Amazon Eyeing Black Friday NFL Game

On the heels of Amazon’s reported $1.2 billion annual deal with the National Football League for exclusive rights to all 15 “Thursday Night Football,” games for 11 years beginning in 2023, comes news the e-commerce behemoth is looking to possibly add a game on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

That speculation comes from Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and member of the NFL management committee that secured a record $113 billion in collective TV/media contract fees from Fox, Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and Amazon.

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Speaking to “The Peter King Podcast” on NBC Sports’ “Pro Football Talk,” Kraft said Amazon was looking for a perk since it is spending double what Fox paid for the previous rights, and there is no “Thursday Night Football” on Thanksgiving. That’s because the NFL has a long tradition (since 1934) showcasing the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, and other teams, on the last Thursday in November.

“Amazon [will] dedicate tremendous resources to make this work for them and for us,” Kraft said. “Who knows, maybe we’ll play a game on Black Friday, their biggest shopping day of the year?”

The NFL live-streamed its first game on Oct. 25, 2015, on Yahoo Sports from London featuring the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since then, over-the-top video has exploded while the traditional linear TV bundle has declined.

“Today, you are able to watch an original film that won an Oscar on the same site that you buy your toothpaste,” added Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer with the NFL.

While Amazon has made no official announcement, the NFL has been reluctant to play on Friday due to the league’s 60-year antitrust exemption via the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 negotiating media contracts. The NFL, and other sports leagues, over the years have survived legislative attempts to rescind those antitrust exemptions.

Last year, for the first time in 10 years, the NFL scheduled a game on Friday, Dec. 25 between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints.

 

Thanksgiving Discounts Push ‘Joker’ Back to No. 1 on Disc Sales Charts

Warner’s Joker returned to the top spot on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, as well as the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Nov. 28.

The film, based on the Batman villain from DC Comics, was previously the top title for a week in January upon its release on DVD and Blu-ray. It had been No. 2 in the week leading up to Black Friday, and retailers extending deep discount deals earlier in the week due to the coronavirus pandemic, including on home media, was enough to push it to the top of the sales charts.

Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 65% of Joker sales for the week.

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Disney’s live-action Mulan, which had topped disc sales the previous two weeks, fell to No. 7 on both charts.

No new releases made it onto the top 50 chart for the week, with the possible exception of Paramount’s Nov. 24 re-release of Sonic the Hedgehog as a limited-edition Blu-ray with collector’s cards containing photos and art from the film. It was No. 4 on the overall sales chart and No. 2 on the Blu-ray chart.

Several holiday favorites continue to sell well in the lead-up to Christmas.

No. 2 on the overall sales chart, selling 96% as many copies as the top title, was Universal’s 2018 animated movie The Grinch, based on the classic Dr. Seuss tale. It was No. 9 on the Blu-ray chart.

No. 3 on both charts was Warner’s eight-film “Harry Potter” collection.

No. 5 on the overall sales chart was Home Alone, a 20th Century Studios movie now owned by Disney.

Other Holiday discs in the top 20 include Warner’s Elf at No. 9 (No. 19 on the Blu-ray chart), Warner’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at No. 11 (No. 17 BD), 20th Century’s Home Alone 2: Lost in New York at No. 14 and Warner’s The Polar Express at No. 17.

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On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Nov. 29, Disney’s Mulan remake returned to the top spot, pushing Lionsgate’s Unhinged to No. 2.

Paramount’s new comedy Buddy Games debuted at No. 3, while 20th Century’s The New Mutants dropped to No. 4. Newcomer Iron Mask, from Lionsgate, debuted at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 11-28-20
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 11-29-20
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 11-28-20
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 11-28-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 11-28-20
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 11-30-20

NRF: Movie DVDs Among Top-Selling Thanksgiving Weekend Sales Items; Shopping Traffic Down Slightly

An estimated 186.4 million consumers took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend price discounts and shopped in-store and online this year, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

After toys, books, music, movie DVDs, video games (29%), gift cards/certificates (29%) and electronics (27%) ranked among top-selling items, according to a survey of 6,615 adult consumers conducted Nov. 25-30 .

While the overall number of shoppers from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday dropped slightly from 189.6 million in an unusually robust 2019, this figure is still significantly higher than the 165.8 million shoppers in 2018.

