2023 Hedy Lamarr Award Ceremony

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group will present Shalini Govil-Pai, VP and General Manager of TV Platforms at Google, with the 2023 Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology. In its seventh year, the Hedy Lamarr Award recognizes female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry. The Hedy Lamarr Inspiration Award will be presented to Dean Elizabeth Daley of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, for her pioneering adoption of cutting-edge technology into curriculum and practice. The 2023 Hedy LamarrAchievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology, honoring a female college student whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise, will be presented to two students for 2023: Lily Chen, an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology majoring in Mathematics with Computer Science; and Memphis Grace MacPherson, an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California who is majoring in Art, Technology, and the Business of Innovation in the Iovine Young Academy, with a minor in Themed Entertainment in the School of Cinematic Arts.

Circana: Content Monetization Key Industry Turning Point in Mature Streaming Market

Universal Pictures’ expedited offering of current 2023 box office champ The Super Mario Bros. Movie into digital retail channels underscores Hollywood’s attempt to rejigger content distribution across multiple channels to an evolving fragmented consumer.

The strategy aims to transition away from an all-consuming streaming endgame and jumpstart “old-school” transactional opportunities beyond theatrical, including re-releasing related catalog content, and altering streaming service bundles.

Disney is now bundling Disney+ and Hulu into a single app, on top of the existing Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ bundle.

“We’re in the middle of the ‘great re-bundling’ … which means broader [content] distribution,” John Buffone, VP, industry advisor with research firm Circana, said May 16 on the DEG: Digital Entertainment Group’s “B-L-D Hour” webcast.

Facing a mature streaming market and significant direct-to-consumer fiscal losses, studios and media giants are looking for ways to cut costs while maximizing viewer engagement and content monetization opportunities, including non-exclusive content license agreements with third-party platforms.

Circana analyst John Buffone

While domestic SVOD services gained more than 6 million combined subscribers in 2022, the streaming market through the first quarter of this year has largely stabilized, with daily usage levels only changing marginally among the top 10 subscription streaming video services, Buffone said.

Indeed, just Netflix, Paramount+ and NBCUniversal’s Peacock saw incremental (1%) engagement increases through March compared to declines among their competitors (Hulu, Disney+, Discovery+, Prime Video, ESPN+, and Apple TV+). HBO Max remained flat.

The analyst said the outlier days of the pandemic when Netflix saw an increase of 3.5 billion hours in viewership year-over-year are over, with Q1 SVOD revenue growth largely driven by price hikes among the streaming services.

At the same time, U.S. SVOD household penetration continues grow slowly, reaching 88%, or about 100.3 million homes, which is up 2% from six months ago. Another 62.4 million households use free, ad-supported platforms. The average video consumer uses 4.8 SVOD platforms and 3.6 free ad-supported services — the latter up 3% from six months ago.

Buffone said that 52% of households use both SVOD and FAST, which is up from 49% six months ago, adding that both services are generally reaching many of the same viewers.

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He added that while there are incremental usage changes between the platforms, in reality the data suggests that the subscriber bases across the services are watching a similar amount of content and time spent on a platform as they were before.

“As the streaming market is moving through the backend of the adoption curve [and] engagement is stabilizing, there are some opportunities here,” Buffone said. “There’s more avenues for distributing programming. There’s more avenues for non-exclusive licensing — part of that is the proliferation of free, ad-supported streaming in the market place.”

Notably, Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this year inked non-exclusive license deals for legacy HBO content, including “Westworld,” for distribution across The Roku Channel and ad-supported Tubi platform.

Buffone said recent data shows that among viewers aged 35-54, an identical 37% of consumers use SVOD, FAST, buy/rent premium and standard digital movies.

“This is a pretty significant demo,” said the analyst. “This is a result of [an older demographic] stepping up” to embrace wider content distribution. “This continues to be a bright spot.”

Paramount’s Dan Cohen New Chair of DEG; Warner’s Jim Wuthrich Becomes Chair Emeritus

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group on Aug. 12 unveiled its new board of directors, with Paramount Global chief content licensing officer Dan Cohen elected chair and prior chair Jim Wuthrich, president of content distribution at Warner Bros. Discovery, moving to chair emeritus.

Jonathan Zepp

Jonathan Zepp, head of media and entertainment global partnerships at Google, is the home entertainment trade association’s new vice chair.

DEG is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and says it aims to drive membership “that reflects the diverse, global and fluid digital entertainment marketplace.”

The new officers of the DEG board were elected to two-year terms and will serve through July 2024.

Andrea Downing, president of PBS Distribution, returns as CFO, with Rick Hack, head of media and entertainment partnerships at Intel Corp., re-elected secretary.

Returning DEG member Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and Amazon Web Services (AWS), a new DEG member company, are each represented with new DEG board directors: Jason Spivak, EVP of distribution for North America at SPE, and Chris Blandy, global leader of strategy and business development, media and entertainment at AWS.

Andrea Downing

A+E Networks and Fandango/Vudu are longstanding members returning to the board. They are represented, respectively, by Mark Garner, EVP of content licensing and business development, and Mark Young, SVP of strategy, business and corporate development for Fandango and Vudu and GM of Rotten Tomatoes.

The new DEG board also includes two seats representing DEG’s two alliances, the D2C Alliance (D2CA) and the Advanced Content Delivery Alliance (ACDA), which the trade group says “play increasingly important roles in focusing DEG membership for the future and broadening the organization’s membership.”

The D2CA director is Adam Lewinson of Tubi. The ACDA director is Bill Neighbors of Xperi Holding Corp. Both Lewinson and Neighbors serve as chief content officer of their respective companies.

DEG directors also appointed Robin Tarufelli of Deloitte as a special board advisor for the 2022-23 term, a role “intended to provide diversity of input from membership sectors and companies that might not otherwise be represented on the board,” the DEG announced.

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Rick Hack

DEG arrives at its quarter-century mark with an expanding global membership that includes 81 member companies encompassing all areas of digital entertainment, with diverse business segments and from a wide range of geographical locations. Examples include Israel’s Deepdub, a localization service provider; Argentina’s BB Media, a data science company specializing in media and entertainment; South Korea’s Blintn, a global content marketplace; and U.S.-based TreeTrunk, which introduces a new standard for NFTs that enables blockchain royalty collection and distribution.

“I’m delighted that DEG membership is evolving to reflect the increasingly global nature of the digital entertainment ecosystem,” new board chair Cohen said in a statement. “The new board is committed to serving all DEG members and to providing the membership even more opportunities for collaboration, education and networking across industry sectors and across borders.”

“We welcome all of our new DEG board directors and are thrilled about our expanding base of companies based outside the U.S.,” said Amy Jo Smith, DEG president and CEO. “I’m grateful that they see the value of membership in DEG, which is committed to continuing to deliver high return on investment for members evolving into global providers of direct-to-consumer entertainment.”