|From: Glenn Petersen||8/25/2021 4:39:16 AM|
|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
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
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
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 Petersen||9/17/2021 7:17:06 AM|
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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|From: Sr K||9/19/2021 11:38:23 PM|
|The Crown won the Best Drama Series Emmy, tonight|
Netflix's “The Crown” was the big winner at Sunday's Primetime Emmy Awards, bringing home seven wins, the most of any show.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Glenn Petersen||9/20/2021 10:10:36 AM|
|...and Netflix Inc landed its biggest television award to date with a best drama win for "The Crown."...Netflix also tied the all-time record for the most Emmys in a single year with 44, a mark previously reached by ViacomCBS Inc's CBS broadcast network in 1974.|
Apple joins streaming elite, Netflix crosses milestone with Emmy wins
Sun, September 19, 2021, 11:54 PM
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Apple Inc burnished its streaming TV credentials on Sunday as "Ted Lasso" scored the Emmy award for best comedy, and Netflix Inc landed its biggest television award to date with a best drama win for "The Crown."
Netflix also tied the all-time record for the most Emmys in a single year with 44, a mark previously reached by ViacomCBS Inc's CBS broadcast network in 1974.
The honors give the streaming services new bragging rights they can use to promote their offerings in the hard-fought battle for audiences who are ditching traditional TV and searching for quality entertainment online.
"Ted Lasso" won seven awards overall for Apple TV+, the streaming service that the iPhone maker launched two years ago. Jason Sudeikis took home best comedy actor for his starring role as an upbeat American coach trying to rally a struggling soccer team in Britain.
Executive producer and co-creator Bill Lawrence, accepting the comedy series award, thanked the team at Apple including "T-Dog," which he joked was his nickname for Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Since its debut, Apple TV+ has released dozens of original shows and movies and is trying to compete with not only streaming leader Netflix but also other big media companies including Walt Disney Co, AT&T Inc and Amazon.com Inc. Those companies and others are spending billions of dollars to expand their own streaming services.
Apple has not disclosed how many people subscribe to Apple TV+, which offers only original programming, making its menu smaller than rivals that offer libraries of older TV shows and movies. Last year, it won a supporting actor trophy for drama "The Morning Show."
HBO, which is in the process of being sold by AT&T to Discovery Inc, had long dominated the Emmys until Netflix crashed the party in 2013 as streaming started to supplant cable subscriptions.
Despite racking up nominations each year, Netflix had never won an Emmy for a series until Sunday. Alongside "The Crown," it earned best limited series honors for "The Queen's Gambit," the story of an orphaned girl who becomes a female chess champion.
"Thank you to Netflix," executive producer William Horberg said as he accepted the limited series honor. "You guys did the rarest thing of all these days. You took a chance on risky material and you trusted the filmmakers."
The HBO network and streaming service HBO Max finished second behind Netflix on Sunday with 19 wins for shows including "Mare of Easttown" and "Hacks."
Disney's streaming service, Disney+, won 13 awards for "WandaVision," "The Mandalorian" and other programming.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Howard Goller)
NFLX 581.79 -7.56 -1.28% : Netflix, Inc. - Yahoo Finance
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|From: Glenn Petersen||9/21/2021 11:01:33 AM|
|Netflix and Apple Finally Broke Old TV at This Year’s Emmys|
Big wins by “The Queen’s Gambit,” “The Crown” and “Ted Lasso” show how the industry has changed
By John Jurgensen
Wall Street Journal
Sept. 20, 2021 4:56 pm ET
Peter Morgan accepted the award for outstanding writing for a drama series for ‘The Crown’ during Sunday’s Emmy Awards. PHOTO: TELEVISION ACADEMY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A historic night at the Emmy Awards for AMC and other cable networks roughly a decade ago left the television industry’s old guard questioning its relevance. Now the former insurgents of cable find themselves in the same wilderness.
