Samsung Halting Blu-ray Disc Player Production

Samsung is stopping production of 1080p and 4K Blu-ray Disc players for the United States market – leaving Sony and Panasonic as the lone CE manufacturers supporting the next-generation packaged media format.

The South Korean company had been working on a follow-up to the UBD-M9500 4K BD player, which has now been scrapped. Samsung last bowed a new BD player in 2017.

Though speculated after Samsung didn’t showcase any new BD players at CES in Las Vegas in January, the company confirmed the move in a media statement.

“Samsung will no longer introduce new Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray player models in the U.S. market,” a spokesperson told CNET.

Samsung’s decision follows the exit of Oppo Electronics Corp., the Chinese company known as Oppo, which ceased production of a 4K BD player last year.

While observers contend the move could be due to Samsung backing its proprietary HDR10 and HDR10+ high dynamic range formats versus Dolby Vision, a more realistic reason is market forces.

For the week ended Feb. 9, 4K Blu-ray accounted for just 5% of sales of the top 50 titles, according to VideoScan. That compared with nearly 40% for Blu-ray and 55% for standard DVD.

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Indeed, pending Oscar-nominated new release  The Favourite (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) and Stan & Ollie (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), reportedly are not getting 4K UHD releases, while Oscar nominee Bohemian Rhapsody and Widows (Fox) are.

Regardless, home entertainment studios remain bullish on 4K UHD.

Format sales surged nearly 70% in the third quarter last year, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. There were 392 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles available in Q3 representing more than $162 million in consumer spend for the period, and 595 4K titles available digitally.

“4K UHD discs already account for almost one in 10 new release discs sold in the U.S,” Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, told Media Play News.

Paramount Home Media Distribution boss Bob Buchi in January said the studio would offer most of its theatrical releases on 4K UHD Blu-ray, as well as select catalog titles.

“The response to our catalog 4K releases has been very promising, so we expect to see increased interest in owning treasured classics in the very best format available,” he said.

 

Netflix Tops 5 Million Subs in France

After fits and starts, Netflix has reportedly exceeded 5 million subscribers in France — five years after launching service largely to indifferent consumers, according to publication Les Echos.

 The publication cited comments from Netflix co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings, who was in Paris recently to announce the opening of a company office staffed by 20 employees.

The benchmark is impressive considering Netflix reported 3.5 million subs last September. Since then, the SVOD pioneer has pledge to double local content production. It has also attempted to bridge a divide with the French movie industry, notably the Cannes Film Festival regarding theatrical windows.

 The publication said French media pay-TV/SVOD platform Canal+ still exceeds Netflix in average monthly revenue per subscriber (€40) compared to €12 for Netflix.

French households now spend 1% – 2% of their TV viewing with Netflix, compared to 10% in the United States. About 1.7 million people in France watch Netflix and other video-on-demand services daily (including 60-70% Netflix) in prime time, according to an NPA Conseil study.

Les Echos said Canal+plans to launch a less expensive SVOD service with localized content to up competition with Netflix. In addition the service has the ability to license American TV shows such as “Billions” and “The Affair,” as Showtime does not distribute internationally.

“Even though it has reached the 5 million subscriber mark in France, Netflix probably still has a real growth reserve,” wrote Les Echos.

CEO: CBS May Put OTT Originals on Broadcast TV to Drive SVOD Traffic

For years Hollywood studios and producers put primetime TV shows on DVD to jumpstart consumer interest in a show’s upcoming fall season launch or syndication availability.

Now, CBS is considering bowing past seasons of original over-the-top video programs from the CBS All Access platform on broadcast television to help drive consumer interest in subscription streaming video.

All Access and Showtime OTT, which finished 2018 with more than 8 million combined subscribers, are projected to reach 25 million combined subs by 2022.

Speaking on the Feb. 14 fiscal call, acting CEO Joe Ianniello said the concept has become reality to media companies producing and distributing original content in the digital age.

“The great part of owning the intellectual property is you have [distribution] choices,” Ianniello said.

