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   Technology StocksNetflix (NFLX) and the Streaming Wars


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From: Glenn Petersen7/21/2021 4:15:33 AM
1 Recommendation   of 2201
 
Potential consolidation:

Comcast and ViacomCBS face prisoner’s dilemma as they consider ways to work together

PUBLISHED TUE, JUL 20 20211:13 PM EDT
UPDATED TUE, JUL 20 20212:39 PM EDT
Alex Sherman @SHERMAN4949
CNBC.com

KEY POINTS

-- Comcast and ViacomCBS are exploring ways to work together as they try to bolster their streaming services.

-- mA merger of NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS would have several obstacles, including potential divestitures and structure.

-- Both companies may decide to wait to try to merge with Warner Bros. Discovery.

The prisoner’s dilemma is a standard game theory situation often taught in business school. Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts and ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone are living it in real-time as they consider working together.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS are struggling to keep up with the biggest players in streaming video.

While Netflix, Amazon and Disney all have more than 100 million subscribers to their flagship video services, NBCUniversal’s Peacock has 42 million U.S. signups — most of which don’t pay for the service — and ViacomCBS’s Paramount+ has fewer than 36 million subscribers. ViacomCBS doesn’t reveal the specific amount of paying Paramount+ customers, but it said earlier this year it had 36 million total streaming subscribers, including Showtime and other niche products.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Discovery also have subscale streaming products. They announced plans to merge earlier this year. That left NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS as the largest leftover streaming players.

Roberts and Redstone have held conversations to explore ways the companies can work together, according to people familiar with the matter. Investment bankers are pumping both companies with ideas in hopes of getting what might be the last large traditional media merger fee for quite some time, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Spokespeople for Comcast, Redstone’s private National Amusements and ViacomCBS declined to comment.

One of the options under consideration is to bundle Peacock and Paramount+ together in international markets, as The Information reported earlier this year. Both companies are planning global expansions, and partnering is relatively frictionless.

Another option is a merger or acquisition, but there are numerous complications on that path. Neither ViacomCBS nor NBCUniversal are actively seeking a merger at this time, according to people familiar with the matter.

While there may be no rush to merge, both companies will ultimately need more scale to compete against larger players. They could partner or merge, or they could attempt to merge with Warner Bros. Discovery when/if that deal closes in the middle of 2022. A merger with Warner Bros. Discovery may be a cleaner fit for either ViacomCBS or NBCUniversal.

But only one of the two could join Warner Bros. Discovery. That would leave the other company out in the cold — possibly for years.

That’s the essence of the prisoner’s dilemma.

Working together may ensure both companies are better off than they started, but holding out against each other may be the best-case scenario for one company and the worst-case scenario for the other. (This isn’t a perfect prisoner’s dilemma example because the companies can’t really betray each other, ending up in a situation where both are worse off).

Merger issues

Regulators probably wouldn’t allow a combined NBCUniversal-ViacomCBS to own both broadcast stations NBC and CBS. It’s likely any merger will have to include a divestiture of one of the broadcast networks along with all local NBC or CBS television affiliates that overlap in the same markets.

That immediately diminishes the value of both companies. If CBS is divested, NBCUniversal would get Paramount+ without CBS programming, including live National Football League games and NCAA’s March Madness. If the companies decide to divest NBC, ViacomCBS wouldn’t get “Sunday Night Football” and other popular NBC broadcast shows.

While it’s possible the companies could attempt to argue broadcast networks are like cable networks and don’t need separate ownership, regulators may not view that as a reasonable argument. About 40% of Americans own a digital antenna to get free over-the-air programming along with streaming video, according to Horowitz Research. Broadcast networks have historically battled each other for valuable programming. Putting two under one roof would stifle those competitive bidding situations.

The second obstacle is structure. Comcast could simply acquire ViacomCBS, buying out Redstone’s voting shares in a deal. But ViacomCBS has an enterprise value of about $40 billion and would ask for a decent-size premium to sell, two of the people said. Even with major divestitures, a deal would be pricey.



Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements and Vice Chairman, CBS and Viacom, speaks at the WSJTECH live conference in Laguna Beach, California, October 21, 2019.
Mike Blake | Reuters
-----------------------

Comcast shareholders, who MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said are more likely to cheer a separation between NBCUniversal and Comcast, may not like a decision to buy ViacomCBS and divest one of the networks.

Roberts could spin out NBCUniversal and merge with it ViacomCBS — similar to the WarnerMedia-Discovery deal. That might require him to give up control of NBCUniversal. If Redstone ends up owning more economic control of a merged NBCUniversal-ViacomCBS, she may want to run the company or choose who’s in charge, for at least a number of years. Roberts and Redstone would have to reach an agreement on economic and voting control if this option is pursued.

A bundled offering through a commercial partnership skirts the merger and acquisition issues — and is ultimately the most likely “step one” scenario — but it gives less flexibility to the companies on offerings than a merger would. It also might not move the needle enough for either firm.

