YouTube Remains No. 1 Video Platform (Except in China)

Google-owned YouTube was the most-popular video platform in the third quarter of 2019 — a distinction the service has maintained since the advent of streaming media.

Ampere Analysis found that YouTube attracted the most eyeball globally, except in China, where government-backed services such as iQiYi reign supreme. Runner-ups included Netflix and Facebook.

London-based Ampere said YouTube (57%) also bested the BBC’s free iPlayer (55%) for the first time since 2016.

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Notably, Netflix has the highest user penetration (83%) in South Africa followed by the United States (68%), with Turkey generating the largest spike in subscriber usage (77% from 63%).

Overall, Ampere found 70% of Internet users in the U.S. and Europe have watched a video on a social video service in the last month — a 4% increase from the previous-year period. SVOD use has risen 8% to 55%.

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“The strength of short-form video is evident in YouTube’s dominant position as the most viewed in each market surveyed outside of China,” analyst Minal Modha said in a statement. “Looking at the Top 5, three of them are social video platforms which highlights its importance in the viewing mix for consumers.”

FandangoNow Launches on Facebook’s Portal TV

FandangoNow, the transactional video-on-demand service from Fandango, has launched the first-ever on-demand movies and TV store on Facebook’s Portal TV.

The new FandangoNow store will provide Portal TV users access to more than 100,000 new release and catalog movies and next-day TV shows to rent or buy, no subscription required.

FandangoNow also offers the largest library of movies and TV shows in 4K, according to the service.

“We’re always looking for new ways to connect fans with the highest quality entertainment content and are proud to be launching the FandangoNow movie and TV store on Portal TV,” said Fandango president Paul Yanover. “We have a long history of working with Facebook to create innovative new experiences for entertainment fans to discover, enjoy and share their passion for movies and TV.”

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FandangoNow on Portal TV will offer content curated by FandangoNow’s sister company, Rotten Tomatoes, a resource for entertainment recommendations. Fans will be able to peruse the “Best Movies of the Decade” and “Top Holiday Movies” according to the Tomatometer, “Rotten Christmas Movies We Love” as suggested by Rotten Tomatoes editors, and more.

FandangoNow also recently launched a movie and TV store on Facebook’s Oculus VR headsets, allowing Facebook audiences to build and access its library of movies and TV shows across the Facebook ecosystem.

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FandangoNow is available on 200 million devices including Roku, smart TVs from LG, Samsung, Vizio, Xbox and many other platforms.

Fans using Portal TV will be able to access FandangoNOW’s collection of Golden Globe-nominated movies and TV shows, which are on sale at 50% off through Dec. 15, using the promo code “GLOBES2020” at checkout (terms apply).

‘Mad Money’ Host Jim Cramer Wants Netflix Removed From ‘FAANG’

In the world of high-profile Wall Street analysts, CNBC’s frenetic “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer has helped define a cottage TV industry of fast-talking  personalities targeting consumer and business investors.

On CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” Cramer said Netflix should be removed from a basket of top-performing tech stocks, dubbed “FAANG” (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google).

Speaking Oct. 3, Cramer said that with Netflix’s stock down 29% in 2019, compared to a 18% rise for Microsoft, the subscription streaming video pioneer’s status should be re-evaluated.

“We gotta get Netflix the hell out of FAANG,” Cramer said. “I tell you that right now. I don’t know how to do it.”

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Cramer contends Microsoft should replace Netflix (and apparently Google too), thus rendering the tech group “FAAM.”

Tough love from an analyst who just five months ago penned an article in high praise of the streamer and co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings.

“Netflix is about something to talk about Monday morning,” he wrote in April. “It’s about not feeling like a stooge when everyone watched Bird Box. You can’t be a stooge! In other words, as ethereal as it sounds, Reed Hastings is right when he says ‘the real metric is can we keep our members happy.'”

Apparently keeping subscribers and investor happy can be mutually exclusive. That’s because investors care not so much about subscriber happiness, but rather subscriber growth, according to Cramer.

And Netflix laid an egg of sorts during the last fiscal period when it failed to meet sub growth projections worldwide — including losing domestic subs for the first time in more than five years.

“I’m not a Netflix fan, here,” Cramer said, alluding to the pending arrival of SVOD competition from Disney, Apple, AT&T and Comcast — the latter parent to NBC Universal’s CNBC network.

“There’s too many competitors,” he said.

Netflix reports third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) financials on Oct. 16.

 

Digital Media Companies, Trump Unite Against New French Tax

Digital media companies, including Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, are getting an unlikely assist from President Trump against a proposed 3% tax in France on revenue derived from digital ad services and user-to-user transactions.

Specifically, the tax targets revenue derived in part off of French consumer online activities, including ecommerce, streaming video and audio.

Trump & Co. are crying foul since the tax largely applies to about 30 American companies generating at least €25 million ($27.8 million) in France and €750 million ($842 million) worldwide.

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France, which has tried unsuccessfully to secure European Union support on the move, argues the traditional system doesn’t work on these companies since they operate internationally with little physical presence in the country.

