‘Friends’ No More: Netflix Loses Key Content to Start 2020

New Year’s Day 2020 started ominously for Netflix as it officially no longer can stream ongoing syndication hit “Friends,” the former NBC sitcom that introduced Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe to American living rooms and made household names of Jennifer Aniston and others.

The 26-year-old series stopped airing on primetime television 16 years ago, but has remained a lucrative product on syndication, packaged media and streaming.

Netflix lost exclusive “Friends” streaming rights to WarnerMedia’s pending streaming service HBO Max, which paid $425 million over five years to snag all 236 episodes of the series. “Friends” reportedly was the second-most-popular series on Netflix in 2018, according to Nielsen.

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HBO Max reportedly spent billions more to secure exclusive streaming rights to “South Park” and “The Big Bang Theory”.

“How [‘Friends’ exit] impacts [Netflix] in terms of subscribers … will really depend on what else they have coming up that we’re not focused on,” Courtney Williams, Europe regional director for Parrot Analytics, told Vanity Fair.

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Indeed, Netflix original series “Stranger Things” and “The Witcher” continue to congregate atop weekly Parrot Analytics charts tracking the most on-demand programming.

“I don’t think any specific content matters at all to Netflix,” Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in an email. The analyst contends the bigger threat to Netflix is when other content creators collectively divert content toward proprietary services.

With Netflix increasingly losing Disney/Fox, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. content, consumers will feel compelled to try new services offering recognizable programming and/or favorite shows, according to Pachter.

The analyst believes Netflix will lose around two-thirds of its content (measured in viewing hours) and will have a tough time replacing that with content of similarly perceived quality. At the same time, Pachter says competitors such as HBO Max will take awhile to gain traction with consumers.

“We expect the [Netflix No. 1] status quo to be largely maintained until the end of 2021,” he said. “For now, Netflix provides tremendous value for its subscribers.”

Free TV Streaming Service ‘Locast’ Fights Back Against Major Broadcasters With Countersuit

Locast, the free New York-based service that streams broadcast television feeds online, on Sept. 27 filed a lawsuit against NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC, alleging the major broadcasts colluded to undermine its business, among other claims.

The service claims to have about 700,000 registered users/donors across 13 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, N.Y., is counter litigation against against a civil complaint filed by broadcasters in July against Locast and its non-profit advocacy group Sports Fans Coalition NY parent, alleging the platform violated the content copyrights and revenue streams from pay-TV distributors.

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Locast founder David Goodfriend, in his countersuit, claims the networks colluded to put pressure on pay-TV operators in an effort to undermine his business model.

Under federal law, broadcasters must make their signals available to the public through a digital antennae. But pay-TV operators pay networks retransmission fees to distribute their signals.

Locast, as a non-profit, argues it merely acts as a “signal booster.”

“This is classic copyright abuse,” read the complaint. “[Networks] have misused copyrights to expand their market power beyond what those copyrights were intended to protect.”

Unique to the case is the fact Locast has received funding from major media companies such as AT&T ($500,000), which owns WarnerMedia, and Google’s YouTube.

The suit alleges the networks threatened YouTube with litigation if it enabled Locast to operate on its servers.

Yet, when AT&T’s DirecTV satellite distributor and U-verse pay-TV channel had a retransmissions fee dispute with CBS this summer, it directed its 6.5 million subs blacked out from CBS content to use Locast.

Indeed, Dish Network offers the Locast app to its satellite and Sling TV subs as alternative on its AirTV devices.

‘The Good Place’ Season 3 on DVD July 30

Shout! Factory will release The Good Place: The Complete Third Season on DVD July 30.

The NBC comedy series follows ordinary people Eleanor (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) as they navigate the afterlife with the help of an “angel” named Michael (Ted Danson) and his assistant, Janet (D’Arcy Carden).

In the third season, the humans are given a second chance at life in order to earn their way into the good place, though it soon becomes apparent that the system may be rigged to prevent anyone from avoiding the bad place despite how good they may be.

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The season three DVD includes all 13 episodes, plus extended episodes, audio commentaries, a gag reel and a visual effects reel.

NBC recently renewed the series for a fourth and final season to begin Sept. 26.

Season 1 of ‘Manifest’ on DVD July 23

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Manifest: The Complete First Season on DVD July 23.

The NBC series deals with a plane that inexplicably disappears on a trans-oceanic flight and returns five years later with no time having passed for the passengers. The first season comprises 16 episodes.

“Manifest” stars Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas, Athena Karkanis, J.R. Ramirez, Luna Blaise, Jack Messina and Parveen Kaur.

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Poll: 44% Say Netflix Vital Source of Video Content

While Disney rolls out its branded “Disney Plus” subscription streaming video service for investors, new data from Hub Research finds that 44% of consumers consider Netflix an important source of content.

The research firm’s “The Evolution of Video Branding” study found that the vast majority of respondents from a January poll of 1,692 consumers in the United States chose Netflix over other over-the-top video services for their video content.

Other entertainment sources include CBS (29%), ABC (28%), NBC (28%) and ESPN (24%).

Among younger respondents (16-34 years-old), 59% opted for Netflix, followed by Hulu (26%), ESPN (24%), HBO (17%) and Amazon Prime Video (17%). Among older respondents CBS ranked first with 41%, followed by ABC (37%), NBC (37%), Netflix (35%) and Fox (26%).

Notably, the report found that while respondents were familiar online TV services such as Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue, 80% claimed they were unaware of what each platform’s value proposition was.

Indeed, among younger respondents, simply branding video content “original” was enough to make them consider streaming it. And 69% considered Netflix the best choice for original fare.

