In a subtle marketing move, Roku has released an updated remote control that features a button to connect directly with the Apple TV+ subscription streaming service. Though the partnership has been rumored for a few months, the June 30 image release by Roku of the updated remote confirms the scuttlebutt.
While neither company issued comments on the situation, the Apple streaming service — with a reported 40 million subscribers — finds itself significantly running behind SVOD frontrunners Netflix (with 208 million subs), Amazon Prime Video (150 million), Hulu (40 million) and Disney+ (103 million), despite launching a week ahead of the Disney-branded service.
Wall Street analysts firm MoffettNathanson recently concluded from a proprietary survey that more than 60% Apple TV+ subs are on a promotional plan, with 30% saying they would not sign up for the $4.99 monthly service once the free trial period ended.
Despite a sluggish start with scant original programming, Apple has rebounded with several critically acclaimed programs, including “Ted Lasso,” “The Morning Show,” “Dickinson” and “Central Park,” among others.
“As always, we wonder what Apple TV+ does to stand out in an increasingly crowded field,” analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a note. “We see AppleTV+ as still sputtering versus [its] peers.”
Roku, along with Netflix, co-launched the subscription streaming video market in 2008 with a branded Netflix media player. The SVOD pioneer eventually became one of the original default buttons in 2011 on the Roku remote along with Amazon Instant Video, Blockbuster On Demand in 2013, and M-Go — the latter rebranded as FandangoNow in 2016. Other platforms joining the remote and paying Roku a reported $1 per consumer sign-up included YouTube, Hulu and Showtime.
“For members who want even more convenience when instantly watching TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix, the answer is about to be right in their hands,” former Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt said at the time, when Netflix had 16 million subs in North America and no international service.
PBS Living subscribers will have access to three classic Julia Child series and “Trading History” on the PBS Living Prime Video and Apple TV channels in June.
The subscription rate for PBS Living is $2.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. PBS Living is also available on Apple TV Channels in the Apple TV app at a subscription rate of $2.99 per month with no additional annual fees.
Coming June 18 are three seasons of “Baking With Julia Child.” In the series, Julia Child and pastry chefs, bakers and cookbook authors share tips and recipes on home baking. Child bakes chocolate truffle cake, walnut bread, tiramisu, a tropical napoleon, sourdough bread, and a French apple tart with many respected pastry chefs, as well as a wedding cake with Martha Stewart and more.
Season one of “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs” starts streaming June 22. Child takes an in-depth look at contemporary American cooking along with 26 nationally recognized chefs. Inviting the master chefs into her kitchen, she cooks with the pros, detailing their techniques and dishes for the home cook. She makes lobster with Jasper White, shrimp in spicy coconut sauce with Madhur Jaffrey, a jicama salad with Rick Bayless, and many more recipes with many other chefs.
Debuting June 29 are 16 season one episodes of “Julia Child: Cooking with Master Chefs.” Julia visits 16 nationally acclaimed master chefs in their own kitchens. Each chef demonstrates distinct techniques, regional recipes and culinary tips which guide home cooks through their favorite recipes. Child makes lobster soufflé with Jacques Pépin, tapenade with Alice Waters, and risotto with wild mushrooms with Lidia Bastianich, among other recipes.
Due June 15 are six episodes of “Trading History.” The series uncovers intriguing family history through the prism of auction house artifacts and dedicated research teams that go behind the scenes to confirm the authenticity of the item, uncovering biographical information about the finder, the owner and the maker. Each story is told through rare archival materials and is packed with history and facts.
Netflix has quietly posted a job listing looking for an executive with “audio/podcast programming” experience. The move mirrors other streaming video platforms such as HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ seeking to expand their platform beyond video and into audio content.
Podcasts, like audio books, are a series of audio files covering fiction, non-fiction ideas, stories that can be downloaded via the Internet on myriad portable devices. The global podcasting market topped $9.2 billion in value in 2019 and is projected to grow 27.5% annually through 2027 — driven by easy consumer access while multitasking activities such as driving, commuting, walking, gardening, exercising, or cleaning.
