Quibi Streaming Service Gets Pre-Launch Validation with T-Mobile Pact

Quibi, the pending short-form video streaming service launching in 2020 from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP chief executive Meg Whitman, has reportedly inked a distribution deal with T-Mobile.

Financial terms and specifics of the deal were not disclosed. Quibi is slated to launch its $4.99 monthly service in 2020.

Quibi will deliver original video content no longer than 10 minutes in length from a variety of content sources, including directors Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro, Antoine Fuqua, Steven Spielberg, Lorne Michaels and producer Jason Blum, among others.

“Quibi will deliver premium video content for millennials on a technology platform that is built exclusively for mobile, so a telecommunications partner like T-Mobile, with their broad coverage today and impressive 5G road map, is the perfect fit,” Whitman told the the Los Angeles Times.

Quibi co-founnders Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg

The platform is eager to link to T-Mobile’s 83.1 million cellphone subscribers and 5G network ambitions. And T-Mobile just received FCC approval for its $26.5 billion acquisition of Sprint.

“Quibi is leading the way on how video content is made and experienced in a mobile-first world,” Mike Sievert, COO of T-Mobile, said. “That’s why our partnership makes perfect sense — two mobile-centric disrupters coming together to give customers something new and remarkable.”

 

 

HBO Max Secures Rights to Japan’s Studio Ghibli Movies

HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s pending subscription streaming video platform, has acquired first-time streaming rights to Studio Ghibli’s movie catalog. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

The Japan-based animation studio’s titles include: Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo, and Castle in the Sky, among others.

“Studio Ghibli films are visually breathtaking, completely immersive experiences” Kevin Reilly, CCO HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, and truTV, said in a statement. “We are proud to showcase them in an accessible way for even more fans through HBO Max.”

The studio’s animation directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki, have won countless international awards, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for Spirited Away, as well as four additional Academy Award nominations for Howl’s Moving CastleThe Wind RisesThe Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and When Marnie Was There.

Director and studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki was separately given an Honorary Award at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards in 2014, and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will pay tribute to his artwork with a special exhibit when the Museum opens in 2020.

Koji Hoshino, chairman of Studio Ghibli, called HBO Max the ideal “home” for its feature film content.

“Upon launch of the service this spring, existing Ghibli fans will be able enjoy their favorites and delve deeper into the library, while whole new audiences will be able to discover our films for the first time,” Hoshino said.

 

NPD: September Video Game Sales Drop 8%

As expected, sales of video game hardware and software continued their monthly decline, with September revenue down 8% to $1.27 billion compared with $1.39 billion from the previous-year period, according to new data from The NPD Group.

“Year-to-date spending across tracked video game hardware, software, accessories, and game cards has fallen 6% when compared to 2018, to $8.3 billion,” analyst Mat Piscatella said in video blog. “Declines in hardware spending have driven the decrease.”

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Indeed, sales of game consoles and handheld devices plummeted 22% to $240 million from $307 million last year. Hardware sales continue to be negatively impacted by Microsoft and Sony not releasing new edition consoles until the 2020 winter holidays.

Software sales dropped 4% to $732 million from $761 million in 2018. Accessories and game cards fell 7% to $308 million from $328 million last year.

Top-selling titles in the month based on revenue (not units)

  1. NBA 2K20
  2. Borderlands 3
  3. FIFA 20
  4. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
  5. Madden NFL 20
  6. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
  7. Gears 5
  8. Code Vein
  9. NHL 20
  10. Mario Kart 8
  11. Minecraft
  12. Grand Theft Auto V
  13. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  14. Spyro Reignited Trilogy
  15. Red Dead Redemption II
  16. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege
  17. Plants vs Zombies: Battle For Neighborville
  18. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  19. Catherine
  20. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

 

NBA TV Streaming Service Now Available as Standalone Product

With the 2019-2020 NBA season about to start, the league for the first time is selling its NBA TV streaming service without a requisite pay-TV contract.

NBA TV, which affords subscribers live access to out-of-market games, costs $6.99 monthly or $59.99 annually, which comes out to $4.99 per month.

The league also offers NBA League Pass priced from $119.99 to $249.99 annually, which afford subs access to commercial free live streaming, archived games, condensed game replays, radio broadcasts, VR access and NBA Finals, among other features.

Launched in 1999 as a 24-hour cable channel, NBA League Pass began offering streaming video access to select games in 2006. It became available on Dish Network’s Sling TV online platform in 2018.

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Did Netflix’s ‘El Camino’ Run Out of Gas?

Netflix’s big-budget “Breaking Bad” movie sequel (El Camino) from creator Vince Gilligan offers a lengthy tale of morality and redemption through the gritty eyes of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) — the meth-cooking partner-in-crime to high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston), whose character perished in the 2013 series finale.

