Eliza Levinson recaps the week in streaming.
‘Sup, Dirtbags? (No offense)
Since we last spoke, England’s boys decidedly did not come home after losing in the Euro 2020 to Italy; the 2021 Emmy nominees were announced; the Gossip Girl reboot apparently sucks while Zola, the Twitter-thread-turned-film-fest-sweetheart, continues to make a splash and a screening of Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain ends with “scarcely a dry eye”; Lego is making its own version of the Seinfeld set for any children out there whose parents call them an “old soul” or a “deep thinker”; a “suspicious package” arrived at France’s Cannes Festival and had to be destroyed by a bomb squad; Madonna’s releasing a concert film of her Madame X tour on Paramount+; a new Caroline Polachek song; and Olivia Rodrigo made a statement at the White House to encourage young people to get vaccinated.
YouTube; Facebook and Instagram Try To Keep Pace With TikTok
On Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company was allocating $1 billion to invest in creators on Instagram and Facebook until 2022. According to Zuckerberg (and paraphrased by Jill Goldsmith for Deadline), “the idea is to reward creators, especially those just starting out” — but also, presumably, to continue competing with TikTok and YouTube. The massive budget will also “include a new bonus program that pays eligible creators for hitting certain milestones when they use Facebook’s tools and provide seed funding for creators to produce their own content.”
“For now,” summarizes Hannah Bertolino for Dazed Digital, “the invitation-only [bonus] programme seems to focus on users regularly live-streaming in exchange for payment, although any posts, videos, images, etc. are encouraged to draw influencers and users back onto the app.”
On both Facebook and Instagram, creators who are deemed worthy of investment could score an invitation to five possible bonuses, including the “Reels Summer bonus” — a push to get influencers to promote Instagram Reels, the app’s answer to TikTok.
This is just the latest in the ongoing pissing contest between Facebook and TikTok: according to Bertolino for Dazed, the meteoric rise of TikTok in 2020 prompted Facebook to “offer high-price contracts to TikTok creators, asking them to shift their content to Instagram’s ‘reels’ platform instead.” In response, TikTok launched the TikTok Creator Fund, which allocated $200 million to popular users of the platform.
Facebook isn’t the only company racing to match TikTok: YouTube has also invested $100 million to pay creators to use “YouTube Shorts,” which hosts videos that are less than 60 seconds long. “I’ve worked with YouTube for eight years,” Eyal Baumel told Bloomberg (linked above), “and I’ve never seen them so eager to promote a new product.”
According to Lucas Shaw and Mark Bergen for Bloomberg, YouTube is still considered to be the king of video hosting for longform videos. But the website’s ubiquity is also something of its downfall, at least for young users right now: “newbies” tend to “see TikTok as a faster path to fame.”
The shift to super-short videos on YouTube comes as something of a recalibration for the company, which famously updated its algorithm in 2012 to incentivize longer videos. At the time, YouTube’s primary perceived competition was television. By getting creators to invest more time and money into their videos and creating longer, higher-quality products, YouTube was also able to earn more advertising revenue.
So far, YouTube’s experiment with Shorts has proven pretty successful: in its pilot launch, usership increased from 3.5 billion in December 2020 to 6.5 billion “daily views on the service as of March.”
… And TikTok’s Not Slowing Down
While YouTube is trying to make its videos shorter, TikTok is making its videos longer: creators on the app can now make videos up to 3 minutes long. As summarized by Chris Stokel-Walker for Input, “The reasons [why to make videos longer] seem obvious — longer videos mean more watch time, which means better metrics and more opportunities to sell ads…” — but, as he continues, it doesn’t necessarily fit with our super-short attention spans. To accommodate contemporary users’ antsiness, TikTok has introduced a fast-forward feature.
The expanded length of videos is only part of TikTok’s work to exponentially increase its advertising revenue. In early June, Bloomberg News reported that TikTok was asking for anywhere between $1.4 million and $2 million from advertisers for “a takeover of its home page” during Q3 and Q4 of 2021.
“TikTok isn’t yet making a lot of money from [its] user base,” wrote Lucas Shaw for Bloomberg in early June, 2021, “and is still building its advertising team.” What’s more, advertisers still “haven’t dedicated large chunks of their video budgets to TikTok in the way they do for YouTube” — at least, not yet.
2021 Emmy Noms & Snubs
This week saw the release of nominees for the 2021 Emmys. Las Culturistas cohost (and SNL castmember) Bowen Yang made SNL — and Emmy — history when he received a nomination for Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Yang is “the first Chinese American male acting nominee” in this category.
After being snubbed at the Golden Globes last year, Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You has been nominated for nine Emmys, including Limited Series, Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, casting, directing, and music supervision.
One of the surprises of the Emmy noms was Darren Star’s Emily in Paris getting a nod for Best Comedy. In total, Netflix earned six nominations across the categories of drama, comedy, and limited series. If the streaming service earns any Emmy in these areas, it’ll be a first for Netflix.
The Britney Saga Continues
Following Britney Spears’ explosive court testimony, a New York Times documentary, a New Yorker exposé, and a trending social media campaign (#FreeBritney), Britney Spears may actually be making some headway in her toxic conservatorship battle.
On July 11, the New York Times reported that an unnamed but “prominent Hollywood lawyer” was taking on Spears’ case, “and he plans to attend a hearing in Los Angeles on [July 14] to begin the process of taking over as her counsel.”
Most shocking of all, Britney Spears herself took to Instagram –– a platform she has consistently used over the last several years to downplay or obfuscate the #FreeBritney movement — and used the hashtag as part of her post, writing: “Coming along, folks ... coming along 🖕🏻!!!!! New with real representation today ... I feel GRATITUDE and BLESSED !!!! Thank you to my fans who are supporting me ... You have no idea what it means to me be supported by such awesome fans !!!! God bless you all !!!!! Pssss this is me celebrating by horseback riding and doing cartwheels today 🤸♂️🤷♀️🐎 !!!! #FreeBritney”
~Catch up on Dirt~
- Matthew Specktor waxes poetic on discovering new music the old-fashioned way in LA
- Kyle Chayka interviews pixel artist Kam2D, who made Dirt’s latest animated logo
— This week, Vice did a deep dive on the numerous complaints filed with the FCC by Trump supporters railing against Saturday Night Live during the Trump administration — TikTok and YouTube stars who took to the boxing ring in an attempt to make big bucks still haven’t been paid, reports Andrew Paul for Input — After three weeks, Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour remains at the top of the charts — This week marked the 20th anniversary of Legally Blonde, spurring an oral history of the film in the New York Times and social media tributes from stars of the film, including Reese Witherspoon and Selma Blair — Quentin Tarantino has been promoting the book version of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, resurfacing criticism of the film’s portrayal of Bruce Lee. In an interview with Joe Rogan (a truly terrifying combination of personalities), Tarantino told critics to “suck a dick” — stay tuned for an Arca and Azealia Banks collab
— the album “Happy Birthday” by Happy Birthday (Kyle Thomas aka King Tuff, Chris Weisman, Ruth Garbus) and somenon-canonicaltracks from the Cranberries — the NY Times did a really nice tribute to Funkadelic in honor of the 50th anniversary of their amazing album, Maggot Brain — I have realized that inside every German heart is the spirit of Statler & Waldorf from The Muppets— By Eliza Levinson