YouTube Streaming ‘The Lego Movie’ Free on Black Friday

To help market the Feb. 9, 2019 theatrical release of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Warner Bros. Pictures and YouTube will include free streaming access to the original Lego Movie on Black Friday (Nov. 23) embedded in an online ad.

The promotion marks the first time YouTube has rolled out a full-length movie within an ad. For 24 hours, anyone checking out the trailer for the upcoming Lego movie can stream a full-length feature showing of the original film.

To launch their own personal screening, users should enter the YouTube search keyword “Brick Friday” and select the promoted video for The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part at the top of the search results.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part stars the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Tiffany Haddish, Will Arnett, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day and Alison Brie, among others.

 

 

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Net Neutrality Appeals Court Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court Nov. 5 declined to hear a case brought by the telecommunications industry and the Department of Justice seeking to reverse a lower appeals court ruling upholding Obama-era regulations that treated the Internet as a utility.

The Federal Communications Commission under President Trump reversed the regulations in 2017. Through the Obama-era guidelines were no longer in place, the Trump Administration and telecoms were hoping the Supreme Court would remove the precedent set by the 2016 U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s ruling that upheld them.

The Supreme Court’s lack of action on the case does not reverse the 2017 repeal of the net neutrality guidelines enacted in 2015, and leaves the door open to future litigation for any net neutrality policy.

The FCC reversal had been seen as a win for major ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon having greater control of content distribution on the Internet. Indeed, Dish Network this month alleged AT&T-owned HBO and Cinemax wouldn’t renegotiate pay-TV carriage agreements, in part due to AT&T’s competing over-the-top video distribution platforms.

California state lawmakers this year voted to adopt the guidelines affording content providers such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video equal access to high-speed Internet distribution without being subjected to throttling, blocking or paid prioritization by Internet service providers.

Enforcement of the new legislation – set to take effect in January – has been put on hold pending a separate lawsuit by the federal government that argues states seeking their own net neutrality guidelines are violating the supremacy clause.

Digital Hollywood Panelists Ponder Future of Skinny Bundles, Digital Delivery

Skinny bundles and virtual MVPDs are an imperfect solution to the desire of consumers to get the content they want at the price they want, while an a la carte online delivery system that perfectly satisfies consumers’ desires has yet to be fully realized.

That was the consensus of panelists at the “Internet TV Packages” panel at the Digital Hollywood conference Oct. 18 in Los Angeles.

“The consumer cares about two things, value and choice,” noted panelist Thomas K. Arnold, publisher of Media Play News. While choice has expanded over the years from only a few networks to an array of cable channels to videocassettes and discs and digital delivery, finding content is getting more complicated.

“The important thing here is curation. The old manual curation by networks is going away,” said panelist and consultant Robin Wilson, director, RW TV. He said the future is one in which consumers can “self-curate” content or in which curation is automated.

While some pundits say only younger consumers are peeling away from traditional viewing, even Baby Boomers, still working and facing a time crunch, are also moving away from appointment TV, said panelist Josette Bonte, managing director, Digital Content Strategies.

“There is definitely a problem to be solved by the industry,” she said. “I would like to have my own skinny bundle.”

“Current skinny bundles are just a patch up job,” Wilson added.

“It’s the same problem that’s always been the problem,” Arnold noted. “These internet services, they’re great for service, but bad for discovery.”

Consumers who are watching subscription services have a hard time breaking out of that silo, Arnold said.

“Your likely going to stay on Netflix or Amazon after watching a show,” he said.

To truly curate your own content can be difficult, he said, noting that his family had to “piece together our own skinny bundle” from offerings on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to watch an entire series of a show they loved.

He predicted that consumers in the future would be paying more for entertainment but in smaller increments, comparing it to gym memberships that have retained consumers by offering ultra-low prices.

“At $10 a month, people are going to get them all [even niche OTT subscription offerings],” he said. “At $10 a month you’re not going to really notice it.”

Bonte said niche SVOD services “definitely have the chance to complement the bundles.”

Technology — perhaps from Google, Amazon or Roku — will overcome the difficulties of getting to different apps and online services to get content, panelists said.

“The idea of switching from HDMI 1 to HDMI 2 will be as archaic as rewinding the videocassette,” Arnold said.

Device integration with artificial intelligence will also assist in content discovery, Bonte said.

Panelists also pondered the growing competition in the SVOD market led by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, soon to be joined by Disney and WarnerMedia — and the data from SVOD services that is informing what content consumers are fed.

Netflix is “definitely good at use of data” to determine content, Bonte noted. It’s an advantage for the company, Wilson added.

Netflix knows a lot about what consumers are watching, but “they won’t tell us,” Arnold said, adding that research company Parrot Analytics is using social media and other measurements to try to estimate the popularity of SVOD original programs.

