Cox Adds Amazon Prime Video Access to Contour

Cox Communications has added access to Amazon Prime Video for its Contour customers, according to a Cox press release.

By simply saying “Amazon Prime Video” or “Prime Video” into their Contour voice remote, customers can watch Amazon Originals such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Hanna,” ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “Guava Island,” “Homecoming” and “The Man in the High Castle,” as well as other Amazon Prime content.

“When it’s time to enjoy your favorite streaming content, just say the word and we’ll serve it up on your screen. It has never been easier to find and enjoy favorite TV shows, movies and video clips all in one place,” said Kevin Hart, EVP and chief product and technology officer for Cox in a statement. “We’ve removed the complexity that comes with toggling, switching inputs or the necessity of watching on a smaller screen. Now all you have to do is say the name of your favorite Prime Video show or movie into your Contour remote and it will appear on your TV.”

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“Prime Video is committed to making our customers’ favorite shows, movies and live sports effortless to watch,” said Andrew Bennett, head of worldwide business development for Prime Video in a statement. “Bringing the Prime Video app to Contour gives our Prime members even more ways to stream Amazon Originals including the upcoming launches of Good Omens and Chasing Happiness, the Jonas Brothers’ documentary.”

The Contour voice remote also allows customers access to the series page by saying the name of the series.

In addition to Amazon Prime, Contour customers can use the voice remote to pull up live TV content, recorded DVR content, Netflix content and YouTube content.

YouTube Expands MLB Partnership with Live-Game Streaming

YouTube April 30 disclosed it has expanded its relationship with Major League Baseball that includes the right to live-stream 13 games for free during the second-half of 2019 season in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

The deal mirrors last year’s deals between MLB, Amazon and Twitter that brought the national pastime to social media and beyond the league’s MLB.tv subscription streaming service.

Google-owned YouTube’s first-ever streaming deal with MLB follows previous deals that included Google Assistant serving as the presenting sponsor of the 2018 American and National League Championship Series.

That promotion marked Google’s first-ever presenting partnership around a U.S. professional sports league’s postseason event for its voice-activated technology.

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Previously, online TV subscription service YouTube TV served as the presenting sponsor of the 2017 and 2018 World Series.

YouTube TV also partnered with MLB on a season-long sponsorship — “First Pitch” – that showcased the YouTube TV brand during the first pitches of games on MLB Network and MLB.tv, and on MLB.com and MLB social channels.

In 2017, MLB’s engagement and content strategy on YouTube generated over 1 billion views.

“From live programming morphing into a YouTube TV spot, to prominent in-stadium placements, our innovative partnership [with MLB] allowed us to build awareness for YouTube TV,” Angela Courtin, global head of YouTube TV & originals marketing, said in a statement last year.

Walmart Teases One-Day Shipping

The shipping delivery war took another turn after Walmart went to social media to hint it would match Amazon’s decision to switch from free two-day shipping for Prime members to one-day deliveries.

“One-day free shipping … without a membership fee. Now THAT would be groundbreaking. Stay tuned,” Walmart tweeted April 26 the day after Amazon disclosed it would spend upwards of $800 million upgrading internal and external shipping capacity for one-day shipments.

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Amazon charges $119 annually for its Prime membership, which includes free access to movies and TV shows on Amazon Prime Video, music on Prime Music and two-hour delivery (for a fee) for Prime Now store deliveries, among other features.

Amazon’s announcement had a ripple effect on retail stocks, sending Walmart and Target shares down 1.9% and 5.7%, respectively, in April 26 trading.

The switch is expected to put added pressure on big box retailers such as Best Buy, Office Depot and Dick’s Sporting Goods, among others.

Amazon to Cut Prime Two-day Shipping to One Day

Amazon created the free shipping business model over two days for Prime members. Now, the ecommerce giant plans to cut that shipping time to one day worldwide.

Speaking April 25 on the fiscal call, CFO Brian Olsavsky said Amazon would spend upwards of $800 million in current second quarter on fulfillment expenses related to cutting the shipping window in half.

Amazon said it generated the largest number of new Prime members in 2018, due in large part to free shipping on more than 100 million items.

The company currently offers one-day, same-day and two-hour (Prime Now) shipping on select items for an additional fee. Most free shipments are two-day.

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“Our goal is to evolve the two-day shipping program into the one-day shipping program,” Olsavsky said. “We think that will open up a lot of potential purchases. We expect to make steady progress quickly and through the year.”

He said the switch would requiring building-out shipping capacity both internally and with third-party services such as UPS and the U.S. Post Office.

“We’ll just have to see what changes have to be made to get more selection into that one-day category,” Olsavsky said.

Amazon last year became the largest single customer for Mercedes Sprinter vans in the world — a purchase it has incorporated into a branded Prime delivery fleet.

“We really think it will be groundbreaking for Prime customers,” Olsavksy said.

