting process by turning it into an objective process that it is an inherently subjective one. And while I am an advocate for contextualizing the specific subjectivities that shape each year’s winners lest we accept the prestige they’ve come to represent as an asterisk-free marker of television greatness, this year’s awards reminded me and everyone else who follows the Emmys too closely that there will never be evidence to support any of our conclusions. We will never know exactly why a given series or performer or writer or director won an Emmy award. It is beyond our reach.

And yet lest the above read as an outright rejection of Emmys narratives, this was nonetheless a night that reinforced how the swirling subjectivity of industry awards can transform such that objective consensus emerges. Fitting given the night’s controversial spoiler-laden montage of series finales—which would’ve been harmless with fewer climactic moments chosen in editing—this was a night where two actors had their last chance to win an Emmy for a role that will define their career. And whereas Parks and Recreation’s Amy Poehler had her chance swept away by the HBO tide, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm emerged victorious, winning his first Emmy—and the first acting Emmy for any actor on the AMC series, inconceivably—and earning a standing ovation in the process.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 12.20.32 AMTechnically, that win inspires just as many questions. Had the tape system and limited voting pools held an often-reprehensible character back in previous years? Did all those HBO-happy voters feel about The Newsroom the way I felt about The Newsroom? And yet those questions don’t matter as much when the victory feels just, as was also the case when Viola Davis—the clear standout of the uneven How To Get Away With Murder—took to the stage after winning Lead Actress in a Drama Series and spoke eloquently and righteously about the struggle facing actresses of color when you don’t see people like you standing on that stage winning Emmys. It doesn’t matter if this new voting system was responsible for Davis’ win, because it was both a deserving performance—although there’s that subjectivity again—and because it represents a small step toward addressing the Academy’s longstanding struggle with diversity.

You could argue that “it doesn’t matter” describes the whole evening, and not just the various procedures that preceded it: it is very possible to overstate the importance of the Emmy Awards, as HBO publicity will helpfully—if deservedly—demonstrate over the next 24-72 hours. But Davis’ win stands out as an example of an Emmys moment that unquestionably matters, and pushes a deeper consideration into not simply who wins Emmys, but how they win them, and how that remains an area where greater work in diversity and representation can and should be explored by the Television Academy. And perhaps here we can make a distinction, then: it may be impossible to safely predict the Emmys, but it’s very possible to investigate that process with a critical eye, one that hopefully with move beyond procedures to the politics that underlie them in the years that follow.


Mario is Mobile!: Or (Nintendo’s Platform Panic?) Fri, 20 Mar 2015 15:18:33 +0000 MarioIsMobileWithin the context of video game culture, Nintendo’s corporate identity has been clear: Nintendo makes games. Whereas competitors Sony and Microsoft represent larger global technology corporations in which gaming is but one portfolio among many, Nintendo has distinguished itself through its singular focus on its home and handheld gaming consoles and making games exclusively for them.

In recent years, part of this identity has become Nintendo’s resistance to the convergence of gaming and mobile technologies. Despite consistent analyst and investor pressure for Nintendo to take advantage of the explosion of gaming on phones and tablets to help offset a downturn in console performance, Nintendo resisted, with President and CEO Satoru Iwata going as far to suggest in 2013 that “If we think 20 years down the line, we may look back at the decision not to supply Nintendo games to smartphones and think that is the reason why the company is still here.”

It was therefore surprising when Nintendo announced a partnership with Japanese mobile platform developer DeNA to move into the mobile gaming space. There had been no warning that Nintendo’s philosophy on this issue had changed, even at a recent investor briefing in Tokyo. Suddenly, Nintendo has plans to have games available for mobile platforms by the end of the year, with Mario, Link, and other Nintendo characters in games competing with the likes of Clash of Clans and Game of War. While initial speculation questioned if Nintendo would play any type of development role, or if their biggest franchises would be involved, when the dust settled it was clear: developers at Nintendo are at work creating mobile games utilizing a limitless range of Nintendo IPs, which DeNA will make available across a wide range of platforms.


The gameplay of the Fire Emblem series—and other Strategy RPGs from developer Intelligent Systems—is a logical fit for touch-screen gaming.

There is no shortage of response to this news: indeed, the level of mainstream press engagement with Nintendo’s decision reveals the degree to which Nintendo franchises have the potential to do extremely well in the mobile space. Within the gaming enthusiast press, meanwhile, sites immediately began speculating on what franchises would be a great fit for mobile gaming, imagining games like the Strategy RPG Fire Emblem as perfect fits for the mobile space. However, at the same time, others—like WIRED’s Chris Kohler—pointed out that those imagining a game like Fire Emblem on mobile platforms are overlooking the realities of mobile gaming, and that Nintendo is more likely to develop streamlined F2P (Free to Play) games that cost less to make, have endless revenue potential, and don’t directly compete with Nintendo’s existing handheld games (like an upcoming Fire Emblem title set to release on Nintendo 3DS later this year).

Nintendo, for their part, is remaining vague. The announcement notably came without the reveal of a single mobile game, and in a feature interview with TIME Iwata offered little detail regarding Nintendo’s specific plans beyond the fact that “we believe that we will be able to use smart devices in a very unique way so that they can be a bridge to our dedicated game systems, and at the same time, that we will be able to deliver unique experiences to the users of smart devices.” When pushed on the types of payment models, Iwata was similarly cagey, leaving the door open for “free-to-start” games —a term less common than “free-to-play,” and most recently associated with “Full Game Demos” on consoles—while simultaneously noting that “it’s even more important for us to consider how we can get as many people around the world as possible to play Nintendo smart device apps, rather than to consider which payment system will earn the most money.”

Nintendo's relationship to licensed mobile gaming could be previewed by a Mario-themed version of iOS title Puzzle & Dragons, which developer GungHo is bringing to Nintendo's 3DS later this year.

Nintendo’s relationship to licensed mobile gaming could be previewed by a Mario-themed version of iOS title Puzzle & Dragons, which developer GungHo is bringing to Nintendo’s 3DS later this year.