Wait for Warner Bros. Discovery

Either NBCUniversal or ViacomCBS could theoretically fit with Warner Bros. Discovery because David Zaslav’s future company won’t own a broadcast network. That would eliminate the need for divestiture. Combining with HBO Max and Discovery+ would also arguably be a more robust streaming offering, in terms of content, than simply pushing together the assets of NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS.

But the size of Warner Bros. Discovery combined with either ViacomCBS or NBCUniversal could pose regulatory issues, depending on how Biden administration regulators view the entertainment market. Even WarnerMedia’s deal with Discovery isn’t assured approval.

A choice to hold for a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery forces both NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS to wait two or three more years, given the length of time it would take to merge to gain regulatory approval — first for WarnerMedia and Discovery and then for the second merger. There would also be integration costs and issues from two large deals happening so quickly.

For the company that didn’t merge with Warner Bros. Discovery, the likely path forward would be rolling up some of the smaller streaming players. like Lionsgate and AMC Networks, or pushing for an acquisition of Sony Pictures.

Merging or waiting both present headaches. This is why investment bankers get paid the big bucks.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

Comcast and ViacomCBS consider partnership to bolster streaming TV (cnbc.com)

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From: Glenn Petersen7/29/2021 11:37:30 AM
1 Recommendation   of 2201
 
Peacock Reaches 54 Million Sign-Ups, Set to Begin International Rollout on Sky Platform

By Cynthia Littleton
Variety
July 28, 2021

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streamer will begin its international rollout this year as a free addition on Sky’s satellite TV platform in Europe, giving it a base of 20 million households.

Peacock has reached 54 million total signups since its debut in April 2020. It generated more than 20 million monthly active users for the quarter. The streamer’s most popular original series has been the drama “Dr. Death,” Comcast chairman-CEO Brian Roberts told Wall Street analysts Thursday on the company’s earnings call.

And at a time media merger activity is heating up, executives from Comcast sought to throw cold water on the notion that the Philadelphia entertainment giant might be looking to do a transformative new deal.

“We have all the parts,” Roberts said, to emphasize that Comcast doesn’t need to go shopping for assets to maintain its heft.

Executives suggested that Comcast has enough scale in the marketplace to operate going forward, even as rivals start to bulk up. AT&T is set to spin off WarnerMedia next year so that it can merge with Discovery and Amazon has made plans to acquire the MGM studio. Those moves have spurred speculation that Comcast, which has over the years grown by buying up cable assets formerly part of AT&T as well as NBCUnversal and Dreamworks Animation, might seek to join with a rival, such as the new Discovery/WarnerMedia combination or even ViacomCBS, even though some of those deals would trigger intense regulatory scrutiny, as a single company is barred by FCC rules from owning two national broadcast TV networks.

During the call, Roberts and NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told investors that the company saw no pressing need to grow larger. “This company is well positioned, and I really feel that way,” said Roberts. Both suggested that Comcast and NBCU would be most interested in buying assets that help the company grow overseas.

The theme park businesses that were so hobbled by the coronavirus outbreak this time last year were a bright spot this time around. Shell enthused about the strong performance of the Universal Studios Orlando theme park for the quarter. He also noted that Universal’s theme park in Beijing is deep into the approvals process and is on track to open “in the next couple of months.”

As for Peacock, executives noted that the day-and-date debut of theatrical “Boss Baby 2” on Peacock and the Tokyo Olympics have also driven viewership and signups. Shell stressed that Comcast has the financial wherewithal to support Peacock.

“I don’t think we’ve ever lacked the capital to do what we need to do to grow our business,” Shell said. He pointed to the company’s recent $400 million deal for rights to “The Exorcist” novel, which NBCU intends to make into three feature films, two of which will premiere on Peacock. Shell said that deal was only possible because they have the Peacock platform to justify the investment, which he pointed to as another sign that Comcast has the juice to go it alone.

“We can achieve our success at Peaock without anything additional and I think this quarter proved it,” Shell said.

Peacock Reaches 54 Million Sign-Ups, Will Roll Out on Sky Platform - Variety

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From: Glenn Petersen8/6/2021 5:00:27 AM
1 Recommendation   of 2201
 
‘Bridgerton,’ ‘The Dig’ Most Popular as Netflix Makes Major Gains in U.K., Finds Ofcom Study

By Naman Ramachandran
Variety
August 4, 2021

Some 52% of U.K. households have a Netflix subscription and 29 of the top 30 shows on subscription services in the first quarter of 2021 were on the giant streamer, a study has found.

The Netflix customer base now exceeds that of U.K. pay-TV providers combined for the very first time.


“Media Nations 2021,” the annual study of British viewing habits by U.K. media regulator Ofcom, reveals that the four most popular programs in the country were U.K. produced – “ Bridgerton,” “The Dig,” “Behind her Eyes” and “Fate: The Wynx Saga.” “Bridgerton” in particular, was a resounding success, with 8.2 million homes watching by the end of March 2021, making it Netflix’s highest reaching title that quarter.

