Studios, SVOD Win Court Injunction Against TickBox TV

Hollywood studios and subscription streaming video services have been granted a preliminary injunction against TickBox TV, the Atlanta-based company allegedly selling illegal access to myriad TV shows and movies through a proprietary set-top box.

U.S. Federal District Judge Michael Fitzgerald Jan. 30 in Los Angeles ruled TickBox must maintain changes it made to its user interface and marketing after Universal Pictures, Columbia, Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Amazon and Netflix filed a lawsuit last October.

TickBox argues it merely sells hardware and cannot be liable for the actions of third-parties, i.e. its consumers.

Indeed, at the bottom of its website, TickBow said its hardware “should not be used to download or stream any copyrighted content without permission from the copyright holder.”

But Fitzgerald ruled that while TickBox had not necessarily “caused” users to illegally stream or download copyrighted content, it had sold them the means to do so.

“TickBox may be held responsible for the instances of infringement that would not have otherwise occurred in the absence of the Device,” Fitzgerald wrote.

The judge ordered TickBox and plaintiffs to iron out technical safeguards that protect the latter’s copyrighted content, in addition to implementing software updates that could reset devices already sold.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, which represents studios and digital companies such as Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, hailed the judge’s decision.

“This is an important step, particularly given the court’s conclusion that the ACE members are likely to succeed on the merits of their case,” spokesperson Zoe Thorogood said in a statement. “We look forward to further developments in this case.”

SVOD, Studios Ready Super Bowl LII Ads

Amazon Studios will showcase its first Super Bowl ad for a TV show or movie when it airs a trailer for episodic series, “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski (“The Office”) – the fifth actor to play the title character after Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October in 1990.

Amazon will also run a humorous ad for voice-controlled Alexa losing her voice, with baffled CEO Jeff Bezos asking, “How is that even possible?”

“People are aware of Prime video, but they’re not always aware that they get this award-winning programming as part of the membership,” Mike Benson, head of marketing for Amazon Studios, told The Los Angeles Times.

The Big Game, which boasts a domestic TV audience of 100 million, again promises to be a showcase for Hollywood studios and subscription streaming video mainstays spending upwards millions per spot.

Few studio ads have been confirmed, but online speculation is rampant.

Paramount Pictures has myriad options, including spots for Krasinski’s horror thriller, A Quiet Place, in addition to Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, among others.  Universal Pictures has spots for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper and Fifty Shades Freed.

Walt Disney Studios could run ads for Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity Wars, among others. Warner Bros., Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox reportedly are not airing ads.

Hulu, which aired a 2017 Super Bowl ad for original series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” undoubtedly will run another spot considering corporate co-owner Comcast (NBC Sports) is broadcasting the game.

Netflix might air an ad for a Cloverfield sequel. The third installment in the franchise originally was set to be distributed by Paramount, until it wasn’t. Scuttlebutt at the Sundance Film Festival had Netflix acquiring global rights.

Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Ramping Up Original Content Spend

Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are switching from content licensing to content creation in a major way. By 2022, the investment in original movies and TV shows will triple to $10 billion annually, according to new data from The Diffusion Group.

“The Big-3 SVOD players own 60% of TV streaming time,” Brad Schlachter, senior advisor at TDG, said in a statement. “They are looking to maintain if not grow this share by creating compelling originals that serve both to attract new users and retain existing subscribers even as subscription rates increase.”

Indeed, among Netflix subscribers, 21% rate originals as “absolutely critical” in their decision to keep using Netflix, while 41% rank them “very important.”

“The data is unequivocal,” said Schlachter.

Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu – through sophisticated user data – have a much better understanding of the limits of licensed content versus the benefits of original fare.

TDG contends that as studios like Disney pull their most compelling content from SVOD platforms, the necessity of a strong slate of originals becomes all the more obvious.

But the Big-3 are not the only players eyeing a larger slice of the originals on-demand streaming market. In fact, companies such as Facebook and Apple are investing in original TV-quality programming to distribute directly to consumers.

“Of course, not all originals find an audience or generate a huge buzz,” said Schlachter. “But when they do, it can change the fortunes of a company. Just look at what ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ did for Hulu, or what ‘House of Cards’ did for Netflix.”

TiVo: Average Global Viewer Watches 4.4 Hours of Video Daily

Fueled by more than $130 billion investment in programing globally, the average person watches more than four hours of video on a daily basis, according to new data from TiVo.

The United States tops all countries with 5.1 hours spent per day on average consuming video. Other documented regions included the Brazil (4.7 hours), United Kingdom (4.2), Columbia (4.1), Mexico (4.1), France (3.7), and Germany (3.3).

TiVo said the average person spends 28 minutes daily searching for video content, based on online survey of 8,500 pay-TV and over-the-top video respondents.

“Viewers, content owners, new streaming services and devices have created a feedback loop where both supply and demand have grown exponentially,” wrote Jocelin Lee, senior manager, strategic research & market insights, and co-author of the report.

