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NBC’s Peacock Launches With Free Tier to Compete in Streaming Wars, But Local Stations are Boycotting It By Refusing to Air “30 Rock” Special

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  • In a bid to compete with an increasingly competitive streaming market, NBC launched its streaming service Peacock on Wednesday with a free, ad-supported tier.
  • That tier contains about two-thirds of Peacock’s entire catalogue, with the rest being locked behind two different premium tiers: one ad-supported and one ad-free.
  • At the same time, most local NBC stations in the United States are refusing to air an upcoming “30 Rock” reunion special that will essentially be a giant advertisement for Peacock.
  • The reason NBC affiliates are boycotting the special is because they’re afraid Peacock will kill their viewership as people shift to online streaming.
  • Because of the boycott, reportedly, only about 40% of the country will be able to watch the special when it first airs. 

30 Rock” Special Boycotted By Affiliates

Major local TV station groups are preparing for a battle with NBCUniversal and its new streaming service Peacock, which launched Wednesday.

The casualty? “30 Rock,” a show which originally aired from 2006 to 2013, starring Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracey Morgan, and Jane Krakowski. 

As a way to boost its promotion of Peacock, NBC developed a one-hour “30 Rock” reunion special which is set to air Thursday night. In fact, the special is going to be so much of a promotion that, according to Vulture, it won’t include any traditional commercials and was even produced by NBCUniversal’s ad-sales division. 

However, that decision has left local NBC affiliate groups feeling like they’re being sidelined by NBCUniversal so that it can push its new streaming service. Because of that, it’s now being reported that most local NBC stations across the United States will refuse to air the “30 Rock” reunion.

In fact, the decision to boycott this special mainly comes directly from the massive media groups that own these local stations—not the stations themselves. That includes Gray Television, Hearst, Nexstar, Tegna, and Sinclair. Notably, Nexstar and Sinclair are the two largest owners of local stations in the country and control hundreds of stations each. 

The boycott will reportedly be so extensive that only about 40% of the country will even have the ability to watch that special when it first airs. 

“Station owners are understandably worried about Peacock siphoning viewers from linear TV, particularly since the new platform will offer next-day reruns of NBC shows on its premium tier (and week-late access to reruns on its free level),” Vulture reported.

It’s not unusual for local TV stations to interrupt shows for sports coverage or when there’s severe weather (or even if they’re concerned a program is too controversial), but it is unprecedented for multiple, major broadcast groups to have their stations all boycott a prime-time special.

Still, the decision to boycott the “30 Rock” won’t actually have any direct financial impact for NBC since it won’t be airing any commercials; however, that’s not the case for local stations airing the special. Because the hour will essentially be an uninterrupted infomercial for Peacock, those stations will be unable to air local ads—a major form of revenue for them.

While it would only mean one hour of ad revenue lost, most stations are able to sell more expensive ad slots during prime time. They’ve also already been struggling to retain advertisers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many have suffered from sharp declines in ad sales.

The boycott also comes after NBCUniversal decided in January that Peacock would stream episodes of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” hours ahead of their broadcast on live TV. Notably, those shows will only air early for Premium subscribers, but it still means local TV  affiliates would essentially be airing reruns. 

That decision presented a major concern for TV stations, which must pay substantial fees for the rights to NBC shows and which are already facing declines in viewership.

It is possible, however, that the boycott could inadvertently push viewers wishing to watch the special to Peacock. In any case, cable TV will likely continue to struggle to retain viewers as they make the switch to streaming platforms. 

Peacock Launches With Free Tier

On top of the push and pull between cable and streaming services, competition among streaming providers is fierce. In fact, the market is already saturated with options such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, HBOMax, CBS All Access, and Apple TV+.

Because of that, there are serious concerns about whether Peacock can stay afloat in an industry already filled with, at times, seemingly limitless options on what to watch. For example, Apple TV+, which launched in November, has never attracted the viewership it had hoped to achieve. That’s despite heavily pushing a series headlined by Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carrell.

However, the major difference between Peacock and other platforms is that Peacock is free—well, sort of. Along with two different premium tiers, it’s also offering a free tier with roughly 13,000 hours of content. 

Under the free tier, viewers can watch whole series such as ‘This Is Us,” “Parks & Rec,” “30 Rock,” and “Everybody Hates Chris.” They can also stream full movies like the original “Jurassic Parks” and “The Matrix.”

