Disney+, Star+ Relaunch on Sony PlayStation 5 Video Game Consoles

Disney Oct. 4 announced that it has relaunched its branded Disney+ subscription streaming video platform, and general entertainment Star+ platform on the Sony PlayStation 5 video game consoles.

With the relaunch, PS5 users can now stream movies, TV shows and original content in 4K High-Dynamic Range video quality when viewed on 4K UHD television.

“A key part of our global expansion strategy is to meet consumers wherever they are, which is why we’re excited to enhance both Disney+ and Star+ for PlayStation 5 users,” Jerrell Jimerson, EVP of product & design, Disney Streaming, said in a statement. “The ability to support 4K HDR video streaming on the platform will also improve the viewing experience for fans.”

Both Disney+ and Star+ (which launched in Latin America last year offering general entertainment) require a paid subscription and high-speed Internet connection. They are available to download in the media section of the PS5 console.

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Disney: ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Most-Watched Original Movie Ever on Disney+ After Three Days

The Walt Disney Co. on Oct. 4 announced that the movie sequel Hocus Pocus 2 is the most-watched Disney+ original movie after 72 hours of release since the platform launched in November 2019.

Hocus Pocus 2 follows up on the 1993 original with the same cast of mischievous witches, including Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy.

The original movie generated $45 million at the global box office, including $44.3 million across North American screens.

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The sequel was directed by Anne Fletcher, written by Jen D’Angelo and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. New cast members include Sam Richardson, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Tony Hale, and Hannah Waddingham.

Alisa Bowen Upped to President of Disney+

Alisa Bowen has been promoted to president of Disney+, effective immediately. Bowen has led global business operations for Disney’s streaming platforms, including Disney+, since its launch in 2019.

Bowen will work closely with key leaders across The Walt Disney Company for the forthcoming launch of the advertising-supported subscription streaming tier, as well as multi-channel promotional support for Disney+ and its content slate.

The executive most recently served as EVP of global business operations for Disney Streaming, overseeing global content and business operations for the company’s direct-to-consumer video streaming businesses, including Hulu, ESPN+ and Star+. This included cross-functional leadership of the global Disney+ rollout in 154 markets worldwide.

Regional leaders for Disney+ in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Asia Pacific, and Latin America will report jointly to Bowen and regional leadership. Bowen will continue to report to Michael Paull, president of direct to consumer of Disney Media Entertainment & Distribution.

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She joined Disney in 2017 as SVP of digital media and CTO of the company’s international operations, where she led a transformation of Disney’s channel broadcast technology, content operations, and digital publishing across EMEA, Asia Pacific, and Latin America.

“Alisa has been an indispensable member of our leadership team since the inception of Disney+,” Paull said in a statement. “She possesses a rare and valuable combination of deep institutional knowledge, forward-thinking innovation, and global vision rooted in a strong focus on our consumer, that is perfectly suited for this critical role, and I am confident that she will have an immediate and positive impact on the business.”

‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’ Tops Weekly Whip U.S. Streaming Originals Chart

Disney+’s “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” topped the Whip Media chart of streaming originals among U.S. consumers the week ended Sept. 25.

The Marvel Comics-based series, which began streaming on Disney+ in weekly episodes Aug. 18, rose from No. 2. The series follows a lawyer specializing in cases involving superhumans who also becomes a superhero.

Hit series “House of the Dragon” was not included in the streaming chart because it also airs on HBO linear TV in addition to streaming on HBO Max. On the linear TV plus streaming chart it would rank No. 2.

Debuting at No. 2 on the streaming originals chart was Disney+’s “Andor,” the latest series from the “Star Wars” universe. A prequel to the “Star Wars” spin-off movie Rogue One, the series follows thief-turned-Rebel spy Cassian Andor during the five years leading up to the events of the film.

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TV Time, a Whip Media company, is a free TV and movie viewership tracking app with 21 million global users. The streaming originals chart rankings are determined by streaming original TV series with the greatest share of views in the given week, among a balanced panel of U.S. users of the TV Time app. The movie rankings are determined streaming movies with the greatest share of views in the given week, among a balanced panel of U.S. users of the TV Time app.

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Dropping to No. 3 from the top spot was Netflix’s “Cobra Kai.” Season five of the martial arts comedy-drama started streaming Sept. 9. The series is based on the “Karate Kid” franchise, focusing on the characters more than 30 years after the original film.

Debuting at No. 4 on the chart was Netflix’s “Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” The series, which premiered Sept. 21, is a fictional series showcasing the infamous Milwaukee cannibalistic psychopath who killed and sexually abused 17 men and boys from 1978 t0 1991.

