Deez Interviews: Joe Adalian on the streaming wars, his latest favorite show, and what it's like to cover huge change in the TV industry…twice!

Happy Friday, Deezers! Today’s interview is with Vulture’s west coast editor, Joe Adalian. If you haven’t read his 2018 feature, Inside The Binge Factory, do it now because you’ll think about it every time you plop yourself in front of the TV, and sign up for his new newsletter, Buffering, which covers all the ins and outs of the streaming wars.  

In our Q&A, we talked about his long career covering TV, one underrated impact of Netflix on the entertainment industry, and of course, the one show he’s been most obsessed with. Can you guess what it is??  

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You've been writing about TV for several decades, as both a TV show critic and a reporter covering the biz. What’s kept you interested in this beat/industry despite so much change? 

The competition in TV is just a super fun thing to cover. Networks (and now streaming platforms) fight over everything: Deals with talent, show ideas, the right time slots to launch shows, advertiser support. It's a non-stop battle. 

And I've been lucky enough to cover TV at a time of massive change, not once but twice. First it was the rise of premium and basic cable as a main rival to broadcasters in the late 90s, 00s and early 10s. And in the last five years, it's become streaming vs. linear, as the means of distributing TV is being blown up. This means a lot of what I learned about how TV works is now irrelevant, but that just makes the beat all the more interesting —so many new things to learn.

Now that you're focused on covering the streaming wars at Vulture, do you end up watching a lot of TV for work? Or is keeping up with the actual shows not as much a part of your day-to-day?

I am fortunate: Since I'm not a critic, or even someone who does a ton of features on talent or show runners, I don't feel the need to watch everything. I still try to keep up somewhat, though, so I have a sense of a platform's strategy and can see what shows might break out. 

If I didn't have this job, I don't think I'd have ever watched Love Is Blind on Netflix. But since I was doing a feature on their unscripted division, I watched the screeners before it premiered....and, yes, I got hooked.

Given what you've seen in the past, do you think this everyone-has-their-own-streaming-service trend is going to be long-term, or are we due for shift back to "bundling" / the cable model eventually? 

I think we could see some bundling from the likes of Apple or Google or even Amazon. It would make so much sense for one of those companies to package together their own platforms (TV+, YouTube TV, Prime Video) with the platforms they already sell — but at a discount. 

The same could be true with internet service providers. That said, the future will have a lot more a la carte selections by consumers than the past.

Another streaming question: What is one unintended or underrated consequence that you're seeing the Netflix-inspired arms race have on the entertainment industry?

I don't know if this is all about Netflix spending money, but in general, streaming is forcing writers and actors and publicists to work harder. The days of being on one 22-episode show every year are over for a big chunk of the writing community. Folks are working on two or even three shows because episode counts are smaller, and series runs are shorter. 

Creatively, that could be great for some, especially actors. It's much more like a film model. PR people now have more shows to hype, and a more crowded environment in which to sell said shows.

Finally, what's one recent show that you've become personally obsessed with? 

Superstore. I've never seen an episode on NBC, but I discovered it on Hulu and fell in love — such an underrated gem of a comedy. I'm taking my time watching it, too: One episode a week, sometimes two. Because it's a broadcast show, there are a lot of episodes, and I want them to last. I like looking forward to it every week.

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Don’t forget to follow @TVMoeJoe (suuuch a good handle) on Twitter, and sign up for Joe’s Buffering newsletter here!


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