Best Buy CEO Under Scrutiny for Alleged Personal Conduct Issue

Best Buy’s board of directors has opened an investigation regarding CEO Corie Barry having a previous personal relationship with a senior executive, who has since left the company and is now CFO of 24 Hour Fitness.

Barry, a former CFO of the consumer electronics retail giant, was named CEO last year after former chief executive Hubert Joly stepped aside to become executive chairman of the board.

The allegation linking Barry with former SVP Karl Sanft was outlined in an anonymous letter to the board, dated Dec. 7, 2019.

Follow us on Instagram

“We encourage the letter’s author to come forward and be part of that confidential process,” a retail spokesman said in a statement first reported by The Wall Street Journal. “We will not comment further until the review is concluded.”

Barry, who says she is cooperating fully with the board, has been with Best Buy for 20 years, including a stint as president of the Geek Squad in 2013.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Executive personal conduct has been an issue at Best Buy, which terminated former CEO Brian Dunn in 2012 after his inappropriate relationship with store staffer came to light. Founder Richard Schulze stepped down as well after the Dunn inquiry determined Schulze had failed to notify the board about the CEO’s conduct.

 

 

 

Analyst: Expect Netflix Q4 Sub Growth Miss

In recent months, Netflix critics have focused on the streaming giant’s stagnate domestic subscriber growth as evidence of cracks in the Wall Street darling’s veneer.

Longtime Netflix bear Michael Pachter, with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, suggests the service is going to miss meeting fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2019) domestic subscriber growth projections of around 600,000. Netflix is projecting 7 million new subscribers outside the United States.

“Domestic subs guidance and overall [earnings per share] guidance may be at risk given the heavy television advertising we observed in the latter half of Q4,” Pachter wrote in a Jan. 17 note.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Netflix typically ramps up marketing efforts to drive lagging subscriptions when the number of existing subs not renewing (churn) increases.

The analyst contends marketing spending and a “solid slate” of high-profile new content released during the quarter should help dampen overall subscriber churn.

“We expect international subscriber growth momentum to continue,” Pachter wrote.

Indeed, the launch of Disney+ on Nov. 12 and the impending loss of most Disney and Fox content could cost Netflix another 25% of total viewing hours, according to Pachter, who ads that content from Comcast, Fox, Disney and Warner Bros. accounted for 60% – 65% of Netflix viewing hours in 2019.

“We expect most of it ultimately to migrate away,” he wrote.

That said, the flurry of new over-the-top video platforms does not imply the imminent demise of Netflix as Pachter expects the migration of third-party content to be relatively slow due to existing licensing contracts.

While it’s a guess whether Netflix (or any distribution channel) can replace content sufficient to subscribers and viewers loyal, Pachter think it is likely Netflix will pay whatever it takes to attract high quality content, and believe its competitors will be slow to gain scale.

Separate Wall Street reports say Netflix will spend upwards of $17 billion on content in 2020 — dwarfing all competitors, including Disney+.

“We expect the status quo to be largely maintained until the end of 2021,” he wrote. “For now, Netflix provides tremendous value for its subscribers.”

Netflix reports fourth-quarter fiscal results on Jan. 21.

NPD: December Video Game Sales Fell 15%

As expected, sluggish video game sales declined for the fifth straight month, falling 15% to $2.98 billion from $3.5 billion in the previous-year period, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Hardware sales fell 17%, to $973 million from $1.17 billion. Software dropped 13% $1.14 billion from $1.31 billion. Accessories and game cards dropped 14% to $869 million from $1.01 billion.

Follow us on Instagram

Overall, spending fell 13% to $14.6 billion from $16.78 billion. A dearth of new gaming consoles contributed to hardware sales plummeting 22% to $3.9 billion from $4.43 billion; software dropped 9% to $6.6 billion, compared to $7.25 billion; and accessories/game cards dropped 7% to $4.1 billion from $4.4 billion.

As has been the situation all year, Nintendo Switch was the best-selling hardware platform.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare topped the software dollar sales chart for the third straight month, and closed out as 2019’s top seller overall.

“That makes 11 straight years that the Call of Duty franchise was the year’s best seller,’ analyst Mat Piscatella said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order finished No. 2; Madden NFL 20 (No. 3) and No. 4 NBA 2K20. No. 5, Luigi’s Mansion 3; No. 6, Pokemon Sword; No. 7, Mario Kart 8; No. 8, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; No. 9, Pokemon Shield; No. 10, Minecraft.

