High School & CNN+April 29, 2022
This week, No Mercy/No Malice won The Webby and People’s Voice Award for Best Business, News & Technology newsletter. Other nominees included newsletters from McKinsey & Co., The Washington Post, and The Skimm. This is meaningful for us. Thank you for reading, subscribing, and voting. 🏆👍
I returned to my high school in LA last week, the first time in 38 years — we shot an episode on education for my short-lived TV show. Walking down the hallway of your high school can trigger reward pathways in the brain, resulting in positive feelings of nostalgia. I was overwhelmed by this. They say people prone to sadness are more likely to feel intense feelings of nostalgia. So … yes.
The first wave of emotion hit me while walking past the trophy/award case — it hadn’t changed. I remembered the case decorated with the headshot of a student and flowers, not once but twice in the same month. Brent Alberts had rolled his Jeep, and Bobby Mitchells had been struck on his moped. Both died. Drunk driving and binge drinking were the tragedy and scandal at University High School in 1982. However, my best friend was Mormon, which was (mostly) a good thing, as I didn’t drink.
(Less Than) Great Expectations
I went in expecting to hear depressing stories of kids dropping out, struggling with depression, and not going to college. What I experienced was inspiring.
I met with Principal Claudia Middleton and college counselor Paula Van Norden, impressive women who made me feel optimistic about the future of our public high schools. I also met with Superintendent Alberto Carvalho who had been described as the LeBron James of the Miami-Dade school system before his tenure in LA. I met with the students — curious, ambitious kids who let me join them in the drumline — many underprivileged, some without a permanent home address. The important stats: 97% are graduating, and 92% are going to college. This. Is. Wonderful.
At the assembly, all the questions were a different flavor of the same query: What can we learn from your success, so we too can be successful? A: It began for me at Uni (high school). I ran for sophomore, junior, and senior class president, and I lost all three times. Based on that track record, I decided to run for student body president where I — wait for it — lost again. Amy Atkins turned me down for the prom, and I was cut from the baseball and basketball teams. Then I was rejected by UCLA, the only school I could afford to attend, as I could live at home.
However, I never lost my sense of enthusiasm. I appealed the rejection, UCLA admitted me, and by my senior year of college, I was president of the Interfraternity Council. Weak flex, I know, but it felt important at the time. I graduated with a 2.27 GPA, but that didn’t stop me from getting a job in the analyst program at Morgan Stanley (applied to 23 firms, one job offer) or getting into graduate school at Berkeley (applied to nine schools, rejected by seven).
In sum, the secret to my success is … rejection. Specifically, my willingness to endure it. Everybody knows failure, everyone will experience tragedy. You will get fired, make bad investments, and fall in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. Worst of all, someone you love, and who loves you a great deal, will get sick and die. A core competence of successful people is the ability to mourn, and move on.
So, how to develop this skill? People find strength and resilience in different places. For me, it’s atheism. I do not believe this is a dress rehearsal, and at some point I’ll look into my sons’ eyes and know our relationship is coming to an end. And that’s OK — I’m less afraid than most to risk public failure (starting businesses, making predictions, approaching strangers, etc.) because I believe this will all be over soon. In addition, age has given me the courage to be more forthcoming with my emotions. To tell people I love them, that I admire them. Looking at important decisions through the lens of your deathbed usually yields the same answers: Go for it, and tell people you love them.
My friend Todd Benson says, “Market dynamics will always trump individual performance.” This is the Harvard Business School version of stoicism; focus on the things you can control. Last Wednesday night, I learned our show was the No. 1 weekly program on CNN+. Thursday morning, I was forwarded a New York Times article titled “CNN+ Shuts Down Weeks After Its Start.” In sum, when you’re killing it, try to maintain some humility. And when things haven’t gone well, forgive yourself. Much of your success and failure is not your fault. Your emotions are less a function of what’s happened than the variance. Perspective and gratitude are powerful Neosporin for disappointment. I know that for many people my worst day would be their best.
My show’s success was, to some extent, a function of luck — we were assigned a very talented team who could (often) turn chicken shit into chicken salad. That it was birthed on a platform that would experience SIDS … also (bad) luck. This is about to be a very bad time to be in streaming, regardless of your individual contribution. Netflix, the OG of streaming, is the tail wagging the dog. A dip for the giant was bound to send a chill through the market. But this is full-blown pneumonia.