Here, I would argue, we see the inherent tension in Nintendo’s announcement. The reason no games were announced is because this is a business decision as opposed to a gaming one. Nintendo is effectively licensing their IPs onto mobile devices as a way of extending their franchises to new audiences—Iwata’s emphasis on global reach makes clear that this decision is about using the proliferation of mobile devices as a new awareness platform, with no plans to port existing games onto the systems (which has been a pattern for other game creators like Final Fantasy developer Square Enix). In this way, it is framed similarly to an animated film deal Nintendo was allegedly pursuing with Sony (as revealed in the midst of 2014’s Sony Hack), with mobile devices less a new gaming platform—signaling Nintendo abandoning exclusively developing for its own hardware platforms—than a new way of leveraging and promoting existing IP. This business decision was well-received, with Nintendo stock leaping 27% following the announcement.

At the same time, though, Nintendo is still committed to games. And so while from a business perspective it would make sense for Nintendo to treat mobile as a space of licensing, with other developers creating games using its franchises, the company’s larger commitment to being a “game company” doesn’t allow them to do so. In addition to announcing Nintendo’s next piece of hardware—Project NX—to renew their commitment to their own platforms, Iwata is promising Nintendo’s innovation will extend to mobile gaming, telling TIME that “while we want more people to become familiar with Nintendo IP through Nintendo’s smart device game apps, at the same time, we aim to provide smart device consumers with unique experiences with our game apps.”

Whether or not Nintendo can transform licensed mobile gaming into a space of innovation remains to be seen, but for now discursive transformation is the next best thing. Nintendo needs to acknowledge the evolution of mobile gaming as a threat against their existing handheld gaming business, but they are doing so in ways that frame mobile gaming as a lesser space that Nintendo needs to elevate, and which exists to compliment—rather than threaten—existing distribution models. The long-term tenability of this position remains unclear, but the increased mobility of Mario and the rest of Nintendo’s brand is set to give us our answer.


And the Grammy Nominees are [On Twitter]… Fri, 05 Dec 2014 21:24:13 +0000 Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 3.12.45 PM

As viewing patterns have shifted dramatically over the past two decades, fragmenting audiences and delaying viewing in what we characterize as a post-network era, the televised award show has increased in value for broadcast networks. Live events work against delays, provide the possibility for social media buzz, and speak to a presumed broad audience that is becoming increasingly more difficult to capture with traditional programming. This has made the relative value of award shows increase, both for major awards (the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys) in respective media and lesser award shows that now have greater value than when they were perceived as illegitimate offshoots of the more reputable awards in said medium (such as the American Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards, which are based on fan voting and record sales respectively).

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 3.15.48 PMOutside of isolated moments like Ellen Degeneres’ “Oscar Selfie,” however, major award shows in film and television have not necessarily changed their approach in light of their new value in a convergent media era, remaining largely the same in terms of flow and structure. By comparison, the Grammy Awards have gone through a tremendous overhaul, dramatically altering the number of awards presented during the televised ceremony, and shifting to a more substantial number of performances. While the presence of performances has always been a key draw for the Grammy Awards, the increase in the number of performances—going from 8 in 2004 to 20 in 2014—has shifted the ceremony further toward the live event spectacle that cuts through the challenges of broadcast television so effectively in the current moment. CBS has even built on its success with a yearly concert special timed to the Grammy nominations in December, announcing the nominees for “Album of the Year” and other major categories as part of a concert “preview”—this year with a holiday theme—of the January or February ceremony before releasing the full list.

If the changes to the Grammy ceremony itself reflect shifts in audience viewing patterns within traditional media, the strategy the Recording Academy is using to reveal this year’s nominees represents a more dramatic move away from traditional media. The release of award nominations has historically been handled through early-morning press conferences, wherein professionals within the respective field teams up with the Academy president to reveal major nominations ahead of the release of the full list of nominees shortly after. These take place at roughly 5:30am in Los Angeles, a time chosen in order to coordinate with the morning shows on the East Coast, with the nominations typically simulcast by one or more of them. It is an old tradition that has adjusted to include livestreaming, and that the Grammys has shifted to Primetime in recent years, but it remains predominantly tethered to an old media stalwart.

This year, however, the Recording Academy partnered with Twitter to reveal the majority of the nominees for this year’s awards one-by-one over the course of the day: although anchored by nominees Ed Sheeran and Pharrell on CBS This Morning and the Album of the Year reveal on the CBS nominations special, therefore retaining a tie to traditional broadcast environments, the partnership with Twitter is where the vast majority of discourse around the awards circulated today. Whereas all award shows are now actively engaged in social media, tweeting congratulations to nominees in hopes of retweets and further follows, the Grammys are not simply tweeting the nominees from their own account (which has 1.7 million followers): instead, they have parceled out the categories among a number of former winners or contemporaries in respective categories (Vampire Weekend, Joy Williams, Mark Ronson), prominent YouTube stars with musical aspirations and strong social media followings (Troye Silvan), syndicated entertainment shows or personalities (Ryan Seacrest, Access Hollywood, The Insider), and perennial Grammys host LL Cool J, among others—I’ve collected a Storify of most of them here. With most using the integrated video function on Twitter, and with each video including a plug for the Emmy Award ceremony on CBS in February, the videos serve to make the nominations themselves visible to a broader audience, suggesting a careful curation of “presenters” and potential audiences across various genres.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 3.03.27 PMIt’s a decision that has confounded the traditional way nominations are covered in the entertainment industry: whereas journalists can typically speak to narratives in the awards, sites are now forced to gradually collect and collate information, building narratives—who has the most nominations, who was snubbed in certain categories—on the fly with only limited perspective until the majority of nominees (all but album of the year) were finally posted around 2pm ET. Beyoncé’s single announced nomination early in the day allowed her to pass Dolly Parton to become the most nominated female artist of all time, but anyone who ran that story needed to update it to reflect her final nomination count, which will remain unclear until tonight’s broadcast. Sam Smith tweeted about earning four nominations before getting out of bed, but that number increased shortly after, necessitating another message updating the number to five.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 3.08.38 PMThe presence of social media has privileged live events because they are something people “talk about,” and have the potential to spread beyond their initial viewing audience as online buzz pushes people to tune in. In this case, the Grammys are tapping into the same potential for social media to spread word about the nominations, creating an environment where it is impossible for anyone engaged with entertainment journalists or musicians on Twitter to avoid Grammys reporting over the course of the day as artists and outlets livetweet their reactions to the nominations rollout. Whereas “Oscar Nominations Morning” has become a tradition in the context of social media, with Twitter and other social media conversations focused on what is considered a major industry event, the Grammys have sought to claim an entire day, an effort that shows how the adoption of social media is influencing established spaces of industry practice.