Peacock Streaming Service Launching April 15 with AVOD and SVOD Options

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke Jan. 16 announced the April 15 launch of branded subscription streaming video service Peacock on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex video platforms before bowing nationwide on July 15, offering more than 600 movies and 400 series and ranging from free (ad-supported Peacock Free app) to $4.99 and $9.99 (in 4K UHD).

Peacock Platinum will target 24 million pay-TV subs, including Comcast Cable and third-party partner Cox Communications priced at $4.99 monthly. The company expects to reach 30-35 million active accounts by 2024.

Speaking from Studio8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, Burke highlighted the advantanges of over-the-top video by the recent return to “Saturday Night Live” with Eddie Murphy, which he said saw a 31% uptick in viewership due in part to streaming.

“On-demand vieweing has generated larger and  larger audiences, but we don’t know how to monetize them well,” Burke said. “We don’t the control the consumer experience.”

The executive said that with Peacock there’s “a clear opportunity” to create a streaming property “we control and own.”

Burke said the ad-supported business is a proven business model. Working with Sky’s Now TV, which will provide the technology backbone to the Peacock service, Burke said Comcast, NBC Universal and Sky offer a great business opportunity entering the OTT ecosystem.

Peacock’s AVOD launch sponsors include Eli Lilly and Company, State Farm, Target and Unilever.

Linda Yaccarino, chairperson of NBC Universal Advertising, said the streaming service would help advertisers reach consumers at a lower cost.

“Without scale you can’t have impact,” Yaccarino said, adding that Peacock would have the “lightest ad load” in the OTT industry, with just five minutes of ads per hour of programming.

“[The] best possible environment for consumers and advertisers,” she said.

Tina Fey, who credited her start in show business to NBC, came on stage to announce her new original series, “Girls5Eva,” about a one-hit-wonder girl group from the 90’s that reunites to give their pop star dreams one more shot.

The platform will be the non-exclusive streaming platform to more than 1,000 episodes featuring “Law and Order,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” and “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Med” and “Chicago P.D.” franchises from creator Dick Wolf.

The platform also inked a deal for “Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud” comedy series.

Peacock will also stream Paramount Network series “Yellowstone,” the Kevin Costner drama, licensed from ViacomCBS. Additionally, “Two and a Half Men,” and “The George Lopez Show” from Warner Brothers were announced.

Noteworthy original series in development for Peacock include: “Expecting,” from Mindy Kaling, “Division One,” from Amy Poehler, “Clean Slate,” from Norman Lear and “MacGruber,” from Will Forte.

Previously announced Peacock scripted originals include comedies such as “Rutherford Falls,” “Saved by the Bell,” “A.P. Bio,” “Punky Brewster,” and the movie spinoff “Psych 2: Lassie Come Home,” as well as dramas “Dr. Death,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Brave New World,” “Angelyne,” and “Armas de Mujer.”

Movie selections will be curated by online ticket service Fandango, which is owned by Comcast. Peacock will have the exclusive streaming rights for the 2020 Universal film slate and beyond in the network window. Films will include live action feature films, including Fast & Furious 9 and Jurassic World 3.

Matt Strauss, chairman, Peacock and NBCUniversal digital enterprises, said consumers are watching more premium content than in the history of television. But the rise in streaming video challenges include content fragmentation, endless scrolling and prices.

He that while 65% of time people know what they want to watch. Peacock will have robust on-demand content offering. Borrowing from Spotify, Peacock will have channels of content, trending playlists, and dedicated channels of programming for specific users.

“We see this as an opportunity with Peacock,” he said.

Seth Meyers, who opened with a Theranos joke (for the investor audience), said Studio8H has been incubator for televised comedy and conduit for Peacock’s comedy slate.

Jimmy Fallon announced that his “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” would stream early for the firs time (an hour early at 8 p.m.) on Peacock each night.

The platform will also figure prominently at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, featuring live coverage of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies before they air on NBC in primetime. The service will stream three daily Olympic shows, including “Tokyo Live,” “Tokyo Daily Digest,” and “Tokyo Tonight.” Peacock will also stream Olympic documentaries and specials.

“Nothing brings the world together than the Olympics,” Mike Tirico, primetime host of NBC’s quadrennial coverage, told attendees.

Peacock will be home to live breaking news coverage, including the 2020 presidential election. NBC News Now, the newly launched streaming network, will bring Peacock viewers “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” as well as original video from “Today” and across the NBC News portfolio.

The longest running show in television history will also be part of the newest streaming platform – with an original offering from “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd” on Peacock each weekday. In addition, NBC News will create original documentaries for Peacock – delving deep into politics, biographies and history. Peacock will also be home to full episodes of “Dateline” – the true crime original.

Analysts: Netflix Spending $17 Billion on Content in 2020

Go big or go home. That appears to be the motto at Netflix when it comes to original content spending.