Overall, U.K. subscriptions to streaming services climbed by over 50% in 2020 to reach 31 million, up from 20 million in 2019, the study reveals. The main streaming services gathered an estimated £2.11 billion ($2.93 billion) in U.K. revenues during 2020 — a 28% increase in real terms on 2019’s £1.66 billion –- and more than double their £1.03 billion revenues in 2017.

The study also records that by April 2021, streaming service providers were offering U.K. viewers a combined total of over 115,000 hours of content. Amazon Prime video’s catalogue was the largest at over 41,000 hours, followed by Netflix at around 38,000. The combined content catalogues of All 4, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and My5 were short of this at 37,000 hours.

The gains made by streamers has led to an erosion in broadcast television viewership, the study notes. The average time spent watching traditional broadcast TV each day in 2020 was 3 hours 12 minutes – nine minutes higher than in 2019. However, this increase was entirely driven by people aged 45 and over.

Younger age groups continued to watch less broadcast TV in 2020, with people aged 16-24 spending only an hour and 17 minutes watching broadcast content – down from one hour and 21 minutes in 2019.

Overall, the net effect was a fall in broadcast TV’s share of all adults’ total viewing in 2020, from 67% in 2019 to 61%.

Live sport, drama and news continues to be an audience draw for broadcast TV, with the most-watched program so far this year being the Euro 2020 soccer championship final between England and Italy with a combined audience of over 22 million U.K. viewers on BBC One and ITV. The Euro 2020 semi-final between England and Denmark had the highest audience on a single channel with 18.3 million U.K. viewers on ITV.

BBC One’s “Line of Duty” series finale with 16.4 million U.K. viewers and ITV’s Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry with 14.9 million U.K. viewers were also popular broadcast TV draws.

The study also found that in 2020, where many months were spent in lockdown, U.K. adults spent 2000 hours, or more than a third of waking hours, watching TV and online video content.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director, strategy and research, said: “The pandemic undoubtedly turbo-charged viewing to streaming services, with three in five U.K. homes now signed up. But with subscriber growth slowing into 2021 and lockdown restrictions easing, the challenge for the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney will be to ensure a healthy pipeline of content and keep customers signed up.”

'Bridgerton' Most Popular as Netflix Makes Gains in U.K. - Variety

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (2051)8/11/2021 4:59:05 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 2201
 
the Streaming Wars, Sony Stands on the Sidelines

As competitors are ‘beating each other’s brains out,’ the only major studio that’s not a combatant is finding ways to profit

By R.T. Watson
Wall Street Journal
Aug. 7, 2021 12:00 am ET

In Hollywood’s streaming wars, the only major studio that doesn’t have its own service might also be the biggest arms dealer on the battlefield.

Like its rivals, Sony SONY -1.71% Pictures Entertainment is bullish about the long-term prospects of the streaming business. Unlike the others, however, Sony’s management is betting on a strategy that involves selling films to longtime rivals that are spending billions of dollars to bulk up the offerings on their platforms.

Simultaneously, without its own large-scale streaming service, the Sony movie studio—owned by Sony Group Corp. —is gambling more heavily than its competitors on the return of moviegoing. Sony executives describe their commitment to theaters as part of a strategy for attracting talent and for securing high prices when they sell movies to streaming services, which often pay based on box-office revenue.

Rather than going head-to-head with Walt Disney Co. , Warner Bros., Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures—all of which are trying to use movies they have produced to attract consumers to their own streaming services—Sony says it hopes it can play those counterparts against one another.

“None of them can deal with each other, but all of them can deal with us,” said Tom Rothman, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group, adding that his company’s future will be well served by selling to rivals. “It’s certainly been a zigging-where-everyone-zags strategy. It’s proved very lucrative for us.”

Sony’s rivals believe their multibillion-dollar investments in streaming services will pay off in lasting ways. The growth prospects for Disney’s flagship Disney+, for instance, have propelled the company to the kind of stock-market valuation typically associated with the tech sector.



Sony’s handful of successful franchises in recent years has included a Jumanji reboot and its sequel. PHOTO: FRANK MASI/COLUMBIA PICTURES/EVERETT COLLECTION
-------------------------------------------

Sony recently closed a pair of big deals, boosted by competitive bidding, to provide movies to the streaming services run by Netflix Inc. and Disney. Sony titles released over five years starting in 2022—including new Spider-Man films—will become available on Netflix after their theatrical runs, the companies said. Sony also agreed to give Netflix a first-look option to pick up movies the studio is making specifically for streaming platforms. Following their run on Netflix, according to a person familiar with the matter, Sony’s theatrical releases will then head to Disney which will be able to show them on its various distribution channels, including Disney+.

The Netflix and Disney deals, combined, are worth close to $3 billion over several years, according to a person familiar with the terms of the deal.

Sony continues to strike deals to make TV series that will run on various streaming services, including HBO Max and Netflix.