“This is a concern for international trade and the wider economy if countries follow the [Digital sales tax] model and select specific sectors and groups of foreign companies for targeted tax policies,” Nicholas Bramble, trade policy counsel at Google, said in a statement.

“The French tax is unjustifiable in that it infringes international agreements, and unreasonable in that it is discriminatory, retroactive and inconsistent with international tax policy principles.”

“They shouldn’t have done this,” Trump told the media in July. “I told them, I said, ‘Don’t do it because if you do it, I’m going to tax your wine.’”

France contends the tax would help level the playing field.

“These digital giants use our personal data, make huge profits out of these data then transfer the money somewhere else without paying their fair amount of taxes,” said French finance minister Bruno le Maire.

Facebook Testing Third-Party Streaming Service Access

Facebook has taken a page from Amazon offering users direct access to third-party subscription streaming services such as BritBox and CollegeHumor’s DropOut, Tastemade and MotorTrend.

The social media behemoth, which announced the domestic test Aug. 8, hopes to get users to remain on the platform longer — a draw for advertisers.

“We’re testing video subscriptions on Facebook, starting with a limited set of partners,” the company said in a statement. “We’re excited to bring more of people’s favorite shows and video to Facebook. We’ll be listening to feedback from our community.”

The campaign mirrors efforts by Amazon Prime Channels and Apple TV+ offering third-party SVODs services direct access to their consumers.

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SVOD services such as Lionsgate’s StarzPlay and Cinedigm’s Dove Channel, Docurama and CONtv have credited Amazon with jumpstarting subscriber growth for their platforms.

CollegeHumor’s DropOut service is priced at $4.99 monthly, with BritBox at $6.99; Tastmade at $2.99 and MotorTrend at $4.99.

Facebook, similarly to Amazon and Apple, will handle the billing. It wasn’t immediately clear if it would also take a revenue cut as Amazon and Apple do. Amazon also maintains control on all third-party user data.

Bloomberg’s ‘TicToc’ News Service Launching OTT Video Platform

Bloomberg’s TicToc news platform reportedly plans to launch an over-the-top video news service later this year.

Bowed in 2017, TicToc features news on a 24-hour cycle via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, Amazon Echo, podcast and newsletter. The platform has posted 17,000 additional video news spots thus far in 2019 than it did during the same period last year.

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TicToc

Bloomberg is opting for OTT after internal data suggested consumers who stream at least 10 hours of video weekly don’t like how news is delivered online, according to Jean Ellen Cowgill, managing director, TicToc.

“The mission is to live across all platforms that make up someone’s daily news diet,” Cowgill told Digiday. “If you look at the projection for the OTT ad market, the writing on the wall is pretty clear. There’s a lot of competition because it’s the next big explosion, we want to be part of that.”

As expected, the bulk of TicToc’s user demo skews from 21 to 44-years-old, the prime OTT video viewer – and a draw for advertisers, according to Ben Sinden, consultant at Sinden Media.

“If TicToc can establish its identity and grow a wider audience on existing platforms, an OTT product could be the logical next step,” Sinden said. “Given Bloomberg’s data, tech, scale and heritage, it has as good a chance to cut through to a streaming news audience as anything before it.”

Presidential Candidate Warren Seeks to Regulate Big Tech, Gets Indirect Support from Sky Boss

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running for president in the 2020 election, wants to break up the mega tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — citing antitrust issues.

Specifically, Warren would classify the tech companies with annual global revenue above $25 billion as “platform utilities,” thereby forcing them to split up business units within their corporate structures.

The lawmaker would also look to unwind what she called “anti-competitive” mergers such as Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and Zappos; Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google purchase of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick.

Indeed, Warren claims nearly 50% of all e-commerce is generated by Amazon, while 70% of Web traffic migrates through sites owned and operated by Google and Facebook.

The senator, in a March 8 post, argued that the federal government’s lawsuit in the 1990s against Microsoft regarding its (then) dominance in Web browsing paved the way for the emergence of companies such as Google and Facebook.

“Aren’t we all glad that now we have the option of using Google instead of being stuck with Bing?” Warren wrote. “The story demonstrates why promoting competition is so important: it allows new, groundbreaking companies to grow and thrive — which pushes everyone in the marketplace to offer better products and services.”

Notably, at an investor confab in London, Jeremy Darroch, group CEO at Comcast-owned European satellite TV operator Sky, questioned the U.K. government’s lack of oversight on big tech.

Jeremy Darroch

“My first instinct in these situations is always to look for self-regulation,” Darroch told the Deloitte Enders Media and Telecoms Conference 2019. “But there are times when that approach won’t work. And I am pleased that the government, and indeed politicians of all persuasion have come together to recognize this is one of those times.”

Darroch contends that as big tech’s reach permeates into all aspects of society, their approach to rules and practices will be self-serving and not necessarily to the betterment of the individual.

He said traditional broadcasters and pay-TV operators must adhere to regulation on content, while video delivered through YouTube and Facebook is given a free pass.

