Industry – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Original or Exclusive? Shifts in Television Financing and Distribution Shift Meanings Fri, 01 Jan 2016 15:00:40 +0000 netflixoriginalseries

By  Amanda D. Lotz and Timothy Havens

In addition to increasing the possible objects of study, broadband-distributed television services have introduced new challenges to grounding the television shows we study in their industrial milieu. In truth, this is not an issue that originates with broadband services—it has been a part of international distribution for some time—but has become more acute since the late 1980s, when co-productions became common in Europe, Asia, and the Americas as a way to compete against a growing onslaught of US imports. Before that, if you knew a show’s country of origin, it was pretty easy to ascertain what entity it had been produced for: even though many public broadcasters acquired programming from independent producers, they nevertheless aired it on their national broadcast channels. With some noteworthy exceptions, very little television produced outside the US at this time traveled beyond its nation of origin.

Pinpointing a television series’ industrial and national origins became more complicated as cable and satellite introduced a greater range and variety of television services around the globe. These newcomers were often commercial distributors in systems where public service broadcasting had long dominated, as well as various advertising-subscription hybrid services, as was the case for most US cable channels. Not only did the upstarts tend to source their programming much more widely than their broadcast counterparts; they also quickly developed sister channels in multiple markets that shared program acquisitions.

Television programming has consequently expanded its flow through international markets and now more regularly flows in countervailing directions. The greater diversity of services that deliver programming and the greater diversity of flows have made it more challenging for scholars to develop a shared understanding of the impact that industrial conditions have on programming decisions and the meanings we associate with particular programs, because changes in distributors reinscribe how we understand shows as they move beyond their original licensing distributor. For example, what is an “HBO show”? A show produced by HBO and aired in the US on HBO, as was the case of The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and Six Feet Under? Does The Leftovers’ production by Warner Bros. make it less of an HBO show, or does the distinction hold because through produced by another studio, it was created for the logics of a subscriber supported service?

The more difficult question is are these still HBO shows when they air on Sky Atlantic, Canal Plus, and HBO Nordic? What about Homeland? The US-based scholar would immediately categorize it as a Showtime “original”—or at least as one produced under the logics of subscriber-funded television (though it is produced by Fox 21)—but how is that show defined in a conversation between a US based scholar and one in Denmark who watches Homeland on HBO Nordic, which is also the source of The Walking Dead? And what about co-productions? Should they always be described as sourced by all financial contributors or just those involved creatively?

Netflix’s marketers have added to the challenge with its liberal use of the term “original” in marketing, typically marketing any show it has exclusive rights to in a country as “original”—hence Netflix claimed Lilyhammer was a “Netflix original” in the US and often claims shows produced for other US networks and channels as “original” in markets outside the US. But we would argue that the only “Netflix originals” are those Netflix pays to have produced. Most of what Netflix promotes as original content is more accurately described as “exclusive” in a particular market (though they seem to be somewhat liberal in calling programming “Netflix originals” even by this designation!)

All we’re really arguing for is the need to follow the money in order to discern for what type of entity the series we write about are produced. Such distinctions are important to discussions of texts because the mandate (commercial; public service) and business model of the entity it is created for (advertising; subscription; advertising and subscription) ends up imprinted upon it in ways often relevant to the argument at hand. Thus, the sale of shows in secondary markets can obscure those origins. And while we may think that much of this is reasonably beyond the notice of general viewers, it certainly matters for television scholars looking to make precise claims about industrial conditions and representation.

But we would like to push this observation even further, to encourage scholars to consider the ways in which various and subsequent industrial practices and conditions leave their mark on the programming we encounter and our orientations toward that programming. We believe that multiple iterations of industrial authorship—the production company, the original channel, the syndicator, and subsequent channels can be thought of as what Derrida calls a “trace.” For Derrida, the trace is the absent other that makes meaning possible; the other side of a binary, such as “woman” is to “man,” which is necessary to make any term meaningful. But the trace is more than this: it contains within it all of the meanings and contradictions that have accrued to a signifier over time, much like the endless links of chain Jacob Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol drags behind him wherever he goes.

Economic practices, industrial arrangements, brands, and corporate cultures all leave a trace on programming. These traces range from the obvious to the barely perceptible, but they undoubtedly shape televisual representations and viewers’ engagements with those representations.


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TIFF 2015 Report Wed, 23 Sep 2015 17:27:35 +0000 IMG_0867Originally known as the “Festival of Festivals,” the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) celebrated its 40th anniversary between September 10th and 20th. The ten-day annual festival is a bustling, temporal, and often chaotic experience of navigating particular festival procedures, cultures, and cityscapes. The festival space encompasses a variety of operations and attracts well over 400,000 participants who descend upon Canada’s media capital to watch movies and talk business. Similar to other major international film festivals, TIFF serves as a microcosm for understanding contemporary media industries where activities span production, distribution, and exhibition as well as reflect the evolving nature of film festivals.

A couple of things are distinct about TIFF. First, the festival opened a permanent space known as the TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2010. Located in a centrally coveted Toronto neighborhood, the expansive facility serves as the organization’s headquarters and heart of the festival but also as a center for archival research, media education, and cultural events throughout the year. Second, TIFF is a public festival open to anyone and everyone without a formalized film market as is the case with its peer festival of Berlin or Hong Kong. The majority of attendees are the general public with only a small percentage holding industry credentials. On the one hand, essentially anyone can go online or to a theater venue to buy tickets for any film featured in one of the sixteen film series. On the other hand, access is still a major factor. For films with significant buzz or bigger stars, tickets may sell out quickly for any of the two to three public screenings. Yet, audience members can “rush” a screening an hour or more prior to the start time to purchase any available tickets. Industry credentials provide another layer of access and are available to professionals including buyers, sellers, filmmakers, producers, and more recently scholars. Access to an industry badge reveals a more multi-faceted view of festival activities beyond public screenings and red carpet premieres. Industry passes allow entry to closed press and industry screenings as well as a separate industry conference with a week of panels discussing the current state of the film business.


