Sony Pictures TV Chairman Mike Hopkins Joins Amazon Prime Video

Mike Hopkins, the former Hulu CEO who left to become chairman of Sony Pictures Television, is moving back to over-the-top video, becoming SVP at Prime Video and Amazon Studios. Hopkins begins on Feb. 24, reporting to founder Jeff Bezos.

Hopkins replaces Jeffrey Blackburn, who previously announced he was taking a one-year sabbatical in 2020. Jen Salke, head of Amazon Studios, reports to Hopkins.

Hopkins previously headed Hulu, before leaving to become chairman of Sony Pictures Television.

“I want to thank Mike for his outstanding leadership since arriving at the studio in late 2017. From day one he was charged with rethinking the way we run our television businesses,” Tony Vinciquerra, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, wrote in a staff memo.

Blackburn, in a separate Amazon staff memo, said Hopkins has more than 20 years of industry experience at Fox, Hulu and Sony — including an extensive track record as a global business leader in media, film and TV — negotiating landmark content and distribution agreements, running marketing operations, leading product/tech teams, and overseeing production of television content.

Hopkins’ responsibilities at Sony will be split between Keith LeGoy, worldwide distribution president, and Jeff Frost, president of U.S. production.


Research: Disney Streaming Service to Top 126 Million Subs by 2025

On the heels of Disney’s successful subscriber results for its flagship streaming service Disney+, Digital TV Research has revamped its projections for the SVOD platform.

The London-based firm projects Disney+ will be the “biggest SVOD winner” over the next five years, adding 105 million paying subs between the end of 2019 through 2025, topping 126 million.

Disney+ will reach 53% of Netflix’s subscriber total by 2025 — up from 27% in 2020. Five global SVOD platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+) will have 553 million paying subs by 2025, adding 196 million subscribers between 2020 and 2025.

Netflix will gain 51 million subs between 2020 and 2025, accounting for 44% of the five platforms’ subscribers, down from 53% in 2020.

“Much of this initial growth will come from the United States, principally due to the attractive bundling of Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, said in a statement. “ESPN+ and Hulu are not yet available outside the U.S., but we still expect strong Disney+ take-up globally.”

Digital TV Research expects HBO Max will have 30 million paying subs by 2025, with Apple TV+ having 26 million.

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Amazon Tops 150 Million Prime Members

Amazon on its Jan. 30 fiscal call confirmed it ended fiscal-year 2019 with 150 million Prime members worldwide. That’s a 50% surge from the last official membership disclosure of 100 million Prime members.

Prime members have access to Prime Video and other Prime features such as music and books, suggesting Prime Video now has about 17 million subs less than Netflix. Amazon also offers Prime Video as a separate standalone service.

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“We mentioned that more people joined Prime in Q4 than any other quarter before,” CFO Brian Olsavsky said on the call.

Olsavsky said the subscriber surge helped Amazon exceed its high-end revenue guidance of $86.5 billion by $900 million, including about $400 million in foreign exchange rates.

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Amazon subscription services segment revenue topped $5.2 billion in the quarter, up 32% from the previous-year period of $3.9 billion.

“What we saw was essentially very strong holiday performance from the middle of November on,” he said.

Amazon Hits a Fiscal Grand Slam With 2019 Surge

Amazon had a “prime” fourth quarter and fiscal year (ended Dec. 31, 2019) across all its business units, including subscription services. The segment, which includes annual and monthly fees associated with Prime memberships, as well as audiobook, digital video, digital music, e-book, and other non-AWS subscription services, generated more than $5.2 billion in revenue. That was up 32% from services revenue of $3.95 billion during the previous-year period.

On the home entertainment front, Amazon Original series “Hunters” will premiere on Feb. 21. Produced by Academy Award-winner Jordan Peele and starring Academy Award-winner Al Pacino, “Hunters” follows a diverse band of Nazi hunters living in 1977 New York City.

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In the quarter, Prime Video debuted several Original series and movies, including The Report, The Aeronauts, “The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Special,” The Expanse, as well as the return of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” and the final season of “The Man in the High Castle.”

Amazon Studios received eight Golden Globe Award nominations, with “Fleabag” winning Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy, as well as Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy, for Phoebe WallerBridge.

Amazon Music topped more than 55 million customers worldwide in the quarter. Collectively, in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Japan, Amazon Music customers have grown nearly 50% year-over-year; and in newer marketplaces France, Italy, Spain, and Mexico, Amazon Music customers more than doubled in 2019. Additionally, Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers grew more than 50% in 2019. •

On the streaming media device front, Fire TV now has more than 40 million active users worldwide. Amazon announced the new Fire TV Edition at CES 2020, which includes a set of tools, features, and services that make it even easier for developers, operators, device makers, and manufacturers to integrate Fire TV into their products. BMW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are among the first automakers to introduce Fire TV in their future vehicles.

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Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos lauded the results and company for the fourth quarter and fiscal-year results.

Indeed, Amazon hit it out of the park in the quarter and fiscal year. Net sales increased 21% to $87.4 billion in the quarter, compared with $72.4 billion in fourth quarter 2018. Excluding the $120 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 21% compared with fourth quarter 2018.

