New data from Leichtman Research finds that 87% of U.S. homes now have internet service, compared with 83% in 2016 and 69% in 2006. High-speed broadband accounts for 98% of households with an internet service at home, up from 81% in 2016 and 42% in 2006.
Overall, 60% of broadband subscribers say they are very satisfied with their ISP, while 7% are not satisfied (rated 1-3). Similarly, 68% of broadband subs agree say their ISP meets the needs of their household, while 4% disagree.
Other related findings include that 63% of broadband subs rate the speed of their internet connection 8-10 (with 10 being excellent), while 7% rate it 1-3 (with 1 being poor). About 45% of broadband subs do not know the download speed of their service, compared with 59% in 2016.
More than 69% of survey respondents reporting internet speeds of 100+ Mbps are very satisfied with their service, compared with 53% with speeds <50 Mbps, and 58% that don’t know their speed.
About 60% of adults with an ISP at home watch video online daily — compared with 50% in 2019, 41% in 2016 and 5% in 2006. Another 87% of households use at least one laptop or desktop computer — 95% of this group get an ISP at home. Separately, 68% of those who do not use a laptop or desktop computer are not online at home — accounting for 67% of all that do not have an ISP at home.
“The percentage of households getting an internet service at home is now higher than in any previous year,” Bruce Leichtman, principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said in a statement. “Broadband subscribers generally remain satisfied with their service, with 60% reporting that they are very satisfied, compared to 57% in 2016.”
On the eve of CES 2022, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) announced that the annual trade show, which opens in Las Vegas on Jan. 5, will close one day early.
“The step was taken as an additional safety measure to the current health protocols that have been put in place for CES,” the CTA said in a press release.
The CTA reaffirmed that more than 2,200 exhibitors will be at the show, with an additional 143 companies signing up over the last two weeks.
“Construction of exhibitors’ show floor space is well underway and soon attendees will be able to see and experience the latest tech innovations,” according to the CTA announcement.
“As the world’s most influential technology event, CES is steadfast in its pledge to be the gathering place to showcase products and discuss ideas that will ultimately make our lives better,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA, said in a statement. “We are shortening the show to three days and have put in place comprehensive health measures for the safety of all attendees and participants.”
Those that are unable to travel to Las Vegas for CES 2022 can join digitally. Digital registration will grant access to more than 40 live streamed conference sessions, keynotes, select Media Days press conferences and the ability to engage with exhibitors, according to the CTA.
The weeks leading up to CES 2022 have been difficult ones for CTA, as the surge in COVID-19 cases brought on by the fast-spreading new Omicron variant triggered a wave of high-profile exits from the show, including Amazon, Google, Meta (Facebook) and Intel.
Several annual events that have involved the home entertainment industry, including an annual party and awards ceremony presented by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group and streaming trade group OTT.X’s annual breakfast, also are not happening.
In a Dec. 22 press release, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) reiterated its intent to proceed with the show, now scheduled for Jan. 5-7, despite what it said were 42 exhibitor cancellations.
CES went virtual in January 2021, but as a winter COVID-19 surge began to ebb and movie theaters and other businesses began to reopen, the CTA on April 28 announced CES 2022 would once again be held in person in Las Vegas in January 2022.
At the time, CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro said in a statement, “We’re thrilled to return to Las Vegas — home to CES for more than 40 years — and look forward to seeing many new and returning faces. Hundreds of executives have told us how much they need CES to meet new and existing customers, find partners, reach media and discover innovation.”
New seasons of “Antiques Roadshow” and “Poetry in America” are among the programs streaming on the PBS Living channel in January.
The subscription rate for PBS Living is $2.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. PBS Living is also available on Apple TV Channels in the Apple TV app at a subscription rate of $2.99 per month with no additional annual fees.
Streaming starting Jan. 4 is season 26 of “Antiques Roadshow.” The show reveals more secrets behind family heirlooms and flea market finds, including a spectacular appraisal that marks a series first and a never-before-seen treasure that even wowed their experts. Among the many discoveries this season, fans will see a classic car appraised for the first time ever — due to its Paul Newman-signed dashboard. An unsigned light fixture, rescued after years being stored in a chicken coop, is identified as a custom-made Louis Comfort Tiffany treasure. A 1926 illustration once featured on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post is revealed to be the highest-valued find of the season.
