UHD Alliance Announces Amazon Prime, Hisense Support for Filmmaker Mode

The UHD Alliance on Sept. 30 announced that Amazon Prime will begin supporting Filmmaker Mode next year and that Hisense has joined consumer electronics companies Panasonic, Vizio, Samsung, LG, Kaleidescape and Philips in supporting the feature.

The announcements came during an online presentation with DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Filmmaker Mode, introduced by the UHD Alliance in August 2019, is designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended. It allows viewers to enjoy a more cinematic experience on their UHD TVs when watching movies by disabling all post-processing (e.g. motion smoothing, etc.) so the movie or television show is displayed as it was intended by the filmmaker, preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates, according to the Alliance.

“Prime Video will be launching this feature on select players next year,” said UHD Alliance chairman Mike Zink. “It’s something that we’ve been working very hard on, and I think we are very, very excited for this to come to life.”

UHD Alliance president Mike fiddler noted that CE companies supporting Filmmaker Mode represent a big chunk of TV unit shipments both domestically and globally.

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Zink interviewed colorist Jill Bogdanowicz and Stephen Lighthill, president, the American Society of Cinematographers, about the importance of maintaining the intention of creators in content viewed in the home.

“Anyone that does not look at the way the image is going into the home is foolish,” noted Lighthill, adding “producers want to make sure it’s going to look the same in Jill’s suite as it does at home.”

CE company executives also joined the discussion to describe and express their support for Filmmaker Mode.

LG Electronics’ Tim Alessi said the company was putting Filmmaker Mode in every new UHD model produced in 2020.

“We kinda went all in on Filmmaker Mode,” he said, noting, “what really sets this whole effort apart is we got the entire industry to rally around one name and one set of features.”

LG is mounting an in-store display at Best Buy describing the advantages of the feature.

Samsung’s Bill Mandel said the manufacturer put the Mode in all its 2020 UHD TVs, and about a month ago launched new projectors with the feature. Samsung is running an in-store video loop about it on its TVs, he noted.

Docs on Current Events, Issues Added to PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel

PBS Distribution in October will be adding a number titles focusing on current events and issues to the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel, including Frontline: America Unprotected: The Medical Supply Crisis, Latino Vote: Dispatches From the Battleground, Frontline: Race, Poverty and the Pandemic, Frontline: Battle for Hong Kong and Frontline: Amazon Empire — The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos.

The subscription rate for the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is $5.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

Frontline: Race, Poverty and the Pandemic, which premiered Sept. 9, covers the effects of George Floyd’s death beneath the knee of a police officer, which has sparked grief and rage in the streets of Minneapolis and across the country. Jelani Cobb, a historian, professor of journalism at Columbia University and writer at The New Yorker examines a connection between George Floyd’s death and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 deaths among African-Americans. Cobb helps put this volatile moment in context, explaining why we’ve reached a boiling point, and what he says needs to happen now. Cobb describes how the relationship between black Americans and the police has become a “barometer” for race relations in the country, drawing on his years of covering explosive tensions that he says are “overwhelmingly” in response to an issue of police use of force. “Once you looked at the way that policing functioned, it was almost an indicator of the way lots of other institutions were functioning in those communities,” he says. This time — as the nation battles a highly infectious outbreak — the outrage is spreading in a way that seems different, he says.

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Frontline: Battle for Hong Kong, which premiered Sept. 9, covers the unrest in Hong Kong. In 2019, a controversial extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China sparked a massive and unprecedented pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. At the start, the vast majority of protesters were peaceful, but a few tried to take on the police. The documentary traces what happened next. With remarkable access, the program follows five young protesters through intense and escalating clashes with Hong Kong’s police. The protesters say they’re fighting for their freedom against the communist government of China, which is due to take complete control of Hong Kong in 2047. China, meanwhile, says the protestors are “radicals,” “thugs” and “separatists.” The film tells the story of the eight-month, youth-driven pro-democracy movement through the eyes of the protesters. They are transformed — and, in some cases, radicalized — by their experiences. As the program unfolds, viewers meet Momo, a nurse in her late twenties; Vincent, a high school student who grew up in mainland China; Lomi, a researcher; Li, a young man who is married with a daughter; and Agnes, a veteran pro-democracy protestor. Through the stories of these five young people, the documentary explores the aims and motivations of the protesters. Amid concerns about China’s growing influence in Hong Kong, the extradition bill (which was eventually withdrawn) struck a nerve. Ultimately, the film sheds new light on what both the movement and the authorities’ response to it portend for Hong Kong’s future.