One audience member noted that Netflix’s recommendation engine is less than perfect, causing her frustration as it served up the same type of content over and over.

Data targeting with ads, too, needs improving, Wilson noted. The ads served up should be more efficient, “not bombarding” the consumer.

One audience member noted that Rotten Tomatoes, which calculates content ratings based on human reviewers, is one of the most popular content recommendation sites online.

Newfangled content delivery technologies have a way to go, Arnold noted. “People who talk about artificial intelligence forget that first word, artificial,” he said.

Speaking at Digital Hollywood on Oct. 18 were, from left, moderator Patrick Redmond; Media Play News publisher and editorial director Thomas K. Arnold; and consultants Josette Bonte and Robin Wilson.

Netflix Generates 15% of Global Internet Streaming Traffic

Netflix created the subscription streaming video market. It had more than 130 million subscribers globally at the end of June, including 57.3 million in the United States.

The subscription streaming video pioneer now accounts for 15% of the total downstream volume of traffic across the entire (worldwide) Internet, according to new data from Sandvine.com. That percentage, which tops 19% in the United States, is up 3% from the previous-year report.

By comparison, Amazon Prime Video ranked 4thin streaming video traffic in the U.S. – and is now available in 200 countries worldwide and is increasing its share of global traffic.

Streaming video dominates global Internet traffic, generating 58% of global Internet traffic – up more than 22% from last year.

The report said the volume of Netflix traffic in North and South America is what propels the service’s worldwide market domination. At peak hour on fixed networks (not mobile), Netflix’s streaming traffic can top 40% on some operator networks.

Netflix also ranks third (up 5.13%) in the Americas top 10 up-streamers (Google is 7th). Sandvine says the service’s internal analytics technology bookmarks subscribers browsing locations on the site, which results in automatic video previews and increased upload traffic.

Across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Netflix ranks 10thin streaming video traffic, up 1.7% — but trailing YouTube (up 4%) and Google (9.4%). Sandvine said Google is second in the EMEA region, reflecting the power of the search engine to generate requests and traffic on a wide variety of topics. This is the first region that Google specifically places near the top.

In the Asia Pacific region, which includes Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, etc., Netflix ranked 3rd(6.3%), behind Facebook Video (6.6%), but ahead of YouTube (4.9%). Sandvine attributed Netflix strong position to improved library of content selections, in addition to delivering more local content.

Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google Among Top Brands in Survey

Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Samsung placed among the top brands in a new survey from global consultancy firm Prophet.

The firm released its fourth annual Brand Relevance Index, in which it surveyed 12,694 consumers in the United States across 299 brands in 37 categories.

The top 10 in order were Apple, Amazon, Pinterest, Netflix, Android, Google, Samsung, Kitchen Aid, Spotify and Nike.

Among the top 25, media and entertainment companies included YouTube (No. 12), PlayStation (No. 13), Disney (No. 14), Pixar (No. 15), Sony (No. 21) and Xbox (No. 25).

“It’s clear that to be successful, brands need more than size and ubiquity,” said Scott Davis, chief growth officer, Prophet, in a statement. “They must create a product that people love enough to integrate into their everyday lives. The brands that inspire this level of loyalty will ultimately grow the fastest because they are relevant in the moments that matter most to consumers.”

Netflix and Pixar were among top brands that were most “customer obsessed,” according to the survey, while PlayStation, Marvel and Google were most “pervasively innovative.” Netflix was the category leader in the “Media” segment, PlayStation led in “Electronics & Gaming,” Apple led in “Computing & Software,” Amazon led in “Retailers” and Verizon led in “Telecommunications.”

Apple, Netflix, Pinterest, Amazon and Android were the top brands, in order, among females. Amazon, Apple, PlayStation, Spotify and Samsung, in order, were the top brands among males.

Among millennials, the top brands, in order, were Netflix, Amazon, KitchenAid, Apple and Google. Among non-millennials, top brands, in order, were Apple, Amazon, Pinterest, Android and Netflix.

Facebook (No. 205) was the “biggest mover” in the negative direction.

Virtual Reality (VR) Headset Shipments Plummet

Virtual reality headsets – video game technology briefly championed as a home entertainment savior – appear to have lost their mojo among consumers.

Global shipments of VR headsets dropped 33.7% in the second quarter of 2018, according to new data from the International Data Corporation (IDCWorldwide Quarterly Augmented and Virtual Reality Headset Tracker.

Tethered VR headsets declined 37.3% as major brands such as Oculus and Sony were unable to maintain consumer demand following price reductions in the previous-year period, according to IDC.

The report said the two brands managed to ship 102,000 and 93,000 headsets respectively in the period. The category leader, HTC, shipped close to 111,000 headsets (excluding the standalone Vive Focus) thanks to the growing popularity of the Viveport subscription service as well as the launch of the Pro headset.