It is also an additional reminder that while who wins or is nominated for awards remains a key space of analysis for engaging with the place of awards in media industries and in culture more broadly, the process by which those nominees are determined or announced is equally central to the award show’s place within contemporary media studies.


Bad Blood: “Taylor Swift” vs. Spotify Mon, 03 Nov 2014 18:15:27 +0000 Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 12.09.21 PMAs the number of release windows for media continues to expand, the “windowing” of a given media text has shifted accordingly. Although windowing has typically been a term reserved for motion pictures, in which a film goes through theatrical, home video, cable, and network distribution windows in roughly that order, the advent of streaming media has created similar patterns in television—where some Hulu series have week-long exclusivity for cable subscribers—and music, creating a broader “crisis” in distribution that the industry is working to solve.

Within music, where no such windowing has existed, streaming services like Spotify and Rdio have created a distribution problem that a number of labels have been pushing against. Whereas in film we see the challenging of existing windows through day-and-date streaming releases, with Spotify we see artists—such as Beyoncé and Coldplay—actively withholding their albums at release to force users (including those who subscribe to these services rather than streaming music for free) to acquire them through legal—or, depending on the user, illegal—means, creating selective windowing.

Spotify has value for artists and labels: on demand streaming has become a metric within the Billboard Hot 100 charts, for example, and the service’s 40 million users represent a cross-section of listeners that may not buy music now but could buy music in the future, making it a valuable promotional platform. However, the issue is that the infinitesimally small royalties paid by Spotify and other streaming services—which have drawn criticism from artists and labels—limit this value. Accordingly, while having your music on Spotify has promotional value, the remuneration is significantly less than if artists sell albums or singles on iTunes, or convince you to go out to a store to buy a deluxe version of the album featuring exclusive material.

Big Machine Records and Taylor Swift have been at the center of this conflict for some time. Swift’s album Red, which debuted in October 2012, was an early example of a label withholding a marquee album from streaming services—while each single from the album became available near its release, the full album was not made available for streaming until the summer of 2013. At the time, Billboard reported Big Marchine founder Scott Borchetta framing streaming as a “struggle,” arguing that “it doesn’t make sense to a small record company” compared to a larger conglomerate with thousands of albums to sell to Spotify.

The decision was controversial at the time, although there was no evidence that Spotify was fighting against it—the service simply did not have Red available, which Big Machine hoped would push users to go purchase the album. However, earlier this year Spotify went on the offensive, creating pages for albums that are being withheld from the service—including the latest albums from Coldplay and Beyoncé—that inform listeners that “the artist or their representatives have decided not to release this album on Spotify. We are working on it and hope they will change their mind soon.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.12.01 AM

Such a page has been in place for Swift’s 1989 since the album’s release last week, although as of this morning it is notably the only album page on Swift’s Spotify page. As widely reported, Big Machine has pulled all of Swift’s music—including “Shake It Off,” which had been the most streamed song on the service—in the midst of negotiations with Spotify, the most public move yet in the service’s battle with labels. In return, Spotify has begun using social media—including a blog post entitled “On Taylor Swift’s Decision to Remove Her Music form Spotify”—to call out Swift’s decision and incite her to “Stay Stay Stay,” a reference to a song from the now unavailable Red.

Spotify’s rhetoric is nearly identical to that of cable channels in the midst of carriage disputes—just last night, AMC used The Walking Dead to inform DirecTV subscribers that the channel’s contract with the satellite service is up soon, and that their provider is failing to negotiate in good faith. It’s a call to action, mirroring AMC’s conflict with Dish by asking the show’s large fanbase to become engaged in a public campaign to influence negotiations in their favor. In Spotify’s case, they are using social media to rally their 40 million users to spread the word using the #JustSayYes hashtag (itself taken from her song “Love Story”), and sharing a playlist of “What to Play While Taylor’s Away.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.26.27 AM

In part due to this messaging, most major news reports regarding the decision are framed in these terms: TIME suggests “Taylor Swift Just Removed Her Music From Spotify,” while Mashable—one of the first to report on the story, and who had reported on 1989’s absence from the service last week—implies that “Taylor Swift removes all music from Spotify after ‘1989’ bickering.” However, to frame this as Swift’s decision obscures the presence of the label, who Billboard reports—citing sources beyond conjecture and Spotify’s social media postings—is behind this decision as Big Machine asserts itself in the midst of an attempted sale. There is no evidence that Swift herself is behind this decision—while TIME cites a Wall Street Journal op-ed where Swift herself expresses concern regarding the streaming service, neither she nor Big Machine Records has made a public statement, meaning that any narrative has been created by Spotify to better position the company within ongoing negotiations.

Spotify’s choice to make this about the artist—never once acknowledging the existence of a label—highlights the challenge of getting users to invest in the full dimensions of why albums are held from Spotify. This is by all accounts not primarily a conflict with an artist whose principles are in opposition to streaming music, but rather a case where a label is leveraging the sales power of their biggest artist to challenge the economics of a still nascent, controversial distribution method, and where that artist—despite her ubiquity—is subject to their business decisions. But whereas Spotify vs. Scott Borchetta is a story for the trades, Spotify vs. Taylor Swift is a story for the masses, one Spotify hopes will create fewer blank spaces in their library.