Sony was an early entrant in the streaming wars, launching the Crackle service the same year Netflix started its online offering. But the service didn’t become a serious contender, as Sony never made a massive investment in content. After Crackle struggled to attract top-tier programming or serious subscriber numbers, Sony sold control of the service in 2019 to Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. It maintains some niche streaming offerings, including Funimation.

As streaming services proliferate and seek to stand out from the crowd, entertainment companies are spending unprecedented sums on making new content. Amazon.com Inc. recently agreed to pay $6.5 billion for the nearly 100-year-old MGM film and TV studio, which is expected to provide programming for the company’s Prime Video service. Actor and producer Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, sold for about $900 million. Her company adapts books into films and series like HBO’s award-winning “Big Little Lies.”



The upcoming ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ is part of the studio’s plan to expand the Spider-Man series. PHOTO: MARVEL/ SONY PICTURES/EVERETT
--------------------------------------

Mr. Rothman, who recently extended his contract after six years on the job, argues that his company’s lack of its own streaming service could be an asset rather than a liability.

“It did become clear at a certain point that many companies were going to lose many billions of dollars beating each other’s brains out,” says Mr. Rothman.

Sony has often ranked last or second-to-last in box-office revenue among its peer group since 2013. But it nonetheless boasts an extensive library of hit movies and television shows, including Spider-Man, its most valuable franchise.

MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson believes Sony may have a competitive advantage not being pressured to sell movies to itself. “Talent will always question whether or not the internal transfer price was the right price,” he said.

The streaming push has already alienated some talent. Scarlett Johansson sued Disney last month for breach of contract, alleging that the company’s decision to release “Black Widow” simultaneously online and in theaters ate into her pay, which was partially tied to box-office revenue.

The risk for Sony, according to Mr. Nathanson, is that competitors might accumulate big enough war chests from subscription revenue that they could outspend the studio on entertainment production. That, in turn, could hamper Sony’s ability to attract high-profile projects and talent and potentially lead to a downward spiral.

Many in Hollywood predict that Sony’s recent round of deal making should provide sufficient capital to test its strategy for at least four years.

After that it is uncertain if Sony will be generating enough high-profile movies to secure lucrative licensing deals or have enough capital to pay the talent that drives success for most films at the box office.



Mr. Rothman, Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and fellow Sony Pictures executive Tony Vinciquerra, left to right, at the premiere last year of ‘Bad Boys For Life.’ PHOTO: KEVIN WINTER/GETTY IMAGES
-------------------------------------------------------------

The company’s chairman of distribution and networks, Keith Le Goy, says the studio’s lack of ties to any particular streaming service should also help it get the best prices for its movies and TV shows.

Sony’s sell-to-the-highest-bidder strategy is reminiscent of smaller production companies, like Ms. Witherspoon’s, that can take advantage of the current seller’s market for entertainment content.

“Our independence allows us every time to find the right home for any story, rather than being confined to the walled garden of our corporate siblings,” Mr. Le Goy said.

During Mr. Rothman’s tenure, the studio has released two Spider-Man films: “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which grossed $880.2 million world-wide in 2017, and 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which made $1.13 billion. Another installment is slated for later this year.

Sony is trying to extend the franchise by plucking characters from the Spider-Man comics for villain-centered spinoffs such as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and “Morbius,” scheduled for releases this year and next, respectively.

Not all Sony’s franchise films have yielded box-office glory. The latest Men in Black and Charlie’s Angels films both underperformed in 2019. Sony racked up wins with two family-friendly Jumanji films and “Bad Boys for Life,” the Martin Lawrence-Will Smith reboot that was last year’s highest-grossing film in the U.S. and Canada.

Mr. Rothman argues that at its core, Hollywood is still primarily about producing entertainment that connects with consumers—whether on streaming services or in theaters.

“What I try to focus on is: ‘What is it people want to watch?’ ” he says. “That’s what’s going to matter.”

Write to R.T. Watson at rt.watson@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications
Tom Rothman is chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said he was chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment. (Corrected on Aug. 7)

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the August 7, 2021, print edition as 'The Switzerland Of Streaming.'

In the Streaming Wars, Sony Stands on the Sidelines - WSJ

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From: Glenn Petersen8/13/2021 3:58:44 AM
1 Recommendation   of 2201
 
Disney+ doubles subscriber base to 116 million in fiscal third quarter after release of Marvel’s ‘Loki’

PUBLISHED THU, AUG 12 20215:02 PM EDT
UPDATED THU, AUG 12 20216:53 PM EDT
Samantha Subin @SAMANTHA_SUBIN
CNBC.com

KEY POINTS

-- Disney+ reached 116 million subscribers in the fiscal third quarter, beating analysts’ estimates by nearly 1.5 million.

-- That’s up from 57.5 million a year earlier.

-- The company also reported 174 million subscriptions across Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu.

Disney+ reeled in new subscribers in the fiscal third quarter as consumers signed up to watch Marvel’s “Loki” and Pixar’s “Luca.”