Back then, in 2008, it was AMC’s “Mad Men” that became the first basic cable series ever to win the flagship award for outstanding drama series. It was a symbol that the major networks’ long reign over TV culture was ending. No broadcaster has won that top prize since.
The latest changing of the guard became official Sunday at the 73rd Emmy Awards, as streaming platforms swept most of the major awards. With Netflix’s first-ever wins for drama series ( “The Crown”) and limited series ( “The Queen’s Gambit”), the streamer amassed 44 total Emmys, tying a record that CBS has held since 1974. Apple TV+ stormed the comedy categories with wins, including best series for “Ted Lasso.”
The crowning of the streaming era came at the expense of not just the long-suffering broadcast networks, but also some of the cable networks that unseated them in the prestige race. AMC had a single nomination, for the stunt work in action series “Gangs of London,” but didn’t win it. FX, one of the biggest forces in cable’s golden era of the 2000s and 2010s, received only three technical awards for its drama “Pose,” and left Sunday’s ceremony empty-handed. HBO has routinely piled up more wins than any network or streamer, including 30 total wins in 2020. The premium cable powerhouse claimed 19 wins this year—four for shows on HBO’s streaming sibling, HBO Max.
As they celebrated their own wins Monday, Netflix executives took a victory lap on behalf of their sector as a whole. “It was a historic night for streaming,” Netflix head of global TV Bela Bajaria said. “The nominations were there [for TV networks], so there’s great work being done in a lot of different places, but I do think this was the streamers’ year.”
Netflix won its first-ever Emmy for a limited series with ‘The Queen's Gambit.’ PHOTO: CHRIS PIZZELLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Not every streamer succeeded. Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the first streaming show to win best drama, in 2017, won none of the 21 Emmys it was nominated for this year. Amazon Prime Video, which cracked the ranks of best comedies in 2018 with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” was shut out, despite high-profile nominations for its drama “The Boys” and limited series “The Underground Railroad.”
The pandemic played a role in this year’s results. It influenced the kinds of shows and platforms viewers gravitated to, such as “The Queen’s Gambit,” which triggered a run on chess sets during the lockdown months. Covid-19 also halted the production cycles for established hits, including HBO’s big winner from 2020, “Succession.”
Netflix countered that none of these factors merited an asterisk on the breakthrough wins for streamers. “I believe that at any moment in history, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and ‘The Crown’ and many of those other shows would absolutely have won and could have won,” Ms. Bajaria said.
In an era when traditional TV ratings have less importance—and don’t apply at all to streaming services—the Emmys represent an important indicator of clout in the television industry.
But in other ways, the awards are an often misleading measure of what’s happening in that world. This year’s pool of nominees was the most racially diverse so far, yet no performers of color won in any of the 12 acting categories presented on Sunday night. (That got #EmmysSoWhite, a version of the hashtag that dogged the Oscars, trending on Twitter.
The continuing content boom yields hundreds of scripted series each year, but Emmy voters tend to have tunnel vision: All seven drama awards went to “The Crown” and its cast members and creators Sunday night, on the heels of last year’s total sweep of the comedy genre by “Schitt’s Creek.”
For networks and their stars who routinely end up on the sidelines, a question emerges: How much of an honor is it just to be nominated, and nominated only? This year marked the seventh time in a row that “black-ish” star Anthony Anderson lost the race for lead actor in a comedy series. It was the fourth time in six years that “black-ish,” a long-running family hit on ABC, was denied a win for outstanding comedy series.
ABC declined to comment.
One legacy network that walked away from the ceremony with a measurable win was CBS, which aired the ceremony. The network said its Emmy telecast, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, star of CBS sitcom “The Neighborhood,” drew 7.4 million viewers, up 16% from last year’s show, a largely virtual event that hit a record ratings low on ABC. After nearly a decade straight of declining viewership, it was the largest Emmys audience since 2018.
Now, the cycle begins again with the official start of the networks’ fall television season, which traditionally kicks off after the hardware is handed out.
