Entertainment Journalism on the Ropes? Netflix Cuts Out the Middleman on 'Bridgerton'

Shonda Rhimes Nextflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

There was a time not too long ago when the occasion of a $100 million hit-machine show-runner, debuting the second season of what is her "network's" most successful series ever, would call for an exhausting press junket involving dozens of individual interviews for celebrity and entertainment news outlets from around the world. 

And sure, Shonda Rhimes did talk to the Wall Street Journal's WSJ Magazine in the run-up for Season 2 of her mega-hit period drama Bridgerton, which drops Friday. Earlier in the week, the Shondaland CEO also attended a premiere party with the Bridgerton cast and crew at the Tate Modern in London, which seemed to generate quotes for a number of other outlets, including long-running syndicated TV show Entertainment Tonight

Notably, a lot of outlets, including our own Broadcasting & Cable, quoted Netflix itself, which conducted its own Q&A (opens in new tab) with Rhimes. 

This isn't a new thing. 

Also read:  Netflix Cuts Out the Middleman, Ramps Up Digital Editorial Staff to 'Tell Its Own Stories'

As Next TV detailed back in November, Netflix continues to hire entertainment and celebrity writers, creating its own editorial content that not only controls the message, but keeps users on its global platform. 

It's a win for Netflix all around, which gets to cut out the middle man, and promote its "products" with language all its own, diverting anyone who wants to read about it to the very channel the show is on. 

So-called EPKs (entertainment press kits) -- bland assemblages of talent, director and producer interviews -- have been assembled by studios and TV networks for decades. But with the emergence of powerful internet brands into the entertainment market, this kind of content seems of have a renewed vigor.

Certainly, the next-gen emergence of EPK is coming at a time when the business of entertainment journalism is less equipped to fight it off with a superior product. From gossip rags to entertainment business trades, the forum is even more on the ropes now than it was when we checked in on this topic back in early November, with Dotdash Meredith shutting down the venerable print iteration of Entertainment Weekly.

People and US Weekly, the most powerful brands in celebrity news, have also experienced steady print declines for over a decade (although People has reported a recent digital upsurge under new parent Dotdash Meredith).

Most of the major Hollywood trade publications are all under the control of a single owner, Penske Media. This distinction not only umbrellas incumbents Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, but Deadline, which loudly disrupted the industry through the provocative storytelling of founder Nikki Finke just a decade ago. 

Meanwhile, the only remaining independent Hollywood "trade" pub, TheWrap, seems to be forever impugned and curtailed by the widely reported mismanagement of its owner/proprietor, Sharon Waxman. (Full disclosure: I once worked for Variety and TheWrap.)

There are green shoots. Longtime entertainment-media biz journo Richard Rushfield has seen his daily newsletter, The Ankler, catch on so much that it has now received funding through Y Combinator. And former Hollywood Reporter editor-in-chief Matt Belloni has quickly established a newsletter presence through Substack offering Puck.

Both startups, tapped into leading talent agencies, law firms, studios and streaming services, deliver real, insider news about the development, production and distribution of entertainment video. But for now, they remain largely one-man startups. 

So, if you're a hardcore lover of Regency-era period dramas, and you want to know how Rhimes approached the encore season of one of her biggest hits yet, you need to rely on the supplier itself, Netflix. Let's just say calling Netflix's questions for Rhimes "soft" is an affront to baby chicks, plush toys and two-ply bathroom tissue.

Some samples:

> "When did you realise that the first season of Bridgerton had become a global phenomenon?"

> "Considering how successful Season 1 was, how has the creative team approached Season 2?"

> "Bridgerton does a fantastic job of creating a world that looks much more like our own with its inclusive casting. Can you talk a little bit about the conscious effort to make the cast multicultural and why that is so important to the show's identity?" 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!