Subscribers can go for jaunts around the countryside of Great Britain in classic cars as antiques experts compete to uncover the most unique finds in four newly released seasons of “Antiques Road Trip,” streaming beginning Jan. 4. Their adventures take them off the beaten path and allow them to indulge their passion for the past, learning about the little-known stories behind some of the greatest events in British history. Intriguing finds in these seasons include a filthy kilim rug, ancient Roman nails, a French sunburst clock, caryatid carvings and more.
In the “Poetry in America” series, guests read and discuss unforgettable American poems with host Elisa New. The poems in season three take viewers from tight-knit Cuban neighborhoods in Miami to Robert Frost’s green Vermont, from the antebellum South to the cold interstellar bodies of the cosmos. Special guests range from poets to pop stars, ambassadors to young students. The season starts streaming Jan. 22.
Kino Lorber has set a Jan. 11 Blu-ray Disc release date for the 1966 heist comedy Gambit, starring Michael Caine and Shirley Maclaine.
The film, from director Ronald Neame, will be released under the independent supplier’s Studio Classics banner.
Gambit takes off in Hong Kong, where a dapper English cat burglar (Caine) enlists the aid of a Eurasian dancer (Maclaine) to help him in an elaborate scheme to grab an age-old artifact from the heavily secured palace of a powerful Middle Eastern tycoon (Herbert Lom, The Pink Panther Strikes Again). Unfortunately, the foolproof scheme begins to backfire shortly after it starts and the duo must pull out all the stops if they hope to come out on top.
The film features music by Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia) and Technicolor cinematography by Clifford Stine (Bedtime Story).
The Blu-ray Disc release includes a new 4K restoration by Universal Pictures, as well as an audio commentary by director Neame, as well as a newly recorded audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Sergio Mims and Nathaniel Thompson.
Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home is projected to enter the 2022 box office the way it ended 2021: A resounding No. 1.
The Tom Holland/Zendaya-starring superhero movie has already become Sony’s highest-grossing movie of all-time with more than $1.1 billion in global revenue. It is the third-fastest movie (12 days) to reach $500 million in domestic ticket sales, with just Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame and Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens surpassing the timeline in just eight days and 10 days, respectively.
As No Way Home enters its third box office weekend targeting $600 million in domestic revenue, the title has few major challenges other than growing concerns about coronavirus Omicron variant infections spreading throughout the country.
Meanwhile, Universal Pictures’ sequel Sing 2 has become the top-grossing animated movie during the pandemic — generating more than $47 million after six days. The title is projected to finish runner-up to Spider-Man, with Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Matrix Resurrections continuing its underwhelming theatrical run. The title’s ticket sales were likely impacted by the Keanu Reeves’ sci-fi drama also streaming for free on HBO Max.
Other contenders include Lionsgate’s Kurt Warner football biopic American Underdog, which is projected to generate less than $6 million in its second box office weekend — but ahead of 20th Century Studios’ The King’s Man with $4.5 million in its sophomore weekend.
The third season debut of Netflix sci-fi reboot “Lost in Space” tracked 1.2 billion minutes across eight episodes through the week of Dec. 5, according to new data from Nielsen. The tally was 40% less than the 2.1 billion-minutes season two debut during Christmas in 2019 — across 10 episodes. It was also 25% less than the 1.6 billion minutes (10 episodes) for the season one debut in 2018.
“The show definitely did better in prior seasons, but there’s a couple reasons for that,” Brian Fuhrer, SVP of content at Nielsen, said on the videocast. “We’re not in the same place we were in 2018, certainly from the standpoint of streaming video.”
Fuhrer said the influx of streaming competition across Hollywood in just the past three years has made individual shows generating colossal minutes rare.
“There’s a lot more streaming going on,” he said. “A lot more content. A lot more competition and fragmentation.”
NEWS ANALYSIS — The shadow of COVID-19 continued to hang over 2021, despite rosy predictions the previous summer that the worst would soon be over.
By mid-year, with a vaccine rollout in full swing, most restrictions were lifted and theaters were welcoming back moviegoers, particularly after studios once again began stepping up movie production. This theatrical recovery continued, unchecked, through the emergence of the summer Delta variant and the beginning of the winter Omicron surge. Indeed, the December 2021 theatrical opening of Spider-Man: No Way Home generated $260 million in domestic ticket sales, the second-highest North American box office opening. Domestic box office revenue for 2021 is estimated at $4.5 billion, more than twice what it generated in 2020 but still down 61% from 2019, the last year before the virus hit.
