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.

Netflix CFO: Disney+ Not More Popular Outside the U.S.

With Netflix citing increased fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2019) domestic churn among existing subscribers as a response to new SVOD service launches from Disney and Apple, concern is growing about the impact of Disney’s accelerated SVOD launch plans in Europe in March.

Indeed, Netflix added 420,000 subscribers in the U.S. in the quarter, which was down from 600,000 projected. Outside the U.S., Netflix said it has seen a more “muted impact” from competitive launches in Canada, Australia and Holland.

“As always, we are working hard to improve our service to combat these factors and push net adds higher over time,” executive wrote in the shareholder letter.

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Speaking Jan. 21 on the pre-recorded fiscal interview, CFO Spencer Neumann said that while Disney remains a global brand, its streaming service remains largely focused on catalog programming with a few original shows other than the “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian.”

“[Disney is] not more popular than they are in the U.S. anywhere else in the world,” Neumann said.

CEO Reed Hastings contends the rise of rival SVOD services is having more of an impact on pay-TV than Netflix in particular.

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“Remember that we compete a lot for time with YouTube,” Hastings said. “And it’s not dollars because that’s ad supported. But we compete very broadly for viewing and as [previously] mentioned our viewing on a per-member basis is up. And that’s because our content is getting better. Our service is getting better. And that’s all coming out of linear TV.”

AppleTV+ Unveils Slate of Renewed and Original Content

Apple TV+ announced a slew of new and renewed content during the Television Critics Association event.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth

Meryl Streep will narrate the Apple original animated Earth Day short film Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, premiering April 17 exclusively on Apple TV+. Joining Streep are Chris O’Dowd (“Girls,” “State of the Union”), Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) and Ruth Negga (Loving, Ad Astra). In celebration of Earth Day, the animated film follows a precocious 7-year-old (voiced by Tremblay) who, over the course of Earth Day, learns about the wonders of the planet from his parents (voiced by O’Dowd and Negga) — and from a mysterious exhibit at the aptly titled Museum of Everything. The film is based on the bestselling book from artist, illustrator and writer Oliver Jeffers.

New documentary series “Dear …,” executive produced by Emmy and Peabody Award winner R.J. Cutler (“The September Issue”) will premiere globally this spring on Apple TV+. Inspired by Apple’s “Dear Apple” spots, “Dear …” features biographies of iconic figures in society by using letters written by those whose lives have been changed through their work. The 10-episode series will profile leaders including Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, Spike Lee, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Yara Shahidi, Stevie Wonder, Aly Raisman, Misty Copeland and Big Bird.

“Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” has been renewed for a second season ahead of its global premiere Feb. 7 on Apple TV+. “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” follows a team of video game developers as they navigate the challenges of running a popular video game. Rob McElhenney stars as the fictional company’s creative director. The series also stars F. Murray Abraham, Danny Pudi, Imani Hakim, Charlotte Nicdao, David Hornsby, Ashly Burch and Jessie Ennis. All nine, half-hour episodes of the live-action comedy’s first season will be available to stream Feb. 7.

“Trying,” Apple’s first original series from the United Kingdom to debut on Apple TV+, will premiere May 1 around the world. Starring Rafe Spall and Esther Smith, its is a comedy featuring eight half-hour episodes.

After being announced as part of the 2020 SXSW Film Festival lineup, Apple revealed that the documentary series “Home” will debut globally April 17 exclusively on Apple TV+. The series offers viewers a look inside the world’s most innovative homes.

Apple TV+’s original series “Amazing Stories,” executive produced by Steven Spielberg, will make its global debut March 6. The series is a reimagining of the original anthology series.