]]> 4
Choose Your Own Narrative: The 2014 Emmy Awards Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:33:09 +0000 WoodyMatthewWhen Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson took to the stage to present this year’s Emmy Award for Lead Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries, Harrelson cracked a joke about McConaughey having all of the “plagiarized” lines in True Detective.

The lack of crowd response led Harrelson to dub it “too much of an inside joke,” but it was far from the only joke that seemed designed for those who spend their waking hours scouring industry trade press (or, to put a finer point on it, for me). I got the joke, and a good portion of my self-selected Twitter feed got the joke, and I even got the subtextual joke of McConaughey and Harrelson presenting the award many expected they’d be competing for until True Detective switched categories. However, one imagines the presumed mass audience of television viewers tuning into this year’s ceremony had no idea what Harrelson was referring to, just as they were confused by Seth Meyers’ jokes about Orange is the New Black’s category switching, or by Julianna Margulies’ pointed “22 episodes a year” reference in her acceptance speech, or by the words “Tatiana Maslany” in the Billy on the Street pre-taped segment.

The internal politics of the Emmy Awards are a rich discursive space, one that plays out each year in the nominating process, the nominations, and then the broadcast itself. Months of trade publication ad campaigns, Gold Derby Google Hangouts, and talk show appearances all converge in a single evening, and for those who follow that narrative it becomes a game of seeing whose submission tape won over the voters and how a show’s win in one category could signal a win in a different category later in the show. As one of those people, the Emmys broadcast is a dynamic experience, a vessel within which existing television industry narratives—the rise of Netflix, the miniseries/limited series debate, the “dramedy” problem—are highlighted, complicated, and narrativized. Although who wins may not actually “matter,” it is nonetheless part of the process by which the television industry understands itself, and thus a piece in the puzzle of how we understand the television industry.

However, the Emmys rarely present themselves in this way: instead, they are a celebration of television, heralding the greatness of the medium in this golden era. But this year’s ceremony made no effort to narrativize the year in television beyond a brief opening countdown and a Weird Al Yankovic theme song parody medley, even eschewing the typical tributes to each genre as the ceremony moves from section to section. The show’s lack of flow—including the In Memoriam beginning with no introduction—left no room for any attempt to make it all mean something more than a collection of subjective evaluations of television quality mixed in with jokes for people who read Deadline, a choice that made the awards feel remarkably niche despite the fact that broadcast series performed surprisingly well, in opposition to Meyers’ monologue joke about cable and Netflix’s dominance.

SofiaSpinningThe lack of an effort to hail a more mainstream audience was particularly confusing when Television Academy president Bruce Rosenblum emerged for his speech about the state of the medium of television, the one moment in the show dedicated to the kind of self-narrativizing we’re used to seeing in other elements of the broadcast. However, Rosenblum delivered his speech as Sofia Vergara stood on a rotating platform as eye candy to distract us from this typical, “boring” award show ritual. The objectification of the bit was concerning, particularly given Rosenblum’s specific comments regarding the increased diversity of the Academy mashed up with Vergara’s “This is what it’s like in America” banter, but it was also puzzling given that the rest of the broadcast seemed designed for an audience tuned into the industrial logics surrounding multi-platform viewing.

The narrative of any given award show has always been discursive, determined by the winners and how those winners are spun by the press: you could sense the headlines changing as the night went on, with Modern Family and Breaking Bad’s continued success drowning out the possible “Rise of Netflix” or “Movie Stars on TV” narratives that were carried into the ceremony. The latter offered the broadcast’s most concentrated reference point, although one that was more reinforced by Jimmy Kimmel’s brief hosting takeover, Comedy Directing winner Gail Mancuso’s eye contact with McConaughey during her acceptance speech, and Julia Roberts’ inflection during her presenting gig than by any element of the production itself. In the absence of a production-sponsored narrative, narratives sprung from other elements of the evening, diving further into inside baseball territory as the night wore on.

It also, at least in my experience, amplified the role of social media in shaping these narratives. As following award shows on Twitter becomes a more accepted—if not necessarily mainstream—practice, it becomes a subsequent space through which award show broadcasts are translated. What would have historically been post-show overviews by trade press or major newspapers becomes color commentary and factual details that work in real time to transform the chaos of subjectivity into disappointment, excitement, surprise, or any other narrative imaginable. And when the broadcast itself is making minimal effort to contribute to that narrative itself or pull it away from the specifics of winners and losers, social media emerges to fill the gap for those choosing to view the show in a connected setting.

There is an argument to be made for an understated Emmys broadcast, especially given it came in at exactly three hours, but it creates a vacuum of meaning that needs to be explored further. While this results in some broad pro/con narratives in the context of the popular press, it also reminds us of the Academy’s disinterest in highlighting issues of race or gender in the context of their broadcast, and pushes us to continue exploring the identity politics—or lack thereof—of award shows that in their absence of narrative invites us to construct our own based on their disparate component parts and the filters through which we engage with them.


]]> 4
Category Agnostic: The 2014 Emmy Nominations Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:33:11 +0000 OITNB Emmy CoverBruce Rosenblum wanted this year’s Emmy nominations to be about how the Television Academy sits at the foreground of the television future. His suggestion during his opening remarks that “quality television is now platform agnostic” goes even further than previous remarks seeking to acknowledge the rise of Netflix and other streaming competitors. And while the arrival of Orange Is The New Black—competing with its first season a month after its second debuted on Netflix—means Netflix is a bigger story this year than last, platforms are not the story at this year’s Emmy nominations.

Agnosticism is, however. This year’s Emmy nominations demonstrate that notions of television quality are category agnostic, in that the same performers or series are likely to garner nominations even if they show up in a fundamentally different category than they appeared in previously, or if they emerge in a category that actively takes advantage of the vagaries of the Emmy nominations system. Whereas the rules governing Emmy Award categories—as I’ve discussed previously—can fundamentally shape who is nominated in meaningful ways, this year also reveals the inherent slipperiness of those categories in the midst of an increasingly competitive environment.

