Online CES Moves to Jan. 11-14

The 2021 CES event, which is going online and was scheduled to start Jan. 6, is moving back to Jan. 11-14, organizers announced.

The new schedule is:

  • Jan. 11: Exclusive media-only access
  • Jan. 12: Exhibitor showcase and conference programming
  • Jan. 13: Exhibitor showcase and conference programming
  • Jan. 14: Conference programming

 

Owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association, CES 2021 will be an all-digital experience connecting exhibitors, customers, thought leaders and media from around the world. CES 2021 will allow participants to hear from technology innovators, see cutting-edge technologies and the latest product launches, and engage with global brands and startups from around the world, according to organizers.

For more than 50 years, CES has spotlighted technology. Visit CES.tech for all CES 2021 updates.

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OTT.X Announces 2020 Heroes

OTT.X (formerly the Entertainment Merchants Association) is honoring industry “heroes.”

Heroes are team members at digital platforms, channels and retailers; at content companies; and at service and technology companies that facilitate the flow of content to the consumer, “playing an important role in providing the needed entertainment to keep everyone sane during these stay-at-home months,” according to OTT.X.

The individuals are being recognized based on their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their contributions are being honored at the OTT.X Online Live conference July 22.

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Honorees are:

  • Abel Franklin, director of digital media, Maverick Entertainment
  • Aimee Rogers, manager, FP&A and sales analyst, Cinedigm
  • Alexandra Vigilione, director, product marketing, Cinedigm
  • Brenda Garcia-Ortiz, SVP, worldwide sales, Maverick Entertainment
  • Chris Pak, SVP, FP&A and business development, Cinedigm
  • Dan Sulzer, director, financial operations and royalties, Cinedigm
  • Danny Arroyo, content prep and asset management manager, BLU
  • David Johnson, packaging manager, BLU
  • David Millbern, VP, development and research, Here Media
  • Dylan Canfield, manager, content operations, Cinedigm
  • Erick Varillas, head of production, mitú
  • Evan Liss, digital media specialist, Maverick Entertainment
  • Ian Donnelly, manager, ad operations, Cinedigm
  • Jessica Ruvalcaba, director of content, mitú
  • Katherine Pond, VP, business development, Vizio
  • Kelcie Schwab, linear channel programming and digital coordinator, Maverick Entertainment
  • Lonni Silverman, director, client services, Sony Pictures
  • Michael Thexton, executive director, technology, BLU
  • Natalie Martin, VP, client services, Premiere Digital
  • Sarah Dixon, VP, client services, BLU
  • Tony Huidor, SVP, products and technology, and GM, networks, Cinedigm
  • Zack Coffman, CEO and founder, One World Digital

 

“We are proud to have individuals like this year’s heroes working within our industry,” said OTT.X president and CEO Mark Fisher in a statement. “Their contributions to their companies parlayed into contributions to every stay-at-home’s ability to cope through good quality entertainment delivered into their homes through the Internet.”

AFM 2020 Moves Online

The American Film Market (AFM) will bring its 2020 edition online, the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) announced.

AFM 2020 Online will run over five days from Nov. 9 to 13, shifting one week later than originally scheduled, so as not to overlap with Election Day in the United States. This year will be the 41st market.

“By making this announcement four months in advance, AFM’s stakeholders can move forward and plan with certainty,” said Michael Ryan, chairman, IFTA, and partner, GFM Films. “AFM 2020 Online will give the global film community the opportunities that are always critical to our success — to meet, share knowledge, collaborate, and discover tomorrow’s films as they do every year in Santa Monica.”

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The full program and participation details will be unveiled later this summer.

AFM is a film acquisition, development and networking event where more than 7,000 attending professionals from more than 70 countries access the global catalog of available films and projects, attend conferences and connect with decisionmakers. The AFM is produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance, a global trade association for independent film and television production, finance, distribution and sales companies. The organization represents the independent sector before governments and international bodies and provides entertainment industry services to more than 135 member companies from 23 countries.