El Camino — name of the 1978 Chevrolet Pinkman made his escape in the series conclusion — premiered on Netflix Oct. 11, reportedly generating 8.2 million viewers in the United States opening weekend, including an average of 6.5 million per minute, and 2.6 million per minute opening day, according Nielsen.

Some media reports say the data portended a strong theatrical weekend if Netflix bothered to distribute original movies via industry norms.

The data made news largely based on the “Breaking Bad” legacy and the fact Netflix remains secretive about ratings data of original programming.

It also suggests the possibility El Camino hasn’t generated much traction with subscribers as might be expected compared with other high-profile Netflix movies. Or perhaps Nielsen disclosed incomplete data.

Regardless, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and CCO Ted Sarandos made no mention of the movie during the service’s Oct. 16 fiscal webcast. Which was telling.

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The service last year said a lot about Bird Box, Sandra Bullock’s dystopian thriller that attracted 45 million households during its first week of release.

Kevin Costner’s Bonnie & Clyde thriller The Highwaymen generated 40-million first-month views, and Ben Affleck auctioneer Triple Frontier attracted 52 million households in 30 days.

The Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston original comedy Murder Mystery set an all-time weekend streaming record with 30.87 million views. Another 20 million streamed The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus.

On the Oct. 16 webcast, however, Sarandos just talked about pending movie releases 6 Underground, The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes, among others.

“It’s our first time we’ve seen the scale and this volume of films in one quarter, so we’re really excited about it,” Sarandos said.

Meanwhile, El Camino remains idling in the garage.

Nintendo Switch Game Console Tops 15 Million Unit Sales in North America

Nintendo continues to spearhead the sluggish North American video game industry as market rivals Microsoft and Sony ready next-generation consoles launches a year from now.

Nintendo Oct. 17 disclosed it has sold 15 million Switch and Switch Lite consoles in North America since the device’s bow in 2017. The console has sold another 10 million units in Europe, which combined reported top PlayStation 4 console sales.

The Japanese hardware manufacturer’s Switch platform has led The NPD Group’s monthly game market research data for more than 10 straight months.

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The company said Switch titles have average more than 1 million unit sales each, including four that have surpassed have surpassed 6 million unit sales: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

 

Report: India Considering Censorship of Netflix, Amazon, Disney Streaming Video Content

With India and its second-largest population in the world, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney have aggressively sought an over-the-top video presence in the nascent market.

The influx of foreign SVOD services has reportedly prompted some government officials to ask for increased monitoring of content on the platforms — above existing regulations.

Reuters reports that public complaints about alleged obscenity or religious slights included in foreign streamed programming has some Indian lawmakers considering content censorship.

“The self-regulation isn’t the same for all, which is raising a concern … the directions are clear, we have to see how to address the problems,” an unidentified government official told the news agency.

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Indeed, Netflix and Disney-owned Hotstar agreed to sign a self-regulation of content code, while Amazon did not.

Netflix’s popular original series “Sacred Games,” about an Indian cop rooting out corruption and violence, has reportedly faced unsuccessful legal challenges regarding alleged offensive scenes and negative comments about Hindus and a former Prime Minister.

Other complaints have revolved around the lack of mandatory anti-smoking messages on Bollywood content streaming Netlfix and Prime Video.

“With [censorship] regulation, all of the [global] content will need to be sanitized for India – a huge, expensive and time-consuming exercise,” global tech analyst Prasanto Roy told Reuters.

“Sacred Games,” now in its second season, has been an international hit for Netflix, including translation in 20 languages.

“We’ve been producing shows that are incredibly relevant in their home territories, and the nice windfall is that they get viewed all over the world,” Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos said March. “It’s really accelerating the brand perception of Netflix as … someone who’s producing content that you care about in every part of the world.”

 

Netflix Brass Doubles Down Indifference to Pending SVOD Competition

With Disney and Apple just weeks away from launching branded subscription streaming video services, Netflix remains defiant to the pending competition, which includes service launches from WarnerMedia (HBO Max) and NBC Universal (Peacock) early next year.

Speaking on the Oct. 16 fiscal earnings webcast, CCO Ted Sarandos walked back any apparent corporate weakness regarding comments CEO Reed Hastings made in the United Kingdom last month about a whole new world in over-the-top video awaiting come November.

“I think I got the subtlety of the brave – the whole new world Aladdin reference,” Sarandos quipped. “Everyone else took it pretty literal.”

Many on Wall Street had taken Hastings’ comment to suggest Netflix was concerned, especially after HBO Max and Peacock took away Netflix streaming rights to popular reruns of “Seinfeld” and “The Office,” respectively.

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“From when we began in [2007] streaming, Hulu and YouTube and Amazon Prime Video were all in the market,” Hastings said. “All four of us have been competing heavily, including with linear TV, for the last 12 years. So fundamentally, there’s not a big change here.”

