Mandalorian Is the Way of Star Wars


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

The Mandalorian manages to out-Star Wars, Star Wars…

We’re three episodes into the second season of The Mandalorian and it’s great. Really good. The first season was fantastic, and the second is shaping up to be better. In fact, it’s so good that something lingers at the back of my head. Something a bit terrifying: I think The Mandalorian is better at Star Wars than the most recent Star Wars movies are.

I think such a statement will be both controversial to some and entirely not controversial to others. To my eye and taste, The Mandalorian is just a better distillation of what Star Wars is meant to be versus the most recent trilogy (and, of course, the prequel trilogy before that). Said another way: The Mandalorian feels like the true successor to the original Star Wars trilogy.

The prequels were a mess. The sequels were a whiplash-inducing affair of varying quality. I liked them, but I didn’t love them. Certainly not in the way that I loved the original Star Wars trilogy. And now not even in a way that I love The Mandalorian.

I do think part of it is the glitz and glam of the prequels and sequels. CGI aside, they just feel like big Hollywood spectacles because they were meant to be big Hollywood spectacles. The Mandalorian has plenty of CGI (very, very good, both by regular and “television” standards), but it also seemingly has more practical effects as well. It just looks more like the original trilogy in ways big and small.

It also, seemingly, has more heart than the sequels do (and certainly the prequels, which were Anakin Skywalker-levels devoid of emotion). Part of this may be a function of the television/streaming style of storytelling — connections built over many hours — but it sure feels like it goes deeper than that. We care about these characters and story lines because the people crafting such narratives care about them.

Anyway, just a thought I’ve been having while watching The Mandalorian these past few weeks. I think the show outshines the movies because it’s actually better than the prequels and sequels. And more in the vein of the original Star Wars. I hope they can keep that up.


Mandalorian Is the Way of Star Wars was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

No Choice Entertainment


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Finding forcing functions for abundant content

Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, Hulu, Peacock. Currently, we have some tier of each of these video streaming services. No, I don’t want to add up how much I’m paying for all of them in our post-cable world. Yes, it’s a problem.

Cost aside, the day-to-day problem we now have is a weird one. One of abundance. There’s simply too much content to watch, so how do you choose?

The answer is often to wait for either friend or cultural recommendations (mainly via Twitter or other social channels) to come in. But even these are a challenge to sift through because there’s just so much across so many services. Aside from a very small handful of shows — Ted Lasso being one! — no one seems to be watching anything at the same time. Again, how do you choose?

Recently, during some shelter-in-place trips around the Bay Area, we’ve stayed at a few places without great WiFi. And while that itself has obviously not been great, it has been a nice forcing function in an odd way. It has made it so we had to watch whatever I downloaded to my iPad before we left.

I tend to download things before we go somewhere on a just-in-case basis. And in this case, it was smart. But it was also nice. Because for once, we didn’t have to choose from an effectively infinite supply of content. We could choose between three or four things. It was great.

This sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less real. In our world of content abundance, these types of forcing functions are refreshing. They lift the weight of choice.

Another example I’ve grown to love recently: the lists of movies leaving Netflix (and other services) at the end of each month (a lot of sites now highlight this). Most of these have to do with license rights and/or windowing restrictions. Still, knowing a movie or show is going away shortly is a great catalyst to get you to watch. Again, it removes some element of choice from the equation. Which, again, is refreshing in a weird way.

All of the above is why I also believe the concept of “new” is so powerful. It’s a curation layer of sorts. (It also helps that something which is ‘new’ is less likely to have the “taint” of being deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’ already. You can decide for yourself.) It’s also why the concept of releasing shows on a weekly basis, even after Netflix “disrupted” that model, makes some sense again.

That’s it. That’s the post.


No Choice Entertainment was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

No Choice Entertainment


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Finding forcing functions for abundant content

Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, Hulu, Peacock. Currently, we have some tier of each of these video streaming services. No, I don’t want to add up how much I’m paying for all of them in our post-cable world. Yes, it’s a problem.

Cost aside, the day-to-day problem we now have is a weird one. One of abundance. There’s simply too much content to watch, so how do you choose?