“As expected, consumers have embraced an earlier start to the holiday shopping season, but many were also prepared to embrace a long-standing tradition of turning out online and in stores over Thanksgiving weekend to make gift purchases for family and friends,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

Black Friday and Saturday saw strong growth in online activity. For the first time, the number of online Black Friday shoppers passed the 100 million mark, up 8% over last year. The number of online Saturday shoppers grew even more, up 17% compared with last year. Online-only shoppers increased by 44% for the entire weekend, for a total of 95.7 million.

With retailers enticing consumers with generous deals as early as October, more than half (52%) of holiday shoppers said they took advantage of early holiday sales and promotions this year. Of those, 38 percent said they checked off holiday purchases in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. More than half (53%) felt the promotions over the weekend were the same as they had been earlier in the season.

As expected, in-store shopping was down given both the state of the pandemic as well as the number of retailers who opted to close on Thanksgiving Day. With consumer traffic moving to online channels, the number of in-store shoppers on Thanksgiving Day dropped by 55% from last year and those on Black Friday dropped by 37%. An earlier NRF survey found that a large majority (70%) of holiday shoppers say they feel safe shopping in stores this holiday season given the precautions retailers have taken for COVID-19.

Over the five-day period, shoppers spent an average of $311.75 on holiday-related purchases such as gifts or decorations, down from last year’s total of $361.90 but comparable to 2018’s $313.29. Of that amount, nearly three-quarters ($224.48) was spent directly on gifts.

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Consumers have continued to stress the importance of holidays throughout this year. In fact, the majority of holiday shoppers (55%) said recent developments around COVID-19 cases had no impact on their holiday spending plans this year. Most (51%) also feel that given the pandemic, they are more interested in holiday decorations and seasonal items. They were also eager to support small businesses, as 77% indicated they were more interested in doing so this year.

“The growth in online activity this year was significant, particularly for Black Friday and Saturday shoppers,” said Phil Rist, EVP of strategy at Prosper Insights & Analytics. “With the start to the holiday shopping season continuing to move up even earlier, consumers will further utilize these channels.”

Shopping destinations included department stores (visited by 40% of those surveyed), grocery stores (39%), clothing stores (33%) and electronics stores (31%).

Although consumers have embraced the earlier start to the holiday shopping season, their lists are not quite complete. Holiday shoppers have about half of their shopping left to do and 91% expect they will continue to see great deals throughout the rest of the season.

NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and has forecast that sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019 to a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. Over the 2020 holiday season, NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30%. In total consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families this year, according to NRF’s annual survey released in October.

Black Friday Online Sales Soar; Retail Traffic Plummets

As expected, ongoing consumer trends toward e-commerce and away from shopping malls magnified during a pandemic. New data from Adobe Analytics saw a 22% year-over-year increase in online sales on Black Friday (Nov. 27), the official start to the winter retail season.

The research firm, citing data from 80 of the top 100 online retail sites, said e-commerce revenue reached $9 billion the day after Thanksgiving, compared with $7.4 billion during the previous-year period. Adobe said it was the second-highest online revenue day since Cyber Monday 2019 when revenue reached $9.4 billion. This year’s Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) is projected to top $10.8 billion, up 15% from last year.

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Meanwhile, e-commerce’s gain was brick-and-mortar’s drain. Preliminary data from Sensormatic Solutions indicated consumer visits to retail stores on Black Friday dropped 51.2% compared with 2019. Shopper traffic also decreased 45.2% week-to-date (Sunday, Nov. 22 to Friday, Nov. 27) compared with the same period last year.

“Due to COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, shoppers were more purposeful in their in-person Black Friday shopping, causing significantly less crowds than we’ve seen in the past,” Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting at Sensormatic Solutions, said in a statement. “This was compounded by retailers not offering as many in-store doorbusters and the increasing adoption of e-commerce.”

While many retailers limited their Black Friday hours compared to non-pandemic years, the peak time for shopping remained the same, with the busiest influx of footfall around 2 p.m., according to Sensormatic.

“As we approach ‘Super Saturday’ (Dec. 19), and corresponding shipping deadlines, we expect to see some of the in-store traffic that didn’t materialize on Black Friday appear as consumers wrap up their holiday shopping and make last-minute purchases,” Field said.

