PlayStation 5 Review: New Console Takes Gaming to Next Level, But Good Luck Finding One

Sony’s PlayStation 5 was officially released to retail on Nov. 12 at $499 (with physical disc capability) and $399 (digital only) — and it’s been in short supply ever since. As far back as September, TechSpot reported that retailers had sold out of their pre-order allotments in less than 24 hours, and predicted the video game console — the first new PlayStation since 2013 —  would become “a scalper’s paradise.” That’s precisely what’s happened, with gamers shelling out twice the retail price, or even more, on auction sites such as eBay and StockX.

I was one of the lucky ones, alerted via Twitter of a “restock” at GameStop and on Nov. 28 becoming the proud owner of one of the coveted machines.

The PlayStation 5 boasts an incredibly fast SSD, allowing for faster loading times when either playing games or watching movies. It can stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, NFL,  Disney+, Twitch, YouTube, and AppleTV, as well as Blu-ray DVDs and video games. While the layout is similar to the PS4, the PS5s 4K and HDR capabilities, along with the new DualSense controller, truly have taken the PlayStation experience to the proverbial next level.

On the front you’ll find the HD Blu-ray optical drive, a typical USB Type-A port, and a USB Type-C port, as well as the power button and eject button. On the back there’s the power connection, an HDMI 2.1 out, two USB Type-A ports, and an Ethernet port. When you plug in your new DualSense to the front USB port, you might notice a few things are new with the controller.

Haptic feedback refers to any technology that can create an experience of touch to the user by applying forces, vibrations, or motions. Sony’s decision to integrate it into the new DualSense controller allows gamers to now experience the game in a much more immersive way. A pistol will have less recoil than a machine gun, and gamers will be able to feel the difference. Along with this comes the addition of adaptive triggers, which give resistance on the R1/R2 buttons in a way that mimics what is on screen. It is a very welcome addition to the controller, and I had fun playing the preloaded game Astro’s Playroom at the main menu.

Once the PS5 is booted up and your account is set, you might notice the “Playstation Plus Collection” in the store. This entails 20 free hit PS4 games, but is only available if you are subscribed for Playstation+, which will cost $60 per year. Along with this collection, you will notice several new features — you will be able to customize the apps on your home screen, play videos or music in the background, receive ads based on the media you consume, adjust profile settings and more. And that is just the start of the PlayStation 5 experience.

‘The New Mutants’ Most-Watched Movie in Homes

The New Mutants, the 13th and final installment of the popular sci-fi “X-Men” series produced under Fox, topped the weekly “Watched at Home” chart for the week ended Nov. 21, spurred by its release from 20th Century Studios and Disney Media Distribution on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc and DVD, as well as through digital retailers.

The film was released theatrically in August despite many theaters still being closed. It earned a domestic box office gross of just over $23 million.

The New Mutants focuses on five young people with special powers who are forced to undergo treatment at a secret institution. But it’s soon clear that their containment is part of a much bigger battle between the forces of good and evil.

The Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged debuted at No. 2 on the weekly “Watched at Home” chart, which tracks transactional video activity (both digital and on DVD and Blu-ray Disc) compiled from studio and retailer data through DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Unhinged, distributed by Lionsgate, also was made available for home viewing on Nov. 17, arriving in a Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD, digital and on demand. Oscar-winner Crowe stars alongside Caren Pistorius, Jimmi Simpson and Gabriel Bateman in a psychological thriller about road rage. Rachel (Pistorius) is running late to work when she has an altercation at a traffic light with a stranger (Crowe) whose life has left him feeling powerless and invisible. Soon, Rachel finds herself, and everyone she loves, the target of a man who decides to make one last mark upon the world by teaching her a series of deadly lessons.

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The two films knocked the prior week’s top title, the Harry Potter Complete 8-Film Collection, from Warner Bros., to No. 4.

Rounding out the top five: The romantic comedy After We Collided, from Open Road Films, at No. 3, down from No. 2 the previous week, and perennial holiday favorite Elf, from Warner Bros., at No. 5, up from No. 11.

Other holiday films on the “Watched at Home” chart included National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at No. 10, up from No. 19; Home Alone at No. 12, down from No. 6; and Polar Express at No. 17, up from No. 20.

Also new to the chart was the 2011 film Megan Is Missing (No. 6), from Lionsgate, which went viral on TikTok in the form of a challenge to see how long viewers could watch its graphic scenes; Recon (No. 7), a thriller set in the mountains of Italy at the close of World War II, from Brainstorm Media; and The Dark and the Wicked (No. 13), from Shudder, about two siblings who return to the family home to take care of their dying father, only to be plagued by waking nightmares that lead them to suspect something evil is taking over the family.