The answer is often to wait for either friend or cultural recommendations (mainly via Twitter or other social channels) to come in. But even these are a challenge to sift through because there’s just so much across so many services. Aside from a very small handful of shows — Ted Lasso being one! — no one seems to be watching anything at the same time. Again, how do you choose?

Recently, during some shelter-in-place trips around the Bay Area, we’ve stayed at a few places without great WiFi. And while that itself has obviously not been great, it has been a nice forcing function in an odd way. It has made it so we had to watch whatever I downloaded to my iPad before we left.

I tend to download things before we go somewhere on a just-in-case basis. And in this case, it was smart. But it was also nice. Because for once, we didn’t have to choose from an effectively infinite supply of content. We could choose between three or four things. It was great.

This sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less real. In our world of content abundance, these types of forcing functions are refreshing. They lift the weight of choice.

Another example I’ve grown to love recently: the lists of movies leaving Netflix (and other services) at the end of each month (a lot of sites now highlight this). Most of these have to do with license rights and/or windowing restrictions. Still, knowing a movie or show is going away shortly is a great catalyst to get you to watch. Again, it removes some element of choice from the equation. Which, again, is refreshing in a weird way.

All of the above is why I also believe the concept of “new” is so powerful. It’s a curation layer of sorts. (It also helps that something which is ‘new’ is less likely to have the “taint” of being deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’ already. You can decide for yourself.) It’s also why the concept of releasing shows on a weekly basis, even after Netflix “disrupted” that model, makes some sense again.

That’s it. That’s the post.


No Choice Entertainment was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

A Too Short Lasso


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

30 minute ‘Ted Lasso’ is the best. A week between is the worst.

So, Ted Lasso, the sort of goofier little sibling to Major League which airs as a show on Apple TV+ is surprisingly pretty good.¹ Well, that may be a bit generous.² It’s seemingly knowingly corny, but in an oddly welcome way. Still, it’s decidedly watchable — especially in our current reality of pandemics and poisonous air.

Actually, it’s one fatal flaw has nothing to do with the show at all, but rather with how it’s presented. Which is: 30-minute chunks, once a week.

Now, don’t get me wrong, in our era of prestige television where the state of the art form is dominated by hour-long dramas, this 30-minute side of french fries is a most welcomed change of pace. But the week-long intervals one must wait to watch another is obscene. This is utterly snackable content that is being dished out like the Stanford marshmellow experiment. It’s cruel.

And I think it’s dumb. I know I’ve argued in the past that shows like Stranger Things may actually benefit from a week-long build-up, going against the Netflix grain, but Ted Lasso is in a different camp. A weekly watercooler chat about the latest episode isn’t the key here. Ted Lasso is a binge show stuck in a cable show’s body.

The problem is that Ted Lasso’s lightweight also leaves it fleeting. The strength is the weakness.

So my advice to Apple would be the opposite of my advice to Netflix: release the full season of Ted Lasso all at once. Let people binge-mode it in a marathon, talk about it online as a whole and wholesome escape from our current reality, let it grow, and let the anticipation build for season two.

Part of me wonders if this isn’t as simple as the idea that 30-minute shows should be released binge-style, while hour-long shows should be weekly in cadence (at least once they’re established as hits). Obviously, there would be exceptions, but 30 minutes feels like too short a time to ask people to wait a week each time. I realize this wasn’t true 30 years ago, but the world has changed. Netflix changed it, and Apple should learn from it.

¹ For those who haven’t seen Major League — first, see it. Second, it’s the story of a woman who takes over a sports team (in this case, baseball — incidentally, my hometown Cleveland Indians, so I have a very real soft spot for the movie, but it’s honestly good) from her husband and aims to run it into the ground… But again, the tone is completely different here.

² Though, I don’t know. Ted Lasso’s first seasons isn’t done yet and the first season of The Morning Show — also an Apple TV+ show, of course — grew on me like wildfire (which is a decidedly bad metaphor to use right now, sadly).


