Netflix Content Dominates 2021 Golden Globes in Banner Year for Streamers

Netflix TV shows and movies won 10 trophies at the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony held Feb. 28 and broadcast on NBC. In a sign of the times, content that debuted on streaming services won 20 of the 25 categories presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The big gun for Netflix came on the TV side, with the fourth season of “The Crown” winning in all four categories it was nominated (it had two nominees in two of the acting categories), including Best Drama Series. Emma Corrin won Best Actress in a Drama series for her role as Princess Diana, beating out co-star Olivia Colman, who played Queen Elizabeth. Josh O’Connor won for Best Actor in a Drama series for playing Prince Charles, while Gillian Anderson won Best Supporting Actress for playing Margaret Thatcher.

Netflix won two more statuettes for The Queens’ Gambit, which won Best Miniseries or Television Film, and Best Actress for Anya Taylor-Joy.

Among other TV categories, The Apple TV+ original series “Ted Lasso” won Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Series for Jason Sudeikis, while Amazon Prime’s “Small Axe” won Best Supporting Actor for John Boyega, and HBO’s I Know This Much Is True won Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film for Mark Ruffalo.

“Schitt$ Creek,” the complete series of which is streaming on several services including Netflix, and available on DVD from Lionsgate, won Best Musical or Comedy Series and Best Actress for Catherine O’Hara.

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On the movie side, because of theatrical shutdowns due to the the coronavirus pandemic, the HFPA opened eligibility to movies otherwise intended for theaters that had to be rescheduled and ultimately ended up at a streaming platform. Also, the eligibility period covering 2020 films was extended to include early 2021 releases.

Subsequently, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, which debuted on Amazon Prime Video in October and never played in theaters, won for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, while star Sacha Baron Cohen won Best Actor for reprising his role as the title character in the politically charged sequel.

Best Motion Picture — Drama went to Nomadland, which was released concurrently in theaters and on Hulu Feb. 19 (though it did screen at some film festivals and limited engagements last year). Chloé Zhao won Best Director for the film.

Another Hulu movie, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, won Best Actress in a drama for Andra Day in the title role.

Judas and the Black Messiah, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on Feb. 1, and was released in the United States by Warner Bros. Pictures Feb. 12 simultaneously in theaters and for streaming on HBO Max, won Best Supporting Actor for Daniel Kaluuya.

Netflix’s movie haul included the late Chadwick Boseman winning Best Actor in a drama for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Aaron Sorkin winning Best Screenplay for The Trial of the Chicago 7; Rosamund Pike winning Best Actress in a musical or comedy for I Care a Lot; and “Lo Si (Seen)” winning Best Song for Italian film The Life Ahead.

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Pixar’s Soul, which saw its theatrical release scrapped in lieu of a Christmas Day debut on Disney+ domestically (it played in theaters internationally), won two trophies, for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.

STX Films’ The Mauritanian, which will debut on Amazon Prime April 1, won Best Supporting Actress for Jodi Foster.

Finally, A24’s Minari, an American production in Korean, won Best Foreign-Language Film.

 

Discovery Names Ex-Hulu Patrizio Spagnoletto Global Chief Marketing Officer For Direct-to-Consumer

Discovery Feb. 17 announced that Patrizio Spagnoletto will join the company as global chief marketing officer, direct-to-consumer. Spagnoletto will be based in Los Angeles and report to the CEO of Discovery International JB Perrette in his role helping to operationalize Discovery’s direct-to-consumer activities.

Patrizio Spagnoletto

Spagnoletto joins Discovery as the company scales its recently launched subscription streaming service, discovery+, globally. In this newly created position, Spagnoletto will play a key leadership role helping market Discovery+ around the world. He will oversee a unified global marketing team seeks to consumer drive adoption of the SVOD across North America, EMEA, LATAM and APAC and have broad responsibilities for subscriber acquisition, retention and growth, media and analytics, brand awareness, marketing creative development and strategy, and consumer insights.

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In addition to the focused marketing team, Spagnoletto will also work in close partnership with U.S. networks and local international marketing teams to leverage all of Discovery’s assets to drive discovery+.