Finally, TIFF is classified as a non-competitive festival. Film selections are not categorized as “In Competition” nor does it offer competitive prizes awarded by a high profile jury in the case of Cannes, Berlin, or Sundance.[1] The major award emerging from TIFF is the People’s Choice Award. General attendees vote over the ten-day period by dropping a film ticket of their choice into a voting box gathered by festival volunteers. The Irish-Canadian co-production Room (2015, dir. Larry Abrahamson) won the 2015 People’s Choice Award. Some festival films often exchange or parlay premiere coverage and critical reception into a Hollywood award season run from industry guild awards to the Academy Awards. Upon the announcement of Room‘s People’s Choice win, Deadline Hollywood and The Hollywood Reporter began speculating about the film’s Oscar prospects. The capital or value garnered from a film’s TIFF positioning and subsequent promotional campaign may unfold over time through a subsequent industry award season performance to a successful theatrical and/or home entertainment release. In other words, the lifespan of a film’s financial, cultural, and industrial impact only begins in Toronto.

Room press conference
Beyond its impact on the local economy, urban redevelopment, and Canadian film industry, one of TIFF’s function is to position and launch recent film premieres of large-scale Hollywood studio productions like Ridley Scott’s The Martian starring Matt Damon or Scott Cooper’s Black Mass featuring Johnny Depp. TIFF also programs and supports a number of international art house fare and first-time filmmakers including Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang or Simon Fitzmaurice’s My Name is Emily, respectively. As a media industries scholar who primarily utilizes fieldwork, industry interviews, and participant observation, I was struck by the varied networks of promotional activities during the event. I ground this initial discussion in a rich tradition of film festival studies that incorporates ethnography and insider positionality to explore film festival dynamics. Particularly, using the case of Room, I was able to trace the film’s circulation and promotional activities across the festival’s short period by attending a number of events from the initial press conference encompassing around 40 journalists to a press screening full of critics, journalists, buyers, and so on. Each festival space operates by its own distinct rules and culture yet is bound by a similar trajectory of promotion and spin. The tightly controlled press conference Q&A featuring the director, screenwriter/author, and central cast was structured differently and offered a unique tone from the largely casual morning press screening or highly ritualized public premiere and celebratory Q&A afterwards with director and cast.


In addition to my own investment in exploring an on-the-ground methodology, I had a pedagogical opportunity to experience the festival alongside a group of my Oakland University undergraduate students. My colleague Brendan Kredell and I spent the past year organizing a student trip to TIFF to correspond with a team-taught course on film festivals that we are teaching during the fall 2015 semester. A group of 18 students, comprised of junior and senior Cinema Studies students from our university, attended screenings, industry conference panels, red carpet events, and OU-organized master classes. Since there are over 400 films screened each year at TIFF, each student curated or created their own experience shaped largely by the chosen film series, panels, and events they attended. As part of our film festivals course, the students conducted their own fieldwork keeping research notebooks, posting daily blog entries, shooting footage for a short documentary, and participating in a class podcast. The trip served as a pilot program combining an interactive festival experience with creative production projects, film criticism, industry research, and professionalization opportunities.

By combining my interest and investment in the media industries as a teacher-scholar, Toronto International Film Festival offered a number of opportunities to examine festival structures, film cultures, reception activities, cultural geographies, and industry dynamics for myself, my colleague, and our students. As the Toronto-based event evolves each year, so does the scholarly and pedagogical project. For example, the festival introduced a series this year called Primetime featuring television dramas. While the relationship between television and film festival is not a new one, it does signal a shift in TIFF’s structural organization and how it may be reimagining its brand. As TIFF evolves to reflect the changing nature of the media industries, it provides a temporal learning experience and experiment for exploring the complexities and dynamics of global media as well as expanding our classroom beyond the walls of the university.

[1] A new film series—Platform—was introduced this year and featured a dozen “best of international cinema” selections bound outside of any country quotas. In celebration of the festival’s anniversary, a jury was chosen to judge the Toronto Platform Prize for best film in this category. As I learned from a conversation with my colleague Brendan Kredell, the international film festival body FIAPF grants TIFF a special “non-competitive” status unlike peer competitive festivals Cannes and Berlin.


Notes from the Telluride Film Festival Sun, 13 Sep 2015 13:00:34 +0000 poster

Post by Mary Beth Haralovich, University of Arizona

A film festival is an individual experience. For Tucsonans, the Telluride Film Festival begins with a long day’s drive from 2,500 feet to 10,000 feet elevation through canyons, chaparral, forest, wildflowers, rock formations, up into the San Juan Mountains. Once in town, in rain-sun-snow, we walk among the nine screening venues, seminars in the park, conversations in the courthouse, and a Vimeo suite playing found footage documentaries by Adam Curtis, a 2015 Silver Medallion awardee.

The Telluride fest is put on by a staff of more than 800, mostly volunteers. Only a few venues exist as fixed seat theaters. A school gymnasium is converted into a state-of-the-art screening venue with comfortable raked seats, 35mm, 70mm and even 3D capability. The Werner Herzog with its 650 ruby red seats and curtained walls is an ice hockey rink. One of the smaller houses, Le Pierre, is a climbing gym now decorated with huge images of old 35mm film cans celebrating long-time Telluride fest curator Pierre Rissient. The Chuck Jones evokes his Martian cartoons. The Galaxy décor is a trip to the moon and beyond. The ingenuity of Telluride’s venues never fails to astound.

Telluride is a welcoming and friendly festival. And there are always surprises. During the intermission between the two parts of Die Niebelungen (Fritz Lang, 1924, 275 minutes plus intermission)–Siegfried and Kreimheld’s Revenge–the fest offered filmgoers complimentary beer and brats, freshly grilled on the patio outside the Herzog. Before the screening of the restored art deco L’inhumaine (Marcel L’Herbier, 1924), curator Serge Bromberg took a photo of the audience to send to the daughter of the woman who played the peasant. The daughter was born nine months after the film was made. The Alloy Orchestra performed its original score live, voicing chanteuse Claire Lescot (Georgette Leblanc) with the delicate treble of a hand saw.

This inventive environment is casual and easy-going. Telluride is not a market and there are no paparazzi. Films and filmmakers are not ballyhooed in advance or at the fest. There are Telluride regulars–Alexander Payne, Werner Herzog, Ken Burns, Peter Sellars, Serge Bromberg, Laura Linney, Pierre Rissient–and well-known film creatives with new releases. This year, one could run into Idris Elba, Meryl Streep, Tom Noonan, Rooney Mara, Danny Boyle, and more.

