Amazon Rolls Out ‘Watch Party’ Platform Enabling Prime Video Members to Watch Content Socially Connected

Amazon Prime Video has joined Hulu, Netflix, HBO and other digital platforms in unveiling a social media campaign, dubbed “Watch Party,” that enables users in the United States to live-chat with other connected viewers during a movie or TV show.

Prime members will be able to choose from thousands of titles available on the platform’s SVOD catalog (titles available at no additional cost to Prime members), including Amazon Originals such as Emmy Award winners “Fleabag” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “HANNA,” “Mindy Kaling’s Late Night,” “Donald Glover’s Guava Island,” “Troop Zero,” Academy Award-nominated The Big Sick, “The Boys,” “Homecoming,” and “My Spy,” among many others.

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Titles feature a special “Watch Party” icon/link that can be shared with up to 100 other Prime members and accessed when clicking on the link. Co-viewing content has become popular as segments of the country remain sheltered-in-place during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Netflix Party” (on Google Chrome only) and HBO’s “virtual theater” enable multiple viewers to share access to a title or episodic program on portable devices. Amazon first tested the “Watch Party” concept this past spring on its Twitch video game streaming platform.

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Prime members will be able to host and participate in Watch Party, providing synchronized playback, which the host controls, and a chat feature to communicate with participants along with built in stickers. Watch Party will accommodate up to 100 participants per session (each participant must have a Prime membership or Prime Video subscription and must be based in the U.S.).

Season Two of ‘The Boys’ Arrives on Amazon Prime Video Sept. 4

The superhero satire “The Boys” will return to Amazon Prime Video for its second season starting Sept. 4. Three episodes will be available the first day, with new episodes each Friday through the finale on Oct. 9.

The next eight episodes of Amazon Original series produced by Amazon Studios, Sony Pictures Television Studios with Point Grey Pictures, Kripke Enterprises and Original Film will be available on Prime Video in more than 200 territories around the world.

“We cannot wait to show you season two. It’s crazier, stranger, more intense, more emotional,” creator and executive producer Eric Kripke said in a statement.

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Based on the comic book by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, “The Boys” is an irreverent look at what happens when popular superheroes, known as supes, abuse their powers, as an activist group known as The Boys tries to expose the truth about the superhero team The Seven and their coprorate sponsors, Voight.

Season two finds the members of The Boys on the run and hunted by the supes. In hiding, Hughie (Jack Quaid), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capon) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) try to adjust to a new normal, with Butcher (Karl Urban) nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, Starlight (Erin Moriarty) must navigate her place in The Seven as Homelander (Antony Starr) sets his sights on taking complete control. His power is threatened with the addition of Stormfront (Aya Cash), a social media-savvy new supe with an agenda of her own. On top of that, a supervillain threat gives Vought an opportunity to capitalize on the nation’s paranoia.

The supes of The Seven also include Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), The Deep (Chace Crawford) and Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell). Recurring stars in season two include Claudia Doumit, Goran Visnijc, Malcolm Barrett, Colby Minifie, Shantel VanSanten, Cameron Crovetti, PJ Byrne, Laila Robbins and Giancarlo Esposito.

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Prime members can stream “The Boys” exclusively via the Prime Video app for TVs, connected devices including Fire TV, mobile devices and online. Members can also download it to mobile devices for offline viewing at no additional cost to their membership.

UPDATE: Amazon Prime Video Eyeing Live Television — a Non-Starter

Amazon Prime Video was reported to be the latest SVOD considering offering ad-supported live television to subscribers — similar to Hulu with Live TV and online TV services such as Sling TV, YouTube TV, The Roku Channel, and AT&T TV Now, among others.

An Amazon representative June 24 disclosed that reports about the ecommerce behemoth recruiting people on social media with live TV experience, including those with executive experience launching online TV, have nothing to do with launching a proprietary online TV platform.

“There is nothing new here as we already offer hundreds of live TV stations around the world today,” the rep said in an email.

The rep said job postings referenced are for the teams currently supporting third-party live TV stations via Prime Video Channels, and include linear channels such as CBS All Access and Showtime in the U.S., Stack TV in Canada, Eurosport in Germany and U.K., among others.

“Customers who sign up for these type of channel subscriptions already get access to their 24/7 station stream,” the rep said.

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The confusion started when media reports surfaced about LinkedIn post such as this: “We are seeking an experienced product manager for the Prime Video Linear TV team to redefine how customers watch 24/7 linear broadcast TV content,” read the listing. “Linear TV enables customers to watch 24/7 streams of their favorite TV stations airing programs including sports, news, movies, award shows, special events and TV shows.”

Prime Video heretofore has avoided live TV with the exception of its “NFL Thursday Night Football” and English Premier League soccer webcasts, preferring SVOD and transactional VOD and third-party OTT platforms via Prime Channels.