In less than six months, Netflix has shed 70% of its value, or $215+ billion. Subscribers are churning, and the company is considering “New Coke” levels of risk to find revenue streams. For the first time, Netflix will have an ad-supported option. What I believe the market misses is Netflix does not have a subscriber problem, but a watcher problem — an estimated 611 million people watch Netflix, yet only 222 million subscribe. Securing the service (i.e., tightening password-sharing) is the right move, but polluting the streaming service with ads about opioid-induced constipation erodes a key point of differentiation.
What’s happening at Netflix suggests the current streaming model isn’t sustainable. The top U.S. streaming companies will spend $140 billion on content this year. There are 125 million households in America, and 90 million are likely streamable. So companies are spending $1.5k on your household to deliver Bridgerton and Euphoria, i.e., more than the average household’s credit card bill. Meanwhile, households are canceling their video subscriptions in record numbers. The most sustainable “streaming” platform might be TikTok, which spends $0 on original content (vs. Netflix’s $17 billion), and is free. The platform now commands more attention than Facebook and Instagram combined.
In the Red
In the face of this, CNN decided it wanted to get into streaming. And it made sense, as media firms are trapped in a multiple on EBITDA, marketing spend trap, unless they can bust a move to subscription. Trouble is, they were fighting Panzer tanks on horseback. People gasped at the reported $300 million budget of CNN+, but this meant the war was over before it started. Consider the math: For every dollar spent per month on CNN+ ($3/month), you received $100 million worth of content, vs. $1.7 billion on Netflix. Three hundred million dollars is what Netflix spends on a single season of Stranger Things.
Anger and Ego
Meanwhile, the guys moving boxes into the corner office (Discovery Inc.) were telling CNN not to do it. Despite this, they went ahead: CNN+ made its debut 10 days before Discovery’s merger with WarnerMedia closed. This was dumb … you don’t stick up the middle finger to your soon-to-be partners, much less your new owners. (I just read the last sentence, and it dawned on me that writing this post may also be … dumb. Anyway.)
On the morning of April 11, the first business day of new ownership, Discovery’s head of streaming called a meeting with CNN executives. His message: All CNN+ marketing is to be suspended. They initiated a formal business review, and the following week, CNN+ wasn’t just unplugged but smothered with a pillow. There’s no getting around it: The execs, staff, talent — all of us — look stupid.
The reflexive narrative has been “that’s what happens in media.” I run a small media company and have served on the boards of multibillion-dollar media firms. There’s no excuse for crass actions masquerading as decisiveness — this isn’t how you treat people. I’m not talking about the anchors cashing seven-figure checks (Chris Wallace will be fine), but the gaffer, sound-guy, editor, and camera operator. Discovery offered a solid severance package to the employees, but this doesn’t resolve the shitshow that is getting hired and fired within a month via the NYT. Shutting down CNN+ was probably the right call. But the whole thing reeks of anger and ego.
So, I’m back in high school, rejected again. But I have the perspective to know nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. I loved every second of the experience. The crew was great, and the show was good.
After we wrapped filming at my high school, I flew back to Florida. I checked my phone on the drive home — dozens of emails and texts checking in with me, asking if I’m alright, saying they liked the show … so nice. Yeah, I’m fine … I’ll mourn for a day, and then move on. See above: These are (really) good problems. I came home to the network that’s carried me for years.
The team does not show me the respect I deserve, rolls their eyes at my jokes, eats my socks, and the younger talent is especially difficult. The upside? The contract is for life, and we’re always there for one another.
Life is so rich,
P.S. Being a great boss is hard … but achievable. Enrollment for the Complete Manager Sprint closes on Tuesday.
Scott, I look forward to reading your weekly messages and so often agree with your perspective on current trends in our society. This message about your past failures and your ability to keep pushing forward is inspiring! I plan to share your important message with my two young 20-something daughters. We all need to be reminded that we must keep trying and not give up just because things don’t always work in our favor. Thank you and keep writing!
Google paid $95 a hour on the internet..my close relative has been without labor for nine months and the earlier month her compensation check was $51005 by working at home for 10 hours a day….. Everybody must try this job now by just use this
Fake news and Woke Programming are dying the miserable death they deserve
Thanks for being. Learning a lot from you.
Nice. Love your view of failure.
I voted for you on the Webby’s, congratulations. I almost joined CNN+ so I could watch you. Enjoy your stuff and that life story wow. Thanks.PS I did drink in HS, a lot, so lucky to be here writing this.
I value some of your insights over the years but recently you seem to be insulating yourself in your chosen echo chamber. Most people outside media could see that CNN+ was doomed from the start. None of the talent has a dedicated following large enough to carry the service until it found it’s footing, and there is no compelling reason for anyone to pay for CNN content they already *don’t* watch for free. If they had launched CNN+ pre-2021 they could have ridden the anti-trump vitriol to some level of sustainability and success.