He said the traditional business model releasing an older TV show into syndication was to monetize catalog programming, increase consumer awareness of the program (if still airing on primetime) and the broadcast network in general.

Specifically, CBS management is considering broadcasting the original season of “The Good Fight,” the CBS All Access exclusive spin-off of “The Good Wife,” which ended its primetime broadcast run in 2016, on primetime.

“What if … we put it on the CBS broadcast network to drive subscribers back to CBS All Access?” said Ianniello, adding that SVOD original programming has to have mass appeal to work on the broadcast network.”

“The promotional platform that the TV network has is bigger than the streaming platform and/or other cable networks,” he said.

Separately, Ianniello said that unlike other media companies pulling original programs from SVOD services such as Netflix, CBS would continue to shop content to the best distribution channel.

As a result, Get Out director Jordan Peele’s reboot of “The Twilight Zone” for All Access in the United States will be distributed by Netflix internationally.

“If a third-party is better able to monetize it than our infrastructure, we should take the excess value we’ve receive and redeploy it into making more content,” Ianniello said.

Regardless, the executive said putting online original programming on broadcast TV could reduce content development costs and make more efficient use of intellectual property and CBS franchise brands.

“We’re discussing it as we speak,” Ianniello said.

 

 

 

HBO Launches SVOD Service in Portugal

HBO launched its newest over-the-top streaming video service, HBO Portugal, bringing all seasons of HBO’s coveted original programming to Portuguese audiences. In addition to originals, HBO Portugal viewers have access to series, films, documentaries and family content from other content providers.

Following a one-month free trial for all new subscribers, HBO Portugal costs €4.99 ($5.64) monthly, allowing subscribers to register five different devices with their subscription and watch two simultaneous streams of dubbed and subtitled content at the same time from the same account.

The service is accessible through a wide range of smartphones, tablets and devices including PCs, LG TV, PlayStation 4, Android TV, Chromecast and Apple TV.

Vodafone Portugal is the exclusive operator partner for local distribution, giving Vodafone Portugal customers access to the streaming service via TV Vodafone.

HBO Portugal subs have access to more than 4,500 episodes of HBO series, including every season “Game of Thrones,” “True Detective,” “Westworld” and “Big Little Lies.”

The service also includes classics shows such as “Sex and the City,” “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” and “Girls.” The service will feature a wide variety of series, movies, documentaries and family content from other content providers, including Showtime, Sundance, SyFy, The CW, AMC Network, DreamWorks and Turner.

 

CBS Eyes 25 Million Combined ‘All Access,’ ‘Showtime OTT’ Subs by 2022

CBS is projecting 25 million combined subscribers by 2022 for over-the-top video services CBS All Access and Showtime OTT. The guidance follows the two subscription streaming services reaching 8 million combined subs at the end of 2018 – two years ahead of schedule.

All Access launched in 2014 for $5.99 monthly with ads ($9.99 without) featuring original, primetime and catalog CBS programming online and streaming devices without long-term contract.

Showtime OTT bowed in 2015 featuring the premium channel’s original content and third-party movies for $10.99 monthly fee.

“We are generating significant momentum with our direct-to-consumer platforms, which provide a great return-on-investment and represent one of our most powerful long-term growth drivers,” Joe Ianniello, acting CEO said in a statement.

Indeed, growth in Showtime OTT subscribers through Amazon Channels helped drive cable networks revenue up 8% to $551 million for the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) from $508 million in the prior-year period. Other revenue drivers included higher international licensing sales, and revenue from the Deontay Wilder/Tyson Fury pay-per-view boxing event in December.

Operating income of $193 million decreased 7% from $207 million for the same prior-year period, reflecting an increased investment in programming.

Entertainment segment revenue — which includes All Access — dipped 1% to $2.83 billion from $2.86 billion, reflecting 14% lower content licensing and distribution revenue, mainly as a result of the timing of international licensing sales and several large domestic sales in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Affiliate and subscription fees grew 17%, led by growth from All Access and higher revenue from station affiliation fees and virtual MVPDs. Advertising revenue increased 2%, reflecting revenue from Network 10, which was acquired in the fourth quarter of 2017.

