Brazil’s VR Narrative ‘The Line’ Wins Primetime Emmy For Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming

In a first for a Brazilian company, ARVORE Immersive Experiences (ARVORE) won a Primetime Emmy Award  for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming for its virtual reality (VR) love story, “The Line.” The series claims to be the first VR narrative experience for Facebook’s Oculus Quest hand tracking feature.

“To receive this recognition, particularly in an innovation category, is truly an incredible achievement for us, which validates our dedication and our vision for the future of immersive technologies as a storytelling medium,” Ricardo Justus, CEO of ARVORE, said in a statement.

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Set within a scale model of 1940s São Paulo and narrated by Rodrigo Santoro (HBO’s “Westworld”), “The Line” is an interactive story about love and the fear of change, transforming players into a child who unlocks an enchanted maquette of two miniature dolls, Pedro and Rosa. This room-scale experience invites players to pull on knobs, and crawl under the scale model engine, to unfold the story of these figurines who are perfect for each other, but reluctant to live out their love.

“One of the most beautiful side effects of VR is bringing the body back to the center of the experience,” said series director Ricardo Laganaro. “We use the body movement as a language device to create emotions inside of the story. When we use our whole body to not only interact with but also tell and listen to stories, we remember that we are human.”

The show’s creators says VR is key to developing the storyline that could not be replicated on standard video or film. Specifically, the VR user is responsible for the development of the story by engaging in a series of interactions that are triggers to unravel the narrative. Justus and Santoro say “The Line” is first narrative with full-hand tracking interaction, where the user can touch the story with their hands with his/her bare hands — at both a God-Like perspective of the scale-mode, and then at the scale of the dolls.

“We believe that we have entered a new phase in the VR market, and now the users are becoming more and more mainstream,” they said.  “However, for first-time VR users the library of content is still very scarce so ‘The Line’ is a fantastic gateway into VR that in just under 20 minutes demonstrates the best attributes of the technology.

The Emmy adds to a list of awards “The Line” has received, including Best VR Experience at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, Best VR Immersive Award at the 2019 Kaohsiung Film Festival and more. The Emmy will be presented to the team on September 17.

“The Line” is available globally on Oculus for $4.99.

Roku Bows ‘Express’ Streaming Media Device in Brazil

Roku Sept. 2 announced the launch of Roku Express, the company’s first streaming device in Brazil. The device is expected to be available in stores in the upcoming weeks at an average starting price of R$349.90 ($65). The Roku Express costs $29.99 in the U.S.

“We entered Brazil in January with the AOC Roku TV and are thrilled to expand our product offering with the Roku Express, which will bring an affordable streaming experience to even more consumers in Brazil,” Arthur van Rest, VP of international at Roku, said in a statement.

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The Roku Express can be connected to most traditional TVs via HDMI to convert it into a smart TV with Roku’s operating system, offering consumers an intuitive home screen and access to 100,000 movies and TV episodes via free and paid streaming channels.

Roku Express features and accessories include:

  • Easy and smooth HD and Full HD streaming;
  • High-Speed HDMI Cable;
  • Free Roku mobile app for private listening and more, available on both Android and iOS devices;
  • Roku Search to easily discover something great to watch by searching by title or actor to find shows or movies to watch;
  • A simple remote control to navigate streaming channels along with shortcut buttons to popular channels;
  • Automatic software updates to receive new streaming channels and features automatically without lifting a finger.

 

The Roku platform offers a streaming line-up of movies and TV episodes across 5,000 streaming channels for Brazil available in the Roku Channel Store. Consumers can access the streaming channels directly from the home screen of their Roku device. Popular channels include Netflix, Globoplay, HBO Go, Prime Video and Apple TV+. The company recently announced the arrival of cinema hub Telecine and Vix, a new free channel offering popular movies and TV series. In addition, users have access to music on Spotify and kids’ entertainment on channels such as PlayKids, BabyFirst and LooLoo Kids.

Roko helped launch the SVOD market in 2008 with a branded “Netflix player.”

Analyst: Latin America to Reach 100 Million SVOD Subs by 2025 — Driven by U.S. Platforms

Latin America is projected to go all-in for subscription streaming video-on-demand, topping 100 million subscribers by 2025 — more than double the current 42.1 million subs at the end of 2019, according to new data from Digital TV Research. Sub growth will be driven by market leader Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video.

Brazil, Netflix’s first foray into Latin America in 2011, will remain the market leader, with 36 million subs projected by 2025 — up from 16 million at the end of 2019. Mexico will reach 28 million subs by 2025, compared with 12 million last year.