A Too Short Lasso was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Watch Netflix Content Faster or Slower on Your Mobile Device


This post is by n Rohit n from Influential Marketing

I spend a lot of time writing my books. For Non-Obvious Megatrends, my team of editors and I went through fourteen rounds of editing and obsessed over every word in every section to share the insights as succinctly as possible without losing the nuance of all the research we had amassed from ten years of collecting trend insights. Despite all that effort, I know that the vast majority of people who bought the book will only ever skim it or read part of it.

While I always hope they read more, I know as a creator that no matter how much time and passion I put into creating exactly the experience I want someone to have, when the book is finally in their hands — the experience of how they consume it is their choice.

This week, Netflix finally rolled out a feature that most filmmakers and many actors have long resisted and openly campaigned against. Now on your mobile device or tablet, you can watch shows at 1.5x or 2.0x the original speed. It’s easy to understand why creators would hate this. Of course they want people to watch what they produced at the “right” speed. But this is going to be a losing battle.

Netflix is giving people the control they want and also solving the widely discussed problem of having too much good content available at our fingertips. I think giving control to the watcher is a good call. And ultimately it may give rise to cultural movements similar to the slow food revolution, where people take pleasure in the intentional slowing down of some experiences so they can savor them, while speeding up others to spend less time watching without feeling the experience is diminished at all.

Why More People Should Skip the Hustle and Take the Paycheck


This post is by n Rohit n from Influential Marketing

Hollywood and just about any other creative industry is filled with success stories of people to took big risks to find that “performance of a lifetime.” To some degree, these are what make awards like the Oscars so watchable. That actor who lost (or gained) 50 pounds in service of a great role, or the one who continually reinvented herself for each new character is celebrated. What about the actor who stays in the same role for two decades, without continually seeking something better?

There aren’t many stories of actors like that, which made this week’s Vanity Fair story about Ellen Pompeo particularly interesting. She is best known for playing the lead character of Meredith Grey in the long-running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. And she recently shared in a podcast interview why she has stayed on the show for so long while other stars have come and gone:

“I made a decision to make money, and not chase creative acting roles. That’s what, ultimately, I think, the hustler in me—I don’t like chasing anything, ever. And acting to me, in my experience, was a lot of chasing. You’ve got to chase roles, you’ve got to beg for roles, you’ve got to convince people. And although I produce and it’s the same kind of thing, I think I still do it from a place of, I’m never that thirsty because I’m financially set.”

This is the sort of perspective you rarely get in the world of entertainment, and perhaps one that more aspiring actors (not to mention entrepreneurs) might learn from as well. I became an entrepreneur five years ago after turning 40, but before that, I was working for someone else, loving my work and taking home a steady paycheck. The idea that you can’t be empowered if you’re taking the “easy” path of bringing home a steady salary misses the bigger picture. We should all try to find work we love. This doesn’t, however, mean that you always need to be hustling or chasing the next thing.

As Pompeo goes on to share, “It’s pretty common for actors to try to run away from stuff. They’re super well-known for something, and they have to get as far away from it as possible. That’s okay, I understand that completely, completely understand that. But at my age and where my life is, I’m not trying to run away from anything. It is who I am. I made my choices and I’m cool with it.”

It takes an underappreciated kind of wisdom to be happy with what you have and realize how lucky you are.

Why More People Should Skip the Hustle and Take the Paycheck


This post is by n Rohit n from Influential Marketing

Hollywood and just about any other creative industry is filled with success stories of people to took big risks to find that “performance of a lifetime.” To some degree, these are what make awards like the Oscars so watchable. That actor who lost (or gained) 50 pounds in service of a great role, or the one who continually reinvented herself for each new character is celebrated. What about the actor who stays in the same role for two decades, without continually seeking something better?

There aren’t many stories of actors like that, which made this week’s Vanity Fair story about Ellen Pompeo particularly interesting. She is best known for playing the lead character of Meredith Grey in the long-running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. And she recently shared in a podcast interview why she has stayed on the show for so long while other stars have come and gone:

“I made a decision to make money, and not chase creative acting roles. That’s what, ultimately, I think, the hustler in me—I don’t like chasing anything, ever. And acting to me, in my experience, was a lot of chasing. You’ve got to chase roles, you’ve got to beg for roles, you’ve got to convince people. And although I produce and it’s the same kind of thing, I think I still do it from a place of, I’m never that thirsty because I’m financially set.”