The complete series of “Friends,” consisting of all 10 seasons of the classic sitcom, reappeared on the “Watched at Home” chart at No. 15.

  1. The New Mutants (Disney/20th Century)
  2. Unhinged (Lionsgate)
  3. After We Collided (Open Road)
  4. Harry Potter Complete 8-Film Collection (Warner)
  5. Elf (Warner)
  6. Megan is Missing (Lionsgate)
  7. Recon (Brainstorm Media)
  8. Trump Card (D’Souza Media)
  9. Yellowstone: Season 1 (Paramount)
  10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Warner)
  11. Antebellum (Lionsgate)
  12. Home Alone (20th Century)
  13. The Dark and the Wicked (Shudder)
  14. Yellowstone: Season 2 (Paramount)
  15. Friends: The Complete Series (Warner)
  16. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony Pictures)
  17. The Polar Express (Warner)
  18. Yellowstone: Season 3 (Paramount)
  19. Paw Patrol (Paramount/Nickelodeon)
  20. Trolls World Tour (Universal)

 

Source: DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group
Includes U.S. digital sales, digital rentals, and DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD sales for the week ended Nov. 21.

 

Doc ‘Driving While Black’ Streaming on PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel

The documentary film Driving While Black is streaming now on PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel.

From Emmy award-winning Ric Burns and Gretchen Sorin, the film explores the deep background of a recent phrase rooted in realities that have been an indelible part of the African American experience for hundreds of years. Chronicling the riveting history and personal experiences of African Americans on the road from the advent of the automobile through the seismic changes of the 1960s and beyond, Driving While Black examines the history of African Americans on the road from the depths of the Depression to the height of the Civil Rights movement and beyond, exploring the deeply embedded dynamics of race, space and mobility in America.

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Driving While Black utilizes archive material from the period — including footage, photographs, advertisements, road signs, maps, letters and legal records — and weaves together oral histories and the on-camera insights of scholars, writers, musicians and ordinary American travelers. The film also delves deeply into the history of The Green Book, the travel guide authored by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green. From a first edition focused on the Northeast, Green expanded his guide to include much of the country, providing travel tips for African Americans driving, including safe and welcoming places to stop, dine and rest, as well as places to avoid, given the potential for racially motivated violence. “Vacation without aggravation,” the book advised African American families planning a road trip.

Disney’s ‘The Mandalorian’ Cracks Netflix’s Nielsen Dominance

Disney+ original series “The Mandalorian” became the first Disney program to enter Nielsen’s Top 10 streaming program chart. A weekly tracker that has been dominated by Netflix since the chart’s bow in September.

Netflix’s original series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” took top honors for the week ended Nov. 1 with 1.85 billion minutes streamed over the television across seven episodes. “Star Wars”-themed “Mandalorian” finished third with 1.03 billion minutes.

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Source: Nielsen SVOD Content Ratings (Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix), Nielsen National TV Panel, U.S. Viewing through Television.

 

‘Reigo: King of the Sea Monsters,’ ‘Raiga: God of the Monsters’ Double Feature Available on Blu-ray From MVD

A double feature of Reigo: King of the Sea Monsters and Raiga: God of the Monsters is available now on Blu-ray Disc from MVD Entertainment Group and SRS Cinema.

In Reigo: King of the Sea Monsters, the battleship Yamato, the largest and strongest of its time, is on patrol when a lookout spots a massive shape half-submerged in the distance. Believing it to be an enemy submarine, they fire and score a direct hit. But they are shocked when the object emits a strange cry as it sinks beneath the waves. Soon after, something much bigger arrives, the massive kaiju Reigo, seething with rage at the murder of its cub. The monster attacks the Combined Fleet. The naval forces are caught off guard, and Reigo is able to destroy the escort ships and damage the Yamato before returning to the ocean depths. The stage is set for a final battle to unfold between the world’s largest battleship and the mysterious dragon-like monster.

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In Raiga: God of the Monsters, global warming leads to excessive melting of the southern polar ice cap, disrupting Earth’s ecosystem. The receding ice brings long dormant ancient sea creatures back to life, monsters that set their sights on Japan. Among the kaiju is an enormous sea beast the locals refer to as the legendary Raiga. The monster attacks the city of Asakusa, bringing death and destruction as he tramples building and lays waste to the military.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Departing Position on Jan. 20, 2021

As expected, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed to the position by President Donald Trump, Nov. 30 announced he would leave his position on Jan. 20, 2021 — Inauguration Day.

