‘Mysterious Benedict Society’ to Premiere June 25 on Disney+

Disney+ on June 21 announced that “The Mysterious Benedict Society” will premiere on Friday, June 25, with two episodes.

After winning a scholarship competition, four gifted orphans are recruited by the peculiar Mr. Benedict for a dangerous mission to save the world from a global crisis known as The Emergency. Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance must infiltrate the mysterious L.I.V.E. Institute to discover the truth behind the crisis. When the headmaster, the sophisticated Dr. Curtain, appears to be behind this worldwide panic, the kids of “The Mysterious Benedict Society” must devise a plan to defeat him.

“The Mysterious Benedict Society” stars Tony Hale, Kristen Schaal, MaameYaa Boafo, Ryan Hurst, Gia Sandhu, Seth B. Carr, Emmy DeOliveira, Mystic Inscho and Marta Kessler.

The series is executive produced by Sonar Entertainment, 20th Television, Jamie Tarses, Karen Kehela Sherwood, Deepak Nayar, David Ellender, Matt Loze, James Bobin, Matt Manfredi (writer/creator) and Phil Hay (writer/creator). Showrunners for the series are Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin.

Report: Increased TV Services Consumption Straining Household Budgets

The proliferation of high-profile subscription streaming services is straining household budgets, according to a new consumer survey from Antennas Direct — prompting an overwhelming majority of subscribers to say that once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, they will likely cut back on the number of services.

The survey found that 50% of respondents signed up for one to two new SVOD services in 2020, bringing their monthly subscription costs above $100. Another 25% acquired three or more new services, bringing their monthly costs above $130.

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As a result, about 40% respondents said they had to limit spending elsewhere to afford TV subscriptions; 82% said they’ll cut back on TV services post-pandemic to pay bills; 33% are already planning to cut TV services post-COVID; and 39% plan to cut more than one type of service.

To cut costs, the report found that 60% of respondents currently share their streaming services with friends and family; 73% share subscriptions to make streaming more affordable for friends and family; and 65% share subscriptions to reduce costs in their own budget.

“While Americans have tolerated the financial strain that has come with
subscribing and sharing services, this simply isn’t feasible in the post-COVID world,” the report said. “The research shows that many plan to cut services and lower costs to fund household expenses or experiences outside of the home. This doesn’t just hurt providers, it hurts consumers who are forced to choose between paying their electric billing and having access to their local news to stay informed.”

Antennas Direct surveyed 1,200 consumers who regularly use cable or streaming service on subscription preferences, costs and viewing expectations.

The report echoed other studies that found the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a significant uptick in TV viewership across the country. With the majority of Americans confined to their homes, 5.4 trillion minutes of streaming and cable television was consumed in 2020, according to the Antennas Direct study.


‘Mandalorian’ Tops Parrot Analytics’ TV Demand Charts for 2nd Week

The Disney+ “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian” remained at No. 1 on not only Parrot Analytics’ digital exclusives rankings the week ended Nov. 30, but also the data firm’s overall list of TV series from any platform, including broadcast and cable.

A “digital exclusive,” previously known as a “digital original,” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

For the week, “The Mandalorian” registered 132.3 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was up 31.9% in expressions compared with the previous week, when it had 100.3 million expressions.

DC Universe’s “Titans” rose a spot to No. 2 on the digital exclusives chart, with expressions up 20.6% to 85.9 million. The finale of the second season was released Nov. 29.

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” dropped to No. 3, registering 76.3 million expressions, down 6% from the previous week.

Netflix’s “The Crown” remained at No. 4 on the exclusives chart, with expressions up 14.2% to 47.6 million.

Another Netflix series, “Lucifer,” climbed a spot to No. 5, its expressions up 6.7% to 31.6 million.

Netflix’s “The Dragon Prince” jumped up from No. 57 to No. 6, with expressions up 158.3% to 31.1 million. The third season of the animated series was released Nov. 22.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital exclusive original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Streaming Wars: Media, Tech Companies Slug It Out With Netflix

In the weeks leading up to the November 2019 launches of Apple TV+ and Disney+, Wall Street analysts and company officials went into high gear with subscriber predictions, content reveals and special media events.

Each new service has a lot riding on it, with their high-profile parent companies spending millions of dollars wading into over-the-top video waters long dominated, on the domestic front, by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney-owned Hulu.

“Options are great for consumers when it comes to deciding what to watch,” said Peter Katsingris, SVP of audience insight at Nielsen. “But they’re also decidedly complicated for an industry that continues to fragment and search for unique ways to influence their behavior and perhaps steer eyeballs toward their network, program, service or brand.”

Disney expects to attract 60 million to 90 million subscribers for Disney+ through 2024, which would be more than half of Netflix’s current 158 million global subscriber count. It is giving away the service to Verizon’s unlimited data customers as part of a promotion.