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Frontline: Amazon Empire — The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos, which premiered Sept. 9, covers the rise of the tycoon. Amazon’s Bezos built a business empire that is unprecedented in the history of American capitalism — delivering endless products, entertainment services and technology innovations to customers with just a click of a button. But what is the cost of Amazon’s convenience? The documentary examines Amazon and Bezos’ ascent to power — and his ability to shape everything from the future of work, to the future of commerce, to the future of technology. From award-winning filmmakers James Jacoby and Anya Bourg (The Facebook Dilemma), the documentary draws on interviews with current top executives and former insiders, as well as regulators and critics, raising tough questions about Bezos and the empire he built. Through these interviews, Jacoby and Bourg’s investigation presents an inside look at who Bezos is, and how he transformed a tiny company run out of a garage into a staple of American consumerism that critics contend is willing to dominate the market at all costs.

Frontline: America Unprotected: The Medical Supply Crisis, which premieres Oct. 7, explores questions around readiness for the epidemic. Why was the U.S. left scrambling for critical medical equipment as the coronavirus swept the country? With the Associated Press the documentary investigates the fragmented global medical supply chain and its deadly consequences for Americans.

Latino Vote: Dispatches From the Battleground, which premieres Oct. 7, explores how voters in Nevada, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania could very well determine the next American president. One of the top priorities on both sides of the political divide is to engage Latino voters. Projected to be the largest voting-eligible ethnicity in the country, Latino voters are often sought after by both Republicans and Democrats as if they are a monolith. With both younger Latinos and new citizens joining the ranks of registered voters across the country, the growing magnitude of this cross-section of the electorate has clear political implications for the 2020 presidential election. But trying to woo voters based on their cultural similarities without factoring in their complex and varying individual interests could prove to be a losing game plan. Following activists, organizers and others who are working to maximize Latino turnout in their local communities while simultaneously devoting their efforts to COVID-19 relief as the pandemic surges, the program delves into the high-stakes fight to activate Latino votes in these battleground states and give voices to newly registered Latino voters themselves about what the galvanizing issues are for them.

Analyst: 11% of Americans Subscribed to ‘Walmart Plus’ 14 Days After Launch

About 11% of Americans signed up for “Walmart Plus,” the $98 annual subscription program aimed at competing with the Amazon Prime membership, just 14 days after launch. Citing data from a survey of 20,179 respondents, research firm Piplsay found that 35% of respondents had a favorable impression of the platform, with another 38% saying they believe Walmart+ will be competitive with Amazon Prime.

The findings are significant since they suggest broad consumer appeal and the possibility Walmart would expand the platform’s appeal with streaming access to movies, TV shows and music — now available on Prime Video and Prime Music.

Walmart+ bowed offering subscribers the ability to “scan-and-go” purchasing in stores and discounts on gas. Other features cited favorably by survey respondents included free shipping (35%) on orders over $35, same-day/24-hour deliveries (24%) and pricing (5%). The platform is $21 cheaper than Amazon Prime on an annual basis.

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Notably, 45% of respondents said they subscribe to both Walmart+ and Amazon Prime; 36% said it was their first retailer subscription service and 19% said they were dropping Amazon Prime for Walmart+. Another 60% of men think Walmart+ will be a big threat to Amazon Prime as compared to just 40% of women. Among those interested, about 36% of millennials and Gen Xers have taken both Walmart Plus and Amazon Prime subscriptions. About 56% of Gen Zers are excited about the mobile scan-and-go feature as compared with 44% of Gen Xers.

“Walmart Plus is taking on Amazon Prime in what is the biggest online retail battle to hit the U.S. in recent times,” read the report.

Amazon Doc ‘All In: The Fight for Democracy’ Available Free Sept. 22

In support of National Voter Registration Day Sept. 22, Prime Video will stream the Amazon Original movie All In: The Fight for Democracy featuring Stacey Abrams to audiences globally, without needing a Prime membership.

The voting rights documentary will be in front of the Prime Video paywall for 24 hours. The film will also be available on Twitch, YouTube and Twitter.

Also on Sept. 22 Twitter and Twitch will host watch parties. The Twitter watch party will be hosted by Stacey Abrams and Lin-Manuel Miranda starting at 4 p.m. PT at https://twitter.com/i/events/1305586144692727809, and the Twitch livestream will be hosted by social influencer Neeko on http://www.twitch.tv/neeko at 11 a.m. PT.

All In: The Fight for Democracy will stream at no cost for 24 hours on Prime Video at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FRSNBLL, and at https://youtu.be/6h1-Ctbi8SM on YouTube.