Dropping from No. 3 to No. 5 on the streaming originals chart was Prime Video’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” which started streaming Sept. 1. Dubbed the most-expensive TV season ever with a production budget of $715 million, the fantasy series is based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien and is set thousands of years before The Hobbit

Top Streaming Originals Among U.S. Consumers for the Week Ended Sept. 25:

  1. “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” — Disney+
  2. “Andor” — Disney+ (Series Premiere)
  3. “Cobra Kai” — Netflix
  4. “Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” — Netflix (Series Premiere)
  5. “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” — Prime Video
  6. “The Handmaid’s Tale” — Hulu
  7. “Fate: The Winx Saga” — Netflix
  8. “Reboot” (2022) — Hulu (Series Premiere)
  9. “The Patient” — Hulu
  10. “Love Is Blind” — Netflix

Series ‘Save Our Squad With David Beckham’ Bows on Disney+ Nov. 9

The U.K. original series “Save Our Squad With David Beckham” will premiere exclusively on Disney+  Nov. 9.

Co-produced by BAFTA and RTS Award-winning production company Twenty Twenty, and Studio 99, the global content and production studio co-founded by Beckham, the four-episode series sees Beckham return to his East London roots to mentor Westward Boys, a young, grassroots team who are at the bottom of their league, facing relegation. However, this isn’t just any league — this is the same league that David played in as a young boy. Working with the head coaches, he’ll try to turn the team’s fortunes around.

“Save Our Squad With David Beckham” builds on the company’s commitment to source, develop and produce original productions. Across EMEA alone, Disney’s International Content and Operations team plan to create 60 local productions by 2024.

 

Streamers Up Embrace of Live Programming

NEWS ANALYSIS — The Sept. 19 debut of the 31st season of “Dancing with the Stars” on Disney+ marked the first time the venerable dance competition had been live-streamed on an over-the-top video platform. The move came after Disney-owned ABC TV earlier this year disclosed it would no longer broadcast the show. While Nielsen hasn’t disclosed viewership data for the dance competition on Disney+, it is worth noting that the show’s primary viewing audience is older than 63 years of age, according to Nielsen. That age demo represents just 9% of the Disney+ subscriber base, according to Nielsen.

Disney’s next live-streamed event will be singer Elton John’s reported last concert in the U.S. in November.

The live-streamed event followed the Sept. 15 debut of NFL “Thursday Night Football” exclusively on Prime Video. With Amazon paying $1 billion annually over the next 11 years for the rights, the e-commerce behemoth no longer shares the coveted game with Fox Sports.

Amazon disclosed that the three-hour game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers generated the most Prime signups ever for the e-commerce platform. Prime Video is among several perks afforded Prime members by Amazon. How much higher “Thursday Night Football” sends Prime membership above 200 million remains to be seen — as evidenced by the NFL’s humorous tweet (below) from the game of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Nielsen Sept. 22 disclosed the game reached 11.9 million internet-connected household televisions, a tally that increases to around 13 million when factoring in additional devices. Amazon reportedly contends the game reached 15 million viewers.

“Our first exclusive TNF broadcast delivered the most watched night of primetime in the U.S. in the history of Prime Video,” Jay Marine, head of sports at Amazon, reportedly wrote in a staff memo. “This is a massive achievement. We also saw the biggest three hours for U.S. Prime sign ups ever in the history of Amazon — including Prime Day, Cyber Monday and Black Friday.”

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Regardless, the viewership did not match the two-episode premiere of Amazon Studios’ pricey “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” series is doubtful. Amazon said more than 25 million people streamed the show on the first day worldwide.

Regardless, the football game production, including the high-profile announcing crew of Al Michaels and longtime college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, came off without any technical glitches.

“While we’re still waiting for official Nielsen ratings … this was also a huge technical achievement — our tech and product teams rose to the challenge and delivered a fantastic streaming experience to our millions of viewers,” Marine wrote.

Streamers Embracing Theatrical Windows as Market Conditions Force Compromise and Collaboration

Last week at Disney’s D23 Expo and ongoing Disney+ Day (through Sept. 19), the media giant and AMC Theatres announced a special deal affording Disney+ subs special access and $5 pricing to theatrical screenings at the world’s No. 1 exhibitor’s screens, among other perks.

Netflix recently released its remaining original movie slate for 2022, a selection of films that include both seven- day and 14-day theatrical exclusives and concurrent windows. The first theatrical exclusive was A Jazzman’s Blues on Sept. 16.

Warner Bros. Discovery killed the former WarnerMedia’s controversial strategy pushing theatrical releases onto the HBO Max platform concurrent with the box office. It also shuttered producing original movies just for Max, with CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels telling an investor group last week that the abbreviated theatrical window is a relative strategy.

