If there’s a spring in the step of TCA media members these days, it’s because their semi-annual confab might have been snatched from the brink with word that Facebook is making its debut at the July event, while Netflix and Amazon are returning to the fold after going missing for two years.
Facebook, which recently got trashed over its Cambridge Analytica data scandal, then hit a record stock price on news that of its biggest sports streaming deal yet, has been given a place of honor in the non-broadcast block of the TCA Summer Press Tour, kicking it off on July 25. It’s hammocked between TCA royalty HBO and National Geographic Channels. During Facebook’s allotted time, Fidji Simo, VP Product for Video, and Ricky Van Veen, Head of Global Creative Strategy, will walk press through the company’s ramp-up of original programming on Facebook Watch.
Amazon likewise has been given a plum spot on the sked to celebrate its return to TCA, joining Starz and AMC on Day 4. Former NBC Entertainment chief Jennifer Salke, who replaced ousted chief Roy Price, will be making her first TCA appearance as new head of Amazon Studios.
Netflix also is back, and again getting its very own day, on TCA’s Day 5, Sunday, July 29. Netflix first joined the twice-a-year program-plugging bacchanal in January 2013, which was seen as a signal that the streaming service had started wearing its big-boy pants. Netflix’s presence grew at the confab to become daylong blocks of Q&A time.
Then, in November 2016, the streaming service said it would stand down from the 2017 winter iteration, causing hand-wringing by TCA members who worried it might signal the beginning of the end for the event – joining the pantheon of perceived signs of the beginning of the end, dating back at least two decades.
Much recent end-is-nigh-ing seemed to stem from broadcast execs who missed the good old days when TV critics banked show Q&As to write up down the road, when the program in question was debuting on the network. These days, TCA is more a contact sport – an orgy of showrunner speed dating, competitive tweeting and embargoed-news release publishing that can generate lots of immediate buzz about programming.
Netflix’s TCA schedule this year includes a panel for All About the Washingtons, in which Rev Run and wife Justine Simmons play fictionalizes versions of themselves, and a One Day at a Time lunch that Norman Lear is expected to attend. Meanwhile, Tony Danza and Josh Groban are slated to headline a panel for The Good Cop, and Matt Groening is expected to attend the panel for adult animation project, Disenchantment.
Meanwhile, clever Hulu is repeating as host of its good-will-creating “spa” afternoon, sandwiches between TCA’s members meeting and the org’s evening trophy show, on Saturday, August 4.
Broadcast networks have not issued their plans for Summer TCA 2018 yet, but if past is prologue, expect panels on news series for the fall and an executive Q&A for each net.
Having done better with its casting in the recently concluded TV season, CBS Entertainment chief Kelly Kahl and EVP programming Thom Sherman might not field their net’s traditional lack-of-diversity question at TCA, which would be actual news. Instead, execs are likely to get the latest round of outraged questions about inappropriate behavior and racist comments by some cast members in Season 20 of Big Brother.
The most recent incident occurred on the show’s 24/7 online feed when cast members Rachel Swindler and Angela Rummans used the term “ghetto” to compare their tans, sparking swift backlash on Twitter. Fans previously accused cast member JC Mounduix of sexual harassment for inappropriately touching contestants, with some calling for his ouster from the show.
Presumably the two executives will explain that material in the live feeds does not necessarily air on thebroadcast, and to suggest that competitors do, in fact suffer consequences for deplorable behavior — if only because it is seen by their employers, their future employers and friends and family.
Kahl and Sherman also presumably are armed with a good answer to any questions as to how their jobs are being impacted by the internecine warfare between CBS Corp Leslie Moonves and National Amusements president/CBS Corp vice chair Shari Redstone.
ABC’s exec panel seems destined to focus on Roseanne Barr’s ouster from her long-running sitcom’s hit revival and the network’s effort to salvage the franchise with a spinoff called The Conners in which Barr will not participate.
Fox executives might take a question or two as to whether comedies and dramas have a future on the network whose lineup grows ever heavier with Gordon Ramsey cooking shows, football and WWE programming in the days ahead of its sale to Disney. Fox TV Group chairman Dana Walden, who was considered an early front-runner to replace Price at Amazon, might field a question about reports she was eyeing a top TV job at the combined Disney operation, or working in some capacity with uber producer Ryan Murphy.
The 2018 TCA Summer Press Tour runs July 25-August 8.