While 87% of U.S. respondents said they subscribe to pay-TV, 64% also pay for streaming video, including 44% using a streaming media device.

Not surprisingly, Netflix dominates among SVOD services with 82% penetration in the U.S., followed by Amazon Prime Video at 47% and Hulu at 32%.

Netflix’s highest regional penetrations include Mexico and Brazil at 91%, respectively. By comparison, Netflix has 65% penetration in France.

Among streaming devices, Roku (29%) enjoys a slight lead over Google Chromecast (21%), followed by Apple TV at 18% market penetration. Google Chromecast enjoys superiority in Columbia, Brazil, Mexico and France – all countries Roku is not sold.

Amazon Fire TV Stick ranks No. 1 in the U.K. and Germany – two strong Amazon ecommerce markets.

Season One of ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Due on Disc March 13

Season one of “The Handmaid’s Tale” will be released March 13 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc from MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

“Handmaid’s Tale” became the first show from a streaming service to win an Emmy for Best Drama Series. The show ended up winning eight Primetime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes and three Critics Choice Awards.

The three-disc set of the first season includes two new featurettes that take viewers deeper into the world of the dystopian society of Gilead.

Based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which begins streaming its second season on Hulu April 25, is the story of life in a totalitarian society in what was formerly the United States. Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, Gilead is ruled by a twisted fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state.  As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (Golden Globe- and Emmy-winner Elisabeth Moss) is a Handmaid in the Commander’s household, one of the castes of women forced into sexual servitude as a last desperate attempt to repopulate a devastated world.

Extra features include “From Script to Screen,” in which viewers can go inside the premiere episode’s harrowing scene where Handmaids violently participate in the execution of an alleged attacker, and “Hope in Gilead,” which examines the reasons why the book and series has captivated millions and become a cultural phenomenon.

It’s a Netflix World

NEWS ANALYSIS – Netflix hit another fiscal home run Jan. 22, reporting record 8.3 million subscriber growth in its most-recent financial period. The SVOD pioneer now has more than 117 million subscribers globally.

And it’s growing, with no end in sight. The company forecasting 6.4 million new subs in the first quarter, ending March 31.

Oh yeah, Netflix is profitable too – generating $186 million profit on revenue of nearly $3.3 billion – in 90 days! That’s nearly 33% year-over-year growth from the same regulatory period at the end of 2016.

The same day, CNBC reported that online TV competitors “Hulu With Live TV” and YouTube TV had generated 450,000 and 300,000 subscribers, respectively, since launching last year. They trail Dish Network’s pioneering Sling TV with 2 million subs and DirecTV Now with 1 million.

While Hulu, which is co-owned by Disney (Fox), Comcast and Time Warner (AT&T), and Google-owned YouTube haven’t officially revealed sub data, the numbers are telling.

When combined with HBO Now (2 million subs), Showtime OTT and CBS All Access (4 million), the entire online TV universe (including PlayStation Vue) barely edges Netflix’s most-recent quarterly sub growth.

“It actually shows you how poor the value proportion is for live TV,” BTIG Research Rich Greenfield told CNBC.

That’s an understatement.

Hulu’s original SVOD service has 17 million subs, which trails significantly to Netflix’s 55 million domestic subs. Amazon Prime Video, which is bundled with the Prime membership, reportedly has more than 40 million U.S. members – although it is unknown how many Prime members stream video.

Critics suggest Netflix’s domestic sub growth is waning, but CEO Reed Hastings disagrees, arguing the service’s U.S. market remains unchanged from management projections five years ago in the 60 -90 million range.

“So, we’ve got a way to go just to cross into the bottom of our expectation range,” Hastings said on the webcast.

In other words, it’s a Netflix world, everyone else is just living in it.

Hulu Tops 17 Million Subscribers

Hulu, the over-the-top video service co-owned by Disney, Comcast, Time Warner and Fox, Jan. 9 revealed it ended 2017 with more than 17 million subscribers.

The tally is surprising considering Hulu reported 15 million subs in 2016, and rival Netflix ended 2017 with 54 million domestic subs.

In the intervening months, Hulu has upped marketing and content spend significantly, in addition to winning industry awards, including Emmy and Golden Globes wins for “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Regardless, the SVOD service said it generated $1 billion in ad-revenue for the first time. It now has more than 75,000 episodic programs on-demand across 1,700 titles.

In addition to a separate standalone online TV service called “Hulu With Live TV,” the Hulu SVOD service could figure prominently in Disney’s future OTT video plans when its $52 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s film and select TV assets is approved by regulators. Indeed, Disney would become majority stake holder in Hulu.

Interestingly, the median age of a Hulu consumer is 31 with a median annual household income of $92,000. By comparison, the median age of a TV household is 55.

“2017 was a momentous year for Hulu. We took several major steps to become a 21st century direct-to-consumer media company, evolving into both an aggressive SVOD business and a formidable new live TV provider,” CEO Randy Freer said in a statement.

TiVo Says 20% of Daily Life Spent Consuming Video

Television tech company TiVo Jan. 9 revealed that the average global consumer spends almost five hours daily consuming and searching video entertainment – about 20% of daily life.

