Netflix is about to take a deep breath for all that binging and dip their toe in the world of live appointment viewing. Chances are, they will find a nice audience for Chelsea Handler, a veteran of provocative talk shows. The question is whether this works to become the type of disruption to the model held firmly in the hands of the old-time content providers. The rules are different on Netflix, i.e., Chelsea can do and say pretty much whatever she wants because there is no advertising model that would lean on the provider for control. This mere fact is what likely got Handler to sign on in the first place: the ability to do the show she wants with limited oversight. Just get the audience, we don’t care how you do it.
Howard Stern made this leap years ago to the world of satellite radio and truth is his contract negotiations (which recently ended in a multi-year renewal with Sirius/XM) were the type of deals that could crush the entire process. But that’s Stern who is the lone crowdsourcing talent at Sirius. Even Oprah Winfrey couldn’t make any particular waves when her branded channel was added to that lineup. I don’t envision having Handler obtaining that level of power based on the success of all the other programming on Netflix, but in the digital/streaming comedy world, it’s possible she’ll become the new power broker.
Sirius became the game-changing entity for traditional radio for the same reasons Netflix has a shot at disrupting the traditional television, advertising, or for that matter, lack there of.
Radio has been stifled by numerous technological creations, Pandora, Apple Music, Spotify, etc have altered the listening experience for music lovers and created unique ways to categorize sects of interests. Podcasts will overtake traditional talk shows within a decade as people learn just how simple the process is to have the shows you want when you want, again with limited commercial interruption.
What Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and soon Google and Apple are doing is mainly producing high-quality programming because the audience is willing to pay monthly fees for it and they have it when the feel like watching it. Netflix was the true trailblazer here and so it makes sense that they would be the first to try going after the live audience.
Truth is, every new episode of Handler’s program will be immediately archived and available for binge pleasure, but the topic matter will be of the daily variety which does date some of the programming. So, the idea here is Handler will not only bring in viewers to watch a catalog of episodes created (which will take some months of being on air of course) but to disrupt the audiences of Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers and Conan O’Brien and James Corden and Stephen Colbert and most likely target one-Samantha Bee. If Netflix is right and Handler does cause that level of disruption where audiences are choosing her Netflix show over these others on a nightly measurable basis, then the door is swung open for them to go into the live news and potentially sports business.
CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and all the other traditional news outlets have to be watching how Handler performs very closely. Now unlike comedy programs, the news cycle is the news cycle, so the commitment to offering a program that is as far reaching as an outlet like CNN is daunting, but if viewers are willing to show that streaming services can be effective in garnering live audiences, there may be a play for Netflix or Goggle to try to buy a traditional outlet and use them in that space.
I think we are a long way from it. But I know in sports, when rights deals that make sense come up again, i.e.- the NFL, streaming services who see growth in a category like Handler’s might rethink what a rights deal would mean for their bottom line. If I were one of the more niche sports, like my personal favorite- horse racing- I’d be approaching streaming services immediately about all major races of a calendar year with the goal of eventually securing the rights to the triple crown. Imagine if Amazon had the Kentucky Derby- obviously free for all Prime members and available for purchase to new potential audiences. The Derby becomes a giant advertisement for the programming and offerings of Amazon. This model has largesse potential.
Becoming a leader in the coverage of world events is an extremely costly endeavor. Handler’s price tag pales in comparison which is why it’s easier to jump into that type of play and see how it goes. Handler will be successful in this forum; her built-in audience will appreciate the creative freedom she’ll have, which makes her show potentially way more provocative than previous programs on networks like E!. The larger question is how successful? The outcome of that could be the final road marker to the complete radical change in the way we get content across the spectrum of offerings. My point is this: if you are young in this business, get your requisite experience however you can, and then find a place that is emerging. It has never been more important in the career of broadcasters than to career plan at a young age.
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