In anticipation of the 2020 presidential election, All In: The Fight for Democracy examines the often overlooked, yet insidious issue of voter suppression in the United States. The film interweaves personal experiences with current activism and historical insight to expose a problem that has corrupted 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 offers an insider’s look into laws and barriers to voting that most people don’t even know are threats to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.

“Voting is fundamental for our country and democracy, and should be accessible and available to Americans everywhere,” Abrams said in a statement. “All In: The Fight for Democracy will be accessible on multiple platforms in support of voter awareness and registration for all Americans.”

As previously announced, the filmmakers with support from foundations, private funders and Amazon Studios launched #AllInForVoting, a non-partisan social impact campaign aimed at educating and registering first-time voters, mobilizing communities to turn out to vote and training citizens to know their rights and report voter suppression. As part of the impact campaign, the 50 State Ambassador initiative brought together a team of influential actors, artists, musicians, athletes and newsmakers to use their platforms to educate voters and mobilize participation in the upcoming national and regional elections. The Ambassadors include Taraji P. Henson, Connie Britton, Tyler Blackburn, Zooey Deschanel, Don Cheadle, Gabrielle Union, Seth MacFarlane, Padma Lakshmi, Melissa Ethridge, Zach LaVine, Viola Davis and Janelle Monáe.

The impact campaign is in partnership with Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action and other leading civic engagement organizations including: Advancement Project, Alliance for Youth Action, ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, All Voting Is Local, Black Voters Matter, BLOC, Campus Voter Project, Community Change, Election Protection, Equality NC, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, GenEquality, HeadCount, Higher Heights for America, Indivisible, Jewish Women International, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, League of Women Voters and National Organization for Women (NOW), LUCHA, Movement Voter Project, National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), New Virginia Majority, People for the American Way, Rock the Vote, Spread the Vote, Southern Poverty Law Center, Voto Latino Foundation and When We All Vote. Users are encouraged to join the movement by posting with “#AllInForVoting.” More information on activations and programming can be found at AllInForVoting.com.

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All In: The Fight for Democracy is directed by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Liz Garbus and Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Lisa Cortés, and produced by Garbus, Cortés, Academy Award-winning producer Dan Cogan and Abrams. Amazon Studios acquired worldwide rights to All In: The Fight for Democracy from production company Story Syndicate.

A Drive-in Premiere for ‘The Boys’

Amazon Prime Video Sept. 3 hosted a drive-in screening of “The Boys” season two ahead of its Sept. 4 premiere. Stars Antony Starr, Jack Quaid, Erin Moriarty, Karen Fukuhara, Shantel VanSanten, Claudia Doumit, Langston Kerman and Abraham Lim arrived at Level 8 at The Grove in Los Angeles to celebrate the new season. Guests arrived in their cars through Lucy the Whale, who makes a special appearance in the third episode of season two. Ahead of the drive-in special screening, guests were invited to a socially distant pre-party in their cars, where they had their pictures taken at the drive-through photo op activation, danced in their cars to the music of DJ Michelle Pesce, and enjoyed Umami Burgers, Popcorn and Swedish Fish. Before the two-episode screening, fans enjoyed a pre-taped introduction from the cast and executive producers Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen and Evan Greenberg. A special encore drive-in screening for cast and fans is also being held Sept. 4 and is at full capacity.

The first three episodes of season two premiere Sept. 4, with new episodes available each Friday following, culminating in a season finale Oct. 9. The eight-episode Amazon Original series will be available exclusively on Prime Video in more than 200 territories around the world.

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Based on the New York Times best-selling comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, “The Boys” is an irreverent take on what happens when superheroes — who are as popular as celebrities, as influential as politicians and as revered as gods — abuse their superpowers rather than use them for good. The Boys continue on a quest to expose the truth about The Seven, and Vought — the multi-billion-dollar conglomerate that manages these superheroes and covers up all of their dirty secrets.

NPD: Online Video Consumption, Engagement Leapt in Q2

Free, transactional and subscription video all grew significantly in the second quarter versus the same period in 2019, according to NPD Group data.

The market experienced “growth across just about every way you can consume video,” said NPD’s John Buffone during the online OTT.X summit Sept. 1. (The summit continues today; to register click here.)

Transactional VOD alone jumped by 57%, while subscription VOD grew 42%, Buffone reported.

Sales of TVs and streaming players (“largely driven by Roku”) also grew by double digits during stay-at-home orders, he said, while sales of DVD and Blu-ray players also saw a jump in sales “for a while.”

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The most frequently used services in April 2020 (Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, CBS All Access, Amazon Prime Video) are gaining the most ground, NPD research found. Among that group, 87% of Netflix subs said they use the service at least weekly, with 80% saying the same of Hulu, 70% of Disney+, 68% of CBS All Access and 64% of Amazon Prime. During April, 48% of Netflix subscribers said they were using it more often, compared to 57% of Disney+ subs, 42% of Hulu subs, 40% of CBS All Access subs and 39% of Amazon Prime subs.