If viewers want to see other shows, such as “Superstore,” or even a movie like “Shrek,” they will then have to upgrade to a premium tier, which will unlock about 7,000 more hours of additional content.

“The ‘freemium’ model will be the secret weapon for Peacock to win against the other big streaming services,” Michael J. Wolf, chief executive of the tech consulting firm Activate, told CNET. 

Wolf added that the free tier “will ensure that Peacock comes out of the gate with a large base of users and will be the service’s surest path to scale.”

Additionally, Peacock will still be able to collect revenue from the free tier, as it will be supported by ad sales. Even if viewers upgrade to the lowest premium tier, which is $5 a month, they’ll still see around 5 to 7 minutes of ads. The highest tier, which is $10 a month, is ad-free.

See what others are saying: (Vulture) (CNET) (Deadline)

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Twin YouTube Stars Charged With Felonies After Fake Bank Robbery Video

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  • The Stokes Twins, who have 25 million TikTok followers and 4.8 million YouTuber subscribers, were charged with false imprisonment and swatting on Wednesday in connection to a fake bank robbery prank video they filmed in October 2019. 
  • In the video, they run around the Irvine, California area dressed in all black, with ski masks and duffle bags full of cash to make it seem like they had just committed a crime.
  • The prank resulted in their Uber driver being held at gunpoint by police, who authorities later learned was not involved. Even after police issued the duo a warning, they continued to carry out their prank on the UC Irvine campus. 
  • Each face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted on all counts. 

Stoke Twins in Trouble 

A pair of brothers known online as the Stokes Twins are in serious legal trouble over a fake bank robbery prank video they uploaded to their YouTube channel last year. 

The brothers are 23-year-old Alan and Alex Stokes, and they have 4.8 million followers on YouTube, where they post challenge videos, pranks, and other content. They also have over 25 million followers on their joint TikTok account. 

On Wednesday the Orange County District Attorney’s office in California announced that they had each been charged in connection with their robbery prank. 

The DA’s office said the video at the center of this case was filmed on October 15, 2019. However, in the video, the twins say it was filmed over the course of three days. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it had more than 1.4 million views before it was set to private sometime yesterday. Still, reuploads of the prank have already been posted and shared, along with more details about what happened when it was filmed thanks to a press release from the DA’s office. 

What Happens in the Prank Video?

In the video, the pair dresses up in all black with ski masks and duffle bags full of cash to make those around them believe they have just committed a crime. Much of the video is filmed in the Irvine area and UC Irvine campus, where the two run around to catch people’s attention, sometimes tripping and spilling cash onto the ground.

In some parts of the video, they approach strangers and ask for directions to the nearest bank. “Do you know how tight their security is?” one brother says after getting directions from a group of students. “I’m just going to make a large withdrawal if you know what I mean.”

A short time later, they return to anyone they previously approached and offer them money for their help. “Hey man, I just wanted to give you this cause I would have never gotten this without your help,” one brother says. 

At other points, they ask people if they can buy their clothes off of them and approach women to ask them out on dates, showing off their bags of cash. They even ask some women to help them commit their fake crimes.

“So I’m actually trying to rob a bank and I’m looking for an attractive female to distract the security guards. Would you be down to do that?” they ask.

The video ends with extra footage from these encounters, where the two explain that it was all a prank and people admit that they saw the cameraman or suspected it was a joke. 

Stunt With Uber Driver Goes Wrong 

Still, there were some people who didn’t think it was a joke at all. At one point in the video, the twins get into an Uber and the driver quickly becomes uncomfortable by the situation they’ve put him in.

“What is this?” the driver asks. “Uh, our getaway driver just bailed on us so uh,” one twin says.

“We’re going to like a costume party…Could you step on it? Like step on the gas,” they add.

“This is weird. It’s not funny. Okay, I can’t just take this ride. Just get out of my car please.” the driver tells the twins.

According to the DA’s office, a bystander saw this exchange and believed they were attempting to carjack the driver, so they called the police. When authorities responded, they ordered the driver out of the car at gunpoint. He was ultimately released after they determined that he was not involved.

Police also issued a warning to the brothers at that time about how dangerous their conduct was and let them go, which the twins actually include in the video. 

When the brothers explain that its a prank, one officer says, “A public prank that gets about 15 police officers in the area hauling butt over here cause you guys are pulling off masks.

