WarnerMedia Streaming Service Eyeing Original Content in 2020

WarnerMedia is launching a proprietary over-the-top video platform in the fourth quarter featuring catalog content from subsidiaries HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner.

The unnamed service plans to roll out original fare beginning in 2020, according to Kevin Reilly, president of TBS, TNT and head of content and strategy at the new service.

Speaking Feb. 11 at the Television Critics Association annual winter tour in Los Angeles, Reilly said the service would be beta-launched featuring catalog fare from Warner, Warner Bros. Television, New Line Cinema, HBO and Turner subsidiaries such as Adult Swim, The CW, and Cartoon Network, among others.

“Our beta will not have original programming, but we will introduce it in 2020,” Reilly said. “Expect it in all the verticals: kids and family, teens up to adult.”

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While traditional media and OTT services scramble to produce differentiating distribution platforms featuring original content, WarnerMedia intends to walk the fine line between licensing and restricting programming to third-party services.

WarnerMedia made news last year renewing the coveted “Friends” catalog to Netflix for one year for a reported $100 million. It was a move that contradicted in part CEO John Stankey’s stated mission to restrict proprietary programming to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other services not named Hulu.

WarnerMedia is a co-owner of Hulu with Disney, Fox and Comcast.

“The dynamic those [SVOD] incumbents are playing with are still 75% to 80% of viewing tonnage is that licensed content,” Stankey told analysts last November. “Their pressure is they’ve got to make this pivot to get people off of viewing content that sits in our library, or the Disney library, and get it onto their own.”

Reilly concurs, saying he expects the “crown jewels” of Warner programming to eventually migrate predominantly to the new service.

“We’re not pulling it away [from third parties] but it certainly is something we’re looking to do,” he said. “I think for the most part sharing destination assets [like ‘Friends’] is not a good model. They should be exclusive to the [new] service.”

The executive said the service would also feature shows such as “Titans,” “Doom Patrol” and pending “Swamp Thing,” heretofore exclusive to DC Universe, the SVOD service launched last year.

“There is no piece of content in the Warner Media portfolio that will not be looked at for the service,” Reilly said. “That doesn’t mean every piece of content will end up on the service or end up on the service permanently. Content goes through a natural life cycle at which it benefits at times being off a platform or being on a new platform.”

 

Netflix: Sunday Viewing Down 32% Due to Super Bowl

Netflix often says major televised events such as the Olympics and soccer World Cup negatively impact streaming viewership. On Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 3), the SVOD pioneer confirmed that nationwide viewership on the platform was down 32% compared to a normal Sunday.

“So apparently this Super Bowl thing is kind of big deal,” Netflix tweeted.

Resolute in a programming strategy that eschews live sports, Netflix spent the afternoon poking fun at the Super Bowl while also using the largest one-day televised event of the year to market “Our Planet,” the upcoming original documentary on natural habitats narrated by David Attenborough. All episodes will be released on April 5.

Amazon Prime Video and Hulu bowed trailers for original dramas “Hanna” and the third season of Emmy-winning “The Handmaid’s Tale,” respectively.

“Someone actually scored a touchdown!?!?!” Netflix tweeted after New England Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel scored the game’s only touchdown, breaking a 3-3 tie in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 for their sixth Super Bowl win.

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While Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was named Super Bowl LIII MVP for a game-high 10 catches for 141 yards, Netflix quickly tweeted a picture of a cute fury creature from “Our Planet,” wading through the snow.

“I think we can all agree this the night’s real MVP?” wrote the service.

Many Netflix viewers on Twitter would have preferred the trailer to season three of “Stranger Things,” among other original programs.

“Excuse me, I just watched a three-hour football game to see a trailer I didn’t get,” tweeted one viewer.

“You disappointed us,” tweeted another.

Still another tweeted: “The real MVP could have been a trailer for The Irishman.”

The tweet was in reference to the highly anticipated Netflix original mobster movie starring Goodfellas alumni Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Bobby Cannavale, among others.

The 2019 movie is directed by Martin Scorsese with a reported $140 million — $200 million budget — the highest ever for Netflix.