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Online site Protocol, citing personnel familiar with the situation, had reported Amazon was seeking to offer individual live-TV channels as opposed to the conventional bundle. Indeed, when Dish Network in 2015 bowed the first standalone online TV platform, Sling TV, it was able for the first time to market ESPN without the traditional pay-TV bundle. ESPN at the time was the most expensive pay-TV channel offered.

Sling TV, which once led all platforms in subscribers, has been steadily losing subs. And Sony Interactive Entertainment in January shuttered PlayStation Vue, citing a lack of consumer demand.

“Unfortunately, the highly competitive pay-TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected,” Sony said in a statement.

Amazon Acquires Rights to Voting Rights Doc Co-Produced by Stacey Abrams

Amazon Studios has acquired worldwide rights to an untitled voting rights documentary from production company Story Syndicate.

The documentary, which prominently features insights from politician, lawyer and author Stacey Abrams, is directed by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Liz Garbus and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lisa Cortés. Currently in post-production, the film is produced by Garbus, Cortés, Academy Award-winning producer Dan Cogan and Abrams.

The documentary is slated for release on Amazon Prime Video this year with a theatrical run prior.

The documentary examines the issue of voter suppression in the United States in anticipation of the 2020 presidential election. The film interweaves personal experiences with current activism and historical insight to expose a problem that has challenged our democracy from the very beginning. With the perspective and expertise of Abrams, the former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, the documentary will offer an insider’s look into laws and barriers to voting.

“We are honored to be working with brilliant filmmakers Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés and the remarkable Stacey Abrams on this timely and important documentary,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, in a statement. “In this critical election year, Stacey’s expertise and fearless stance against voter suppression will resonate strongly with audiences everywhere and can inspire positive change in supporting all Americans’ right to cast their vote.”

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“Working with Stacey Abrams is the honor of a lifetime,” Garbus and Cortés said in a statement. “The story of voting rights is not just one of the Civil Rights Movement and the 1960s. It’s a story for right now. It’s a monster movie where you think you’ve mortally wounded the beast, but it keeps rearing its ugly head, as last week’s primary in Georgia so painfully demonstrated. And nothing less than democracy is at stake.”

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“Raising the alarm about voter suppression is critical to the integrity of our democracy,” Abrams said in a statement. “The failure of state leaders in Georgia and other states across the country to protect the rights of voters, as seen in the 2018 election and 2020 primaries, must be exposed and it must be stopped. Justice in our criminal justice system and the sacred right to vote are not equal for all Americans and we must find a way to change these systematic inequalities. As the 2020 election approaches, this documentary will help voters realize the power of their voices, and it will inspire them to overcome the obstacles of voter suppression.”

Disney+ Tops 4.3 Million Subs in United Kingdom in One Month

Subscription streaming video service Disney+ ended April as the United Kingdom’s third-largest SVOD player, with 4.3 million subscribers — just weeks after launching on March 24, according to new data from Omdia Consumer Research.

Disney’s SVOD service has a 16.8% market share, which trails Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which claimed 58.4% and 46.9% market share, respectively.

“Disney+ arrived in the U.K. just as COVID-19 social distancing and quarantine measures commenced,” Maria Rua Aguete, senior research director of video, TV and advertising for Omdia, said in a statement. “Streaming services … have become the biggest winners during the lockdown as consumers have sought new entertainment experiences to keep themselves entertained.”

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Aguete said current catalogs offered by SVOD services have become increasingly alluring to viewers, given than the pandemic has halted production of new video content.

Streaming services such as Disney+ are also reaping the benefits as subscriptions fall for competitive pay TV and over-the-top (OTT) sports-focused platforms, such as DAZN,

These same dynamics are also propelling the success of Disney+ in other regions. Disney is now the fourth-ranked SVOD provider in the United States. Disney in April claimed 25% of U.S. SVOD subscribers, compared with 29% for Hulu, 47% for Prime Video and 60% for Netflix. One out of four U.S. households now has access to Disney+, Omdia’s survey revealed.

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Amazon Prime Video to Stream Resumed Premier League Soccer for Free

Amazon Prime Video June 3 announced it would stream for free the first four matches of the Premier League when the British professional soccer organization resumes play June 17. Streamers will not be required to have a Prime membership to watch the matches.

Amazon, along with Comcast-owned Sky Sports, BT Sport and the BBC divvy up broadcasting and/or streaming the 92 remaining Premier League matches of the 2019-20 season.

“Like the rest of the country, we are excited to see the Premier League return to action,” Alex Green, managing director of Prime Video Sport Europe, said in a statement.

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Four matches will also be shown on the BBC, the first time the channel has shown Premier League matches since the league was founded back in 1992, according to Ampere Analysis. Free rights to 33 of the seasons remaining 92 matches have been made available so all matches can be broadcast live. Main pay-TV rights holders Sky will also show 25 games free to air through its channel, Pick.

Amazon last December 4 and 9 began streaming 10 Premier League matches, resulting in record Prime sign-ups, according to the ecommerce behemoth.