This is the sort of perspective you rarely get in the world of entertainment, and perhaps one that more aspiring actors (not to mention entrepreneurs) might learn from as well. I became an entrepreneur five years ago after turning 40, but before that, I was working for someone else, loving my work and taking home a steady paycheck. The idea that you can’t be empowered if you’re taking the “easy” path of bringing home a steady salary misses the bigger picture. We should all try to find work we love. This doesn’t, however, mean that you always need to be hustling or chasing the next thing.

As Pompeo goes on to share, “It’s pretty common for actors to try to run away from stuff. They’re super well-known for something, and they have to get as far away from it as possible. That’s okay, I understand that completely, completely understand that. But at my age and where my life is, I’m not trying to run away from anything. It is who I am. I made my choices and I’m cool with it.”

It takes an underappreciated kind of wisdom to be happy with what you have and realize how lucky you are.

Netflix’s Controversial New Show On Indian Arranged Marriages


This post is by n Rohit n from Influential Marketing

A new Netflix eight-part mini-series called Indian Matchmaking has been sparking a big debate online because of how it shines a spotlight on what one observer called “Brahmanical patriarchy … shaped by gender, caste, and economic relationships.”

The show tells the story of arranged marriages from the perspective of a famous matchmaker who uses “biodata” to connect people. Watching it reminded me how lucky I am to be married to an amazing woman, along with just how stupid most of us can be when describing who we think our “ideal” mate should be (including how they focus on skin color, height and economic status).

In the show, as in real life, the people who seem to find a connection most easily are the ones who are flexible enough to accept and love someone as they are, rather than trying to shape them into who they imagine they want their perfect spouse to be.

5 Virtual Presentation Lessons From Comic-Con


This post is by n Rohit n from Influential Marketing

I have wanted to go to the Comic-Con event for years, but never quite managed to make it. This year, I finally can – because the entire event is happening virtually. It is happening all weekend, and there is already an excellent panel online you can watch on how teachers are using comic books to help students learn.

Over the past few days, there have been panels on “causeplay,” the future of gaming and a Star Trek panel featuring a table read of the season finale from Star Trek Discovery. It was this panel in particular that offered some great lessons any of us can use when trying to create an engaging virtual session of our own. Here were a few big takeaways I noted from the one hour session that you can watch on YouTube now.

1. Set the tone with high energy.

The virtual session kicked off with Dominic Patten, Senior Editor at Deadline who brought great energy and offered a nice balance between regret that Comic-Con needed to go virtual this year, along with excitement for the session and possibilities now that it was going to be virtual. More importantly, he served as a consistent voice throughout the session as it moved from interviews to a table read of an episode from Star Trek: Discovery to later segments. Having this voice throughout brought the entire hour together and added much needed consistency.

2. Announce something worthwhile.

One of the problems with virtual events is that they often feel insignificant in comparison to live events because they are. At least, the content is. Comic-Con is a hugely significant event every year that features many launches and announcements that people wait for all year long. In this segment, Star Trek executives announced the name of their new kid’s show to bring younger viewers into the Star Trek Universe. It is a significant announcement that fans of the series are sure to be interested in.

3. Know what works on screen.

When the cast of Star Trek: Discovery did their table read of the finale from Season 2, there were a perfect twelve squares on screen performing. At various points throughout the reading, the screen shifted to show different cast members and the view shifted at other points to visuals from the finale to bring it to life. The end experience was one where you could watch the entire session and not get bored or feel like you were looking at a single view of everything happening at the moment.

4. Offer unique behind the scenes content.

Throughout the live reading, the audience was treated to visuals of drawings, computer renderings and behind-the-scenes footage of the episode that offered a different take on a show that most people watching had already seen. Ultimately, this content felt new, unreleased and special.