Amazon Increases Q1 Online Sales 9.4%

Amazon April 25 said it increased first-quarter (ended March 31) online sales 9.4% to $29.5 billion from $26.9 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 nearly 40% to $4.34 billion, compared to $3.10 billion last year.

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Other home entertainment highlights in the quarter included the Prime Video launch of original series “Hanna,” a part high-concept thriller, part coming-of-age drama, based on the 2011 film, and announced the series was picked up for season two.

Additionally, the film Guava Island starring Donald Glover and Rihanna, launched on Prime Video after a surprise premiere at Coachella.

Amazon Studios greenlit more than 20 new and returning local Prime original series, including “La Templanza” in Spain, “Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo” in Germany, “Bandish Bandits” in India, “El Presidente” in Mexico, and “The Bachelorette” in Japan.

Research: OTT Revenue Forecast to Reach $22 Billion in 2019

Based on 66 OTT providers, led by Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, U.S. OTT access revenue grew 37% to $16.3 billion in 2018 and is forecast to reach $22 billion in 2019, according to a new research from Convergence Research.

The research firm has released two new reports, “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: OTT and TV” and “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: Bundling, TV, Internet, Telephone, Wireless.”

Still, U.S. TV subscriber average revenue per user (ARPU) is still forecast to be three times U.S. OTT subscriber household ARPU in 2021.

The firm estimates 2018 U.S. cable, satellite, telco TV access (not including OTT) revenue declined 3% to $103.4 billion in 2018 and forecasts 2019 will see a similar decline. Also, 2018 saw a decline of 4.01 million U.S. TV subscribers and 2017 a decline of 3.66 million, according to the firm, which forecasts a decline of 4.56 million TV subs for 2019. The U.S. TV subscriber
base will decline 5% in 2019, from a decline of 4% in 2018, according to the firm’s estimates.

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By the end of 2018, the firm estimates 30% of households did not have a traditional TV subscription with a cable, satellite, or telco TV access provider, up from 26% at the end of 2017. The firm forecasts that number to reach 34% of households by the end of 2019. Convergence Research estimates 2018 saw almost 5 million cord cutter/never household additions.

The firm projects that a number of OTT plays, including large and niche, will fail due to insufficient subscriber traction, cost and competition, noting major programmers continue to accelerate their direct-to-consumer drive, including Disney and WarnerMedia. Other developments noted by the firm include:

  • Hulu spends more on content per sub than either Amazon or Netflix and continues to discount (notably with Spotify);
  • CBS/Showtime’s OTT subscriber trajectory has been faster than expected;
  • Discovery has backed and supplied Philo, gone live with Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV, and will be launching an OTT service with the BBC;
  • NBC Universal will be launching an OTT service in 2020;
  • and Viacom has backed and supplied Philo and others, acquired Pluto and Awesomeness TV and is producing for Amazon and Netflix.

Netflix Expanding New York Presence With New Office, Production Facility

Amazon may have left, but Netflix is expanding its New York state of mind.

The SVOD behemoth April 18 announced it is spending $100 million for a new production facility in New York, that also includes office space for 127 executives in content, marketing and production.

The streaming video pioneer will also inhabit a Brooklyn-based production space with six sound stages and the capacity to house thousands of jobs within five years.

“Netflix is innovative, creative and bold — just like New Yorkers — and the expansion of this cutting-edge company in New York once again demonstrates the Empire State is open for business,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Netflix’s new corporate offices will take up approximately 100,000 square feet at 888 Broadway in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. The offices will house the aforementioned executive positions in addition to Netflix’s 32 current New York-based employees.

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The company — which has a long history of production in New York including “Orange Is the New Black,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” She’s Gotta Have ItThe IrishmanSomeone Great, “Private Life” and “Russian Doll” — has also leased approximately 161,000 square feet to build six sound stages at 333 Johnson Avenue in Brooklyn.

“Thanks to Netflix, online streaming has become as commonplace as cable television, and maybe even more accessible — and their decision to expand in New York is a validation of our work to support and develop New York’s technology, entertainment and production industries,” said Empire State Development commissioner Howard Zemsky.

To support Netflix’s infrastructure expansion, Empire State Development offered up to $4 million in performance-based tax credits over 10 years, which are directly tied to real job creation. To receive the full incentive, Netflix must create the 127 jobs by 2024 at its new executive production office and then retain those new jobs and their existing 32 office jobs for another five years.

The tax incentive pales in comparison to the billions offered Amazon, which ultimately pulled out of its Long Island headquarters expansion following political pushback.

Labor leaders applauded the news.

“Hardworking crew members are the foundation of New York’s film industry, and this project invests in their future,” said John Ford, president of Motion Picture Studio Mechanics Local 52, I.A.T.S.E.

“There are few companies in our industry that are as forward thinking as Netflix,” said Tom O’Donnell, president, Theatrical Teamsters Local 817. “With this news, we’ll continue to add solid, middle class jobs to already record employment. The climate for this to happen would not exist without the wildly successful New York State Film Tax Credit Program — and I applaud Governor Cuomo for his foresight and continued support.”

