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Aug. 22, 2022

The Demise of Cable, Shutdowns, and Chaperone Policies

The Demise of Cable, Shutdowns, and Chaperone Policies

For the first time, streaming outperformed cable & broadcast TV; Shanghai factories are shut down again due to record heat waves; Both Knott’s and Universal Orlando test chaperone policies to curb violence at their parks in preparation for Halloween....

For the first time, streaming outperformed cable & broadcast TV; Shanghai factories are shut down again due to record heat waves; Both Knott’s and Universal Orlando test chaperone policies to curb violence at their parks in preparation for Halloween. Subscribe to all our offerings:


Philip: From our studios in Los Angeles and Tampa, this is Green Tagged Theme Park in 30, I'm Philip, he is Scott Swenson from Scott Swenson Creative Development. Scott, it's been a momentous week because streaming has finally outperformed both cable and broadcast TV for the first time ever.

Scott: Say it isn't so Philip. Oh, it is so.

Philip: It is so. For the first time ever, yes, streaming services captured more viewers than cable or broadcast TV, according to new data released this week from Nielsen. Streaming has outperformed broadcast in a single month before, but never broadcast and cable in the same month. I'm so excited. Kind of.

Scott: Well, it's funny because I'm kind of looking at this data going. Yeah, yeah. I mean, but that's solely based on my own personal experience. I don't watch broadcast, I don't watch cable, I stream. I think, at least the first thing that comes to my mind as to why this is so important for our listeners is, especially if you're in marketing, please look at your media buy, or just your media insertions, and make sure that it is following this trend, it used to be, back in my day in theme park, it used to be that our marketing department would be all about the TV buy, and that was the crown jewel of the marketing plan. The world has completely changed. It's not about ABC NBC, CBS, those are networks for those of you who are ridiculously young, but it, it's not about that anymore. There are so many more options out there, and so many more viable options, to make certain that you have content on, and especially as you say, with these streaming platforms. Now, I realize it's parallel, but different. So, you've got to make sure that you have content. Then you have to question is streaming even the place to put your marketing? You know, is it, gosh, let's use let's blitz social media or let's do buys on social media, and leave streaming just for streaming? And I don't know the answer to that. I really don't. But, I think it certainly, from a marketing standpoint, should be making you at least look at your spend on broadcast advertising because it's getting less and less.

Philip: Yeah. I just think this is so fascinating because I think it's surprising, but inevitable. Like we have been talking about this since the show started. And we have been talking about it in not just this way, but this is Disney's whole strategy that we just talked about last weekend, right? With Disney Plus and their investment in this. I mean, we've also talked about the power of IP and this is a manifestation of that. We've talked about also consolidation, of how these media brands are trying to buy and work together and group up to get large enough to really consolidate, to make sure that they're competitive enough for this. Even when you look at streaming taking over from cable, but then we're looking at TikTok kind bleeding value from the traditional streaming because they have a much less budget, they have no budget, they just let users generate the content and it gets there.

Philip: You said that it's not all about this cable, but I would say things are much more like a pendulum than maybe we wanted to believe, like everything old is new again. So, my kind of prediction in this is, I agree with you completely about looking at your ad spend and where you should spend it, but also think about where this is going. I think where it's going is back to where it was in that we're not going to have, ABC, CNN in the same way, but it's going to become consolidated to a few streaming platforms, which is then going to become consolidated to only a few networks, like Facebook was the big thing and now it's becoming still big, but less of a thing. The more interaction now is in the TikTok. Everything is consolidation, it's diversification, then consolidation, and then bleeding into the new platform. So, I think we'll eventually be back to there's only going to be a few options that you're going to be looking at to engage in. Even when it comes to even streaming, not all platforms are even made equal, and not all IPS are created equal either, there are some that would have a much higher, just like the Super Bowl, you have much higher ad spend on those than smaller ones.

Philip: Even when you look at the future of social media and consolidation there, the nature of social media is also to consolidate around specific influencers. So, I think the older platform gets the harder it is for new influencers to come in because the platform wants to push people who they can sell the most advertising against. So, it's in the algorithm's best interest to push the already established people, which just makes them larger. So, it's basically the network effect, like the cable network effect, but just again, in that way. So, I think that's going to be, when you look at where you should spend your money, it's really like, there's going to be only a few options at some point with streaming, and there's also only going to be a few options when it comes to influencers and who is going to be the biggest impact. There's only going to be a few really.