Screenless viewers, which enjoyed initial popularity when Samsung, Alcatel, and Google bundled the headsets with smartphones, has seen consumer interest dwindle. The category has shrunk from 1 million headsets in Q2 2017 to 409,000 units this year. This category was the largest contributor to the decline in shipments for the overall VR headset market.

“One of the major issues with the VR market is that consumers still find it difficult to try a VR headset,” Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC, said in a statement.

IDC expects this to be a temporary setback as the VR market finds its legs. The arrival of new products, such as the Oculus Go and HTC Vive Pro, and new brands, combined with the need for greater headset fidelity all point to a positive outlook for the quarters ahead.

“This is where the commercial market has an opportunity to shine,” said Ubrani. “HTC’s recent partnership with Dave & Busters or Oculus’ work with schools around the world stand to play an important role in educating and enticing consumers to use VR.”

Indeed, standalone VR headset shipments grew 417.7% in the quarter, largely due to the global availability of the Oculus Go/Xiaomi Mi VR, which managed to ship 212,000 headsets.

While the consumer side of the VR headset market remains the focus of attention, the commercial side is gaining traction. In Q2, roughly 20% of VR headsets were destined for the commercial sector, up from 14% last year. Along with the increase in share, average selling prices have also increased from $333 to $442 during the same period.

“In a market where mainstream VR content is still lacking, a growing number of vendors are looking to commercial as a way to build their business while they wait for the consumers to catch up,” said Tom Mainelli, VP, devices and augmented and virtual reality at IDC. “These vendors are moving beyond entertainment-focused deployments to real-world training scenarios in companies of all sizes, all over the world. IDC expects commercial buyers to represent an increasingly important percentage of the market going forward.”

Rachel Whetstone Named New Netflix Communications Boss

Netflix Aug. 27 named Rachel Whetstone as its new chief communications officer, replacing Jonathan Friedland, who was reportedly fired for “unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity” following separate uses of the racist “N-word” in company meetings.

Whetstone is responsible for leading communications on a global basis, having held similar positions at Facebook, Uber and Google.

“Rachel is a proven communications leader and a strong addition to the Netflix team,” CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings said in a statement. “Her deep knowledge and international expertise will be invaluable as we bring Netflix and its expanding lineup of original content to an increasingly global audience.”

A graduate of Bristol University, Whetstone worked as a political advisor in the U.K. before entering the private sector. She joined Google in 2005 and served as SVP of communications and public policy at Google from 2010 to 2015. She held the same position at Uber from 2015 till 2017, prior to joining Facebook as a VP of communications last year.

 

Amazon, Google Smart Speaker Market Hold Under Threat by China

Amazon introduced the first voice-activated smart speaker in 2014 with Alexa and Amazon Echo. According to new data from Strategy Analytics, Amazon’s global smart speaker share of shipments fell to 41% in the second quarter (ended June 30) from 44% in Q1 and 76% in Q2 2017.

By contrast, Google increased its share to 28% in Q2, up from 16% during the same period last year. China’s Alibaba finished third with Apple and JD.com rounding out the top five.

David Watkins, director at Strategy Analytics, says Amazon and Google accounted for a 69% share of global smart speaker shipments in Q2, which was down from more than 90% in Q2 2017.

“The drop is not only a reflection of growing competition in the smart speaker market but also Amazon and Google’s inability to break into the fast-growing Chinese market that is dominated by local powerhouse brands such as Alibaba, JD.com and Baidu,” Watkins said in a statement.

Indeed, Strategy Analytics contends China has the potential to become a lucrative market for smart speakers driven by voice-activated software – as underscored by Google’s recent $500 million strategic partnership with Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com.

David Mercer, VP at Strategy Analytics, believes Google and Amazon’s pursuit of volume over margin has made it difficult for third-party entry-level speakers entering the market with similar features.

However, Mercer contends the premium end of the market offers opportunity to vendors such as Roku who can entice consumers with superior build and audio quality.

“Early adopters of low-cost smart speakers such as the Echo Dot or Google Home Mini who are now looking to buy a second device will be a key target demographic for such vendors,” he said. “Apple has established an early lead in the premium smart speaker market, benefiting from a fiercely loyal fan base and strong momentum behind its Apple Music service. However, we expect the higher end smart speaker market to grow and become much more competitive moving forwards as vendors such as Samsung with its Galaxy Home speaker look to capitalize on the growing acceptance of voice as an established control mechanism.”

 

EIDR Appoints New Officers, Welcomes CAA to Board

EIDR (Entertainment ID Registry), the source of universal identifiers for digital distribution of movie and television assets, has appointed a slate of new officers to its board of directors and has welcomed back Eric Iverson of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to the board.

