Here Today, Gone Tomorrow …

The impermanence of the digital world struck home last January when we launched Media Play News and the owners of Home Media Magazine shut down that property’s website. All of a sudden, 17 years worth of stories — dating back to 2000, when what was then Video Store Magazine first appeared on the Internet — were gone. Vanished. Disappeared. Ceased to exist.

Thank God we have a storage locker full of print copies, I thought to myself. And that storage locker full of print copies often comes in handy when we have to research stories about our business, and find precious little historical content available on the web — just a steady stream of broken links and blank screens.

I bet a lot of people around the country who read the Sept. 13 Forbes story on disappearing digital movies are looking at their DVD and Blu-ray Disc collections with the same sense of pride – and relief.

According to the story, by contributor John Archer, “Reports have started to emerge of Apple completely deleting films from iTunes accounts even when they’ve been bought, not merely rented. And when people complain about this, they’re receiving an astonishing message from Apple telling them that iTunes is just a ‘store front,’ and so Apple isn’t to blame if a film studio decides it no longer wants to make its titles available on iTunes.”

On top of that, Archer writes in Forbes, consumers whose films are yanked shouldn’t expect a refund. “When an iTunes user in Canada complained to Apple that their initial offer of a free $5.99 rental hardly seemed suitable recompense for him having three bought films summarily removed from his account, Apple replied that ‘our ability to offer refunds diminishes over time. Hence your purchases doesn’t meet the conditions for a refund.’”

The bottom line, Archer concludes: “Apple appears to be openly saying that if you buy a film on iTunes, you don’t really own it at all.”

That’s a frightening proposition for movie fans who aren’t satisfied with the meager selection of quality films available through the streaming services, with their focus on original (and episodic) content.

It’s also, sadly, old news. When you buy a movie digitally, you don’t actually own the film, the way you do if you buy it on disc. You buy “digital rights” to the movie, which is not exactly the same thing. As the Los Angeles Times observed more than two years ago, “there are significant differences between owning a tangible product and owning its electronic equivalent.”

In other words, if you own a DVD or Blu-ray Disc, you own it forever. You can sell it, trade it, lend it, pass it on to your kids.

But if you “own” a digital movie, you might wake up one day and find it gone – just like those hundreds, if not thousands, of Home Media Magazine stories that disappeared, overnight, from the Web.

(I should add that the only way to really own a digital movie is to download it, which many people simply don’t do because it takes up so much space. Most purchased movies live on iTunes.)

I’ve become a huge fan of digital movies. The tipping point, for me, was the emergence of Movies Anywhere, which makes digital movie collecting easier than it’s ever been and provides instant access to my library wherever I am. Heck, I even watched a movie on my phone while on a camping trip in Death Valley.

But I always buy the disc first, and then input the digital code into my Movies Anywhere account.

And if I do buy a movie electronically sometime in the future, you can bet I’m going to make sure I have enough room on my hard drive to download it – right away.

Morgan Stanley Says Apple SVOD Service Can Rival Netflix — in Seven Years

Netflix shares took a slight hit after Morgan Stanley Sept. 5 issued a bullish note on Apple’s slowly evolving subscription streaming video service.

In the report — Apple, Inc.: The Emerging Power of Apple Services, Part 3: Video a New Growth Driver in 2019– Morgan Stanley analysts believe Apple’s longstanding success with iTunes and the music industry, Hollywood and its ability to capture consumer demand through the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch portends great promise in over-the-top video distribution.

“We forecast that an Apple Video streaming service with high-quality but limited breadth could be priced at the low end vs. competitors, or $7.99/month, and reach over 50 million paid subscribers by 2025, compared to 124 million at Netflix subs and Apple’s 650 million-unit iPhone installed base,” wrote the analysts.

Indeed, the note suggests Apple’s SVOD service could grow from a $500 million business in 2019 to $4.4 billion operation by 2025.

Lofty projections considering the late Steve Jobs often considered Apple TV and streaming a video a hobby and not a platform Apple could invest heavily in.

That’s changed as CEO Tim Cook and Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet software and services, have upped Apple’s video profile by hiring a string of entertainment executives, producers and directors to jumpstart original programming.

The biggest announcement occurred last November about an untitled morning show drama starring and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.