Scott: Well, and it's interesting because you're looking forward. Let me look backward just for a moment to kind of reinforce your pendulum theory. The networks were created by buying up locals. Back in the early days of television, there was a New York station, there was a Chicago station, there was an LA station, and the big networks kept bringing those in. This happened, especially when you got what we'll call the secondary networks, not necessarily the ABC, CBS, NBC, but when you started to get the, oh gosh, they've all left me now because they've all kind of disappeared. What was Ted Turner's network? Yeah, again, I'm old. But anyway, when those secondary networks started to come in to compete with the big three, they started buying up local channels. They started to get local existing channels and bringing them under their wing. To your point with the influencers, I think that's exactly what's going to happen. I think that the streaming, because it's, again, blurring the lines between, is it social media? Is it television? Is it entertainment? Is it information? I think that the biggest influencers right now are the ones who are going to get swooped up and taken under the wing to help progress the algorithm, just like the local television networks did when they continue to expand the number of major networks in the television industry.

Scott: So, yeah, I think you're absolutely right. I think it's going to continue to be a battle of the Titans, but that's not necessarily bad news for the smaller independent, because if you continue to do, and I sound like a broken record, but if you continue to prove to do good work, to present good content, to put out their things that people want to see, it makes you far more valuable and far more viable to the big boys who will want to either buy you up and take you under their wing, or buy you up, take you under their wing, and let you continue to do what you do, only they give, give you money to do it. So, it comes back to, are you creating something people want to see and, and giving them the best possible quality? Now, what's really cool to me is, because of the nature of streaming in general and the way technology has progressed, there is an audience for almost everything, and you have to make certain that if you can find a viable enough chunk, a viable enough audience, that you remain true to them, so that you continue to be really appealing to a larger conglomerate who wants to target that audience, or doesn't have anything that targets that audience. Because they're going to look at the mass appeal. They're going to go, "okay, we've got this that's mass appeal, this that's mass appeal, but for some reason we don't have anything that targets this particular demographic." And if you are the small influencer that owns that particular demographic, you become very interesting to the larger conglomerates. So, again, it goes back to quality, quality of programming, quality of content.

Philip: Well, moving on, we have our next story here. Unfortunately we are definitely not over the supply chain issues that we have been talking about for also a very long time. We talked about this as well before, the concept of always having a backup plan because stuff is not over, everything is just, again, pendulum, it comes back and forth. Basically, what's happening in China is, now the extreme heat over there is causing them to shut down their factories. So, in the main factory province in China, all factories have been ordered to shut down for six days to conserve power. Again, that's due to the heat wave that's happening. It's mainly a hub for making semiconductors and solar panels, but it's impacting a bunch of smaller companies as well. Same thing with us, our factory is not located in that region, but they're getting alerts like every day about potential shutdowns. They're getting alerts all back and forth about this and that and whatever, because it's a big heat wave there and they need to conserve power. You're going to continue to see these types of interruptions more and more and more, and it's going back to the same thing we talked about of, this is going to certainly cost some of our deliveries to be little bit later, which is going to then impact the installation schedules for the attractions, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, definitely still a good idea to reexamine your supply chains and have backup plans continuously.

Scott: Your grandparents said it to you when you were little, don't put all your eggs in one basket. I would venture to change that slightly and say, make sure you have more than one chicken. The idea here is it's not if things are going to get disrupted, it's when things are going to get disrupted. Things are going to get disrupted by something in the future. The supply chain is too complex to not have issues. With key things like electronic components, which appear in pretty much everything, we're going to hit those situations where these key components are going to have a trickle-down effect that are going to affect everyone. So again, the smartest thing you could do, not based on what I tell you, not based on what Philip tells you, based on pretty much every program and every certificate class that I have either taken or sat in, on diversify your supply chain, it is that simple. Diversify your supply chain. I realize people will argue back and say, "well, but there are certain elements that are only made by three companies and they're all in the same place." I get that. I get that. So, you've actually already done your homework, which is great. Don't rest on your laurels. Don't just say, "well, it's all we got." Or you can say, "well, it's all we got, but be prepared, because it's going to be six days before you get your semiconductors," you know?

