Edelman Elected Treasurer, Gutierrez Secretary of EMA

Michele Edelman and Pedro E. Gutierrez Jr. have been elected to serve as treasurer and secretary, respectively, of the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Edelman, who had been serving as secretary, replaces Matt Hill of Amazon, who stepped down from the EMA Board due to a change in his responsibilities at Amazon.

Edelman is EVP of marketing and content strategy for Vubiquity.

Gutierrez is director of digital stores movies and TV business and category management at Microsoft.

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The other officers of EMA are chair Cameron Douglas of Fandango and vice chair Suyin Lim of PlayStation Video. Additionally, comScore’s Marty Graham and Google’s Bill Kotzman serve on the board’s executive committee.

Netflix Rated the Fastest-Growing Brand in 2019

As if it needs more attention, Netflix has been tapped the fastest-growing brand of 2019, according to Brand Finance, a brand valuation consulting company based in New York and Paris.

Based in part on a company’s ability to remain relevant and make an impact on the culture (home entertainment) it’s participating in, Netflix saw its brand value increase 105% over the past year to $21.2 billion.

The report said the subscription streaming video pioneer is set to play the “lead role in home entertainment,” building a disruptive business model as a universally accessible narrowcaster and effectively challenging traditional broadcasting brands and distribution.

“Netflix delivers high-quality and varied programming to anyone with Internet access and a credit card,” Alex Haigh, valuation director at Brand Finance, said in a statement. “The platform has embarked on a disruptive approach to media services and now has incumbents in the market looking over their shoulder.”

While Netflix’s brand keeps growing exponentially, Amazon (including Prime Video) remains the most valuable domestic brand, growing nearly 25% to $187.9 billion valuation.

“This year, Amazon’s brand is worth approximately half of the combined value of the 42 retail brands in the ranking,” Haigh said. “The retail industry is another sector at a crossroads as tech giants and online sellers encroach upon the traditional business model with a completely new proposition.”

With the media industry feeling the effects of tech disruption, another rapidly growing digital media brand is YouTube(up 46% to $37.8 billion) this year jumping 10 spots to 13th nationally.

Like Netflix, YouTube is building a broad platform for video content, in an effort to leverage its brand from merely peer-to-peer video creation and sharing to also include a growing premium and professional video library.

Among traditional media brands, Disney entered the top 10 nationally on the back of its M&A acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. The brand jumped 40% in value to $45.7 billion.

Tech giants, Apple (2nd, $153.6 billion) and Google (3rd, $142.8 billion) remained entrenched in their positions from last year.

With a 47% increase in brand value to $119.6 billion, Microsoft moved into 4th after the company’s successful turn towards a cloud-centric business.

With all eyes turned to 5G, AT&T dropped down a spot to 5th, after a modest 6% brand value increase over past 12 months to $87 billion.

Aside from calculating brand value, Brand Finance also determined the relative strength of brands using a scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity, and business performance.

Though Facebook held onto its 6thspot, its brand strength suffered the second worst decline among the top 100 brands, resulting in a rating downgrade from AAA+ to AAA- after a year of privacy issues that have landed the company in the hot seat.

Behind tech, the largest industry with a combined brand value of over $1 trillion, the retail sector comes in second with $340.5 billion. Eighth-ranked Walmart (up 10% to $67.9 billion) is the nation’s most valuable brick-and-mortar retail brand, as it continues to push the boundaries of its physical store and logistics network.

Home Depot (up 39% to $47.1 billion) jumped from 11th to 9th, while its rival Lowe’s saw its brand value go up 49% to $23.9 billion.

Google Unveils ‘Stadia’ Video Game Service

As expected, Google is entering the $140 billion video game business with hopes its cloud-based Stadia service will rival industry benchmarks Xbox (Microsoft), PlayStation (Sony) and Switch (Nintendo) among consumers.

Google announced the new service March 19 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The search behemoth, which plans to roll out the service and cost details later this year, says Stadia would enable users to play games from major developers on most devices via YouTube.