There are several types of passes. Some include the opening night feed on the main street and the Labor Day picnic in the park. The food is tasty and there are vegan and vegetarian options. It is possible to have a great fest without a pass, as there are free screenings (passholders usually have priority), outdoor screenings at the Abel Gance, book and poster signings, and open seminars. I get the curated Cinephile pass with access to Telluride’s impressive film history dimension as well as independent and foreign films. On Labor Day, after the picnic, the Cinephile passholder has access to the more mainstream films.


My Cinephile pass will color this report. The only new release-with-stars that I saw was Carol, Todd Haynes’ splendid 1950s lesbian drama. The film evoked not only the look of the 1950s (somewhere I have the bracelet that Cate Blanchett is wearing!) with nods to Ross Hunter-Douglas Sirk melodrama, but also the feel of 1950s lesbian fiction. It is a great pleasure to see a luscious mainstream film with the gold standard projection and screening space that is a hallmark of the Telluride Film Fest. We might have seen Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle), but chose instead to experience curator/archivist Paolo Cherchi Usai’s experimental pilgrimage, Picture (2015, 68 minutes) with its two pages of film theory as an introduction and live performance by Alloy Orchestra.

Our three favorite current films were Taxi from Iran, Ixcanul from Guatemala, and Siti from Indonesia. Taxi (Jafar Panahi) was the film most often screened at the fest. In his inspired and inspiring introduction, festival director Peter Sellars situated Taxi at the cusp of freedom and restriction. Panahi is under house arrest and forbidden from making films for 20 years, yet he made Taxi. Panahi could not travel to Berlin to receive the Golden Bear yet the government congratulated him on the award. Taxi is experimental documentary, political commentary, and joyous comic encounters.


The dramatic and realist story in Ixcanul (Jayra Bustamente) is based on the life of the actress playing Maria in the film. The Mayan peasant lifestyle on a coffee plantation on the side of a volcano is so beautifully realized that audiences were astounded to learn that Maria’s father is played by a dentist. Maria’s mother, the heart of the film, is a woman of incredible mental, emotional, physical, and intellectual strength. She is played by a Mayan peasant who joined an acting troupe after she became widowed. This film held us in rapt attention. Later, we learned the production story behind the film.

Festival director Pierre Rissient brought Siti (Eddie Cayhono) and the short Cinema (Eric Khoo, Singapore). Cinema tells the story of a low-budget horror film production decades later as the now elderly crew gathers in a sound stage. Siti is a film about a young single mother, working in a karaoke to raise funds to pay off the debt of her invalid husband. The film weaves throughout a subtle motif of the sea.

One consistent characteristic of the Telluride fest is the opportunity to see films that are rarely screened and otherwise not available. This year’s guest director, novelist Rachel Kushner, brought rarely seen films by Jean Eustache (France), Ted Kotcheff (Australia), Robert Frank (Switzerland), Francesco Rosi (Italy), and a program with short films by Jean Renoir, Agnès Varda, and Jean-Luc Godard.

There was a strong political cinema strand. Participant Media received the annual Special Medallion that “celebrates a hero of cinema” and Adam Curtis received a Silver Medallion tribute. Curtis makes docs culled from archival footage shot by BBC journalists. From terabytes of footage covering Afghanistan, Bitter Lake (2015) traces the rise of ISIS from its roots in a post-WWII meeting between the dying Franklin Roosevelt and the Saudi Arabian monarch. The fest screened Participant Media 2015 films Spotlight, Beasts of No Nation, and He Named Me Malala.


A special Telluride treat is “Retour de Flamme” (saved from the flames of nitrate) with cinema raconteur, restoration artist, and showman Serge Bromberg. This is typically a one-off show at the old Sheridan Opera House (230 seats), so get in line early. Bromberg tells the story of the discovery of missing footage, shows clips from the various extant prints, and illustrates the restoration process. This year we were treated to a Chaplin short, a Keaton short, and the world premiere of the restored Laurel and Hardy monumental rollicking pie fight in Battle of the Century (1928). Props to Laurel and Hardy for giving the biggest laugh at the end to an unidentified woman’s hilarious slapstick performance.

There is much more film at Telluride than this report covers. As the weekend proceeded, people talk about what they liked and didn’t like. It is interesting how different the Telluride experience can be. In the recent jockeying for “world premiere” stature by the Toronto International Film Festival, Telluride seems quite content to “world premiere” slapstick comedy and restored films from history. Cinephile passholders are very happy.


Disney Deletes TRON 3: End of Line? Fri, 05 Jun 2015 14:00:21 +0000 TRON 3 is symptomatic of the company's inability to find an appropriate strategy to bridge disparate pieces under one unified brand.]]> Tron_Uprising_title_card

Post by Nicholas Benson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In the wake of the news that Disney will not move forward with the (unconfirmed) plans to make a third TRON film, fans of the TRON universe have started a petition in favor of the movie, while journalists have more predictably started speculating as to why Disney has decided to cancel production. Both the fan-lead petition and the speculative articles reduce the decision to a financial one. These views, as with most popular opinions about the industry, fail to consider the complex history Disney has with the TRON property. Given that history, Disney’s indecision about the property, in combination with their recent failed attempts to expand the Disney live-action brand (John Carter (2012), The Lone Ranger (2013), and Tomorrowland (2015)), rather reflects the company’s inability to reconcile the disconnect between their branded properties and their acquired ones so they may be more explicitly associated with the Disney brand.


Currently, Disney has two financially successful properties in Marvel and Star Wars. Although these two properties bring in money from the male demographics that Disney has long sought after, in the mind of the average audience member neither of those properties are likely seen as truly belonging to Disney—for example, my guess is it will likely be a long while before you see a poster that says Disney’s The Force Awakens. The italic Disney signature doesn’t even appear above the Star Wars Rebels logo, a series made by and for the Disney channel. Due to Disney’s lack of brand presence within these films, the success of these franchises does little to contribute to the Disney brand in and of itself, independent of the acquired properties. On the other hand, the content that Disney is generating that is seen as truly Disney entertainment, such as the recent live action Cinderella, or the upcoming live action Beauty and the Beast, is perceived as being either for girls, children, or Disney fanatics.

original-tron-tron-with-dTRON, on the other hand, is a property that is perpetually stuck somewhere in between those two Disney spheres. Aesthetically and thematically it feels more like Star Wars or The Avengers. The dark corners of the grid have more in common with Star Wars’ Coruscant than Alice’s Wonderland. Yet, TRON is actually an original Disney property like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast and therefore carries with it the Disney seal of fantasy and wonder. The original TRON does not resonate with Disney fans, nor does it really resonate with sci-fi fans: it is a cult classic, one that a very select group of mainly programmers and computer aficionados hold to be something of an inspiration.

