MrBeast’s TV takeover

January 23rd, 2024

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Fancy Like. With just a few more weeks until Valentine’s Day (seriously, time moves way too quickly), the marketing brass at Applebee’s is looking to put a new spin on date night with its latest subscription pass. We just hope it doesn’t inspire Walker Hayes to write another song about it. We’re still recovering from his last viral hit.

In other news… Sundance ain’t what it used to be, Prime Video goes full Beast mode, and AI toys take over wishlists.

Top Trends

YouTube → Hit Man

Google → The Bachelor

Reddit → Emma Stone

TikTok → “Scott Street”

Spotify → “Years On”

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In a theater near you? // Illustration by Kate Walker

Hollywood searches for an indie reboot at Sundance

The Future. The Sundance Film Festival is in the hot seat as Hollywood grapples with a struggling independent film business. While the fest knows there’s pressure to platform the most commercial titles in the indie space, the organizers stress that its job is simply to support the most-promising voices… meaning the studios themselves may have to start investing again in bringing those voices to the mainstream to create a new generation of hits and hitmakers.

Festival fissures
Is Sundance, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, still the best launching pad to sell an indie film? Lucas Shaw at Bloomberg has some thoughts.

  • First, the economics have changed — indie films that’ve grossed more than $20 million at the box office have cratered 30% since 2019. So, yeah, COVID looms large.

  • But execs, agents, and producers also blame a shift in moviegoing habits (fewer trips to the multiplex, lots of streaming) and the fest allegedly programming fewer movies with commercial potential.

  • The streaming angle is key because streamers were the top buyers out of Sundance for the past decade, buying movies just before the fest or inflating sale prices to the point that traditional theatrical distributors couldn’t compete for the buzziest titles.

  • So, audiences have been trained to expect smaller movies to be watched at home, while studios have scaled back their releases to focus primarily on blockbusters. But, the streamers themselves are now not opening their wallets as much as they used to.

Mix these ingredients, and you have a marketplace where distributors are wary of buying films that don’t feel like surefire moneymakers and of streamers no longer providing golden parachutes, leaving a record number of movies homeless or unable to recoup their budgets.

This narrative isn’t entirely new, and with bonafide hits like Talk to Me (theaters) and Fair Play (streaming) coming out of Sundance last year, there’ll always be breakout exceptions.

So, now we want to hear from you…


We ask the hard-hitting questions.

Are you more likely to see an indie movie in theaters if it premiered at Sundance?

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43.8% of you said you’re watching as much TV as you normally do in yesterday’s poll: What does your TV consumption currently look like?

“My family didn’t get a TV until I was about ten, so I’ve always loved it. Even if I’m not watching it, I leave it on for the noise.”

“Leveraging the subscriptions I have left as much as possible in order to spend less going out.”

“Watching more because it’s currently snowy and icy with a stiff wind. I imagine warmer temps will cut my TV consumption drastically.”

“With so much existing TV, I personally don’t see an issue with less new content coming out each year. But I do see a necessity for streamers to better market existing content.”

“I work out in front of the TV for an hour and a half a day in the morning. That is when I catch up on shows and news. Otherwise, I am doing school work or I am at work. I consider it my ‘me’ time.”

“Watching more streaming than ever. If I want to watch terrestrial TV, I usually will watch the repeats without commercials on Hulu, Paramount+, or Peacock.”

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Boxed influence // Illustration by Kate Walker

MrBeast lands a massive Prime Video deal

The Future. Amazon’s Prime Video unit is reportedly firming up a $100 million deal with MrBeast that would see the most famous face of YouTube create a reality competition show for the streamer. If successful, it may open up an opportunity for other top creators — Rhett & Link, Zach King, etc. — to scale their ambitions while still making the content they’re known for.

Stunt TV
Amazon is going MrBeast on MrBeast.

  • The still-untitled show would follow a similar format to his megahit YouTube videos — MrBeast challenging fans to odd, highly-produced stunts in exchange for large cash prizes.