Other projects include a sketch comedy with Kristen Wiig; renewed seasons of “Carpool Karaoke,” a basketball drama with Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant serving as both the subject and producer; and unnamed series from directors M. Night Shyamalan, J.J. Abrams and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

Morgan Stanley believes the Apple SVOD service could get a boost when bundled with the Apple Music and Texture news and magazine subscription services. A strategy Hulu has employed partnering with Spotify.

The note said such a bundling would diversify content options for consumers, diminish the need for immediate original content hits, increase perceived consumer value and simplify billing, among other features.

“If we incorporate the assumptions from our Apple Media bundle scenario while keeping all other Apple Services forecasts unchanged, then we’d expect Apple Services revenue to grow at a 21% through 2025, ultimately reaching $143 billion by 2025, up from current forecasts of a 19% revenue growth and $124 billion in revenue by 2025.”

Apple Services generated $95 billion in revenue in the most recent fiscal period.

“We believe that Apple Video will become a reality sooner than investors think, and use this report as a way to frame the two most likely methods for video content distribution and potential impact video could have on Apple’s Services business,” wrote the analysts.

Freedom of Speech or Peddling Hate in an OTT World?

In the current politically toxic culture where “fake news” allegations and “enemies of the people” campaign rally cries by the POTUS against the media (except Fox News) continue to divide the country, bigotry and hate are now rationalized by many as differences of opinion between “good people on both sides.”

While the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making any law abridging the freedom of speech, or the freedom of the press, the Internet and over-the-top video has given those wishing to upend the country’s moral compass an unending bully pulpit.

Take Alex Jones, the radio host and conspiracy theorist loon who makes rightwing propagandists Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity seem normal.

Jones, who started website Infowars in 1999 as a platform to pitch irrational thought, is infamous for tearful rants (literally) decrying the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an inside government operation; and claiming the Sandy Hook school shooting – that killed 26 children and adults in Connecticut – was carried out by left-leaning forces aimed at implementing stricter gun control.

Apple Aug. 5 apparently wearied of Jones’ shtick. The tech giant pulled several Infowars podcasts off iTunes, citing the platform’s hate speech guidelines. Facebook and Spotify followed Aug. 6, with Facebook reportedly suspending Jones’ personal account as well.

Twitter, which has become President Trump’s unofficial press platform, chose not to ban Jones, saying he had not violated the company’s use guidelines.

“We know that’s hard for many, but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules,” CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted Aug. 7. “We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.”

But a quick look at Twitter’s rules against abusive behavior finds this: “We prohibit behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear.”

But Jones did just that in 2016 during the run up to the presidential election when he promoted the fake story that Democrat Party officials operated a child pornography ring from a pizzeria in Washington, D.C.

A North Carolina man was later arrested after firing shots into the pizzeria due to the hoax.

But real-world incidents like this don’t seem to bother Dorsey, who doubled-down on his Aug. 7 tweet, suggesting it is the responsibility of the media and journalists to “validate” Jones’ claims.

“This is what serves the public conversation best,” he tweeted.

Apparently, the “enemies of the people” – not Twitter – should now be responsible for fact-checking hate peddlers, who you know, are still “good people.”

 

Apple Ups Q3 ‘Services’ Revenue 31%

Apple may be known for the iPhone, iPad Apple Watch, but its digital content business, which includes sales of digital movies and TV shows on iTunes and Apple TV, remains an emerging giant.

The tech company July 31 reported third-quarter (ended June 30) services revenue of more than $9.5 billion, which was up 31% from services revenue of $7.2 billion during the previous-year period.

The segment, which also includes AppleCare, Apple Pay, licensing and other services, benefited from a one-time favorable $236 million resolution of various litigation. The unit is headed by Eddy Cue, SVP, Internet software and services.

Overall, Apple generated net income of $11.5 billion on revenue of $53.2 billion, compared to income of $8.7 billion and revenue of $45.4 billion last year.

The company sold more than 41.3 million iPhones, 11.5 million iPads and 3.7 million Macs in the quarter – the latter down 13% from the previous-year period.

More Than Half of Active Video Consumers Consume Some Digital Content

More than half (51%) of consumers who are active in buying or renting video content consume at least some digital content, which is 7 percentage points higher than last year, according to a study from The NPD Group.

Among all consumers who purchased or rented digital content, 18% are digital-only video consumers, which is 4 percentage points higher than last year, according to the report.

Still, among consumers who consume both physical and digital video content, 86% continued to purchase physical video discs in 2017.