Both Apple TV+ and Prime Video have long valued theatrical distribution as a requisite marketing strategy, with the move earning both streamers Oscar wins (CODA and Manchester by the Sea, respectively) in the process.

“It’s the belief in leveraging all of these various exploitation windows to use our unique position to monetize all of our content as much as possible — as opposed to producing all these feature films for just one streaming windows,” Wiedenfels said.

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So, what’s happening here?

Erstwhile competitors, subscription streaming and exhibitors, are playing nice as both distribution channels attempt to retain and lure consumers in an increasingly fragmented market driven by saturation of streaming services and lingering post-pandemic challenges affecting moviegoers.

“We have a different view on the wisdom of releasing direct-to-streaming films, and we have taken some aggressive steps to course-correct the previous strategy,” David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, said on the recent fiscal call.

That involved shelving a planned $90 million Batgirl movie release on Max, among myriad content production halts on the streamer, and extending theatrical runs for The BatmanDC League of Super-Pets and Elvis.

To Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, the kumbaya between Disney and AMC underscores Disney’s ongoing commitment to theatrical distribution while also shortening the box office to 45 days for non-blockbuster titles.

“Consumers have been trained that if you have Disney+, why go to the theater, you’re going to get the movie in 45 days anyway,” Pachter said.

So, to make a concession to moviegoers astute enough to realize that waiting a month would get them a major Disney theatrical release on Disney+, Pachter contends the media giant made a deal with AMC regarding movie distribution fees to accommodate charging Disney+ subs $5 to see the movie in theaters.

“Disney has to make a concession to [entice consumers] to go see [the movie] in the theater and give them a discount,” Pachter said. “And I think that’s smart.”

For AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron, the renewed cooperation between exhibitors and streamers is a win for consumers.

“I have said for years that the consumer’s voracious quest for content allows both movie theaters and streamers to thrive,” Aron said in a tweet.

CEO Bob Chapek Looking to Accelerate Disney+/Hulu Merger

Subscription streaming VOD pioneer Hulu remains a co-owned platform between Disney and Comcast, with Disney having 67% ownership and operating control following its $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019. Comcast’s NBCUniversal owns the remaining 33% stake in Hulu.

The companies have an agreement in place whereby Comcast has the option to sell its 33% stake in Hulu to Disney in 2024 at a price no less than $27.5 billion. Disney would like to expedite that transaction in an effort to meld Hulu within the Disney+ ecosystem, according to CEO Bob Chapek.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek

Speaking Sept. 14 at the Goldman Sachs + Technology confab in San Francisco, Chapek said that when the opportunity comes in 2024 to acquire NBCUniversal’s Hulu stake, there will also be an opening to combine the streaming platforms.

Hulu ended the most-recent fiscal period with 42.2 million subscribers, while Disney+ ended the period with 152.1 million.

Specifically, Chapek contends that without full ownership of Hulu, combining the platform with Disney+ is not an option.

“We would love to get to the endpoint earlier, but that obviously takes some level of propensity on [Comcast] to have reasonable [fiscal acquisition] terms to get there,” he said. “And if we can get there, I would be more than happy to try and facilitate [a Disney+/Hulu combination].”

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The executive said the company is getting hands-on experience combining diverse content within the Disney+ brand as evidenced by the melding of the Indian-based Hotstar streaming platform with Disney+, as well offering general entertainment in Europe through the Star platform.

“We’re going to have a lot of experience integrating Disney general entertainment into a Disney+ integrated hard bundle,” Chapek said, adding that the combination would revolve around giving consumers more content choices on the Disney+ platform.

The CEO contends the biggest content growth areas for Disney+ revolve around general entertainment, not just family-based fare.

“It’s only natural if you have some young kids and its 8 o’clock at night and you’ve just watched Dumbo, chances are you are not going to want to watch Pinocchio right after that,” Chapek said, adding that content options for older viewers across the Disney spectrum are fragmented and need to be consolidated.

“I’m amazed every day on this job how elastic the Disney brand is, and that we have had no blowback whatsoever in terms of including that general entertainment content on a Disney-branded streaming proposition,” he said.

Based on the success of the Hulu ad-supported subscription streaming tier, Chapek has high confidence Disney can replicate the revenue growth when it launches an ad-supported Disney+ subscription tier on Dec. 8.

“We expect that our ad-driven business will be margin neutral at worst to the full-priced, non-ad version,” he said. “I think this just puts wind in our sails in terms of being able to achieve that. So, we are very optimistic.”

When asked about the pending 38% price hike for the non-ad Disney+ tier and the fact that the ad-supported option will be priced at the current $7.99 Disney+ rate without ads, Chapek contends that when the platform launched in 2019, it was significantly undervalued.