As for Netflix you’ve proven how effective spinning numbers is at supporting a preselected message. Account sharing is an issue however the Q1 subscriber shrinkage, and Netflix’s own guidance that they expect a multiple of that number in coming months is a core problem. People “watching” on a shared account doesn’t impact the subscriber number or the subscriber shrinkage.
Price increases, loosing key content to other streaming services and the ever diminishing quality of the remaining US-sourced content are key factors driving subscribers away. The only reason I haven’t canceled my long time subscription yet is the foreign content, mostly from Europe. The writing is good, the acting is good, the storylines are usually engaging, and the production quality is constantly improving.
Another thought provoking edition. I do think though your analysis of Netflix suffers, like most State-siders, from an Americo-centric perspective. Content money spent OUTSIDE the US pays off as all other countries are used to watching subtitles. It is on its way to being the world’s stream and Prime / Disney / et al don’t invest appropriately in other countries. I just watched outstanding Netflix funded movies / series from Poland, Italy, Belgium, India, Spain, and Germany.
You’re right about the Netflix content coming from non-US sources. However, Prime has been growing their catalog of non-US content and, if we content consumers are lucky, will continue evolving such content. Competition is good
And you advised your CNN- crew to man up, bulk up, and get construction jobs? They are potentially violent and dangerous for facing a setback, as you said, so they need some flip advice.
As always, great advice and perspective. And, I subscribed to CNN+ mostly because of your program. And if I did it, I know so many others did too. Would love to see it land somewhere else
How about: Learn to code, network, and update your resume? I hear Mr. Galloway, but come on. If he didn’t know that he was taking a significant risk, he does now. CNN is the bottom of the barrel, and anyone who’s serious had to know it. The hosannas and crocodile tears here are more than a little bit over the top.
Love your work but the SIDS comment re. CNN+ left a bad taste. Some small percentage of your readers will be shattered with this reference. Some larger percentage will think it’s witty without understanding the associated pain and try the comment out in their day to day lives.
Always love your visuals. The Netflix one above with viewers v subs is an eye opener!
What a great way to begin my Saturday! What a great read! Thank you!
“i never lost my sense of enthusiasm” a few words that brilliantly sum up my professional career and my deep emotions. Reading what you wrote beats hours of useless coaching sessions. Inspiring. Thank you!
Thank you, Prof Galloway. I have just set a reminder to read your blog every morning before starting my day because I learn a lot about life and business every time I do. I wish you good health and more prosperity!
– Proud Section4 Member!
As useful, a really refreshing take on life and the way to learn in life. Always a thoughtful read to start the weekend.
Your analysis is excellent, meaning it agrees with mine. When you share your thoughts I am reminded of a statement made by Brad Taylor, who writes books I love, when asked what the number one characteristic a soldier must have, replied without hesitation – “character”.
Thank you Scott. I’ve been following you since your appearance on Bill Maher last year. Your voice is needed in this chaotic world…. you are appreciated.
The biggest question is, why would CNN actual think people would pay for more CNN?
Sorry for your L with CNN+. Love your take on business and life. Prof G and Pivot are in my weekly rotation. Wish you continued success. Cheers!
Anyway, I really appreciate your take on things. Prog G show and Pivot are in heavy rotation. So you took an L with CNN. Wish you much continued success elsewhere. Cheers!
The real issue with Netflix is their philosophy. Throw a LOT of money at crap scripts, and hope something sticks to the wall. How many shows do we have to start before finding one that we will stay with past Episode 1? HBO turns out many fewer shows, but a much higher quality, I would guess they are making money. Other streamers are also hit and miss, but no one can match Netflix for shear volume. I believe people will pay for quality, but not crap. What would be interesting to learn why phone companies don’t care WHO is in your ‘family plan’ while streamers do.
Not knocking you for trying a new format TV show fits with startup ethos, but… Why would someone with previous success get involved with a scandal-prone failing network like CNN? Hell, even airport waiting areas turned them off. I don’t know anyone who still trusts them. Between fraudulent reporting and likely criminal behavior rampant, what was the possible win?
I was a wine sales rep for 12 years – at the end of my employed career. I was just good enough to never get fired and just bad enough to never really make a living. I was rejected constantly –in the field numerous times every single day. I honestly can only point to luck that I am still alive today.
Very self centered thoughts.
Why isn’t he allowed to think about himself and his situation sometimes? It’s his newsletter.