Disney said in its earnings report on Thursday that subscribers to Disney+ doubled to 116 million subscribers from 57.5 million a year earlier. The results beat analysts’ average estimates by nearly 1.5 million, according to StreetAccount.

Across Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, Disney reported a total of 174 million subscribers. Disney also beat estimates on earnings and revenue, boosting the stock by about 6% in after-hours trading.

Analysts remain optimistic that Disney+ will reach its goal of 230 million to 260 million subscribers by 2024, as the company continues to roll out exclusive content. Consumers, however, are on average paying less. The average monthly revenue per paid subscriber for Disney+ fell to $4.16 from $4.62 a year earlier.

Among the most recent releases from Disney+ are the mini-series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” based on Marvel Comics characters, and “Loki,” another Marvel-based series. The Pixar feature film “Luca” came out in June.

While the service is growing rapidly, it also faces a legal battle with “Black Widow” star Scarlett Johansson, who is suing the company for releasing the film simultaneously on the streaming platforms and in theaters.

Disney+ reaches 116 million subscribers after 'Loki' release (cnbc.com)

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From: quantinvestor8/13/2021 6:16:37 AM
   of 2201
 
Netflix down 10% year over year with revenues moving from $6.1B to $7.2B, Q2 eps $1.59 to $2.97. The rap has shifted from growth to margin expansion and free cash flow generation.

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From: Glenn Petersen8/13/2021 5:39:33 PM
1 Recommendation   of 2201
 
Disney wins this round: Here’s where the streaming giants stand at the end of earnings season

PUBLISHED FRI, AUG 13 202112:35 PM EDT
UPDATED 3 HOURS AGO
Alex Sherman @SHERMAN4949
Samantha Subin @SAMANTHA_SUBIN
CNBC.com

KEY POINTS

-- Disney took home the prize as this earnings season’s big winner with strong Disney+ growth.

-- Netflix added just 1 million global subscribers but hopes for a rebound next quarter.

-- NBCUniversal added 12 million new Peacock sign-ups on the strength of the Tokyo Olympics.

This round, Disney beat Netflix.

Disney’s continued growth, juxtaposed with a disappointing quarter for Netflix, was the big story of this quarter’s earnings season.

Disney benefited from a handful of popular movies, including “Cruella” and “Luca,” that it placed directly on its Disney+ service in the quarter ended June 30, while Netflix is banking on a return to growth next quarter, when hit originals such as “Sex Education” and “Money Heist” return to the service.

Disney+ and Hotstar, Disney’s Indian streaming service, added 12.4 million new subscribers since last quarter, while Netflix added just 1 million new customers. Last quarter, Disney added almost 9 million new Disney+ subscribers and Netflix added about 4 million new customers.

“Last quarter, we had a little bit of weakness in streaming subs both at Netflix and Disney. The weakness continued for Netflix, but it didn’t for Disney,” Mark Zgutowicz, an analyst at Rosenblatt Equity Research, said in a CNBC interview. “Disney+ is about 90 million subs behind Netflix globally now. With this number today, it’s tracking toward a 20 million net add gain on Netflix this year.”

All of the big streaming video players have reported earnings this quarter. The following is a rundown of where all the major streaming services stand:

Netflix

209 million global paying subscribers (up 1 million from last quarter)

73.95 million subscribers in U.S. and Canada

Average revenue per unit, or ARPU, for U.S. and Canada: $14.54

Disney

Disney+, including Hotstar: 116 million subscribers, $4.16 global ARPU (up 12.4 million from last quarter)

Hulu subscription video on demand, or SVOD, only: 39.1 million subscribers, $13.15 ARPU

Hulu SVOD+Live TV: 3.7 million subscribers, $84.09 ARPUESPN+: 14.9 million subscribers, $4.47 ARPU

Amazon Prime Video

More than 175 million Amazon Prime members have streamed shows and movies in the past year. No updates were given during second-quarter earnings.

Prime memberships cost $12.99 a month or $119 a year but offer many benefits other than streaming video — including free one-day or two-day shipping on most Amazon packages. Amazon does not break out ARPU by Prime members.

Apple

Apple TV+ subscribers: ? (No updates given during second-quarter earnings)

ARPU: ?

Apple’s free one-year trials to Apple TV+, which it gives away with new hardware such as iPhones, are now starting to expire for many customers, which could spur the company to offer an update on its next earnings call.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock

54 million “sign-ups” (up 12 million from last quarter)

More than 20 million monthly active accounts

ARPU: ?

Three tiers: Free with commercials, $4.99 a month for fewer ads and more content, $9.99 a month ad-free

Comcast’s NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC, successfully used the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo to push Peacock subscriptions. NBCUniversal will likely add more Olympics-related sign-ups next quarter, as it reported Peacock statistics only about halfway through the Games.

While the company has not released an official figure for ARPU yet, NBCUniversal estimated in January that Peacock would deliver $6 to $7 a month across its three tiers.