Philip: Yeah, it's actually then going back to that design component too. It's different for each situation, of course, at Gantom, is there a way that we can redesign the fixture? We don't want to do that if we can help it, right? That's a very high thing to ask, but there's a lot of questions we can ask, like hypothetically speaking, you brainstorm and you throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. Like, could we make our own cables? Could we cut cables on it? Like how much could we do? Is it possible? Let's not shut it down before we just put it on the board and then we can figure out if it's possible later, you know, that kind of a thing. But when it comes to design for parks, I actually just did an interview with some of the board directors from the Haunted Attraction Association and I asked them about supply chains, and same thing came up. One of them said she's been waiting on a prop for her main area for, at this point, 18 months. So she's like, "you know, it's kind of too late. We're going to just need to redesign that area to not have the prop in it, because we need to build and we need to finish this. We can't wait for that." So, I think that's another option as well for attractions that can, is just have a plan B, which could include a redesign, as much as we like the idea of this effect, this thing happening, or this thing in this area, have a plan for if it's just not possible to get that.

Scott: Yeah, as a creative director it's one of the things that I do for my clients too. It's not just coming up with the ideas up front, but it's also being the guest experience monitor throughout the entire process to make certain that when things happen, casting challenges, something doesn't show up, something breaks and doesn't work the way it was supposed to, in one very extreme case, something is 1/10th the size we thought it was going to be, is finding ways around those challenges, being prepared to redesign, rethink, or reevaluate. So, when it comes time to open the experience to the guests, they never know that something's missing, they still get the same experience.

Philip: Yep. I'm going to add one more thing to this, just from our perspective on it as like a word of caution. I wouldn't just plan for that part of it, I think you need to reevaluate your lifetime plan for the attraction as well. Like I know we all have SOPs about kind of the lifetime maintenance of attractions and et cetera, et cetera. Now, I think, is a good time to go and look back at those and see if there's some things you can tweak. For example, us at Gantom, a lot of the people that order, if they order a custom thing, they don't really consider the lifetime of where this is going to be in 10 years. So, they don't order enough backup parts at all. So, this is what happens, if there's a supply chain issue and we can't get something, and then your attraction goes out, we can't repair it. You're not going to be able to repair XYZ because XYZ is shut down in XYZ area, you know? But if you had a stockpile of them, or especially if you're ordering custom pieces, if you had that... Good planners and good manufacturing suppliers should do that for you, again just to Scott's point, good people should do that for you. But it's always good for the attraction. I always recommend the attraction themselves need to know, even though you are paying, many people are paying someone else to think about that, it's still good for your team to be aware. We run to that all the time too, because frequently it's a different team. It's a different team that deals with the lifetime maintenance of the project, even on a creative project at the park, versus the team that dealt with the installation and the design of it, it's a different team. That team needs to know, needs to be included on the discussion a little bit earlier. That's always what we recommend.

Scott: The next domino that falls is, if you do that, then you have to look at, where do we store it? Because, storage, you laugh, but I can't tell you how many times I've talked to small theme parks, zoos, or attractions and they will say, "yes, we're going to order this gigantic scenic piece, we're going to have this much backup stuff, and we want to have enough widgets to keep this running for the next 10 years." Then they go, "okay, now these are sitting in a parking lot, in the elements..."

Philip: And they deteriorate.

Scott: And they lose a ton of money, because it ends up getting destroyed. So, make sure that when you're thinking about planning ahead, when you're thinking about how many of these replacement parts do we need, that you're thinking, "and where are we going to store them until we need them?" There are some manufacturers, not all, but there are some manufacturers who will actually store them for you.

Philip: We do that.

Scott: Yeah, and sometimes it does cost a little bit, there's a little bit of service fee on top of that, but it's cheaper than building a warehouse. I can guarantee that. So, keep that in mind and ask your suppliers, say, "if we buy X amount up front, are you willing to store it in your warehouse till we need it?" And reputable ones will usually say yes.

Philip: Yeah, that's a great point. We sometimes do it secretly. Honestly, we don't even tell that, we just in case.

Scott: Be vewry vewry quiet...