5. Stand for something bigger.

The cast and crew of the show is very diverse and the table reading did a great job at showcasing that. In addition, the start of the segment featured a promotion for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to encourage those watching to support a worthy cause and raise funds. While some panels or shows might have shied away from making a statement that some would see as political, the show and its creators felt it important enough to include and it offered even more meaning to the entire segment.

And… We’ve Rebundled


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

YouTube TV now sure looks a lot like cable TV…

A funny thing happened on the way to an a-la-carte cable offering. That funny thing is that we’re right back at the cable bundle. And it’s not funny.

I speak, of course, of the news today that YouTube TV is raising their prices.¹ They’ve done this before, and they’ll undoubtedly do it again. But there’s something about this jump — from $49.99 to $64.99 — that feels more significant this time. Perhaps it’s as simple as the large 30% price increase here. But I think it also has to do with the breach of the $50 threshold. It feels like we’re at the point now where people are fully questioning if this is, in fact, a better deal than cable, after all.

The answer, of course, is that it’s complicated. But certainly, you could sign up for a cable package tomorrow, likely bundled with internet, that would give you most of the channels YouTube TV is offering, and some other ones, for a cheaper price (for the TV part of the equation — which matters because many of us are already paying the cable providers for internet now anyway).²

To YouTube’s credit — and I’ve been a happy subscriber and user since day one — they have a compelling offering. Channels aside — I’ll get to that in a second — the Cloud DVR is the key in my usage. You can tell the service what you want to record and it will find those things and record them. It sounds simple because it is simple.

For example, I decided I wanted to record the English Premiere League recently because well, it’s the only major sport that’s back in a real way.³ With a few clicks, I can now record not just one game, not just one team, but the entire league. You set it and forget it, and watch when you can or not at all. You don’t worry about storage or other limits.⁴ It works on the web, on the iPhone, on the iPad, Apple TV, etc; it’s well done.⁵

Because I also recently got Hulu (by way of Disney’s own bundle), I was looking into their live TV offering to see if it made sense to switch. Long story short: YouTube TV does indeed seem like the better offering, perhaps even with this price hike (their marketing actually feels fair and accurate).

Okay, with all of that out of the way… Fuck, I’m annoyed.

The email on the change hit my inbox today. It starts out well enough, with a thank you for subscribing and noting YouTube TV’s high level accomplishments after three years in business. Then they dive into what is at first framed as good news:

Today we are also adding more of ViacomCBS’s family of channels to YouTube TV, which includes 8 of your favorites: BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, TV Land, and VH1.

7 to 15 year old me would have been more excited about all of this. But yay, I guess? Of course, the very next graph is the nut kick:

To continue delivering the best content and service possible, we’re also updating our price for new and existing members to $64.99/month.

Having these paragraphs back-to-back is actually quite perfect. Because it highlights the real key here. I don’t actually want any of these Viacom channels. Not a single one. Yet I can’t say “no thank you” and keep my current deal.

And actually, going back to first principles, let’s think about what we all really want here. Reality aside — we’ll get to that — what I would want from YouTube TV or any of these services is the following:

I sign up for a service. I pick the individual channels I want. I’m told how much this will cost. I pay how much this will cost.

It’s so simple. And yet this is impossible to do because the powers-that-be (meaning, the studios/content owners/etc) don’t want us to have nice things. Well, they do, as long as they’re their nice things. And as long as you take all of their nice things. Even the ones you don’t want. This is what ruined cable, and it’s what’s ruining the services that have replaced cable.

Why get and pay for the 5 channels you want when you can get 50 channels and pay 10x the price? Okay, that’s a little unfair, the economics of the bundle make it such that it’s not 10x the price — but it’s some multiple that is extremely annoying mainly because I have no choice in the matter.⁶

That’s what I’ve never understood about the people who were so quick to point out that the cable bundle was actually a good deal. Sure! But that’s not the real issue here. The real issue here is choice. Again, I have no choice in the matter if I want that “good deal” or not.⁷

Thank you sir, may I have another channel? It’s bullshit.