Meanwhile, the entertainment world in 2021 was rocked by two major announcements: Amazon bought a movie studio, MGM, for $8.45 billion, and AT&T announced plans to spin-off WarnerMedia through a merger with Discovery, resulting in a new media powerhouse, Warner Bros. Discovery, under Discovery Inc.’s CEO David Zaslav. The deal, approved by the European Commission in December, is expected to be completed in mid-2022, pending Discovery shareholder and federal regulatory approval.
Sadly, the year ended on a down note, with Omicron leading to theater closures in Europe and the cancellation or postponement of several key entertainment-industry events, including The Critics Choice Awards, the National Board of Review’s annual gala, the Palm Springs Film Festival, and BAFTA Los Angeles’ annual tea party for the awards season.
The year also saw the vindication of WarnerMedia’s controversial plan, announced at the end of the prior year, to release its entire theatrical slate simultaneously on its HBO Max streaming service. Initially railed against as a death blow to the movie business, the strategy in retrospect kept the business alive, providing a steady stream of high-profile new product to movie theaters hungry for fresh films, even if they no longer would be exclusive to the big screen.
“2021 marked the first anniversary of HBO Max and, with it, a whole new distribution pattern for movies,” said Jim Wuthrich, president of content distribution for WarnerMedia. “Due to the pandemic and uncertainty of closures, WarnerMedia made all of its movies available on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time. This was great for movie fans, as they could watch movies such as Wonder Woman 1984 or Godzilla vs. Kong at home or in theaters.”
On the home entertainment front, 2021 was the proverbial mixed bag for the industry’s two segments, subscription streaming and transactional/physical.
The first few months of 2021 were clouded in uncertainty, as the winter surge of the virus delayed the reopening of movie theaters well into the spring. Studios held back their big releases until their opening strategy — theaters, PVOD or both — could be determined.
Streaming, not surprisingly, continued to flourish at the accelerated pace that began a year earlier with the onset of the pandemic. Consumer spending on subscription video-on-demand services soared more than 20% in the first half, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group estimates — and those numbers don’t include Amazon Prime Video, which is considered in the same league as Netflix.
“The growth in subscription streaming in 2021 can be attributed to consumers who continued to spend time at home, increasing their engagement with content offered through an abundance of new direct-to-consumer subscription services, including Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, Peacock, AMC+ and many others,” said Amy Jo Smith, DEG president and CEO. “These services provide consumers premium content with convenience and value.”
Disc and digital sales of movies in the first half of 2021, meanwhile, were off by more than 25% from the prior year, while combined disc and digital rental (TVOD) revenue suffered a first-half decline of more than 30%, according to estimates prepared by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
As the year progressed, subscription streaming continued to clearly dominate home entertainment, even as the transactional side of the business began to recover in the wake of theatrical reopenings that remained on track despite the summer emergence of the more contagious Delta variant. Final year-end DEG numbers are not yet in, but by the third quarter disc and digital sales had trimmed their quarterly decline to 12% while rentals were off just 14%.
“Factors limiting transactional growth in 2021 include few new theatrical releases, which are historically a key driver of home entertainment spending,” Smith said. ”This was particularly true early in the year. Spending on library titles, however, has been notably strong throughout the pandemic, and with theatrical new releases restarting mid-year, we saw spending on home purchases of new releases beginning to pick up in the third quarter. We expect to see this trend continuing when the full year is tallied.”
“Looking back at the year, 2021 certainly had its challenges, but there were some high notes as well for our business,” notes Jason Spivak, EVP of distribution for North American Television & Home Entertainment at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
“Early in the year, we were blown away by the tremendous success of Monster Hunter on both physical and digital formats. We achieved strong PVOD results on The Father and Don’t Breathe 2. And throughout the year we saw consistent strength in our digital catalog, particularly our drafting efforts around the ‘Spider-Man’ franchise.
“The biggest highlight for our business, however, has been the fourth-quarter theatrical performances of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and, of course, the worldwide phenomenon that is Spider-Man: No Way Home. These films demonstrate that consumers are excited to return to theaters and that they crave the communal experience that can only be achieved in a movie theater.”
