Emmy Night Puts a Hurting on the Investment Thesis Around Broadcast Television

By Markets Fool.com

In this segment of the Sept. 19 MarketFoolery podcast,Chris Hill, Stock Advisor Canada's Taylor Muckerman, and Million Dollar Portfolio's Jason Moser consider how well the Emmy Awards demonstrate that traditional broadcasters are not just past their prime, but out of the vanguard in a way they may not be able to recover from.

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A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Sept. 14, 2016.

Chris Hill:The Emmy Awards, not a great night for broadcast television. HBO took home best comedy and drama, and the FX Network actually tied [with] HBO for the most awards of any network, largely or maybe entirely, thanks to The People Vs. OJ Simpson. We also saw Netflix bring home three statues. Amazon winning a couple.

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Taylor Muckerman: PBS, too. Don't leave PBS out.

Hill: That's right. That's true. OK, PBS is carrying the banner for...If you want to include that in broadcast television, which I will because I'm old enough to...When I was a kid, there was ABC, NBC, CBS--

Jason Moser: The boring one.

Hill:The one with the Muppets. I don't think there's any reason to think, not for lack of trying on the part of broadcast television, but I don't think there's any reason to think this trend reverses itself any time soon.

Moser:Yeah, I have a hard time seeing that happen. Honestly, you've got this point now where your networks like FX, for example, or whichever one, just name it. They just seem to have more creative freedom than any of these three bigs. That I think is proving to go a very, very long way. FX, they have I think what is really a pretty impressive lineup when you look at all of the different content they put out there, and the new season of American Horror Story just started. That's been well-received. That's one of those series that, again, it's that anthology series where every season's a new story. They could go on as long as they want to, and the creators seem to have this penchant for wanting to push the envelope and see how much they can get away with. Obviously, that creates interest.

I saw all ofThe People Vs. OJ, and granted I also lived it, when it was actually happening, as did you. I'm sure we remember it very well. I was surprised to see it actually got so many awards. I didn't watch the Emmys, I was busy watching football, but VEEP I totally get. I watch it, I think it's hilarious. Game of Thrones, I understand. I don't watch it, but man, it's just a rabid fan base. Maybe it was just due to the category that The People Vs. OJ was in, a limited series or whatever. It was well-made, but again, I think it was one of those series that really was able to push the envelope in what it was able to offer. I think that when you have your CBS and NBC and ABC, they have to adhere to these guidelines where they can only do so much. They can only go so far. You can't put that toothpaste back in the tube. I think it's a new age for TV entertainment, and I think that sports is probably going to be what they...That's going to be strength that they really have to take them forward.

Hill:I think it's partly what you're saying in terms of the restrictions on broadcast television. I also think the way that cable television restricts itself in terms of the number of episodes they put up in a series. If you think about just the standard...Take a show like VEEP, where a single season will have 10 episodes, versus The Big Bang Theory or Parks and Rec, or something like that, where they have to put up 22, 24 episodes, that thing. You listen to people like Chuck Lorre, who's the show runner on shows like The Big Bang Theory. People like that will tell you, "Hey, if I only..." If you have to produce 22 episodes of a show in a given season, there are absolutely going to be shows, episodes where you think to yourself, "This isn't great."

Muckerman:They're diluted, yeah.

Hill:Yeah, there's only so many ideas we have, whereas if they were somehow able to restrict themselves or shorten their season and just go to a major network and say, "Listen, we'll do this series for you. It's going to be great. It's only going to be 12 episodes."

Moser:Yeah. No, I think it's a very good point. I don't know if the big networks have a come-to-Jesus moment where they say, "Yeah, maybe we need to do what those other guys are doing." Perhaps that does happen, but I guess you look at something like Hulu out there, which is a cooperation between Comcast and Disney and Fox, I think. Maybe you'll see some more collaboration with the big networks and some new offerings like that. We're watching a pretty amazing shift in the media space, and every time I go to look at a potential movie to go see in the movie theater, it just reminds me of how bad movies are nowadays. They're really struggling for ideas, it seems like.

My wife and I were talking about this the other night. I can't believe the Deepwater Horizon is now actually a movie.

Muckerman:Yeah, pretty under the radar, too.

Moser:Yeah. It just seems, all right, really? That's the best you got? You can tell the cast that they put in that movie is really the competitive advantage, right? That's a stock. That's their competitive advantage, the cast, because the story sucks. It does. The thing blew up and a buttload of oil leaked all over the ocean and just messed a lot of things up. We all know it, it was five years ago, we lived it. I can't fathom going to see that movie--

Hill:What if I told you Mark Wahlberg was going to be a borderline superhero in terms of saving people?

Moser:Maybe at least I'm then going to think about it, but still, I'm probably not going to go. I think it just goes back to the point that this really is a golden age for television. It really does have to do with the way over-the-top distribution has just offered this whole new model. It gives the creators a better avenue with which to create what they want to create. They're not bound by certain network guidelines and stipulations that they're going to make them sacrifice on the story. Then to your point, they don't have to push that big volume out there. It's really more about quality versus quantity, and I think that matters.

Muckerman:They don't have to focus on news, they don't have to have any morning shows. All they have to do is concentrate on creating content that people are going to rewatch or stream or sit down on their sofa and watch for four hours straight.

Hill:The one thing that I think broadcast TV continues to have as an advantage, and I'm curious to see if this shifts any point, is they have the eyeballs. If you're just talking about how many people are watching a given show, exponentially more are watching a show like The Big Bang Theory than a show like VEEP, even though VEEP is the one walking home with the trophy. I think that you see it in things like award shows, where it would be interesting to see if at any point Netflix or Hulu or Amazon said, "You know what? We're going to make a bid for the Academy Awards," or something like that, and just say, "We're going to stream it live and that's it." I don't know that that's ever going to happen, but just in terms of drawing in the eyeballs, broadcast TV still has that advantage.

Muckerman:Yeah, I'd be surprised if they did it by themselves. I would imagine it may be like a Twitter for the NFL on Thursday, just an add-on giving other people a different option of a way to watch it, but yeah, I think it's a probably little ways away from just the pure play, here's the Emmys on Netflix, or here's the Emmys on Amazon.

Moser:Yeah, I think most are looking at three-prong strategy of figuring out a way to get that content on broadcast, on cable, and then on digital. That was what was behind the NFL's deal with incorporating Twitter into the mix this year, was, it's not just a solely Twitter thing. It's just one more channel they can use to get that content out there. I imagine, like Taylor said, you'll see at some point where CBS is going to make a deal with Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat, or something where they can start getting that content out in front of as many eyeballs as possible, because bottom line is your Facebooks and your Twitters, that's where the eyeballs really are for much of the day.

Muckerman:Especially for things like award shows.

Moser:Yeah, absolutely.

Muckerman:It's crazy.

Chris Hill owns shares of Amazon.com and Walt Disney. Jason Moser owns shares of Twitter and Walt Disney. Taylor Muckerman owns shares of Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.