‘Scream’ Indeed: Does ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Still Have Box Office Legs?

NEWS ANALYSIS: Paramount Pictures’ slasher reboot Scream ended Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home weekend box office reign in convincing fashion through Jan. 16. Can the fifth installment in Scream franchise hold off the webslinger’s enduring appeal through Jan. 23?

Industry estimates peg Scream generating $12.7 million in ticket sales, with No Way Home just behind at $12.6 million, followed by Universal Pictures’ enduring animated musical Sing 2 rounding out the podium with a projected $5.4 million in revenue.

Scream is projected to surpass previous release, 2011’s Scream 4, in total revenue ($38 million) today (Jan. 21). Meanwhile, No Way Home, after passing fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe box office champions Black Panther ($700 million) and Avengers: Infinity War ($679 million) for No. 4 on the all-time box office revenue chart, still lags significantly behind Avatar with more than $760 million in North American ticket sales. No Way Home is projected to approach the $720 million mark this weekend.

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Regardless, Spider-Man and Co. are expected to easily fend off box office newcomers The King’s Man (Universal) and, separately, The King’s Daughter (Gravitas Pictures).

Analysis: As Netflix Stumbles, So Does Streaming Video Market

NEWS ANALYSIS: Netflix’s scant miss on fourth quarter subscriber growth projections was one thing, but when the SVOD pioneer and industry heavyweight revealed a meager Q1 2022 sub growth estimate (2.5 million) that was less than half Wall Street’s guidance — the stock selloff took off. Stoking the fire: Netflix’s estimated 10% revenue growth in 2022 is the lowest in 10 years — and also below analysts’ projections.

Red Notice, Netflix’s most-watched movie ever, was now a fiscal siren to investors.

Netflix shares lost nearly 20% of their value in premarket Jan. 21 trading, falling about $100 below the streamer’s previous 52-week low of $508 per share. On paper, Netflix lost around $45 billion in market valuation — a fiscal shock wave that reverberated throughout the streaming video market.

Wall Street banks Morgan Stanley, KeyBank and Barclays all downgraded Netflix shares. Premarket share prices for AT&T, which owns HBO Max, Roku, Disney (Disney+) and Discovery (Discovery+) all declined in low single-digit price-per-share drops.

“The [Netflix] share price is plummeting, and the numbers say a comet is on a collision course with its business model,” wrote analyst Rick Munarriz with The Motley Fool. “The competition is getting stronger, and Netflix doesn’t have the pricing elasticity it used to.”

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Lost in the frenzy is that Netflix had one of its best quarters for content. In addition to actioner Red Notice, co-staring Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot and Dwayne Johnsson, and climate satire Don’t Look Up, co-starring Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, Netflix’s Korean series, “Squid Game” generated the streamer’s biggest viewership ever at more than 2 billion hours in the first 28 days.

With a new “Squid Game” series in development, in addition to a new season of “Bridgerton,” as well as another Ryan Reynolds actioner, Netflix’s brass appeared at a loss to explain away the low sub growth going forward.

“It’s tough to say exactly why our acquisition hasn’t kind of recovered to pre-Covid levels,” CFO Spencer Neumann said on the fiscal webcast. “It’s probably a bit of just overall Covid overhang that’s still happening after two years of a global pandemic that we’re still unfortunately not fully out of, some macroeconomic strain in some parts of the world, like Latin America, in particular.”

Neumann appeared to ignore the gorilla in the room: Market saturation. With its SVOD rivals ramping up their own original content spending, and the majority of consumers now subscribing to upwards of four+ streaming services, the market for new sub growth is slowing.

“This translates to more choice for consumers, who are growing concerned with the aggregate costs of their streaming subscriptions,” Mike Proulx, VP of research for Forrester Research, wrote in a note.

Netflix co-CEO/chief content officer Ted Sarandos, on the fiscal call, tried to calm the waters, saying that viewer engagement for the streamer’s original content remained strong and growing.

“We didn’t see a hit to our engagement,” Sarandos said. “We didn’t see a hit to retention – all of those things that would classically lead you to looking at competition.”

Indeed, Wall Street’s reaction may be a wakeup call to the SVOD industry, but not an obituary on streaming video.