NAB Announces Free NAB Show Express May 13-14

The NAB Show’s new digital experience, NAB Show Express, will take place May 13-14, 2020, according to a release from the National Association of Broadcasters.

The platform is free and designed to engage the NAB Show community by offering 24-hour access to content curated and customizable for the global media and entertainment community. NAB Show Express offers three educational channels, on-demand content and a Solutions Marketplace featuring exhibitor product information, announcements and demos.

Registration for the event will open April 20 at NABShowExpress.com.

The traditional NAB show in Las Vegas in April was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Powered by Brightcove Inc. and Frequency, NAB Show Express will comprise three education channels that mirror traditional NAB Show experiences. These include:

  • BEIT Express, a channel focused on broadcast engineering and information technology;
  • NAB Show Experience, offering a variety of educational sessions, product innovation showcases and interviews with industry trailblazers;
  • And Tech Talks, an NAB Show Live Special Edition, produced by Broadcast Beat and showcasing relevant conversations with NAB Show community influencers.

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Each channel will feature eight hours of content streamed daily and available on-demand. NAB Show Express will also offer NAB Show’s podcast, exploring relevant themes and featuring speakers.

The digital platform will feature more than 100 educational sessions, including interactive panels and select sessions originally slated for the NAB Show in Las Vegas, such as NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith’s State of the Industry address. Education partners include the Advanced Imaging Society, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), the Broadcast Education Association (BEA), Future Media Conferences (FMC), #GALSNGEAR, the Hollywood Professional Association (HPA), the International Trade Association for Broadcast and Media Technology Suppliers (IABM), the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) and the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE), among others.

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The NAB Show Express Solutions Marketplace will offer exhibitor profiles, company-hosted events, press conferences and special offers for those interested in exploring new products and exhibitor news, according to NAB. Resources, such as industry-related white papers, articles, webinars, guides and research reports, will also be available for those who register.

Additionally, NAB Show Express will feature three standalone training and executive leadership events for which separate registrations will be available soon. These include:

  • Executive Leadership Summit (May 11), produced in partnership with Variety – free to attend;
  • Cybersecurity & Content Protection Summit (May 12), produced in partnership with Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA) and Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) — registration fees apply;
  • And Post | Production World Online (May 17 – 19), produced in partnership with Future Media Conferences (FMC) — registration fees apply.

Netflix Film Chief Talks Theatrical Windows, Viewership Data, Building Studio ‘From Scratch’

Netflix film chief Scott Stuber discussed his leap from the studio system to Netflix, releasing viewership data and the SVOD service’s theatrical model at the Variety Innovate conference in Los Angeles Dec. 5.

“The appealing thing was to do something from scratch,” he said of his joining the streaming service after a long studio career, adding that he “saw Reed [Hastings] and Ted [Sarandos] as decent human beings.”

The mission is to “evolve storytelling and give new voices chances,” he said.

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Variety editor-in-chief Claudia Eller asked about the service’s evolution on the theatrical window, from day-and-date on the streaming service to giving theaters a few weeks’ exclusivity, as it did with the Oscar-lauded Roma, and more recent award contenders such as Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Marriage Story.

Stuber said that Netflix has to consider the desire of its subscribers, which finance the business, to get the content as soon as possible.

“For that $10 [monthly sub price], do you get that content or do you have to wait?” he said.

He said giving Roma and other films from the studio a theatrical window only increased the appeal, noting Roma is still playing theatrically in Europe.

“We are sometimes categorized as anti-theatrical, and that’s not the truth,” he said.

Discussing the SVOD service’s legendary reticence to release viewership data, Stuber said Netflix would be more forthcoming in the future.

“No one’s afraid of it, and we really want to do it,” he said. “It’s just getting it right.”

He noted that some films theatrically are declared failures when they don’t meet a certain box office benchmark, but at Netflix they see a streaming audience not reflected in the theatrical numbers.

“I just want it to be articulated correctly to protect the filmmaker,” he said, adding, “You’ll see more numbers from us, more transparency.”

