HBO just inked a fascinating deal with VICE to produce a daily newscast. So why do I find this fascinating? Because…
HBO is going to broadcast the program on LINEAR HBO, not the newly launched “cord cutting” endeavor HBO NOW. I can’t help but think this has something to do with Jon Stewart finally announcing the date he’s hanging up his cleats, plus the underwhelming response to his successor, Trevor Noah. HBO clearly sees an opening and a REBRANDING OPPORTUNITY, getting away from SCRIPTED ENTERTAINMENT.
And while HBO is going with a daily VICE (and you can be pretty sure SHANE SMITH is going to muck with the traditional daily newscast format in ways COMEDY CENTRAL never dreamed), JOHN OLIVER (who in a unique deal HBO licensed to YouTube for a faster viral spread), and the always nimble BILL MAHER; NETFLIX is staking it’s cultural currency and relevancy on the return of CHELSEA HANDLER.
REED HASTINGS, CEO OF NETFLIX, has gone on record saying that his goal is to take on HBO in direct competition and WIN. But it seems like the dinosaur is besting the baby (to paraphrase Godard). And a side note, don’t you lose the right to call anyone out when you just dumped filthy lucre into resurrecting FULL HOUSE?
It looks to me like HBO is delivering some severe UPPERCUT’S to the lippy CORDLESS MESSIAH. They seem to have come to the crucial realization (consciously or unconsciously) that comes with embracing the cord-cutting ethos:
The DELIVERY METHOD is less important than the CONTENT (which is almost irrelevant at times and can be any length), and more important than all of that, HBO has something NETFLIX doesn’t, and it’s the most important part: HBO produces, owns, and licenses it’s own content. Remember. NETFLIX doesn’t actually own ALL THE RIGHTS to HOUSE OF CARDS or ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.
So HBO is cutting-edge at this second (which is how quickly this game changes). And in a brief recap, here’s why:
it just inaugurated HBO NOW, which although we don’t know what it’s going to look like exactly, it’s definitely going to be a warehouse for CONTENT, and the petri dish for FRANKEN-TV (all types of DURATIONAL EXPERIMENTS). HBO was also smart enough (pace American Horror Story) to embrace the ANTHOLOGY model with True Detective (Season 2 coming this summer), and then they took the MODEL EVEN FURTHER, wherein you don’t need any of the original series elements that become more EXPENSIVE over time; you reboot YEARLY. HBO has also embraced the epic DOCUMENTARY (a form with real staying power lately), with both the blockbuster GOING CLEAR, Andrew Jarecki’s long-form THE JINX, and Alex Gibney’s (also GOING CLEAR) two-part SINATRA.
ANTHOLOGY SERIES, A DIGITAL WAREHOUSE ON HBO NOW, and now a fledgling NEWS DIVISION. HBO is getting the message:
BITS is where it’s at. Measure entertainment in BITS that can be chopped and recomposed, not traditional LINEAR PROGRAMMING.
At this point, NETFLIX looks like it’s the one actually trying to put together a LINEAR CHANNEL, but on a DIGITAL PLATFORM. They’re even producing CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING (granted HBO has HBO FAMILY, but it’s part of a bundled platform, plus they have TIME WARNER to foot the bill for it). NETFLIX only has NETFLIX to pay for NETLFLIX.
So this week NETFLIX looks pretty ANALOG. Perhaps they achieved their goal: RATTLE THE TIGER’S CAGE. But remember, the TIGER bites back, and he’s been at this longer than you…