“In the end we think the Netflix flywheel is still working, it is just operating at a slower pace given the massive pull forward of demand enabled by pandemic shutdowns, and over time we expect normalization in subscriber results and for the stock to work,” wrote Jeff Wlodarczak, analyst with Pivotal Research Group.

Netflix Generated $200 Million in 2021 Disc Rental Revenue, Unchanged From 2020

Netflix’s legacy by-mail DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies rental service continues to generate incremental revenue for the SVOD behemoth. The streamer reported revenue of $200 million for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2021 — unchanged from $200 million in revenue in 2020.

Netflix doesn’t include packaged-media rental revenue or subscriber data in its financials, categorizing disc rental as separate revenue. The company reported $400 million in disc revenue in 2018 — underscoring the ongoing decline of its packaged-media business. It last reported about two million disc-rental subscribers in 2019.

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Regardless, with Family Video calling it quits, Netflix and Redbox remain the only packaged-media rental services operating nationwide.

Netflix: ‘We Slightly Over-Forecasted’ Q4 Sub Growth, Missed Projection by 200,000

Netflix Jan. 20 said it added 8.3 million subscribers worldwide in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2021. The tally was off less than 3% (200,000 subs) from the streamer’s projection of 8.5 million net paid additions. But enough of a miss to send the streamer’s stock tumbling. Netflix ended the quarter with 222 million subs globally.

“We slightly over-forecasted paid net adds in Q4,” Netflix co-CEOs Reed Hastings, Ted Sarandos and CFO Spence Neumann co-wrote in the shareholder newsletter. “While retention and engagement remain
healthy, acquisition growth has not yet re-accelerated to pre-Covid levels. We think this may be due to several factors including the ongoing Covid overhang and macro-economic hardship in several parts of
the world like Latin America.”

Indeed, the streamer added 200,000 fewer subs (1 million) in South America than in the previous-year period at 1.2 million, for more than 39.9 million total subs at the end of 2021.

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The SVOD pioneer added 1.2 million subs in North America, its biggest domestic sub growth in the region since the early days of COVID-19 in 2020. The region ended the quarter with 75.2 million subs.

In the Asia Pacific region, Netflix increased paid memberships by 2.6 million (up from 2 million in the year ago quarter) with strong growth in both Japan and India — to end the year with 32.6 million.

In Europe, Middle East and Africa, Netflix added 3.5 million subs vs. 4.5 million in the prior year period. The region, which end 2021 with 74 million subs, delivered record quarterly revenue, exceeding $2.5 billion for the first time.

For the year, Netflix added 18 million vs. 37 million in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the streamer had a strong quarter with new releases, including a new season of “The Witcher” (484 million hours viewed), “You” (468 million hours viewed), “Emily in Paris” (287 million hours viewed) and on Dec. 31, 2021, a new season of “Cobra Kai” (274 million hours viewed), as well as the critically acclaimed limited series “Maid” (469 million hours viewed).

Netflix later this year will launch a Korean adaptation of its popular Spanish “La Casa de Papel” aka “Money Heist” (6.7 billion hours viewed over its lifetime). The new series, “Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area,” aims to expand the LCDP universe outside of Europe.

“Over the years, we’ve learned that big hits can come from anywhere in the world (with great subtitles and dubbing) … but our goal with non-English originals is to first and foremost thrill audiences in their home country,” wrote Hastings, Sarandos and Neumann.

NPD: U.S. Saw VR/AR Hardware, Accessories Holiday Sales Increase

The virtual/augmented reality retail category in the U.S. had a very successful 2021 holiday period (Nov. 21 – Dec. 25, 2021), with sales up 180% and 153%, respectively, versus the prior year, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Based on NPD’s Weekly Retail Tracking Service data, sales growth of VR/AV products was slightly lower for full year 2021, up 163% in unit sales and 137% in revenue compared to the previous year.

Ben Arnold

“This year’s holiday gains come as consumers continue to look for unique entertainment experiences and also likely benefitted from challenges consumers faced in securing popular gaming consoles,” Ben Arnold, executive director and technology industry analyst for NPD, said in a statement.

Arnold believes that as new devices become available, and the consumer base has an opportunity to grow, he expects positive momentum in the year ahead – starting with 32% revenue growth in the first half of the year.