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“Home Before Dark,” a dramatic mystery series inspired by the reporting of investigative journalist Hilde Lysiak, has been renewed for a second season. The series will premiere its first three episodes April 3 exclusively on Apple TV+, and new episodes will premiere weekly thereafter every Friday. “Home Before Dark” follows a young girl who moves from Brooklyn to the small lakeside town her father left behind. While there, her dogged pursuit of the truth leads her to unearth a cold case that everyone in town, including her own father, tried hard to bury. “Home Before Dark” stars Brooklynn Prince, Jim Sturgess, Abby Miller, Kylie Rogers, Adrian Hough, Jibrail Nantambu, Deric McCabe and Joelle Carter.

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“Central Park,” an animated musical comedy from Emmy Award winner Loren Bouchard (“Bob’s Burgers”), executive producer Josh Gad (Frozen) and executive producer Nora Smith (“Bob’s Burgers”), will premiere exclusively on Apple TV+ this summer. It follows the Tillermans, a family that lives in Central Park. Owen, the park manager, and Paige, his journalist wife, raise their kids Molly and Cole in the park, while fending off hotel heiress Bitsy Brandenham and her long suffering assistant Helen, who would love nothing more than to turn the park into condos. The series voice cast includes Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Tituss Burgess, Daveed Diggs and Stanley Tucci.

 

Apple TV+ Inks Deal with Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Apple has signed an overall deal with actress and producer Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Under the multiyear agreement, Louis-Dreyfus will develop new projects exclusively for Apple TV+ as both an executive producer and star. The deal marks her first-ever overall deal with a streaming service.

“I am thrilled about this new partnership with my friends at Apple,” said Louis-Dreyfus in a statement. “Also, many thanks and kudos to my representatives for structuring the deal in such a way that I am paid in AirPods.”

Louis-Dreyfus is best known for her iconic roles in “Saturday Night Live,” “Seinfeld,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Veep.” She has won multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG and Critics Choice Awards for her work as an actress and producer and is a recipient of the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

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CBS All Access, Showtime Top Combined 10 Million Subs

ViacomCBS’ standalone subscription streaming video services have more than 10 million combined subscribers — up from 8 million previously announced — but down from the 16 million subs suggested by acting CEO Joe Ianniello in the most-recent fiscal call.

Speaking Jan. 12 at the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif., Marc DeBevoise, chief digital officer and boss of CBS Interactive, said the services have been growing subs by 60% annually.

“We’re in a great position to hit our goals of 25 million subscribers by 2022,” DeBevoise said.

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The executive, along with Julie McNamara, head of All Access Originals, said the two services’ appeal to subscribers underscores their diversity of content, including catalog and original.

“I think that’s pretty unique,” DeBevoise said.

McNamara said competing against new services Apple TV+, Disney+ and pending platforms HBO Max and Peacock, revolves around the confidence executives have for proprietary platforms.

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“I think we’ve seen with other services, the kind of pro and con of how that works, and you’ve got to have the creative confidence and keep going out there with shows people want to see, and I do believe that most consumers out there will follow their hearts, to some extent, in terms of the content being really desirable for them,” she said.

Regardless, Ianniello calculated the 16 million sub count by combining traditional pay-TV subs accessing Showtime and All Access as well as standalone direct-to-consumer and online TV subs streaming programming through third-party platforms such as Sling TV and AT&T TV Now.

“We think [the overall sub count] is important because there is a lot of headwind in the traditional [pay-TV] business and our point is, when you factor all of that in, we are [actually] growing subs,” he said last October. “So, that’s why we thought that [16 million] statistic was meaningful … that consumers are seeking out our content on other platforms, which bodes well for our future.”

 

Ex-HBO Boss Inks 5-Year Apple TV+ Production Deal

In a move to jumpstart its branded subscription streaming video service, Apple has reportedly signed a five-year production deal with Richard Plepler, former CEO of HBO.

Under the deal ironed out by Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, Apple’s joint heads of video, Plepler’s company, Eden Productions, will create original series, movies and documentaries for Apple TV+. The $4.99 service launched Nov. 2, 2019, with fewer than a dozen original programs.