The research firm expects the 10 busiest shopping days of 2020 to account for 34.2% of all holiday traffic as compared to 46.5% in 2019. The days include:

  1. Friday, Nov. 27 — Black Friday
  2. Saturday, Dec. 19 — Super Saturday
  3. Saturday, Dec. 26 — Day after Christmas, aka “Boxing Day,” in some global regions
  4. Wednesday, Dec. 23 — Wednesday before Christmas
  5. Saturday, Dec. 12 — Second Saturday in December
  6. Monday, Dec. 21 — Monday before Christmas
  7. Saturday, Nov. 28 — Saturday after Thanksgiving
  8. Tuesday, Dec. 22 — Tuesday before Christmas
  9. Saturday, Dec. 5 — First Saturday in December
  10. Sunday, Dec. 20 — Sunday before Christmas

As COVID-19 Surges, Black Friday Crowds Don’t

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed this year’s Black Friday retail shopping frenzy, in which hordes of shoppers typically camp out overnight waiting for stores to open early on the morning after Thanksgiving — or, in recent years, start shopping right after they finish their turkey dinners.

Not this year.

With COVID-19 surging in what health experts are calling a third wave of the disease, none of the big retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day — not even Walmart, which used to be open all day, or Target and Best Buy, which opened for business in the late afternoon or at midnight.

The big retailers also began offering their deep discounts several weeks before Black Friday, often targeting online shoppers with Web-only specials. And the year’s hottest gift item, Sony’s new PlayStation 5 video game console, saw gamers glued to the Internet to watch for alerts on Twitter and other social media channels about the next wave of consoles available at the various retailers, mostly for online purchase.

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“One thing that is happening, and has been happening for awhile, is the past couple of years, we’ve seen Black Friday deals moving more and more online,” Amir Neto, director of Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University, told USA Today. “This year, there are more incentives to maintain or expand this trend.”

Adobe Analytics on Nov. 27 reported that online spending on Thanksgiving Day rose by nearly 22% to reach a new record of $5.1 billion, from $4.1 billion last year. The research firm said November and December online sales are expected to jump 33% this year, totaling $189 billion, including $10.3 billion on Black Friday.

Aside from the big retail players, Family Video, the last remaining national chain of dedicated video stores, sent out an email early Friday morning offering discounts of up to 75% on Warner Bros. DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HD titles, including Aquaman, The Dark Knight, Inception, Doctor Sleep, 12 Strong and Annabelle. “You will not find better Black Friday deals on Blu-rays, DVDs, and 4K Blu-rays from Warner Bros. anywhere else!” the Family Video email read, noting that the sale ends Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, with physical stores having offered discounts all week, reports on Black Friday itself suggest the early rush to physical retail stores is more of a trickle this year. A Target store in Costa Mesa, Calif., was practically empty shortly after 7 a.m. on Nov. 27. “It looks like any other day,” said one observer.

Target is running a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on books, movies and music. Blu-rays and DVDs could be had for as low as $4, $7 and $9. Signs were placed not only in the electronics area, but in some stores displays were put in the clothing section in the center of the store and at checkout. One customer in Mission Viejo, Calif., noted that the sales weren’t as prevalent as previous years.

At a Costa Mesa Best Buy, there were fewer than two dozen people waiting in a socially distant line, a far cry from prior years.

In Oceanside, Calif., a Walmart was a little busier, but the traditional DVD and Blu-ray Disc “dump bins,” featuring catalog movie titles priced as low as $2 to $5, were conspicuously absent. “It’s really slow,” a clerk said.

The movie aisle at an Oceanside, Calif. Walmart on Black Friday 2020, shortly before 9 a.m.

Chicago resident Maria Lopez, who often shops on Black Friday, said she was only visiting one store this year out of concerns of contracting the coronavirus. Lopez bought a 42-inch television from Best Buy.
“It’s so sad,” Lopez told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve been out since 6 a.m. and there were no long lines. It’s definitely not the same like years prior.”

And yet the National Retail Federation earlier in the week  forecast that total holiday sales during November and December would be up by as much as 5.2% from the same period last year, generating $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion in revenue. The data, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, compares with a 4% increase in 2019, and an average holiday sales gain of 3.5% over the past five years.

“We know this holiday season will be unlike any other, and retailers have planned ahead by investing billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the retail trade group, said in a statement. “Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year.”

NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.

“Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers’ willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

Redbox is participating in the Black Friday discounting frenzy with specials across all its platforms, physical as well as online. Through the weekend, the retailer is offering customers who rent two discs at its more than 40,000 kiosks 50 cents off, as well as “price drops” on digital rentals through Redbox On Demand. Redbox also is hosting a used movie sale at “select kiosks,” selling off previously viewed copies of films such as Trolls World Tour ($3.99), The Tax Collector ($5.99) and Justice League ($3.99).

On the streaming front, NBCUniversal as a Black Friday special offered 20% off access to the Peacock subscription streaming service, while Hulu launched a discounted $1.99 monthly promotion at midnight on Thanksgiving Day. The campaign gives new and returning subscribers 12-month access to the ad-supported Hulu option, which amounts to a $48 savings over the recently reduced $5.99 monthly fee (from $7.99). The ad-free subscription plan remains priced at $11.99 monthly.

Additional reporting by John Latchem and Stephanie Prange

NPD: Consumer Tech Revenue Up 37% Through 6 Weeks of Q4

Heading into the Black Friday retail holiday weekend and consumer technology sales are already booming, according to new data from The NPD Group. The week ended Nov. 20 was the second-highest revenue sales week of the pandemic period — bested only by Amazon Prime Week (week ended Oct. 17). As expected, TV sales led the industry for the second straight week.

NPD said notebook PCs sales increased 32% through Nov. 20, followed by tablets (up 52%); routers (+80%); sound bars and mounts (+50%); and cell phone accessories (cases, protectors and mobile power), up 32%.

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The research group contends year-over-year growth of 2.5% to 3.4% during the traditional holiday period of November and December, across general merchandise categories.

The group also claims year-over-year growth of 4.3% to 5.1% during the new holiday period, beginning in mid-October with early promotions, running through mid-January with gift card redemption, and spanning a broader view of NPD’s discretionary categories.

The NPD Group says consumers plan to spend an average of $691 during the 2020 holiday shopping season, which is less than last year’s anticipated holiday spending, but on par with 2018’s.

The hottest industries of 2020 — tech and home — will continue their momentum through the holidays with significant growth, but holiday staples will see stability compared to last year. Half of consumers plan to buy clothing/footwear/accessories as gifts this year.

Half of consumers plan to purchase intangible items/experiences as gifts for the upcoming holiday season — food subscriptions and streaming service subscriptions lead the list, and gift cards will be particularly popular.

Another 41% of consumers cited Black Friday/Thanksgiving Weekend/Cyber Monday as the period when they thought they would get the best deals of the season. About 80% of consumers plan to shop online, but shoppers still plan to make 42% of holiday purchases in a store.

For the first time, free shipping surpassed special sale price as the number one factor influencing where consumers decide to shop this holiday — cited by 41% of holiday shoppers. About 42% of holiday shoppers will be shipping most gifts because they won’t be seeing family and friends as a result of COVID-19 precautions.

Another 57% of shoppers rate the state of the economy poorly (up from 37% last year), and 30% say they will spend less because of the state of the economy (up from 23% in 2019), but consumer feelings about their personal financial situation has not changed since 2019.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic will prompt 40% of consumers to spend more on gifts to bring joy during challenging times; 31% of consumers say they will do more self-gifting as pandemic-related retail therapy.

Peacock Streaming Service Offering 20% Black Friday Sub Discount; Free Access to Original Content

NBCUniversal is joining in on Black Friday (Nov. 27) price discounts by offering 20% off access to the Peacock subscription streaming service throughout the post-Thanksgiving retail event.

While Peacock offers a free, ad-supported option, NBCUniversal is offering the Premium tier with some ads for $39.99 for the year, or $89.99 without ads. The two options normally cost $60 and $99 per year, respectively.

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Separately, Peacock is offering free access in December to select original content, including “Departure” (Dec. 3-9); “The Capture” (Dec. 10-16); “Five Bedrooms” (Dec. 17-23) and “Brave New World” (Dec. 24-30).

Peacock represents NBCUniversal’s foray into both the SVOD and AVOD markets — both seen as the future of content distribution. The platform reached 22 million subscribers through Oct. 29. The tally increased by 7 million subs thanks to an app distribution agreement with Roku hammered out in mid-September. Total Peacock subs now top Comcast’s legacy cable TV business.