Write to John Jurgensen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
Appeared in the September 21, 2021, print edition as 'Netflix, Apple TV+ Win Big Over Broadcast, Cable TV.'
Netflix and Apple Finally Broke Old TV at This Year’s Emmys - WSJ
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (2065)||9/22/2021 5:08:21 AM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Netflix Acquires Roald Dahl Story Company, Plans Extensive Universe|
By Naman Ramachandran
September 21, 2021
Netflix has acquired the Roald Dahl Story Company and will expand their existing deal to create a universe spanning several formats.
A current deal between the companies, struck in 2018, covers a slate of animated TV shows, including a series based on the world of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” from Taika Waititi and Phil Johnston. In addition, Netflix is working with Sony and Working Title on an adaptation of “Matilda The Musical.”
Netflix will now create a universe across animated and live action films and TV, publishing, games, immersive experiences, live theater, consumer products and more.
“These stories and their messages of the power and possibility of young people have never felt more pertinent,” said Ted Sarandos, co-CEO and chief content officer for Netflix, and Luke Kelly, the author’s grandson and MD of the Roald Dahl Story Company, writing in a blog post.
“As we bring these timeless tales to more audiences in new formats, we’re committed to maintaining their unique spirit and their universal themes of surprise and kindness, while also sprinkling some fresh magic into the mix.”
Roald Dahl’s books have been translated into 63 languages and sold more than 300 million copies worldwide, inhabited by popular characters such as Matilda, The BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Willy Wonka and The Twits.
“We want to say a huge thank you to all the people who have contributed to this great story so far. Looking ahead, we’re excited to continue the close working relationships established by RDSC with existing rights holders, publishing, theater and entertainment partners, and many others to protect and grow the great legacy of these beloved stories,” Sarandos and Kelly said.
“Netflix and The Roald Dahl Story Company share a deep love of storytelling and a growing, global fan base. Together, we have an extraordinary opportunity to write multiple new chapters of these beloved stories, delighting children and adults around the world for generations to come.”
Netflix Acquires Roald Dahl Story Company, Plans Cross Format Universe - Variety
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|From: Glenn Petersen||9/29/2021 1:34:53 PM|
|Netflix acquires its first game studio in deal with Oxenfree creator Night School Studio|
Dean Takahashi @deantak
September 28, 2021 2:05 PM
Netflix has acquired its first game studio with the acquisition of Oxenfree creator Night School Studio. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.
The Glendale, California-based game studio has 21 people and a history of pushing the boundaries for storytelling in games. It published Oxenfree in 2016 and has been working on Oxenfree II: Lost Signals for the Switch.
And yes, this means that Netflix is serious about moving into games, and it isn’t just focusing on mobile as the company hinted in an earlier earnings call. The original Oxenfree is available across eight platforms on mobile, console, and PC.
“We’re in the early stages of creating a great gaming experience for our members around the world. So we’re excited to announce today Night School Studio is joining Netflix,” said Mike Verdu, head of games at Netflix, in a blog post.
Founded by Sean Krankel and Adam Hines in 2014, Night School Studio is best known for the studio’s first game, Oxenfree.
“We’re inspired by their bold mission to set a new bar for storytelling in games,” Verdu said. “Their commitment to artistic excellence and proven track record make them invaluable partners as we build out the creative capabilities and library of Netflix games together.”
Above: Oxenfree was a narrative title that came out in 2016. / Image Credit: Night School Studio
Verdu noted no in-app purchases and no ads will appear in the Netflix games, which will be available via subscription to Netflix.
In a blog post, Krankel said, “Night School wants to stretch our narrative and design aspirations across distinctive, original games with heart. Netflix gives film, TV, and now game makers an unprecedented canvas to create and deliver excellent entertainment to millions of people. Our explorations in narrative gameplay and Netflix’s track record of supporting diverse storytellers were such a natural pairing. It felt like both teams came to this conclusion instinctively.”