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“What Netflix is doing is making content to support a platform,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told Vanity Fair. “We’re making content to tell great stories. It’s very different.”

Apple is targeting more than 900 million iPhone users worldwide through various incentives for Apple TV+.

David Sidebottom, analyst with Futuresource Consulting, said that as new OTT services expand on an international basis, colliding with legacy pay-TV agreements, mollifying distribution partners with differing levels of SVOD uptake will be factors in their evolving D2C strategy.

“Scale will be key in the [direct-to-consumer] space, but clearly the coming year is just the first phase in this era,” Sidebottom told the IBC365 platform. “D2C services will likely evolve, with their parent companies continuing to evaluate the benefits of D2C vs. third party [license] agreements.”

SVOD Minefield

As the subscription streaming wars heat up, most people (70%) believe there will be too many choices, and 87% worry it will become too expensive to keep up, according to a new study. TV Time, an online tracking platform for TV and movie viewership, along with UTA IQ, UTA’s data and analytics group, found that 42% of survey respondents plan to add another SVOD service, with 20% adding two. Conducted in September, the survey fielded 4,816 respondents in the

United States and 1,818 combined in the Netherlands, Canada and Australia. Disney+ and Apple TV+ had the highest levels of awareness (88% and 63%, respectively) among the upcoming services, followed by HBO Max (37%) and NBCUniversal’s Peacock (28%).

“While Disney+ appears well-positioned to succeed internationally, it may require additional focus in strategic markets to encourage people to subscribe,” Alex von Krogh, VP of TV Time, said in a statement. “It will be important to track how people engage with their programming from a global perspective and how that compares to competitors in those markets.”

Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said he believes that with the surge of original content and catalog exclusives such as “Friends,” “South Park,” “Seinfeld” and “The Office” migrating online, consumers have more reasons to choose OTT. “If all that was happening were incremental services being offered, consumers might feel bamboozled,” Pachter said. “Instead, so much content is shifting to OTT services that many consumers will opt to subscribe to more than one service.” Pachter says long-term, exorbitant pay-TV contracts paved the way for OTT video, with online TV offering a less-expensive premium channel option. “I expect cord-cutters to look at rabbit ears and multiple SVOD services as a substitute. That’s why DirecTV lost 2 million subs since AT&T bought them,” he said.

More importantly, Pachter said that with Netflix losing Disney/Fox, NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. content, consumers will feel compelled to try new services offering recognizable programming and/or favorite shows. The analyst said he believes Netflix will lose around two-thirds of its content (measured in viewing hours) and will have a tough time replacing that with content of similarly perceived quality. Disney+ has an enormous library of content not available anywhere (including its vaunted library of animated classics, such as Snow White, Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty and, more recently, Aladdin, The Lion King, Cars and Finding Nemo) that will find its way to the service. The studio is also going to put its recent movies there and take those away from Netflix.

“That tells me that Disney+ gets to 30 million subscribers relatively quickly,” Pachter said.

Parrot Analytics tracked pre-release demand for Apple TV+’s original series, including “See,” “For All Mankind,” “Dickinson” and “The Morning Show.” Parrot found the shows were well ahead of the audience demand average across all TV shows in the United States over the same time period. “See,” a futuristic sci-fi drama starring Jason Momoa, and “For All Mankind,” which explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended, were already attracting 11.7 and 11.1 times more demand than the average TV show in the United States ahead of launch, respectively, according to Parrot. “Dickinson,” starring Hailee Steinfeld as poet Emily Dickinson, registered 3.3 times the demand average, while “The Morning Show,” a comedy-drama series starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, managed 1.8 times the average in the United States during that time period.

A separate Ampere Analysis survey found “The Morning Show” would appeal to 35% of Apple customers (versus 25% of non-Apple device owners). “See” has a similar and strong appeal.

“Apple has a different business model from the other new platforms in that it is able to use Apple TV+ to incentivize device replacement — and therefore generate larger cash flow through those sales to fund content spend,”

Minal Modha, consumer research lead at Ampere, said in a statement.

The analyst found that the main barrier to uptake of Apple TV+ is a lack of interest in the offered content, which Modha said is mainly due to Apple being new to the original content space and consumers not knowing what to expect.

“As Apple TV+ begins to roll, we expect this barrier will be overcome,” she said.

Parrot compared the pre-release U.S. and global demand for Apple TV+’s four top series to that of other hit streaming shows. For example, U.S. pre-release demand for the Apple TV+ series tracked well ahead of Hulu’s first season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the week leading up to their respective premieres. In its analysis, the company compared the average U.S. demand over the period Oct. 21-27 for the Apple TV+ series to “The Handmaid’s Tale” season one demand over its seven-day pre-premiere period April 17-23, 2017. Internationally, the Apple TV+ shows don’t fare as well. Pre-release demand for “The Handmaid’s Tale” in most international markets pre-launch was well ahead of the pre-release demand for the Apple TV+ series on a per capita basis.