RA, who ever suggested that he’s somehow not allowed to think of himself and his situation? He can think and say whatever he wants, at least until he steps on an invisible crack in the sidewalk and that university cancels him. The flip side is that others might not be impressed, and might say so. The high schools might be handing out participation certificates, affirmations, and yoga classes, but it’s a rough world in the cybersphere.
I’ve been listening to your podcasts from the start and I love them – but it is your insightful writings like this weeks No Mercy/No Malice that get me to sit down with my three young adult children and we read through No Mercy/No Malice together – because you clearly and repeatedly communicate a message that I want them to learn but that I could never articulate as beautifully. Thank you.
I continue to amazed that no one wants to discuss the possibility that compared to HBO, for example, Netflix has crappy content. I and many of my friends in the 65+ demographic stopped subscribing to Netflix at least a year ago. Content is king (queen) as the saying goes.
We are rural and lack the bandwidth for streaming. HughesNet works for internet basics, but not for that. We live 200 yards from a fiber cable paid for by Obama’s “rural broadband initiative,” but guess what? Uncle Sucker didn’t include a requirement to provide service, so we sit next to an information superhighway without entrance or exit ramps. Oddly enough, we’re near the Columbia River, which was dammed like crazy between 1930 and 1960, a time when the federal government wasn’t as aggressively stupid as it’s become. I’m not quite sure if we’re really missing much.
They have a quantity over quality approach. I don’t think it’s valid that all their content sucks, they have had many hits and iconic shows. But a lot of crap too.
You hitched yourself to a falling star. Unlike, say, the steelworker who had many fewer avenues in life, you had an array of choices and made a bad one. I give you credit for detailing (even in 20/20 hindsight) why CNN+ was doomed from the start, but still I must say: You didn’t just look stupid. You WERE stupid, self-delusion being the most poignantly sad forms of stupidity. Unlike those steelworkers, all that suffered was — ahem — your own ego. If you want to be angry, take it up with the dumb (yet rich) fool in the mirror.
This is comment is so unnecessary. It says far more about you and your mindset than it does about Scott. All of us have missteps in life, sometimes our own fault sometimes not. Either way, when they happen we should be kind to each other not caustic.
RA, you did give me pause. I don’t know Jeff Galloway, just as I don’t know any of the other bloggers who drift across my screen. If he’s otherwise in crisis, I wouldn’t want to add to his troubles. If the sum total of those troubles is the demise of CNN+, well, I can’t uncork the kumbaya gene.
Thanks for this… it made me cry… In addition, age has given me the courage to be more forthcoming with my emotions. To tell people I love them, that I admire them. Looking at important decisions through the lens of your deathbed usually yields the same answers: Go for it, and tell people you love them.
Great post. So random to see/ hear mention of Brent. Such a good kid. I was with him that night. We both left a party in the valley, he took laurel over, I took a right on Mulholland…First death of friend, still took a long time to really understand how life can be soo fleeting…
the importance of the day, the need to better communicate and all the other bullshit is is just that. #bullshit
Conor, good to hear from you,,,even if a strange context. I changed the last name(s) as I felt they deserved some anonymity. I hope you are well, Scott
It was nice to hear mention him. Brought up fond memories. Also, I very much enjoy my Friday NM/NM reads.
The blind hubris of launching a paid streaming service whilst virtually nobody is interested in watching your free broadcast service is astounding. I’m surprised Scott signed on with a service that was clearly doomed before it even launched.
The blind hubris of launching a paid streaming service whilst virtually nobody is interested in watching your free broadcast service is astounding. I’m surprised Scott signed on with a service that was clearly doomed before it even launched.
After 14 years of living in the hallways of Time Inc, Time Warner, AOL, and the dismantling thereof…I continue to watch the evolution of once-great brands get decimated by ego on all sides of the equation. Maybe you could teach a sprint on that.
CNN has been in decline since the day Ted Turner sold out. It was my go-to television news source when it practiced traditional journalism. When did I know they were dead? The answer was when Andy Vandy Cooper went to New Orleans after the hurricane and cried on camera. I mean utterly no disrespect for the victims there, but Andy’s emoting was the death knell for news at CNN. The brief surge in adulation for Andy led CNN down the slippery slope to the pathetic entity it has become. News people are supposed to have stronger stomachs, and they are supposed to keep their opinions out of their stories. Instead, CNN has bequeathed all manner of ridiculousness on its viewers. No tears for CNN, and especially not for the rank stupidity and arrogance called CNN+. They deserve their fate. I hope the main CNN follows “plus” to the grave. It is are a deadweight drag on this country, and its ultimate demise would be an improvement.
I’m a fan of your work. And this post may be my favorite thing you have ever written. Brilliant and inspiring. Thank you for this gift today!