This increase was partially offset by the absence of the broadcast of “Thursday Night Football” in 2018. Underlying CBS Network advertising for the fourth quarter of 2018 increased 2% from last year’s fourth quarter.

Entertainment operating income of $438 million for the fourth quarter of 2018 decreased 6% from $465 million for the same prior-year period, primarily reflecting the lower revenue and an increased investment in content and digital initiatives. These decreases were partially offset by the absence of programming costs associated with “Thursday Night Football.”

 

 

Amazon Nixes Second HQ Plans in New York

Amazon has dropped plans to build a second headquarter in New York City — citing local and regional political opposition.

Freshman House representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had been critical of the project, citing union issues and possible displacement of families due to construction.

The sprawling headquarters slated for Long Island City, Queens had pledged to employ about 25,000 people in exchange for $3 billion in local and city tax benefits.

The New York location, which culminated in a widely publicized two-year search by Amazon to locate a second HQ to its Seattle headquarters, had met increasing local political pushback since its announcement. Critics argued against spending tax dollars to support one the wealthiest companies in the world.

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“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens,” Amazon said in a statement.

The ecommerce behemoth said moving forward with the project required “positive, collaborative relationships” with state and local elected officials.

Amazon said that while polls indicated 70% of New Yorkers supported the headquarters, a number of state and local politicians “made it clear” they opposed the idea and would not work with the company.

“We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture — and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents,” Amazon said.

There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and Amazon said it plans to “grow” these teams.

Amazon said it does not intend to re-open the HQ2 search at this time, and would proceed as planned office locations in Northern Virginia and Nashville.

“We will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada,” said the company.

NATO: Streaming Video Not Stealing Moviegoers

Theatrical owners, especially trade group National Association of Theater Operators have long criticized efforts by over-the-top video services (i.e. Netflix) to shorten the theatrical window.

Their argument underscoring the contention that streaming video competes against theatrical distribution and negatively impacts consumers frequenting movie theaters.

So, it was a little unusual when NATO released data from a proprietary survey conducted by consultant Ernest & Young suggesting video streamers are more likely to be avid moviegoers than non-streamers.

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Citing a survey of 2,500 respondents, 80% of whom said they saw at least one theatrical movie and streamed video in the last 12 months, average streaming hours per week was higher among frequent moviegoers than respondents who visited a theater only once or twice.

Respondents who visited a theater infrequently reported an average of seven hours of streaming video per week versus 11 hours of streaming per week for those who visited a theater frequently.

The study found that nearly half (49%) of respondents who didn’t frequent a theater in the past 12 months, didn’t stream video content at all. Another 18% streamed online content for eight or more hours per week.

“The results of this study dispel the common myth that millennials are going to the theatre less as they stream more content,” Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a Feb. 11 note. “Actually, quite the opposite appears to be true. There is a positive relationship between theatre attendance and streaming volume.”

Dish Expects More Sub Losses When HBO’s Final ‘Game of Thrones’ Season Begins in April

Dish Network lost more than 1 million video subscribers in 2018, including 334,000 in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2018. The satellite pay-TV operator attributed the losses to ongoing carriage disputes with Univision and HBO.

With HBO set to begin the airing the eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones,” on April 14, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen believes sub losses could increase unless an agreement is reached. He said Dish subs have learned to live without HBO due in part to the channel’s lack of significant new programming in Q4 (with the exception of “True Detective”).

“I think that realistically you would expect that when “Game of Thrones” comes on you may see a pickup in defections,” Ergen said on Feb. 13 fiscal call – adding that losing long-time distribution partners underscored the changing dynamics of pay-TV in an era of over-the-top video.