“The Metaverse, VR/AR, and smart glasses will be areas to watch in 2022,” he said.

FilmRise Hires Showtime Executive Gabriel Gazoul as Director of Film Acquisitions

FilmRise Jan. 20 announced the appointment of Gabriel Gazoul as director of film acquisitions. In this role, Gabriel will oversee the acquisition of new release feature films and documentaries, as well as collaborate on release strategies with the company’s sales and marketing teams.

Gazoul, who spent 12 years acquiring content for Showtime Networks, reports to Max Einhorn, SVP, Acquisitions & Co-Productions, in New York.

“Gabriel has a remarkable eye for identifying distinctive titles that have proven successful,” Einhorn said in a statement. “We are certain he will further expand our catalog of feature film offerings that will benefit our partners everywhere.”

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With more than 20 years of experience, Gazoul began his career at Showtime in 2000, climbing the ladder to become senior director, content acquisitions. In addition to negotiating film and television programming for Showtime, CBS All Access, and Pop TV, Gazoul spearheaded the launch of over two dozen Showtime original standup comedy specials for Martin Lawrence, Dane Cook, Eddie Griffin and Sommore, and acquired several documentaries, including David Bowie: Finding Fame, George Michael: Freedom, and Ron Howard’s documentary on Jay-Z’s music festival Made in America, among others.

Roku to Debut First Adult Animated Scripted Series, ‘Doomlands’

Roku on Jan. 20 announced it would launch its first adult animated series, “Doomlands,” on The Roku Channel Jan. 28. 

Series creator Josh O’Keefe’s university film project turned into a crowd-funded pilot and was later developed by Josh Bowen and Look Mom! Productions. The post-apocalyptic comedy follows two aspiring bartenders (voice actors Mark Little and Kayla Lorette) as they sling beers across a hellish wasteland in their mobile pub: The Oasis. Facing ruthless desert gangs, memory-stealing creeps, and even mean bathroom graffiti, all this crew’s got to do to survive is not kill each other.

The series will be available exclusively on The Roku Channel in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. 

 “‘Doomlands’ is an homage to Ozploitation and Sci-Fi cinema, and after many years in development, I’m so stoked for it to debut on The Roku Channel,” O’Keefe said in a statement.  

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Bowen, executive producer and managing director of Look Mom! Productions, said the series was produced almost entirely throughout the pandemic from his mom’s basement with the help of “her home cooked meals.”

“The final product is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of our team, and we’re so excited that it’s now a Roku Original,” he said. 

Colin Davis, head of original scripted programming at Roku, believes the series will make O’Keefe a household name in animation.

“What he’s created is clever, laugh out loud funny, and indisputably wild, all while grounding the show in excellent characters,” Davis said. “We feel so lucky to be the home to his brilliance.”  

Look Mom! Productions, a Blue Ant Media company, specializes in producing original animated content for teens and adults. The company’s philosophy focuses on a creator-driven approach and prioritizes a collaborative process to produce content. Its slate of programming includes Adult Swim Canada’s “Night Sweats,” VRV’s (USA) “Bigfoot,” and “Gary and His Demons” for Mondo Channel on VRV (USA), CBC Gem (Canada), Comedy Central (UK) and ABC Comedy (Australia). The company is also known for digital shorts such as “Don’t Feed the Humans,” “World Doctors,” and “Crack-Duck,” among others. 

 Launched in 2017, The Roku Channel is the home of Roku Originals. From scripted entertainment and documentaries to new unscripted series, Roku Originals gives viewers free access to entertainment from the biggest names in Hollywood. Roku reported about 56.4 million monthly active U.S. users in its most-recent fiscal period.

Peacock Launching Local News Channels via NBC-Owned TV Stations

Peacock Jan. 20 announced the expansion of local news content on the streaming platform with channels from its NBC owned television stations in several major markets. Beginning today, all Peacock users have free access to coverage from NBC 5 Chicago (WMAQ), NBC 10 Philadelphia (WCAU), NBC10 Boston (WBTS) and New England Cable Network (NECN), and NBC 6 Miami (WTVJ). News channels from NBC 4 New York (WNBC) and NBC 4 Los Angeles (KNBC) will be available to stream for free in the months ahead.