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Netflix will continue to grow, but its dominance will decline. The SVOD behemoth will top 47.4 million subs; up from 31.4 million in 2019. Disney+ will grow rapidly following its November 2020 launch, with 25 million subs by 2025.

“Latin America will enjoy a wave of U.S.-based platform launches over the next year,” analyst Simon Murray said in a statement. “Hulu, HBO Max and ViacomCBS are all expected to start platforms in 2021. These launches come despite poor economic conditions driven by COVID-19.”

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Funimation Streaming Service Coming to Latin America

Anime content provider Funimation is expanding its streaming service to Latin America this fall.

Currently available in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, the service will expand to Mexico and Brazil later this year.

Funimation also announced it would offer select subtitled and dubbed anime series in Spanish and Portuguese. The announcement was made during FunimationCon 2020, a free two-day virtual fan festival celebrating anime.

“Anime is special in that it speaks equally to people from different cultures, regions and languages around the world,” said Colin Decker, CEO of Funimation global group. “Audiences in Latin America are among the most passionate in the world and have been clamoring for more. Expanding Funimation to Mexico and Brazil is the natural next step for us to serve those fans and extend our brands.”

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Funimation is an independently operated joint venture between U.S.-based Sony Pictures Entertainment and Japan’s Aniplex, a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment (Japan). Its streaming services offer a catalog of more than 700 anime series and 13,000-plus hours of content available on 15 platforms and in 47 countries, according to the company.

Roku Goes to Brazil

Roku Jan. 21 announced its arrival in Brazil — nearly 18 years after bowing in the United States and 13 years after partnering with Netflix to pioneer the subscription streaming market.

“With the arrival of Roku, consumers in Brazil will now be able to enjoy their favorite TV programs and movies on the easy to use Roku platform. We want to bring streaming to everyone in Brazil,” founder/CEO Anthony Wood said in a statement.

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Wood, who had been a VP at Netflix, set about building a media device that connected the television to the Internet. Netflix was an initial investor, contributing $6 million in funding.

At the heart of the Roku platform is Roku’s proprietary operating system, the Roku OS. In 2014, Roku launched the Roku TV licensing program enabling Chinese TV partners to manufacture smart TVs.

In Brazil, Roku is partnering with AOC, a Taiwan-based multinational electronics company, to bring the AOC Roku TV to Brazilian consumers.

The new AOC Roku TVs include: 32-inch and 43-inch screens in HD with integrated wired and wireless connectivity.

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“TPV Group has an excellent relationship with Roku in the United States, and we are glad to bring this partnership to Brazil,” said Andre Romanon, head of marketing and product at TPV Brazil.

In Brazil, Roku will offer a streaming line-up with thousands of movies & TV episodes across 5,000 streaming channels available in the Roku Channel Store. Consumers can access the streaming channels directly from the home screen on their Roku TV.

A key part of Roku’s entertainment experience is to offer the best local content in each country where the company operates. In Brazil, Globoplay will be among the first local Brazilian streaming services available on the Roku platform. Through Globoplay on the Roku platform, consumers will be able to enjoy live TV, TV shows and top movies, on demand.

Globoplay is the largest Brazilian streaming platform that brings together internationally renowned movies and TV series, including exclusive productions that will only be available online, in addition to original Globo content.

“Roku is an important partner for Globoplay’s expansion plans. This will improve the experience for those who consume streaming content on TV, and it will bring more competition and quality to the market,” said Erick Brêtas, General Director of Globoplay.

In addition to Globoplay, consumers in Brazil will be able to enjoy entertainment from paid and free channels on the Roku platform, such as the Apple TV+ app; BabyFirst TV for young children; sports streaming service DAZN; audio streaming channel Deezer; Google Play; Happy Kids; HBO Go as well as HBO Latin America, including originals “Joint Venture” (Pico Da Neblina), “The Business” (O Negócio), PSI, and Magnífica 70, as well as movies, documentaries, HBO specials; Brazilian streaming service Looke; Netflix; Brazilian educational channel Playkids, featuring great content for children; and YouTube.

AOC Roku TV models will be available online on Jan. 22 in Casas Bahia, Ponto Frio and Extra, and in stores as of early February. The 32-inch AOC Roku TV will be priced at $1.199,00 Reais and the 43-inch AOC Roku TV will be priced at $1.599,00 Reais.