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“I’m excited to work with Zack, Jamie and the standout team at Apple who have been deeply supportive of my vision for Eden from day one,” Plepler said in a statement. “The shows that Zack and Jamie produced, ‘The Crown’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’ are among those I most admired. Apple is one of the most creative companies in the world, and the perfect home for my new production company and next chapter.”

Plepler, who helped launched subscription streaming video platform HBO Now in 2015, ran HBO for 28 years — a career that saw the premium channel produce myriad high-profile shows, including “The Wire,” “The Sopranos,” “True Detective,” “Game of Thrones,” “Silicon Valley,” “Oz,” “Sharp Objects,” “Westworld,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Big Love,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Sex and the City,” “Veep,” “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” “Chernobyl,” “Band of Brothers,” “Barry” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” among others.

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Plepler stepped down from his position shortly after AT&T closed its acquisition of Time Warner, creating WarnerMedia, headed by John Stankey.

Average U.S. Home Streaming Bundle Sweet Spot: $20-$21

With the field of subscription streaming video services growing, new data shows the average U.S. household would spend $20 to $21 monthly for combined platforms — slightly more than 20% of the average pay-TV bundle ($96.18).

Soda.com, in a survey of 1,000 consumers who stream video in the home conducted Nov. 7-9, 2019, found the majority (32%) of respondents would pay $20 or more monthly for combined streaming services, while 30% would prefer not to bundle services and 14% would not pay more than $10 for a bundle.

Notably, 44% of respondents said they use two or more streaming services per week.

With SVOD services ranging from $4.99 for Apple TV+ to $15 for HBO Max, which launches in May, consumers are faced with the challenge of mixing and matching services or prioritizing services based on the user’s favorite content.

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Netflix is projecting 61.2 million domestic subscribers at the end 2019, with actual figures to be released later this month. That’s more than 80% of the combined tally predicted for Hulu (28.5 million), Apple TV+ (10 million), Disney+ (15 million), CBS All Access (8 million), HBO Now (8 million) and ESPN+ (3.5 million), according to CNBC.

In August 2019, there were about 86.5 million traditional pay-TV households — a number that is projected to drop to 73 million by 2023, according to Statista. Most pay-TV subs continue their subscriptions based on habit, premium channels and sports.

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The survey contends Netflix remains the best overall streaming service followed by YouTube TV. Sports fans favored sports-themed fubo TV or ESPN+, whiles families sought Amazon Prime Video (Prime membership and free shipping) and Disney+.

Movie fans chose HBO Now (soon HBO Max) and Hulu, while budget-minded respondents opted for Sling TV and Hoopla.

 

Streaming, Consolidation Dominate Top 10 Home Entertainment Stories of 2019

Streaming and consolidation dominated the home entertainment headlines in 2019, with the Walt Disney Co. leading the way. Netflix got some subscription streaming competition, and free streaming through advertising, or AVOD, emerged as a new star. It was also a year that saw the home entertainment industry lose a venerable studio player that had helped birth the business more than 40 years prior — 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Meanwhile, physical disc sales and rentals continued a structural decline, while electronic sellthrough, the digital sale of content, was a solid performer in the transactional business.

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Here are the top 10 home entertainment stories of 2019, as chosen by Media Play News staff:

  1. Disney Acquires Fox: Disney closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. The deal included myriad Fox properties, including Fox’s interest in Hulu and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which helped birth the home video industry in 1979. The merger also saw the departure of several executives, including Mike Dunn and James Finn at Fox and Janice Marinelli, president of global content sales & distribution for Disney’s direct-to-consumer & international unit.
  2. Disney + Bows: Calling it the company’s most-important consumer product ever, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the launch of Disney+, a standalone SVOD service aimed at taking on segment pioneer Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The service launched Nov. 12 at $6.99 a month offering a trove of catalog movies, including its venerable animated classics and Marvel hits, and catalog TV shows, in addition to original “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian,” an instant fan hit from director Jon Favreau. Disney also unveiled the bundle offer of ESPN+, Hulu (now controlled by Disney) and Disney+ at $12.99 a month.
  3. AVOD in the Spotlight: Advertising-supported video-on-demand, or AVOD, emerged from the SVOD shadows, gaining traction among subscription-weary consumers looking for free content. Mega-media companies Comcast, Viacom (through the acquisition of Pluto TV) and Amazon (through IMDb) acknowledged the growing market. Reports surfaced that Comcast is eyeing acquiring AVOD player Xumo TV to go along with 2020’s Peacock streaming service debut.
  4. Apple TV+ Launches: Apple Nov. 1 launched a standalone branded subscription streaming service at $4.99 a month, Apple TV+, in more than 100 countries and regions through the Apple TV app. Original content included Golden Globe-nominated “The Morning Show,” “See,” “For All Mankind” and “Dickinson.”
  5. Electronic Sellthrough Continues to Grow: Outside of subscription streaming video, the only home entertainment category to post an increase in consumer spending during much of 2019 was electronic sellthrough, the digital purchase of movies and other content. The segment generated an estimated $1.9 billion in consumer spending through the third quarter of 2019, up 6.7% from the previous-year period, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
  6. Redbox Gets Into Content, Out of Disney Movie Code Sales: Redbox launched Redbox Entertainment, a new label to acquire and produce content exclusive for Redbox’s 50 million kiosk consumers. The company tapped Broad Green Pictures and Lionsgate veteran Marc Danon to head content acquisition. The kiosk vendor also settled 2-year-old litigation with Disney, agreeing not to sell the studio’s digital movie codes.
  7. Filmmakers Tweak UHD: The UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies and episodic TV called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended.
  8. Netflix Takes a U.S. Sub Hit: Disaster struck Wall Street favorite Netflix after the streaming behemoth posted a 126,000 domestic subscriber loss in Q2 after projecting growth of 300,000 subs. It was Netflix’s first domestic sub loss since 2011 when co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings announced the short-lived separation of the company’s DVD rental business from its subscription streaming business. Regardless, stock plummet nearly 20% (or $26 billion) in value after the disappointing numbers.
  9. Changes Afoot at Vudu: Vudu — rumored to be up for sale by owner Walmart, which executives told The Information considers it a non-core business — quietly downsized support for its Vudu To Go/In-Home Disc to Digital app, effective Jan. 1, 2020. The digital movie transactional service will still allow users to convert DVD and Blu-ray movies for digital access by scanning UPC codes on the Vudu app via select portable devices such as a mobile phone and tablet.
  10. Netflix Hails Discs: Taking its eye off its dominant streaming business for a moment, Netflix acknowledged a milestone: Delivery of 5 billion discs since the launch of its legacy disc-by-mail rental service more than two decades ago. The disc rental: Paramount’s Rocketman.

Oh, What a Year — With Transformational Changes, Home Entertainment in 2019 Got Smaller — and Bigger

The phrase “transformational change” has been used so much it’s become a cliché — and yet there really is no better way to describe what happened in not just home entertainment, but also the entertainment industry overall, in 2019.

The completion in March of the Walt Disney Co.’s purchase of 20th Century Fox saw the number of major studios drop to five from six. Some of the home entertainment sector’s most familiar faces were suddenly gone, including Mike Dunn, the longtime leader of Fox’s home entertainment unit, and Danny Kaye, the visionary behind Fox Innovation Labs. Later, in the summer, Janice Marinelli, Disney’s home entertainment chief, also exited in a surprise move, given that she had opened an office on the Fox studio lot and was reportedly screening staffers.

In November, two new streaming giants emerged to take on longtime leader Netflix, Apple TV+ and, most significantly, Disney+.

Meanwhile, a new flavor of streaming gathered momentum: free to consumers, paid for by advertisers. Among the heavyweights jumping into what’s known as “AVOD” are ViacomCBS, with its Pluto TV acquisition, and Comcast Corp., which in December was reported to be in advanced talks to acquire Xumo TV, which boasts more than 140 digital channels of programming across 12 genres, including sports, news, kids and family entertainment.