Despite their current reluctance to commit, Disney has—or had—big dreams for TRON. TRON has historically represented Disney’s desire to expand and grow its brand beyond family friendly entertainment to appeal to a broader audience. TRON came at a time when Disney was having an identity crisis and on the verge of financial collapse. The company sought to capitalize on the popularity and franchising success of sci-fi adventures brought on by the success of Star Wars. The original 1982 film tells the story of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) a young computer hacker who gets sucked into a computer. It goes without saying that TRON was hardly at home in the house that Mickey Mouse built, but that was exactly the point. Disney wanted to show they could do more than family friendly animation. Yet, despite their best efforts and a small cult following, the movie failed to have the cultural impact that Disney wanted.


It was thirty years before they gave TRON a second chance. Disney had found some success in live action films in the early 2000s with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies which resonated with both Disney fans (because of its origins as a Disneyland ride), and with general fans of action adventure movies (because it was good). TRON was certainly an attempt to not only keep that going but bring it to the next level. Disney fired up the franchise machine on all cylinders, and TRON: Legacy was released in 2010. Despite mixed critical reception, the sequel became a relative financial success making almost $400 million worldwide.

However, financial success was only a piece of what Disney was after with TRON. What they really wanted was what Lucasfilm had, a lucrative transmedia franchise with staying power that appealed to males of all ages. In the spirit of what Star Wars was doing with The Clone Wars, Disney produced the animated series TRON: Uprising for their network Disney XD. Although the series was well done and received fairly positive reviews, the ratings failed to meet expectations and the show was deemed a failure and canceled after one season. Soon after, Disney purchased Star Wars and the hype around TRON slowly died out. Rumors of a sequel never went away, and Disney still drew on the property from time to time. For example in Disney’s California Adventure a TRON-themed dance party continued nightly until mid-2012, and recently Disney put out two characters from Legacy as a digital exclusive for their Disney Infinity 2.0 iOS App, with plans to release physical versions of the figures with the upcoming Disney Infinity 3.0.

Disney is likely not done exploiting the TRON franchise. Their decision to officially announce the cancellation of a production that was never officially announced seems more like a buzz-generating tactic than a nail in the coffin. However, the real value of TRON is in its potential to be embraced by a male audience as a purely Disney branded product. While Disney’s current strategy of retreating into their back catalogue of animated classics and remaking them as live-action blockbusters might prove to be financially successful, it also further ties the Disney brand to traditional family values and separates it from the Marvel and Star Wars properties that it has recently purchased. Their hesitation to move forward with TRON 3 is symptomatic of their inability to find an appropriate strategy that bridges these disparate pieces of the company under one unified Disney brand.


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Black Widow and Whedon Exceptionalism: Accounting for Sexism in Age of Ultron and the MCU Fri, 15 May 2015 19:46:56 +0000

Post by Piers Britton, University of Redlands

As I started planning this post, a few days before the general release of the second Avengers movie, issues of authorship and creative control—and attendant problems of narrative cogency in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—already seemed to offer a fruitful basis for comment and reflection. Not for the first time in his career, Ultron’s writer-director Joss Whedon was telling stories of conflict between himself and studio executives. At first remarks were notionally at his own expense: he jokily characterized the development of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as his misunderstanding of the studio’s brief for his three-year contract. Apparently his abrupt withdrawal from day-to-day creative involvement in the ABC series was the result of Marvel’s primarily wanting him to focus on the Avengers sequel. In the wake of Ultron’s release, in a podcast for Empire, Whedon painted a starker picture of creative differences that apparently opened up during production of the movie. He claimed that Marvel executives held to ransom the more surreal and intimately personal passages in Ultron, namely the vignettes of the heroes’ troubled visions brought on by Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and the sequence at a secluded farmhouse, owned by Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), which allowed for various ruminative two-handers between the principal characters. These are arguably the most “Whedonesque” segments of the blockbuster. According to Whedon, the Marvel team was preoccupied with scenes that tied into, and teased, future MCU movies, viz., those showing the mantic Thor bathing in the Waters of Sight. In short, Whedon offered a narrative of conflict between authorial sensibility and industry logic – Age of Ultron as an internally coherent, emotionally resonant text versus Age of Ultron as an iteration in a cycle – and thus a de facto preview of forthcoming attractions underscoring the fact that the MCU is “all connected.”

Almost at once this narrative of authorial conflict was overshadowed by a more immediately newsworthy one, which again spoke to tensions between individual entries in the MCU super-franchise and the avowed interests of Whedon as a writer and director. On May 4th Whedon terminated his Twitter account, immediately exciting speculation that this was a response to an online “backlash” against Ultron’s portrayal of Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). During the subsequent week a wide array of commentary centered on Whedon’s avowed feminism, and whether or not his treatment of Romanoff in Ultron upholds or (as was more widely opined) undercuts his claims to be a feminist. Objections to Whedon’s treatment of Black Widow focused on a series of plot elements, and one specific line of dialogue. Among other things critics objected to Romanoff’s being romantically paired with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), to her being cast as the stereotypical caregiver—taming the Hulk with a lullaby, “cleaning up” after the “boys” in the team, etc.—and to her “domestication” in the scenes at Barton’s farm. While at the farm she discusses with Banner the possibility of their settling down, and we learn that she was rendered sterile in a particularly nasty graduation ceremony at her assassins’ academy. According to Todd VanDer Werff’s transcription at Vox, the line runs as follows:

They sterilize you. It’s efficient. One less thing to worry about, the one thing that might matter more than a mission. It makes everything easier — even killing. You still think you’re the only monster on the team?

The line is ambiguous in its import: at best, as VanDer Werff speculates, it is a clumsily constructed attempt to suggest that Romanoff is a monster by virtue of her whole career as a spy and assassin; at worst, as many claim, it atavistically reinscribes notions of a woman’s humanity being defined solely by her capacity to bear children.