Indeed, some analysts attributed 200,000 of Dish’s Q4 sub losses to the HBO dispute – a figure management didn’t entirely dispute – and the reality consumers can access the premium channel as standalone product HBO Now and via Amazon Channels.

CEO Erik Carlson said that with HBO owner AT&T an active satellite competitor (via DirecTV), negotiations remain at an impasse.

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“HBO is demanding a [carriage] contract that would have forced Dish customers to subsidize both HBO and Cinemax even if customers chose not to subscribe to those services,” Carlson said.

Dish charged subscribers $15 and $10 monthly for HBO and Cinemax, respectively, under the previous contract.

The executive said AT&T/HBO’s negotiating strategy underscores Dish’s ongoing opposition to the AT&T/Time Warner merger that created AT&T’s  WarnerMedia unit.

The merger, which has been appealed by the Justice Department, is currently under review by a federal appeals court judge.

“Our view hasn’t changed: AT&T’s uncompromising stance remains the fundamental negative of their merger with Time Warner,” Carlson said.

 

Report: Apple Video Service Bowing Without Netflix, HBO, Hulu

When it comes to streaming video, Apple has largely been a spectator. In fact, the late Steve Jobs infamously considered Apple TV a “hobby.”

But the company synonymous with consumer electronics innovation is spearheading a major push into OTT video this year, including spending more than $1 billion on original content.

With a brand as powerful as Disney’s, Apple apparently believes it is worth a lot in the OTT ecosystem.

CEO Tim Cook said as much on the recent fiscal call.

“We see huge changes in customer behavior taking place now and we think that it will accelerate as the year goes by with the breakdown of the cable bundle,” he said. “I think that it’ll likely take place at a much faster pace this year.”

Indeed, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company is upping the ante for third-parties along for the streaming ride on its platform — reportedly set to launch by May without heavyweights Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now.

While both brands are available on the Apple TV streaming media device, CNBC reports the new platform will operate similarly to Amazon Channels as facilitator to original and third-party OTT services — the latter for a cut of the subscriber action.

Apple, which gets 15% commission per third-party subscriber generated through the App store, now wants 30% per sub on the new platform, according to CNBC. The Wall Street Journal previously reported Apple is looking at a 50% split for its pending news streaming service.

Apparently, Netflix, Hulu and HBO aren’t biting, while Lionsgate-owned Starz, Showtime OTT and Viacom are. HBO, Starz and Showtime are available on Amazon Channels.

 

Chicago Cubs, Sinclair Partner for Pay-TV Network — and Streaming

More than 70 years of watching Chicago Cubs baseball broadcasts over the air is coming to an end.

The 2016 World Series winner and Sinclair Broadcast Group Feb. 13 announced a partnership to create the Marquee Sports Network — a new regional sports network (RSN) to be marketed to cable, satellite and telco pay-TV operators beginning in 2020.

The Cubs currently split broadcasts between local networks WGN-9 and WLS-7.

The new RSN will air regular season games, expanded pregame and postgame coverage, archive broadcasts and other local sports programming.

“We’ve been looking at this for a while,” Crane Kenney, president of business operations for the Cubs, told the Chicago Tribune. “We think the new network is going to give our fans unprecedented access and a richer, deeper connection to the team.”

The move comes as RSNs — notably those owned by Fox and Disney — come under increased interest by third parties, including over-the-top video behemoths Amazon and Yahoo.

Also, in a fragmented video landscape, pay-TV operators are upping proprietary and third-party OTT ventures (i.e. Comcast, Netflix, YouTube) to sustain subscribers and attract new ones.

The Cubs and Sinclair also plan to market their network to OTT platforms.

“We have strong relationships with cable companies and satellite operators,” said Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley. “That is a key function we will fill here.”

Bob Leib, a professional sports consultant, told the Tribune that even in a loss-leader priced video world, consumers are willing to pay for sports – a reality driven by affiliate fees charged by the Cubs and Sinclair for the RSN.

“The fan subscriber’s insatiable demand for game programming creates a built in tolerance for price increases,” Leib said.