WarnerMedia’s Jim Wuthrich said his company’s strategy of releasing its news films to theaters and streaming on the same day “did add an element of unpredictability to [traditional, transactional] home entertainment in forecasting demand, as it was unique to have streaming as the first window.” Ultimately, he said, “we found that there is robust demand for transactional (EST/TVOD/physical), despite the change in windowing.”
Bob Buchi, president of Paramount Home Entertainment, said that while 2021 “certainly did not go as planned, consumers again turned to home entertainment options in record numbers. Throughout the year’s unprecedented circumstances, Paramount continued to experiment with new release windowing, maximized the power of our exceptional library, and supported the ongoing growth of Paramount+.”
With very different release strategies, Buchi added, A Quiet Place Part II, Snake Eyes and Paw Patrol: The Movie “delivered tremendous results across each studio window thanks to the cumulative marketing muscle and cross-company promotional efforts, which bodes well for the ongoing coexistence of every platform.”
Paramount also saw consumer spending on catalog titles remain strong, “representing nearly 60% of annual revenue and holding steady to slightly up compared to the extraordinary sales in 2020 across physical and digital worldwide,” Buchi said. “Digital sales, in particular, have been exceptionally strong during the pandemic, with a compounded annual growth rate of over 25% compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels globally.”
Paramount also scored with the 40th anniversary of the “Indiana Jones” franchise with the first 4K Ultra HD release of the films on both disc and digital platforms, Buchi noted. “And on the television front, home entertainment consumers continue to flock to ‘Yellowstone,’ with nearly 3 million digital transactions for season four, which launched in November.”
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment president Michael Bonner said that while 2021 “remained unpredictable and challenging on several fronts … consumers’ engagement with content has never been stronger. During these unprecedented times, the studios have served audiences well by embracing unconventional release patterns and new business models giving consumers more ways to access and enjoy movies.”
Bonner added that “engagement is up, and it’s happening across various services and business models. For Universal, our new release home entertainment business remained very strong in 2021 as we saw with F9, The Croods: A New Age, Let Him Go, Promising Young Woman and several others, with a significant contribution coming from our new PVOD window and followed by our traditional home entertainment offering. On top of that, similar to 2020, we saw our library business reaching historical levels.”
On the physical side of the business, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Lionsgate in February 2021 announced a multiyear agreement in which Sony will handle distribution of Lionsgate’s DVD/Blu-ray Disc releases in the U.S. and Canada beginning in July. Lionsgate’s North American packaged-media distribution had been handled by the former 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which was acquired in 2019 by Disney.
Lionsgate continues to maintain its own independent sales and marketing teams, but is leveraging SPHE’s supply chain and distribution services. At the time Sony’s Jason Spivak said, “By working together, we can identify and leverage efficiencies in the supply chain that will benefit not only our respective studios, but also retailers and, ultimately, the millions of consumers who enjoy Sony Pictures and Lionsgate feature films and TV programs in the 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD formats.”
Two months after the Sony-Lionsgate deal was announced came the official launch of Studio Distribution Services (SDS), a joint venture between Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment to distribute packaged media in the United States and Canada.
“Starting any business in a pandemic is challenging, but one that relies on delivering physical goods to stores across two countries during a supply chain upheaval is not for the faint of heart,” WarnerMedia’s Wuthrich said. “The SDS team, along with the studios, did a great job managing through a challenging time.”
Eddie Cunningham, the former Universal Pictures Home Entertainment president who was tapped to run SDS, told Media Play News earlier in the year, “We, with our many supply chain partners in manufacturing, distribution and freight, are doing everything in our power to mitigate those pressure points.
“Sometimes meeting delivery dates and keeping retail on-shelf availability at our usual high industry standards has been difficult. It is a huge focus across our company and everything in supply chain that we used to check weekly is now daily, and everything we did daily is almost hourly, as we constantly re-assess priorities.”
Streaming Fatigue and the Rise of AVOD
While disc sales continue to be a priority for the big Hollywood studios, along with digital movie sales and rentals, streaming clearly remains the dominant force in home entertainment. As of the end of the third quarter, streaming accounted for nearly 80% of total consumer spending this year on home entertainment, or $18.6 billion. Total consumer spending on disc and digital sales and rentals in the first nine months of the year was just $5 billion.