Ultron1I don’t want to dwell on the various positions in the Black Widow debate per se, but I do want to reflect on the fact that I did not myself experience the film as sexist in its portrayal of Romanoff. Structurally, scenes that showed her domestic side or stressed her emotional vulnerability did not strike me as out of balance with the scenes that showed her as single-minded, rational, intensely courageous and supremely competent in her professional life. Nor did the manifestations of her self-doubt and uncertainty about life choices seem to me egregious in comparison with the corresponding treatment of her fellow (male) Avengers. However, there’s no doubt that my neutral-to-positive reading of her portrayal at large, and the “monster” line in particular, was determined by my willingness to give Whedon the benefit of the doubt – which in turn is based largely on my prior knowledge of his television work. In other words, in spite of my scholarly interest in the MCU as brand, by default I read Age of Ultron primarily as a Whedon text, not a Marvel text. The same seems to be true of his detractors: in spite of the odd attempt to read the furore in the context of Marvel’s endemic gender asymmetries, excoriation of Ultron’s sexism has for the most part been couched in terms that presuppose Whedon’s primary authorship.

So has Whedon’s self-identification as a feminist, and his reputation as at least a would-be feminist writer, served perversely to obfuscate larger patterns of authorial bias, drawing attention away from Marvel Studios’ problematic representations and exclusions of women? In the short term this may be the case, but probably not over the long haul. While the billion-dollar success of Ultron will likely do little in production terms to encourage reevaluation of storytelling strategy and values in the MCU, from a reception standpoint this latest cause célèbre seems almost certain to be historicized as part of a pattern. If we compare the sluggish, scattered responses to the undermining and cheapening of female characters in the last Bond movie, Skyfall (Mendes, 2012), the groundswell of frustration at Marvel’s institutionalized sexism—articulated most recently by one of Ultron’s male stars—suggests that Marvel’s new breed of tent-pole movie is likely to be a prime locus of critique on issues of balanced and diverse representation for some time to come.


Straddling the “Edge”: The Invisible Trend of Religion on TV Wed, 04 Mar 2015 15:00:54 +0000 Lost's Last Supper
One of the most compelling trends in American television programming at the moment is almost never even seen as a trend. A variety of shows in various stages of development or production that feature religious topics and imagery include: Constantine on NBC, Dig on USA, A.D. on NBC, Preacher on AMC, Lucifer for Fox, Black Jesus on Cartoon Network, a Ten Commandments-based series for WGN and another for NBC, American Gods on Starz, Daredevil on Netflix, Hand of God on Amazon the list goes on and on. Across broadcast, basic and pay cable, and online streaming platforms, there is a wealth of series dealing with spiritual stories, using specific religions’ dogma, featuring Biblical characters and translating religion into mythos.

So why are these elements ignored in trade news and minimized in promotional materials? Have the press and industry failed to recognize this as a trend or are they deliberately downplaying this widespread development across the TV landscape? With religion on fictional television growing, why is it so difficult for press and PR to acknowledge this shift within the industry?

We regularly hear talk of television’s greater edginess—its willingness to engage with more explicit language, sexuality, and violence. Yet when it comes to religion, things get more complicated. Since the neo-network era, “edge” has been a leading logic of the television industry: a way to gain the attention of desirable, affluent, niche audiences who are thought to seek programs distinctive in some way from the mediocre mainstream. Since the 1980s, the concept of “edgy” has found many additional markers for distinction. From NYPD Blue’s notable nudity and curse words to South Park’s free-for-all offensiveness, the taboos of language, representations, violence, and sexuality have faded. Religion, however, remained a vagary. When religion appeared, it was in general, sanitized terms or single-episode sensational stories that nevertheless avoided faith-based specificity.

In 1990, Horace Newcomb described religion represented on television as “the deeply, powerfully embedded notions of the good that must come from . . . somewhere” but that avoided specifics of belief. Little changed from that description of how religion is featured on television until the mid-2000s, when Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and the long-arm of The Passion of the Christ’s success enabled a period of multiple attempts at religiously-themed television shows. At that moment, the press noticed the pattern: For instance, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter both ran articles examining the “hot topic” of religious content for television, putting shows like Wonderfalls, Joan of Arcadia, Miracles, and Revelations in relation to each other and wider industrial vicissitudes. However, aside from a few successful shows with multiple seasons, this mid-decade trend died, and so too did the industry’s willingness to discuss religious content as a programming trend. It’s unclear why the industry that was able to make these links chose to stop explicitly drawing these connections and preferring to ignore the trend, but the big gamble and big loss of Kings seems the turning point toward skittishness.

Significantly, whereas Deadline has no problem identifying new trends pertaining to romantic comedies, movie adaptations, and medical dramas—regardless of how many of these series get greenlit or survive for longer than a handful of episodes—few articles appear regarding the increasingly widespread presence of religious series across the television landscape. If such series are discussed, as in this TV Guide article, Biblical series are foregrounded while most science fiction series are left out. (Whither the Sleepy Hollow mention, TV Guide?)

Religion may be perceived as “edgy,” or at least risky, in a business sense in that it is cast as somewhat dangerous in an industrial context. Many industry workers don’t want to talk about it or deflect to bigger “spiritual/humanist” questions. Even if writers use Revelation in a specifically Protestant iteration as the key to a show’s ongoing mythology, they remain careful to couch it among other mythologies that appear once. But religion on TV is the wrong kind of edgy for how the shows, studios, and networks conceive of their target audience. As young Americans and wealthy Americans (as well as coastal Americans) are identified as more and more secular, spiritual, or non-religious by Pew research and through anecdotal encounters, religion—particularly Christianity, which is the main wellspring for this content—continues to be thought of increasingly as belonging to old, poor, Heartland Americans, (i.e., not the desired consuming audience for many of these shows). Moreover, appealing to such an audience is cast in opposition to “edge.” Thus, the industry straddles a fine “edge”: On the one hand, networks use Biblical adaptations to get the ratings of Heartland viewers, on the other hand, they make the case to advertisers that the “right” kind of audience can be attracted to view their other shows by downplaying the religious elements while maintaining they won’t alienate viewers.

