Category Archives: Media Topics

Media Topics on Modern Media Mix

Don’t Be a Dick: American Vandal, a New Mocumentary

Scandal, conspiracy, lies and dicks. These are just a few of the themes from the new Netflix original, American Vandal.  This eight-episode mocumentary will have you biting your nails and sitting on the edge of your seat.  With a cliffhanger at the end of every 35-minute episode, there is no way that you won’t binge-watch American Vandal.

American VandalIt was an in-service day for teachers and the students all had the day off.  27 cars got tagged with 27 dicks in red spray paint.  Senior Dylan Maxwell is immediately pegged for doing it, being the class clown and known “dick drawer”, it just made sense to the school board and one specific teacher who has it out for him, Mrs. Shapiro.

Sophomores Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund think otherwise.

Peter and Sam are the two students that make a documentary, that may not prove Dylan innocent, but will reveal the truth as to what happened on that day.  With a supporting cast of students to interview, Peter and Sam seem to have their work cut out for them.  Through clever and somewhat crude means, the boys point to Dylan’s innocence, with silly things like the lack of ball hairs, and the different shape of the head than Dylan’s usual drawings.

The idea for American Vandal came to creators Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault in 2016 after seeing the success of the Netflix original documentary How to Make a Murderer.  They set out to emulate such documentaries as How to Make a Murderer, Serial and The Jinx.  In many ways, American Vandal makes light-hearted fun of the way documentaries like these are set up.  An article from Vanity Fair does a great job discussing this.

When they went to Netflix with the idea, they had to assure the creative executives that their series would be “more than just a dick joke sketch”.   American Vandal premiered on Netflix on September 15, 2017.  Ever since its release, critics and audiences alike have been raving about American Vandal.  It has a critic review consensus of 96% and an audience rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.  It also received 8.3/10 on IMdb.

One of the greatest things about American Vandal is how relatable it is to actual high school students.  Through social media and obvious, but classic, stereotypes you really feel immersed in their world.  Yacenda was quoted in an article on The Verge saying:

“The common threads were that high school kids don’t use Facebook much. Certainly not with their own friends. They use a lot of Snapchat. Instagram is the main one. But I guess you learn that kids have their public Instagram, and then they’ll have a private Instragram for just their close friends, so they  can post memes or whatever.”

Yacenda and Perrault do a great job of showing all types of high school students.  Alex Trimboli is the brown-nosing honor student who is referred to as “a little bitch”, Christa Carlyle is the student body president and is always doing crazy stunts for charity, Sara Pearson is the popular, hottest girl in school and Dylan and his friends are the burn out stoners.

American VandalSo what do you think?  Does this sound like a show that you’d be interested in?  Is the idea of minors at parties and hooking up something that should be on television?  If you have seen the show, try not to spoil it for others.  I hope you are convinced enough to watch this mystery of the spray-painted dicks.

-Mitch Diamond

A La Carte Comeback: Can Live Stream TV Take Over the OTT Audience?

Are you tired of being forced to pay for gratuitously bundled cable TV packages with hundreds of channels you aren’t going to use? I have some good news! You can now supplement your cable television experience through paid, monthly subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu!

TVAre you overwhelmed trying to keep track of all those services you’re currently subscribed to, and looking for a balanced, all-a-round package where you can pick and choose what kind of content you want? I have more good news! Cable TV is back in the form of live-streaming and has traded gratuitous channel bundles for much more economically, a-la-carte-based packaging system.

Just in my lifetime computers and the Internet have gone from rare commodities to necessities, and cell phones today would be considered supercomputers, going far beyond what was previously thought possible 20 years ago. I believe no other field compares to how incredibly visible the Digital Media field is when it comes to evolution. Technology is always improving, and companies are scrambling to keep up.

For the last decade, the cable industry has been threatened by cord cutting and that threat is still growing every year with over 22 million adults canceling their cable subscription by the end of 2017. Consumers were looking for alternatives to cable television and the ability to stream high definition video reliably was the answer.

Streaming services have developed a lot since their original conception. Most services operate by licensing the content they stream from companies such as ABC and Warner Brothers. As companies like Netflix expand internationally, licensing costs go up significantly. Since 2012, Netflix is paying more than double in licensing fees, but has dropped over 40% of their content. Much of their spending, like other services have shifted more towards original content.

TVThe picture above shows each services’ estimated budgets for original content in 2017. Each year  spending has been increasing significantly between every service with Netflix being the forerunner in spending.