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Eller noted Netflix has a shot at a Best Picture Oscar with The Irishman and Marriage Story, which are getting rave reviews.

If that happened, “it would be big,” he said.

“I will be running around cheering.”

Panelists Discuss SVOD Services, Data at ‘Variety’ Conference

SVOD services’ design, data collection and effect on content creation were front and center at the Variety Innovate conference Dec. 5.

On the heels of its launch Nov. 12, Michael Cerda, VP of product at Disney+, told attendees, “What it really comes down to is building a really compelling consumer experience that’s easy to use that honors the content.

“We weren’t going to reinvent the wheel, but what you do is put touches in.”

That included putting buttons on the site with brand names such as Marvel, Disney and National Geographic that help consumers find the content they want.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” he said.

Households can have up to seven profiles, with kids getting buttons that appeal to them, such as “character sets like princesses,” rather than brands.

Executives also quietly tested Disney+ in the Netherlands for a month before its U.S. launch, he noted.

As for the much-reported glitches at launch, he said, “It’s software and stuff happens with software. You deal with it quickly.”

“Amongst CTO’s there’s a great deal of empathy for Disney,” said Jeremy Legg, CTO, WarnerMedia, who noted that its upcoming SVOD service HBO Max will be using human curation, in addition to algorithms, to help consumers discover content.

The services are using data and algorithms to better target consumers.

“All of us are using some sort of personalization algorithm,” said Lindsay Silver, VP of product at Conde Nast.

“We collect 100 terabytes of data every day,” added Jim Denney, VP of product management at Hulu.

That data is combined with input from such sources as surveys and ethnographic studies.

“You have to collect all these things,” Denney said.

Variety co-editor-in-chief and moderator Andrew Wallenstein asked if streaming services can gauge such things as interest “when Baby Yoda comes on screen,” referring to the new Disney+ original “The Mandalorian.”

“We do have real-time video analytics,” Cerda said. “You pay attention to this stuff.”

“You have to pick and chose what works together,” said Sonu Durgia, director, product management, search, Walmart Labs. She noted that someone who buys diapers might be receptive to content for young kids.

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The growth of streaming services has generated an explosion in spending on content, noted Wallenstein.

“We have crossed the $100 billion mark,” he said with spending in 2019 at an estimated $108.2 billion, according to the magazine’s research.

One content producer taking advantage of this explosion is legendary TV creator Chuck Lorre, who at the event explained how his “The Kominsky Method” on Netflix has changed how and what he writes. For one thing, appealing to the advertising sweet spot of those 18-49 isn’t a concern with streamers.

“You’re not concerned with how old the audience is,” he said. “You are determining if there is one.”

This allowed Lorre to explore a subject with “Kominsky Method” that he couldn’t on broadcast TV.

“I wanted to write about the minutia of getting old,” he said, as well as older folks’ “fears of being irrelevant.”

Writing for a streaming service without commercials also allows for different pacing.

“You’re not writing to an ad break,” he said. “You’re not writing to the ‘Perils of Pauline’ cliffhanger [hoping the viewer will come back].”

He compared watching a season of “Kominsky Method” to a four-hour movie or reading a book. Viewers can choose when they want to pause before continuing the story.

“In the Netflix environment, if an audience is watching show four, you know they’ve watched one, two and three,” he said, which isn’t true in broadcast TV.

“It changes the way the story unfolds,” he added. “It’s not so episodic.”

 

Panelists at EMA OTT Event Contemplate Effect of Coming SVOD Wave

A little more than a month before the start of a launch of a wave of big-name SVOD services, panelists contemplated the effect that the new, deep-pocketed players would have on the OTT marketplace at a Sept. 25 conference in Los Angeles produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher noted a change in the title of the annual event from Digital Media Pipeline to OTT_X@ Pipeline.

“That’s our leaning in and supporting all over-the-top distribution, embracing SVOD [subscription] and AVOD [ad-supported] as well as TVOD [transactional], which we had primarily been supporting in the past,” he said.

