TCA informed members last week that the digital services would participate in the upcoming summer press tour. Facebook is scheduled to present on the first day of press tour July 25, in between HBO and National Geographic Channels. Amazon is slated for July 28, the same day as AMC Networks and and Starz. Netflix is scheduled to offer a full day of panels July 29.
For Amazon and Netflix, the TCA appearances mark returns following long absences from press tour. Both companies, which last presented at the summer 2016 press tour, declined to comment on their reasons for making their return. Hulu is not slated to present any panels, but will sponsor its annual spa day Aug. 4, the day of the TCA Awards.
“The schedule is exceptionally strong,” a CTAM spokesperson told Variety. “Incorporating Netflix and Amazon further amplifies the quality and breadth of content featured during the CTAM portion of the TCA Tour.”
Netflix’s return comes as the company prepares to launch a flurry of new original scripted programs in the latter part of 2018, including “The Umbrella Academy,” “Insatiable,” and “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” Amazon, meanwhile, has experienced a recent changing of the guard in its uppermost ranks, with Jennifer Salke — formerly of NBC — having been named new head of Amazon Studios in February, and has years of experience presenting at the event.
Amazon and Netflix’s absence from the tour coincided with growing concern at many companies — including linear cable and broadcast networks — about the diminishing utility of the tour as a marketing vehicle. Executives have complained privately that panels are just as likely to generate negative conversation as positive press, with critics and writers quick to respond to onstage gaffes via quickly written news items and tweets, often harshly critical of those onstage — with few stories banked for future publication timed to premieres. TCA leaders have countered that the worst offenders are often non-TCA members who have been credentialed instead by the presenting companies — such as one freelance writer who in January mistook actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje for Malcolm-Jamal Warner, asking him a lengthy question about “The Cosby Show.”
The streaming services, as well as digital service YouTube Red, will present in the schedule block put together by cable-industry trade organization CTAM. In the past, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon had each hosted its own day or portion of a day, but TCA leaders and CTAM decided last year that in future tours, streaming services would present during the CTAM portion of the schedule.
Facebook, meanwhile, joins press tour for the first time as it continues to ramp up original programming on its Facebook Watch portal. None of the three companies have yet confirmed what shows they will present at press tour, and whether they will host executive sessions.