AFM 2021 Moves Entirely Online

The American Film Market (AFM) will move its 2021 edition entirely online, the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) announced.

AFM 2021 Online will be held Nov. 1-5, shifting one day earlier than its original dates. Registration for the five-day online event is now open.

AFM 2021 Online will feature Industry Offices, Screenings, Conferences, Panels and Workshops, the Networking Pavilion, LocationEXPO and more. Event updates will be announced regularly via email, social media and the AFM Website.

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“We wish we could welcome the global industry back to Santa Monica but travel regulations, increased concerns about coronavirus variants around the world, and government restrictions on the ground prevent us from moving forward,” Michael Ryan, chairperson of IFTA and partner at GFM Films, said in a statement. “However, IFTA is thrilled to host the market the industry expects — where no one will be excluded and all of our stakeholders can immerse themselves for five days dedicated to deal making, discovery, education, and reconnecting.”

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination Required to Attend CES 2022

The Consumer Technology Association has announced that CES 2022  will require in-person attendees to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

CES 2022 will take place in Las Vegas Jan. 5-8, 2022, with media days Jan. 3-4.

CTA will again create a digital event that will run in parallel with the in-person program.

“Based on today’s science, we understand vaccines offer us the best hope for stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, said in a statement. “We all play a part in ending the pandemic through encouraging vaccinations and implementing the right safety protocols. We are taking on our responsibility by requiring proof of vaccination to attend CES 2022 in Las Vegas.”

The CTA is also assessing the acceptance of proof of a positive antibody test as an alternative requirement and will share more details on this later, according to a CTA press release.

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“Safety, security and health are always a priority at CES, and we will follow state and local guidelines and recommendations by the CDC,” read the press release. “CTA will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation and will announce additional protocols closer to the show.”

Some 2,000 companies including major brands and start-ups will be in Las Vegas, according to the CTA. CES 2022 will feature new categories showcasing how the industry is evolving, including space tech, food tech and NFTs. The show will highlight advancements in AI, AR/VR, gaming and computing, digital health, automotive and transportation, home entertainment, smart home, and more, according to the CTA. Audiences will hear from industry leaders during live keynotes, including General Motors chair and CEO Mary Barra and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert.

Visit CES.tech for CES 2022 updates.

T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert to Deliver Keynote at CES 2022

The Consumer Technology Association has announced that T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert will deliver a keynote address during CES 2022 taking place Jan. 5-8, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Sievert’s keynote will discuss 5G innovations for consumers, businesses and thought leadership — and spotlight a look into the future of how these advancements are enabling people to work, communicate and learn more efficiently, according to the CTA.

“As we return to in-person events, we look forward to convening innovators and business leaders from around the world who will showcase how technology impacts and improves every facet of our daily lives,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA, said in a statement. “The pace of innovation has accelerated over the last 18 months, and the rapid roll-out of 5G will only increase the momentum. There’s so much excitement in this space and for the first time, we welcome Mike Sievert to our keynote stage to share more about T-Mobile’s vision for fueling 5G innovation.”

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CES 2022 will showcase 5G technologies and bring together industry advocates, including Sievert, to share insights on the where 5G is headed, according to the CTA.

“The last year has shown us the critical role connectivity plays in our lives — for consumers, businesses and society as a whole,” Sievert said in a statement. “As the nation’s 5G leader, T-Mobile is driving a transformation in wireless communications. I can’t wait to keynote CES 2022 and showcase new ways this 5G network is unleashing game-changing innovations both now and in the future.”

The keynotes at CES 2022 will be viewed in-person in Las Vegas and accessed across the globe through the digital experience.

OTT.X to Resume In-Person Events

The industry organization OTT.X has announced it will return to in-person events, starting with a Los Angeles area Salon on July 22.

“It’s hard to believe that it has been 14 months since the last in-person OTT.X event, our NYC Roundtables in March of 2020, days before the city shut down,” reads a message to members. “We are excited to announce that in-person events at OTT.X are coming back.”

The 2021 OTT.X Summit: Conference and Market will also be in-person Sept. 1-2 at the Skirball Institute in Los Angeles, and the 13th annual OTT.X@Pipeline will also be held in-person at the Skirball on Dec. 8, the organization announced.

“We’ve learned a lot during the Pandemic about the value of virtual events, and we’ve developed a clear strategy for our future based on our learnings,” reads the message. “Over the past year, we’ve created networking opportunities and business meetings within virtual events — but these aren’t nearly effective as being in-person. On the other hand, offering panels and presentations virtually, both live and on-demand, have proven to be a value not only to our traditional attendees, but to a much broader audience unable to participate in person.”

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Thus, OTT.X will not abandon virtual presentations. It will employ a hybrid strategy. Some events will be completely virtual, some events will be completely in-person, and some events, such as the Summit, may have some features of both (such as broadcasting the panels and presentations).