While streaming services are constantly evolving, so is cable television. Over the last few years, services such as Sling and Playstation Vue have entered the playing field as the best alternative to cable television. While streaming services such as Netflix intend on completely replacing television I believe that Sling and Playstation Vue can take a different approach and focus on co-existing with streaming services while still offering content that services like Netflix will never be able to fulfill. This would be the smartest strategy since Netflix and Amazon cover the video-on-demand market.

Television companies don’t need to waste money licensing properties that a service like Netflix already carries – it would simply add unnecessary operation costs which would inevitably lead to rises in subscription costs – and value is something these services need to capitalize on the most.

TVThe demand for live television is never going to go away, and I believe that services such as Sling and Playstation Vue that offer a-la-carte style subscription packages are the perfect response to the ever-rising number of cord cutters. In fact, many of the cord cutters that I know that own homes have opted to subscribe to Sling specifically as a cost-saving method where they still get to fulfill their news and sports hunger without the costs of, say, getting their cable through Mediacom.

Do you think that live stream TV will become a casual consumer service such as Netflix where almost everyone will have it? How do you think live streaming TV affect subscription service numbers, if at all? Be sure to comment below!

-Kevin Thorn

The Future of Sports Media: How Barstool Sports Is Changing the Game

What comes to mind when you think of a sports media company? You most likely think of ESPN or Fox Sports 1, but I’m not going to talk about either one of those. Can you guess what it is? The company that I am talking about is Barstool Sports. Maybe you have heard of them or maybe you have not, but I promise you one thing, you will eventually know the name.

Sports media Barstool Sports first got its start as a free newspaper that founder, Dave Portnoy, handed around in Boston. From there, Portnoy has taken Barstool to Manhattan, where they have 70 plus employees with 20 interns and are worth an estimate of $15 million. What Barstool does is take trending news stories, specifically with sports, and make articles that are funny and satire. That is their style. Portnoy is quoted saying “We mean this to be a comedy brand”. This style definitely does justice, with their website getting 6 million visits a month.

So how did Barstool go from a free newspaper to making millions of dollars? Well their big rise started when the Chernin Group, an entertainment media company, bought 51% of Barstool Sports, but Dave Portnoy still has 100% oversite. With this big deal, Barstool moved its headquarters to Manhattan. The reason for this deal was to take Barstool to the next level, and to make it more popular. After the deal was done, Portnoy said: “This was our best shot to literally take this thing to the moon. To swing for the fences. Hopefully this deal makes us bigger, faster, stronger, better at everything we do.” Here is a link to a press conference that Barstool had following this deal. (Video)

After this deal, Barstool gained many more followers. Everything they did spiked in popularity. Barstool does not just have a website, they have podcasts, shows, and an xm radio show. Their social media sites have also gained gotten huge. Their Twitter has 915.7K followers, and their Instagram has 2.8 million followers. Barstool is also known for pioneering the slogan “Saturdays are for the boys” which has made its way to even having professional athletes saying it.

Sports media

Barstool has many podcasts with some having a lot of popularity. According to an iTunes chart, Barstool has eight podcSports mediaasts in the top forty sports podcasts. Pardon My Take is sitting at number one. Pardon My Take is a podcast that does a variety of segments and does an interview with a well-known person in the sports world. They make their episodes as funny and trendy as they can by using profane humor. With more than 500,000 listeners per episodes they definitely bring a different side to sports news, making every episode interesting and enjoyable to listen to.

Barstool also does shows that are very popular also. Their newest one is made for college football, and it is called “The Barstool Tailgate Show.” For this show, Dave Portnoy and other Barstool workers go to a college before a football game and do their own show. They made this show for the purpose to compete against the ESPN tailgate show, College Gameday. For this show Barstool went to an Iowa game and it was very popular. One of the Barstool workers actually put an ear of corn in front of a fan’s face to see if he would eat it and he actually did. They did this because of the Iowa stereotype that all Iowans love corn.

Barstool Sports has definitely made their way up the sports media ladder. So, if you are a sports fan or just like funny media, go listen to a podcasts, go on their website, or even watch one of their shows. I promise you that you will not be disappointed, and always remember, Saturdays are for the boys!

-Quentin Mendlik

iPhone X: Revolutionary for the world or Revolutionary for Apple?