Amazon, Google Bowing Apps on Competing Streaming Media Devices

In a first, Amazon and Google April 18 announced the two companies will launch the YouTube app on Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV-enabled smart TVs, as well as the Prime Video app to Chromecast and separately-enabled devices.

Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku dominate the streaming media device market.

Google Chromecast

Prime Video will also be available across Android TV device partners, and the YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will also come to Fire TV later this year. Google owns Android TV.

The YouTube app will be the easiest way for users to watch YouTube content on Fire TV. Users will be able to sign in to their existing YouTube account, access their full library of content, and play videos in 4K HDR on supported devices. In addition, standalone YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will also launch later this year on Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs where available.

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Amazon Fire TV Stick

“Bringing our flagship YouTube experience to Amazon Fire TV gives our users even more ways to watch the videos and creators they love,” Heather Rivera, global head of product partnerships at YouTube, said in a statement.

Chromecast, along with Android TV users, will have access to the Prime Video catalog, including the latest seasons of Amazon Originals “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Hanna,” “Homecoming,” “Bosch,” “Catastrophe” and “The Grand Tour,” along with Amazon Original movies such as Donald Glover’s Guava Island, and Academy Award-nominated films The Big Sick and Cold War. 

With Prime Video users can also rent or purchase titles or choose from more than 150 Prime Video Channels, including Showtime, HBO, CBS All-Access, Cinemax and Lionsgate-owned Starz.

“Whether watching the latest season of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ catching teams go head-to-head on Thursday Night Football or renting a new-release movie, customers will have even more ways to stream what they want, whenever they want, no matter where they are,” said Andrew Bennett, head of worldwide business development for Prime Video.

‘Jack Ryan: Season One’ on Disc June 4

Paramount Home Media Entertainment will release Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan: Season One on Blu-ray and DVD June 4 (order date April 23).

The Amazon Prime Video original series stars John Krasinski as the CIA analyst from the Tom Clancy novels, who finds himself at the center of a search for a terrorist figurehead preparing to attack the United States. The cast also includes Wendell Pierce and Abbie Cornish.

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

Amazon has renewed the series for a second and third season.

 

Netflix Rated the Fastest-Growing Brand in 2019

As if it needs more attention, Netflix has been tapped the fastest-growing brand of 2019, according to Brand Finance, a brand valuation consulting company based in New York and Paris.

Based in part on a company’s ability to remain relevant and make an impact on the culture (home entertainment) it’s participating in, Netflix saw its brand value increase 105% over the past year to $21.2 billion.

The report said the subscription streaming video pioneer is set to play the “lead role in home entertainment,” building a disruptive business model as a universally accessible narrowcaster and effectively challenging traditional broadcasting brands and distribution.

“Netflix delivers high-quality and varied programming to anyone with Internet access and a credit card,” Alex Haigh, valuation director at Brand Finance, said in a statement. “The platform has embarked on a disruptive approach to media services and now has incumbents in the market looking over their shoulder.”

While Netflix’s brand keeps growing exponentially, Amazon (including Prime Video) remains the most valuable domestic brand, growing nearly 25% to $187.9 billion valuation.

“This year, Amazon’s brand is worth approximately half of the combined value of the 42 retail brands in the ranking,” Haigh said. “The retail industry is another sector at a crossroads as tech giants and online sellers encroach upon the traditional business model with a completely new proposition.”

With the media industry feeling the effects of tech disruption, another rapidly growing digital media brand is YouTube(up 46% to $37.8 billion) this year jumping 10 spots to 13th nationally.

Like Netflix, YouTube is building a broad platform for video content, in an effort to leverage its brand from merely peer-to-peer video creation and sharing to also include a growing premium and professional video library.

Among traditional media brands, Disney entered the top 10 nationally on the back of its M&A acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. The brand jumped 40% in value to $45.7 billion.

Tech giants, Apple (2nd, $153.6 billion) and Google (3rd, $142.8 billion) remained entrenched in their positions from last year.

With a 47% increase in brand value to $119.6 billion, Microsoft moved into 4th after the company’s successful turn towards a cloud-centric business.

With all eyes turned to 5G, AT&T dropped down a spot to 5th, after a modest 6% brand value increase over past 12 months to $87 billion.

Aside from calculating brand value, Brand Finance also determined the relative strength of brands using a scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity, and business performance.

Though Facebook held onto its 6thspot, its brand strength suffered the second worst decline among the top 100 brands, resulting in a rating downgrade from AAA+ to AAA- after a year of privacy issues that have landed the company in the hot seat.

Behind tech, the largest industry with a combined brand value of over $1 trillion, the retail sector comes in second with $340.5 billion. Eighth-ranked Walmart (up 10% to $67.9 billion) is the nation’s most valuable brick-and-mortar retail brand, as it continues to push the boundaries of its physical store and logistics network.

Home Depot (up 39% to $47.1 billion) jumped from 11th to 9th, while its rival Lowe’s saw its brand value go up 49% to $23.9 billion.