“Patrizio helped Hulu more than triple subscribers during his tenure and has experience with direct-to-consumer entertainment, sports and linear channels, which is a perfect match for our different discovery+ offerings around the world,” Perrette said in a statement. “We have enormous ambition for discovery+ and believe he is uniquely qualified to help us scale globally.”

Spagnoletto most recently served as head of marketing for Hulu, where he oversaw the company’s marketing efforts and was critical in the impressive subscriber growth across both the SVOD and live TV businesses. He led a team of marketers responsible for creating and executing campaigns and events across brand, creative, subscriber growth, and consumer research.

Free Ad-Supported ‘Disney+Star’ Set to Launch Feb. 23 — Outside the U.S.

Disney’s over-the-top video ecosystem is about to get larger with the scheduled Feb. 23 launch of Star within the Disney+ platform. The free AVOD tier will offer thousands of hours of movies and television programming from the company’s multiple studios, including content from the 21st Century Fox acquisition, i.e. FX, Searchlight, and 20th Century Studios, along with Star-branded exclusive originals and local programming, tailored to specific markets.

Star Plus is bowing in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, with an additional rollout slated for Latin America in June.

Disney acquired the India-based Star brand through the Fox deal, which includes existing streaming service Hotstar. The latter includes exclusive access to Indian Premier League professional cricket, a national pastime. Hotstar is responsible for 30% of Disney+’s 94.9 million global subscribers.

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Disney+ features exclusive and catalog content from Disney, Marvel (“WandaVision”), Pixar (Soul), Star Wars (“The Mandalorian” and upcoming “The Book of Boba Fett”  and “Andor” series) and National Geographic.

“Star will be integrated into Disney+, as a distinct sixth brand tile,” CEO Bob Chapek said on the Feb. 11 fiscal webcast. “And will offer easy to use parental controls to manage access to the content.”

The platform looks to expand Disney’s OTT base of 146 million subs, which includes Disney Plus, Hulu, Hulu with Live TV and ESPN+.

“We’re less than two weeks away from launch and we’re seeing tremendous excitement amongst consumers,”Chapek said.

Disney+ Streaming Service Ends Q1 With 94.9 Million Subs

Walt Disney’s branded subscription streaming video service Disney+ continues to impress, ending the first quarter (ended Jan. 2) with 94.9 million global subscribers. The service ended the previous-year period with 26.5 million subscribers. In a continuing trend, 30% of Disney+ subs come from India via Disney+ Hotstar (and IPL cricket league), with further growth from operations in Latin America.

Hulu finished the quarter with 35.4 million subs, compared with 27.2 million subs at the end of 2019. Online TV platform, Hulu+Live TV, ended the quarter with 4 million subs, compared to 3.2 million in the previous-year period. The increase in Disney+ subs and costs reflected the ongoing expansion of the service, including launching in additional markets.

Overall, Disney now has 146 million paid over-the-top video subscribers to its services, when including ESPN+, which ended the quarter with 12.1 million subs, compared to 6.6 million in the previous-year period.

In studio results, a lack of content in the both the theatrical and retail pipeline negatively affected revenue. In home entertainment, the decrease in results was due to lower unit sales, partially offset by lower marketing costs. The prior-year quarter reflected the performance of Toy Story 4, The Lion King and Aladdin compared to no significant titles in the current quarter.

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Theatrical distribution was lower as there were no significant worldwide theatrical releases in the current quarter compared to Frozen II, which was released in the prior-year quarter. The current quarter was negatively impacted by COVID-19 as many theaters globally were either closed or operating at reduced capacity.

Regardless, CEO Bob Chapek said direct-to-consumer would continue to drive Disney during the pandemic and beyond.

“We believe the strategic actions we’re taking to transform our company will fuel our growth and enhance shareholder value, as demonstrated by the incredible strides we’ve made in our direct-to-consumer business,” Chapek said in a statement. “We’re confident that, with our robust pipeline of exceptional, high-quality content and the upcoming launch of our new Star-branded international general entertainment offering, we are well-positioned to achieve even greater success going forward.”

Analyst: Comcast Should Cash Out Hulu Stake

While Disney maintains operational and majority control of Hulu, Comcast quietly owns 33% in the subscription streaming video service, with the right to cash out in 2024.