MV5BMTc4OTcyOTc2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE2OTU1MjE@._V1_In this recent spate of shows, the only notable example of a series that is exploiting its religious content to foreground its edgy bona fides is on Amazon. Continuing to cast itself as the place to go for television that could not appear anywhere else, Amazon Studios picked up Hand of God during its August 2014 pilot season. The series wins at edgy bingo: the main plot of the pilot features a corrupt judge who becomes born-again Christian following the brutal beating of his son and the rape of his daughter-in-law by an assailant that he then discovers via “visions” from God. The judge then conscripts a violent disciple to kill in the name of God. The characters curse freely, the violence is graphic, and drug use is commonplace. Yet it is the exploration of corruption in religion that sets this show apart from others in this recent trend. In bucking the industry’s insistence of downplaying religion as a key narrative element, Hand of God found the “edge” in religion. But you wouldn’t know it from trade press coverage of it.


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WWE Network’s 1-Year Anniversary: A Conversation (Part 2) Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:00:51 +0000 WWENetworkWhiteContinuing their conversation from earlier this week Cory Barker & Drew Zolides discuss the 1-year anniversary of the WWE Network and its future legacy.

DREW: What do you make of the financial state of WWE? The Network’s introduction certainly led to an unstable 2014, so do you see these concerns as indicative of a rocky transition period that will right itself soon or are the effects more long-lasting?

CORY: Similar to our critiques of the company’s creative output, it appears that the Network has only exacerbated WWE’s scattershot business strategies. The Network was a long-gestating idea that was initially thought of (and promoted on TV as) a cable channel, but WWE also partnered with ION TV and the CW to add C-level Main Event and Saturday Morning Slam, let USA talk them into bumping Raw to three hours a week, and put NXT programming behind the Hulu paywall. For a company priming consumers for a one-stop-shop experience, WWE did an amazing job of spreading its content in as many random places as possible.

That’s just in the US. The initial Network offering in Canada outraged consumers, various issues kept the Network out of the UK for longer than expected, and then pre-existing contracts abroad forced Main Event off the Network in the states. To top it all off, WWE has given free monthly access to the Network multiple times over the year, just to reach that 1 million number you noted.

WWE promised to revolutionize its business model, but doesn’t seem to have a coherent strategy to accomplish that. Although the stock price has stabilized since the big drop early in the year, the company’s lingering issues seem to be mounting. Frustration with storylines (from both fans and talent) are piling on top of disappointment with the Network’s lack of original content, and you have to wonder if WWE is simply overextended itself. Growing pains are expected, is this something more? What do you think other networks or companies looking to go the standalone OTT service can learn from WWE?

DREW: We’ve been pretty hard on WWE, so I’ll start with a compliment: they produce a lot of content. Debate its quality all day long, but as you just proved the WWE produces several hours of cable television every week in addition to the programming on the Network (and that’s not counting output for home video and WWE Studios). The Network represents the company’s first big push into distribution, and if it teaches us anything it is that producing content and distributing it require entirely different business acumen that WWE is woefully lacking. In many ways WWE is taking the opposite path of companies like Netflix and Amazon, moving from production into distribution which is proving a much more difficult path than the reverse.

The result is burning bridges with their distribution partnerships. Introducing the Network meant pissing off cable/satellite providers like DirecTV over lost PPV revenue, settling for less on television renegotiation with USA, and cutting into the home video market. New OTT services can learn from this and shore up their existing partnerships in the process of building their own platforms. This won’t be a problem for most networks since they are already part of large media conglomerates (something Vince McMahon resents ever since fighting TimeWarner and WCW). For most OTT services, the Network’s troubles simply won’t be much of an issue due to conglomeration and deeper corporate partnerships.

I sometimes wonder if the WWE Network will become an odd media artifact—bizarrely prescient but ultimately forgotten. What do you see for the WWE Network’s future? What will be its legacy in Internet-delivered television?

StreamingMediaCORY: I’ve criticized WWE because I’m a frustrated viewer—but I’m still a viewer. I’ve watched something on the Network at least twice a week for a year. The problem is that we can imagine all the great things WWE could do with the platform that they haven’t done just yet. That utopian vision you mentioned hasn’t been fulfilled. If there are lessons that HBO, Sling, and anyone else can learn from WWE it’s to launch with a real plan and to modulate expectations.

In the future, I suspect that the HBOs of the world get credit for the OTT revolution, not WWE. The Network will never appeal to general consumers in the way a TV network’s service can, and once major sports league full embrace cost-effective OTT distribution, WWE’s early move will be forgotten. It doesn’t even get enough attention now when it’s one of the only games in town. The harder question to answer is how the Network fits into WWE’s future. Do you see improvements coming sooner rather than later?

DREW: For all our negativity, WWE is actually looking pretty good a year-out from the Network’s launch. Subscriber numbers are still under comfortable profitability range but not by much, and their stock performance has rebounded after a disastrous summer. That means WWE will either rest on its laurels and not make improvements or will feel emboldened to double their efforts into Network viability. I’ll hedge my bets by saying I think the Network will improve but not enough for massive success. Ultimately the Network will avoid an XFL disaster (it has already lasted longer) and will be a mainstay for WWE, meaning the company will continue to invest time and money into its development. I still believe the Network was and is a positive move for WWE as long as they can remain viable in live sales and television deals. The Network will never uproot WWE’s core business practices, but it can certainly provide support.

WWE may never be the powerhouse pop culture phenomenon Vince McMahon desperately desires, but his willingness to take risks like the Network has made professional wrestling an exciting laboratory for television development—even if they rarely get the credit.


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WWE Network’s 1-Year Anniversary: A Conversation (Part 1) Tue, 24 Feb 2015 14:36:52 +0000 WwenetworklogoOn February 24, 2014, WWE launched the WWE Network, an over-the-top (OTT) Internet-only channel that included a continuous stream of programming as well as on-demand content. For the Network’s 1-year anniversary, Cory Barker & Drew Zolides reflect on the Network and what it means for the OTT landscape of tomorrow. In part one Cory and Drew discuss the Network’s impact on WWE’s storytelling and its financials.

CORY: With the introduction of Sling TV and CBS’s All-Access and HBO’s solo version of Go on the way, OTT services are likely the future of television. But one of the world’s largest entertainment companies was ahead of this curve: WWE. With the sports entertainment goliath’s WWE Network about to enter its second year of operations, there’s no better time to assess how Vince McMahon’s latest pet project has fared, and to consider how other companies can learn from the Network.