While we can’t have my true pie-in-the-sky a-la-carte dream scenario above, we can’t even settle for something slightly worse but still much better. Say: sign up for a service, pick two packs of five channels, get quoted a price, and pay the price. It is all or nothing.

I know Sling and others have tried different tiered offerings (I know because I’ve tried all of these services at various points). Their blue package and orange package and what not. But they’re so humorously convoluted that they’re almost worthless as a “choice”. And again, I know it’s not their fault, it’s all they can do if they want to offer the content.

So many companies and services have tried and failed to change these equations. Some aspect of the above ideas is what Apple was trying to do at one point before they fell back into Apple TV+ mode. Now Amazon is sniffing around the space (again?). Perhaps one of the original TV disrupters, Hulu, has the best shot at something interesting now that they’re owned by Disney, which itself owns ESPN, which, along with sports in general, is the linchpin of the cable bundle.⁸

But probably not. All the other powers would just yank their content if Disney tried to do something interesting with Hulu. Then you’d need yet another bundle to cover what’s not in this bundle.

It increasingly feels like we need an outsider to come in and change this status quo, much like Spotify did with music. Big tech clearly has the means, but perhaps not the will? In a way, Netflix has done this, at first by repackaging shows and disintermediating the idea of “channels”. And now by creating their own content which makes us increasingly forget about those channels over on “television” in the first place. Still… sports!⁹

So we’re left in this really weird place where the streaming television services are getting worse over time even as they add more content. And it’s because they’re adding more content! Because we have no choice in the matter.

I was happier when I was paying $35/month for YouTube TV a few years back even though they offered far fewer channels than they offer right now. Because I don’t actually want those other channels. And I know that some people do, but they probably don’t want others that I do want. Yet we all have to get them all and pay full price for the convenience.

It’s all just so disappointing. Because with the move to streaming, many of us thought — naively, as it turns out — that perhaps the great unbundling would lead to change. While the services themselves are better in terms of cloud storage, device usage, ease of cancellation, and a few other factors, content remains king. And the king has not been dethroned. And while he may have unbundled for a bit, he’s now here, right in front of us, all bundled up again.

Look, am I going to unsubscribe from YouTube TV because of this price hike? No. Am I disappointed because this is not the future of TV that I wanted? Yes.

¹ Here’s where I’ll disclose that the fund where I’m a partner, GV, is a sister company under Alphabet to YouTube-parent Google. These opinions are my own, as you can hopefully tell in good and bad ways!

² For a set period of time, naturally.

³ Also, a beautiful game for television.

⁴ There is a 9 month storage limitation for recorded shows.

⁵ The Apple TV YouTube TV app does leave some things to be desired… But it works! It’s mainly UI and UX quibbles.

⁶ And yes, I recognize that without a bundle, the cost of individual channels would rise substantially. Given the low number of channels I would want, I’m okay with that. I know others would not be, which is undoubtedly why we’re heading back towards the bundle!

⁷ And here’s a good counter on the element on choice in bundles (and bundles in general, by Shishir Mehrotra, who incidentally used to work at YouTube — now the CEO of Coda), though I don’t think it applies to this YouTube TV example in particular. Because what I want to choose is actually what I already chose, but now I have no option to choose to stay with that choice…

⁸ Incidentally, how nuts is it for YouTube TV to implement this price hike now in a time of basically no live sports beyond the aforementioned EPL? I know this was the main thing keeping me signed up for “traditional” TV, and now that it’s gone… They better hope those leagues do indeed come back in July…

⁹ Interestingly enough, ESPN Plus is also hiking their price (by $1/month). It’s unclear why, as it’s not like they’re offering more. Maybe in the face of the Michael Jordan documentary, which was a huge success and they aim to do more like that? I’d still love a full streaming ESPN offering. But it sure seems like the sports leagues will beat them to that


And… We’ve Rebundled was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Fresh Content for Stale Days


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

The importance for ‘new’ for the streaming services

The Best & Worst Of 2020 Super Bowl Marketing Strategy


This post is by n Rohit n from Influential Marketing

Can a Super Bowl ad that costs nearly $6 million be worth it?

