The Entertainment Strategy Guide to 21 February 2020

More Star Wars, Spotify buying The Ringer, SuperCBS and more

Welcome to the Entertainment Strategy Guy Newsletter! My favorite reads, listens, socials and more to keep you informed on the business of entertainment, with the links to my recent writing on my website and elsewhere.

This week’s newsletter is only one day late, which is pretty good for me in 2020. Hopefully you got to celebrate President’s Day holiday, which my family did by visiting the zoo. Or “experiencing the experience economy” in contemporary jargon. Meanwhile, we’re finally past the deluge of “earnings season” news and we wait for the next round of streaming war launches, which should make for a busy April.

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The Best of the Entertainment Strategy Guy

“The 2019 Star Wars Business Report Part II – TV: Baby Yoda Saves Star Wars” at my website.

How much is “Baby Yoda” worth? I don’t explicitly answer that in my latest installment of valuing Star Wars in 2019, but I do take a stab at valuing The Mandalorian for Disney+ as part of my series asking, “How much did Star Wars make in 2019?” (If you missed Part I, it’s here.) Read this for a great explainer on how to value TV from a producer’s stand point, along with the difference even today from top tier movies and top tier TV series.

“Most Important Story of the Week: What Is SuperCBS Super Power?” at my website.

As I scanned the landscape of entertainment news stories, I kept coming back to the leak via CNBC that ViacomCBS is planning an HBO Max/Peacock-style streamer. ViacomCBS is one of the biggest variables left on the streaming wars battlefield. Am I bullish or bearish? I guess neither: I think they could put together a must-have service, but they’re far from Viacom’s peak and CBS is now the biggest fish in a shrinking pond. Thus, they definitely need to find a strength and lean into it. That story plus The Nielsen’s Q4 Viewing Report, Youtube and “Channels”, Amazon’s big new hire and more. 

Twitter Threads

First, I had a thread with my comments on Scott Galloway’s talk on the Streaming Wars.

Second, I aired out a question about Spotify after reading two newsletters on their Ringer acquisition. (See below.)

Third, I made a comment about how the big tech companies aren’t as innovative as they seem.

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The Best of The Rest

(These are the best reads, listens, newsletters, or social conversations I came across last week.)

Long Read of the Week - “Promoting Your TV Show In The Age Of Netflix” by Rick Ellis of All Your Screens

It would be easy to dismiss this article as simply a reporter complaining about inside baseball PR issues. I wouldn’t do that. Ellis—who is a Netflix bull, by the way—identifies some real issues with how Netflix launches its binge released shows. With some simple tweaks and focus, they could amplify their PR efforts. In business strategy terms, then, they have clear room to improve their operations which would help maximize their ROI. (Or they could release fewer shows/films.)

Other Long Read - “What is A View”

This website by Oriana Schwindt has a simple premise: it tells you want counts as a view on various streaming platforms. Hat tip to Joe Adalian for spotting it. Next time you hear views quoted by a tech company—SnapChat leads the club house in touting views right now—head over here to remind yourself how little that can mean. (For my take on why hours viewed are a better measure, go here.)

Other Long Read - Kevin Drum on Subtitles

I usually read Drum for his political commentary, but this post-Oscars article on dubbing actually explains why folks prefer dubbed films/series, how dubbing versus subbing works in various territories and the economics behind it. Given the explosion of dubbing in the last few years as the streaming wars expand, it’s an important read.

Listen of the Week -  Planet Money “Valentines 2020”

Every year, Planet Money sends “valentines” to some of their favorite creators, but Robert Smith sent perhaps my favorite valentine ever to discounted cash flows. He’s absolutely right that it’s the basis of modern finance/business, but most articles about it don’t mention it. (I’d argue you can’t understand the streaming wars if you don’t understand the discounted cash flows). They have some other great valentines too, including recycling, barbell theory, banana holders, and more. (My attempt to explain cash flows/net present value here.)

Newsletter of the Week - Two Spotify-Buys-The-Ringer Newsletter

Spotify has big plans for the podcasting business, symbolized by their latest acquisition, The Ringer podcast network. I recommend two newsletters on this, in particular Matt Stoller’s weekly missives on antitrust. His newsletter elucidates the difference between how Spotify is doing “value capture” vs “value creation”, using Google and Facebook as warning analogies.  Also, Penny Fractions had a good take on Spotify.

Twitter Threads

Friend of the website Masa Capital wrote up a piece about Ben Thompson of Stratechery’s appearance on the Biill Simmons podcast. It got quite a conversation going on Twitter.

Meanwhile, this Linked-In post from Michael Smith boils down the trade off traditional firms face in the linear to streaming transition for CBS.

(Feel free to share this free newsletter to any and everyone you want. It helps spread the word.)


(If this email was forwarded to you, and you’re wondering who I am, The Entertainment Strategy Guy writes under this pseudonym at his eponymous website. A former exec at a streaming company, he prefers writing to sending emails/attending meetings, so he launched his own website. You can follow him on Twitter or Linked-In for regular thoughts and analysis on the business, strategy and economics of the media and entertainment industry.)

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