 

 

 

Amazon Ups Q4 Online Sales 13% to $39.8 Billion

Amazon Jan. 31 said it increased fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) online sales 13% to $39.8 billion from $35.3 billion during the previous-year period. Online sales include media products sold in physical (DVD/Blu-ray Disc) and digital formats, including books, games, videos and software.

Subscription revenue, which includes Prime (and Prime Video) memberships, audiobooks, e-books, digital music and other non-Amazon Web Services revenue, increased 25% to $3.95 billion, compared to $3.17 billion last year.

Other home entertainment highlights in the quarter included the launch of IMDb Freedive, an ad-supported VOD channel available in the U.S. on the IMDb website via laptop or personal computer and on all Fire TV devices.

Prime Video became available on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 in the U.S., giving Prime members with Xfinity access to thousands of additional premium shows and movies online. Additionally, Amazon launched NBA League Pass and PGA Tour Live on Prime Video Channels.

Prime members can now stream out-of-market NBA games live or on-demand with a subscription to NBA League Pass for $28.99/month or $169.99 for a Season Pass. Prime members in the U.S. can also subscribe to PGA Tour Live to watch live coverage across 28 PGA tournaments per year for $9.99/month or $64.99 per season.

Amazon Studios’ Cold War was recognized for three Academy Award nominations – Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director for Pawel Pawlikowski, and Best Cinematography for Lukasz Zal.

Amazon Studios was recognized with 10 Golden Globe Awards nominations and two wins: Rachel Brosnahan won Best Actress in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical for her performance in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” for the second year in a row and Ben Whishaw won Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television for his role in “A Very English Scandal.”

Prime Video Original Series, “Inside Edge” became the first Indian show from a video streaming service to be nominated for the International Emmy Awards.

Prime Video introduced localized Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu language user interfaces in India. Prime members can now stream movies titles and original series with a Hindi, Tamil, or Telugu user interface, including search, navigation, browse, and customer support.

 

UltraViolet: A Lost Opportunity

I, like millions of registered UltraViolet users, received the Jan. 31 email informing me that the digital content storage locker is shuttering July 31.

My reaction: Indifference.

I, like possibly millions of other UV users, had forgotten I was even registered to the platform launched in 2011 by studios seeking to enhance ownership of packaged media in a digital era transformed by SVOD and Netflix.

Indeed, the email was the FIRST communication I ever received from the platform boasting 30 million registered users — a captive audience larger than any over-the-top video platform not named Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The missed advertising/marketing opportunities upon a segment of active movie consumers larger than the combined Comcast Cable, Sky, AT&T U-verse and Verizon Fios Video subscriber base should be a business school case study.

Thirty million registered consumers should have been a field day for marketers considering YouTube begins monetizing third-party videos with just 1,000 subscribers — users who follow a video series for free.

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As a stack of UV digital activation movie registration cards attest, actually engaging in UV was challenging. Each studio for awhile required the laborious process of registering titles to a proprietary platform.

I remember a friend asking me the purpose of the UV card enclosed with the Blu-ray Disc case.

When I tried to explain, she rolled her eyes.

“You lost me,” she said.

That sentiment, in a nutshell, should be on UV’s gravestone.

UltraViolet, from the start, was hampered by Disney’s refusal to participate. The media giant opting instead to roll out a competing platform (Disney Movies Anywhere) that now has been embraced by Hollywood studios not named Paramount and Lionsgate, and rebranded Movies Anywhere.

Movies Anywhere claims a user base of 6 million – 20% the size of UV – and a rosy future. I’m looking forward to my first email.

 

Report: Netflix Has Highest-Rated Movies

Netflix is known for original TV series such as “House of Cards,” “Stranger Things,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “The Crown.”

While the streaming video pioneer is ramping up original movie production, its portfolio of highly-rated third-party movies tops the renowned feature film repository of HBO Now, in addition to Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, according to new data from Streaming Observer.

Using Rotten Tomatoes’ “Certified Fresh” movies rating system, in addition to a combination of data from streaming service providers and third-party sites RealGood and JustWatch, Streaming Observer found Netflix has more “certified fresh” movies (596) than HBO Now (38), Prime Video (232) and Hulu (223) combined.

The ranking is significant considering Netflix has 3,000 fewer movies available to stream (3,839 through Jan. 20, 2019) than it did in 2018, and its library is 450% smaller than Prime Video’s with 17,461 titles.

