Jason Kilar: ‘The Value of VHS Was Robust’

In media interviews following his April 1 hiring announcement, Jason Kilar, former founding CEO of Hulu and new boss at WarnerMedia Entertainment, said the next 10 years matter more for him than the previous 85 years. Kilar, who helped start Hulu in 2007, left the streaming service in 2013 to start an ad-supported video platform called Vessel, which was shuttered in 2016.

“I actually believe this isn’t about WarnerMedia; it’s as much about Disney and NBCUniversal and others,” Kilar told Variety. “I actually think these companies are going to look so different within the next decade out of necessity and out of opportunity.”

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Strong words for a newcomer working for a company whose name and content library are all about legacy. But, then, the 48-year-old Kilar’s career has largely focused on emerging technology within the entertainment space.

Kilar, who begins his position on May 1, was also instrumental in launching Hulu Plus, which enabled viewers to pay extra to gain access to the most recently televised episodes in addition all episodes from every past season.

“We are still in the early innings of customers worldwide starting to watch content on demand,” Kilar said. “Under the hood from a tech standpoint, it’s very important to get that right, invest in it. Those are the two very important things.”

Kilar joins WarnerMedia as it readies the May launch of HBO Max during a global virus pandemic when domestic unemployment claims skyrocket and household discretionary spending comes to a halt. Kilar believes the lower cost of digital distribution bodes well during economic turbulence.

“The tech is hard to do but once you get it right, the cost of distribution in a tech environment like digital, is that variable costs are so small it allows you to go global,” he said.

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At the same time, Kilar said he respects the value of existing distribution channels, calling the expedited release of some theatrical releases into retail channels a “necessity” due to theaters shutting down worldwide.

In an interesting note, Kilar said his early days at Amazon included melding existing video technology with e-commerce.

“I wrote the business plan for Amazon getting into the video retail business,” he said. “VHS. Everyone wrote off the VHS business when the DVD showed up on the scene, but the value of VHS business was incredibly robust.”

Indeed, Amazon reportedly only stopped selling VHS titles in 2019, transferring ASIN#’s (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) applied to VHS to related DVDs or Blu-ray Discs.

Study: Netflix Launched Nine Times as Much Original Programming as Amazon in 2019

Netflix in 2019 launched about nine times as much original programming as video streaming rival Amazon, according to the Omdia Original Online Production Report — 2020.

Last year, Netflix released 2,701 hours of original programming, compared with just 314 hours for Amazon Prime Video, according to the report. Netflix offered a total of 657 first-run original titles in 2019, outstripping the 70 new titles from Amazon Prime Video.

Compared to 2018, Netflix increased its hours and titles of original programming by 78% and 70%, respectively, in 2019. In contrast, Amazon’s hours declined by 18% and titles decreased by 5%.

Amazon and Netflix original productions (titles and hours). Source: Omdia.

“Rather than competing head-on, Netflix and Amazon are in very different businesses — as illustrated by the original programming results from 2019,” said Tim Westcott, research director, channels and programming, for Omdia, in a statement. “Netflix is a pure-play subscription streaming business that needs to fuel its continued international growth; Amazon is first and foremost a retailer, using video as an add-on to its Prime delivery business. In pursuit if its streaming strategy, Netflix is evolving into a Hollywood-style studio, building its defenses against the likes of Apple and Disney+ by offering an increasing volume of original programs.”

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Non-U.S. productions were the main factor driving Netflix’s programming increase in 2019, with 1,562 hours originating overseas, up from 578 hours in 2018. The 1,139 hours of production sourced from the United States in 2019 were up 20% from 2018. For the first time, most of Netflix’s original content was produced outside the U.S. in 2019, accounting for 58% of total hours. The company’s non-U.S. originals were up 175% while non-U.S. subscriptions increased by 24%.

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“Netflix sourced a majority of its original content outside the United States in 2019, but there is more to this phenomenon than simply driving international growth,” Westcott said in a statement. “Of course, local productions help to drive international growth, but Netflix is a global platform seeking content that can appeal to audiences all over the world. Non-U.S. productions tend to be a lot cheaper, giving Netflix a more cost-effective way to address audiences in the United States and across the globe.”

At the end of 2019, Netflix reported 109 million international subscribers, 64% of its overall total. International subscribers rose 24% compared to 2018, while growth in the United States was a relatively modest 3%.

However, the relationship between international content and the platform’s growth in the international market is not so straightforward, according to Omdia. Netflix is primarily a global platform, so its original series are designed to appeal to worldwide audiences rather than simply delivering an upside in a local market. For example, “La Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist”), the Spanish-language series picked up by Netflix after the first season on national TV in Spain, is Netflix’s most viewed series not in the English language, with 44 million views between October 2018 and September 2019, according to the service. The U.K. productions “Sex Education” (40 million) and “Our Planet” (33 million) and another Spanish series, “Elite”(20 million), also featured among the streaming platform’s top 10 shows per Netflix.