He said the team will keep making Oxenfree II and keep cooking up new game worlds. It will also have room for more new hires “to help feed the office hermit crab.”
The deal doesn’t mean that Netflix is going to be in a mad rush to make more acquisitions. Verdu said the company will expand its game efforts through a combination of working with established developers as well as making new hires.
Back in July, Netflix said it hired former Oculus and EA game development leader Verdu to head its fledgling game efforts.
The company has been hiring game people for a while, and Verdu was the biggest name yet to come on board at the streaming service for movies and TV shows. The move shows the company is serious about expanding into games, which Netflix CEO Reed Hastings once described (pointing out Fortnite in particular) as Netflix’s biggest competition for the time of its customers.
Verdu reports to chief operating officer Greg Peters. Verdu was Facebook’s vice president in charge of augmented reality and virtual reality content. He also served as senior vice president of EA mobile, president of studios and chief creative officer at Kabam, CEO of TapZen, and chief creative officer and co-president of games at Zynga.
Netflix has dabbled in games before with titles like a Stranger Things game and The 3% Challenge. The latter is a voice-controlled game. And Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a game-like experience, as it’s an interactive TV show in which the audience makes choices that influence the end of the story.
These were baby steps into games. But Verdu is a serious game leader whose career has focused on building entire portfolios of games for companies.
Netflix’s move into games has been anticipated, as all of the big tech companies have acknowledged the power of gaming, which has grown to a $175 billion industry, according to market researcher Newzoo. In the wake of the pandemic, gaming is also growing faster than many other forms of entertainment and media, according to a report this week by PwC.
More mobile games
Above: Scene from Stranger Things 3: The Game. / Image Credit: Netflix
Meanwhile, in other news, Netflix is moving into mobile games with the launch of three new mobile titles in select European markets. The casual games include Shooting Hoops, Teeter Up, (both from developer Frosty Pop) and Card Blast (from Rogue Games). They are available to Netflix members in Spain, Italy, and Poland. Netflix recently started marketing a members-only mobile game service via Android in Poland.
The new titles are displayed via a new Games tab inside the Netflix Android app. Netflix subscription credentials are required to play games. Netflix previously launched a couple of Stranger Things titles, Stranger Things: 1984 and Stranger Things 3: The Game.
Netflix acquires its first game studio in deal with Oxenfree creator Night School Studio | VentureBeat
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (2067)||9/30/2021 1:52:19 AM|
|From: J.F. Sebastian|
|That bodes well for Netflix developing into an entertainment juggernaut. |
The move signals Netflix's willingness to step outside their traditional streaming lane into other areas, and they're certainly not afraid of investing heavily in their content.
The news makes me even more positive about NFLX's chances in the market and should make it a good stock to own for years to come if they develop popular gaming titles.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||10/2/2021 5:57:40 PM|
|State of the Streamer: Apple TV+ is Charting a Unique Path Through the Streaming Wars|
Why Apple TV+ isn't necessarily competing with Netflix.
By Brandon Katz
Is Apple TV+ a success or failure after two years? It’s complicated. Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Nearly two years after launching Apple TV+ in November of 2019, Apple has remained notoriously secretive about its fledgling streaming service. While Netflix boasts about its market leading 209 million global subscribers and Disney+ reminds the industry that it’s the fastest growing streamer with 116 million subscribers, Apple has never released an official accounting of how many viewers its streaming service has signed actually up.
According to Variety, Apple has said it has less than 20 million TV+ subscribers in the U.S. and Canada (which conveniently allows it to pay discounted rates to members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union). The Information reports that Apple TV+ has 40 million global accounts and 20 million paying customers. Estimates from industry analyst Entertainment Strategy Guy suggest Apple TV+ has accrued just 8.1 million paying customers in the U.S. (which is certainly less than 20 million). Regardless of which datapoint you choose, the immediate reaction is the same: Apple TV+ is severely lacking after nearly two years.