One of the twins explains that he called the non-emergency police number and notified them of the days they would be filming their video. The officer responds with, “This is what’s going to get someone potentially gunstuck or someone hurt. We have people stopping the middle of the street because they’re watching this, guys pulling up ski masks, throwing stuff of the ground, changing clothes.”

One of the brothers explains that most people were laughing and he didn’t expect this to happen, seeming to admit that they took it too far. The officers continue to try to explain the seriousness of the situation to them, with one saying, “Dude, this about what’s going on nowadays. Think about it man you’ve got to be smarter than that.” 

“You know better…I want you guys to be creative and do what you want to do, but you’ve got to be smarter than this. What do you think people are going to do? Right, and you’ve lucky you didn’t get any guns drawn at you. You’re absolutely lucky you didn’t get any guns drawn at you.”

The officers remain calm, warning them to be careful and advising them to maybe rent a space or a controlled area for future videos instead. Because the brothers placed this at the end of the video, you might believe that maybe the twins realized what they did wrong and were learning from their mistake.

However, according to the press release, the brothers performed the prank on the University campus four hours after police initially spoke to them. 

In fact, they even laugh about how they’ve had the police call on them throughout the day when talking to others that they pranked on campus. 

They tell one group of students about the incident with the Uber driver adding, “The Uber driver kicked us out of the car. One minute later, there were like 10 cop cars that pulled out guns on him. They were like rifles. They thought he was the getaway driver guns so they had like 15 guns put up. He’s like ‘I’m not even a part of this.’ So yeah, poor guy.”

What Were They Charged With? 

The brothers have each been charged with one felony count of false imprisonment affected by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, and one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, which is often referred to as swatting. They both face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted on all counts.

When announcing the charges, D.A. Todd Spitzer condemned their actions, saying in a statement, “These were not pranks.”

“These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed. Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect the public and when someone calls 911 to report an active bank robbery they are going to respond to protect lives. Instead, what they found was some kind of twisted attempt to gain more popularity on the internet by unnecessarily putting members of the public and police officers in danger.”

The brothers have no made any public comments about the charges as of now. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN

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Katy Perry and Portia de Rossi Share Support for Ellen

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  • Ellen DeGeneres received words of support from her wife Portia de Rossi, singer Katy Perry, and others following accusations that her the workplace behind the scenes of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is toxic.
  • Several reports indicated that DeGeneres might be departing from her show, but NBC News confirmed Tuesday that she is staying for an 18th season.
  • The allegations against top staffers on the show include bullying, racism, and sexual harassment.
  • WarnerMedia is conducting an investigation into the workplace, and DeGeneres said she is committed to making changes going forward.

Stars Defend Ellen

Rumors have been swirling that Ellen DeGeneres might be leaving her post as the host of her own talk show following allegations of a toxic workplace behind the scenes. However, those rumors were quelled on Tuesday morning, and celebrities began to speak up in support of the daytime host. 

Pop star Katy Perry tweeted support for DeGeneres, saying she has “only ever had positive takeaways” from her encounters with her. Perry also praised DeGeneres for the strides she has made when it comes to representation and equality on television and elsewhere. 

On Monday, DeGeneres’ wife, actress Portia de Rossi, shared an Instagram photo that said “I Stand By Ellen.”

Country singer Brandi Carlile responded to the post, calling the attacks against DeGeneres “unprecedented.”

“Ellen has made my life so much easier for me and other LGBTQ people,” she commented. “I’ll never stop being grateful for that.”

Some Speak Out Against Ellen

Other stars have been quicker to condemn Degeneres. Brad Garrett, best known for his role on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” said these issues are well known and start at the top. 

“Know more than one who were treated horribly by her.⁩ Common knowledge,” he tweeted.

“Back to the Future” actress Lea Thompson replied to an article sharing Garrett’s statement and said it was true. 

Twitter has also been quick to punish DeGeneres. Several reports indicated that she was leaving and speculated that James Corden might be her replacement. On Monday, #ReplaceEllen was a trending topic where users suggested personalities that they believe should step into DeGeneres’ shoes. 

The reports suggesting she is leaving the show have been disproven. On Tuesday, NBC News confirmed that DeGeneres would be staying on for an 18th season.

What Are the Accusations?

