The Entertainment Strategy Guide to 3 January 2020

All my articles and saved links from the end of 2019

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.

The newsletter is back! Since my family added a new member in November, this newsletter was one of the casualties of my sleep deprivation. After that, the holidays sucked up the rest of my time. Today’s newsletter will catch you up on all my articles since I went on break, with a few holiday reading and listening recommendations I’ve had stored up. Next week, I’ll try to highlight the best year-end and decade-end articles and listens I found.

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The Best of the Entertainment Strategy Guy

“The Great Irishman Challenge Series” at my website and The Ankler.

Friend of the website Richard Rushfield gave me a seductively fun challenge a few months ago: could we figure out how much money Netflix made or lost on The Irishman? Not for certain, but we could get pretty darn close. This series took up most of the end of November on my website, with Part I explaining how to calculate theatrical profits, Part II explaining how to calculate streaming profits, Part III laying out The Irishman specific assumptions and Part IV explaining the results after Ted Sarandos revealed viewership numbers at an investment conference. 

Subscribers to The Ankler—which I recommend doing if you follow the entertainment biz—have seen my regular updates on this project there as well. The great thing about this project is that now that we have this model, we can plumb it for insights (see next article) and make estimates for future Netflix film releases.

“Should You Release Your Movie Straight to Netflix? Part I: The basic maths” at my website

If you’re part of the film industry or on #filmTwitter, you’ve probably seen the debate over whether all mid-tier and smaller films should just be released straight to Netflix, since they often bomb at the box office and seemingly do great at streaming (or so says the streamers). While I’ve seen a lot of qualitative arguments either way, I hadn’t seen much data, which this new series will attempt to address, including leveraging my new models from The Great Irishman Challenge. In Part I, I explain how much money Netflix is potentially leaving on the table by skipping the theatrical window.

“If the Streaming Wars are a War, Then What War Are They” at my website.

I like the #StreamingWars as an analogy—unlike some folks—but to make it even more useful, we need to know which war is the best analogue. After combing through a few thousands years of real and fictional human history, I find a pretty good analogy that may not be the war you’re thinking of.

“Most Important Story of the Week: A Tale of Two Netflixes” at my website.

“Most Important Story of the Week: The Curious Case of CuriosityStream” at my website.

I put out two weekly columns in December, and the first dealt with the stream of news around Netflix seemingly every other day in December. In short, I couldn’t decide if they were winning or losing, because the news was evenly split between good and bad. That plus a few data points and a few big M&A stories.

One of the biggest questions for the streaming wars is how we plan to judge who is winning and losing. (And even if you hate the “streaming wars” label, there will be winners and losers!) It’s one of the things I’ve spent a lot of time brainstorming and researching in my “Intelligence Preparation” series. My last weekly column was a bit of insight into my evolving thinking on subscribers, specifically how not all “subscribers” are created equal. Also, I speculated on how Disney+ subscriber numbers are trending.

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The Best of The Rest

(These are the best reads, listens, newsletters, or social conversations I came across last week. I’m still catching up on newsletters and saved links, so these are more evergreen finds.)

Long Read of the Week - “Economist Holiday Double Issue”

Every year, even if I don’t have a subscription, I buy the Economist Christmas Double issue and read it cover to cover. This year had some great bonus articles, some of which relate to the business of entertainment—China and Pianos, “Beware The Borg”, Semiconductors, and physical type printing, for example—and some of which didn’t—Siberia, and “A Cockney Brigadoon”. I highly recommend finding a copy if you can.

Other Long Read - “When the Streaming Platform Dies, What Happens to Its Shows?” By Liz Shannon Miller in Decider

Miller crushes it in this very long but well reported series on how when streaming platforms or production companies shut down, they often take their shows with them. While some of the creators she interviews are fairly sanguine about fans losing access to their shows, I consider this a business failure by some of these owners.

Non-Entertainment Read - “The Advice I Give My Students” and “The Analog January Challenge” by Cal Newport

If I had an overarching productivity tip for 2020, it would be to read more Cal Newport. These two blog posts feature great ideas to help you limit unproductive screen time, specifically on your phone. If it weren’t for his Deep Work, I couldn’t write the articles I do.

Listen of the Week - iFanBoy Year End Media Round-Up by iFanBoy

Finally, every year my favorite comics podcast reviews the year in media and 2020’s episode gets the entire crew back together to discuss their favorite movies, TV shows and more. 

(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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