WarnerMedia’s HBO and HBO Max

67.5 million global subscribers (up 3.6 million)

47 million domestic subscribers (up 2.8 million)

ARPU: $11.90 domestically

AT&T raised its year-end global subscriber forecast for HBO Max to 73 million from 70 million in its second-quarter earnings statement. As of March, it expects 120 million to 150 million subscribers by the end of 2025.

ViacomCBS

More than 42 million subscribers across Paramount+, Showtime, Noggin, BET+ and other platforms (up about 6.5 million, the “overwhelming majority” of which came from Paramount+)

Over 52 million monthly average Pluto TV users (up 2 million)ARPU: ?

Average revenue per user remains a question mark for ViacomCBS, which has still chosen not to reveal the statistic.

“We’ve been on a journey of increased disclosure over time,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told CNBC. “We will continue to evolve disclosure.”

Discovery
18 million direct-to-consumer subscribers as of Aug. 3 (up 3 million)

Overall ARPU: about $7 per month ARPU for ad-supported Discovery+: more than $10 per month

Starz
28.9 million global subscribers (down 600,000), 16.7 million of which are streaming

ARPU: about $6 per month

Lionsgate’s Starz actually lost total subscribers in the quarter, though the decline relates to cancellations of the company’s linear service. Streaming customers rose 58% year over year to 16.7 million globally.

AMC Networks

Total subscribers: ?

ARPU: ?

A MC Networks said earlier this month it expects to have at least 9 million paid streaming subscribers across its platforms by the end of the year. The company’s flagship streaming product is AMC+, which may see a boost in subscribers after Verizon announced a deal with the company earlier this month that gives certain subscribers a free trial of the product for 6 or 12 months.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

Disney gaining fast on Netflix in streaming wars (cnbc.com)

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From: TimF8/14/2021 5:41:09 PM
   of 2201
 
Netflix VPN Crackdown Ensnares Those Who Aren't Even Using VPNs VPN providers are trying to trick Netflix's location-based restrictions by using residential IP addresses as proxies. But when Netflix blocks those IP addresses in response, it can spell trouble for the average ISP customer.
By Nathaniel Mott
August 12, 2021

Efforts by Netflix to stop VPNs from circumventing regional content restrictions may be having an unintended consequence, TorrentFreak reports: Limiting content access for those who aren't even using a VPN.

VPNs are commonly used to improve the privacy and security of internet connections that rely on public networks, like those found in coffee shops, hotels, and libraries. But an increasing number of VPN services have advertised their ability to make it seem like web traffic is coming from a certain location as a way to bypass streaming platforms' location-based restrictions.

Some VPNs do this by using residential IP addresses as proxies in a bid to trick streaming services like Netflix into thinking the connection is a viewer on their home Wi-Fi network. But cracking down on those IP addresses can block people who are not using a VPN from viewing Netflix's entire catalog.

TorrentFreak, which was tipped off to this issue by VPN provider WeVPN, cites numerous complaints on Reddit and Twitter. "The collateral damage is that you have hundreds of thousands of legitimate residential Netflix subscribers blocked from accessing Netflix’s local country full catalog from their home,” WeVPN tells TorrentFreak.

WeVPN—as well as rival services CyberGhost and Private Internet Access—have reportedly since come up with workarounds, according to TorrentFreak.

CyberGhost touts its ability to "help you access your favorite Netflix shows no matter where you are," though in our June review of the service, we could only stream Netflix Originals while connected to a New York-based VPN server, and we had the same problem when connected to one of CyberGhost VPN's servers optimized for Netflix streaming. More recently, we had no trouble streaming Netflix over a US-based Private Internet Access server.

We were not able to confirm how many people have had this issue, but Netflix says it's fixed the problem for those who reached out. The company does not ban VPNs outright, but if you use them, you'll be limited to Netflix Originals or other content Netflix is allowed to stream everywhere so as to avoid potential licensing problems.

If you're having this problem and have not been able to resolve it by contacting Netflix, the company also recommends contacting your ISP. As TorrentFreak notes, "one Redditor managed to get a new IP address from his ISP, which immediately resolved the problem."

pcmag.com

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From: Glenn Petersen8/25/2021 4:39:16 AM
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Hollywood Movies Flood Piracy Sites Hours After Release

Bootlegging and sharing high-quality digital copies of movies is easier than ever, as studios leaned harder into streaming during pandemic

By R.T. Watson and Erich Schwartzel
Wall Street Journal
Aug. 24, 2021 5:30 am ET



Online copies of ‘The Suicide Squad’ proliferated across piracy websites almost immediately after the movie premiered earlier this year. PHOTO: WARNER BROS/EVERETT COLLECTION
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Millions of people are watching high-quality, pirated online versions of Hollywood’s top movies sooner than ever after their releases, undermining potential ticket sales and subscriber growth as the industry embraces streaming.

Copies of several of the year’s most popular films, from “The Suicide Squad” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” to “Jungle Cruise” and “Black Widow,” shot up almost immediately after their premieres to the top of the most-downloaded charts on piracy websites such as the Pirate Bay and LimeTorrents, according to piracy-tracking organizations.