The accusations against DeGeneres and her staff are serious. Some former staffers say that producers use intimidation and fear tactics on set every day. Others say they have faced racism. WarnerMedia is conducting an investigation into the matter. DeGeneres herself released a statement on Thursday addressing her staff. 

“On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect,” she wrote. “Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that.”

Following her response, more allegations were shot at leaders of the show. BuzzFeed News published a scathing piece accusing three of the show’s top staffers of sexual assault and harassment, including head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman. One ex-employee said Leman asked him if he could give him a handjob or perform oral sex while at a company party. Another said they saw Leman grab a production assistant’s penis. 

Almost a dozen also said it was common for him to make inappropriate sexual comments and jokes. Leman told BuzzFeed that these allegations and their article were malicious and misleading.

Executive producer Ed Glavin was also accused of inappropriately touching women, and allegedly “had a reputation for being handsy with women.” 47 former employees also told BuzzFeed that he led with intimidation and fear on a daily basis. Prior to BuzzFeed‘s publication, several reports indicated that as a result of WarnerMedia’s investigation, Glavin could be departing the show. 

Co-executive producer Jonathan Norman was accused of grooming a former employee by taking him to concerts and giving him other perks. That employee alleges that one night, Norman attempted to perform oral sex on them. This was corroborated by three former employees. Norman also denied this to BuzzFeed, claiming that the accusations come from someone with ulterior motives.

It is not clear what other actions will be taken as a result of these accusations. 

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Washington Post) (People)

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Emmys Preparing Remote Telecast for September Show

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  • As has long been assumed, officials with the Emmys confirmed that the awards show will be conducting a remote telecast on Sept. 20.
  • A letter sent to nominees by host Jimmy Kimmel and several other producers said that aspects of the show will be coming to nominees’ homes to create a virtual show.
  • According to that letter, technicians, producers, and writers will work with the nominees and with Kimmel to create the show. Nominees will be filmed from their homes or other remote locations of nominees.
  • No further details about the show, including if segments will be pre-taped or if winners will be announced in advance, have been released. 

Emmys Go Remote

Instead of its traditional dazzling red carpet and Los Angeles backdrop, the 2020 Emmy Awards will be coming to you from the homes of television’s biggest stars. 

It has long been assumed that the show would not go forward in the Microsoft Theater, as coronavirus lockdowns, social distancing protocols, travel restrictions, and case increases in L.A. make that a seemingly impossible concept. Host Jimmy Kimmel, along with some of the show’s producers, confirmed this in a letter addressed to nominees, obtained by Variety on Wednesday. 

“At a time like this, we’re taking the opportunity to create a moment that is more relaxed, more entertaining, more enjoyable not only for you, but for the millions watching at home,” that letter stated. “It’s still television’s highest honor, and we never want to lose the significance of being nominated for, and maybe winning, an Emmy, but we’re going to do in a way that is appropriate to the moment (and guarantees you a memorable night).”

“But we cannot ignore the circumstances, and aside from NOT being able to come together in one place, we also acknowledge that our world is going through a challenging moment in many ways,” the letter continued. “We’ll be producing an event that is filled with warmth and humanity, which celebrates the power of television to bring us together and to help us shape our world.”

What to Expect

As for how this works come show night on Sept. 20, the letter further explains that a team of technicians, producers, and writers will work with Kimmel and the nominees to capture essential awards show moments from the homes of nominees or another remote location of their choice. 

Fashion wise, the letter said that the theme of the night is “come as you are, but make an effort!” So, if people want to suit up or throw on a ballgown, great. If they’d rather chill in their bed in PJs, that’s fine too, but powder those cheeks and make sure those pajamas are designer. 

While this COVID-19-era set-up now potentially gives Americans the unprecedented chance to get a peak at A-lister’s living rooms, it also leaves a few major questions unanswered. For example, it is still not known if the whole show will run live or if portions will be pre-taped. 

Likewise, we also don’t know if winners will be hearing of their victory for the first time during the broadcast or if they will be told in advance of the show. Setting up live cameras, audio, lighting and other logistics for every single nominee in the event they win is a difficult feat. 

While the letter states the intent for nominees to work with the show for some technical aspect like this, it is unknown if every single nominee will appear on screen and participate the way they would during a normal show. 

The Emmys will air on Sept. 20 on ABC. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Vanity Fair)

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