UPDATE, 6:40 p.m: Starz has also pulled out of the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Variety has learned. The network declined to comment.
Sources say Netflix execs made to the decision to skip the winter session this time out but has not ruled out future participation.
Netflix was previously scheduled to present its slate on Jan. 5, the first day of press tour. Their slot has since been filled with a lineup from Amazon, Acorn and DirecTV.
Netflix’s decision to withdraw from winter TCA comes at a time when many of the major networks have questioned the value of the twice-yearly press tour. With an ever-increasing number of shows and networks — along with so many new media journalists joining the organization — the nature of the cover emanating from the tour has changed drastically over the years.
Questions have also been raised about the tone of the social media commentary that floods during the two- to three-week-long tour as well as the escalating cost of staging panels and parties. Meanwhile, networks are looking for alternative ways to promote their programming via social media in a more controlled environment, rather than focusing their efforts on the herd-like atmosphere of the TCA ballroom.
TCA president Amber Dowling said the dropouts had more to do with scheduling difficulties caused by the upcoming Jan. 20 presidential inauguration. “We had to look at shortening the tour because of the inauguration, which is obviously a monumental event,” she said. “The cable lineup ended up moving to the middle of the tour” — scheduled for Jan. 13-14 — “rather than the end, so we ended up having to shorten their days.”
As for Netflix, she said, “That’s up to them,” but she pointed to their inconsistent press tour attendance. “They’ve always come in and out of the tour,” she said.
Netflix made its TCA debut at the winter press tour in January 2013, right before the launch of its first original drama “House of Cards.” At the time, the streaming giant was just beginning to build its roster, and taking part in the TCA was a means of signaling that it intended to be a serious player in television programming.
“We’re leading the next great wave of change in the medium of TV,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said during his TCA debut in January 2013. “We’re not trying to destroy it, but evolve it for the current generation and those to come.”
Dowling was optimistic about the future of the press tour. “If anything, we’ve had a really hard time fitting everyone in,” she said. “The tour is thriving.”