HBO Max Panelist: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Broke All Records

The Christmas day release of Wonder Woman 1984 was a boon for the HBO Max subscription streaming service, according to WarnerMedia’s Sarah Lyons, EVP of direct-to-consumer global product management for HBO Max.

Wonder Woman 1984 broke all records that we had internally from both a projection and a prior-viewing standpoint,” Lyons said on a Feb. 8 virtual panel during Digital Entertainment World. “We feel that that momentum is only going to continue.”

WarnerMedia’s strategy to release first-run movies, such as Wonder Woman 1984, directly onto its streaming service concurrently with a theatrical release is designed to give consumers choice, she said.

“With this slate of films, there are some consumers that still want to go out to the theater and enjoy it in the theater and have that great theatrical experience that we all know and love, and then there are other consumers that are stuck at home, and so we want to give our customers the ability to have a choice whether to view it at home on HBO Max or to go out to the theaters, and that strategy so far has resonated very well,” she said.

HBO Max will continue to grow subscribers, she said.

“We absolutely see the momentum as sustainable,” she said. “We grew more subs in 2020 with HBO Max than HBO did over all of the last 10 years. So that momentum is huge, and our subscribers are highly engaged.”

HBO Max’s mix of HBO, Warner Bros. and other content widens its appeal.

“We’ve expanded our target demographics beyond what just HBO just offered,” she said. “HBO typically caters to and had a base that was largely older and male dominated. The idea with HBO Max is that we add on content that is attractive to families with kids, to Gen Z, the millennials, kids … . Serving the needs of the entire family is really important to us.”

There is room for more than one player in the streaming market, she said. “We think consumers from our research will subscribe to between three and four platforms,” Lyons said.

Fresh off Super Bowl ads that touted the upcoming March 4 launch of Paramount+, which will incorporate the existing CBS All Access service, Rob Gelick, ViacomCBS EVP and GM of streaming services and chief product officer, said there’s a lot of room for new services, especially those that can differentiate.

“You see all of the IP coming together from the other big entrants, and I think that’s going to challenge who the big three really are, in addition to the fact that you’re going to just see a broader swath of adopted services per household,” he said.

That includes the pending Paramount+.

“We combine the best in live sports and breaking news and that mountain of entertainment,” he said, alluding to the Paramount mountain used in the commercials to symbolize the service’s entertainment heft.

“Users are going for destination television,” he said. “Even this past year as we added more and more original, exclusive series we saw 100% growth in subscribers streaming originals, almost nearly that in time spent, and that’s because we’re dropping big marquee franchises, like a whole number of series from the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, including ‘Discovery.’ This week is the final for another original, ‘Stephen King’s The Stand.’ We’ve announced for March 4 a ton of great kids programming, including ‘Kamp Koral,’ which is a new series in the ‘SpongeBob’ franchise.”

Streaming is most definitely the future, accelerated by the pandemic, said Joanne Waage, GM of the Crunchyroll service.

“We are seeing finally that big shift from cable to the streaming services,” she said. “I think what’s going to be interesting is how quickly cable tanks at this point. It’s already been declining significantly. At this stage, do you really need both?”

Niche players such as Crunchyroll, which specializes in anime and adult animation, have to constantly innovate to attract viewers, she said. The service, an AVOD to SVOD model, recently announced it has 100 million registered users and 4 million paying subscribers.

“Certainly, we are one of the very successful niche models,” Waage said. “The role of services like ours, a lot of it is to push the boundaries of the mediums that we are in. We win by catering to the passions of our audience and really delivering a depth of experience. That’s our goal.”

But Crunchyroll sees itself having a bigger role.

“We get categorized as niche,” she said. “I would say we are sort of breaking out of that as we look at our future. We see ourselves as the next DC or Marvel or Disney, in that we are pushing this type of medium to the next generation of fans and that’s really adult animation, bigger than anime, and there’s no bounds to that. So that becomes not niche.

“Netflix is nipping at our heels and HBO Max … and so we have to just continue to innovate.”

Helping consumers discover content to watch and personalizing content for subscribers is key, said panelists.

“We put just as much stake in our consumer experience, in our product experience, as we do the content,” Lyons said of HBO Max. “We know consumers when they make a decision about a streaming service, there’s so much great content out there that the experience is just as much a part of their decision. How they interact with that app, how they find content, making it easy to discover, personalizing that experience, tailoring it to them is of utmost importance to stand out in the marketplace.”

Gelick agreed  that it’s important to see that “the right people are discovering [content] at the right time” and make sure customers don’t leave when they finish a piece of content.

“One of the biggest things for us is that post-completion experience … . You come to the last episode that’s available. How do you keep people engaged? What you surface in that moment I would see as an art,” he said.

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Data as well as a human touch is the way to curate, Lyons said.