Scott, my condolences about your loss in the CNN debacle. True to form, you turned it into a teaching moment—within a fine larger lesson. Posts like this make me wish you wrote more often. Savoring them makes me perversely glad you don’t. Best regards to you and your network.
Your authenticity is so pleasant even though you often sneer and snipe, it lacks bitterness. Your pot shots include yourself as well as those you take aim at. Even tho I’m not a business person any more- I teach nursing students and have the honor of launching our next generation of caregivers and knowledge repositories into the healthcare world.- I enjoy your view and interpretation of our world. Congrats on the well deserved awards- proof that there are a few of us who get it! Keep writing so we get a chance be aware of what’s going on. Keep your team safe and entertained – take care of yourself-
A fan who always smiles while reading your missives_
Professor Galloway, I love your newsletter and always learn something new from it. And your honesty and willingness to be real make the reading a pleasure while I’m learning something. So thanks for that too. It’s awesome.
You mention your atheism a good bit in your writing. I am grateful for your honesty. I also think it’s kind of interesting. The reason I say interesting is because many of the benefits you cite (no longer being afraid of public failure, being honest with yourself, not being scared to tell folks you love them), would probably also be among the first mentioned by people who believe that there is something else that happens beyond this first (beautiful / painful / wonderful) act on earth.
I admit, when I first started reading you I was hoping you were a follower of Jesus. Your honesty and humility struck me as very similar to someone like a C.S. Lewis or a Tim Keller. I suppose I can’t have everything I want, eh? In any event, I just wanted to say thanks for your excellent writing and for your honesty.
Sorry about the demise of CNN+. I know you yearned for it to come to fruition with your love for Fareed, et al, but ultimately there’s just TOO MUCH STUFF out there. Too many podcasts, too much streaming, etc. I consume a LOT of media….podcasts, online newsletters, and tons of TV via NetFlix, AppleTV+, Hulu, Prime, etc. There are so many that I think CNN+ was caught up in that. I love Pivot and the Prof G properties and will continue to support those. Good luck with cracking the TV world….maybe the 4th tilt at the windmill will be the lucky one………..
I was one of those “dozens” of CNN+ subs and fortunate enough to catch the “series finale” before the network went dark 2 days after the episode premiered. Good program as were the other 4. I’ll miss it. Hope you land someplace else and can pick the show back up. Actually, No Mercy was the only CNN+ show I viewed, which I suppose reflects their overall situation.
I might get roasted in this but… but when is enough enough for some of these mega companies, like Netflix. Why is the goal to always bring in more, to do more, when you’re valued over $400 Billion. Maybe they should have cared more about their content than password sharing, or adding ads.
Heartwarming read … very enjoyable. Good luck with your next journey!
Hardly crass from Warner. CNN+ was warned and decided being murdered was better than suicide. I guess Warmer agrees with your Netflix. And mourning is a bit much, more like disappointment. Love your stuff!!’
Scott you are a stud. Love your writing and your thoughtful comments. Please ignore the ignorant trolls in your comment section. Never forget. They are reading your blog and not the other way around.
My fave quote, up on my wall forever, is from Churchill – Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
The network and show sucked and got what they deserved, humiliation. Could be described as ‘Left-tard’ nonsense at best.. Get out of all schools and media, do the world a favor.
Really useful and intelligent post. Thanks!
Not to mention right on target. Michael Avenatti and Fredo Cuomo? Really, why would someone join the organization that puked out those people?
Tom Sanford what a coincidence that your avatar resembles what apparently you are.
Mr Galloway: Thanks a lot for your articles; not only they “talk” about “business” but also you touch very good aspects of life: living with rejection, mothers/fathers/sons… even dogs.
You have a large following in Mexico.
Muchas Gracias y que Dios le Bendiga a Usted y a Todos sus Seres Queridos!!!
As a Uni graduate, class of 1962, I love reading about a school I do not recognize anymore. When I went there we were the most priveleged school in LA School system. Private schools were virtually non existent and then only for the miscreants, so the student body covered the following area’s, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Westwood, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades (Palisades High School was being built, but not finished). Almost everyone in the student body came from affluent backgrounds. A different look from then to now.
This entire post could be summed up by Get Woke, Go Broke. Audiences voted with their wallets and eyeballs on CNN and Netflix. Also, how scientifically illiterate do you have to be to continue masking kids in schools?
I scrolled to the CNN+ section just for the creative and far-reaching explanation as to why they failed (beyond the obvious reason programming fails) and was not disappointed! 10,000 subscribers.
I read this (crying) to our 20 year old son. He needed it, I think. I definitely did. Thank you!