The new channels titled NBC Chicago News, NBC Philadelphia News, NBC Boston News and NBC South Florida News offer Peacock subs 24/7 access local news coverage. Each channel features simulcast and encore news programming, along with breaking news and original content produced by its NBC station’s local news operations. The lineups deliver news, weather, sports, investigative reporting, lifestyle content and storytelling.

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“We know the importance of local news to our subscribers, and this further distinguishes the Peacock experience where you can stream everything from news content to original scripted shows, premium movies, live sports and more all on our platform,” Jen Brown, SVP of Program Planning for Peacock, said in a statement.

The addition of local news channels builds upon Peacock’s growing news offering, which currently features live and on demand channels including NBC News Now, Sky News, Today All Day, NBC LX, Telemundo Al Día, and Dateline 24/7; exclusive channels like The Choice from MSNBC, featuring original programming from hosts Zerlina Maxwell and Mehdi Hasan; curated playlists from national programming such as “Today,” “NBC Nightly News,” “Meet the Press,” “Noticias Telemundo,” MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Sports, E! News and Access Hollywood as well as 11 local NBC stations including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., San Diego and Connecticut.

Sony Expects Activision Games to Remain on PlayStation Following Microsoft Deal

On the heels of Microsoft’s mega $69 billion acquisition of video game publisher Activision Blizzard, scuttlebutt suggests the deal could see the elimination of marquee Activision franchises such as “Call of Duty” and “Warcraft” from the Sony PlayStation platform.

While the speculation of the deal valued at $75 billion sent Sony’s stock price tumbling, the media giant quickly issued a statement contending it expects its PlayStation platform will continue to have access to Activision games going forward.

“We expect that Microsoft will abide by contractual agreements and continue to ensure Activision games are multiplatform,” a spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal.

The deal undoubtedly faces regulatory scrutiny over exactly such issues before it is approved sometime next year. Regardless, Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter contends Microsoft/Xbox’s market leverage increases exponentially going forward.

“[The acquisition] has great potential to hurt PlayStation, and that is likely to be [a] sticking point with regulators,” Pachter said in an email. “Who would buy a PS5 if they aren’t assured that future Activision games will be available on the platform?  That is a problem, and I expect regulators to raise it.”

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The analyst contends regulators would (if the merger is approved) likely mandate a consent decree that requires Microsoft to continue to offer Activision games on PS5 for a number of years.

“But until the regulators look at this, we won’t know for sure,” Pachter said.

While issues involving Activision title made available for PlayStation generates news, Microsoft’s goal behind the deal appears more cloud based than console. The tech giant, along with most of its competitors, has been transitioning many of its products to a subscription-based business model.

With an eye towards replicating the success Netflix had creating the SVOD market, Microsoft is aiming significantly up its Game Pass subscription service. The Activision deal would make Microsoft the No. 3 game publisher in the world. Media reports suggest 400 million gamers engage with Activision titles on a monthly basis — a tally, if converted into subscribers, would exceed the combined subscriber bases of Netflix and Disney+.

“Together with Activision Blizzard, we have an incredible opportunity to invest and innovate, to create the best content, community and cloud for gamers to build substantial new value for our shareholders,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on the Jan. 19 media call.

CBS: 50 Million Watched Chaotic 49ers, Cowboys NFL Wild Card Game Ending

The NFL Super Wild Card game between longtime rivals San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys was watched by more than 41 million people — the highest audience for a wild card game in seven years, according to CBS.

Driving viewership in part was the chaotic fourth quarter that saw the Cowboys battle back from a 23-7 deficit with a chance to take the lead with just minutes remaining. A slew of penalties and mistakes by both teams resulted in time running out for the Cowboys deep in 49ers’ territory.

CBS said 50 million people watched the ending of the game that sends San Francisco to Green Bay, Wisc., to the play the Packers on Jan. 22.

The NFL postseason remains a ratings giant, with the weekend’s other games drawing big numbers. More than 26 million people watched the Buffalo Bills easily beat the New England Patriots 47-17. The game was also streamed on Paramount+.

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Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles generated more than 30 million viewers, while the Cincinnati Bengals’ win over the Las Vegas Raiders generated almost 28 million viewers on NBC and Peacock. The platforms’ combined for more than 28 million viewers of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs game won by KC.