That’s a question worth debating if you’re in marketing, so let’s take a look at some of the Super Bowl marketing strategies behind the ads from this year’s big game and see which ones were the biggest winners and losers. For longtime readers, you know I’ve done this before but in past years when I was working at a large agency, I would tread carefully when doing my Super Bowl recaps to make sure I didn’t accidentally mention a client.

Thankfully, being out on my own means I don’t have to measure my words, so what follows is entirely my unfiltered opinion about the ads that worked and the ones that didn’t. Let’s start with the worst strategies of the big game …

Worst Strategy: Discover Card

Doubling down with two ads focusing on two features of credit cards most people take for granted would probably be more meaningful if people ever thought about these two things. There are dozens of credit cards with no annual fees and most people never even consider their card might not be accepted everywhere. Unless they have a Discover card apparently, in which case both of those things must be a big deal.

Worst Strategy: Planters

Relying on people watching a pre-game ad in order to have the storyline for your in-game ad make sense isn’t a good bet. Neither is hoping people still have an emotional attachment to a long-forgotten Continue reading “The Best & Worst Of 2020 Super Bowl Marketing Strategy”

AT&T Monkeys with HBO’s Swing


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

It’s so obvious what AT&T should have done with HBO. Instead, they did the opposite.

On a mirror is a taped sign of a Ted Williams quote that he has carted to nearly every office he has inhabited in his long career: “Don’t ever let anyone monkey with your swing.”

This was an aside in a piece earlier this month about former HBO boss Richard Plepler signing an exclusive deal with Apple to produce content for Apple TV+. It’s a huge coup. Perhaps the biggest one possible in this landscape. Forget signing up a showrunner. Or getting the rights to stream a hit show of yesteryear. Plepler essentially built HBO into what it is — er, was (more on that in a bit). He’ll lure both great showrunners and as a result, hits. Sure, he’s not running Apple TV+, as the aforementioned article goes out of its way to make clear several times. But does that really matter if the end result is the same?

Anyway, the move is still crazy to think about weeks later. It would seem to instantly turn Apple from a colt that stumbled out of the gate into a thoroughbred racehorse. And on the flip side, it showcases just how stupid AT&T (the parent of Warner Media, which is the parent of HBO) was to let Plepler go.

I’m sorry, strike that. They clearly forced Plepler out. If not explicitly, they obviously forced his hand. Just read that quote up above again. Plepler cared about one thing: autonomy. AT&T Continue reading “AT&T Monkeys with HBO’s Swing”

A Surprising Morning Jolt

‘The Morning Show’ got good?

Movies are often punching bags upon release. The reason why seems twofold: first, the film criticism field is a robust one with a legacy that critics would help viewers decide what was worthy of their time.¹ Second, movies cost a lot of money to make — many cost a massive amount of money to make. But, our current age of Disney blockbusters aside, that money doesn’t always guarantee success. In fact, sometimes the more money spent leads to the bigger disaster. This can be fun to watch, even if the movie itself isn’t.

Television shows seem less prone to the above. While there are television critics, because TV shows are released over a season, it’s hard to know just how good or bad a show is from the get-go.² And historically, TV shows haven’t had the scope or glamour of films. Read: they didn’t cost as much

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5 Non-Obvious Megatrends Changing Our World In 2020


This post is by n Rohit n from Influential Marketing

For the past ten years I have gone through an annual ritual of publishing a book about trends that describe our shifting culture and business environment. Over the past decade, my team and I have identified and written about well over 100 trends covering everything from the rise of the #metoo movement (a trend we called Fierce Femininity back in 2017) to the growing ability for immersive technology to help us better connect with one another (which we described as Virtual Empathy).

On January 14th, I am publishing the LAST of this long running series – the tenth anniversary edition of Non-Obvious called Non-Obvious Megatrends. In this new edition, we took an expansive look back at the past reports and combined this with all of the feedback, insights and discussions from more than a million smart readers who have bought, shared and debated this trend report over the years in order to arrive at ten big megatrend predictions.