“Based on the demand that we are seeing, Apple TV+ promotion of the series in the U.S. has put them in a position to succeed domestically,” Courtney Williams, head of partnerships at Parrot Analytics, said in a statement. “However, they have to rapidly accelerate their international marketing if they hope to be a key player in the global streaming wars. The advantage of active and ongoing hardware penetration will be key domestically and should provide the necessary foundation to drive demand globally.”

Max is Coming

WarnerMedia isn’t launching high-profile HBO Max until May 2020, but that didn’t stop the former Time Warner company from unveiling the service Oct. 29 in a gala-like event on the Warner Bros. lot.

Pricing for the service is $14.99 a month — identical to the current HBO Now streaming service, which is being folded into Max. It will be aggressively marketed to AT&T’s 170 million mobile, broadband and linear TV subscribers. An ad-supported version of Max will debut in 2021.

“Just like cable introduced the rise of niche networks to dramatically grow audience, general entertainment streaming is the next great opportunity to aggregate and grow audience,” John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia, told attendees.

WarnerMedia is set to spend upwards of $2 billion annually on original content for Max, in addition to mining a treasure-trove of catalog content from Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.

Max will bow with 31 original series, increasing to 50 series by 2021. In all there will be 10,000 hours of premium content at launch, featuring 1,800 movies, including current box office hit Joker.

Wedbush’s Pachter is “pretty confident” the Max model will work, if it transfers existing HBO Now subscribers for a free probationary period lured by original content.

“If it’s $3 to $4 per month, they’ll get 10 million subs immediately and probably get to 80% conversion [from HBO Now] in a few years,” Pachter said.

Additional reporting by Stephanie Prange

Q&A: Disney+ Content and Marketing President Ricky Strauss Discusses Service’s Launch

On the eve of the Disney+ launch, Media Play News queried Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing, for insight into the new service’s strategy. Strauss is responsible for developing the strategic content vision for the service, overseeing development of the service’s original programming slate, production partnerships and content acquisitions. He previously served as president of marketing for The Walt Disney Studios. Blockbuster films that Disney delivered under Strauss’ tenure include Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for which Strauss was named Marketer of the Year by Advertising Age.

The official launch date of Disney+ is Nov. 12. How are you kicking things off?
This is a huge priority for The Walt Disney Co. and so we have tremendous support across the company. From parks to the cruise line and stores to a programming roadblock across ABC, Disney Channel and Freeform, we will be accessing an incredible number of touchpoints that allow us reach to millions of fans across our brands and around the world.

How important is original content?
Original content is a very important part of our strategy. Storytelling is the cornerstone of The Walt Disney Co. and the same award-winning creative teams behind the phenomenal success of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic are creating exclusive original content for Disney+. We will launch with 10 original exclusive episodic series, movies and documentaries, and plan to premiere more than 35 originals within the first year.

Are you worried about devaluing Disney content by offering a buffet of it at such a low price?
The service has been priced based on our judgment that this delivers an excellent price-value proposition to consumers and positions us appropriately in the market.

Bob Iger has made Disney+ the company’s singular focus in 2019. How are you dealing with the pressure?
Pressure? What pressure? All kidding aside, yes, it’s a lot of pressure, but under Bob’s visionary leadership we are surrounded by the best and brightest in this business — all focused on making this a success. The energy and enthusiasm generated by working with such tremendous creative and strategic minds keeps us all going.

What are your thoughts on the competitive landscape?
It’s an exciting time and we believe we have a unique and significant role to play. Disney+ will compete based on the unparalleled strength of our brands, the quality of our intellectual property, and expertise in high quality video streaming. … Disney+ will have a robust library of some of the most beloved and storied brands in the industry, as well as a great slate of originals with a plan to continue growing over time. In year one, Disney+ will have more than 7,500 episodes of television and over 500 film titles which will include the most recent theatrical film releases. For fans of Disney’s brands, it will be an incredibly rich experience. Fans can revisit classics, explore new original stories from such epic cinematic universes as Marvel and Star Wars, and discover all new originals that exhibit the Disney storytelling ethos of creativity, innovation and imagination.

How can Disney lure subs beyond the Disney name and $6.99 price point?
The price point and the power of the Disney name are tremendous assets that offer a great deal of opportunity, which we will fully leverage. Beginning Nov. 12, consumers in the U.S. will also have the choice to purchase a bundle offering of Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu (with ads) for $12.99 per month. The bundle offers a great value proposition, given the quality and breadth of content consumers will have access to across the three industry-shaping streaming services.

What impact will Disney+ have on the other streaming services, specifically Netflix?
We are focused on building our own best-in-class experience around the brands and stories that define Disney.

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