For the uninitiated, the Network gives fans access to WWE’s immense content library, including hundreds of PPV events and old episodes of various TV programs, as well as live streaming of current PPVs, all for $9.99 a month. For long-time wrestling fans like us, the Network often feels like a dream come true and for younger members of WWE’s audience, it’s a great opportunity to learn the history of the business—or at least WWE’s version of it. But this first year hasn’t simply been pure euphoria. Drew, what’s been the most surprising and/or the most disappointing thing about the Network thus far?

DREW: Although original content was a major part of the original announcement of the WWE Network at CES 2014, WWE has since emphasized two major selling points in their marketing: cheaper PPVs and nostalgia programming. WrestleMania 30 may have been the first PPV to appear on the Network that April, but the Network truly seemed revolutionary when it aired its first live wrestling special just three days after launch: NXT Arrival.

WWE Network’s 1-Year Anniversary: A Conversation (Part 1)

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

Despite being WWE’s developmental brand and producing from a 400-person ‘arena’ at Full Sail University in Orlando, FL, NXT is an exciting, progressive, and I’d argue better wrestling product that has emerged as a compliment and an alternative to the ‘main roster’ shows. NXT has yet to put on a bad special (aired every 2-4 months) and is the most complete program WWE produces. In fact some critics argue NXT has made ‘main brand’ WWE programming look worse in comparison, an unexpected detriment of the Network. NXT and new original shows are rarely pushed as selling points yet seem much more necessary to retain long-term subscribers who may quickly lose interest in or simply exhaust the historical library (like Netflix & Amazon’s pushes for original content).

Looking back at that initial announcement makes me wonder just how much the Network altered WWE’s business practices as well as its current narratives. How has the Network changed your understanding of WWE programming, both creatively and economically?

CORY: It’s funny that you ask that, because a year in, I’m not sure WWE understands exactly how the Network has changed its storytelling. While giving away all the PPVs as part of the monthly subscription is a great deal for fans, WWE now treats its less essential PPVs as less essential. WWE storytelling is built on the foundation of the monthly calendar: three to five weeks of TV that builds to a PPV event, rinse, and repeat. But most PPVs now feel like episodes of Monday Night Raw—itself now stretched to 3 hours a week—in that they’re full of comedy spots, rudderless match-ups, and a lack of forward momentum.

WWEpreshowMeanwhile, the ‘new’ elements introduced into WWE’s stories with the Network haven’t paid dividends either. TV and PPV events are now bracketed with Sportscenter-like pre- and post-shows, except for when they’re randomly not. Occasional ‘breaking news’ segments further blur the lines between reality and ‘reality’, but are few and far between, despite the fact that WWE spent millions building a TV studio for such telecasts.

Of course, these creative issues aren’t just symptomatic of the Network’s rise; they stem from WWE’s overextended nature that sees them produce seven hours of TV each week, along with various web shows, and an E! reality show. Unlike Amazon and Netflix, who learned that the best way to succeed today is in a building small but dedicated fan base, the Network further signals that WWE is trying too hard to be something to everyone. Do you have a more positive outlook on the company’s recent creative output?

DREW: Although playing the face to your heel would make better use of our conversation format, I’m afraid I cannot disagree (beyond the aforementioned NXT). Over-exhaustion and ‘broadcasting’ seem to be the primary issues. WWE simply isn’t big enough to produce the variety of original content a network requires, hence the reliance on cheap studio shows and repackaged library content—Countdown, Rivalries, Monday Night Wars. The Network’s original slate is basically the same historical ‘moments’ reframed over and over again. WWE Groundhog Day.

While creative exhaustion is reason for fans to be concerned, it is the economic impact on WWE and its performers that seems more up-in-the-air. WWE introduced the Network with incredibly high goals that were not met, hurting their stock profile as well as their renegotiations with cable channels for Raw and Smackdown. It wasn’t until this past month—after expanding to both Canada and the UK—that WWE was able to hit the precious 1 million subscriber count. That news boosted stocks, but the WWE performers might not be fairing as well. It is unclear how they are being compensated for a loss of PPV bonuses usually paid out based on PPV buys (at the significantly higher rate). Uncertainty over the Network played a role in star CM Punk’s notable departure early last year while talent cuts last summer seemed a direct response to low-subscriber counts and fledgling stock performance.

The conversation continues in Part 2 where Cory & Drew talk about the Network’s future and influence on other OTT services.


Drive-Ins, and the Stubborn Usefulness of Film Nostalgia Tue, 11 Nov 2014 15:00:11 +0000 drive in theater

Interstellar (2014) made its well-known debut last weekend. In Chicago, the film (yes, we can still call it that) screened in its “intended” format of 70mm at the Navy Pier IMAX. Its appearance there and at other such venues was predictably celebrated by old school cinephiles as yet another defiant declaration of celluloid’s continuing value in a culture of cinema that has increasingly done away with the old medium. Meanwhile, just across the border in the nearby state of Wisconsin, the so-called “end of film” was also marked that same weekend by a very different, less celebrated, event—the closing of the Keno Drive-In in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for the season, and most likely, permanently. In many ways, this was a more apt snapshot of film today—as well as the value in fighting for it—than Christopher Nolan’s high-profile blockbuster.

The arrival of Interstellar did little more than reiterate that celluloid’s use going forward will largely be as a high-end, niche phenomenon (confined to museums more than IMAX). And the rhetoric around film’s aesthetic superiority, frankly, obscures as many important questions in the digital age as highlights (a debate which will continue being pointless given the endlessly shifting technology). But the closing of the Keno—one of hundreds closing down in the last month or so across the United States—is more representative of the digital transition’s impact on the economics of film. Like many independent theatres, drive-ins often cannot afford the expense of converting from older 35mm projectors to digital ones (to say nothing of imminent maintenance costs)—an issue the studios and several major chains have forced by going almost exclusively to distributing movies as Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs).

Honda-Project-Drive-in-Logo“Of the 366 Drive-in theatres left in the United States,” Variety reported in 2012, “only a handful have converted to digital projection; another 10% are expected to convert before this summer.” Last year, this led to “Project Drive-In,” a campaign funding by Honda to provide the funds necessarily for digital conversion to the rare few drive-ins that won a nationwide voting contest (a drive-in in nearby McHenry, Illinois, was one such lucky recipient).