No doubt the iPhone X is one of the most talked about phones coming to the market in early November, but is it honestly as revolutionary as they make it? I’m going to get this out of the way right now, I AM AN APPLE FANBOY. I love Apple. I watched the launch event and at first I was blown away by how amazing and revolutionary this new iPhone seemed to be. But when I really thought about it, about the new facial recognition, the augmented reality feature, and wireless charging. And I realized the new iPhone is not really as revolutionary as Apple claims.

iPhoneLet’s get down to some of the main features that they emphasized in the ‘Revolutionary’ iPhone. The new iPhone X is now offering wireless charging with the new glass back they incorporated into the new set of phones. Do not let it fool you though. I mean how many times do you put your phone on the charger and not needed to use it? Wireless charging sounds better than it actually is, because you cannot charge your phone and use it at the same time. Wireless charging has also been around since 2009, and Samsung, Apple’s largest competition, had wireless charging in 2013.

iPhone

Next onto one of the biggest additions into the new iPhone, Facial recognition. First off facial recognition was first used on the Google Nexus in 2011. Apple claims that this new system is better than the Touch ID. They claim that mask, clay molds of your face, and pictures will not fool the iPhone X and will only open to your face but if you have a twin they might be able to get in. This technology is so smart that it can recognize you when you grow a beard, wear a hat, cut your hair, wear sunglasses etc. I mean at the Apple event the demonstration went so well, watch one of Apple’s biggest live event fails here.

iPhone

As an iPhone owner, I have been waiting for Apple to incorporate an OLED display for the longest time. Apple has been using a Retina Display while Samsung has been using a beautiful OLED display since 2013. Apple is a little late to the party, also Apple is a little late with the edge to edge display, Samsung beat them to the case there too. I am not the only Apple user not really impressed with this new ‘Revolutionary’ phone, neither is popular YouTuber SSSniperwolf.

Is this phone revolutionary for consumers or is it revolutionary for an iPhone? Because through my research, most of the key specs that make this new iPhone ‘revolutionary’ have already been incorporated into phones in the past. Will you be buying the iPhone X? Why or why not? How do you think that it compares to other phones, like the Samsung Note 8 and Galaxy S8?

-Aaron Graham

Is La La Land Singing for Musical Movies?: The Return of the Modern Movie Musical

Hollywood has a long-standing history with the movie musical, the golden age of musical theatre movies gave us stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Yet, for the last several decades, the large-budget, over-the-top musical movies had fallen out of Hollywood’s good graces. Rewire did a great in-depth look of the historical context of Hollywood’s musical love affair.

La la landLa La Land’s success definitely brought the old-fashioned Hollywood musical back into the spotlight, but with the huge popularity of Broadway shows like Hamilton it will be far from the last musical movie adapted from the stage or otherwise to come to the big screen in the next few years. In fact, Aladdin, American Idiot and more are in some stage of production according to an article in Playbill.

Hollywood is also tapping into some of Broadway’s hottest talent to act direct and more for these new movie musicals. To name a few, Ben Pasek and Justin Paul were tapped to compose for the ode to the Hollywood musical La La Land, who currently have a Tony award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen currently running on Broadway. The pair also composed for the upcoming release The Greatest Showman based on the life of PT Barnum, as well as collaborating on some new songs for the live action version of Aladdin.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is another perfect example of this, getting in with Disney via Moana, has now composed for the upcoming Mary Poppins returns which he also starred in beside Emily Blunt, as well as additional forthcoming projects from Disney animation. Needless to say, he’s kept plenty busy since leaving Hamilton in July of 2016.

Damien Chazelle also has everything coming up roses for him since the success of La La Land, since he landed a deal to direct several episodes of Netflix’s new musical series The Eddy. The series will center around a nightclub, the house band, and its owner. On top of directing Chazelle will also be executive producing according to Variety.

The series marks a first for Netflix being its first venture into musical theatre of any sort for its original programming. This could mark a new era into musical theatre being made by streaming services instead of exclusively broadcast networks and large studios.

Musical theatre within television has seen much less of a downturn, seemingly being much more steady over the years. Shows like Glee definitely brought it back into the limelight, but the phenomenon of the musical episode was definitely popular long before. With shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer tackling it as early as the late 90s to 2000s. Many shows since have gone on to do one off musical episodes, including Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon a Time, and The Flash being a few in more recent years.

La la landShows like Crazy-Ex Girlfriend have gone so far as to build their entire premise around it, and have numerous awards including Emmys and Golden Globes to show for it. While not always the most highly rated, it’s critic’s darling status kept it around for a third season. Which will premiere on the CW on October 13th on the CW network.

Overall, the fate of the Hollywood movie musical seems sealed, with musical theatre reaching younger audiences and Broadway being out of fairly reach for most teenagers. Hollywood movie musicals may land in a sweet spot for many of the newest generation of musical theatre fans, provided Hollywood can cater to the hip crowd.

-Taylor Lien

DIY Punk in Eastern Iowa

Independence, self-expression, and just plain not giving f*ck. These virtues help drive the spirit of DIY Punk as it thrives in eastern Iowa. But what is DIY Punk? Where did it come from? Why would anyone want to pile into a sweaty basement with strangers? Glad you asked because that’s exactly what I did on the night of September 23rd!