And yet subscription streaming did face several challenges, including consumer fatigue — stemming largely from the rising costs of subscribing to multiple services — and rapid gains in free ad-supported platforms such as Pluto and Tubi. In professional consultancy Deloitte’s 2021 Digital Media Survey, more than half of the respondents said they are re-evaluating multiple streaming subscriptions, and 40% said they planned on terminating at least one subscription. Adriana Waterston, SVP of insights and strategy at Horowitz, told Media Play News in November that streamers are feeling overwhelmed by the proliferation of services, with many struggling to figure out what to watch, and where.
In December, a TVision survey found that time spent on subscription video-on-demand platforms decreased 8.6% from the first quarter to the third quarter of 2021, while time spent on ad-supported VOD increased 9.3%. It should be noted that the SVOD decline may be due, at least in part, to the vaccine rollout and people once again venturing out into the world, while AVOD growth includes not just SVOD dropouts but also linear TV audiences. Regardless, speaking in December at an OTT.X conference, Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia said the FAST/AVOD business is projected to reach $4 billion by 2024.
Mark Fisher, president and CEO of OTT.X, the trade association for streamers, said free ad-supported streaming is just one more option that is leading to continued growth for the overall home entertainment business.
“Internet-based delivery today gives the consumer so many more opportunities and more choices to enjoy great content — both on demand and linear,” he said. “Some prefer long-form, some short-form; some prefer to watch without ads, while others watch ads to avoid paying; some like to watch what they want, when they want, while others like the sit-back FAST experience; some want to build their cloud-based collections and others just want to watch once; some like to watch big-budget spectacles and other enjoy good indie-produced stories; and many are adding the diversity of international content and niche content and channels. Opportunity and choice benefit everybody.”
He’s got a point. Overall, the home entertainment business is on track for another record year. The DEG’s estimate of $23.6 billion in total consumer spending in the first nine months of this year is up 6.3% from the spending total at this same point in 2020.
And the two sectors of the business, streaming and transactional, are converging.
One of best examples of this is that while Redbox’s legacy disc-rental kiosks remain the company’s cash cow, a massive digital transformation — fueled by the company going public in October — is expanding the Redbox brand into digital, with a particular emphasis on streaming. Redbox Free Live TV, an ad-supported streaming service that launched in February 2020, now has more than 100 channels offering viewers free access to movies and television shows, news, and lifestyle and sports entertainment programming. In December, Redbox began advertising its digital products on its kiosks.
Asked how Redbox fared in 2021, CEO Galen Smith said that on the kiosk and TVOD side, “ We continued to see a significant impact on the quantity of new release movies due to production being paused as a result of COVID, with fewer movies in 2021 than 2020. The good news is we anticipate the number of new theatrical movies releasing in 2022 should be back to levels not seen since 2019.”
As for streaming, he said, “2021 was a growth year for us — as we rapidly scaled both our AVOD service and FAST channels.”
Redbox going public, Smith noted, “provided us with additional capital to invest in the ongoing digital transformation of Redbox, as we built on our transactional video-on-demand service with growth in AVOD (more than 5,000 titles on demand) and FAST (more than 125 linear channels including five that are Redbox branded) and a subscription channels business coming in 2022.”
On the Indie Front
Independent film distributors, meanwhile, are finding the plethora of streaming services a whole new market for their films, augmenting their traditional TVOD and physical release.
“It’s always a good thing when new channels appear where we can license our films,” said Joe Amodei, president and CEO of Virgil Films & Entertainment. “The major accounts still rule in this area, but as they have dwindled down their buying in favor of original films and series we’ve enjoyed doing business with this new group of folks. It’s great.”
Indies also say they are finding their disc businesses remarkably resilient. Ed Seaman, COO of MVD Entertainment, said 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray “continues to surprise us. Sales are really strong, possibly because there aren’t a ton of products in this space, but mainly because our trade partners/content providers are choosing excellent content and do a great job lovingly restoring and filling these editions with great bells and whistles.
“Compared to last year, 2021 was far more stable. We knew we were in a pandemic and we didn’t have the fear of the unknown like last year, where we didn’t know what impact a lockdown would have on our business and our customers. We learned in 2020 that when everyone is stuck at home during a pandemic, home entertainment products and services are pretty popular. We were able to execute our plans with greater confidence in 2021 that the market was not going to fall apart, and we had a really strong year as a result.”