“Podcasts are an excellent way for fans to connect with our stories and talent, and our marketing team plans to make more of them,” Jonathan Bing, a Netflix representative, said in a media statement first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
The average podcast runs from 20 minutes to 45 minutes, with opportunities to sell advertising within story breaks. Even better: Research suggests podcast ads can run as long as 90 seconds, with viewer attention reaching 85%. A 2017 Edison Research report found that the average podcast consumer listens to five podcasts weekly.
That’s enticing to major media brands such as Google, WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS, Facebook, Spotify and Apple.
This fall, Apple TV+ will launch original docu-series “The Line,” about former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s alleged war crimes in the Middle East. The streamer is now offering a six-part podcast series as a primer leading up to the video series debut.
“Large new-content platforms like Facebook and YouTube will [soon] build audio-specific products and begin to distribute podcasts en masse,” Conal Byrne, president of iHeartPodcast Network, said in a statement.
Indeed, HBO Max, like Netflix, has already used podcasts in limited fashion, offering greater depth into select video programming and movies.
Last year, Max parent WarnerMedia inked a deal with iHeartMedia to create podcasts for numerous original TV series such as “Search Party” and “Raised by Wolves,” among others.
“WarnerMedia Entertainment’s networks and brands have long been a marvel in the entertainment industry, and we’re ecstatic for the opportunity to be a part of their legendary storytelling and to bring this trove of new content to the iHeartPodcast Network,” Byrne said at the time.
New data from Samba TV finds the Dec. 25, 2020 debut of Disney/Pixar’s Soul remains the most-streamed movie in the past seven months — topping Warner’s Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla vs. Kong,Mortal Kombat and Amazon Prime Video’s Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, among others.
Fallout from the pandemic has seen Hollywood alter traditional movie distribution to include direct-to-streaming launches for new titles. Disney and WarnerMedia have led the move, followed by Hulu, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video.
Warner is releasing its entire 2021 theatrical slate on HBO Max concurrently with box office rollout.
Direct-to-streaming movies continued to roll out, with major blockbusters hitting living room screens the same day as, or even before, their theatrical debuts across all major platforms. While Soul and WW84 continued to lead the pack from the fourth quarter of 2020 over both their three-day premiere window and for 30 days after, March held some huge debuts as well, with HBO Max’s Zack Snyder’s The Justice League and Godzilla vs. Kong seeing sizable three-day viewership tallies.
Through the end of the first quarter, Soul had generated more than 5.8 million household views, followed by WW84 with 4.3 million. Mortal Kombat started strong with 3.6 million households since its April 23 launch. Detective drama The Little Things has slightly more than 3 million households.
Pay-TV Viewership Decline Continues
Separately, according to Samba TV’s analysis, there was a 10% quarter-over-quarter decline in the daily average number of TV-viewing U.S. households consuming linear-TV, along with a 14% decline in total minutes viewed. Every month since November has progressively seen lower daily average U.S. household tune-ins than the previous month.
On top of that, linear-TV advertising impressions were down year-over-year across the U.S., U.K., and Germany showing that demonstrates that the industry has not quite returned to pre-pandemic levels and likely will continue to shift to digital as viewers increase time-shifting and streaming behaviors.
Interest in premium linear content is down: The average number of households that watched Showtime, HBO and Starz each day in the first quarter of 2021 was lower than it was in the fourth quarter of 2020. Starz saw the steepest drop-off at -21%, followed by HBO (-17%) and Showtime (-6%).
Linear-TV losses were widespread: 81% of U.S. TV networks saw quarter-over-quarter declines based on average daily household. Live sports continued its viewership slide as well. Q1 2021 was full of major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, but overall sports viewership continued to decline year-over-year, which started with the stoppage of major sports leagues in March.
Apple Inc. April 28 reported $16.9 billion in second-quarter (ended March 27) revenue for its services segment, which includes sales of movies and TV shows on iTunes, the App Store, Mac App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and Apple News+, among others. Apple reported services revenue of $13.3 billion during the previous-year period.
Through six months of the fiscal year, services revenue has increased 25% to $32.6 billion, compared with $26 billion the year before.