PunkThe event was Sister Wife at The Black Hole. Scheduled for seven “so obviously, that meant it really started at eight.” In fact, I arrived to the event so early that Sister Wife actually thought I was the house owner since there were so few people at seven.

The Black Hole is a home music venue set up in a basement using two large speakers, string lights, and a small wooden stage in the corner of the room. There was also plenty of graffiti on the walls and charming, to say the least, decorations with an overall bohemian atmosphere.

PunkThe event was put on by a group known as Cedar Valley DIY, a network of people that host underground shows as well as other events.

There were five bands that performed that night, Canids, In the Attic, The Hex Girls, Sister Wife, and Shutup. I was invited by my friend Nick Fisher who plays bass/vocal for The Hex Girls. “Cedar Valley DIY is a very loyal audience. Same with places like the Octopus.”

The Octopus is another local venue with a solid music community as well as a place where a number of starting bands get their first tastes of stage time. Every month they host an open mic night and once every year they host a new band night; which is how The Hex Girls first got involved with them.

Bands like The Hex Girls first found their inspiration from other huge punk band, Green Day. Green Day started out in the East Bay of San Francisco playing shows at a local venue that didn’t allow signed bands and worked with a small studio that helped them produce their first few records. Green Day recently released an entire video series on their early years on Spotify that I would highly recommend.

Cedar Valley DIY themselves have also helped to launch a number of local performers on tour nationally. One such band is Avoid, a five-person group from Cedar Falls. You can check out their bandcamp here.

DIY Punk and DIY music in general has been seeing a great rise thanks to the Internet and home recording equipment being cheaper than ever. For only a few hundred dollars a person with a laptop could record an album and put it online. They can also perform as well thanks to communities and venues like Cedar Valley DIY, The Octopus, and all the bands that perform in and around Iowa.

If you want to support Cedar Valley bands like The Hex Girls, the best way to do it is go to a show but if you can’t do that you can stream them here on Spotify. I highly recommend making the effort to get out to a show because when the music is blaring and the crowd is dancing the night can be an experience you’ll never forget! Just don’t forget ear protection!

-Jonathan Carpenter

Disney’s Distribution Dilemma: Coco Needs Some Frozen Fever

What happens when movie fans become upset with your upcoming release and you are worried about the potential loss in ticket sales? You slap some Frozen on it and call it good. This is, in my opinion, exactly what Disney has done with its upcoming release of Coco. They are able to use this technique to support Coco mainly because Frozen is such a coveted property.

FrozenWhile, as I will discuss later, using this method of premiering shorts in front of films is not something new for Pixar, it is becoming something new for other distribution and film companies particularly within the independent arena. Utilizing this method could lead to additional revenue sources for these companies.

Before we get into the thick of things with Frozen and the other companies, let’s discuss Coco and why fans are so upset with Disney. Some of you may remember a certain 20th Century Fox film titled The Book of Life.

According to reporting from Polygon, it’s a colorfully animated film that tells the story of “living characters venturing into the Land of the Dead” based around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. Music also plays a huge role in this film. What’s the issue with Coco? It’s basically the same.

  Frozen

Disney’s Pixar actually announced their concept for Coco slightly ahead of 20th Century Fox, they just beat Pixar to the box office. While this fact may help Pixar’s reputation slightly, it is hard to change audiences’ minds once a rumor takes hold.

Another reason fans are upset with Walt Disney and Pixar over Coco involves the composition of the production crew. The Book of Life had “several Mexican producers and animators onboard” while initially Coco had an all Caucasian team lined up. After some additional outrage by fans, Disney enlisted an all Latino cast for the film along with a “coalition of cultural consultants.”

Additionally, the Walt Disney Company did not do itself any favors in the publicity department when it attempted to “trademark ‘Dia de los Muertos’” as the original name for Coco. Not a smart move, but if Disney knows how to do one thing right it is to use magic. In this case, hopefully to save a movie from flopping at the box office.

This is where Frozen comes into the equation as a saving force for Coco. The third installment in the Frozen series, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, will premiere exclusively in front of Coco in theaters. This may seem normal for Pixar as it has been a tradition since A Bug’s Life was released to include an original short at the beginning and/or a feature short included in the credits as “outtakes”.

Some examples of these include: For the Birds released with Monsters, Inc.; Blue Umbrella released with Monsters University; Piper released with Finding Dory; and Jack-Jack Attack that was in The Incredibles credits.

For a full list of films and their accompanying shorts click here.