Google Stadia video game controller

“Our ambition is far beyond a single game,” Phil Harrison, VP and GM at Google, told attendees. “The power of instant access is magical, and it’s already transformed the music and movie industries.”

Harrison, who previously held executive positions at Xbox and PlayStation, said Google tested the service (Project Stream) last fall with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey that enabled users to play/stream the triple-A game via Google’s Chrome browser on any applicable device – including smart TV.

“We finally get to share Google’s vision of games,” Harrison said. “Our vision for Stadia is simple. One place for all the games you play.”

In a statement, Yves Guillemot, the co-founder/CEO of Ubisoft, said Google’s global expanse would give “billions” unprecedented opportunities to play video games.

“We are proud to partner with Google on Stadia, building on what we’ve learned with Project Stream via Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” Guillemot said. “This is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to continue collaborating closely with Google on what’s next for Stadia.”

 

Google Set to Reveal Video Game Streaming Service

As online gaming grows (and disc-based video games decline), tech/media giants such as Google and Apple are eyeing the $100 billion industry for new cloud-based streaming platforms.

Google is reportedly set to disclose a streaming platform March 19 offering high-end games across all platforms, including Android, iPhone, Mac, Chrome, Windows 10 and TVs at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The search behemoth teased a YouTube video about it.

The company, which would enable users to buy games directly from the TV screen or portable media device, will also unveil a gaming controller (and possibly a console) that could be used with a smart TV.

The move comes as the gaming industry – dominated by Sony (PlayStation), Microsoft (Xbox) and Nintendo – grapple with changing consumer habits and distribution revolving around their longstanding gaming consoles.

Google’s service could enable users to play top games without having to buy an expensive console.

“Cloud gaming will enable publishers to broaden their reach even further by potentially taping into new audiences on any device and any screen,” Thomas Husson, analyst with Forrester Research, told CNBC. “Beyond music or video, gaming represents another opportunity to offer recurring streaming revenue for companies in the gaming ecosystem. For cloud platforms like Amazon, Google or Microsoft, it will also become an opportunity to offer cloud storage and services to game publishers, who spend more and more in their IT infrastructure.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xbox Partners With Taco Bell to Give Away Xbox One X Consoles

Taco Bell is partnering with Xbox to give fans in the United States the chance to win limited-edition Xbox One X consoles each time they buy a $5 double chalupa box, Xbox announced.

The promotion lasts from Oct. 18 through Nov. 21.

The exclusive platinum-colored console features Taco Bell’s “ring” when powered on (exclusive to the limited-edition consoles); a white, special-edition Xbox Elite wireless controller; and three months of Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold.

An Xbox One X will be rewarded every 10 minutes throughout the promotion and it will be delivered to fans 72 hours after being declared a winner, according to Xbox.

The Xbox One S and Xbox One X both feature a built-in 4K UHD Blu-ray player and Dolby Atmos support.

Walmart Working with Former Studio Chief Nancy Tellem in New Joint Venture

Walmart desperately wants to bridge the entertainment and e-commerce divide with Amazon.

The world’s largest retailer Oct. 11 announced a strategic entertainment joint venture with Eko, a developer of interactive video technology. The pact includes plans to develop original, interactive content that Walmart claims will help it connect with customers in “new and more meaningful ways,” with the goal of driving deeper and more frequent engagement.

The content, which could range from cooking shows to interactive toy catalogues, will go beyond the basic personalization available today, allowing viewers to participate in and shape stories as they are being told, according to Walmart.

The joint venture – dubbed W*E Interactive Ventures – expands Walmart’s entertainment ecosystem. The retailer already has a longstanding physical and digital video presence, through stores, websites, the digital platform Vudu.com and the recently launched eBook platform, Walmart eBooks, with Rakuten Kobo.

“Our partnership with Eko will help us accelerate efforts to deepen relationships with customers and connect with new audiences in innovative ways and is one part of an overall entertainment ecosystem we’re building,” Scott McCall, SVP of entertainment, toys and seasonal, Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

Since 2010, Eko has pioneered the future of entertainment, alongside partners like Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM Studios. Eko has received prior funding from Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital, Warner Music Group, Samsung, Walmart, and others, and has more than 15 patents for its technology. In connection with the joint venture, Walmart has agreed to participate in Eko’s next funding round.