WarnerMedia Assumes Full Control of HBO Brand in Latin America

Ahead of its HBO Max unveiling on Oct. 29, WarnerMedia has reached an agreement to buy Ole Communications’ minority stake in HBO Ole Partners, the joint venture between WarnerMedia and Ole Communications.

When the transaction closes, WarnerMedia will own 100% of all HBO, Cinemax and HBO Go services in Spanish-speaking Latin America and the Caribbean.

The agreement does not include HBO Brasil Partners, another joint venture between the companies that operates HBO in Brazil. WarnerMedia and Ole Communications will continue their basic channel distribution business in Latin America.

Subscription streaming video platform HBO Max is slated to launch in the first quarter of 2020.

The transaction is expected to be completed following the granting of relevant regulatory approvals. Upon completion, HBO Ole Partners will fall under the purview of Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer, WarnerMedia, and president, WarnerMedia International Networks.

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“The [HBO Ole Partners] acquisition will allow us to bring localized versions of our upcoming U.S. streaming service to consumers in Spanish speaking Latin America and the Caribbean,” Zeiler said in a statement.

Th executive said WarnerMedia chose not to include Brazil operations in the deal due to “existing regulatory uncertainty” in the country.

“We support and remain optimistic about the ongoing efforts to amend the SeAC law to ensure the media industry has a clear and predictable regulatory framework that fosters investment and innovation,” Zeiler said.

WarnerMedia and Ole Communications brought HBO programming services to the region for the first time when they founded the HBO Ole Partners joint venture in 1991 and launched a Spanish-language HBO-branded premium channel that same year. In 1994, a Portuguese-language service was launched in Brazil.

Report: Netflix Driving Latin America SVOD Growth

On July 11, 2011 Netflix announced plans to expand service into South America spearheaded by Brazil. The SVOD pioneer at the time had 23 million subscribers in the United States and Canada – the latter Netflix’s first foreign expansion.

Leapfrog to the present and Latin America is forecast to reach more than 51 million SVOD subs by 2024 – about double the 27.1 million recorded at the end of 2018, according to new data from Digital TV Research.

The top six regional platforms – driven by Netflix – will account for 85% of the region’s paying SVOD subscribers by end-2024.

Netflix is projected to reach 26.3 million paying subscribers in 2024 – or about 50% of the region’s total – but down from 66% market share at the end of last year.

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Simon Murray, principal Analyst at Digital TV Research, said Netflix’s declining market share in Latin America is due to the rise in ad-supported VOD and subsidized SVOD platforms in the region.

“Several mobile and pay TV operators provide free and limited SVOD platforms to their top paying subscribers. This stifles pay SVOD take-up,” Murray said in a statement.

SVOD subscription revenue will drive overall over-the-top video revenue across 19 countries with $6 billion of the projected $8.25 billion in revenue through 2024. The latter up 147% from revenue of $3.33 billion in 2018.

Brazil will remain the SVOD revenue leader by 2024 – supplying 40% of the regional total. Mexico will provide another 24%. Combined, Brazil and Mexico will account for 66% of the region’s SVOD revenue by 2024.

 

Brazil Approves Disney/20th Century Fox Merger

Brazil regulators have approved The Walt Disney Co.’s $71.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film and related businesses — paving the way for consummation of the Hollywood mega-merger first announced in December 2017.

The slow-moving antitrust hurdle represented one of the last challenges to Disney’s merger with Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox entertainment division.

Brazilian authorities sought and achieved Disney’s divesture of Fox Sports channel in the South American country. Disney also owns ESPN Brazil channel. Fox Sports owns rights to key soccer competitions in the region.

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A similar situation exists in the U.S. where the Justice Department ruled Disney has to sell off its stake in 22 regional Fox Sports channels since it owns ESPN.

European Union officials ordered Disney sell its European — not U.S. — stake in A&E Networks.

“Currently, there is only one big-screen rival capable of competing with these channels,” Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense said in a statement as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The agency said separating Fox Sports from Disney “aims to eliminate competitive concerns in the pay-TV sports channel market.”

Bye Bye Brazil? Not for Netflix

Brazil has quietly become Netflix’s No. 2 foreign market (after the United Kingdom) since the SVOD pioneer established service in the country in 2011.

With the largest economy in Latin America ($902 billion GDP), Brazil is a hotbed for U.S. multimedia companies doing business south of the border. And Netflix is leading the way in over-the-top video. Netflix Brazil now tops 8.5 million subscribers, with 1.5 million added in 2018, according to according to new data from Futuresource Consulting.

Original Brazilian programing on Netflix includes “The Process,” “The Mechanism,” “Space,” and “Samantha!” among others.