Bill Kotzman, partner product manager at Google, will succeed Kip Welch of Motion Picture Laboratories (MovieLabs) as chair and will be based in Los Angeles. Kotzman is joined on the EIDR board by new president Greg Geier of Sony Pictures Entertainment, new VP Scott Maddux of TiVo and new treasurer Jeff Stevens of Warner Bros.

“It’s a tremendous time to be taking on the role of Chairman of EIDR,” said Kotzman in a statement. “The necessity of systemic automation of the media and entertainment supply chain is impossible without properly identified content, and the non-proprietary EIDR ID model is the gold standard for making that happen. The new board officers reflect the breadth of EIDR members, with Greg and Jeff representing major film studios, Scott representing a metadata provider and content discovery company, and myself representing a major digital retailer, I bring my years of experience in driving new models of workflow efficiency for Google Play, and know first-hand that EIDR has been a catalyst for value creation at Google. It’s clear that the true ‘network effect’ of EIDR’s global ubiquity is now within reach, and as we plan for the next version of EIDR (v3.0) — I look forward to working with the board and executive director Will Kreth to execute on that vision.”

EIDR also has added Iverson, CIO of Creative Artists Agency, to the board. He previously served on the board in his capacity at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“I look forward to returning to EIDR to help them address the opportunities and challenges ahead,” said Iverson in a statement. “Around the industry, I get the chance to talk with senior executives daily about the potential for positive structural improvements in M&E. The respect for what EIDR has created, at nearly 2 million unique content IDs, and more than 3 million alternate IDs, is universal. EIDR is clearly becoming an important part of the data ecosystem. Obviously, the performance of the films and television shows in which our clients participate is significant, and we look forward to helping add value to EIDR’s emergence as a better way to measure that performance on digital distribution platforms.”

“EIDR’s mission is more important than ever as the industry deals with fragmentation in every corner of the ecosystem — from content creation to distribution to consumption,” said Maddux in a statement. “TiVo co-founded EIDR alongside MovieLabs and we remain deeply committed to the development of industry-standard ID solutions.”

“We’re extremely fortunate in three ways; with Bill taking on the role of Chairman, our slate of new board officers, and CAA not only joining us, but bringing Eric back into the fold,” said Will Kreth, executive director of EIDR, in a statement. “We have a collective powerhouse of a team, and I’m delighted to be working with them to both innovate and bring positive changes to the organization.”

EIDR is a universal identifier system for movie and television assets. EIDR provides globally unique identifiers for the entire range of audiovisual object types that are relevant to entertainment commerce.

Google Joins Streaming Video Alliance

Google has joined the Streaming Video Alliance, an industry forum designed to solve challenges to improve the video experience, according to the organization.

Alliance members gathered May 10 at member Viacom’s headquarters in Times Square.

“Viacom is pleased to host the Streaming Video Alliance face-to-face meeting, where we can continue collaborating with the member technology companies, programmers, and distributors to promote standards around distributed caching and video quality-of-service measurement that will benefit us all and our audiences,” said Glenn Goldstein, CTO, Viacom, in a statement.

“A lot has happened in the four years since the Alliance was founded,” said Jason Thibeault, executive director of the Streaming Video Alliance, in a statement. “New industry technologies have been introduced and adopted, new alliance members have joined our ranks such as AWS and Google and the consumer demand for and consumption of streaming video continues to soar. As we kick off our fourth annual member meeting, I’m inspired by our collective progress to date and look forward to our members’ continued contributions to the streaming video industry.”

Founded in 2014, the Streaming Video Alliance is a global association of organizations from across the video ecosystem that have come together to collaborate on building solutions to the technical challenges facing the streaming video industry. Through best practices, specifications, functional requirements, proof-of-concepts, and other documents published by its working and study groups, the alliance strives to improve the end-user video experience and promote increased adoption of streaming, according to the organization. Members include companies and individuals from across the streaming video ecosystem such as network operators, technology providers, service providers, and content owners. Current members include Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Anevia, Arris, Bamtech Media, Beamr, Blue Frame, CBC, Cedexis, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Ciena, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Concurrent, ContentArmor, Conviva, Digital Element, Dolby, Edgeware, Ericsson, Espial Group, FOX Networks, Friend MTS, Google, Harmonic, Hughes Satellite Systems, IBM, IneoQuest, Intel, Interra Systems, Irdeto, Ketan Bhardwaj, Liberty Global, Limelight Networks, NBCUniversal, NCTA, NeuLion, Nexguard, Nice People at Work, Nokia, NTT East, OWNZONES, Phenix, Qwilt, Rob Dillon, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Sky, SSIMWAVE, Tektronix, Telecom Italia, Touchstream, Unified Streaming, Verimatrix, Verizon, Viacom, ViaSat Inc., Viavi Solutions, Videastream, Western Digital Corp., and Wowza Media Systems.

For more information on the Alliance, its working groups, or to inquire about becoming a member, visit www.streamingvideoalliance.org.