The results are from a survey of 8,500 pay-TV and over-the-top video subscribers across the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

“Consumers today are acting as their own aggregator, piecing together what they need from a variety of video service and device combinations to suit their individual needs,” Paul Stathacopoulos, VP of strategy, said in a statement.

Indeed, while 90% of households still subscribe to pay-TV – including 50% who have been with their operator at least four years – more than 60% also subscribe to a SVOD service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

The United States ranks No. 1 in average daily viewing hours with 5.1, followed by the Brazil (4.7 hours), United Kingdom (4.2), Columbia (4.1), Mexico (4.1), France (3.7) and Germany (3.3).

Among SVOD services, not surprisingly Netflix dominates – except in Germany where Prime Video controls 69% of the market followed by Netflix and Maxdome at 42% and 12%, respectively.

Notably, despite marketing push toward mobile viewers, the vast majority(77%) of video consumers do so on a traditional television, followed by desktop computers (from 12%), smart phones and tablets (6%).

Roku continues to lead the U.S. streaming media device market (29%), followed by Google Chromecast (21%) and Apple TV (18%). However, Google, Apple and Amazon Fire TV Stick control the global market.

“Success in this new environment will not be about a single content source monopolizing the living room, instead it will be about adapting the business model to deliver value, integrated services and personalization to meet the evolving consumer needs,” said Stathacopoulos.

 

 

 

CBS All Access Seeks Wider Audience via Amazon Channels

Subscription streaming video service CBS All Access is joining Amazon Channels, the ecommerce behemoth’s third-party over-the-top video platform for Prime members.

All Access joins HBO Now, Starz, Cinemax, Showtime, Sports Illustrated TV, Acorn TV and Dove Channel, among others, which pay Amazon to market and bill Prime members for access to their services.

The platform is eyed as a unified front for upstart SVOD services competing against Netflix, Hulu and related online TV services.

With more than two million subscribers, All Access last year announced plans to roll out internationally, beginning in Canada. Joining Amazon Channels could help expedite sub growth.

“As the first Amazon Channels partner to offer a linear feed of a subscriber’s local broadcast stations in addition to video on demand,” Rob Gelick, SVP and GM of digital platforms at CBS Interactive Entertainment, said in a statement.

All Access is the exclusive home to original content such as “Star Trek: Discovery, “No Activity” and “The Good Fight,” among other series. The platform also streams NFL football.

“CBS has produced some of the most popular shows in television history – they have a fantastic selection of hit series,” said Greg Hart, VP, Amazon Video.

 

 

Hulu to Bow ‘Animaniacs’ Reboot Exec Produced by Spielberg

Hulu, Amblin Television and Warner Bros. Animation Jan. 4 announced a deal to create and premiere a new version of the cartoon franchise “Animaniacs.”

Under the two-season, straight-to-series order, Steven Spielberg will return as executive producer of the series, with Sam Register, president, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series, and Amblin Television co-presidents Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank also serving as executive producers.

The series marks the first Hulu Original made for families. New episodes are set to premiere on the streaming service in 2020.

In addition to announcing the new series, Hulu and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution also inked a new pact that makes Hulu the exclusive streaming home to the complete library of all 99 episodes of the original “Animaniacs,” as well as “Pinky and the Brain,” the subsequent “Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain,” and the complete “Tiny Toon Adventures” collection. The classic series are available now on Hulu.

“We cannot wait to work with Steven Spielberg and the entire Amblin and Warner Bros. teams to bring more sketches, catchphrases, songs and laughs from the Animaniacs to kids and adults everywhere,” said Craig Erwich, SVP of content, Hulu, in a statement. “Now one of the most beloved, inventive and funny animated franchises in history, ‘Animaniacs’ and its cast of witty characters can live on, on Hulu. This marks yet another big move for us as we continue our efforts to be the No. 1 streaming destination for premium animated content.”

“I am so pleased and proud that ‘Animaniacs’ will have a home at Hulu,” said executive producer Steven Spielberg in a statement. “Together with Warner Bros., we look to bring new audiences and longtime fans into this wild world of Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. I am also excited that the full library of ‘Animaniacs’ and ‘Tiny Toon Adventures’ episodes are included in the deal.”

“We’re incredibly excited to be partnering with Amblin and Hulu for new episodes of ‘Animaniacs,’ filled with endless laughs — and ongoing plots for world domination by Pinky and the Brain,” said Sam Register, president, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series, in a statement. “Parents who grew up with the cartoon now have new episodes to share with their own families.”

The original “Animaniacs” made its television debut in 1993. Since its premiere, the series has launched spin-offs and characters including “Pinky and the Brain.”

The new show will will join the Hulu Kids library alongside full libraries of exclusive kids programming, including “Teen Titans Go!,” “Curious George,” “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Doozers,” “Adventure Time,” “Doc McStuffins” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

“Animaniacs” is produced by Amblin Television in association with Warner Bros. Animation.