“In the lifecycle of digital-video adoption, the early-adopter phase has finally given way to the majority phase,” said Ricardo Solar, SVP of video entertainment for NPD, in a statement. “Even so, among consumers who consume both digital and physical video content, the vast majority are still buying and renting physical discs.”

Growth in digital video purchases was driven mainly by heavy users who completed more than four transactions over the previous three months, NPD found. While these consumers represented just one-third of digital video purchasers, they comprised 69% of all transactions last year.

More than half of heavy digital video buyers purchased at Amazon and iTunes, and they over-index at Google Play and Vudu, as well, according to the report.

Digital video rental, or internet video-on-demand (iVOD), also grew last year, due to rental activity from both light and heavy users. Amazon was the retailer of choice for digital rentals, but heavy internet-video renters also over-indexed at iTunes, FandangoNow and Redbox On-Demand.

The research findings come from The NPD Group’s latest “Entertainment Trends in America” report, which is based on a consumer survey fielded from January to February 2018.

Apple Previews New Operating System for Apple TV 4K, Announces Deal With Charter

Apple June 4 previewed the tvOS 12 operating system for Apple TV 4K with support for Dolby Atmos audio, new features to easily access shows and movies, and aerial screensavers shot from space. The company also announced that Charter Communications, the second-largest cable operator in the United States, will begin offering Apple TV 4K to its customers.

Apple TV 4K debuted last fall. The service offers customers the largest collection of 4K HDR movies, according to Apple, including free 4K HDR upgrades to previously purchased movies in customers’ iTunes libraries.

“This fall, iTunes will be home to the largest collection of Dolby Atmos-supported movies anywhere, and these titles will also include Dolby Atmos audio for free,” according to an Apple press release. “With tvOS 12, Apple TV 4K will be the only streaming player both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos certified, delivering the highest quality cinematic experience of stunning 4K HDR visuals and immersive sound that flows all around in three-dimensional space.”

Also, later this year, Charter customers in nearly 50 million households will have access to live channels and tens of thousands of on-demand programs via an all-new Spectrum TV app on their Apple TV 4K, iPhone and iPad, integrated with Siri and the Apple TV App, Apple reported. In addition, as part of this collaboration, Charter will be offering iPhones and iPads to customers as they grow their mobile presence. Charter joins AT&T’s DirecTV Now in the United States, CANAL+ in France and Salt in Switzerland, which have begun offering customers Apple TV 4K with their services.

The Apple TV App on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV allows customers to find and watch TV shows and movies from more than 100 participating video apps in 10 countries, according to Apple. Single sign-on for Apple TV and iOS has allowed users to sign in once to get access to all the video apps available through their cable subscription. With tvOS 12, Apple further simplifies the authentication process with “zero sign-on.” Apple TV detects the user’s broadband network and automatically signs them in to all the supported apps they receive through their subscription — no typing required, according to Apple. Zero sign-on begins with Charter later this year and will expand to other providers over time.

In collaboration with the International Space Station National Lab and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Apple unveiled new aerials shot from space by NASA astronauts, “so Apple TV customers can enjoy even more stunning scenes filmed in 4K HDR,” according to Apple. Aerial screensavers will also be more interactive, allowing viewers to see the location information and swipe between dozens of aerials, the company noted.

Additional tvOS 12 features for Apple TV 4K and Apple TV 4th generation make it easier for customers to access shows and movies, according to Apple:

— With iOS 12, users can securely AutoFill passwords from iPhone and iPad to Apple TV to easily sign in to Apple TV apps.

— The Apple TV Remote will be automatically added to Control Center on iPhone or iPad for Apple TV users, giving users quick access to Apple TV controls.

— Home control systems such as Control4, Crestron and Savant can be used to control Apple TV, including using Siri for voice search and control.

“The arrival of Dolby Atmos on Apple TV, ‘zero sign-on,’ a deal with Charter Spectrum, a new TV OS and, perhaps more tangentially, Siri support for third-party apps, all point towards an evolutionary product, rather than a revolutionary one, which we have become accustomed to from Apple over the years,” read a Futuresource Consulting blog in response to the announcements.

Futuresource estimates that there were approximately 21 million Apple TVs in use worldwide at the end of 2017, approaching half of these in the United States.