This slipperiness is not new—Downton Abbey has competed for both Miniseries and Drama Series, and the rise of the half-hour “dramedy” has inherently called into question the broad distinction between comedy and drama operating in the Emmy nominations process. But this year there is a much larger collection of series straddling these lines. True Detective, a close-ended miniseries that will return for a second stand-alone season, is nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, while Fargo—also a close-ended miniseries that could return for a second stand-alone season—is competing in Outstanding Miniseries (with American Horror Story, which brought this emergent television form into the Emmy conversation two years ago). Orange is the New Black competed as a Drama at the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes earlier this year, but is nominated as a Comedy at the Emmys (which is also competed as for the Writers’ Guild Awards). Shameless, which competed as a drama for three seasons, moved to Comedy and garnered William H. Macy his first nomination in a less crowded lead actor category. The Outstanding Miniseries category includes only one program we could unequivocally consider a miniseries, with the other five nominees each slotting into one category vagary—a short final season (Treme), canceled after a single season (The White Queen), a short British season (Luther)—or another.


This has typically been framed as “category fraud,” but such a term presumes there are explicit rules being broken, or that networks or channels making these choices are doing something “wrong.” While any categorization has to pass Academy scrutiny—Shameless had to apply for the change, for example—there is no real basis on which the Academy could refuse these distinctions. There is no rule against Netflix using the various other awards earlier in the year to test out how Orange Is The New Black competes as both a Drama and a Comedy before making a final decision. There is no rule against HBO taking True Detective out of the Miniseries category to maximize the channel’s chances of winning its first Drama Series Emmy since The Sopranos and leave the Movie/Miniseries field more open for Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart. While there are undoubtedly limits to a network or channel’s ability to redefine programming with a distinct generic or formal identity, this year reveals that those limits have yet to be reached.

screams-of-babylonIn truth, the Emmys have always been slightly category agnostic. History has shown voters will find certain actors or certain shows anywhere regardless of the category, nominated because of who they are more than because their performance was particularly well-liked—such “name-only” nominations may be primarily speculation (we cannot know for certain what Emmy voters did or did not watch), but Kristen Wiig’s nomination for her role in IFC’s absurdist miniseries Spoils of Babylon stands out as a case of voters finding Wiig—nominated five years in a row for her work on Saturday Night Live—in a different category rather than finding Spoils of Babylon (which only garnered a nomination for Theme Music otherwise).

But whereas those decisions only threaten to reveal that Emmy voters might not consider the quality of performance in relation to the category as the primary factor in their decision-making, a long-ago accepted reality of industry awards more broadly, these more recent developments have thrown into question the Academy’s entire structuring of the Emmy nominating process. It is a process that forces categorization without enforcing particular definitions of those categories, meaning that it fundamentally encourages discursive reworking of genre or formal identities while also forcing that discursive work to latch onto specific categories—Comedy or Drama, Series or Miniseries—that may or may not logically describe the programming in question.

The consequences of this are minimal: I may believe Orange is the New Black is a drama, but that “fraud” does not alter my relationship to the series in any meaningful way. Although I will continue to argue for the Emmys as a meaningful discursive space for engaging in questions of identity and in understandings of larger trends in how television value is determined, the slipperiness of the Emmy categories is—like coverage of prominent snubs—more a point of consternation than a point of meaningful contention.

Nonetheless, however, the sheer volume of categorical question marks this year is notable. Although the nominations suggest voters are category agnostic, the very existence of categorical distinctions suggests the Academy itself is not. And while it’s hard to imagine an Emmys without distinctions between comedy and drama, or between series and miniseries, the slippery nature of those terms raises the question of whether or not the Emmys will adapt either in conjunction with or in opposition to the discursive reframing of those categories by its members’ voting patterns or the networks and channels actively taking advantage of a malleable system.


Beyond the Nominations: The Emmys and Representation Tue, 01 Jul 2014 13:30:15 +0000 During last year’s Emmy Awards ceremony, Kerry Washington was feted by Diahann Carroll as a beacon for diversity in an award show dominated by white actors and actresses, particularly in lead categories. The nominations for categories like Lead Actress in a Drama Series, where Washington competed for her role on Scandal, are typically where this discussion takes place when engaging with the diversity of award shows.

However, this discussion truly begins in the months ahead of the Emmys. The numerous roundtable interviews and photo shoots organized by trade publications and wrestled over by publicists are where the politics of representation of awards season begin to form, while the Emmy submissions themselves offer a subsequent space in which such politics are negotiated.

thr_cover_emmy_actress_19This is particularly clear this year, given that Washington was notably absent from early Emmy campaigning, despite having been part of roundtables for both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety the previous year. This led to a Hollywood Reporter cover featuring the year’s top actresses, all of whom were white, and a Variety roundtable featuring six different lead actress contenders, all of whom were also white. Washington’s absence—likely tied to the fact she gave birth to her first child earlier this spring—offers a stark reminder that if not for Washington, there would be no women of color competitive in her category.

This is not to say that there are no other women of color submitted in the category: the official Emmy ballots revealed six, including Being Mary Jane’s Gabrielle Union, Sleepy Hollow’s Nicole Beharie, Elementary’s Lucy Liu, Nikita’s Maggie Q, and The Fosters’ Sherri Saum and Cierra Ramirez. Eliding for a moment the depressing statistic that only seven of the fifty-six women in the category are women of color, there are other reasons these women have been less visible than their counterparts. Issues of genre, network/channel branding, and cultural hierarchies of taste all make series like these less likely to draw Emmys in a dramatic field dominated by prestige cable dramas or network dramas with prestige cable auspices.