Merchandising: Stores Reconfigure for ‘Black Friday’

Preparations for annual Black Friday sales left retailers mostly ignoring the new DVD and Blu-ray disc releases of Nov. 24, not that the list had many notable titles to begin with.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and a desire to cut down on the massive crowds that typically show up for the bargains offered the day after Thanksgiving, stores have been offering special discounts for most of the month already. This week, however, has seen merchandise configurations more akin to what a Black Friday would typically look like.

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For instance, a Target in Tustin, Calif., set up cardboard displays of catalog DVDs and Blu-rays near the front of the store in what is usually an area for women’s clothing. Target is running a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on books, movies and music. Blu-rays and DVDs could be had for as low as $4, $7 and $9.

A Best Buy in Costa Mesa, Calif., had a sizeable line the evening of Nov. 24, which is likely more due to a resurgence of pandemic restrictions limiting the number of guests allowed in the store. Best Buy’s deals include select Blu-rays for $5.99; Blu-rays and 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays for $7.99 or $9.99; Disney movies starting at $9.99; and collectible Steelbooks for $14.99.

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NRF: 2020 Winter Holiday Sales to Grow 5%

The National Retail Federation Nov. 23 forecast that holiday sales during November and December will increase from 3.6% to 5.2% over the same period last year, generating $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion in revenue. The data, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, compares with a 4% increase to $729.1 billion in 2019, and an average holiday sales increase of 3.5% over the past five years.

“We know this holiday season will be unlike any other, and retailers have planned ahead by investing billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the retail trade group, said in a statement. “Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year.”

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NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.

“Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers’ willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

Kleinhenz said households have strong balance sheets supported by a strong stock market, rising home values and record savings boosted by government stimulus payments issued earlier this year. Jobs and wages are growing, energy costs are low and reduced spending on personal services, travel and entertainment because of the virus has freed up money for retail spending.

As a result of store shutdowns and stay-at-home orders last spring, not all retailers and categories have rebounded as quickly, including small and mid-sized retailers. However, in the aggregate retail sales have been growing month-over-month and year-over-year since June. As calculated by NRF, sales were up 10.6% in October versus October 2019, likely driven in part by early holiday shopping. For the first 10 months of this year, retail sales were up 6.4% versus the first 10 months of 2019.

With e-commerce sales up 36.7% year-over-year during the third quarter, many households are expected to depend on digital shopping to make many of their holiday purchases, just as they have for much of their everyday spending this year. The online spending includes websites operated by bricks-and-mortar retailers, which have become major players in the online market as retail channels have merged.

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The NRF forecast is based on an economic model that takes into consideration a variety of indicators, including employment, wages, consumer confidence, disposable income, consumer credit, previous retail sales and weather. NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

The forecast comes as NRF’s latest research shows 42% of consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than usual this year. NRF’s “New Holiday Traditions” campaign has urged consumers to shop safe and shop early amidst the pandemic, and 59% had begun by early November, up from 49% at that point a decade ago.

 

Verizon: Online Holiday Shopping Traffic Up 82%

With the annual post-Thanksgiving Black Friday retail event a week away, new research data suggests consumers have already begun their winter holiday shopping — online, with e-commerce traffic up 82% in November compared with the previous-year period.

The seventh annual edition of the Verizon Business Retail Trends Report finds holiday shopping surging early this year and confirms how COVID-19 restrictions and related health concerns could be linked to an increase in online shopping this holiday season.

Verizon says mobility traffic to and around the U.S.’s largest malls — as evidenced by their cell phones — has decreased dramatically from last year. According to the telecom, people are moving to and around malls 20% less than they did last year during early November. There’s also a 28% increase in use on payment sites versus last year.

“Our report confirms what we expected to be true, significant shifts continue from in-person, brick and mortar shopping to online shopping,” Michele Dupre, VP of sales vertical markets, retail and hospitality for Verizon Business, said in a statement. “What’s surprising and promising for retail stores is while mobility around U.S. malls is down from last year, it’s up significantly at 59% since the height of the pandemic. Online retailers will need to continue to invest in creative and innovative customer experiences, to capture revenue and offset lost sales from in-person shopping.”