“Black Widow” was the most pirated movie world-wide for three consecutive weeks after its July 9 release, according to TorrentFreak, a site that monitors pirating activity, while copies of “Jungle Cruise” proliferated across the internet just hours after its digital premiere later that same month.

The speed of access to illegal, DVD-quality copies of new movies is a recent phenomenon. Previously, high-quality duplicates mostly hit piracy sites months after a film’s theatrical release. Sometimes poor-quality versions could be downloaded, but they were often created by people in theaters filming with camcorders or cellphones, and many deemed them unwatchable.



In her dispute with Disney, Scarlett Johansson and her team cited piracy as a reason they didn’t want ‘Black Widow’ released simultaneously on Disney+. PHOTO: JAY MAIDMENT/WALT DISNEY/EVERETT COLLECTION
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Piracy experts and theater executives say the proliferation of higher-quality illegal copies becoming available sooner threatens revenue that studios and streaming services could be collecting at box offices and by adding subscribers.

Of the 20 most pirated films on the Pirate Bay on a recent Tuesday in August, 12 had premiered on studio streaming services. Warner Bros.’ “The Suicide Squad” was No. 1, followed by HBO Max’s “Friends” reunion.

Walt Disney Co. DIS 0.46% ’s “Black Widow,” “Cruella” and “Jungle Cruise”—all offerings on the company’s Disney+ streaming service—were in the top 10, not far above Disney’s “Luca,” Universal Pictures’ “Boss Baby” sequel, Paramount+’s “Infinite” and four Warner Bros. titles that all premiered on HBO Max.

Although film-industry and piracy experts say it is difficult to track how studios’ newly adopted digital-distribution strategies have affected the overall volume of piracy, data show that the pandemic sparked an increase.

“We started to see a massive uptick when lockdowns started,” said Andy Chatterley, chief executive of piracy tracker Muso, which even found a surge in piracy among family titles such as Paramount Pictures’ “Sonic the Hedgehog” when children started staying home from school in March 2020.

Netflix NFLX 0.01% without a password” is how TorrentFreak’s founder, who goes by the name Ernesto Van Der Sar, describes the illegal sites.

Actress Scarlett Johansson and her team cited piracy concerns as a reason they wanted to avoid putting out “Black Widow” on Disney+ simultaneously, according to a person familiar with the matter. It was one dispute that contributed to a breakdown in negotiations over the star’s pay, which led Ms. Johansson to sue the studio earlier this month.

With more films being released direct to streaming services, stars like Scarlett Johansson are asking for a bigger cut of the at-home, early access profits for movies like Marvel’s “Black Widow.”
Theater owners’ suspicions about “Black Widow” piracy arose when the movie’s opening-weekend total failed to match expectations based on well-attended Thursday-night preview screenings. Executives can typically predict how a movie will do based on early ticket sales, but ”Black Widow” experienced a bigger-than-expected decline night-over-night as pirated copies proliferated, according to piracy tracking sites.

“How much money did everyone lose to simultaneous release piracy?” the National Association of Theatre Owners asked in a statement after the movie’s release.

Disney and AT&T Inc.’s T -0.25% Warner Bros. declined to comment. Universal and Paramount didn’t respond to requests for comment. Studios typically operate internal units that track when content is pirated and ask bootleg links to be removed. They also fund antipiracy advocacy groups that cooperate with law enforcement and lobby policy makers to tighten regulation and penalties.



Within less than a day of Disney releasing ‘Jungle Cruise,’ tens of thousands of people were both sharing and downloading illegal copies online. PHOTO: FRANK MASI/WALT DISNEY/EVERETT COLLECTION
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Major 2021 releases have experienced a high degree of piracy, even when they have performed well in theaters. Warner Bros.’ “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” grossed, globally, a respectable $201.4 million in theaters but was also the most-pirated movie in the world in June, according to Muso, with 9.2 million illegal streams, of which more than 1.1 million were in the U.S.

Despite the piracy, streaming strategies have paid off during the pandemic. Wall Street cheered subscriber growth for Disney+, Netflix and HBO Max as most U.S. theaters remained closed.

In many cases, the most pirated films were released online and in movie theaters simultaneously, and the bootlegging reduced what studios might have made, not only at the box office but also from new subscription sign-ups—potentially driven by new film releases—or from the extra fees streaming services sometimes charge for watching new movies, say executives and piracy experts.

Stay-at-home orders drove the practice, with sites that hosted illegal movies and television shows drawing more than 137 billion visits last year, according to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, an advocacy group funded by media companies including Hollywood studios. Pre-pandemic, the global box office generated about $40 billion in revenue annually.

Behind the scenes, movie producers, executives and stars are airing concerns about the problem.

Earlier this year, the high volume of global piracy of “Godzilla vs. Kong” surprised executives at its studio, Warner Bros., according to people familiar with the matter. People illegally streamed the movie over 34 million times, according to Muso.