But that scenario isn’t sitting well with veteran analyst Richard Greenfield with Lightshed Partners. Greenfield contends Comcast should cash out now due to the ongoing global move toward over-the-top video distribution — underscored by Comcast’s own streaming ventures Peacock and broadband-based Flex.

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Disney continues to focus its resources on Disney+, including expanding international distribution, most-notably in India under the Hotstar brand — the latter responsible for 33% of the 86.8 million Disney+ subscribers. Hulu touted 38.8 million subs at the beginning of last December.

Greenfield values Hulu currently around $45 billion, which would translate to $15 billion for Comcast’s stake. The media giant’s existing deal calls for a floor-based minimum value of $27.5 billion for Hulu, or $9 billion for Comcast.

“The Hulu joint venture appears to have outlived its usefulness, with Comcast and Disney both increasingly focused on their own direct-to-consumer platforms,” Greenfield co-wrote in a Jan. 28 post. “Waiting until 2024 to resolve ownership would appear to create an unwanted/unnecessary financial overhang on Disney given how fast the valuation of streaming assets are growing.”

Maybe, but neither company appears to be in a hurry to move on Hulu. Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter suggests Disney may eventually fold Hulu into Disney+ as a subset content offering as it has with FX.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts made no mention of Hulu on the Jan. 28 fiscal call. When last discussed publicly in April 2019, Roberts said Hulu remained a key asset.

“On Hulu, the relationship with NBC, it’s very much in everybody’s interest to maintain,” Roberts said at the time. “And we have no new news on it, other than it’s really valuable. And we’re really glad we own a large piece of it.”

Hulu, Peacock Split ‘Modern Family’ SVOD Rights

In a unique distribution play, Disney-owned Hulu and NBCUniversal’s Peacock have acquired joint streaming rights to all 11 seasons of Emmy Award-winning ABC sitcom “Modern Family.” The joint agreement marks the first time all 250 episodes will be available on SVOD, beginning Feb. 3. Hulu previously had next-day access following an episode’s broadcast premiere. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Co-created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, “Modern Family” generated 85 Emmy Awards nominations and 22 wins, including best comedy series. Series stars included Ed O’Neill, Sofía Vergara, Rico Rodriguez, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons.

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Similarly to Peacock’s strategy with “The Office,” the SVOD/AVOD platform will offer the first 12 episodes of “Family” for free with ads, with the remaining episodes available on Peacock Premium ($4.99/month with ads) and Peacock Premium Plus ($9.99/month without ads).

“Peacock is home to a massive catalog of iconic movies and shows, so a groundbreaking comedy like ‘Modern Family’ is a perfect addition and representative of the quality entertainment our free and premium customers enjoy on the service,” Val Boreland, EVP of content acquisitions for the NBCUniversal Entertainment, television and streaming group, said in a statement.

Brian Henderson, VP of content partnerships at Hulu, said the platform with 26.8 million subs is “excited to offer every episode so new fans can meet the Pritchetts, Dunphys and Tuckers and old friends can visit them again.”

Disney’s ‘Nomadland’ to Bow in Theaters, on Hulu Concurrently

Borrowing a page from Warner Bros., Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures will simultaneously release the modern drama Nomadland, starring Oscar winner Frances McDormand, in theaters and on Hulu beginning Feb. 19.

The film festival favorite features McDormand as a middle age woman who leaves her rural Nevada town following economic collapse in van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. Due to the film’s storyline and five-state shooting locales, Nomadland will debut briefly in select Imax screens, beginning Jan. 29.

While Warner Bros. is releasing its entire 2021 theatrical simultaneously on HBO Max due to the pandemic, Disney is not streaming Nomadland on Disney+, choosing instead Hulu with 38 million subscribers. The longtime SVOD runner-up to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, has upped its profile and subscriber count in recent years with the release of award-winning original content (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and distribution agreement for edgier fare with Disney-owned FX.

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Last year at the begin of the pandemic, Hulu released indie film Palm Springs in select theaters and on its platform at the same time. Disney has slowly embraced digital-first (i.e. Disney+) distribution for erstwhile theater titles with Onward and Soul as the hamstrung domestic box office continued. It then offered live-action sequel Mulan exclusively on Disney+ for an additional $29.99 access price.