However, this does not necessarily exclude these women from participating in roundtables with major trade publications, provided their publicists—either associated with the network, studio, or the actress herself—work hard to get them there. Features like the Hollywood Reporter cover are competitive by nature, a coup for a publicist working hard to prove their worth to their client. But if you don’t have a publicist or agent who has played the Emmy game, or if you’re part of a show on a cable channel like BET with limited experience Emmy campaigning, there’s a good chance you will not be represented. And even if Gabrielle Union’s publicist had pushed for her to be included in one of these roundtables, would anyone have taken Union as a serious contender, given the low cultural standing of BET compared to the networks and channels dominant in the roundtables?

As Dear Black Woman reminds us, these realities do not render these situations ideologically neutral, because the optics they create are real, and offer a stark reminder of the state of diversity in not only the Emmys but in television more broadly. Rather, such considerations highlight how the Emmy nominating process functions as the intersection of multiple spaces of industry practice, each equally disinterested in confronting issues of diversity in a meaningful way unless someone like Washington emerges who fits the other requirements—a successful series, a reputable network, a strong publicity team—dominant in those spaces.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 11.40.46 AMWe can extend this into the submissions process itself. Transitioning to issues of gender, three examples stand out among the series and performers submitted for consideration. In the case of Amy Schumer, star and executive producer of Comedy Central’s sketch comedy series Inside Amy Schumer, she’s forced to compete in the Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category due to rules surrounding variety series. Although she is unlikely to garner a nomination in either category, the optics of the ballot push her into a supporting role on a show based around her comedy, and which in its appeal to female viewers signifies a meaningful shift in Comedy Central’s brand identity.

In other cases, Emmy campaigns reinforce broader readings of a series’ gender politics. HBO’s Silicon Valley focuses its satire on the male-dominated technology field, and in its short first season featured only one supporting female character in Monica, played by Amanda Crew. And although the show drew significant criticism for its engagement with gender, HBO nonetheless chose to submit every other credited actor in the series for Emmy consideration without submitting Crew, making it their only series without an acting submission from each gender. The chances of Crew being nominated are slim to none, but the optics of not even submitting her don’t seem worth the money saved with one less submission among their extensive slate.

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 11.18.43 AMIn the case of FX’s Fargo, broader channel strategy intersects with gender in problematic ways. Although Allison Tolman has been cited as the series’ lead actress in interviews with its creator, she is submitted as a supporting actress, a category she won at the recent Critics’ Choice Television Awards. There is an awards logic to this decision: Tolman is a newcomer without the name recognition of those likely to compete in Lead Actress, plus FX has a better shot in that category with American Horror Story’s Jessica Lange. And yet this strategy marginalizes Tolman to a lesser category (which was nearly eliminated last year), and pitches Fargo as a show with two male leads (Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman), which is notable given how some critics felt the finale worked to marginalize her character.

While the ideological dimensions of Emmy campaigning are made visible in trade publications, the same dimensions in Emmy submissions need to be excavated, and depending on the nominations may never make it past the ballots. However, exploring these questions reinforces that our understanding of the politics of the Emmys is not only driven by who is nominated or wins, but by how issues of race and gender are negotiated in the processes that lead to those results.


]]> 1
Why Kickstarter?: Corner Gas and Crowdfunding as Promotion Wed, 21 May 2014 13:30:45 +0000 CornerGasMovieWhen Zach Braff took to Kickstarter to fund Wish I Was Here—which debuts in theaters this summer—he was criticized for relying on crowdfunding when he has access to traditional methods of film financing. His reason was that he wanted to make the movie he saw in his head, and was having trouble finding investors who would give him final cut on the film.

The “Reason for Kickstarter” is a key part of any crowdfunding effort. Kickstarter is ultimately an investment: while perks provide a promise of return on investment, there is also the need to establish a need for investment in the first place. Veronica Mars needed fan investors because Warner Bros. wasn’t willing to give over the rights without proof of fan support. Blue Mountain State needed fan investors because they had the rights, but no traditional investors were willing to invest in a property with limited legible fan support. These narratives are crucial in navigating the complicated ethics of projects that come with industry auspices; they may not convince everyone that audiences are not being taken advantage of, but they at least offer a justification for why crowdsourcing is not only valuable but necessary for a given project to exist.

When conglomerate Bell Media and the producers of Canadian sitcom Corner Gas—which ran for six seasons on CTV from 2004 to 2009— revealed their fairly modest $100,000 Kickstarter for Corner Gas: The Movie, one passage stood out in the description:

“The best part about this campaign is that we already know we’re going to make the movie.”

It’s an admission that immediately takes this out of the same crowdfunding conversation as projects like Veronica Mars or Blue Mountain State, although that hasn’t stopped the popular press from lumping them together. Corner Gas: The Movie demonstrates a meaningful shift in the function of Kickstarter, in which it is being taken on as a platform for promotion rather than as a platform for investment.

In the absence of need, the Kickstarter description—and the accompanying video—frame the purpose of the Kickstarter in the following terms:

“Yes, the campaign will help us enhance the movie, but first and foremost, it allows us to give all of our wonderful fans a once-in-a lifetime chance to be a part of the process, and get some awesome, exclusive rewards.”

The video featuring creator Brent Butt expands on these details, suggesting enhancements such as more realistic visual effects for the script’s robots and werewolves and detailing the “Backers’ Club,” which is unlocked with a $25 “investment.” However, to call it an investment would be misleading, given that the description is clear that the majority of the funds raised by the Kickstarter will be going to the fulfillment of the various perks—including speaking roles, set tours, DVDs, and T-shirts—being offered. Whereas perks are typically positioned as a way to offer fair exchange for an investment in the film, in this case the perks are the entire reason the Kickstarter exists: it is suggested in the Frequently Asked Questions that producers had grand ideas to create a great fan experience including behind-the-scenes updates and exclusive merchandise, but didn’t have the budget to pay for it.