“The future of video entertainment is interactive, and this joint venture is a huge step towards bringing this future to life,” said Yoni Bloch, CEO of Eko. “In 2018, all forms of media are personalized except for live action video.

The partnership will be led by Bloch, with input from several industry experts. Tribeca Productions co-founder Jane Rosenthal will serve as strategic advisor. Rosenthal, producer of films such as Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, About a Boy (film and series), Wag the Dog and the upcoming Scorsese film The Irishman, helps create a bridge for both established and emerging artists looking for an outlet for their work.

Nancy Tellem, chief media officer and executive chairwoman of Eko, will serve on the board of the joint venture. Prior to joining Eko, Tellem spent more than 25 years in television including time as president of CBS Network Television Group.

Tellem most-recently spearheaded Microsoft’s short-lived attempt at creating original TV shows and movies at shuttered Xbox Entertainment Studios.

“During my career in broadcast television, I’ve seen how traditional media has been transformed by technology and have long believed that technology would be the key to creating more engaging entertainment experiences,” said Tellem. “Audiences are hungry for immersive entertainment, and storytellers are embracing this new technology in creating a new type of story narrative that deeply engages the viewer. Now is the time for Eko and interactive content to take center stage.”

Microsoft Launching Video Game Streaming Service

Microsoft Oct. 8 announced details of a new video game streaming platform – dubbed Project xCloud – that enables users to play console games regardless of device. The platform is set to launch public trials sometime next year.

Microsoft, whose Xbox brand features more than 3,000 proprietary game titles, plans to test the xCloud platform on mobile phones, tablets and desktops paired with an Xbox wireless controller through Bluetooth.

“Today, the games you play are very much dictated by the device you are using. Project xCloud’s game-streaming technology will offer you the freedom to play on the device you want without being locked to a particular device,” Kareem Choudhry, VP of gaming cloud at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

With console and PC games often requiring controls that are synched to multiple keys, buttons, sticks and triggers, Microsoft is developing a new, game-specific touch input overlay for players who choose to play without a controller.

Unlike other forms of digital entertainment, video games are interactive experiences that dynamically change based on player input, according to Choudhry. Delivering a high-quality experience across a variety of devices must account for different obstacles, such as low-latency video streamed remotely, and support a large, multi-user network.

In addition to solving latency, Choudhry said xCloud would aim to support graphical fidelity and framerates that preserve the developers’ original intentions and the type of input a player has available.

“Our vision for the evolution of gaming is similar to music and movies — entertainment should be available on demand and accessible from any screen,” wrote Choudhry.

 

 

 

Video Game Console Ownership Drives SVOD, Pay-TV Subs

Video game consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation have long been catalysts for over-the-top video adoption. Now the proof is in writing.

IHS Markit Oct. 3 disclosed that 89.6% of video game console owners have access to at least one OTT video subscription service, compared with 51% of consumers surveyed without a game console.

Among households with games consoles, 88.6% had one or more pay-TV services, compared to 57% of all survey respondents.

There were 49 million games consoles shipped worldwide in 2017, with North America receiving the largest share (18.4 million units). At the end of 2017, the global number of connected consoles reached 164 million, of which 83% were seventh or eighth-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

The latest finding from the IHS Markit “Connected Devices and Media Consumption” service revealed that 35.6% of households owned a games console. The survey examined device ownership, use and access of subscription and free video services and decision drivers.

While gaming remains the core function, Microsoft and Sony have leveraged their existing online stores to provide digital rental and retail options in their … consoles,” Daniel Sutton, senior analyst, connected devices and media consumption, IHS Markit, wrote in the report.

Sutton said game consoles availing their platforms to third-party apps has allowed major and niche online video services to access television-centered devices, which make viewing on the main screen convenient and enable media content streaming functionality similar to what’s offered by dedicated media streaming devices, like Apple TV and Amazon FireStick.