While Pai touted the agency’s work implementing rollout of 5G wireless technology nationwide, he will be best remembered for orchestrating a reversal of so-called “net neutrality” guidelines aimed at leveling the playing field for over-the-top video providers across the nation’s broadband networks.

Heading into 2021, Pai was reportedly working with the Trump Administration to impose restrictions on Twitter and Facebook, which the president has repeatedly criticized and the platforms have targeted Trump for spreading misinformation on social media.

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“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as Chairman of the FCC over the past four years,” Pai said in a statement. “I am grateful to President Trump for giving me the opportunity to lead the agency in 2017, to President Obama for appointing me as a Commissioner in 2012, and to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Senate for twice confirming me. To be the first Asian-American to chair the FCC has been a particular privilege. As I often say: only in America.”

SVOD Subs to Overtake Pay-TV in 2020

Ongoing growth in subscription streaming video is projected to result in more global SVOD subs in 2020 than pay-TV, according to new data from Capgemini. In the span of a year, seven new major OTT players launched in the U.S. market alone, including Apple TV, Disney+, short-lived Quibi, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and HBO Max.

In the U.S., total SVOD subs is expected to reach 199 million, up 24% from 2019. Pay-TV subs are projected to decline 3% to 88 million. In the U.K., SVOD subs will skyrocket 93% to 22.4 million subs, while pay-TV dips 5% to 14.3 million. In Germany, SVOD will soar 97% to 13.4 million, while pay-TV remains flat at 25 million. Both countries’ SVOD growth driven by Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and local services.

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The report says OTT video consumption is no longer a platform for the younger generation only. Where those under 35 years-old used to be the main users of streaming video, the service now leads in share of video consumption for those up to 50 years old and is nearly as popular as pay-TV for those over 50 in the U.S. and parts of Europe.

Indeed, in the world’s two most-populous countries: China and India, SVOD sub growth will leap 98% and 19%, respectively, to 198 million subs and 140 million. Notably, pay-TV will remain strong, up 2% respectively, at 347 million subs and 161 million.

“Traditional media business is declining,” Christian Grece, European television and VOD markets analyst at the European Audiovisual Observatory,” said in a statement. “Streaming is the future because it gives the opportunity for stakeholders to establish a direct relationship with the consumer and eliminate intermediaries. Everyone is entering the race with the desire to access consumer data.”

Report: Winter Retail Off to Strong Start Despite Sluggish Black Friday

The 2020 winter retail season is projected to be positive despite some concerns that the traditional Black Friday retail jump-starter underperformed. New credit card data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch for a seven-day period through Nov. 21 (before Black Friday), saw a 9.1% uptick in purchases compared to the same period in 2019. Online sales through the winter holiday season are projected to increase by 31% from last year.

Bank of America contends retailers, especially big box stores such as Walmart, Target and Best Buy, have spread out Black Friday deals and consumer incentives throughout the holiday period.

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Adobe Analytics predicts that U.S. online holiday sales will total $189 billion, shattering all previous records with a 33% increase from 2019 — equal to two years’ growth in one season. If consumers receive another round of stimulus checks and physical stores need to shut down again in large parts of the country, consumers are expected to spend an additional $11 billion online, surpassing a total of $200 billion (47% increase from 2019).

Instead of Cyber Week (Thanksgiving Day – Cyber Monday), Adobe expects November and December to turn into Cyber Months this year:

  • Online sales will surpass $2 billion every day between Nov. 1-21 and increase to $3 billion a day Nov. 22–Dec 3.
  • Black Friday is projected to generate $10 billion in online sales, a 39% increase from 2019; Cyber Monday will remain the biggest online shopping day of the year with $12.7 billion, a 35% jump YoY.
  • Americans will spend $28.1 billion more on their smartphones vs. 2019, accounting for 42% of all online sales, a 55% increase from 2019.
  • Small retailers ($10 million-$50 million annual online revenue) will see a larger boost to revenue (107% boost) vs. large retailers (84% boost).
  • Most anticipated gifts/toys: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch. Adobe expects 9% of all holiday customers to be net new online shoppers due to the pandemic, and conversion rates are expected to increase significantly (13%).

“Despite the lower than expected growth on Black Friday, we expect total holiday season sales could still exceed the consensus 31% growth as Black Friday is expected to generate only about 5% of total holiday season expected sales ($10 billion of $190 billion per Adobe Analytics), and retailers are offering prolonged sales, lasting the entire holiday season,” Bank of America wrote in a note. “The more spread out sales should also help alleviate fulfillment bottlenecks, spreading out capacity utilization over a longer period of time.”