Yet different streaming services have different ambitions and raw subscriber counts are not the only metric of success and failure in the streaming wars. So before we go slapping labels on Apple TV+ all willy nilly (people still say that, right?), let’s first explore Apple’s greater goals, strategies and future outlook.
Apple TV+’s Foundation. Apple TV+
What Is Apple’s Strategy?
Apple’s current market cap stands at of $2.37 trillion, which sounds like a made-up number to anyone who brown paper bags it for lunch. From a raw economic standpoint, no one can outspend Apple, though studio heads Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg have not thrown money around carelessly. Thus far, Apple TV+’s annual content budget has hovered around $6.5 billion. Paltry compared to Netflix ($17 billion) and lagging behind Amazon Prime Video ($9 billion), both of which outspent Apple in 2021. At this point, TV+ appears to be a loss-leader, an unprofitable division that hopefully drives product sales and diversifies revenue streams.
As of August, Apple TV+ has earned the smallest share of subscriptions among the premium streaming video on demand (SVOD) platforms in the U.S., per transactional data firm Antenna.
U.S. Premium SVOD Share of Subscriptions. Antenna
“They don’t want or need to be Netflix,” David Offenberg, Associate Professor of Entertainment Finance in LMU’s College of Business Administration, told Observer. “But at the same time, I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish strategically. Really smart companies can still make really bad moves.”
Apple has unrivaled cash on hand, which gives TV+ a much longer horizon to build. They can be unprofitable for years and play the long game whereas a legacy competitor, such as Paramount+, cannot afford such a circuitous route to success. In this instance, patience is a virtue and it’s reflected in Apple’s methodical approach to marketing and its careful curation of quality in original content development. Its library is built entirely on originals without any pre-existing catalogue programming.
“I like that they’re building it slowly,” Offenberg said. “They have all this cash that could be put to immediate use, but instead they are developing a strong set of viewership data to make decisions about where to invest in the future before they burn through all that cash.”
The tortoise strategy appears to be working on at least one front. According to data firm Parrot Analytics, Apple TV+ has seen audience demand for its originals series grow, globally, on par with platforms such as HBO Max and Disney+. Ted Lasso is a bonafide flagship series, The Morning Show has more or less hit the right notes with audiences creatively and culturally, and the NASA-driven For All Mankind has managed to etch out its own territory in the crowded small screen sci-fi space (lame pun very much intended).
“From this perspective, Apple TV+’s performance is nothing short of impressive,” Julia Alexander, Senior Strategy Analyst at Parrot Analytics, told Observer. “The aggregate average quality is fantastic for a new service. . . . Apple has also focused on producing a smaller quantity of series and films, but curating the selection to focus on quality.”
U.S. audience demand for Apple TV+ originals over the last 90 days. Parrot Analytics
If we look at the most recent data from the last 90 days, Apple TV+ has its first real Exceptional show in Ted Lasso, followed by seven Outstanding shows, and two Good shows in the Top 10. (A significant jump from Q2 2020, when five Apple TV+ original shows were listed in the Outstanding category with the other five in the Good category.) For comparison, in the same 90-day frame, Netflix has one original garnering Exceptional demand and nine shows in the Outstanding lane; Disney+ has two Exceptional originals and eight Outstanding shows; and HBO + HBO Max has three Exceptional originals and seven Outstanding.
Apple wants to be the streaming industry’s version of HBO. Twenty years ago, HBO knew a sea of content wasn’t necessary to attract audiences, just a handful of high-quality shows. But that worked because cancelling HBO as part of a cable bundle was the aughts equivalent of scaling Mt. Everest. Apple can’t play that game; cancelling a streaming service is about as hard as going over a speed bump.
This is reflected in TV+’s churn rate, or the number of customers who cancel in a given period — hardly the area where you want to be a category leader. Yet Apple TV+ currently tops the premium SVOD field with a monthly churn rate of 16 percent, per Antenna. And the churn is unlikely to stop. Like most streamers, Apple offers a free trial period, but without any library programming (what Alexander calls “snackable TV”) the looky-loos drawn in by Ted Lasso‘s seven Emmy wins won’t have enough of reasons to stay when their free 30 days are up.