New data from BMO Capital Markets contends the SVOD behemoth will spend about $17 billion on original content this year, up $2 billion from 2019. Netflix ended the third-quarter (Sept. 30, 2019) with more than $24 billion in long-term debt to bond holders and third-party content producers.

Follow us on Instagram

By comparison, NBC Universal’s pending Peacock streaming service reportedly will spend upwards of $2 billion on original content in 2019. HBO Max and Disney+ are spending from $1 billion to $2 billion on content this year.

“We continue to believe the ‘streaming wars’ narrative is false and there will be multiple winners in global streaming,” analyst Dan Salmon wrote in a note. Indeed, BMO remains bullish on Netflix with a “buy” rating on the stock.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In Q3, Netflix launched 802 hours of original programming, including Golden Globes winners and Oscar contenders, The Irishman and Marriage Story.

“We continue to believe Netflix will hit or exceed its U.S. paid net add guide,” John Blackledge, analyst with Cowen & Co., wrote in a separate note.

Netflix reports fourth-quarter fiscal results on Jan. 21.

AMC Networks’ Acorn TV Acquires British Drama ‘Deadwater Fell’

AMC Networks’ British-centric SVOD platform Acorn TV Jan. 16 announced it acquired exclusive North American rights to new four-part British drama, “Deadwater Fell” from Endemol Shine International. The mini-series will make its U.S. debut as an Acorn TV Original in April.

Produced by Kudos and filmed in Scotland, the drama’s cast features David Tennant (Broadchurch, Doctor Who, Good Omens), Cush Jumbo (The Good Fight, The Good Wife, Vera), Matthew McNulty (Versailles, Cleaning Up, The Terror) and Anna Madeley (Patrick Melrose, The Crown, Utopia).

When a seemingly perfect and happy family is murdered by someone they know and trust, the small Scottish community they call home becomes torn apart with mistrust and suspicion as those closest to the family begin to question everything they thought they knew about their friends.

Follow us on Instagram

Deadwater Fell examines the nature of female friendship and the harmful, entrenched gender stereotypes and conformity that can lead to the most devastating consequences. Laying bare the fragility of trust and the corrosive nature of lies, the series demonstrates that even the closest of friends all have their secrets.

“’Deadwater Fell’ is an excellent addition to our Acorn TV Original lineup with its beautiful Scottish setting and a gripping script that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats as new revelations arise,” Don Klees, SVP, programming for Acorn TV, said in a statement.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Endemol Shine International’s Matt Creasey said producer looks forward to continuing its relationship with Acorn TV with another U.K. productions.

“With its superbly written scripts and intriguing characters, ‘Deadwater Fell’ is a suspenseful crime drama that will captivate American audiences,” Creasey said.

TiVo: Ad-Supported VOD Gaining Traction

The subscription streaming video market is getting crowded. Pioneering behemoths like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video dominate, spending tens of billions of dollars on original content to lure and retain subscribers in the face of newcomers Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi, among others.

As a result, ad-supported VOD content is attracting greater market share, according to new data from TiVo, which found the average U.S. household had 6.9 streaming services in the fourth quarter 2019, up from five services during the same period in 2017.

At more than 73%, YouTube remains the most popular source of free streaming content, followed closely by Facebook (62.3%). Free video from network sites has skyrocketed in popularity (up 31.9% from the previous-year period), while Crackle (+2.4%), Tubi (+3.8 %), The Roku Channel (o.2%), Xumo, Vevo (+5.4%) and Twitch (+3.3%) also gained viewers.

Follow us on Instagram

Indeed, 37.5% of respondents from a fourth-quarter online survey of 6,145 participants in the United States and Canada, said they were “very satisfied” with AVOD, up from 35.4% during the previous-year period. That compared to 33.1% who said they were “very satisfied” with SVOD, down from 33.5% last year.

As expected, the report found that most respondents still find new movies and TV shows to watch through SVOD services Netflix (34.7%) and Prime Video (25.2%), followed closely by free YouTube videos (23%) and pay-TV (21.2%).

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

For TV series that consumers watch regularly, it’s a different story. TiVo said pay-TV dominates, with 35% of respondents indicating they find new episodes of their regularly watched series through cable or satellite TV.

Notably, respondents cited transactional VOD services such as iTunes, Amazon, Redbox On Demand, Vudu, and Google Play, among others, as go-to platforms in search of new movie content. That was ahead of platforms such as Hulu, Showtime OTT and Starz.

Another 54% of respondents say they find out about new shows or movies from commercials or ads that run within their current pay-TV or AVOD content.