CornerGasTheMovie2Rather than funding the film, then, fans are being asked to fund the film’s promotional campaign. Whereas typically the cost of a behind-the-scenes documentary would be considered part of the promotion for a film—thinking here of examples like Peter Jackson’s video diaries for King Kong and the Hobbit trilogy—it’s now been transformed into a perk for those willing to pay for the privilege to be marketed to. Those who are willing to commodify their fandom in exchange for access to the Backers’ Club or for posters and bumper stickers are not ensuring the movie takes place, but are rather enlisting in the producers’ efforts to echo the grassroots success of Veronica Mars in ways that will garner the film more attention, efforts that executive producer Virginia Thompson—who admits this is about marketing and not investment—suggests to are necessary due to the inability for Canadian films to get noticed when competing against major Hollywood films with larger marketing budgets.

Producers have taken a preemptively defensive posture in regards to the Kickstarter: in The National Post, Butt predicts

“there’s always going to be a cynical group that says, ’What’s the possible stinky downside to this?’ You can’t not do something good just because someone might find a crappy cloud to put over it.”

However, why should fans be forced to pay to get access to behind-the-scenes features if they already paid by being a loyal fan for six seasons? Where does the $450—the amount fans pay above the $300 for earlier perks—for naming a character go when there is no cost to the production to fulfill the perk in question? What kind of fan economy is being created when “perks” like walk-on roles become something fans pay the production in order to acquire, rather than something that fans win in a contest or in a charity auction? Why should fans be responsible for bridging the gap between the promotion of Canadian and American films as opposed to the conglomerate producing the film in question? And, most importantly, why couldn’t this Fan Club be established outside of the space of crowdfunding, which gives the impression of need where no need exists, likely for the purpose of tapping into the spreadability and visibility of crowdfunding in the contemporary moment (and creating some misleading news reports in the process)?

Whereas Butt frames these concerns—expressed by others in the wake of the announcement—as cynical, they are central to the negotiation of the meanings of fandom within the context of Kickstarter. While any successful Kickstarter for an existing series or intellectual property is predicated on translating fandom into dollars and cents, the terms of that exchange are typically justified by the fact that the production would not exist otherwise. In this case, however, fans are being asked to pay to be a part of fandom and to ensure the production offers fans a meaningful experience (or, more accurately, an effective marketing campaign). The success of the Kickstarter—which passed its goal overnight—would suggest that fans are willing to do so; whether they’ll feel their “investment” was worth it by the end remains uncertain.


]]> 3
Pre-Prime: HBO’s Off-Channel Revenue Legacy Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:50:07 +0000 TheWire_Complete_intIt makes sense we would focus on the future. HBO’s streaming deal with Amazon Prime is clearly an effort to prepare for a streaming future, enabling HBO to have both a branding presence and a revenue stream tied to an increasing amount of viewers who stream their television instead of subscribing to cable or satellite services.

There is plenty to talk about regarding that future. Will audiences who currently subscribe to HBO be more likely to cut the cord if they could access (only select) HBO programming three years later than if they subscribed to the service? Probably not. Will existing—particularly young—cordcutters become more likely to subscribe to HBO in the future when they’re in a financial position to do so if they’re more engaged with the channel’s library? Maybe. Will HBO ever make current flagship series Game of Thrones available on Amazon Prime while it’s still airing? Doubtful.

As interesting as those questions are, I want to consider how this deal reflects the history of HBO embracing new forms of distribution in the interest of connecting with audiences unable to afford or unwilling to pay for HBO subscriptions. Although often marginalized within these conversations in the contemporary moment, both syndication and home video were once similar points of outreach for HBO and other cable channels, and they are implicitly a significant factor in HBO’s current streaming strategy even if they go unnamed in official press releases.

HBO’s decision may be primarily focused on the streaming future, but it is predicated on the home video past. In an age before streaming, DVD sets were how you caught up with a show like The Wire, and even in the wake of HBO GO it was how you caught up with The Wire without having to subscribe to cable (at least if you weren’t borrowing someone else’s HBO GO password). With premium price tags and elaborate packaging, sets for series like Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Rome, and Deadwood were a key space where HBO could package their prestige programming for a different audience.

If that DVD market were still healthy, one imagines HBO might have been more resistant to signing streaming deals that will further limit the appeal of those library titles: although DVD/Blu-Rays of current series will retain value (both for collectors and those unwilling to wait three years for them to arrive to Amazon), I would be interested to see if the company’s print runs on legacy DVD sets begin to shrink even further. Without knowing the financial details behind the Amazon deal, it seems safe to say that HBO ran the numbers of how this might affect their DVD business, and that their decision to embrace off-channel streaming is a tacit acknowledgement that the TV on DVD bubble burst some time ago.

image11-350x205If the Amazon deal signals HBO moving past its legacy DVD business, however, it simultaneously signals their inability to completely move past its limited foray into syndication. Notably absent from the deal are three comedy series that were sold into both basic cable and broadcast syndication: Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Sex and the City. Although the first two were quickly pulled from broadcast syndication after heavy editing gutted their appeal, edited episodes of Sex and the City had a stronger run on broadcast, a banner run on TBS, and currently air on E!, while both Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage retain cable syndication deals on TV Land and Comedy Central, respectively.

Although all three are offered as part of HBO GO, they are absent from the Amazon announcement, implying that the nature of HBO’s contracts prohibits their sale of that content to streaming services while existing syndication deals are in place. In the case of Sex and the City, which entered into syndication before streaming was even a thing that existed, its most recent deals have been explicit about the role of streaming: reporting about its current deal with E! suggests online rights were included in the deal. While streaming deals and syndication deals may function somewhat differently, more recent syndication deals would appear to have offered streaming as part of the package, which seemingly makes it impossible for HBO to re-license that content to a third party in any capacity while existing deals are in place.

Premium cable’s relationship with streaming has always been complicated: Showtime and Starz each ended content deals with Netflix in order to build greater value into their own subscription streaming services, with Showtime only recently returning to Netflix with Dexter following the series’ conclusion. None have jumped in head first because they run on business models that require careful cultivation of value centered on subscriptions but relying on these sources of ancillary revenue (and exposure). The delay in HBO’s case is tied to both their efforts to translate their library into a subscription incentive through HBO GO—which were clearly not so successful that HBO could refuse Amazon’s likely rich financial offer—and the fact that they remain linked to previous equivalents to streaming’s ability to extend their content beyond the premium cable paywall.