John Rotella, SVP for Shout! Factory, said the company saw “unbelievable growth in catalog and new-release sales” during the pandemic year of 2020, “and that swell carried forward into 2021.”
Shout! Factory, he said, “saw one of our best years ever on gross shipments and an equally impressive net business. We also saw growth in POS revenue in 2021. The DVD and Steelbook/4K business grew again as Blu-ray sales stayed even compared to 2020. New-release and catalog as a whole all improved from a surprising and productive year, led by our new Western, Old Henry, and 4K ‘Halloween’ releases.”
Some of this success, Rotella said, “can also be attributed to a less competitive new-release marketplace, upgraded and repackaged catalog, developing more valuable collectable products at a higher price and managing the right genre that works for mass [merchants]. Walmart and Amazon continue to offer new-release and catalog opportunities, and we saw an e-commerce surge in business. Looking back, 2021 unexpectedly managed to match 2020 in POS and shipments and remained far superior to 2019 in every area.”
On the downside, the supply chain crisis has compounded ongoing problems with limited replication opportunities, resulting in delays in bringing product to market.
“We were hugely affected by inbound transportation challenges, mostly from the U.K. and Europe, where many of our top clients reside,” MVD’s Seaman said. The situation improved toward the end of the year, he said. “I doubt the Omicron strain will cause lockdowns again, and I’m keeping my fingers are crossed that the labor challenges at the border are mostly conquered,” he said.
New Ways of Doing Things
Another home entertainment trend that continued in 2021 is the consolidation of theatrical and home entertainment teams. Warner Bros., Sony Pictures and Lionsgate went through their respective integrations in 2020; Paramount Pictures followed in March 2021 with a restructuring that led to the exit of 23 home entertainment marketing and distribution personnel, including marketing chief Vincent Marcais, respected publicity head Brenda Ciccone, and Dina Marovich, SVP of worldwide media and interactive marketing.
A new way of doing things sometimes finds home entertainment executives branching out beyond their wheelhouses.
“Somewhat out of the traditional course of business, our team successfully managed the launch of Virtual Reality experiences at the new Harry Potter store in New York City,” Warner’s Wuthrich said. “These two experiences allow Potter fans the ultimate experience of visiting Hogwarts or flying high above London on broomsticks while battling Death Eaters. The experiences have sold out since launching this summer and have been garnering rave reviews. We look forward to expanding the number of locations in 2022 so more Potter fans will have a chance to live the experience.”
HBO Max’s “Peacemaker” was the top anticipated new show, Netflix’s “Ozark” was the most anticipated returning show, and Sony Pictures’ Mobius was the top anticipated movie on the Whip Media charts for January.
“Peacemaker,” which starts streaming on HBO Max Jan. 13, is a series created by James Gunn based on the DC Comics character of the same name.
The fourth season of the crime drama series “Ozark,” about a married couple (Jason Batement and Laura Linney) who relocate their family to the Lake of the Ozarks for money laundering, starts streaming on Netflix Jan. 21.
Mobius, starring Jared Leto, is based on the Marvel Comics character.
TV Time, owned by Whip Media, is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.
Most Anticipated New Shows for January:
“Peacemaker” (HBO Max) — Jan. 13
“Good Sam” (CBS) — Jan. 5
“The Gilded Age” (HBO) — Jan. 24
“How I Met Your Father” (Hulu) — Jan. 18
“Monarch” (Fox) — Jan. 30
Most Anticipated Returning Shows for January:
“Ozark” (Netflix) — Jan. 21
“Euphoria” (HBO) — Jan. 9
“Transplant” (CTV) — Jan. 3
“The Righteous Gemstones” (HBO) — Jan. 9
“After Life” (Netflix) — Jan. 14
Most Anticipated Movies for January:
Morbius — Jan. 28
Scream (2022) — Jan. 14
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania — Jan. 14
The 355 — Jan. 7
Harry Potter 2oth Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts — Jan. 1
Citing “an abundance of caution” due to escalating coronavirus variant infections nationwide, technology research firm GfK North America Dec. 30 announced it would forego its scheduled in-person presentation at the CES Research Summit next week (Jan. 5-8) in Las Vegas.