Hulu and HBO Now had 2,336 and 815 movies, respectively.

“Netflix remains the best streaming service overall … for the time being,” wrote Chris Brantner, analyst with Streaming Observer. “Of course, as new streaming services from Disney, Apple, and others enter the market, and Netflix loses more of its licensed content, it remains to be seen how long it can hold onto the crown.”

 

 

TiVo: Netflix ‘Essential’ to 52.7% of Consumers

With more than 58 million domestic subscribers, Netflix is considered “essential” among consumers to their entertainment consumption, according to new data from TiVo.

The SVOD pioneer (52.7%) topped YouTube videos (45.9%) and cable TV (39.5%) as the primary source for home entertainment, according to a survey of 4,458 adult respondents in the United States and Canada conducted in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Just over 40% of respondents selected cable TV as supplemental to their home entertainment needs, suggesting consumers are divided in their loyalties to pay-TV, according to TiVo. This split doesn’t exist for Netflix, which is considered supplemental by only 30% of respondents.

The report found the average household among survey respondents used 2.75 media services in 2018 — up 26% since 2017.

“Live TV is still favored, but content providers such as Netflix and YouTube are gaining ground,” wrote TiVo.

The DVR pioneer, which has conducted its “TiVo Trends” media analysis since 2012, found that combining Netflix with Amazon Prime Video and pay-TV was a favored (10.6%) bundle among consumers. Other bundle options included Facebook, YouTube and pay-TV (7.5%) and YouTube, Netflix and pay-TV (7.5%).

Indeed, Comcast now offers direct access to Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video for Xfinity X1 subscribers. TiVo said 63.6% of respondents watch one hour or more of live TV per day, which tops OTT video (52.2%), recorded programming (51%) and live sports (45.6%).

“Clearly, consumers are still turning on their TVs and watching live content every day,” wrote TiVo.

The report found 69.3% of respondents use over-the-top video services while 30.7% do not. Among OTT video users, Netflix (50.4%) and Prime Video (21.8%) lead the pack among streaming video platforms.

Other included YouTube TV (11.9%), Hulu (9.5%), HBO Now (7.5%), Hulu with Live TV (6.9%), DirecTV Now (6.3%), CBS All Access (5.2%), PlayStation Vue (4.4%), Showtime OTT (4.1%), Starz (3.6%) and Sling TV (3.2%).

 

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Amazon Streaming ‘The Expanse,’ Greenlights Season 4 Production

Amazon Jan. 22 announced it will exclusively stream the first three seasons of sci-fi drama “The Expanse” to Prime members in over 200 countries and territories on Feb. 8. Seasons 1-2 are currently available only in the U.S. on Prime Video and SyFy.com.

The series, which launched in 2015, is also broadcast on NBC Universal’s SyFy network.

Based on novels by James S. A. Corey, “The Expanse” is an award-winning political science fiction series set hundreds of years in the future.

Humans have colonized the solar system with The United Nations controlling Earth and an independent military power inhabiting Mars. Desperate for air and water, the series begins with Earth and Mars on the verge of war over the resources found in the Asteroid Belt. With few options for survival, allies struggle to fight over the future of humanity.

Prime Video will be the new home to Season 4, which launches later this year.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made the announcement last May at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles, where the cast and showrunner were in attendance.

Co-created and written by Academy Award nominees Mark Fergus (Iron Man) and Hawk Otsby (Children of Men), the series stars three-time Golden Globe nominee Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea), Oscar-nominee Shohreh Asgdashloo (Star Trek: Beyond), Steve Strait (The Covenant), Dominique Tipper (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Wes Chatam (The Hunger Games), Cas Anvar (Punisher: War Zone), Frankie Adams (Mortal Engines) and Shawn Doyle (Frequency), Chad L. Coleman (The Walking Dead),  Florence Faivre (The Sia Renaissance), and Cara Gee (Empire of Dirt).

 

 

Report: Amazon Prime Has 101 Million Members in the U.S.

Amazon reportedly has more than 101 million subscribers in the United States, suggesting that its Prime Video unit exceeds Netflix’s 57 million domestic subs by 77%.

As of Dec. 31, 2018, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that in the U.S., 62% of Amazon customers are Prime members. Based on this estimate, the Chicago-based research firm estimates that Amazon Prime has 101 million members nationwide.