A third of SVOD users said that exclusive content made them subscribe or watch more because content was not available any other way, he noted.

PBS Appoints Marketing VP

PBS Distribution has been appointed Tonya Harley VP of marketing.

Harley will lead marketing and communications, supporting multiple brands and businesses, with a focus on customer acquisition and retention strategies for the company’s direct-to-consumer subscription businesses — PBS Masterpiece, PBS Kids, PBS Living and newly launched PBS Documentaries — on Prime Video Channels.

“Tonya is an Emmy-award winning marketing professional with a proven track record of successfully delivering results for clients that exceed expectations,” PBS Distribution co-president Andrea Downing said in a statement. “She brings keen analytical skills and experience across a wide range of industries, and her ability to create targeted and efficient media plans to drive acquisition across broadcast and digital platforms will support our key primary initiatives perfectly.”

Harley joins PBS Distribution from BCD Travel, where she led their hotel marketing team as the director of strategic marketing. She was responsible for building a modern brand identity, designing social media campaigns to drive engagement, and overseeing the creative development, social media, content development, sales training, and public relations to support product launches.

Prior to working for BCD Travel, Harley was a senior marketing strategist with Advito. During her five years there, she built a strategic vision for developing digital products to help clients reduce travel costs while building client retention and loyalty, and led a cross-functional team in creating the product strategy, positioning, and marketing plan to drive new business.

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Before joining Advito, she spent five years at Liberty Mutual Insurance, culminating in the role of manager of national advertising. She was responsible for more than $125 million in creative and media spend, focusing on the strategy and creative development of brand television, direct-response television, and digital and field marketing. Harley built the first-ever marketing portal for field sales agents to create brand consistency across the organization while helping agents leverage marketing tactics to boost sales.

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Early in her career, Harley’s experiences were rooted in client management at Argus Communications, where she developed omni-channel marketing campaigns for her clients. She saw her strategic recommendation come to life as a television ad that was nominated and won a National Academy of Arts & Sciences Emmy Award for “Outstanding Community or Public Service Single Spot” TV.

Amazon Prime’s ‘The Candidate’ A Showcase for Mexico City, Executive Producer Says

Award-winning writer/producer Peter Blake, whose credits include “House,” “Billions,” “The Practice” and “ZeroZeroZero,” trains his sights on Mexico’s narco violence and political corruption in bilingual series “El Candidato” (“The Candidate”), which bowed on Amazon Prime in July.

“When we met with Peter, we found out he spoke Spanish — aside from other languages — and gave him carte blanche to explore how he wanted to create the series,” said executive producer Juan Rendon, who noted that Blake ran the writers’ room as well as penned some of the episodes.

“He had a very good understanding of Mexican current events and politics when we first sat to discuss the project,” added Rendon, who used to run the documentary division of U.S. Hispanic TV network Univision, where he came across a number of untapped stories.

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Made under the 2018 pact forged between Mexican TV giant Televisa and Amazon Prime to produce premium TV content, “El Candidato” follows two CIA agents, one a grizzled vet played by James Purefoy (“Rome”) bent on capturing an omnipotent drug lord played by Joaquin Cosio (“The Strain,” “Narcos: Mexico”), and the other a rookie (Eréndira Ibarra of “Sense8”). The candidate in question is a mayor with presidential ambitions, played by José María de Tavira, whose TV credits include “Rosario Tijeras” and “Diablo Guardian.”

The rookie is given the unenviable mission to find out the connections between the mayor, her old flame and the drug kingpin.

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The series showcases Mexico City as the vibrant, wealthy metropolis that it is. “It’s almost a separate character in the show,” said Rendon, who applauds Blake for bringing a “well-crafted writing structure” to the series.

Shot on location between November 2018 and March 2019, “El Candidato” boasts a formidable production team led by co-directors Jaime Reynoso, who’s worked on big budget films shot in Mexico such as Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, and Humberto Hinojosa, whose credits include “Luis Miguel: The Series” and “La Hermandad.”

Its stable of writers includes Ted Cohen (“Veep”), Max Hurwitz (“ZeroZeroZero”), Katherine Walczak (“The Flash’), Daniel Krauze (“Luis Miguel: The Series”), David Chasteen and Eva Aridjis (The Favor).

