Streaming's Golden Age Is Suddenly Dimming 串流的黃金時代瞬間走向黯淡
American television viewers have become accustomed to it: Dozens of premieres every month, hundreds of shows every year, a guarantee from Hollywood that there's always going to be something new to watch.
But a new reality has become increasingly clear over the past few months in Hollywood: Peak TV has peaked.
The number of adult scripted series ordered by TV networks and streaming companies aimed for U.S. audiences fell by 24% in the second half of last year, compared with the same period of the year before last, according to Ampere Analysis, a research firm. Compared with 2019, it is a 40% drop.
For years, television executives tossed off billions of dollars on TV series to help build out their streaming services and chase subscribers.
But Wall Street soured on the buy-at-any-cost strategy starting in the spring, when Netflix, the streaming powerhouse, announced that it had lost subscribers for the first time in a decade. Netflix's stock nose-dived, and other entertainment companies soon watched their share prices fall, too. Hollywood companies quickly shifted, putting a new emphasis on higher profits instead of raw subscriber counts.
Then, in recent months, entertainment companies became increasingly anxious about a slowing economy, the cord-cutting movement and a troublesome advertising market. Since the summer, scores of executives have abruptly been dismissed, strict cost-cutting measures have been adopted, and layoffs have taken hold throughout the industry.
For the year, the deepest declines in the number of orders for scripted adult series in the United States were at Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery (which includes HBO and the Turner networks) and Paramount (which includes CBS, Paramount+ and Showtime). The series orders for U.S. audiences have fallen 22% to 27% at those three companies, according to Ampere. In the second half of the year, the drop-off in orders from the three companies was even steeper.
In addition to TBS and TNT, digital giants like Facebook and YouTube, which were investing in original series just a few years ago, have mostly moved on. The CW, which was recently acquired by Nexstar, is looking for lower-cost programming. And there are numerous basic cable networks that in recent years have pulled back from original scripted programming ambitions.
Prestige Films, Made for Oscar, Fail to Impress 叫好不叫座 問鼎奧斯卡的電影觀眾不捧場
A year ago, Hollywood watched in despair as Oscar-oriented films like "Licorice Pizza" and "Nightmare Alley" flatlined at the box office. The day seemed to have finally arrived when prestige films were no longer viable in theaters and streaming had forever altered cinema.
But studios held out hope, deciding that November 2022 would give a more accurate reading of the marketplace. By then, the coronavirus would not be such a complicating factor. This fall would be a "last stand," as some put it, a chance to show that more than superheroes and sequels could succeed.
One after another, films for grown-ups have failed to find an audience big enough to justify their cost. "Armageddon Time" cost roughly $30 million to make and market and collected $1.9 million at the North American box office. "Tár" cost at least $35 million, including marketing; ticket sales total $5.3 million. Universal spent around $55 million to make and market "She Said," which also took in $5.3 million. "Devotion" cost well over $100 million and has generated $14 million in ticket sales.
Even a charmer from box office king Steven Spielberg has gotten off to a humdrum start. "The Fabelmans," based on Spielberg's adolescence, has collected $5.7 million in four weeks of limited play. Its budget was $40 million, not including marketing.
The problem is not quality; reviews have been exceptional. Rather, "people have grown comfortable watching these movies at home," said David A. Gross, a film consultant who publishes a newsletter on box office numbers.
Ever since Oscar-oriented films began showing up on streaming services in the late 2010s, Hollywood has worried that such movies would someday vanish from multiplexes. The diminishing importance of big screens was accentuated in March when, for the first time, a streaming film, "CODA," from Apple TV+, won the Academy Award for best picture.
This is about more than money. Hollywood sees the shift as an affront to its identity. Film power players have long clung to the fantasy that the cultural world revolves around them, as if it were 1940. But that delusion is hard to sustain when their lone measuring stick — bodies in seats — reveals that the masses can't be bothered to come watch the films that they prize most. Hollywood equates this with cultural irrelevancy.