“It would be easy to explain Netflix’s strong position as a must-have TV source by citing the sheer variety of its content,” Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Then again, the same can be said of the variety of shows on broadcast networks. Whether it’s a function of a higher level of show quality or of strong branding — or both — Netflix has managed to set itself apart from networks that offer a similarly wide variety of genre choice.”

Netflix’s ‘Umbrella Academy’ Tops ‘TV Time’ Binge Week Chart

Netflix’s just-released superhero series, “The Umbrella Academy,” was the most binge-watched show of the week Feb. 11-17, according to new data from TVTime.com.

The website registers a binge session when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the TV Time app within a given day.

“Umbrella Academy,” which co-stars Ellen Page spearheading a dysfunctional family of superheroes, was binged-watched 3.29%, compared to “One Day at a Time” (Netflix), which was binge-watched 2.59%. Rounding out the podium was “Friends,” the former NBC sitcom being binge-viewed 2.57%.

Previous-week top shows – Netflix’s “Russian Doll” and “Sex Education” – ranked ninth and seventh, respectively. NBC’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and reruns of “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS All Access) ranked fourth and 10th, respectively.

The CW had two shows in the Top 10 with “Gossip Girl” (6th) and “Riverdale” (8th).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season 2 of ‘The Good Place’ Due on DVD July 17

NBC’s The Good Place: The Complete Second Season will come out on DVD July 17 from Shout! Factory.

From executive producer Michael Schur (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Parks and Recreation”), “The Good Place” stars Kristen Bell (“Veronica Mars”) and Ted Danson (“Cheers”) in a comedy about the afterlife.

Bonus features include extended episodes, new audio commentaries with cast and crew, a gag reel, and a visual effects reel.

‘American Idol’ Going Live Nationwide

Ratings-challenged “American Idol” announced it would for the first time air live simulcasts nationwide of the remaining three weeks of season 16 of the music performance reality show. Previous telecasts have been tape-delayed for Westcoast audiences.

The series, which began airing for the first time in March on ABC after its original run (through 2016) on Fox, is down to 14 contestants. Celebrity judges this season include Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Ritchie.

Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, revamped “Idol” has struggled against rival reality show, “The Voice” on NBC, whose first-time celebrity judge Kelly Clarkson was the original “Idol” winner on the show’s inaugural 2002 season.

Despite reportedly luring Perry to “Idol” with a $25 million payday, the show has trailed “The Voice” in TV viewers for the past five weeks. Indeed, “Idol” ratings last week dropped to an all-time low among the coveted 18-49 demographic.

Media reports suggest Perry’s antics on the show, which include kissing an unsuspecting male contestant and pulling a strand of hair from 19-year-old long-haired contestant Cade Foehner on the April 22 show, are politically incorrect in the #MeToo era.

Universal to Release First Season of ‘Will & Grace’ Revival on DVD June 12

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release Will & Grace (The Revival): Season One on DVD June 12.

Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally reprise their roles as Will, Grace, Jack and Karen after a 10-year hiatus, and the new season picks back up right where it left off — best friends navigating life together once again. Guest stars include Bobby Cannavale, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Alec Baldwin, Minnie Driver and many more.

The DVD includes all 16 episodes plus bonus features, including deleted scenes; a gag reel; “Back to the Beginning,” in which the cast and crew discuss what made the show so special and the relevance it continues to have; “Reuniting the Team,” detailing how what started as a PSA turned viral and sparked the revival of the show; and “Classic Comedy,” in which series director Jimmy Burrows and the cast discuss creating comedy.

NBC Airing First-Ever Live Winter Olympics Virtual Reality Coverage

NBC Jan. 8 announced it would provide more than 50 hours of live virtual reality coverage during the XXIII Olympic Winter Games from PyeongChang, South Korea.

Virtual Reality immerses the viewer into an environment, whether real or imagined, creating either a lifelike experience at a place in the real world or putting a viewer into simulated environments such as in a VR game.

The VR coverage will be available to authenticated users with Windows Mixed Reality headsets, Samsung Gear VR, and both Google Cardboard and Google Daydream, with compatible iOS or Android devices via the NBC Sports VR app.

It marks the first time that VR will be available for a Winter Olympics and that VR programming will be live in the U.S on a wide range of devices and platforms.

“The Olympics have long been an opportunity to showcase emerging media technology,” Gary Zenkel, president, NBC Olympics, said in a statement.

VR programming will include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, alpine skiing, curling, snowboarding, skeleton, figure skating, short track, ski jumping, ice hockey, and big air, among other events.

NBC Olympics will offer VR replays of all events previously livestreamed; one daily 360-degree video of a sport not available in VR the previous day; and packaged highlights from the day before.

“We are enabling a truly immersive experience, where fans get closer to the action than ever before allowing them feel like they are sitting in the stands for a front and center view of history being made,” said James Carwana, VP and GM of Intel Sports Group, which is working with NBC on VR coverage. 

Viewers will be able to customize their experience by switching between multiple vantage points, hear natural sound captured at each camera location to provide a truly immersive experience, and enjoy real-time stats, leaderboards and post-event results.

Viewers will also be able to “fly” through the Olympic world, tour Olympic venues and different areas throughout Korea.

NBC Olympics will also provide content prior to the start of the Games, with behind-the-scenes content captured with Intel True VR technology. VR users will be able to experience a winter sports athlete prepare for the Games; witness the culture, sights and beauty of Korea; and explore the PyeongChang Olympic venues.

Programming will span every day of the Games – with the exception of Feb. 18 – beginning the day of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 9, and concluding with the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 25.

NBC Olympics’ first foray into VR was for the Rio Olympics in 2016. Most programming was presented on next-day delay.