The overall impact of all these developments on home entertainment: It got smaller — and bigger.

Smaller, because the traditional transactional business model that has defined home entertainment since its birth more than 40 years ago has increasingly come under fire, with subscription streaming, in particular, gobbling up more and more consumer attention — and dollars — that previously would have gone toward buying or renting movies, either on disc or through digital retailers.

But also bigger, because streaming, in its various incarnations, is now widely accepted as being part of home entertainment — which is now broadly defined as people watching what they want, on demand. There’s even a new name for all of this — direct-to-consumer — which was first adopted by Disney and is now used interchangeably with “home entertainment.”

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Bob Buchi, president of Paramount Home Entertainment, says 2019 “was the year of transition.”

“From media mergers and changing consumer viewing habits to the explosion of streaming services, the landscape has shifted dramatically,” he says.

The Nov. 1 launch of Apple TV+ marked the tech giant’s entry into the content business, with nine original series. One of them, “The Morning Show,” picked up several Golden Globe nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), a first for a new streaming service.

Less than two weeks later, Disney launched its much-ballyhooed Disney+, with a full menu of in-demand movies and series — including the “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian.” Disney said more than 10 million people signed up for the service in the first 24 hours. By the end of November, the service had 24 million subscribers, according to estimates from Wall Street firm Cowen & Co. (Netflix as of October had more than 60 million domestic subs.)

“It’s an exciting time and we believe we have a unique and significant role to play,” Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing for Disney+, told Media Play News on the eve of the service’s launch. “Disney+ will compete based on the unparalleled strength of our brands, the quality of our intellectual property, and expertise in high-quality video streaming.”

And yet industry insiders insist that despite streaming’s growth, there’s room for transactional — largely because new theatrical films, particularly the blockbusters, aren’t available on SVOD services. This distinction has prompted FandangoNow, one of the big digital retailers, to boldly proclaim on its home page, “New releases not on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu subscriptions.”

“Because we’re the first point of entry for fans to see movies in theaters, and first at home, we’ve seen a significant growth among consumers who are excited to own movies as soon as they’re available digitally,” says Cameron Douglas, head of FandangoNow. “Fans looking for high-quality content right out of theaters, including 4K HDR movies, don’t have to wait until they arrive later on subscription services, and innovative deals like rental binge bundles and the availability on new platforms keep them coming back to transactional digital services like our own.”

“New movie releases continue to be sought out by consumers during the first window in the home amidst the frenzied buzz around new streaming services,” adds Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “While there’s no denying the landscape is becoming more competitive, this business has successfully co-existed with abundant availability of non-transactional content for a long time and we expect it to continue to do so.”

“There is space — and demand — for both transactional content as well as streaming — just as there is consumer interest in both digital and physical,” says Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of trade association DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Beyond new releases, streamers have a limited selection of older films and TV shows, particularly with their increased focus on original content.

“For many consumers, their streaming options are good enough,” says Mark Fisher, president and CEO of home entertainment trade association the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). “But just like the days when the first video rental stores opened and made it easy for the consumer to watch anything they wanted to watch when they wanted to watch it, online VOD retailers offer that same opportunity to the consumer. I know that every time I see a montage of old movie clips, I’m driven to watch titles that aren’t new releases — and these are titles not readily (or easily) found on the streaming services.”

Sales of digital movies, in particular, were a bright spot, with consumer spending up nearly 7% in the first nine months of 2019, according to trade association DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

“We’ve continued to see growth in EST (electronic sellthrough) — both in our new releases and in our catalog,” says Jason Spivak, EVP of distribution, for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “Certainly the enhanced consumer experience enabled by Movies Anywhere is part of that, as is increasing consumer connectivity in their homes. EST continues to gain prominence in our marketing planning, release data scheduling, and retailer partnerships.”