Frozen  Frozen

Normally these shorts are created by so called amateur animators and generally are not directly affiliated to any major property. Coco’s short, on the other hand, is a well-known Disney property that had a lot of effort put into it.

The point of contention occurs regarding the originally planned distribution method for Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. Early in its development it was said that ABC, which Disney owns, would premiere it as a television special. Eventually deemed “too cinematic” it was decided the short film would become a theatrical featurette instead. For more on this click here.

While this may seem a coincidence, I feel as though the Walt Disney Company realized they wouldn’t fully recover from the lingering “ghost of The Book of Life” and their “ill-fated ‘Dia de los Muertos’ trademark attempt” without taking additional measures. Can you say oops?

FrozenAll in all, the Walt Disney Company realized that Coco’s box office performance wouldn’t be at par with what they needed, so they altered the distribution pattern for Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. Now having it paired with Coco in theaters not only gives the feeling of exclusivity, but it will also draw all of the Frozen fans to the theaters to see the next installment in the very well established franchise.

Interestingly enough, the Walt Disney Company is not the only one putting exclusive content in the form of short films ahead of major releases. Within the independent film business, Neon is a company that is starting this trend up again.

Neon, the “distribution shingle launched by Tim League and Tom Quinn” (Winfrey) buys independent short films and places them with their other independent properties for distribution. The first installment for Neon was 5 Films About Technology which premiered alongside Colossal. As of now, Neon only places shorts in front of its own properties, but only time will tell if they decide to sell the rights to short films to other distributors.

Is placing short films with major releases an effective method of distribution for major film studios to use in the future to get a larger audience in attendance?

-Piper Davis

The Minions Sure Know How to Rake in the Big Bucks

This past summer has had numerous box office hits, including the worldwide release of Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Spiderman: Homecoming, Dunkirk, Cars 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales, Baywatch, Atomic Blonde, and Despicable Me 3, which happened to bring in the most revenue at over $1,005,854,581 and was ranked second-biggest animated opening of all time (The Numbers). So how does a film, like Despicable Me 3, generate all of this revenue?

MINIONS

The blockbuster film emerged in the 1960s when Hollywood studios were experiencing financial difficulties due to the Paramount Decree, where these films helped the studios to “differentiate their products from the supply of competing media, such as television and helped revive the theater as a privileged place for the film experience and high quality entertainment,” stated Tanner Mirrlees (Designing Global Entertainment Media, 2013).

In fact, some of the biggest blockbuster films that were mass marketed and released, was George Lucas’s Star Wars and the hit film Jaws– along with many others. These films emphasized the exchange value of high-concept, mass-marketed, mass-released, and mass-targeted films, complemented with synergetic merchandising.

Blockbusters are able to stand out from the rest of films as they have large budgets, are marketed globally as high-concept and “must see” events, have big releases, and are designed to create as much revenue as possible, not only by collecting box office receipts, but by also spinning off commodities.  They also target a global, rather than a national based audience.

MINIONS The Despicable Me franchise has shown that there is life outside Pixar and Disney, both commercially and artistically in the blockbuster animation world. Despicable Me features the “despicable” character of Gru, and its little yellow creatures that are shaped like Tic-Tacs, in my opinion.

With Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment as the main production companies, the overall budget of the film was estimated at about $80 million, nearly matched by its $75 million opening weekend (IMDb). The 90-minute film, however, did not look as promising as the previous Minions and Despicable Me 2. In fact, the opening weekend was 14% lower than Despicable Me 2 and 37% lower than the Minions had opened up with (The Numbers).

The PG animated film raked in over $260 million in domestic revenue and over $748 million in foreign revenue. The largest foreign market was China, raking in over $158 million, with Japan coming in second at over $61 million (Box Office Mojo).

Its strategic marketing also had a lot to do with its success. Bloomberg reported that Universal’s parent company, Comcast, and its partners spent a combined $593 million publicizing the film, with less than half going towards traditional TV and print ads. The Minions have truly taken over the market appearing on merchandise, Tic-Tac packages, Chiquita Bananas, iPhone cases, Twinkies, etc.

Another franchise that has done well outside of the U.S. is the Ice Age franchise, where more than 80% of its revenue comes from the foreign box office. In fact, the fifth installment bombed its U.S. opening but went on to succeed in the global market (The Numbers). Opposite of this foreign success, Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets both had stellar runs at the U.S. box office, where Finding Dory was able to gross over $782 million globally.

Feel free to respond with your own personal opinions on how the Minions and the Despicable Me franchise has continued to succeed over the past few years. Are you a fan? Or, are you surprised at how successful this animated franchise has become?

Link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euz-KBBfAAo

-Savannah Necker