The trend finds Disney opting to move some of its smaller 2021 films to Disney+, including Peter Pan & Wendy, Pinocchio, and Raya and the Last Dragon, while keeping its Marvel tentpole movies Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals on its theatrical release slate.

“We think Soul, which was released on Disney+ on Christmas Day, likely drove substantial subscription growth for the service,” Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, wrote in a note.

 

Hulu Bows $1.99 Monthly Service for College Students

Disney-owned Hulu Jan. 11 announced it is cutting the price of its $5.99 ad-supported on-demand subscription streaming video service to $1.99 for college students attending any accredited school in the U.S.

The price includes access to Hulu’s Watch Party feature enabling subscribers to watch and comment on programming with friends and family in separate locations.

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Hulu, which touted 38.8 million subs at the beginning of December, remains bundled with ESPN+ and Disney+ in a $12.99 monthly promotion. The separate Hulu with Live TV subscription service recently raised pricing 18% to $64.99 from $54.99; $70.99 for no ads.

In 2017, Hulu partnered with Spotify for a student-oriented promotion that later included Showtime as well.

Disney’s ESPN+ Streaming Service Raising Annual Fee 20%

ESPN+, the sports-themed subscription streaming arm of Disney’s OTT offerings that also includes the Disney+ and Hulu platforms, will increase its annual fee 20% to $59.99 from $49.99 for new subscribers, effective Jan. 8, 2021. Existing subs will see renewal price hikes around March.

ESPN+, which is increasingly being promoted as a live-sports alternative to pay-TV, had more than 11.5 million subscribers earlier this year — more than double from a year ago.

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Disney is also increasing the cost of its UFC pay-per-view fights — exclusive to ESPN+ — to $69.99 from $64.99. The fights were $59.99 when ESPN+ launched in April 2018.

Disney’s OTT video universe topped 137 million subs earlier this month — partially due to combining ESPN+ with Disney+ and Hulu in a $12.99 monthly promotion that remains for the time being. The Disney+ monthly fee is increasing to $7.99, from $6.99, on March 26, 2021.

Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton’ Tops TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “Bridgerton” was the top rising show and the top binge on the TV Time charts the week ended Dec. 27.

The romance series “Bridgerton” hit screens on Christmas. Produced by Shonda Rhimes and based on Julia Quinn’s bestsellers, the series follows eight close-knit siblings of the Bridgerton family looking for love and happiness in London high society.

Perennial ABC favorite “Grey’s Anatomy” took the silver on the binge chart while Netflix’s “Tiny Pretty Things,” which hit screens Dec. 14 and is based on the book set in the world of an elite ballet academy, took the bronze.

No. 2 among rising shows for the week was the Canadian series “Letterkenny,” which debuted on Crave Christmas day in Canada and in the United States the following day on Hulu. The show follows the residents of Letterkenny, a small rural community in Ontario. Taking the third spot on the rising show chart was Netflix’s “Sweet Home,” which debuted Dec. 18. In the horror series, as humans turn into savage monsters and wreak terror, one troubled teen and his apartment neighbors fight to survive.

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TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended Dec. 27 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Bridgerton” (Netflix) — 3.03%
  2. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.82%
  3. “Tiny Pretty Things” (Netflix) — 1.76%
  4. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.72%
  5. “Modern Family” (ABC) — 1.41%
  6. “The Office” (NBC) — 1.41%
  7. “One Piece” (Fuji TV) — 1.40%
  8. “The Mandelorian” (Disney+) — 1.38%
  9. “Attack on Titan” (NHK) — 1.37%
  10. “Gossip Girl” (The CW) — 1.26%

 

Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended Dec. 27 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Bridgerton” (Netflix) — 100%
  2. “Letterkenny” (Crave) — 83.9%
  3. “Sweet Home” (Netflix) — 64.3%
  4. “American Dad” (TBS) — 56.7%
  5. “neXt” (Fox) — 56.2%
  6. “The Legend of Korra” (Nickelodeon) — 39.1%
  7. “Wish You: Your Melody in My Heart” (YouTube/Viki) — 37.8%
  8. “I May Destroy You” (HBO) — 37%
  9. “El Cid” (Amazon) — 36%
  10. “Masterchef IT” (Sky Uno) — 33.3%