- Several current and former employees of the Ellen Degeneres Show claim they experienced racism, fear tactics, and a toxic culture while working for the show.
- One Black staffer claimed that on top of dealing with microaggressions, she was reprimanded for bringing up representation issues. Other staffers said they were fired for requesting time off after dealing with mental or physical health issues, or a death in the family.
- While some say that Degeneres allows this to happen, many others said that producers and managers are largely responsible for cultivating this culture.
- Three executive producers for the show, Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner, said they were “heartbroken” by this news and vowed to do better going forward.
Allegations of Racism and Intimidation
On her show, Ellen Degeneres is known for massive giveaways, pulling pranks on America’s favorite stars, and preaching kindness to her viewers. However, behind the scenes, her employees paint a less positive picture of Degeneres and her team.
According to a report from BuzzFeed News published Thursday, some of the show’s current and former employees say they experienced racism, intimidation, fear tactics, and a toxic culture. The staffers said that much of this culture is created by the daytime talk show’s managers and producers.
A former Black employee told the outlet that she experienced microaggressions and other racist comments during her year and a half working for the show. She claims one writer told her she only knew the names of white co-workers. She also said that a senior-level producer told her and another Black employee, “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.”
When she brought up issues of representation and discouraged people from using terms like “spirit animal,” her co-workers started to isolate from her. One person allegedly called her the “PC Police.”
In another instance, she said she found out a recently hired employee was making twice as much to do the same job as her. She asked about a raise, but after months of waiting, nothing happened. She alleges that when she brought up complaints about this, as well as discrimination and representation, she was called to a meeting with executive producer Ed Glavin, who reprimanded her. She left that meeting and never returned to the show.
Other former employees claimed they were fired for taking necessary time off. One checked into a mental hospital for a month after a suicide attempt. When they returned to work, they learned they lost their job.
“Some of the producers talk openly in public about addiction and mental health awareness, but they’re the reason there’s a stigma,” they said to BuzzFeed. “They definitely don’t practice what they preach with the ‘be kind’ mantra.”
Another former employee said they were fired after being in a car accident and experiencing two deaths in the family within a year. The accident required them to take three weeks of medical leave, one funeral required two days working remotely, and the second required three days off to travel to the funeral. Requesting time off for these reasons was allegedly difficult.
Executive Producers Respond
Executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner issued a statement saying they were heartbroken from hearing these stories.
“Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment,” they said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us.”
“For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us,” they added. “We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”
While some blamed producers, others thought Degeneres herself should be doing more to make sure her office is as positive as she is on camera.
“If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on,” one former employee said to BuzzFeed. “I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, ‘Things are going great, everybody’s happy,’ and she just believes that, but it’s her responsibility to go beyond that.”
History of Complaints at the Ellen Show
Rumors about Degeneres being rude or creating a hostile work environment have swirled around Hollywood for a long time. Just this year, word of this behavior has started to bubble over. An April report from Variety alleged that show staffers were left in the dark when it came to their working hours and pay during the coronavirus pandemic. Frustrations were exacerbated when the show hired an outside crew to help Degeneres film remotely.
Eventually, most crew members were told to expect a 60% cut in their pay despite the fact that the show was still airing. At the same time, other talk show hosts like Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, and James Cordon announced that they would be paying some of their staff out of their own pockets.
In May, a bodyguard assigned to protect her at the 2014 Oscars told Fox News that Degeneres was “cold” and “demeaning.” The Internet has also been collecting their own stories about Degeneres. A viral Twitter thread asking for peoples’ “most insane” stories about her has 2,600 replies and almost 5,000 retweets with comments.
According to BuzzFeed, when it comes to those working on the show, there is a strong division between those who want to call out the toxic environment, and those who “drink the Kool-Aid.”
Those who work long days without a complaint and ignore how higher-up employees treat everyone else tend to be more liked by producers. They are also allegedly incentivized and get leftover show swag like iPhones and JetBlue gift cards. Those who speak out don’t get their contracts renewed.
“People focus on rumors about how Ellen is mean and everything like that, but that’s not the problem. The issue is these three executive producers running the show who are in charge of all these people [and] who make the culture and are putting out this feeling of bullying and being mean,” a former employee told the outlet. “They feel that everybody who works at The Ellen Show is lucky to work there — ‘So if you have a problem, you should leave because we’ll hire someone else because everybody wants to work here.’”
See what others are saying: (A.V. Club) (USA Today) (Entertainment Tonight)
Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19
- Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
- The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
- “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”
Chappelle Tests Positive
Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.
“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.
“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.
Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle
Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.
Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.
“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”
See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)
Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention
- In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
- The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
- The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.
Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers
Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.
In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.
Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.
When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.
Success Amid Growth of Competition
The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix.
Still, it reached a massive milestone.
“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”
Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.
“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”
Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers
Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.
An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service.
Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Paramount+ To Launch March 4
- ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year.
- The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection.
Paramount+ Gets Launch Date
ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year.
It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.
More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news.
“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”
State of the Streaming Wars
Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”
The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television.
ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.