A merger of media giants, the rise of legalized sports gambling as a huge new TV advertising and programming category, and momentum in the expansion of ad-supported streaming were just three of the stories and trends covered here in 2022.
The merger that closed last April of Discovery Inc. and Warner Media -- which was more like a takeover of the latter by the former -- joined the unscripted, reality TV empire of Discovery Networks with the history, vast library and production resources of Warner to create a content colossus that may be the most wide-ranging in all of television.
Variety doesn’t get more wide-ranging than “Man Fire Food” on Discovery’s Cooking Channel and “Game Of Thrones” on Warner’s HBO (both pictured above), to name just one of many examples underscoring the differences between the two companies.
In the new world of streaming-first, the prevailing content strategy has long been “the more the merrier,” but the new company, christened Warner Bros. Discovery, found itself grappling with the high cost of constant production to feed the streaming beast, plus the debt load that resulted from the takeover deal.
The other streaming giants also encountered turbulence in 2022. At Netflix, new subscriptions slowed. At Disney -- and everywhere else too -- the cost of production soared.
In the face of runaway production costs and the slowdown in subscription sign-ups, the majors accelerated their efforts to build out their ad-supported tiers. The new year just around the corner will be crucial.
The past year saw some churn in late-night TV as Trevor Noah quit “The Daily Show,” James Corden said he will leave his “Late Late Show” on CBS next spring, and Warner Discovery canceled “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.”
Sports gambling commercials and TV shows with oddsmakers exploded on to the small screen in 2022.
Commercials for the new mobile sports-gambling apps with Jamie Foxx (BetMGM) and J.B. Smoove and the entire Manning family of football stars (Caesars Sportsbook) emerged as the most ubiquitous category of commercials in all of television.
They were particularly visible during live sports telecasts where the gambling messages even intruded on live play.
For decades, Big Sports steered far clear of gambling interests, but now they are deeply in business with the gambling giants.
In several columns, the TV Blog decried the trend and admonished football stars such as Eli and Peyton Manning for endorsing and encouraging the gambling habit -- to no avail (as usual).
Elsewhere in the TV year now coming to an end, TV brought home the tragedy and immediacy of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February and riveted us all.
In September, TV drew the attention of the world again when millions beheld the pomp and pageantry of the funeral of Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
In other notable telecasts in 2022, the Winter Olympics on NBC fell short of audience expectations, and Will Smith made a spectacle of himself on live, international television when he strode onto the stage at the Academy Awards and slapped host Chris Rock across the face.
Among the more intriguing TV industry stories in 2022 was the news that NBC was seriously considering dropping out of the 10-11 p.m. (Eastern) time period on Thursday nights, and returning the hour to its affiliates to program it themselves.
The unprecedented move would represent the first time a TV network would chip away at its own prime-time programming commitments because it was no longer profitable.
The gradual decline of legacy television in general continued in 2022, but the networks produced and premiered new shows as usual and, in the process, maintained their dependence on “seasons” (fall, midseason, summer) for the rollout of new content.
Other trends that have been ongoing for years continued in 2022. Violence, profanity and adult sexual content (the subject of TV Blogs too numerous to count) increased in proportion to the number of new shows that appeared during the year.
Interminable commercial breaks that have plagued broadcast TV and basic cable, and frustrated audiences for years continued unchanged.
Speaking of unchanged, local TV news continued to traffic in disheartening street crime -- some newsworthy and some not -- and the cable news channels continued to emphasize opinions over news while insisting that they were not.
Last but not least, Maury Povich retired at age 83 after 31 years of hosting one of TV’s most outrageous daytime talk shows. A quote from the press announcement last March put the “Maury Povich” show into perspective.
“I’m so proud of my relationship with NBCUniversal and all those who worked on the ‘Maury’ show,” Maury said, “But as I occasionally tell my guests on ‘Maury,’ ‘Enough, already!’ ”
Re gambling and th. NFL: somewhere (hopefully in "The Good Place") Paul Hornung and Alex Karras are spinning!
Excellent column! I enjoyed reading this. Happy Holidays Adam