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The Broadcast Networks Are Destroying Themselves to Help Netflix

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 1, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 1, 2023 |


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The general consensus over the long summer strike is that the AMPTP is getting its ass handed to it. As the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday, it’s not a matter of whether the AMPTP will surrender to the demands of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA unions, but when. “The writers and actors have already won the battle of solidarity and righteousness,” writes Mary McNamara. “The question now is how long before the studios get over themselves and make a deal.”

Everyone is losing right now except, really, for Netflix. In every other studio’s effort to emulate Netflix’s streaming success, they’ve sabotaged their own brands and sacrificed many of their biggest strengths. Warner Brothers is hiding its most valuable brand, HBO, behind “Max”; Paramount has ceded its television side to Taylor Sheridan; and whatever Peacock is as a brand, it’s far from what NBC is best known for: Popular, long-running comedies like Seinfeld, Friends, The Office, and Parks and Recreation.

As we look ahead into the fall, it looks like a wasteland on the broadcast networks. There’s Survivor, Amazing Race, The Bachelor, and the NFL. Granted, Survivor, Amazing Race, and the NFL will keep me (and much of America) busy four nights out of the week, but it is insane that the networks have ceded their strengths in an effort to play ball in a completely different field than Netflix. The networks are playing baseball on Netflix’s soccer field, and instead of hitting home runs and running the bases, they’re trying to kick baseballs into nets.

It’s confounding, especially when you consider that Netflix would kill for a comedy as beloved as Abbott Elementary. There are zero shows on Netflix with viewers as loyal as Grey’s Anatomy viewers. We constantly make fun of CBS procedurals, but what would Netflix do for ratings that consistent year after year? Those viewers will sit through 20 minutes of ads every hour to find out who the killer is. Netflix viewers won’t even wait a week for a new episode! Netflix also can’t compete with the longest-running scripted series on television, The Simpsons, or even Bob’s Burgers. Those are television pillars. The longest-running series on Netflix, meanwhile, was … Grace and Frankie.

The Night Agent, one of the most popular series on Netflix this year, would kill to be as popular as The Rookie. No one remembers what happened in The Night Agent or that other popular Netflix series that I have to look up every time because I never remember the title, even though I watched it in its entirety, The Recruit. But we know all the characters on Law & Order.

ABC still hasn’t renewed Home Economics for a fourth season, but I can’t think of a single sitcom still running on Netflix that I like more. Unstable? Blockbuster? That ’90s Show? I’ve never watched Blue Bloods or Young Sheldon or The Good Doctor, but I bet all three are more profitable than most Netflix series.

And yet, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox have blown all of that up for the rest of 2023—at least—so that they can negotiate along with Netflix, which is crazy when you consider that the networks already give writers most of what they want: Sizable writers’ rooms, better residuals, longer seasons. They’re blowing up their entire model basically to help Netflix make cheaper content.

It makes no sense. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to media mogul Barry Diller. “[The legacy studios] should certainly get out of the room with their deepest, fiercest, and almost conclusive enemy, Netflix,” he told Deadline.

“Netflix induced—I would say to some degree seduced—all these companies to go into streaming to lose huge amounts of money to try and build a competitive streaming service,” Diller said. “They degraded their investment in cable because of the effect of Netflix on cable. They degraded their investment in their broadcasting arms.” He went on to label Netflix “the architects of a strike.” He noted that the streaming giant is “in the same room with the people they have killed who were trying to get out of this in some way. The strike does one thing and one thing only, in the end because the strike will get settled. What does it do? It strengthens Netflix and weakens the others. Now, what kind of genius do you have to be to pull that off in a fairly straight line over the last 10 years? That’s quite remarkable.”

That’s some real Thanos shit right there. Netflix has basically convinced the legacy studios to help them avoid paying the writers what the networks are already paying them—and undermine their own strengths in the process. “Please destroy yourselves in order to help advance our interests.” It is baffling. Netflix is standing next to the wood chipper, and the broadcast networks are handing them their body parts.