Operating income increased to $3.9 billion in the quarter, compared with operating income of $3.8 billion in fourth quarter 2018. Net income increased to $3.3 billion in the quarter, compared with net income of $3 billion in fourth quarter 2018.

For 2019, net sales increased 20% to $280.5 billion, compared with $232.9 billion in 2018. Excluding the $2.6 billion unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the year, net sales increased 22% compared with 2018.

Operating income increased to $14.5 billion, compared with operating income of $12.4 billion in 2018. Net income increased to $11.6 billion, or $23.01 per diluted share, compared with net income of $10.1 billion, or $20.14 per diluted share, in 2018.

“Prime members watched double the hours of original movies and TV shows on Prime Video this quarter compared to last year, and Amazon Originals received a record 88 nominations and 26 wins at major awards shows,” Bezos said in a statement. “A huge thank you to teams across Amazon for their dedicated work to build, innovate, and deliver for customers this [winter] holiday.”

NAB Show to Bow ‘Streaming Experience’ Content Showcase

The NAB Show is introducing The Streaming Experience, a new content showcase curated by streaming and online video expert Dan Rayburn that will feature more than 50 OTT platforms and streaming devices.

The showcase, which will give NAB Show attendees a first-hand look at the latest streaming video services, according to organizers, will be located in the Central Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center and is open to all registered attendees during exhibit hours starting April 19.

The NAB Show takes place in Las Vegas April 18-22.

A living-room setting will allow attendees the opportunity to test OTT services side-by-side to compare content, video quality, ad formats, playback features and delivery methods. The Streaming Experience will feature hardware from Amazon, Apple, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, LG, TCL and Samsung. Streaming services on display will include Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Disney+, Hulu, NBC Sports, Netflix and YouTube TV, among others. New services from HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi may also be showcased, dependent on their launch dates, according to organizers.

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“Streaming is a major focus of the 2020 NAB Show, and the new Streaming Experience is the largest showcase of its kind in the industry,” said NAB EVP of conventions and business operations Chris Brown in a statement. “We are excited for attendees to join their industry peers in this living room environment and experience nearly every live and on-demand streaming service on the market today.”

Additional details of the Streaming Experience, including renderings of the new space, can be found here.


Analyst: Amazon Fire TV Users Prefer Streaming Netflix

Amazon Fire TV and Roku continue to spearhead the streaming media device market in the United States and select foreign markets. New data from Ampere Analysis contends Roku has a key leadership position in both the U.S. and in Canada — although Amazon is “hot on Roku’s heels” in both countries.

While Fire TV is the leading device in many of Amazon’s retail markets and has a market share of over 40% in both Germany and Japan, it still trails Roku in the U.S. Indeed, among domestic Fire TV users, the slight majority prefer to stream Netflix than Prime Video.

Ownership of Google Chromecast is high in the Nordics and Netherlands, which lack any serious Amazon retail presence. Google has over 50% market share in Netherlands and Denmark.

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Device owners show subtle differences in the streaming services they rely on, reflecting device owner strategies, interfaces and the products they promote.

Although Netflix is still the key service for Fire TV owners in the U.S., Amazon device homes are more likely to subscribe to Prime Video and HBO Now compared to Roku device owners.

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By contrast, Roku device owners show a slight skew towards Hulu and Netflix compared to Fire TV households.

Finally, Sweden tops all countries for household streaming media device penetration at 55%. That compares to Denmark, the U.K. and U.S. at 51% household penetration.

“More than any other sector, the streaming adapter market is a competitive battleground for companies with wildly different strategic imperatives — ranging from Amazon and the support which Fire TV provides for its retail operations, Apple and its high-end device ecosystem, Google and its advertising businesses, and Roku and its mix of monetization mechanisms,” Minal Modha, consumer research lead at Ampere Analysis, said in a statement.


‘Mandalorian’ Still on Top of Parrot’s TV Demand Charts

The Disney+ “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian” stayed at the No. 1 spot on not only Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended Jan. 25, but also the data firm’s overall list of TV series from any platform, including broadcast and cable, for a second consecutive week.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

For the week, “The Mandalorian” registered 87.5 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was down 11.3% in expressions compared with the previous week.

Netflix’s “The Witcher” was again No. 2 on the digital originals chart, with 80.3 million expressions, down 16.7% from the previous week.

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Netflix’s “Stranger Things” stayed at No. 3 on the digital originals chart, registering 67.8 million expressions, up 2.7% from the previous week.

DC Universe’s “Titans” rose to No. 4, though expressions were down 0.85% to 51.7 million.

Netflix’s psychological thriller “You” dropped to No. 5, with expressions down 24.6% to 49 million.

Parrot also listed the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” as No. 9 on its list of overall TV series, up 38.6% in expressions to 57.2 million. The bump coincides with the debut of the trailer for the seventh season that will debut on Disney+ Feb. 21. That would put it at No. 4 on the originals chart but Parrot chose not to count it as an original yet.