HBO’s deal with Amazon signals their willingness to move past one of those models, and their inability to move past another, at least until the current syndication deals run out. When that happens, though, we will gain greater insight into how these two forms of value compare. If cable channels remain willing to pay a premium for edited versions of Sex and the City, are Amazon’s terms lucrative enough to compete? While our focus on the future makes the choice of streaming seem like common sense, HBO’s focus on the bottom line could make a different decision with streaming than it did with its legacy DVD business when the time comes.


]]> 1
Bro-Friendly Fandom: The Blue Mountain State Kickstarter Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:00:06 +0000 Blue Mountain State has the potential to live on despite lacking its progenitor's coverage, prestige, and formalized fan engagement.]]> BMSMoviePosterWhen Veronica Mars launched a Kickstarter campaign, it was immediately legible—the series was well known in critical and academic circles, its fan community had been active both during and after the series concluded its three-season run, and its stars had gone on to further success and remained [semi-]prominent figures in pop culture discourse. The idea of a Kickstarter may have been novel, but it nonetheless made immediate sense discursively, creating a steady stream of engagement from fans, journalists, critics, and scholars alike.

This delicate calculus is not necessarily the case for other television projects with an eye on resurrection. While names like NBC’s Chuck or ABC’s Pushing Daisies would match Veronica Mars’ legibility, a show like Spike’s Blue Mountain State is less likely to emerge in the same conversations. And yet the raunchy college football series is technically the first since Veronica Mars to take to Kickstarter to fund a feature film extension of a canceled show, and it comes with built-in contradictions that challenge our understanding of audiences, fans, and crowdfunding alike.

In the abstract, Blue Mountain State makes a strong case for resolution. Debuting in 2010, the series was abruptly canceled after its third season when Spike chose to focus its attention on unscripted content, leaving the characters’ college football careers a senior year away from being completed. It was a victim of a changing climate where channels like Spike chose reality programming as the most efficient way to draw audiences and compete for ad dollars. The decision left fans of the series without a conclusion, and the creators have been on the record for the past two years that they intended on trying to make that conclusion a reality.

However, all of this was happening outside of the locations—trade and popular press, critics, etc.—where the Veronica Mars Kickstarter took root, to the point where it’s likely some aren’t even aware the Blue Mountain State Kickstarter—which is asking for $1.5 million after negotiating for the rights from Lionsgate—exists. Whereas Veronica Mars had been legitimated by its critical acclaim and the success of its cast, Blue Mountain State was marginalized from popular television discourse during its three-season run based on its lowbrow humor and testosterone-fueled Spike’s reputation. Although hyper-masculinized dramas are often well regarded, the hyper-masculinized comedy of Blue Mountain State was soundly dismissed by critics; the New York Times called it “dumb even by frat-boy standards,” while Variety dubbed it “a mindless torrent of homophobic taunts, bouncing boobs, and…masturbation.” The series also drew only solid ratings, performing well in season two but then falling to under a million viewers for its final season (which is less than what COPS reruns are drawing on Spike in 2014).

What this obscures, though, is how Blue Mountain State has connected with young audiences outside of the metrics and discourses most easily visible and counted within the television industry. The series has benefited from its presence on Netflix, where it can connect with young viewers more likely to stream television content than turn on televisions they may or may not own (and which may be a distribution option for the film should it be funded); anecdotally, the series was a surprisingly common presence on a first-day survey of undergraduate Intro to Television students, suggesting the series has connected with audiences that are unlikely to be counted by Nielsen. The Kickstarter would seem to reflect this, creating a “College Contest” where the school whose students donate the most money will get a special cast screening should the campaign be successful.

BlueMountainStatePosterA survey of the comments claiming college affiliation also reveals that the vast majority of the Kickstarter contributors—over 3,200 as of April 16th—are male. This matches the series’ demographic appeals, as it relied heavily on scantily-clad women in its marketing and storytelling, but diverges from how we typically imagine fan engagement. Although we often perceive men—particularly the series’ key demographic of men 18-34—as a prime advertising target and thus valued by the industry, we rarely consider those audiences as the type of fans who would go so far as to pay to see a series resurrected. That kind of organized fandom has more commonly been associated with women, as part of a broader feminization of fan culture—over half of the Veronica Mars kickstarter backers were women, for instance, despite the fact that Kickstarter’s membership is predominantly male.

In much the same way as cable channels like Spike work to engage a young male demographic that has historically been difficult to capture, the Blue Mountain State Kickstarter works to tap into a predominantly male fandom that has been less often asked or expected to express said fandom. If successful, though, it may be because it provides those fans a space in which their connection to a series can be quantified, transformed from emotional or affective engagement with a program to a financial investment in its future. Whereas sending fan letters or attending fan conventions have been discursively feminized, Kickstarter as a platform remains relatively free from such strict gender coding, making it a space that—depending on the gender appeals of the content being Kickstarted—can be framed as welcoming to male audiences like those invested in Blue Mountain State’s future (and like the men who make up the majority of Kickstarter’s members).

While some labeled the Veronica Mars Kickstarter a “fluke,” it was inevitable that another series would attempt to follow its example. However, although ostensibly following in that series’ footsteps, Blue Mountain State emphasizes the importance of context when evaluating Kickstarter as a platform, striking a similar appeal to a different audience. Although no series can directly follow Veronica Mars’ example and attain the same success, a series like Blue Mountain State can tap into other affordances of the Kickstarter platform to engage its audience in the same way that Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell engaged with theirs. By leveraging Kickstarter as a safe space for masculinized fan engagement, Blue Mountain State has the potential to live on despite lacking the mainstream coverage, critical prestige, and history of formalized fan engagement of its progenitor.

Edit: The Blue Mountain State Kickstarter reached its funding goal on May 11th, 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 9.12.44 AM