Instead, GfK said it would share the same tech insights on “techno mobility” via an interactive “learning session” on Jan. 27. Interested parties can sign up for the GfK virtual session at this link.
The AP reports that new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to their highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average, a surge driven largely by the highly contagious omicron variant.
The year 2021 has been an eventful one across the home entertainment landscape as consumers further embraced streaming, while companies operating in legacy transactional markets adjusted their business strategies to survive.
Here are the top 10 home entertainment news stories of 2020 as chosen by the Media Play News editorial staff.
1. The Rise of AVOD and FAST — Numerous new subscription streaming services began to strain home entertainment budgets, with the average consumer, according to a TiVo study, spending $142.20 monthly on high-speed internet and SVOD — significantly more than the average $100 cable bill. Nearly 60% of respondents in a Trade Desk study said they spend too much money on multiple OTT subscriptions, with more than 66% saying escalating fees were a source of frustration. In a Future Today report, 50.6% of respondents said they opted for AVOD to end paying for SVOD. As streaming fatigue and the hit to their wallet began to set in, consumers increasingly turned to free, ad-supported services (FAST, AVOD) such as Tubi. Tubi in fact rose to one of the top 10 apps downloaded by U.S. consumers in 2021 at No. 6, just behind SVOD services HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+, Peacock and Hulu, in order.
2. Media Mergers: Two bombshell announcements came in May, both geared toward streaming. The first was AT&T and Discovery’s announcement of a plan to combine WarnerMedia’s Warner Bros., HBO, Turner and CNN media assets with Discovery’s reality TV-based HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, Magnolia, Eurosport and international entertainment businesses to create a new standalone global entertainment company focused on streaming video. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was slated to lead the new company, later dubbed Warner Bros. Discovery, with a management team and operational and creative leadership from both companies. A week later came word that Amazon would acquire MGM Studios for $8.45 billion, which CNBC at the time said marked “its boldest move yet into the entertainment industry and turbocharging its streaming ambitions.” Amazon at the time said it wanted to leverage MGM’s filmmaking history and catalog to boost Amazon Studios. “The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” Mike Hopkins, SVP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.”
3. Sudden Impact: WarnerMedia made headlines at the end of last year when in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it announced plans to make its theatrical slate through 2021 concurrently available on the HBO Max subscription streaming platform — beginning with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day 2020. Results were mixed. Under the direction of CEO Jason Kilar, a former chief executive at Hulu, the landmark distribution strategy obliterated the legacy theatrical window. It also caught most of Hollywood off guard, including directors, producers and actors whose compensation agreements revolved around the box office take. Kilar later apologized for the abrupt decision, but doubled down on the strategy, which resulted in $463 million in domestic theatrical revenue through June 30 while growing Max subscriptions and consumer awareness. While the concurrent release strategy appeared to have little negative impact on Warner’s Godzilla vs Kong monster movie release in March, the studio would have to wait until the October release of sci-fi reboot Dune to realize another box office hit. Entering 2022, Kilar’s days seem numbered as Warner Bros. reverts back to a shortened 45-day theatrical window for most movie releases, and corporate parent AT&T awaits regulatory approval for its $43 billion minority stake WarnerMedia asset sale to Discovery.
4. Attack of the ‘+’ Sign: Discovery Jan. 4 launched its own branded SVOD service Discovery+ with little fanfare. Exactly two months later, Paramount Pictures became the latest Hollywood studio seeking to establish a foothold on the SVOD bandwagon with the launch of Paramount+. The erstwhile CBS All Access streaming platform adopted the Paramount Pictures brand to better resonate with consumers worldwide. Paramount+, along with AVOD/FAST platform Pluto TV, embodied corporate parent ViacomCBS’s belated resolve to become all things streaming. Then, in July, WarnerMedia announced plans to launch a branded news subscription streaming video service in early 2022. The name: CNN+.
