Paramount Concerns

In an immediate austerity measure after a failed merger, Paramount kills a ton of online content—an ironic move for a brand that has long exploited nostalgia.

By Ernie Smith

It’s not like we didn’t know what modern-day Paramount already was. After all, this was the company that decided it was better to give viewers 100 hours of Ridiculousness a week on one of their flagship cable channels.

But still, the actions that we’ve seen from the company this week—taking the MTV News site offline, robbing its own digital archives of decades of content—feel like they were the business ideas of a failing student, not a former cast member of Head of the Class.

Apparently, what happened was, because a merger failed to go through, the company needed to make an immense number of immediate cuts, totaling $500 million. Those cuts apparently include gutting the free content archives on the company’s websites—including information that is hugely culturally relevant for research purposes, like the archives of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Future entertainers can’t easily pull up old episodes of Key & Peele to see how the masters do it. All because they need to cut massively now.

Sounds like a good idea to make it hard for The Daily Show staff to make it hard to pull clips of its own show.

This has more than just financial implications. Over on Bluesky, Daily Show writer Daniel Radosh said that he actually used those archives to find clips from old shows that could appear on the current one.

“But I’m sure that saves exactly the amount of money needed to make the company profitable so I suppose it’s worth it,” he snarked.

Just the definition of cutting off one’s nose to spite their face, right?

Side note: This company currently has three CEOs, including yes, a former cast member of Head of the Class, Brian Robbins. Has it occurred to anyone that maybe one way to immediately cut costs is to get rid of two of your three CEOs?

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The thing is, this is the collective work of a lot of people. Both Robbins and fellow co-CEO Chris McCarthy should know this, as they each worked with the current Paramount, formerly Viacom, in creative roles earlier in their careers. Robbins, the director of Good Burger, created iconic Nickelodeon comedy All That before building a name as an executive and returning in the mid-2010s; McCarthy started his career in Hollywood pitching reality TV shows to CMT before becoming a key figure in the reality TV era of MTV and VH1. (Other co-CEO George Cheeks came from NBCUniversal; this was probably his idea.)

As Variety reported, the austerity plan was pitched as an alternative to merging with Skydance Media, in an effort to dig out of a massive hole created in large part by the company’s push into streaming. But despite this, it feels like, by making a sudden decision like this, this leadership lost sight of what was actually important when it comes to their respective entertainment empires.

It’s one thing when Yahoo does it. It’s another when your company has shown a commitment to news and information distribution and breaks the contract for face-saving short-term gain. The archives are everything, and when the going gets tough, what do they do? Cut the archives as just another cost center. After all, we’re not currently making money from them, right?

Paramount already made its money on nostalgia by making shows like this one. It does not want anyone else to do the same.

And it’s especially galling to see this from Paramount, a company that has made more cultural hay out of nostalgia than most. Old MTV logos and VH1 retro trips are a defining feature of this company. The company that gave us MTV Classic and Behind The Music wants you to believe that history does not matter. Paramount’s logo is supposed to evoke the old days—but it doesn’t appreciate what those days actually meant for its fans or viewership.

In many ways, it’s another example of how the end user is getting punished by bad business decisions made by the companies that front the costs of the entertainment we consume. Essentially, Paramount Global’s non-executive chairwoman, Shari Redstone, had bad vibes about the deal with Skydance, in part because her family’s cut of the financial upside of the deal was less than she wanted. And vibes killed the whole deal mere moments before it was going to happen.

Now we all suffer for Shari Redstone’s bad vibes.

In the case of MTV News, we are talking about a website that had roughly 30 years of pop-culture history on it, some of which has never been covered in such detail elsewhere. The fight against Napster comes to mind as a story MTV News dominated. When MTV News started, nobody was covering pop culture quite like they were. And Paramount is still exploiting this! Paramount+ has a documentary about file-sharing that just premiered and presumably got to take advantage of this source material.

Seeing old episodes of The Daily Show and Colbert go offline—during an election year—just feels like a sheer lack of creativity, a willingness to minimize back-end costs where possible. It’s like Warner’s embrace of just shutting down projects opened the Overton window to stuff like this.

At first, I thought that this might be related to a potential of copyright concerns, or maybe residuals. But no. It appears to be just a matter of “we don’t want to pay our server bills anymore.” No attempt to put this content on static sites. No attempt to turn on the analog nightlight. Just … poof. Gone.

What does Paramount spend its money on instead, if it can’t afford to pay to simply keep old content online? Well, Paramount is a company that pays more than $500 million per year to make Taylor Sheridan shows, money that Sheridan uses to run a massive ranch that Sheridan claims is essential to the creation of his shows. No cost efficency, no tight budgets—just a machine that needs more money.

Paramount puts up with this in part because Sheridan is seen as the savior of Paramount+, a service that loses nearly $500 million a quarter. Some savior.

If you’re in such terrible shape, I know the first salary that you should cut. And maybe drop a couple of your CEOs in the process.

Hollywood math is completely broken. The reason? They decided to shove all their money into their own streaming services instead of letting someone just give them checks. They are shoving all this money into giant money pits that nobody actually wants because the prior money pits are no longer as profitable because they got greedy about those money pits. Our culture suffers at the hands of this cycle of greed.

If you can’t keep this stuff online, why are you even running a company?

Destructive Links

A tragedy of another kind is playing out in Seattle, as the Living Computer Museum’s contents are being auctioned off in a similarly short-sighted move by its owner, the estate of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Retroist explains what this place meant to him.

I listened to this Father John Misty song for the first time in a while and it has aged like fine wine. He nailed the dynamic we’re seeing online so perfectly that it feels like things have only gotten worse. We need Father John Misty to do an album about LLMs.

Pepsi is making “smart cans” complete with digital screens, that aren’t supposed to get wet. Sounds like a lame marketing scheme to me. Maybe Paramount can try this?


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Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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