“We actually believe in a blend,” Lyons said. “Human curation is really important for us because we feel like we’re a service with a point of view. We’re just as passionate fans behind this app as any other fans out there. We use these services, too. And so we want to bring an element of that hand touch, human curated content that is relevant of the zeitgeist, that has a point of view, and then we blend that with underlying data to personalize those curations.… That’s where the sweet spot is, and that’s where we think we can create a great experience for our customers.”

ViacomCBS streaming services use data to identify groups of similar customers to serve them better.

“We have a way to break out what I would call viewing cohorts into really small actionable groups,” Gelick said. “As you start hitting scale, personalization at its core is so critically important, and so I think everybody has their own flavor of this.”

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In addition to data and human curation, Waage emphasized the importance of generating old-fashioned word of mouth through social media.

“I think data is amazing and curation through technology is amazing … but ultimately you might be presented the best show for you, and if you’ve not heard of it, you’re probably not going to watch it,” she noted.

Thus, finding a way to generate buzz is key.

“They’re going to hear about it through friends, and so social is incredibly important,” she said, adding, “There is a feeling that there is a real person on the other side of it saying you should check this out.”

Crunchyroll will often use social media to reignite interest in a title.

“If there’s a slow period, we will go on social and reinvigorate shows that have maybe been sleeping for awhile,” she said.

Sang Kim, SVP of product at Samsung Electronics, said the company has a bird’s eye view of consumer usage of services because they are part of the smart TV system. Partners can get insights into how to target their content from that data.

“With the data that we collect for example on TV you can find your specific audiences of sports lovers or drama or whatnot,” he said. “We have made this data accessible for our partners to use and find their audiences so it’s a very robust data set.”

“We do not provide the raw data outside of their own specific services, but we’ll democratize that and roll it up to high levels so you can find your audiences.”

Samsung has seen huge growth in AVOD, he said.

Citing research that shows AVOD in a quarter of U.S. broadband houses, Gelick noted that AVOD service Pluto TV is part of the ViacomCBS family.

“I run product for that group as well,” he said. “I think AVOD and where we see the SVOD business as going is a much, much more tightly aligned strategy.”

That strategy involves using the AVOD experience to move customers into SVOD or “using that as a top of the funnel driver for premium subscription streaming.”

HBO Max, too, is planning an AVOD product.

“We have announced that we are launching an ad supported option later this year,” Lyons said.

It’s designed “to have a cheaper price point for consumers so that you can reach a broader audience that may not be able to afford a premium service, and you have something for everyone,” she said.

Consumer Panel: Word of Mouth a Top Way to Get Content Recommendations

Despite the use of data and algorithms to attempt to serve up content consumers want, consumers on a panel said word of mouth was one of the top ways they find new stuff to watch.

The panel during OTT.X@Pipeline 2020 was moderated by Thomas K. Arnold, publisher and editorial director of Media Play News.

“Word of mouth among friends is big,” said Joe Carlson of Noblesville, Ind.

In addition to word of mouth, said Ava Payne, of Carlsbad, Calif., “if I want to watch a show I kind of spend time researching.” One of her favorites is Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” She said she looks at reviews, as well as filmmakers and cast.

Zachary Kennedy, of Long Beach, Calif., said, “I read the trades an unhealthy amount,” paying close attention to content from filmmakers and actors “that he loves.” He also relies on awards shows, having discovered “Mr. Robot” when Rami Malek received an Emmy award.

“I trust the Emmys more than Netflix,” he said.

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In the early days of the pandemic, Devonee Alfrey, of Carlsbad, Calif., admitted she got roped into the Netflix “Tiger King” series hype.

“I can’t believe I sat down and watched the whole thing,” she said, calling it “a great waste of time.”

“Now, I would never watch it because it’s just terrible,” she said.

Erik Parker, of Albuquerque, N.M., said he was inspired by news coverage to watch HBO’s documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

Parker saw on the news that, during the series, “he admitted to killing people on the show.”

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Despite the rise of ad-supported video-on-demand, most on the panel said they were happy to pay a price to avoid ads.

“With Hulu we do have the more expensive one,” said Alfrey. “I don’t like commercials.”

Kennedy, too, said he pays more for Hulu with no ads.

Still, some said it depended on the content whether they’d put up with ads.

Carlson doesn’t like ads, but he does watch AVOD service Pluto TV: “They have some weird stuff on there.”

Parker likes to go ad-free with particularly engrossing content, but “if it’s just a cooking show, I wouldn’t mind.”

Kennedy said he likes AVOD service Tubi: “They have interesting stuff on there that isn’t available elsewhere.”

Still, he pointed out a big weakness with streaming ads — that they are often repeated too much.

Parker agreed.

“Last time I was paying for the ad-supported version of Hulu, every single ad break would be the same four ads,” he said. “That was very frustrating to sit through.”

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.