“This is in part because we are in an entirely different world to the one tech platforms were born into,” Darroch said. “Where policy makers once saw their role as fanning the flames of growth for these businesses, they now recognize that they need to apply the same framework to this sector as they do every other.”

New Zealand Looking to Tax Web Giants Amazon, Google, Facebook

New Zealand Feb. 18 joined the European Union and Australia in seeking to tax Internet behemoths such as Amazon, Google and Facebook on revenue generated within its border.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement in a post-cabinet press conference.

The proposed 2% to 3% tax would apply to any purchases and services sold by Internet firms regardless of their actual physical presence in the country.

“Some companies can do significant business in New Zealand without being taxed for the income they earn,” Ardern said. “This is not fair, and this is not sustainable.”

Indeed, Google’s subsidiary in New Zealand reportedly paid $393,000 in taxes in 2017 despite generating hundreds of millions in revenue.

The government said the tax could generate upwards of $55 million in additional annual revenue.

“Our current tax system is not fair in the way it treats individual tax payers, and how it treats multinationals,” said Ardern.

The move by New Zealand mirrors efforts in the United States by individual states such as South Dakota, which had its e-commerce tax lawsuit against online furniture retailer Wayfair reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court last summer ruled states could charge taxes on companies doing business in the state without an actual physical presence.

A Georgia lawmaker this month proposed legislation seeking to tax digital entertainment services such as Netflix and Spotify 4% in an effort to compensate for declining pay-TV taxes statewide.

Such a user tax currently exists in Hawaii, Washington and Pennsylvania.

 

CEO Zuckerberg: Facebook Watch Going ‘Mainstream’ in 2019

Facebook launched its Watch streaming video platform in 2017 as competition to YouTube and other over-the-top platforms.

Despite initial claims of 50 million monthly viewers, and content spend approaching $1 billion, Watch has reportedly failed to connect with its targeted audience: teenagers.

In fact, just 36% of the desired demo used Facebook in Fall 2018 — down from 52% during the same time period in 2016, according to analyst firm Piper Jaffray.

Indeed, 85% of teens are opting for Instagram (which Facebook owns), followed by Snapchat (84%) and Twitter (47%).

As a result, Facebook is looking to expand the Watch audience while also hoping to further engage younger viewers through social interaction, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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Speaking on the Jan. 30 fiscal call, Zuckerberg said 400 million users now engage with Watch monthly, including about 20 minutes of content daily.

Specifically, the founder/CEO said Facebook has directed Watch users interested in longform video to engage in content more easily through the ‘Watch Party’ app that allows them to share live streams among friends.

“These are all things that make it so the video-watching experience isn’t just about passive consumption but about interaction, and that’s going to, I think, help really drive engagement as well,” Zuckerberg said.

In addition, the social media platform is focusing on content that resonates with wider audiences and thereby enhances monetization opportunities for creators — and Facebook.

Watch has scored hits with Jada Pinkett Smith’s talk show, “Red Table Talk,” critically-acclaimed drama series, “Sorry for Your Loss,” and “Sacred Lies”; interactive reality show, “Confetti,” and next year’s reboot of “MTV’s The Real World.”

“That has allowed us to really increase the amount of video that people are watching without getting in the way of the core mission of what we do, which is helping people interact,” Zuckerberg said.

 

 

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish Focusing on Content in Fragmented Market

LAS VEGAS — For Viacom, content truly is king, according to CEO Bob Bakish, who is forging a “culture of content” at the company.

“I continue to believe there’s a lot of value in assets that we already own,” he said Jan. 9 during the Variety Entertainment Summit at the CES show in Las Vegas.

While the Walt Disney Co., with its Fox merger and pending SVOD service, and WarnerMedia, through the AT&T merger and its own pending streaming service, are leveraging consolidation for greater distribution clout in the fragmented market, big deals aren’t necessarily the best path, he said.

“Vertical integration is very much in vogue,” but historically it “doesn’t tend to work,” Bakish said.

“Bigger is not always better,” he said.

In fact, rather than bulking up to compete with online services, he pointed out Viacom produces shows for Netflix, Amazon and Facebook. For instance, the show “Jack Ryan” is on Amazon. The company launched Viacom Digital Studios to produce social media friendly content for outlets such as Facebook.

“Viacom doesn’t really require a transformational deal,” he said. Instead, the company is doing what he calls “accelerant deals,” such as recent pacts to acquire VidCon, which celebrates online video creators, and Awesomeness TV, which produced To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before released on Netflix.

The goal is “unlocking opportunity through truly multi-platform distribution,” whether it be AVOD, SVOD, legacy platforms or other models, he said.

“Relative to some of our peers, we’re further along in this transition,” he said.

One of the new technologies he is enthused about is the coming 5G mobile delivery standard.

“Mobile distribution is what will turn this [content monetization] decline on its head,” Bakish said.

5G and the move to 10G for traditional TV distribution will both expand the pipelines for content, he noted.

He’s also intrigued by self-driving cars, which will open up more free time for consumers to view entertainment.

Content owners cannot “crawl into the ivory tower” and hope the future will go away, he said.

“You can look at this transformation as glass have full or half empty. I’m half full,” he said.