“I think everyone in the room would acknowledge that the launch of Disney+ at that introductory [$4.99] price was pretty absurd,” he said, adding those ongoing investments in Disney+ from both a technology aspect as well content, support price hikes.

“I think we have a lot of room on the price value range, and we believe our churn implications of taking up the price even in the big chunks that we’re doing, is going to be negligible,” he said. “Again, I think it is what the market will bear, which is a direct reflection of price value. And I think we’re way underpriced relative to the value we provide to consumers.”

Mediavision: Disney+ Reaches 1.7 Million Nordic Subs in Two Years

The Disney+ subscription streaming service has generated more than 1.7 million Nordic subscribers in the 24 months since launching operations on Sept. 15, 2020, in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The service, which has gained a strong foothold among households with children, is now the fourth-largest SVOD platform in the region after Netflix (with about 4 million subs), according to new data from Mediavision.

Disney’s rapid streaming success can be explained by its clear positioning within the kids and family segment and an attractive price point. As Mediavision’s analysis shows, about 20% of Disney’s streaming content library (in terms of total hours) is in the kids and family genre — and, according to the consumers’ evaluation, Disney outranks all competitors in this segment.

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“It is not an overstatement to say that Disney+ launched with a bang on the Nordic market,” Mediavision analyst Natalia Borelius wrote in a note.

The research firm said the service reached a household penetration of 10% in the Nordics after only two weeks — boosting stacking and subsequently household spend.

“However, a lot has happened these past two years,” Borelius wrote. “The streaming market is saturating, causing [services] to search for new ways to boost subscriptions and increase revenue. Many actors are betting on adding hybrid subscription/advertising tiers — and Disney+ is one of them.”

Streamers Continued Primetime Emmy Awards Dominance, Led by HBO Max

Warner Bros. Discovery’s HBO and HBO Max entered the 74th Annual Emmy Awards with a leading 140 nominations. It walked away from the Sept. 12 awards with 38 wins, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series for “The White Lotus,” Outstanding Drama Series for “Succession,” Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Zendaya in “Euphoria,” and Hollywood veteran Jean Smart winning Outstanding Lead Comedy Actress for “Hacks.”
 
Perennial Emmy Awards champion Netflix walked away with 26 wins on 105 nominations, spearheaded by “Squid Game,” the first non-English language series up for a Primetime Emmy. The Korean dystopian series took home the Outstanding Director win for Hwang Dong-hyuk, and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Series for Lee Jung-jae, both first-time Asian winners in their respective categories.
 
For Apple TV+, original series “Ted Lasso” is the gift that keeps giving. The first and second seasons have now won for Outstanding Comedy Series in successive seasons — reportedly just the eighth time a show has achieved that.
 
Previous successive comedy series winners include “Modern Family,” “30 Rock,” “Frasier,” “The Golden Girls,” “Cheers,” “All in the Family” and “The Phil Silvers Show.”
 
 
“Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls”
The second season of “Ted Lasso” earned four wins, including Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Jason Sudeikis), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Brett Goldstein), and Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series (MJ Delaney).
 
“It has been such an honor for all of us at Apple to collaborate with the exceptionally gifted cast and creative team to bring this heartwarming, hilarious, and kind series to the screen,” Zack Van Amburg, Apple’s head of worldwide video, said in a statement.
 
In total, Apple TV+ landed nine Emmy Awards, including five Creative Arts Emmy Awards with “Carpool Karaoke: The Series” earning the top honor for Outstanding Short Form Comedy, its fifth win in a row; celebrated Best Drama Series nominee “Severance” making its Emmy debut with two wins including Outstanding Music Composition for a Series and Outstanding Main Title Design; Apple’s critically acclaimed “Schmigadoon!” winning Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics; and dramatic mystery series “Home Before Dark” landing the previously announced juried award for Outstanding Motion Design.
 
Apple original series, films and documentaries have now generated 275 wins and 1,152 award nominations and counting, including this year’s historic win at the Oscars as CODA took home Best Picture and made Apple the first streamer to win the category.
 

Disney won 26 Emmys on 117 nominations across both broadcast and streaming channels, including ABC, FX, National Geographic, Disney+ and Hulu.

The media giant earned 26 awards, including Michael Keaton for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series (“Dopesick”) playing a small-town doctor overwhelmed by the opioid crisis. Amanda Seyfried was a first-time Emmy winner (Outstanding Lead Actress in Limited or Anthology Series) portraying Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of Theranos, in “The Dropout.”

Finally, Amazon Prime Video scored its only Emmy for the reality dance competition “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” where women compete for gigs as backup singers for music performer Lizzo.