When Disney released “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, on Disney+, a community of tens of thousands of people were both “seeding”—meaning sharing an illegal copy—and “leeching”—downloading the film free—within less than a day of its release, according to piracy tracking sites. Disney, which charged Disney+ users an extra $30 to watch the movie on the platform, said it grossed $30 million from subscribers on the film’s opening weekend.

“Pirates behave like consumers do,” said Carnegie Mellon University professor and piracy expert Michael D. Smith. “If you make it sufficiently hard for them to get something free, they’ll pay for it.”

Streaming technology has improved the quality of pirated content. People can either download near-perfect versions of a movie, using special files called torrents, or stream bootleg copies online. Culprits and sites that get caught are quickly supplanted by new ones, says Prof. Smith.

A streaming-first Hollywood has also allowed subtitled copies to be shared almost instantaneously. In the past, overseas audiences typically struggled to obtain high-quality, subtitled releases. Now, Disney+ and HBO Max can offer movies and TV shows in more than a dozen languages—providing illegal downloaders ready-made versions for foreign audiences.
‘Pirates behave like consumers do. If you make it sufficiently hard for them to get something free, they’ll pay for it.’— Carnegie Mellon University Prof. Michael D. Smith
Disney+ isn’t available in China and “Black Widow” wasn’t released there, but avid Marvel fan Kevin He, a 25-year-old student in Beijing, managed to watch it by downloading a high-quality, 4K version almost immediately after the film’s U.S. premiere.

After finding links for the movie on an online forum known as Douban, Mr. He says he located several copies of “Black Widow” reproduced at various levels of quality. The version he downloaded didn’t include Chinese subtitles, but he says he easily found some to graft onto his bootlegged copy.

Mr. He also said he found links to “WandaVision” and “Loki”—two Marvel series both streamed on Disney+—by searching on Baidu, a Chinese search engine.

Rich Gelfond, chief executive of theater chain IMAX Corp. , says an increase in pirating and declining revenues could have a lasting impact on Hollywood. “It will limit how great content is made and distributed,” he said.

While it isn’t known exactly how much piracy has shaped studios’ decisions, some are revisiting online release strategies crafted in the past year.

Earlier this month, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., AMC 20.34% the nation’s biggest theater chain, said it had struck a deal with Warner Bros. for next year, guaranteeing the studio’s films would enjoy 45 days of theatrical exclusivity before moving online. The agreement backtracked on an existing simultaneous-release strategy.

Disney has said it would continue to release films both online and in theaters, deciding the details on a film-by-film basis. Its next Marvel film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will be in theaters only.

—Yoko Kubota and Raffaele Huang contributed to this article.

Hollywood Movies Flood Piracy Sites Hours After Release - WSJ

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From: Glenn Petersen9/17/2021 7:17:06 AM
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h/t Ron

HBO Leaves Amazon Prime as WarnerMedia Takes Subscriber Hit

Amazon is canceling HBO subscriptions on Sept. 15 after the WarnerMedia company leaves its channels service, which allows Prime users to subscribe to streaming services via Amazon.

BY J. CLARA CHAN
The Hollywood Reporter
SEPTEMBER 15, 2021 4:00AM

HBO will lose some 5 million of its subscribers through Amazon Prime Video’s channels platform on Wednesday.

In messages sent to subscribers earlier this month, Amazon said HBO subscriptions would be canceled Sept. 15, with users getting a prorated refund based on their last billing cycle. HBO is expected to provide a special offer for Amazon subscribers after their subscriptions are canceled, a WarnerMedia executive with knowledge of the matter told The Hollywood Reporter.

Previously, Prime users were able to individually subscribe to HBO via the channels platform for $15 a month. But in late 2020, WarnerMedia and Amazon reached an agreement to remove HBO from Amazon Channels this year, as WarnerMedia wanted HBO Max to become the primary entry point for subscribers engaging with its streaming content. Instead, HBO Max became available as a stand-alone app on Amazon Fire TV devices, and existing viewers who purchased HBO subscriptions through the channels platform were given access to HBO Max for no additional cost.

Speaking with Bloomberg in August, HBO Max chief Andy Forssell said HBO was willing to lose subscribers in the short term if it meant cutting out the middleman — in this case, Amazon — and having a direct relationship with consumers instead. (HBO has also done the same with Roku and Apple TV.)

“It’s important for us to own the customer,” Forssell said. “If the viewer is in the app, we can tailor the home page to them. We can tailor what they show them next. We can respond to that in real time.”

As for users on Amazon, the tech giant is offering $0.99 per month promotional subscriptions — for up to two months — to Paramount+, Starz and Showtime through Sept. 17. Amazon Fire TV users should not experience any disruptions to their HBO Max subscriptions, but those without a Fire TV device will need to go separately through HBO Max to set up a new subscription.

HBO Leaves Amazon Prime as WarnerMedia Takes Subscriber Hit – The Hollywood Reporter

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