“Consumer spend on SVOD is almost entirely driven by Netflix and accounted for around 8% of total entertainment spend in 2018,” analyst Tanzim Rahman said in a statement. “Beyond 2019, the SVOD market is projected to experience 20% growth in revenue per year, with revenue expected to nearly double by 2022, reaching just shy of $1 billion.”

Netflix’s prospects in Brazil didn’t seem so rosy a year after bowing service. With about 1 million total subs in Latin America a year after launching, Netflix was having trouble convincing consumers to use their credit cards to pay for online service, in addition to reported bureaucratic issues. Viewers also wanted programming with subtitles (instead of dubbing) or the option of audio in Portuguese.

Now, 28% of respondents in a separate IHS Markit survey claim they turn to Netflix first when looking for something to watch on television.

While pay-TV still dominates the Brazilian home entertainment market, representing 77% of consumer spending, that revenue declined 6% in 2018 to $5.9 billion compared to $6.2 billion in 2017, according to Futuresource.

Sales and rental of DVD and Blu-ray Disc content fell 20% — largely offset by digital sales and transactional VOD.

“Despite a choppy ride, the overall video entertainment market will begin to rise again, although it faces another decline in 2019,” Rahman said. “We project a climb [of] retail value to $7.2 billion in 2022.”

 

 

Netflix Overcomes Brazil Hurdle

In 2011 Netflix launched service in 43 Latin America countries, beginning with Brazil. Expansion into Brazil — the fifth-largest media market in the world, after China, India, the U.S. and Indonesia, was fraught with challenges.

Consumers were less familiar with using credit cards to pay for recurring charges such as over-the-top video. In addition to spotty broadband penetration, the lack of localized content (at the time) on Netflix alienated potential subscribers.

“Brazilians enjoy different things, like UFC and stand-up comedies, while hating telenovelas that are made in other Latin American countries,” former chief communications officer Jonathan Friedland told the Brazilian press.

Long-time Netflix bear Michael Pachter, digital media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, went so far as to predict Netflix wouldn’t make it in Latin America.

“This just won’t work in Ecuador or Costa Rica or even Mexico as it has in the U.S.,” Pachter told the Associated Press. “It’s going to depend on how many households have broadband access and what the quality of the content will be like.”

Fast-forward to the present and Netflix is a shining star in Brazil.

Along with Google’s YouTube, Netflix is the first OTT video choice across all devices, according to new data from IHS Markit. About 28% of respondents claim they turn to Netflix first when looking for something to watch, followed by YouTube at 24%. More than 63% of Internet users in Brazil, between the ages of 18 and 64, had access to Netflix, of which 86% claimed to use the service at least once a week.

IHS says that along with growth in OTT video, the installed base of Internet-connected devices grew by 10%, rising to more than 310 million devices in 2018.

More than 40% of survey respondents said they have a personal computer connected to their primary TV screens, while 35% claim to mostly use their smart TV apps to access video content on their primary TVs.

IHS contends that with on-demand video becoming ubiquitous around the world, and Brazil is no exception.

“The country has been experiencing a significant economic slump in recent years and, like other Latin American markets, Brazil’s legitimate pay TV and OTT subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service providers have seen subscriptions fall or suffer reduced growth,” Erik Brannon, associate director of research and analysis, wrote in a note.“Laptops, tablets, streaming sticks and other devices increasingly pose a threat to cable TV and other traditional TV services.”

In terms of perceived quality, Netflix and YouTube were significantly ahead of pay-TV providers in the following categories: ease of use, flexibility (i.e., “ability to watch what I want when I want”), largest catalog of content, quality of content, and value for the money.

Although this finding is a victory for OTT providers, Netflix and other OTT video services must focus on local language content to remain relevant in the long term, according to Brannon.

Despite the vast library of foreign content Netflix has to draw upon, the amount of Brazilian and Portuguese content remains minimal, which is why the company is now partnering with local producers to boost local content in its library.

As the Brazilian economy continues to improve, growth in pay-TV households is expected to resume. At the same time, a surge in growth is expected in the OTT market as well.

IHS found that pay-TV monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) can cost five times or more than the monthly ARPU of Netflix. Subscription sharing also seems to be a profound problem in Brazil, since nearly 63% of survey respondents reported having access to Netflix, while Netflix subscriptions penetrated less than 25% of all broadband households.

“Connected consumers in Brazil are interested in viewing content in non-traditional ways, which will put added pressure on traditional content and distribution systems when the economy recovers,” wrote Brannon.