I am so excited to share all of them when the book comes out in January, but as a sneak preview, here are five of the ten – along with a short backstory for each one.

Non-Obvious Megatrend #1 – Revivalism

Resurgence of analog activities such as board games, vinyl music and playing classic video games.

What is Revivalism?

Overwhelmed by technology and a sense that life is too complex, people seek out simpler experiences that offer nostalgia and remind them of a more trustworthy time.

The Backstory: 

Like most of the other megatrends, this one encompassed many ideas from past trends in other Continue reading “5 Non-Obvious Megatrends Changing Our World In 2020”

Halted & Caught Fire

I have a confession to make. It’s sort of a weird one. Despite it being one of my favorite shows of all time, I refuse to watch the end of Halt and Catch Fire.

Yes, the show ended its run on AMC over two years ago. And yes, there have been ample opportunities to watch the remaining episodes in those past two years as the show has been on Netflix. But once I finished season 3, I decided I was going to ration out season 4 — the final season — to make it last as long as possible. That’s how much I adore the show.¹ I just don’t want it to end.

And so I’m going to the extreme of not watching the final episodes to ensure that it doesn’t end, at least in my head. There is always at least one more episode still to watch, you see.

Yes, this is a little

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HBO’s Corpus of Content and Apple’s Lack Thereof

Apple TV+ is cheap and barren. HBO Max is expensive and cheapening their brand. Everyone is confused.

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. As details continue to trickle out about the future of content in the form of streaming services, there are some odd things happening. First and foremost, as this list makes crystal clear: Apple is, as of right now, the low-price player in the space. Apple! Low-price!

Meanwhile, AT&T is staking out the high ground on the pricing plains by making their premium asset, HBO, decidedly less premium. It’s now going to be HBO plus a bunch of other mass-market popular content that first aired on network television. Like Friends. And The Big Bang Theory. And Sesame Street. It’s not TV, it’s… well, it’s becoming a lot more like TV, actually!

These extremes are wild to me because it’s hard to see either strategy working particularly

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Apple, services and moats

  • Apple announced another phone, but pretty much all phones are great now, and most of the dramatic innovation is behind us as the market matures. The one place for really obvious improvement is in cameras, where Apple and Google are using computational photography to get more and more out of the laws of physics

  • It’s more interesting to look at accessories and services, where Apple is building layer on layer of defensive fortification – hardware and software, free and subscription, high margin and low margin, all of which support the core product and some of which bring in a few billion of spare change. This is the iteration/optimisation/execution phase of the market.

  • I’m pretty unconvinced by Apple’s TV service – the shows might be good but there’s nothing unique to Apple’s capabilities or sensibility here and Apple isn’t iTunesing or Napstering TV here. That partly reflects the tech industry’s general

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Netflix and software

Way back in 1992, just as the ‘Internet’ was starting to sound interesting, a company in the UK used technology to disrupt television.

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky realised that you could buy football rights for far more than anyone had ever thought of paying before, and you could make your money back by selling the games on subscription instead of pay-per-view or advertising, and you would be able to deliver that subscription using encrypted satellite channels. This was a big deal, both for Sky and for the UK Premiership league, and it was the beginning of something much bigger.

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Sky used technology as a crowbar to build a new TV business. Everything about how it executed that technology had to be good, and by and large it was. The box was good, the UI was good, the truck-rolls were good, and the customer service and experience were good. Unlike American cable Continue reading “Netflix and software”

YouTube TV

Last summer I threw out our twenty year old satellite dish and decided to finally go over the top. I put a bunch of video streaming apps on our AppleTV to replace the “linear television” that we had been getting with the dish.

Almost a year later, I’ve removed all but two of them and the clear winner has been YouTube TV.

YouTube TV is pretty much everything you’d want in a linear television service (except for one thing which I will get to) and the UI is more or less perfect.

The thing I like most about it is that I can run the app with my Google login on all of the AppleTVs in our house plus on our phones and we have the exact same experience, with the exact same library, on all of them.

That seems like a little thing, but after almost sixty years of

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