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Green said Prime Video was first ever broadcaster to stream 10 games live in a fixture round, which involves two separate matches between the same teams in opposing stadiums; the winner with the highest combined score advancing.

“We are thrilled and humbled by the positive response from Prime members not only to the production and streaming experience, but also the innovations we have introduced, such as integrated live match stats and highlights through X-Ray plus the ability to experience commentary-free stadium atmosphere,” Green said in December.

Season Two of Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ on Disc Aug. 4

Paramount Home Entertainment will release Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan: Season Two on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Aug. 4.

The show stars John Krasinski as the CIA analyst from the series of novels by Tom Clancy. In the second season, Jack investigates potentially illegal arms shipments in Venezuela. As Jack threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission to unravel the President’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos.​

The cast also includes Wendell Pierce, Michael Kelly, Tom Wlaschiha, Noomi Rapace, Jordi Molla and Cristina Umaña.

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The two-disc Blu-ray and three-disc DVD sets will include all eight second-season episodes, plus exclusive deleted scenes.

The series has already been renewed for a third season on Amazon Prime Video.

U.K. Remains Netflix’s No. 2 Subscriber Market

The United Kingdom was Netflix’s second international market launch in 2012 following Canada in 2010. Through the first quarter 2020, the U.K. now represents slightly more than 13 million Netflix subs — second-largest behind North America with 69.9 million.

New data from Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board found that Netflix’s appeal in the U.K. after eight years remains strong, with the SVOD pioneer upping its sub base 13.4% from 11.46 million in 2019. Amazon Prime Video upped it sub base 32% to nearly 7.9 million homes, while Sky’s Now TV is found in 1.6 million homes.

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In Q4 2019, the proportion of homes with at least one SVOD subscription was 50.5%, a majority of homes for the first time. That percentage now tops 53% at 15 million. The percentage of homes with at least two services reached 24%, or 6.67 million homes.

Netflix and Amazon saw similar levels of growth in the number of households that subscribe to their services,” BARB wrote in a statement. “Amazon’s increase represents a larger year-on-year percentage growth versus Netflix’s due to Amazon’s lower number of household subscribers.”

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Report: Global SVOD Subs to Top 776 Million by 2025

As expected, the coronavirus lockdown has jumpstarted consumer adoption of over-the-top video services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

New data from Rethink Technology Research (RTR) finds that COVID-19 lockdowns generated a 8.9% boost to the SVOD market, which he says will reach $72.3 billion in revenue and 775.8 million subscribers by 2025.

“When measured against our historic projections, we believe that the lockdowns will result in an 8.7% increase in subscriptions, and a 7.9% increase in revenue in 2020,” the research group wrote in a note.

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As Netflix’s first-quarter results revealed, the worldwide SVOD market is expected to be positively impacted by the COVID-19, as consumers turn to SVOD services to fill increased viewing hours. As a result, the launch of Disney+ could not have come at “a more opportune time,” despite the virus’ negative impact on the rest of Disney’s business units.

Disney+ is projected to pass Prime Video and further narrow the gap with Netflix by 2025. RTR contends SVOD remains the “nail in the coffin” for traditional pay-TV.

“It is hard to see how viewers with two or more SVOD services can ever return to the conventional pay-TV model,” read the note. “The three streaming providers have … the biggest opportunity to rip market share from the pay TV market … and their projected success means they will fundamentally alter the viewing habits of hundreds of millions of households.”

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RTR believes once kids are locked into a SVOD library such as Disney’s, parents will be reluctant to cancel the service and others.

“When the subscription prices are this low, SVOD services become very sticky offerings,” read the report.

U.K. SVOD Market to Double Subs in Five Years

It’s a SVOD market in the United Kingdom — regardless of the coronavirus pandemic. New research from GlobalData contends growth in subscription video-on-demand is set to double over the next five years. The total number of SVOD subscriptions is expected to increase from 22.4 million to 44.6 million. Total market revenue is projected to also double to £3 billion ($3.6 billion) in 2024 from £1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) last year.

While the London-based research firm agrees there will be some positive impact on SVOD adoption from COVID-19, it expects this to be outweighed by a combination of lockdown-driven adoption and consumer take-up of new services such as Disney+, Apple TV+, Acorn TV and BritBox, among others.

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“Prior to COVID-19, the SVOD market in the U.K. was experiencing a high rate of growth, with no sign of plateauing,” Joel Cooper, senior director, telecoms market data and intelligence, said in a statement.

The U.K. market has traditionally been dominated by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, with Comcast-owned Sky’s Now TV in third place. GlobalData now believes Disney+’s impact is expected to be particularly pronounced given its brand power, breadth of premium content and low price.

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In the U.S., Disney+ acquired about 25 million paying subscribers just two months after launching in November 2019, equivalent to around 10% SVOD subscriber market share.

“SVOD in the U.K. is a long way from saturation point,” Cooper said. “The market represents a clear opportunity for existing players as well as potential new entrants.”