The Keno wasn’t nearly as fortunate—though its situation is admittedly somewhat different. While the operators of the drive-in were willing to cover costs, the shift to DCP is forcing the issue of land repurposing (including the persistent rumor of a certain “Big Box” retail mega-store). The repurposing means that The Keno is a business which risks having a projector—but no screen.

Still the value of the many closing Kenos of the world are worth exploring further—and beyond just the reassuring nostalgia offered by loving tributes such as the Going Attractions (2013) documentary. The digital conversion reveals at least one darker truth underlying the too-often-utopic rhetoric of digital cinema—innovation is not making things “easier” or “cheaper” for most people involved in the many aspects of the movie business today. Studios save considerable expenses on distribution costs, of course. Lisa Dombrowski highlighted how the “digital [conversion] will produce an 80 per cent savings on direct releasing costs [. . .] (a digital print costs between $100 and $300, while a 35mm print averages $1200 to $2000 more).”

Yet these savings have not “trickled down” to the smaller theatres dependent on 35mm—or to the audiences that pay an increasing premium on all tickets. The same can be said of independent filmmakers and others who may benefit from short-term savings in production and distribution, but will also find it increasingly difficult to get recognized or obtain a livable wage. In short, as with all market shifts in the age of late capitalism, this is simply an unsustainable long-term, financial situation.

So, it’s easy enough to look at the rampant nostalgia today surrounding the drive-in’s imminent demise—where all but a small handful will soon be Wal-Marts—and dismiss it as little more than a wistful longing for a bygone era of Americana that’s neither here nor there. Indeed, that does seem to be the city of Kenosha’s “brand,” as it were—a former auto town, with its historic Women’s Professional Baseball League-era stadium, its four museums in a twelve-block radius, its boxcar diner, its countless drive-in restaurants, or its still functioning Streetcar system. But there is also value in how the nostalgia for New Deal liberalism can be less about returning to the past, and more about using that utopic sense of history to shape something better, something more viable, still to come.


Populist or Prestige? Amazon’s Attempts to Brand Pilot Season Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:40:11 +0000 Amazon StudiosThis week, Amazon Studios debuted the third round of its “Pilot Season,” an online showcase for its original scripted series. The key hook of Pilot Season is that the studio posts pilot episodes of its nascent projects not just for free viewing, but also so anyone can offer their feedback on the episodes. Even further, Amazon Studios and its chief Roy Price assert that this “transparent” feedback system—one mostly driven by brief surveys and a version of the traditional Amazon customer feedback form—influences what pilots become full series. The tagline for Pilot Season summarizes this process very succinctly: “Watch. Rate. Review. Watch the Shows. Call the Shots.”

Amazon Studios’s ardent encouragement of viewer feedback raises any number of questions about participation, crowdsourcing, and exploitation. The surveys that viewers are asked to fill out are generally simple and full of best-to-worst-style prompts. And unsurprisingly, the studio publicly valorizes both the importance and impact of public opinion but then chooses not to reveal exactly what role the feedback plays in its final decisions on series development, or what it does with the massive amounts of data it mines from the surveys and reviews. To Amazon Studios, the feedback is “very influential” yet not “as simple as American Idol.” The studio essentially lures viewers in to “Watch. Rate. Review.” (and “Share” should be the fourth pillar of that tagline given the constant call to share feedback on social media) and takes advantage of their labor, all under the guise of agency and democratic choice.

However, while these are important issues to consider, they are far from new; Hollywood has been inviting us behind the curtain with promises of influence for a long time. So with the acknowledgement that Amazon Studios’s practices are a form of manipulative crowdsourcing, I’d like to turn my attention to what it intends to achieve with this strategy.

The streaming video market has suddenly grown crowded. Netflix and Hulu subscriptions are still on the rise, Yahoo’s Screen made waves by reviving Community, and Sony’s Crackle continues to randomly appear in conversations about originals and revivals. Dropping a reported nine figures to become the streaming home of HBO’s library is a start, but Amazon needs to develop a reason for us to sign up for Prime Instant Video other than “Oh yeah, this comes with my awesome two-day shipping.”

Consequently, Pilot Season represents the studio’s attempts to frame itself as a “disruption” of both the traditional Hollywood development system and Netflix’s production of prestige television. Early on, the promotional discourses for Pilot Season emphasized a kind of viewer-driven populism mentioned above. In an early 2013 interview with TV Guide, Price said, “The traditional process relies heavily on gut instinct. There’s something to that, but if you could really get all your pilots out in front of all your customers, that would give you the best answer. Often real game-changing shows defy conventional wisdom.” Similarly, Jill Soloway, writer/director of Transparent, called the process “kind of relieving,” and noted, “In the past, when I’ve made pilots, there’s always this phantom testing. This is really a way for people to see it and decide if they like it for themselves.”


Without explicitly excoriating other studios, Price and Soloway signaled that the “traditional process” doesn’t always work, and certainly doesn’t include the voice of the people enough as it should. This chatter about viewer choice was obviously intended to bring as many people to the Prime service, but it also contrasted with Netflix’s approach to original series—most notably its willingness to spend large sums of money to attract big stars and make programs that look like they could have just as easily aired on HBO. As a studio that started—and failed—in film development, Amazon first branded itself as more populist both because it fit as a competitive strategy against Netflix and because the studio lacked the full infrastructure to develop prestige programming. Pilot Season was thus explicitly not NBC or CBS, but also more implicitly not Netflix as well.

However, there’s been a subtle, but notable shift in the studio’s publicity approach in 2014. The first Pilot Season gained attention from the trade press, but the pilots themselves—all comedies, many directed at children, and some of them very, very rough—were not well-received. February’s second round of pilots featured more famous names, bigger budgets, and more attention paid to drama series. The response? Much better. Instead of talking about the participatory nature of viewer feedback, Price’s comments in the most recent round of press have touched on the studio’s $100 million commitment to original programming production in just the third quarter alone. And at a recent TCA presentation, countless actors and writers underscored that Amazon is making good TV, that it gives artists freedom, and that working there is as good or better than anywhere else in the industry.

Amazon Studios hasn’t entirely ditched the populist side of Pilot Season, but it has seemingly found that appealing to more traditional signifiers of prestige and quality improves a reputation and awareness much faster. What that means for the open feedback system is unknown, but it illustrates that all disruptors are just waiting for their opportunity to be more traditional.


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