“Apple TV continues to add features, build partnerships and is clearly striving to offer the best quality digital streamer experience there is — albeit at a higher price than its competitors,” read the Futuresource blog. “Service partnerships will therefore be key to driving the attractiveness of the product and a channels approach, akin or better than Amazon Channels and Roku’s equivalent, will also be hugely important if Apple still wants to become the main entertainment hub in the home — something which Amazon arguably has gained a lead in.”

The new tvOS will be available this fall as a free software update for Apple TV 4K and Apple TV 4th generation. For more information, visit apple.com/apple-tv-4K.

‘Inheritance’ Due on Digital June 15

The psychological thriller Inheritance will be released on Digital HD June 15 from Portola Pictures.

The film will be available to rent or own on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

Directed by Tyler Savage from his own script, the film puts a chilling twist on the universal feeling of being trapped by your family history.  The film premiered at Dances with Films.

Savage makes his feature film debut alongside executive producer Nicholas Gonda (Tree of Life), cinematographer Drew Daniels (Krisha, It Comes At Night) and producers J.P. Castel (Krisha), Dash Hawkins (Party Crashers) and Chase Joliet (It Comes at Night), who also leads the cast.  Joliet is joined onscreen by Sara Montez (“Pitch”), Tim Abell (Sniper: Special Ops), Kate Norby (The Devil’s Rejects), Dale Dickey (Hell or High Water, “True Blood”), Krisha Fairchild (Krisha) and Drew Powell (“Gotham”).

Pop band Mini Mansions provides the score.

Latest Volume of Animated Series “RWBY” Due June 5

Rooster Teeth and Cinedigm June 5 will release the latest edition from the animated series “RWBY” when RWBY: Volume 5 arrives on transactional digital platforms, including Steam, iTunes and Xbox, as well as DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack (with DVD), and a Special Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack featuring a 32-page RWBY Official Manga Anthology sampler exclusive to FYE stores.

The RWBY Official Manga Anthology is from the upcoming Weiss book from VIZ Media.

“We love how passionate the fans of RWBY are,” said Gray G. Haddock, head of animation at Rooster Teeth, in a statement. “Volume 5 received such a great reaction and we’re really looking forward to be able to provide these episodes along with a behind-the-scenes look at the series through the bonus features.”

In RWBY: Volume 5, Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang are each entangled in journeys of their own, but they all share one destination: Haven Academy. Whether it’s the promise of ancient relics, mystical maidens, or simply more power, it’s clear that the stage for the next great battle for Remnant has been chosen.

Bonus features include “5 Years of RWBY,” a behind-the-scenes retrospective that explores how the production of “RWBY” has changed over the years, including never-before-seen interviews; Weiss, Blake and Yang character shorts; and “CRWBY: Behind the Episode.”

Movies Anywhere Offers Music-Only Version of ‘Last Jedi’

A score-only version of Star Wars: The Last Jedi with an audio track that isolates composer John Williams’ music is available exclusively on Movies Anywhere for a limited time to those who link a digital purchase of the film to the service.

The Lucasfilm blockbuster distributed by Walt Disney Studios debuted on digital March 13 and arrives on Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 27.

Movies Anywhere March 12 added FandangoNow to its list of retail partners, which also include Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes and Walmart-owned Vudu. The digital movie rights locker service features content from Disney, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros.

Documentary ‘Hobbyhorse Revolution’ From Oscar-Nominated Filmmaker Due on Digital April 24

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Selma Vilhunen’s latest documentary, Hobbyhorse Revolution, will hit digital services April 24 from Filmrise.

It will be available for sale and rental on Amazon Video, iTunes,  Google Play and Vudu.

The documentary spotlights a group of bullied teenage girls from Finland who spark a new organized sport called “hobbyhorsing” into a national obsession, igniting a global fascination. Visually unusual and sometimes amusing to the spectator, hobbyhorse competitors strive to place in equestrian style jumping and dressage events while riding their personalized homemade stick horses. The film’s worldwide festival release has generated features about the sport appearing in The Wall Street Journal, on ESPN and on the talk show “Ellen.” Finland now boasts more than 10,000 hobbyhorse competitors between the ages of 10-18 with leagues and competitions beginning to sprout in the United States.

Hobbyhorse Revolution had its North American premiere at the 2016 Hot Docs Festival, won the Main Prize and the Risto Jerva Prize at the Tempere Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the Visions Du Reel Festival.