Philip: That's an excellent point. So, let's talk about now our next series of stories, which is, it feels like the same themes over and over and over. Everything is a pendulum. So, back to safety. Safety at parks and Halloween, and what are we going to do for safety? I'm going to kind of mesh two stories together, one from last week that we didn't get to, and one that's an update from this week. So, the one from last week we didn't get to was, of course, the story about Universal Orlando City Walk curfew, which made headlines everywhere, about their wonderful new curfew plan. Basically, I'm going to summarize here, I didn't write these in the show notes, but I'll just summarize from what I remember. Basically the curfew is that if you are under, I think it's under 18, if you're a minor, you can't enter City Walk after 9:00 PM. For those that have not been to Universal Orlando, basically the way that it works is you have to walk through City Walk in order to get to any of the rest of the resort property, either gate you have to go through City Walk first, and City Walk is where the security is.

Philip: So, the idea would be the curfew would stop people at that security checkpoint. So, they wouldn't be able to access either park or the City Walk area after 9:00 PM, if a minor, and the key to the Universal one is, by a guardian or somebody who is like actually responsible for them in some way. There are a few caveats, like if they're staying on a resort property, they're going to be able to have access with room key and evidence. Then if they have a ticket to the movie theater, they can be escorted. So, it's like, how on earth is this going to work? Because we're in the middle of a staffing crisis and you're saying, you're going to have security escort kids that bought movie tickets. Like how on earth? So, there was a lot of questions with that already.

Philip: Then this week we heard news that Knotts has expanded their chaperone policy to cover their Halloween event, Knott Scary Farm. So, the details we got from this is, the chaperone is required to show a valid photo ID with a date of birth and be available by phone throughout their visit. Each chaperone can accompany up to three minors and they must remain with them during the entire visit to the park. Additionally, they have a new bag policy for Scary Farm this year, and it restricts guests from bringing bags larger than six inches by five inches into the park. Bags include purses, that's like an asterisk, it includes purses, backpacks, or diaper bags. All of the bags that fit in the guidelines will be searched ahead of entry.

Philip: So, both the same direction when it comes to kind of minors and chaperones on each coast, but kind of different ways they're implementing it. We have not heard, just for the record, I have not heard or I have not seen yet, Universal comment about what they're going to do for Horror Nights. So, the news from Knotts was specifically saying, we're going to do this for our Halloween event. We're not going to allow bags that are bigger than this little bit, basically like cell phone size bags, and we're going to require chaperones. But Universal has declined to comment so far, as of the day of this recording, what kind of policy they're going to do for their Horror Nights.

Scott: Well, it’s interesting to me because, this is it's no longer just, well, it's partially about what you're bringing in. For years going to Horror Nights in Orlando, it's like going through TSA. I mean, you empty your pockets, you go through a metal detector, you are searched if you set off the metal detector, you cannot bring certain things into the park, pocket knives, things that we think are innocuous. I once showed up, foolishly, with a wallet chain. This was several years ago, it was cool then. No, it really wasn't, but I showed up with a wallet chain and I had to leave it, and then go pick it up at the end of the night. I will tell you, they were very organized about it, but at that point it was all about the concern of what are we bringing in and how much damage can they do. Clearly, with the Knotts updated bag policy, that's clearly the case there as well. But it seems even more important now that they're targeting, probably by experience, a certain age demographic who is more likely to do some damage or cause some upheaval. I mean, you know what Philip didn't mention is that with Universal it's believed that this whole curfew concept has been reinforced by a largely publicized fight that took place in one of the parking garages amongst some minors.

Philip: Which is funny, because that wouldn't actually prevent the fight in the parking garage.

Scott: No, it would not. It would not affect it at all.

Philip: You can still get into the parking garage because you don't pass your security until after the escalators and everything, so you could still hang out in the parking garage and cause a fight.

Scott: If we have any listeners who are fight prone teens, who happen to be listening, to both of you, I say, here's the thing that's going to break my heart. It's already starting to happen and it's just going to get worse and worse. If you want content that is going to be edgy, and things that you want to see in these theme parks, you've got to make certain that you and your friends are not causing this kind of trouble. Because the next step is, eliminating Horror Nights, or eliminating something that is teen focused, to something that is family friendly that you're not going to be interested in. The parks that I have talked to, not mentioning any names, but the parks and the representatives of parks that I have talked to, both on and off the record, have basically said, we don't know what else to do. They don't want to age down the experiences that they offer. They want to continue to offer things that are edgy, cutting edge, forward thinking, and cool, especially at the Halloween season, but they don't know what to do because there are so many of these minor fights--I don't mean minor as in the fights are small, because sometimes they're huge, but fights between minors--that they're at a loss.