  • The first episode would reportedly air on MrBeast’s YouTube channel — the most-followed individual channel on the platform with 233 million subscribers — before airing on Prime Video.

It’s no surprise that there was a massive bidding war for the show (with Prime Video head Jennifer Salke getting personally involved). There’s no digital creator with anywhere near the same popularity as MrBeast, who has leveraged that fame to capitalize on a constellation of business ventures and social influence.

To studios and streamers, a MrBeast show isn’t just as close to a guaranteed hit as they can get, but it’s also an experiment to check whether the creator economy can fuel the premium entertainment economy.

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Courtesy of Embodied via YouTube

AI programs a new generation of toys

The Future. AI-powered toys are hitting retail shelves as several companies roll out dolls, plushies, and robots that hope to be kids’ best friends. If parents and kids embrace the devices (and they don’t turn out like M3GAN), expect them to be the hottest toys come this year’s holiday season.

Generating friendship
AI startups are trying to make Toy Story a reality.

  • Miko’s $99 robotic companion powered by OpenAI helps kids solve math problems, reads bedtime stories, plays games like hide and seek, and answers basic questions.

  • Curio Interactive’s rocket-shaped Grok plushie is meant as a conversational companion for kids to engage in “playful learning.” (It’s voiced by AI-superfan Grimes.)

  • Fawn Friend's baby deer plushie, using systems from OpenAI and ElevenLabs, is meant to help kids understand their emotions while talking in the tone of an eight-year-old.

  • Embodied’s $800 Moxie robot is the most robust of the crop, with facial recognition and a mechanical body, which is meant to be a cognitive behavioral therapist for kids.

The research on using an AI-powered robot as a friend or therapist for kids is mixed at best, especially considering issues with trustworthiness, privacy, and just general capabilities.

But that hasn’t stopped some people from giving it a shot. Miko, for example, has sold nearly half a million robots across 100 countries. And parents told Forbes that Moxie has been helpful with their disabled children.

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The best curated daily stories from around the web

Media, Music, & Entertainment

  • Scott Stuber is leaving the top film post at Netflix after nearly a seven-year run and hundreds of produced movies to start his own media company. Read More → bloomberg

  • Comedy Central gave up on finding a host for The Daily Show after Trevor Noah’s exit, opting instead to continue its rotating cast of correspondents. Read More → variety

  • Harmony Korine’s experimental Aggro Dr1ft, which stars Travis Scott, is going for an even more experimental distribution plan — a nationwide screening tour that starts at an LA strip club. Read More → hypebeast

Fashion & E-Commerce

  • Apple is beginning to let third-party mobile wallets and other payment services in Europe use Apple Pay tech in an attempt to ward off an EU antitrust lawsuit. Read More → wsj

  • Kendrick Lamar composed the score for a new Dave Free-directed Chanel short film that’s premiering today. Read More → hypebeast

  • Miu Miu is giving menswear a shot after becoming one of the most influential brands in recent fashion. Read More → highsnobiety

Tech, Web3, & AI

  • Sam Altman is currently on the hunt to raise billions of dollars to create the OpenAI of AI microchip makers. Read More → bloomberg

  • Speaking of OpenAI, the company has officially blocked the first political tool built with its tech — a chatbot developed by the super PAC-supported Democratic presidential hopeful Dean Phillips. Read More → wapo

  • TerraForm Labs declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a US judge ruled that its tokens were illegal securities. Read More → coindesk

Creator Economy

  • X is finally bringing video and audio calls to Android devices. Read More → techcrunch

  • Rumble saw its value increase by $502 million, a 36% jump in its stock, after signing a deal with Barstool Sports. Read More → bloomberg

  • Twitch is cracking down on creators who game its Drops system by livestreaming content like static images or rebroadcasts instead of live gameplay. Read More → tubefilter

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Today’s email was written by David Vendrell.
Edited by Nick Comney. Copy edited by Kait Cunniff.
Published by Darline Salazar.

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