In opening remarks, he noted the shifting landscape.

“While SVOD continues to have runaway growth and EST continues to reinvent itself and to promote consumer ownership, AVOD, a format that an industry sage used to refer to as ‘where titles go to die,’ has become all the buzz,” he said. “Frankly, with the launch of WarnerMedia’s subscription service, Disney’s subscription service, Apple’s subscription service, Universal’s service, and Hulu and Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as Britbox, CBS All Access and so many others, I believe even more consumers are going to be driven to cut their cable subscriptions and get all their content either through OTA or OTT and there is likely going to be a limit to what most customers are going to be willing to spend. And when they hit that limit, they’re probably still not going to have enough content available compared to what they’re used to with the hundreds of channels on cable, and they’ll end up supplementing that with AVOD channels. So I think many of us believe that next year will not only bring growth in migration in SVOD services but also unprecedented growth in AVOD.”

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That theme of how the market would change with an explosion of new OTT entrants was echoed by panelists throughout the day.

“The entertainment industry has become as susceptible to change and as volatile with change as the broader technology industry itself,” said Cinedigm Networks president Erick Opeka, who moderated the “Future Evolution of OTT” panel. “Gone are the days of the stability that many of us in this room became accustomed to, where you had 10, 12, 15 years between cycles of technology adoption.”

Mining a niche is a good way to compete with the big guys, panelists said.

“I believe there’s a lot of white space for passion-driven verticals that are underserviced,” said Natalie Farsi, founder and CEO of upcoming lifestyle channel SMART.

Ed Laczynski, CEO of Zype, added a niche OTT player can succeed “where there’s a high level of affinity and or passion and there’s a scarcity of content within that group.”

Focus is key, said Irina Shames, chief revenue officer of Obesh, an upcoming channel focused on outdoor adventure targeting millennials.

“I think there are many companies not necessarily asking, ‘Why are we launching an OTT or why do we need to be present on OTT?’” she said.

As SVOD services proliferate, AVOD may be a strategic move for smaller players.

“It seems to me that a lot of players that had started as subscription are going to be making a pivot to an ad-supported model,” said Opeka.

“With AVOD, we’ve still got about 82 percent of the U.S. that’s gonna want to watch ad-based content because they don’t want to have to pay for all of these services,” added Jeffrey Goldman of Premiere Digital Services.

Transitioning to AVOD “hopefully will be a better business model for us,” said the Africa Channel’s Sheila Cole on another panel, “Managing the Business of OTT.”

Indeed, the research on AVOD shows strong consumer growth.

“The ad-supported space is growing very, very quickly,” said ComScore’s Vince Muscarella. Recent ComScore research showed that the growth in hours viewed per household for ad-supported services is outpacing even subscription viewing. Ad-supported hours were up 60% in May-July 2019 from May-July 2018, while subscription hours grew 44% during the same time period.

David Sidebottom of Futuresource reported that AVOD is a “very U.S. phenomenon,” with one in five Americans having used one of these services in the last month, according to his research.

Still, internationally, as in the United States, “what we see more than anything is fragmentation in the marketplace” with consumers offered “huge choice,” he said. But every international territory is not the same. Netflix is driving SVOD growth in France and Germany, for instance, with TVOD starting to pick up in Nordic region.

Other changes noted at the conference were the impending launch of a new website and OTT newsletter from the trade association, as well as a push for diversity. Indeed, the conference included a panel on the subject and featured a diverse group on the dais.

“This is the first conference that it’s not just a bunch of us old white guys up on stage,” said the EMA’s Fisher. “We have 48% of our speakers being female and at least the start of integrating more underrepresented minorities and people of color into our program.”

He credited Parrot Analytics’ Alejandro Rojas, who presented research on OTT profitability, for pushing the organization to embrace more diversity.

EMA Producing OTT_@Pipeline Conference Sept. 25

The Entertainment Merchants Association is producing OTT_X@Pipeline at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles Sept. 25.