Hastings said he found it “interesting” to see both Apple and Disney launching services in the same week after 12 years of not showing much interest in SVOD.

“I was being a little playful with a whole new world in the sense of the drama of it coming,” Hastings added. “But fundamentally, it’s more of the same, and Disney is going to be a great competitor. Apple is just beginning, but they’ll probably have some great shows, too.”

Indeed, until just recently, Disney exclusively licensed original movies and rights to create original Marvel TV series to Netflix.

The Netflix co-founder reiterated that the SVOD market remains more in competition with linear TV than within its market. He said OTT video is still a relatively small player compared to broadcast TV.

“So, just like in the [shareholder] letter … [writing about] multiple cable networks over the last 30 years not really competing with each other fundamentally but competing with broadcast TV, I think it’s the same kind of dynamic here [with streaming video],” Hastings said.

 

‘Last Week Tonight’ Host John Oliver Mocks HBO Max

British comic John Oliver has never shied away from calling out perceived hypocrisy within corporate America, social media and politics — even if it includes his network employer.

His weekly satirical look at events and newsmakers has made HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” a critical success at industry awards, including winning multiple Primetime Emmy Awards.

On the Oct. 13 broadcast, Oliver included a segment on the NBA’s political entanglement with China and issues involving pro-democracy forces in the semi-autonomous Chinese region of Hong Kong.

Specifically, the NBA has recently found itself in hot water with China after the GM of the Houston Rockets “liked” a social media tweet, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” indicating solidarity with the protestors.

In response, Chinese media announced it would not air or stream NBA games in the quasi Communist country, and two major retailers pulled Rockets apparel from store shelves.

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Significant moves considering the NBA has business deals worth upwards of $4 billion in the Peoples Republic.

Oliver then showed a corny clip of NBA stars celebrating the Chinese New Year with the following retort: “There’s just nothing more cringeworthy  than watching someone forced to engage in promotional bullshit to appease  the whims of their parent company.”

Oliver then spun his chair 45 degrees, and with a glazed look in a monotone voice recited a PR plug for the pending subscription streaming video platform, HBO Max.

“Have you heard of HBO Max? Looking to add another app and monthly charge to watch things?,” Oliver deadpanned. “HBO Max has you covered. It’s going to have all your favorites: Reruns of ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ reruns of ‘Friends,’ reruns of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’. You can pay for all of those through HBO Max. HBO Max. It’s not HBO. It’s just TV.”

HBO Max launches in early 2020.

 

Netflix Just Misses Q3 Subscriber Growth Estimates; Shares Up Regardless

Netflix Oct. 16 said it added 6.77 million subscribers in the third quarter ended Sept. 30. The tally was 230,000 fewer than the subscription streaming video pioneer had projected — but up 700,000 subs from the previous-year period.

In the U.S., paid net sub adds totaled 500,000, down from 800,000 forecast and 998,000 last year. It ended the period with 60.6 million domestic subs compared to 56.9 million in the previous-year period.

The SVOD behemoth has added 2.1 million domestic subs through nine months of the fiscal year compared 4.1 million in the first nine months of 2018.

Netflix ended the fiscal period with 158.33 million subs worldwide compared to 130.42 million subs during the previous-year period.

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In the shareholder letter, CEO Reed Hastings and CFO Spencer Neumann tried sugarcoating the sub growth miss as a result of management’s desire to “strive for accuracy” in fiscal disclosures.

“In Q3, our guidance forecast was our most accurate in recent history,” they wrote.

Netflix cited the recent domestic price hike for undermining sub retention from pre-price-change levels in the U.S.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based service has revised downward global Q4 sub growth estimates to 7.6 million from 8.8 million a year ago, with 600,000 in the U.S. and 7 million for the international segment.

The projection suggests Netflix would add 26.7 million subs in 2019, down from 28.6 million last year.

Again, management alluded to “less precision” in its ability to forecast the impact of the current Q4 content slate, which consists of several new big IP launches (as opposed to returning seasons), the elevated sub churn in response to price changes, and forthcoming competition, i.e. Apple TV+, Disney+.

“While the new competitors have some great titles (especially catalog titles), none have the variety, diversity and quality of new original programming that we are producing around the world,” Hastings & Neumann wrote.

Indeed, the service said revenue growth has accelerated as domestic ARPU increased 16.5% from the previous-year period.

“With more revenue, we’ll continue to invest to improve our service to further strengthen our value proposition,” they wrote. “Our long term outlook on our business is unchanged.”

Finally, Netflix’s legacy by-mail disc rental service ended the period with more than 2.2 million subs, down from 2.8 million last year. The segment continues to generate substantial profits with more than $44 million added to the bottom line. That was down from contribution income of $51.6 million last year.

Wall Street welcomed Netflix’s increase profit (up 65% to $665 million) and relatively flat sub additions. Shares increased more than 8% in aftermarket trading.