Amazon Suspends Non-Essential Third-Party Shipments

Want that new-release DVD or Blu-ray Disc from Amazon? If it’s coming from a third-party vendor, you might wait awhile. The e-commerce behemoth March 17 announced it would limit shipments of all non-essential products to its warehouses across the country.

Amazon is now limiting shipments to medical supplies, household staples (i.e. toilet paper) and other high-priority items until April 5, according to an internal memo to third-party sellers.

“We are temporarily prioritizing [these] products coming into our fulfillment centers so we can more quickly receive, restock and deliver these products to customers,” read the memo reported by Business Insider.

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Priority items include health and household items, beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific. DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies were not on the list.

“We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock,” read the memo.

Steve Yates with Prime Alliance, which assists Amazon sellers, said the drastic move is in response to coronavirus, which continues to spread rapidly with more than 2,000 cases reported in the United States.

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Yates told the publication that third-party sellers he’s talked to have seen their revenue plummet 40% to 60% on Amazon due to revised shipping guidelines.

“It may be difficult for some sellers to ship every item themselves, but if they want to have their products for sale on Amazon, they have no choice until April 5,” said Will Tjernlund with Goat Consulting in Minneapolis, Minn.

The shipment change could wreak havoc for eTailz.com, the Trans World Entertainment Corp. subsidiary specializing in third-party sellers on Amazon.

TWEC recently offloaded its f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) home entertainment retail chain to focus on eTailz — the latter posting a 35% drop in revenue in its most-recent fiscal period. And that was before the virus pandemic. The net loss was $1.3 million.


Analyst Adds Amazon, Facebook to ‘Best Ideas’ Company List During Coronavirus Pandemic

Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter has compiled a list of publicly traded companies he says are good bets (for investing in) during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With people encouraged to stay indoors in their homes and avoid large gatherings, companies catering towards consumers confined indoors are gaining traction with investors.

“We view Amazon as uniquely-positioned to gain meaningful market share across a number of verticals in a multitude of countries driven by coronavirus-related changes in consumer behavior,” Pachter wrote in a March 17 note.

Beyond its market-leader status in ecommerce, Amazon’s Prime Video streaming video service, Prime Channels (third-party SVOD platforms), Instant Video (transactional VOD) and packaged media offer a cross-platform variety of home entertainment options.

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With consumers in the near term appearing to spend more time and money shopping online to avoid crowds, limit time wasted searching for products sold-out at brick-and-mortar outlets, and, in some situations, to adhere to the rules implemented by different governmental bodies, Pachter contends companies like Amazon and Facebook are well-positioned to deal with the situation.

Indeed, despite Amazon disclosing delivery delays last weekend due to the consumer crush for select items (i.e. toilet paper), Pachter says this amounts to a “high-class” problem only.

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“We expect Amazon to absorb the learnings from this difficult period and adapt its supply chain and delivery network best practices accordingly,” Pachter wrote. “In addition, we expect consumers’ increasing reliance on the company at present to result in the acceleration of market share capture that should benefit Amazon and its investors for the next several years.”

The analyst believes Facebook has likely seen significant upticks in user engagement and hence ad impression growth across multiple properties driven by coronavirus fears. Given the seemingly unprecedented and unrelenting volume of news related to the global pandemic, the reliance that a large percentage of the world’s population has on Facebook as its primary source of information, and an increasingly-pervasive stay-at-home attitude accentuated in some instances by the government, “we believe that many Facebook users have been accessing its properties at meaningfully elevated levels over the last several weeks.”

Pachter expects the “positive” momentum for Facebook to continue through the remainder of the first quarter in many of Facebook’s most important geographies.

“When factoring in these recent trends, the company’s high-level Q1 top-line growth guidance and consensus expectations for the fiscal year appear overly conservative,” he wrote.


Amazon Video’s Greg Hart Leaves for Compass

Amazon Video executive Greg Hart has exited the online goliath to join real estate technology company Compass as chief product officer.

Hart was most recently VP of worldwide, Amazon Video, responsible for steering the global expansion of the company’s digital video offerings, leading Prime Video’s global business, product, engineering, marketing, distribution and sports rights teams.

Hart spent 23 years at Amazon, beginning his career in books and then moving on to product management roles in music, gaming, video, software and AI.

Last month, Amazon appointed Mike Hopkins, who previously headed Hulu before leaving to become chairman of Sony Pictures Television, SVP at Prime Video and Amazon Studios. Hart had reported to Hopkins.