Scott: Obviously security is a huge issue, it always has been, always will be. But what appears to be the data that these folks are looking at shows that it's getting worse and they don't know how to make it better. So, the next step is not a curfew. The next step is, and this is, this is not a statement from Universal I wouldn't even use Universal, instead of doing super creepy, bloody scary nights, we're going to do fluffy bunny and a mask night, and we're going to lose out on all that content because it draws a different audience, and an audience that is less likely to have a knockdown drag out fight in the parking garage.

Philip: So, I actually don't know how I feel about any of that. What I took away from it, and maybe it's a whole different perspective, but my perspective on it was I kind of feel like, as usual, I'm not sure how the Knotts thing is going to work or if it's going to do anything. It's really weird. The Knotts thing is weird because I actually think the Knotts audience is much more of that age group, and also them not requiring to be a guardian. I'm like, well, they can just go with their friends then, so I'm not sure it's going to really help at all. I think the bag thing will help more honestly, in that sense, because they don't have the hire in security stuff. So, the bags should help mitigate at least what is there, and then I'm not sure.

Philip: I actually I think, for Orlando, it's an interesting angle. I could see it working in their favor if they actually made the event an adult event. I could see that working in their favor. The big key, and we have talked about this a lot, the big key is alcohol sales. Universal Orlando relies very heavily on alcohol sales versus Knotts that really doesn't. I mean, I think that their event, in terms of age target, is much lower, I think, than Universal. I think Universal could almost get away with just really being like, "you know, we're really a 21 and over event, and this is like a big party. You come here, you buy a bunch of alcohol, you drink and you hang out with scary monsters and rave lights. This is it. We don't even want anybody under 21." I feel like they could almost get away with that.

Scott: I will tell you that almost that exact same conversation has been had in brainstorming meetings with at least two major Halloween providers, major theme park Halloween providers. The challenge there is it cuts out, the thing concerns them the most is it cuts out a large part of their demographic. It's not that they don't want to come, it's that they won't be able to come. So, at least the people that I've talked to, have been pulling back the reins on going quite that far of making it a full adult event, because it seems, again, off brand for them. It's like, here we're going to say we're going to be all things to families, and all things cool during the day, and then it's a 21 and up event at night. Which again, I don't see anything wrong with it.

Philip: I don't see anything wrong with it either,

Scott: But their internal brand is kind of going, "how do we, how do we justify that? How do we convey that?" And especially if you've got hotels. If you've got overnight stays and you've got families who are there during the day, and then the families with the 14, 15, 16 year old kids are not allowed to go to the horror event at night. Well, that's going to reduce the hotel stays. There's a lot of dominoes that that's going to tip too. But I think that does kind of go back to what I was saying, is they're either going to skew younger with the content, or they're going to make it so adult that they're not going to allow anybody under 21 in. So, both of these have been discussed. I have seen some parks, and we've even seen some independent haunts, who have done this with their product, to go younger versus older. Right now, the only other, the only other approach they can find is to try to ramp up the security, get these guardians or chaperones. Guardians or chaperones, again, it goes back to who can you litigate against? If you've got a fight against minors, it's significantly more difficult to have litigation. If you've got somebody who says, "yes, I am responsible for them," then they have to recognize this could result in legal action if something happens. I know parks don't want to do that either. So, it is a very tentative situation, and I'm curious to see how all this plays out. I hope it works, but we will see.

Scott: All right, that's our 30 minutes. So, on behalf of Philip Hernandez with Gantom Lighting and the Haunted Attraction Network, and myself, Scott Swenson with Scott Swenson Creative Development, this is Green Tagged Theme Park in 30. Hopefully you're sharing us with all of your friends, we do appreciate everybody who listens, and we will see you next week.


Scott SwensonProfile Photo

Scott Swenson

Owner/Creative Director

For over 30 years, Scott Swenson has been a storyteller, bringing stories to life as a writer, director, producer and performer. His work in theme park, consumer events, live theatre and television has given him a broad spectrum of experiences. In 2014, after 21 years with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Scott formed Scott Swenson Creative Development LLC. Since then he has been providing impactful experiences for clients around the world. Whether he is installing shows on cruise ships or creating seasonal festivals for theme parks, writing educational presentations for zoos and museums or directing successful fund raisers, Scott is always finding new ways to tell stories that engage and entertain.