It’s the 12th year for the conferences, formerly titled Digital Media Pipeline. The event is a one-day business-to-business conference bringing together the OTT community for research presentations, knowledge sharing and networking.

OTT_X@Pipeline kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with a breakfast followed by panels, spotlight chats, research presentations and a keynote speaker to be announced. It ends with a cocktail party 5:15-6:15 p.m.

Panels include “What’s the Future of OTT?” and “Efficiencies Toward Profits.” There will be a Movies Anywhere update at 4:45 p.m.

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Research presentations include “To License or Not to License,” about the question of whether to invest in more original content or rely on licensed acquisitions, presented by Alejandro Rojas of Parrot Analytics; “International Development of Premium Digital Video Markets,” a review of the latest trends in international markets for SVOD and transactional digital video, presented by David Sidebottom of Futuresource; and “Navigating the Fragmented TV Landscape,” in which Samba TV will share the latest viewership trends.

EMA’s LAES and OTT Conferences Kick Off July 16

The Entertainment Merchants Association will hold its annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit at the Hilton Universal City starting July 16, along with a concurrent conference OTT_X covering the over-the-top market.

Events begin at 9 a.m. following a network breakfast with an introduction from EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher and OTT_X chair Erick Opeka of Cinedigm.

Erick Opeka

For the OTT_X conference, panels in the morning include “Monetization Trends in OTT” and “Windowing 2.0: Key Strategies for Enhancing Content Value & Revenue.” At 11:30 Tubi CCO Adam Lewison will participate in the fireside chat/keynote “AVOD at Scale.”

The LAES program kicks off after lunch. It includes the panel “Consumer View of Digital Entertainment,” two research sessions and the panel “Retailers and Consumer-Facing Services.”

The evening concludes with a cocktail party at 6 p.m. at the Hilton pool sponsored by FandangoNow.

July 17 includes OTT_X business meetings and presentations, as well as discussions on four tracks: EMA Retailing Council, Digital Supply Chain (retailers track), Digital Supply Chain (specialized track) and OTT_X Workshops. Round robin buyer/seller meetings take place from 3-5 p.m.

Register here.

The complete schedule is here.

EMA to Present OTT Conference July 16-17

The Entertainment Merchants Association will present an over-the-top channels market and conference “OTT_X” July 16-17 at the Universal Hilton in Universal City, Calif.

The invitation-only event for C-level leaders in the OTT segment of the entertainment industry will consist of one-on-one business meetings between content providers and ad-supported and subscription OTT channels, a half-day conference featuring industry analysts and thought leaders, a service and technology providers showcase, high-speed introductory meetings specifically designed for burgeoning OTT channels, and networking events, according to the EMA.

OTT_X will be co-located with, but separate from, the EMA’s Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, the annual get-together of the home video industry, according to the EMA.

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, will chair the confab.

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“Until now, there hasn’t been a set marketplace where buyers and sellers, providers, and distributors of OTT content can come together to network and connect in a meaningful way,” Opeka said in a statement. “That’s one of the driving forces that makes OTT_X such an important event. Through this dynamic gathering of industry leaders and pioneers, we have created an incredible opportunity where executives can explore potential partnerships with the outlets and providers that are best suited to their unique interests and needs. Our ultimate goal is that this will enable efficient and effective agreements to be made, while further expanding and revolutionizing the OTT landscape.”

“The OTT segment of the video industry is growing tremendously and needs a premier event to bring key players together to do business, share knowledge, and expand their contacts, and that is what EMA is providing with the OTT_X market and conference,” added Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO, in a statement.

The OTT_X steering committee consists of David Bloom (media journalist), Dean Cates (The Africa Channel), George Chung (JungoTV), Paul Colichman (Here Media), Gary Delfiner (Digital Sylvia), Pat McDonough (Mill Creek Entertainment), Colin Petrie-Norris (Xumo), Steve Raymond (Vubiquity), Carlos Sanchez (Legendary Entertainment) and Randy Wells (Magnolia Pictures).