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“Compass is unlike any other company in real estate or technology. The company truly views agents as customers and has made it their mission to provide these customers with services and software necessary to take their business to the next level in today’s digital economy,” said Hart in a statement. “This customer-first approach to product development has been central to my own career, so the opportunity to better serve this massive customer group is the natural next step for me.”

Reporting to Compass CEO Robert Reffkin, Hart will be responsible for driving all aspects of Compass’ integrated product offering.


Sketch Comedy Show ‘Kids in the Hall’ Making Comeback on Amazon Prime

The sketch comedy series “The Kids in the Hall” will be making a comeback on Prime Video.

With the return of all of the original stars, the eight-episode Amazon Original series, which will be a continuation of the original show, will be available to Prime members in Canada and around the world in more than 200 countries and territories.

First premiering in 1989, the original Emmy Award-nominated “The Kids in the Hall” starred Canadian comedians Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson, who will be reprising fan-favorite characters (and assuming some new ones) for the series’ next iteration. The original series earned multiple Gemini Awards along with the cast being honored with the Canadian Screen Awards Icon Award in 2019.

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The series will be executive produced by “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels.

“Even after 30 years, ‘The Kids in the Hall’ has retained its brilliance and originality,” Michaels said in a statement. “We are happy to be bringing back all of the original ‘Kids’ for the new series.”

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“We’ve been investing in Canada for several years and are excited to add to that momentum by making ‘The Kids in the Hall’ the first Canadian Amazon Original series,” said James Farrell, VP of international originals for Amazon Studios, in a statement. “‘The Kids in the Hall’ is an iconic show with a deep-rooted fan base. Several of our global hits, including ‘The Boys,’ ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’ and ‘The Expanse’ have been filmed in Canada, and we are looking forward to continuing our work with talented producers and crew teams across the country to bring this series to our Prime members around the world.”


Amazon’s ‘Hunters’ Top Rising Show, Netflix’s ‘Locke & Key’ Again Top Binge on TV Time Charts

Amazon’s “Hunters” was the top rising show while Netflix’s “Locke & Key” was again the top binge show on the TV Time charts for the week ended Feb. 23.

“Hunters” debuted Feb. 21. The series, from executive producer Jordan Peele, stars Al Pacino in a story of Nazi hunters in 1977 New York.

“Locke & Key,” which hit screens Feb. 7, is an adaptation of the comic book series. It follows three siblings and their mother who move into their ancestral home, Keyhouse, after the father is murdered under mysterious circumstances. The house, they discover, is full of magical keys that may be connected to the father’s death.

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TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended Feb. 23 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Locke & Key” (Netflix) — 2.84%
  2. “Cable Girls” (Netflix) — 2.41%
  3. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.99%
  4. “Sex Education” (Netflix) — 1.94%
  5. “Vikings” (History) — 1.82%
  6. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) — 1.67%
  7. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.42%
  8. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix) — 1.32%
  9. “Riverdale” (The CW) — 1.26%
  10. “Narcos: Mexico” (Netflix) — 1.22%


Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended Feb. 23 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Hunters” (Amazon) — 99.9%
  2. “Koh-Lanta” (TF1) — 97.5%
  3. “Les Marseillias” (W9) — 97.4%
  4. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO) — 93.6%
  5. “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (NBC) — 93.2%
  6. “The Chef Show” (Netflix) — 93%
  7. “Love Is Blind” (Netflix) — 86.4%
  8. “God Friended Me” (CBS) — 73.3%
  9. “Batwoman” (The CW) — 71.9%
  10. “NCIS: New Orleans” (CBS) — 70.9%

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.

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.


Amazon Greenlights Four New Local Latin-American Originals

Amazon has greenlighted four new local original series from Argentina, Chile and Colombia, marking the first-ever locally produced Amazon Originals to launch in these countries that will also be available exclusively on Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

The four scripted series announced consist of Argentinean original “Iosi, El Espía Arrepentido (“Iosi, The Repentant Spy”), a spy thriller; the Chilean originals “La Jauría” (“The Pack”), a mystery thriller, and “Colonia Dignidad” (“Dignity Colony”), a docuseries exploring the hidden truths behind one of Chile’s most dangerous cults; and the Colombian original series “Noticia de un Secuestro” (“News of a Kidnapping”), a suspenseful drama based on the non-fiction book by Gabriel García Márquez.

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“We know our Prime Video audiences across Latin America are eager for local shows from the best local voices, and we couldn’t be more excited to introduce these first local series for Argentina, Chile and Colombia that already have some of the most locally renowned directors and talent attached,” said James Farrell, head of international Amazon Originals, Amazon Studios, in a statement. “And in addition to delighting local audiences, we’re thrilled to be able to bring the work of these talented local writers, directors, producers and actors behind each series to an international audience of more than 100 million Prime members worldwide.”