With the CTAM portion of the Television Critics Association’s 2020 winter press tour now in the books, the television industry is poised to continue its evolution, with linear networks vying with streaming services for the hearts and eyeballs of consumers.
Here are three trends that marked this year’s TCA Winter press tour presentations for cable networks and streaming services:
Streaming services stake out positions as streaming wars loom
While Netflix was absent from this year’s TCA tour and NBC unveiled its plans for its new streaming service Peacock during its investor day last week, several streaming services presenting at TCA offered a glimpse into their operating strategies as the streaming wars begin to take shape.
Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke said Amazon Prime is not phased by the increased competition among streamers, adding that they are focused on giving its Prime subscribers quality original programming, which includes Emmy-winning series such as Fleabag. HBO Max chief content officer actually lamented the phrase “streaming wars” to describe the growing competitive landscape for streaming services, adding that many of the services currently offered are providing differentiated content offerings to appeal to different tastes and audiences.
“As these services premiere and roll out ... they really are quite different,” Reilly said.
Meanwhile, Discovery Inc. may soon step into the digital streaming ring with the potential launch of an SVOD service that would curate the company’s lineup of unscripted content from such networks as HGTV, Food Network, Discovery and TLC, according to Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
Networks, streaming services continue to increase number of lead LGBTQ characters
Several new shows will feature LGBTQ lead characters, further increasing what LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD recently reported as a noticeable increase in gay and lesbian lead characters on television.
LGBTQ character-led shows announced at the TCA include BET’s Twenties, created and produced by Emmy-winning producer Lena Waithe which follows the exploits of a 20-something queer black girl and her two straight best friends; Freeform’s Everything is Going to Be OK, which stars Josh Thomas as a gay man who becomes the guardian of his two half-sisters; and TLC’s reality series Dragnificent!, which recruits four drag queens to rescue people in need of help. In addition, AppleTV+ will stream a documentary, Visible: Out on Television, a five-part docuseries that examines how TV has shaped the American conscience and how the LGBTQ movement has shaped television.
Scripted series still rolling out in record numbers, but cracks are forming in the "Peak TV" universe
Scripted content continued to grow at an unprecedented pace in 2019, with more than 530 scripted original dramas, comedies and limited dramas available on streaming services and broadcast and cable networks, according to FX. But while new entrants like HBO Max, Peacock and Apple TV+ will help add to the number of scripted series, other companies are getting out of the original series game. Premium service Cinemax will no longer develop original scripted content, according to HBO Max’s Reilly. Cinemax joins AT&T’s Audience Network -- which will be re branded as an HBO Max preview channel -- as services that previously announced a complete elimination of scripted fare. Expect more services to exit the scripted series highway in the months to come.