Ron Schwartz, president of Lionsgate Home Entertainment, says Lionsgate EST revenue grew 30% this year, “four to five times faster than the overall industry. With increased collaboration between studios and retailers, and more offerings such as dynamic bundling, customers are starting to build their lockers up to 10-plus titles. Recent data shows that once a customer gets to between 10 and 12 titles in their locker, their EST purchasing behavior doubles.”

In addition to selling movies, digital retailers also offer them for a la carte streaming, the digital equivalent of a physical movie rental. Redbox remains the only retailer to offer both digital and physical rentals, the former through an e-commerce site and the latter, through a network of more than 40,000 kiosks situated outside (or inside) large retailers like Walmart, convenience and drug stores, and other retailers.

“Redbox owns the transactional space with more transactions across physical and digital formats — for rental and purchase — than any other transactional provider,” says Redbox CEO Galen Smith.

In 2019, he said, Redbox expanded its offering of 4K Ultra HD discs into new markets, and stepped up promotions as well, with its Back to the Movies campaign and a joint Dinner & A Movie offering with meal delivery service DoorDash.

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In addition, Redbox Entertainment, a new content acquisition and production division, has further transformed Redbox into a multi-channel content provider and programmer. Launched in October, the new division is headed by Marc Danon, who spent eights at Lionsgate, most recently as SVP of acquisitions and business development.

Disc sales in 2019 continued to decline in the low double digits, with DEG reporting that in the first nine months of the year, combined 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc, and DVD revenues were down 18.5% to an estimated $2.3 billion — exactly half what they amounted to five years ago, in 2014.

But studios continued to support the disc. And while a trend among smaller titles is to release them only on DVD and digital, bypassing Blu-ray Disc, major new releases are still getting significant marketing campaigns behind them, particularly for the 4K Ultra HD editions. The UHD disc also made headlines last August when the UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, the Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended. Filmmaker Mode, bowing next year, will allow 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.

“For the time being, 4K UHD is still the gold standard for at-home content,” says Jim Wuthrich, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment & Games. “With hardware costs dropping and television functionality such as Filmmaker Mode being made available next year, there is still a great value proposition in owning content in 4K UHD, both physically and digitally, as is still represents the best home-viewing experience.”

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“As evidenced by the exceptional growth of 4K UHD to date, it is clear that there is a sizable appetite for premium high-definition products, and that format plays a meaningful role in boosting retail traffic,” says Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Retail partnerships are key, Cunningham adds. “Given that physical and digital transactional consumption rates are remaining steady year over year and that disc purchases are making up more than half of that consumption, there’s no question that movie buyers continue to be vitally important to retail,” he says. “At no other time in our industry has it been more critical to ensure that we work together to retain the loyalty of movie consumers, creating urgency for our products and delivering the utmost value, quality, accessibility and convenience possible.”

 

Apple Drops Subscription Gaming Platform Price, Eyeing Content Bundles

Apple, like much of the tech world, has gone to a subscription-based business model to offset slowing iPhone sales.

In addition to launching Apple TV+, Apple bowed gaming-themed Apple Arcade and news-based Apple News+. Now, the company is cutting $10 from Arcade when paying the full $49 annual price compared to the $4.99 monthly fee.

Arcade aims to offer myriad online games (playable on iPhone, iPad, etc.) akin to what Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video do with movies and TV shows. Notable titles include Where Cards Fall, Grindstone, What the Golf? and Sayonara Wild Herts, among others.

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Apple is also reportedly considering bundling platforms similarly to what Disney is doing with Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ and what Amazon does with Amazon Channels. The idea, as reported by Bloomberg, would bundle Apple Music, Apple News+ and Apple TV+ for a discounted price beginning in 2020.

The idea has apparently been met with pushback from traditional news publishers leery of giving away more of their shrinking margins. Apple currently pockets 50% of all subscription revenue, while the remainder is split among publishers depending on the number of eyeballs to their content.

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CNBC reports that consumer interest in Apple News+ — unlike Apple Music — has been limited due in large part to increasing numbers of people getting their news from social media and alternative online sources for free.