Overall, Apple results were driven by the iPhone, which saw record quarterly revenue of nearly $48 billion, up 66% from revenue of $28.9 billion a year ago.
“We are proud of our March quarter performance, which included revenue records in each of our geographic segments and strong double-digit growth in each of our product categories, driving our installed base of active devices to an all-time high,” CFO Luca Maestri said in statement. “These results allowed us to generate operating cash flow of $24 billion and return nearly $23 billion to shareholders during the quarter. We are confident in our future and continue to make significant investments to support our long-term plans and enrich our customers’ lives.”
Apple April 20 announced the next generation of Apple TV 4K, delivering high frame rate HDR with Dolby Vision.
The new Apple TV 4K features an A12 Bionic chip that provides a significant boost in graphics performance, video decoding and audio processing, according to Apple. The Siri Remote also has a new design.
The new Apple TV 4K will be available starting at $179 (U.S.) from apple.com, in the Apple Store app, and at Apple Store locations. Apple TV 4K is also available through Apple Authorized Resellers and select pay TV providers.
Customers can order the new Apple TV 4K beginning April 30, with availability beginning in the second half of May in more than 30 countries and regions, including the United States. Apple TV HD with the new Siri Remote will be available for $149. The new Siri Remote will be available separately for $59, and is compatible with the previous-generation Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD.
“Apple TV 4K is in a category of its own, leveraging a deep integration of Apple hardware, software, and services that delivers a massive upgrade to any TV for the very best cinematic experience,” Bob Borchers, Apple’s VP of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement. “With the A12 Bionic and the all-new Siri Remote, Apple TV 4K lets customers enjoy their favorite shows, movies, and more in the highest quality, with simple and intuitive controls. And of course, Apple TV 4K offers easy access to Apple services, along with thousands of apps on the App Store for even more entertainment options.”
With A12 Bionic, Apple TV 4K now supports high frame rate HDR (high dynamic range) and Dolby Vision video, enabling fast-moving action at 60 frames per second (fps) to play more smoothly and appear more lifelike, according to the Apple announcement. Apple is working with leading video providers around the world, including Fox Sports, NBCUniversal, Paramount+, Red Bull TV and Canal+, as they begin to stream in high-frame-rate HDR. With high-frame-rate support in AirPlay, videos shot on iPhone 12 Pro can be displayed in full 60-fps Dolby Vision on the new Apple TV 4K.
Through a new color balance process, Apple TV works with iPhone and its advanced sensors to improve a television’s picture quality, according to the announcement. Apple TV uses the light sensor in the iPhone to compare the color balance to the industry-standard specifications used by cinematographers worldwide. Using this data, Apple TV automatically tailors its video output to deliver much more accurate colors and improved contrast — without customers ever having to adjust their television settings, according to Apple.
The new Siri Remote features a clickpad control that offers five-way navigation for better accuracy and is also touch-enabled for fast directional swipes. The outer ring of the clickpad supports a circular gesture that turns it into a jog control, which can be used for finding a scene in a movie or show. The new Siri Remote also has a power button that controls a TV’s power and another for mute to eliminate the need for other remots. Using Siri, customers can search for specific shows or movies, control smart home accessories, check sports scores or the weather and more, according to Apple. Siri now works on Apple TV in Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand, joining the 13 countries and regions that already support Siri.
Apple TV 4K runs tvOS. AirPlay on Apple TV 4K lets customers effortlessly share videos, school projects and other content from their iPhone, iPad or Mac directly to the TV. Videos shot on iPhone 12 Pro can be displayed in full 60-fps Dolby Vision with high frame rate support in AirPlay. Apple TV 4K can be used as a home hub to control HomeKit accessories, and allows customers to view HomeKit video cameras and doorbell notifications on the television screen. With multiuser support on Apple TV 4K, family members can see personalized recommendations for shows, movies and music, access their purchased apps in the App Store, or play games on Apple Arcade.
For the first time, AppleCare+ will be available for Apple TV, providing three years of technical support and additional hardware coverage, including up to two incidents of accidental damage protection every 12 months.