On top of that, TV+ remains minimally accessible to anyone outside the Apple ecosystem. There’s no Android phone app, and Android users make up about 70 percent of the global smartphone market. If Apple is really building TV+ as a way to grow service revenue (more on that soon) and attract new customers, it’s disregarding a massive swath of consumers.
Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso. Apple TV+Apple Services
Apple TV+ is part of a revenue segment that grossed $17.5 billion for the company in Q2 2021 and $50 billion over the past nine months alone. TV+ is one of six services available in the Apple One bundle (Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, iCloud+, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+). So we can say Apple TV+ is starting with an install base of 1.6 billion devices and 1 billion iPhones, and it’s expanding deeper into Roku, Amazon and other Smart TV devices which total in the hundreds of millions. The potential market penetration is there.
“In that light, 20 million seems disappointing,” Andrew Rosen, former Viacom digital media exec and founder of streaming newsletter PARQOR, told Observer. “But Apple is using Apple TV+ as one of multiple services to drive higher revenues. If 20 million TV+ subscribers help to push Apple past $20 billion in services revenues per fiscal quarter, are they doing anything ‘wrong’? That’s a very specific conclusion to reach without broader context.”
Alexander sees it much the same way, explaining that Apple is a trillion dollar product company that’s trying to become a trillion dollar service company. iPhone sales are trending in the wrong direction, and customers are opting for upgrades at a less frequent rate. So Apple’s growth is in its services division. The best way to ensure those services grow is through an ecosystem product like the multifaceted Apple One bundle.
TV+ vs. Amazon Fire TV is perhaps the most valuable comparison on the market in Rosen’s eyes. TV+ is software, Amazon TV sets are hardware. TV+ is for streaming Apple-approved content, Amazon TV sets are for better integrating Fire TV software with Alexa voice controls and also pricing power in the Smart TV marketplace. “The comparison tells us TV+ isn’t ‘TV,’” Rosen said. “Rather it’s a service with ‘TV’ branding that’s there to create marginal happiness for owners of 1.6 billion devices worldwide.”
Long story short: it’s all a revenue diversification play designed to create added value for Apple’s products and bundles. That’s a separate ambition from Netflix’s goal of selling only subscriptions for entertainment content or Peacock’s goal of helping to sell Comcast internet and TV deals.
Apple TV+’s The Morning Show Apple TV+Apple TV+ Outlook
Apple TV+ has won 12 Emmys since 2020 and signed first-look deals with prestige creators like Oprah Winfrey, former HBO guru Richard Plepler, boutique studio A24 and more. If Apple is weak on subscribers, it’s strong on image. And Hollywood is founded on the notion that image beats reality.
“They have data, cash, and prestige,” Offenberg said. “If they use those wisely and they’re patient, they can continue building the service to the point where subscribers are using it for more than one month at a time.”
Apple will need to broaden its offerings in order to capture a more significant share of the subscription customer pool. One way to do that, and reduce churn, is the acquisition or mass licensing of catalog entertainment. The issue, however, is that any company Apple might look to acquire has already contracted their shows out for years. Similarly, Amazon won’t be able to reroute every MGM series to Prime Video despite its acquisition due to pre-existing licensing contracts. So Apple will once again need to play the long game, which it can afford, without an immediate infusion of library content.
“For Apple TV+ to be a seriously viable product that consumers are willing to spend $5 a month on — or an app in a bundle that they actually want to open — the value proposition has to be much better than what it currently is,” Alexander said. “Apple TV+ has to create people’s favorite show, which the team has done with Ted Lasso, but also give them a reason to stick around every night day after day.”
Apple TV+ is More Than Just Its Disappointing Subscriptions Numbers | Observer
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