Notable jumps on the Originals chart include Netflix’s “Sex Education” jumping to No. 7 from No. 61 the previous week, with expressions up 165.7% to 32.4 million after the second season bowed Jan. 17.

Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” jumped from No. 20 to No. 8 after its sixth season arrived Jan. 15, expressions up 38% to 31.7 million.

And Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” went from No. 13 to No. 9 after its newest season arrived Jan. 24, expressions rising 13.7% to 30.6 million.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Analyst: Apple TV+ Has More Subs Than Disney+, Hulu

Since its Nov. 2, 2019 launch, Apple TV+ has largely remained in the shadows of high-profile Disney+, the latter generating 10 million app downloads in the first 24 hours following the service’s Nov. 12 debut.

Apple’s long-waited foray into branded streaming video, including original programming, was met with measured applause from analysts, many of whom dismissed the service for its minimal slate of original shows. Indeed, despite Apple’s reported free cash flow exceeding $200 billion, the company remains relatively modest spending about $1 billion on original content, including ndustry-award nominated “The Morning Show,” with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.

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Aniston picked up a SAG Award for “Morning Show” after leaving the Golden Globes empty-handed. The series about drama surrounding a morning television news show reportedly generated few viewers upon its launch — despite the stellar cast.

However, a Jan. 24 article in The Wall Street Journal about Amazon Prime Video being a platform for conspiracy theorists listed third-party data suggesting the Apple TV+ subscriber count actually exceeds Disney+ and Hulu — the latter including online TV service Hulu with Live TV.

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In a chart through the fourth quarter 2019 from London-based Ampere Analysis, Apple TV+ is credited with having 33.6 million subs, compared to 31.8 million for Hulu and 23.2 million for Disney+. Neither company has officially disclosed subscriber data.

Disney and Apple both are giving access to their respective streaming platforms — the former through Verizon, and Apple offering its platform for free to any iPhone owner. How many of the aforementioned subs actually pay for service is unclear.

By comparison, Netflix’s market-leading 61.3 million subs and Prime Video’s 42 million subs represent paid members — the latter through anual and monthly Prime and Prime Video subscriptions.

How Netflix Got its Latino Mojo Back

Netflix has been a consumer hit across most ethnic groups since launching by-mail DVD rental service in 1997. Yet, the SVOD pioneer had apparently lost some favor among Latino streamers over the past few years with household penetration down 9% through last April, according to new data from IHS Markit/Technology.

Now that trend has reversed with Latino viewership up 4% in the past six months. The reason? Original Spanish-language programming that IHS says is driving viewers away from Prime Video to Netflix and Hulu.

“The movement of Latino audiences from Amazon to Netflix reflects the two services’ level of investment in Spanish-language content,”  analyst Fateha Begum said in a statement.

Top Netflix original shows include: “La Casa de la Flores,” teen murder series, “Elite,” “Narcos: Mexico,” “La Casa de Papel,” Netflix’s most-watched non-English series ever; “Club de Cuervos,” political thriller, “Ingobernable,” 1920s feminist workplace drama, “Las Chicas del Cable,” first Argentinian series, “Edha,” and crime thriller, “Estocolmo,” among others.

“Although Amazon leads in overall video content, with a total of 3.4 million hours of programming, Netflix offers 15 times more hours of Spanish-language content than Prime Video,” Begum said. “In terms of total hours of Spanish programming, Netflix is the clear leader in the U.S. video streaming market, followed by Hulu.”

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Citing an internal survey, IHS said 20% of respondents who subscribed to Netflix in the past year cited local content as the reason for subscribing. At the same time, with subscriptions based on month-to-month satisfaction, churn among all demographics is high, including Latino.

About 20% U.S. households dropped service over a 12-month period and did not return, according to the survey, while 30% signed up to at least one new SVOD service during the same period. Consumers also cancelled and re-subscribed to services to watch new seasons of content.

IHS said Latinos are twice as likely to cancel and re-subscribe to a video service as other consumers and 50% more likely to use a free trial only than the average consumer.

The London-based research group found Prime Video was the most cancelled video service among Latinos, while Netflix took the top spot among all respondents.

Netflix’s investment in Spanish content has increased considerably in the past years as it seeks to increase its worldwide subscriber base. Nearly 14% of Netflix’s catalog was comprised of Spanish language content in September 2019 — up 12% from the end of 2018.

The report contends Spanish-language content is vital for Netflix in Latin America, the United States and Europe where content quotas mandate 30% of programming be local.

While Netflix increased its Spanish language content by nearly 30,000 hours between December 2018 and September 2019, Amazon saw a decline of 2,000 hours. The majority of the change occurred in the first half of the year for both video services and mirrored the trend in penetration among Latino respondents.

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IHS said device distribution continues to play a role in SVOD choices for Latino subs, who are more likely to select services offering greater access to stream programming. While connected-device penetration tends to be marginally lower in Latino homes, IHS said the demand for accessibility stems from larger family sizes with four or more people.

Netflix Jan. 21 reports fourth-quarter fiscal results after the market close.


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.

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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%).

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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.”