5. Disc Distribution Shuffle: As physical media sales continued to decline, several studios looked for ways to cut costs and boost efficiencies. April marked the official launch of Studio Distribution Services (SDS), a joint venture between Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment to distribute packaged media in the United States and Canada. The JV, run by former Universal Pictures Home Entertainment president Eddie Cunningham, combines sales, retail marketing and distribution for the two physical home entertainment operations and is responsible for Blu-ray, DVD and 4K UHD distribution for up to 10 years. Both partner studios continue to operate their digital distribution businesses independently and retain content and consumer marketing for both physical and digital. In February, Lionsgate signed a multiyear agreement with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for the distribution of its DVD/Blu-ray Disc releases in the United States and Canada, beginning in July. Lionsgate still has its own sales and marketing teams, but is leveraging SPHE’s supply chain and distribution services.
6. Out of the Box: Redbox aggressively embraced digital distribution — notably ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) and free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) — to piggyback on its legacy kiosk disc rental brand. The move resulted in numerous content license distribution agreements, as well as further development of Redbox-branded content acquisitions, including feature films. With about 40,000 kiosks in operation across the country, Redbox deployed digital video signage on thousands of boxes as a new way to partner with Hollywood studios to promote new-release movies, promote the company’s free streaming service, and provide a platform for third-party media campaigns. The company signed separate distribution agreements with LG Electronics and Sony PlayStation to include its FAST channels on LG Smart TVs, including their LG OLED Smart TVs, as well as the PS5 and PS4 video game consoles. Taking a page from the Amazon Channels playbook, Redbox also began featuring third-party apps on its digital platform. The company inked separate agreements with Roku and Vewd to pre-load the Redbox app on all new Vewd-powered TVs and set-top boxes in the U.S., including Hisense, Funai and Tivo, as well as pay-TV operators such as Evoca. In October, Redbox made its biggest move: Finalizing a business combination with Seaport Global Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, and launching Redbox Entertainment as a publicly traded company.
7. TVOD Consolidation: Fandango in August merged its FandangoNow streaming platform with Vudu, which it had acquired from Walmart in 2020. The combined platforms operate under the Vudu brand, which has established itself as a digital transaction market leader, while the Fandango brand is known for theatrical ticket purchases, movie reviews and showtimes. Vudu is available in more than 75 million U.S. TV-connected device households, according to The NPD Group. The service has more than 60 million registered users and serves “millions of consumers daily” across smart-TVs, connected devices, mobile and online. “During a time where consumers have myriad viewing options, we’re proud to deliver a service that presents an unparalleled library of content, many titles that are not available on subscription services, and the flexibility to pay as you go,” said Fandango president Paul Yanover.
8. Free Agent: Sony Pictures Entertainment celebrated its role as the only studio not attached to a big media company with streaming ambitions through a series of deals and a stunning end-of-the-year victory as Spider-Man: No Way Home became the biggest theatrical release of the year. In April, SPE signed a distribution deal with Netflix for exclusive U.S. access to Sony theatrical releases following the box office and home entertainment windows. The agreement, which begins in 2022, replaces Sony’s existing digital deal with Lionsgate-owned Starz. Days later, SPE announced another deal with Disney’s streaming and TV platforms for their Pay 2 window. And in November, Sony Television signed a distribution deal with Redbox that gives the latter streaming access to Resident Evil: Retribution, Underworld: Evolution, We Own the Night and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.
9. Home Entertainment Consolidation: Paramount Pictures in February became the latest studio to merge its theatrical and home entertainment marketing teams, a move that saw the exit of 23 home entertainment marketing and distribution personnel, including EVP of marketing Vincent Marcais, longtime publicity head Brenda Ciccone, and Dina Marovich, SVP of worldwide media and interactive marketing. In a Feb. 26 memo obtained by Media Play News, Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, wrote that after an extensive review, “we have concluded that the best path forward for the company is for all home entertainment marketing functions, with the exceptions of brand marketing and customer marketing, to merge into the existing theatrical marketing departments.” The Paramount move followed similar restructurings at Warner Bros. in August 2020, Sony Pictures in October 2020, and Lionsgate in December 2020.
10. Supply Chain Crisis: Toward the end of the year, studios as well as independents were reporting delays in bringing their DVDs and Blu-ray Discs to market due, in part, to the global supply chain crisis. The other factor: limited replication opportunities. Most of the big Hollywood studios use Technicolor to replicate their discs, which is down to a single facility in Mexico. “It’s a huge problem,” said Bill Hunt, who as editor of The Digital Bits website closely monitors disc releases. “Almost every title is getting delayed, and those that aren’t are hard to find on street date.”