“Consumers are increasingly ready and willing to adopt innovative (yet simple) technology, devices or services that can serve as guides on their quest to find what they want to watch,” read the report. “They need technology that adds value to their lives, whether by helping them efficiently locate the content they’re looking for or by leading them to the video pathways that suit their needs and desires.”

Quibi Getting in the WWE Ring

Pending short-form mobile video streaming service Quibi has signed a production deal with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for original series, “Fight Like a Girl,” featuring performers Sasha Banks, Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Alexa Bliss, Sonya Deville, Charlotte Flair, Nia Jax, Becky Lynch and Natalya.

In each episode, Stephanie McMahon, chief brand officer of WWE, pairs a performer with a young woman struggling with a personal issue. The WWE Superstars draw from their own life experiences to help their trainees overcome obstacles and become tougher, stronger and healthier versions of their former selves inside and out.

Follow us on Instagram

“This strong cast of Superstars are leaders and role models who each have personal stories of challenge, perseverance and triumph,” McMahon said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have them on board to help young women find both their inner and outer strength and overcome adversity in their lives.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Quibi, which is the brainchild of DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP CEO Meg Whitman, is scheduled to launch on April 6 with a two-tier pricing system: $4.99 with ads, $7.99 without.

HBO Max Won’t Carry Cinemax, Boomerang, DC Universe Programming

When WarnerMedia launches HBO Max in May, the $14.99 subscription streaming video platform won’t include programming from Cinemax or SVOD services Boomerang and DC Universe. At the same time, the former Time Warner company plans to keep operating HBO Now and HBO Go concurrently with Max, according to Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, and truTV.

The Boomerang and DC Universe apps launched in 2017 and 2018, respectively, priced at $4.99 and $7.99 each.

Follow us on Instagram

Speaking Jan. 15 at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif., Reilly, along with Michael Quigley, EVP of content acquisitions and strategy, and Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, outlined additional details on Max, which will rival HBO Now as the most-expensive SVOD service on the market.

Specifically, reports suggest WarnerMedia would migrate HBO Now subs to Max to help jumpstart subscriptions, while also linking it to on-demand platform HBO Go.

He said it remains up in the air how “[we] manage that whole ecosystem ourselves.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Reilly said Cinemax, which has traditionally been bundled with HBO to pay-TV distributors, would be moving away from original productions. The channel’s notable shows included “Banshee,” “Warrior,” “Outcast,” Quarry,” and “The Knick”.

Cinemax shows such as “Strike Back,” “Gangs of London,” and “C.B. Strike,” are co-productions with Comcast-owned Sky Studios and the BBC, respectively.

“You can expect that there won’t be any more originals,” Reilly said.

WarnerMedia plans to fill the void with high-profile catalog shows such as “Friends,” and “The Big Bang Theory,” in addition to hundreds of Warner Bros. movies. Max also inked a three-year production deal with director Steven Soderbergh, who is helming original movie, Let Them All Talk, for the service.

“This will be the preeminent classic movie offering of any service out there,” Quigley said.

Sling TV Granted Technology & Engineering Emmy Award

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Jan. 15 awarded Sling TV a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award for its work developing and launching the nation’s first live over-the-top television service.

A pioneer in adaptive bit rate streaming, Dish Network launched Sling TV on Feb. 9, 2015 as the first streaming service to deliver live television over-the-top. Sling, which ended the most-recent fiscal period with 2.66 million subscribers, offers a wide range of free programming in addition to a full lineup of live news, sports and entertainment channels, including Fox News, CNN, ESPN and HGTV, as well as Cloud DVR capabilities.

Follow us on Instagram

The market now includes AT&T TV Now, Philo TV, YouTube TV, fuboTV, Spectrum TV Plus, Hulu with Live TV and Vidgo.

Sling TV’s premium service is available for a monthly subscription on a variety of smart televisions, tablets, game consoles, computers, smartphones, virtual reality headsets and streaming devices.

In addition to offering live television, Sling offers users access to a suite of free content, à la carte channels and services, transactional live events and movies on-demand, without requiring a base subscription.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Our journey over the past five years has been about the customer, offering exceptional value with unprecedented flexibility. In short, making TV better for everyone,” Warren Schlichting, EVP and group president, Sling TV, said in a statement. “[Dish] has a history of fostering innovation and disrupting the industry, and Sling’s leadership in live streaming TV is another example of our culture.”

Sling TV will receive the Technology & Engineering Emmy Award in the category of “Pioneering Development of Large Scale, Cloud Served, Broadcast Quality, Linear Channel Transmission” at the 71st annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards on April 19 at the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference in Las Vegas.