Netflix was the first movie producer to flaunt the traditional theatrical window, contending its original feature films should be made available to subscribers concurrently with any box office exhibition. The streamer’s stance angered exhibitors, resulting in most Netflix movies being boycotted by theatrical chains.
Then came the pandemic and traditional mindsets and business practices gave way to change.
During the pandemic, Netflix quietly entered the theatrical market after negotiating a distribution deal with No. 3 U.S. exhibitor Cinemark. In November and December, respectively, Netflix released Christmas Chronicles 2 and The Prom on Cinemark screens for an exclusive one-week window before they streamed on the Netflix platform.
“We assume that Netflix negotiated a much lower film rent fee with Cinemark than studios do for a typical theatrical window, and lower than what Universal Pictures will pay exhibitors for its exclusive 17/31-day windows,” Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, wrote in a note.
Netflix, which has become a perennial Oscar contender with its original movies, hasn’t been shy from debuting titles in Los Angeles theaters to assuage industry awards rules. The streamer bowed Klaus, The Two Popes, Marriage Story, The Irishman, The King and The Laundromat on the big screen prior to its platform.
Last year, Netflix acquired the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, in part to debut premiere original movies. American Cinematheque, the nonprofit organization that previously owned the Egyptian, will continue to screen movies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Pachter said Apple TV+ released its original documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry on its platform day-and-date with a theatrical release. He said tickets were available a week ahead of its Cinemark availability, but it was released on Feb. 26 in theaters and on the streaming platform. With no exclusive theatrical window, Pachter said he believes Apple negotiated a smaller film rental fee with Cinemark compared to what Netflix received, and both streamers received less in compensation than studios with longer exclusive theatrical windows.
“While these are clearly exceptional times and exhibitors are willing to negotiate terms they typically would not have in a pre-COVID environment, we think these types of negotiations will continue, and we expect to see more original content from streamers playing in theatres post-pandemic,” Pachter wrote. “We think exhibitors are now more willing to negotiate favorable terms with far more flexible windows than they had in the past, as long as their counterpart is willing to pay.”
The limited series Defending Jacob will arrive on DVD July 6 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
The series premiered on the streaming service Apple TV+.
A gripping, character-driven thriller based on the 2012 best-selling novel of the same name, “Defending Jacob” unfolds around a shocking crime that rocks a small Massachusetts town and one family in particular, forcing an assistant district attorney (Chris Evans) to choose between his sworn duty to uphold justice and his unconditional love for his son.
The series also stars Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”), Jaeden Martell (It, Knives Out), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Cherry Jones (“The Handmaid’s Tale”).
The three-DVD set features all eight episodes, along with exclusive bonus content including deleted scenes and two behind-the-scenes featurettes. The series will also be available on Blu-ray through manufacturing-on-demand.
Apple Original Films has greenlighted the Louis Armstrong documentary feature Black & Blues: The Colorful Ballad of Louis Armstrong from Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries to join its feature film slate.
The film offers a definitive look at the master musician’s life and legacy as a founding father of jazz, the first pop star and a cultural ambassador of the United States. He was loved by millions worldwide but often mischaracterized for not doing enough to support the civil rights movement. In reality, his fight for social justice was fueled by his celebrity and his willingness to break his silence on issues of segregation and patriotism. With the support of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the filmmakers have access to never-before-seen archival materials, including hundreds of hours of audio recordings, film footage, photographs, personal diaries and a life’s worth of ephemera for exclusive use in the first significant documentary dedicated entirely to Armstrong’s life.
The documentary, which is produced under Apple’s first-look agreement with Imagine Documentaries, will be directed by Sacha Jenkins (Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men), and will be produced by Jenkins, Julie Anderson, Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard serve as executive producers. The project is being produced in association with Universal Music Group’s Polygram Entertainment, with Michele Anthony and David Blackman serving as executive producers.
The anthology’s 10-episode first season is inspired by the award-winning biography The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes. It tells the story of Billy Milligan (Holland), the first person ever acquitted of a crime because of multiple personality disorder (now known as dissociative identity disorder).