Ampere: China, Asian Market Projected to Lead Theatrical Comeback in 2021

Without a vaccine and/or decline in coronavirus infections, the theatrical market in the U.S. and other western markets is expected to remain challenged in 2021. New data from Ampere Analysis contends global box office dropped 75% in 2020 to $11 billion from $44 billion in 2019. The London-based firm suggests China and other Asian markets less impacted by the pandemic will spearhead theatrical’s return next year to $33 billion in ticket sales.

Ampere’s latest forecasts in Asia Pacific show revenue reaching $15 billion by 2021 and $25 billion by 2025 to match pre-pandemic levels. China is responsible for the lion’s share of this recovery. Q1 is the market’s most lucrative quarter, and the pandemic is therefore likely to stymie growth in 2021 too. However, the success of recent movie releases in China suggests that consumers are cautiously returning to the theatres. These markets are less reliant on U.S. content and Ampere anticipates that continued local investment in production will further buoy recovery and growth.

 

“2020 was the year that the Chinese box office was expected to overtake the U.S.,” research director Richard Cooper said in a statement. “The pandemic halted that, and instead we will see these two markets vying for the global number one slot in 2021. By the following year however, China will move into the lead, to double the size of the U.S. market by 2025.”

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It’s a different story in the Western markets, where cinema closures and the reductions in the number of accessible screens looks set to continue. This will limit access to movie theatres, accelerating the downturn already evident in markets such as Germany, France and the U.S.

The Asia Pacific markets have become less reliant on foreign movie content over the past few years for their revenue. The void left by the absence of U.S. releases as a result of the pandemic has provided a golden opportunity to promote local content. As a result, a number of high-profile releases in Asia in Q3 and Q4 have begun to resuscitate the local theatrical sector. In Japan, Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train broke all records, earning $140 million to-date at the box office. In China, local titles My People, My Homeland and The Eight Hundred have grossed $460 million and $416 million, respectively, in China alone, far outstripping the revenue generated by China’s top-performing U.S. releases Tenet ($51 million) and Mulan ($41 million).

 

“This sector is characterized by very different performance depending on location.  In the West, theatrical revenue is under serious pressure, while in Asia, we expect the market to bounce back rapidly, driven by the rise of locally produced content. Many of the Hollywood studios are shifting their business models to react and adapt to this geographic change, experimenting with digital release strategies in Western markets and testing the viability of bypassing theatrical release. As a consequence, Asia will emerge as the predominant theatrical market by 2025.”

‘Mandalorian’ Tops Parrot’s Digital Originals Chart for Sixth Week

The Disney+ live-action “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian” topped Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings for a sixth-straight week the week ended Nov. 28, and also held onto the top spot on Parrot’s list of all TV shows for a fourth week. with 99.7 times the demand of an average TV series, though it saw a 0.9% drop in demand expressions, the proprietary metric Parrot uses to gauge a show’s popularity.

The show’s success continues to impact other “Star Wars” content. The Disney+ animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” remained on the chart at No. 6 after a 0.3% increase in demand gave it 39.6 times average demand. The fifth episode of the second season of “Mandalorian” featured the live-action debut of Ahsoka Tano, a character heavily featured in “Clone Wars.”

Netflix’s “The Crown” remained No. 2 on the digital originals chart as the Internet is being bombarded with articles fact-checking the fourth season and the relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Di. Demand was down 1.8% from the previous week. It had 71.2 times average demand and was No. 3 on the overall TV series list.

The No. 3 digital original, and No. 9 among all TV shows, was Hulu’s revival of the animated series “Animaniacs.” It had a 60.1% jump in demand expressions to give it 49.9 times average demand, climbing four spots on the digital originals chart.

That pushed Netflix’s perennially popular “Stranger Things” down a spot to No. 4 on the digital originals chart, with 49.5 times average demand and expressions up 5.8%.

Rounding out the top five was HBO Max’s “Titans” with 42.7 times average demand and expressions up 16% after new character costume designs were revealed for the in-production third season.

Netflix’s “The Witcher” jumped back into the top 10, climbing four spots to No. 8, after season two production photos bumped demand expressions up 12.8% to give it 30.4 times average demand.

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A “digital original” is Parrot’s term for a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

The No. 2 overall TV series was “SpongeBob SquarePants,” with 94.3 times average demand.

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Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures demand for TV content in a given market through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites. Results are expressed as a comparison with the average demand for a TV show of any kind in the market.