Amazon last disclosed its Prime membership – which costs $113 annually and includes free two-day shipping, Prime Music, Audible audio books and Prime Video – in April at 100 million worldwide.

CIRP also said Prime members spend on average about $1,400 per year, compared to about $600 per year for non-Prime members.

“[Amazon] membership growth has slowed, but continued steadily in the holiday quarter. US membership grew 10% in the past year, slower than before, but still significant on a huge base and after years of rapid growth,” Josh Lowitz, co-founder of CIRP, said in a statement. “Membership doubled in three years, and almost quadrupled in five years, from 26 million members in December 2013.”

 

Analyst: Netflix Price Hike to Negatively Affect Sub Growth

Following Netflix’s announcement that it was raising subscription prices, the company’s stock increased in value as Wall Street applauded the service’s first price hike since 2017.

Wedbush Securities’ digital media analyst Michael Pachter has a different perspective. The long-time Netflix bear contends the price hike will negatively impact the SVOD pioneer’s mature domestic subscriber base of around 60 million.

Pachter argues that Netflix has saturated households above the medium income. Any new subs will come from households below the medium income – and likely more price sensitive.

“The latest price increase may slow domestic subscriber growth dramatically this year,” Pachter wrote in a Jan. 16 note. “We do not expect significant churn given the utility provided by the service to existing subscribers but attracting new subscribers will likely be more challenging because of the higher prices.”

The analyst says the price hike will have the biggest impact on Netflix’s $12.99 standard plan affording subscribers to two HD video streams. By comparison, Amazon Prime Video costs $10 monthly when paid annually; and Hulu costs $11.99 for ad-free service.

Regardless, Wedbush contends the additional monthly revenue will never see the bottom line.

“We do not expect a meaningful impact on profitability from the pricing increases, with the extra cash likely used to fund Netflix’s ballooning content budget,” wrote Pachter.

Netflix reports Q4 results at the close of the market on Jan. 17.

 

 

DC Universe Scores Big with ‘Young Justice,’ ‘Titans’ on Digital Originals Chart, Parrot Analytics Says

Three digital originals cracked the top 10 the week ended Jan. 12, led by the DC Universe show “Young Justice,” according to Parrot Analytics.

The program – an adaptation of the entire DC Universe with a focus on young superheroes – debuted at No. 4 after its average daily Demand Expressions more than doubled from the prior week, to 28 million.

Demand Expressions is a proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. The 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.

“Young Justice” initially aired on a linear platform, the Cartoon Network, but was canceled in 2013 after two seasons. Warner Bros. Animation subsequently resurrected the series, with Season 3, “Young Justice: Outsiders,” premiering Jan. 4 on DC Universe, a video-on-demand service operated by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Digital Networks. DC Universe launched last September.

“You,” which airs on Netflix and debuted at No. 8 on the digital originals chart, is a modern thriller that also transitioned from a linear platform, Lifetime, where it launched last September. In December it was announced that “You” would move to Netflix as a “Netflix Original,” title, ahead of the premiere Season 2.

“You” finished the week ended Jan. 12 with 21.6 million average daily Demand Expressions, up 16% from the prior week.

A third new entry into the digital originals top 10, “Lemony Snickets’ A Series of Unfortunate Events,” posted a 12.5% gain in average daily Demand Expressions to finish the week at No. 9. The third and final season of the show, which like the movie of the same name is based on the children’s novel series about the misadventures of the three Baudelaire children, was released on Netflix on Jan. 1.

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” remained at No. 1 for the second consecutive week despite a 31% decline in average daily Demand Expressions. DC Universe’s Titans, which had debuted at No. 1 the last full week in 2018 before dropping to No. 3, nudged back up to No. 2, with 31.7 million average daily Demand Expressions.

Another Netflix show, “Black Mirror,” finished the week at No. 3, with a 26% drop in demand. The quirky sci-fi series had shot into the top 10 at No. 2 the prior week in the wake of hoopla surrounding the release of a standalone interactive film titled Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, released Dec. 28.

Rounding out the top five on the digital originals chart for the week ended Jan. 12 was Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” with a 9% spike in demand—despite the fact that the series is currently on hiatus and gearing up for its third season.

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.