The high penetration of SVOD/pay-TV services among game console owners is hardly surprising, according to IHS Markit. Games consoles remain premium-priced devices, meaning these households have already shown a propensity toward media spending.

Console ownership and SVOD subscription varies by country:

In the U.S., the largest market in terms of games console sales and connected consoles, more than one-third (38.2%) of respondents indicated they had access to one or more games consoles. Nearly 98% of console-owning households subscribed to at least one pay-TV or SVOD service.

The majority of Brazil’s console-owning demo subscribes to multiple video services, including traditional pay-TV and OTT video services. About 80% of console owners in Brazil had a household subscription to Netflix, which is 13% higher than the national average. More than 5% of console owners who subscribed to Netflix said that their console was their preferred way to access the service.

In Germany, there were 7.6 million connected games consoles at the end of 2017. The PlayStation 4 was the most common device, with five million connected consoles. Nearly 24% of PlayStation 4 households in Germany also owned a PlayStation 3, and 14% owned an Xbox One.

Just 22% of Japanese console owners subscribe to online video service Netflix, while 14% subscribe to pay-TV. Almost 31% of PlayStation 4 owners in Japan indicated that access to content – either for themselves or other household members – was their primary driver when purchasing the device.

About 40% of U.K. survey respondents indicated that their household owned one or more games consoles. As was uniformly the case across the all markets surveyed, the PlayStation 4 was the most popular console. Netflix is the largest online video operator in the U.K. with 31% of respondents saying they had access to Netflix, rising to 48% when looking specifically at console owners.

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.”

 

Microsoft Joins Movies Anywhere Platform

Microsoft Movies & TV has become the latest affiliate of the Movies Anywhere movie ownership rights locker service, allowing film fans to sync their Microsoft account to Movies Anywhere and centralize their digital movies purchased from Microsoft alongside those purchased from other connected retailers.

The companies made the announcement at midnight Aug. 7 in the Eastern United States (9 p.m. Aug. 6 on the West Coast).

Microsoft becomes the sixth digital retailer to link with Movies Anywhere, joining iTunes, Walmart’s Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and FandangoNow. Consumers who purchase a movie from any of the affiliated retailers from participating studios (or redeem a digital copy from an participating Blu-ray or DVD) can view the content through any of the other retailers or on the Movies Anywhere app or website.

The Movies Anywhere platform includes 7,500 digital movies for purchase, including the Aug. 7 digital release of Deadpool 2 and its extended cut featuring 15 additional minutes of footage.

Participating studios include 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Studios.

Users can now watch their favorite redeemed and purchased digital movies from participating digital retailers on an array of platforms, including Xbox and Windows 10 devices; Amazon Fire devices; Android devices and Android TV; Chromecast; iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; Roku devices and popular browsers.

Movies Anywhere and Microsoft have also announced two limited-time offers to celebrate the new partnership. Movies Anywhere users will get an exclusive sneak peek at a bonus feature from Deadpool 2, and through Aug. 28, users who sync their account for the first time with Microsoft or another participating digital retailer will automatically receive X-Men: Days of Future Past in their digital movie collection.

“This launch has been highly anticipated by our most passionate movie fans, and we are very excited to bring Microsoft into the Movies Anywhere family,” said Karin Gilford, GM of Movies Anywhere. “Movies Anywhere brings your movie collection together quickly and easily, and we’re thrilled to share this benefit with Microsoft customers. Since our launch just nine months ago, consumers have stored more than 135 million movies on our app, and both content and quality continue to grow with the onboarding of new retailers like Microsoft.”

“We are thrilled that Microsoft now supports Movies Anywhere,” said Pedro Gutierrez, director of movies and TV at Microsoft. “With Movies Anywhere, all of your eligible movies from Microsoft can be enjoyed across your favorite screens at no extra cost. Microsoft Movies & TV allows you to watch the newest movies across your favorite devices — like Xbox — before streaming services or disc, and without subscription or membership fees.”