“El Candidato” also counts on the vast experience of one of Mexico’s most sought-after production managers/producers, Stacy Perskie, who has worked on a number of high-profile projects shot in Mexico, including “Narcos: Mexico,” Elysium, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and the 2015 James Bond film Spectre, noted for its astonishing Day of the Dead opening sequence in Mexico City.

While Amazon Prime does not give out viewing numbers, the reviews from Mexico have been first-rate. The show has stirred up considerable debate as it explores the extent of U.S. involvement in the country’s long painful struggle with narco violence and government corruption.

“The series discusses a lot of uncomfortable truths in Mexico,” said Rendon.

A second season has yet to be announced.

PBS Launches PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel

PBS Distribution Aug. 4 will launch a new documentary-focused Prime Video Channel called PBS Documentaries.

The subscription rate for the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel, which allows access to PBS content outside the PBS Video App, is $3.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription via Prime Video Channels and is available in the United States only.

The PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel library will include the entire Ken Burns collection as well as programs from “Nova,” “Frontline,” “American Masters,” “Nature,” “American Experience,” “Independent Lens,” “POV” and many independent producers.

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“PBS is the leader of high-quality, compelling nonfiction entertainment, and the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel is a natural addition to our current streaming offering on Prime Video Channels — PBS Masterpiece, PBS Living and PBS Kids,” Andrea Downing, co-president of PBS Distribution, said in a statement. “This channel will not only help bring engaging stories about life in all corners of our country to a new audience, it will provide needed revenues to sustain public broadcasting’s public-private partnership model for the benefit of all stations and the communities they serve.”

The entire Ken Burns collection will also be available via PBS Passport, a member benefit available within the PBS Video App.

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“We had long hoped to be able to have all of our films available in one place so the public would have access to the body of work,” added Ken Burns in a statement. “We’re thrilled that this is now possible thanks to the efforts of PBS Distribution and Amazon to launch the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel and also through PBS’s Passport initiative that allows viewers to support their public television stations. Both will also contribute to the larger mission of PBS.”

“’Frontline’ was founded on the belief that long-form documentaries could inform, educate and inspire public television’s audiences — and during these historic times, deeply reported and easily accessible journalism is invaluable,” “Frontline” executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath said in a statement. “Through this new channel, we’re excited to see our documentaries reach new and existing streaming audiences.”

At launch, the channel will feature nearly 1,000 hours of programming, including Ken Burns’ series The Civil War and Country Music, Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and Academy Award-Nominated films such as “Frontline’s” For Sama and American Experiences Last Days in Vietnam.

“I’m thrilled to see that my work will find a new home on this channel,” Nelson said in a statement. “PBS has become a premier destination for documentary programming in the U.S. and has been hugely invested in giving films by diverse storytellers and emerging filmmakers much-needed national exposure. I’m so glad that my film on the Black Panther Party, which can inform communities in our current historical moment, will be able to reach different audiences on this new service.”

Study: Average U.S. SVOD Household Has Access to Almost 100,000 Hours of Content

The average U.S. SVOD household has access to almost 100,000 hours of content, delivered via 3.8 different services, according to research from Ampere Analysis.

It would take 11 years to watch it all back-to-back, and nearly 70 years if the average viewer watched an average of four hours per day, according to Ampere. The main factors driving this increase in content availability are consumer uptake of Amazon Prime’s booming portfolio and the addition of new services such as Disney+ to the household mix, according to the study.

SVOD engagement is even more prominent in households with young kids. Those households have access to nearly five different SVOD services, more than any other demographic. This is up significantly from 3.5 in the same period last year, largely due to the launch of Disney+, and the high uptake of the family-friendly service in the group, according to Ampere. The content available to this demographic group via the VOD services in their household now stands at an average of 102,000 hours.

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Even adults who live alone have an average of 3.1 services, with the average one-person SVOD household having 85,500 hours — almost 10 years — of content at their fingertips.

Almost one third of U.S. SVOD households subscribed to Disney+ in Q1 2020. The service comes with a 4,200-hour catalog and thus adds an average of 1,400 hours of content to the typical SVOD household’s portfolio, Ampere noted.

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Amazon has more than doubled its content catalog in the United States since Q3 2017 according to Ampere Analytics data. The 60% of SVOD households who have both Netflix and Amazon accounts can access more than 100,000 hours of TV shows and movies.

“Consumers already have a vast amount of content at their disposal, and a U.S. household who subscribes to both Netflix and Amazon currently has access to more than 100,000 hours of content from those two services alone,” Ampere senior analyst Toby Holleran said in a statement. “As the market fragments further with additional direct-to-consumer services and households hit a spending ceiling, consumers will become more selective about their SVOD choices. The more expensive services, alongside those without a clear brand and proposition, will find the going gets tougher.”