ESPN+ Streaming Video Service Tops 1 Million Subs

The Walt Disney Co.’s direct-to-consumer and international segment Sept. 20 announced that ESPN+, the subscription streaming video service, has surpassed 1 million paying subscribers since its April launch.

The $4.99 monthly service ($49.99 per year) represents Disney’s first foray into branded standalone OTT video – a strategy Disney began implementing with the $3.75 billion acquisition of BAMTech in 2017.

“Reaching one million paid subscribers … in such a short time is an incredible testament to the teams from DTCI and ESPN who have worked tirelessly to bring this product to market,” Kevin Mayer, chairman, direct-to-consumer and international, The Walt Disney Co., said in a statement.

ESPN+ is intended to complement the ESPN pay-TV network, while focusing on global sports and original programming, including new “30 for 30 documentary, “Seau” (directed by Kirby Bradley); original studio programs, “Always Late with Katie NolanDetail from Kobe Bryant, The Fantasy Show with Mathew BerryESPN FC”, “In The Crease”, “Ariel and the Bad Guy with Ariel Helwani; original series like Earn Everything” about Duke Basketball, NBA: YearOneDraft Academy and Quest for The Stanley Cup; and the entire “30 For 30” library, among other shows.

ESPN+ is part of the ESPN app available across mobile (iOS, Android) and living room devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku. ESPN+ is also available on the Web through ESPN.com.

An update to the ESPN App (v 6.2) last month integrated “ESPN Insider” into the ESPN+ service, enabling subs access to editorial analysis on players, teams, and leagues, as well as analytics tools to help users get an edge in their fantasy games.

ESPN+ subs get a differentiated advertising experience throughout the entire ESPN App or website, with no display ads and no pre-roll ads within video content (ads remain in the natural advertising breaks of live sports content).

“Combining sports, technology and the ESPN brand is a very powerful combination,” said Jimmy Pitaro, president of ESPN and co-chair, Disney Media Networks.

 

Report: Global OTT Video Revenue to Reach $129 Billion by 2023

Spurred by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, worldwide revenue from online access to TV shows and movies is projected to reach $129 billion in 2023 – more than double the $53 billion generated in 2017, according to new data from Digital TV Research. Global OTT video revenue is expected to reach $71 billion this year.

From the 138 countries covered in DTV report, “Global OTT TV & Video Forecasts,”the top five will command 69% of worldwide revenue by 2023. This percentage is down from 73% in 2017; suggesting the rest of the world will grow at a faster rate. Or that both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are global operations.

OTT revenue will exceed $1 billion in 17 countries by 2023; up from 10 countries in 2017.

“No prizes for guessing that the U.S. will remain the dominant territory by some distance,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at DTVR, said in a statement. “However, its share of global revenue will fall from 43% in 2017 to 37% by 2023. We forecast that revenue in the U.S. will more than double between 2017 and 2023 – adding nearly $25 billion to reach $48 billion.”

Next to the U.S. – birthplace of OTT video – China will add $17 billion to nearly triple its OTT video revenue to $26 billion. China’s share of the world’s total will climb from 16% in 2017 to 20% in 2023.

Subscription video on-demand became the largest OTT revenue source in 2016 by overtaking ad-supported VOD. SVOD’s share of the total will increase from 47% in 2017 to 53% in 2023. The report contends that SVOD revenue will climb by nearly $44 billion between 2017 and 2023 to take the total to $69 billion.

AVOD revenue will increase by $27 billion between 2017 and 2023 to take its total to $47 billion (36% of total revenue).

Season Two of ‘The Crown’ Coming to Disc Nov. 13 From Sony

The Crown: Season Two debuts on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 13 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The second season of the Emmy-winning Netflix series ushers in the revolutionary era of the 1960s, following Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) from 1956 to 1964 as she continues to navigate her changing role on the global stage. From the Suez Canal crisis to the resignation of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan under scandal, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the season follows the challenges and triumphs of her reign.

The Blu-ray and DVD will include all 10 episodes along with two featurettes, “The Royal Rules of Etiquette” and “Horses & Hounds: The Queen’s Companions” and a gallery of on-set photography. The Blu-ray also includes an additional exclusive featurette, “Fact or Fiction with Robert Lacey: Breaking Down the Pivotal Scandals,” which dives into which royal plot points were real vs. “imagined,” and “Tea Time Trivia” which pops up trivia about the Royal family and the making of the show, for every episode.

In addition to Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, Matt Smith stars as (TV’s “Doctor Who,” Terminator: Genisys) as the Duke of Edinburgh, Vanessa Kirby (Me Before You, Everest) as Princess Margaret and Matthew Goode (TV’s “Downton Abbey,” The Imitation Game) as Tony Armstrong-Jones, all of whom were nominated for Emmy Awards for their performances. The series also stars Victoria Hamilton (TV’s “Victoria & Albert,” Mansfield Park), Jeremy Northam (Eye in the Sky, Glorious 39), Greg Wise (Blackwood, Effie Gray), Jodi Balfour (TV’s “True Detective”) and Michael C. Hall (TV’s “Dexter” and “Six Feet Under”).

Foy recently won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for the role.

IHS: Video/TV Content Recommendation Technology Still Wanting

Over-the-top video platforms and pay-TV operators have long sought to incorporate content recommendation technology to enhance their subscribers’ viewing experience. Now, new data from IHS Markit suggests just 7% of all survey respondents across five markets surveyed – the U.S., U.K., Japan, Brazil and Germany – rely primarily on content recommendations by their TV or video providers.

Not surprisingly, respondents who chose not to use content recommendations viewed the technology less favorably compared to those who used it. For example, among respondents who rated the user experience at least one video service as “very poor,” 18% still prefer to find content by clicking through channels. Just 12% of those who rated a user experience as “very good” use the same method.

IHS said the finding underscore the importance of encouraging users to utilize newer forms of content discovery on video platforms, in order to improve overall satisfaction video services.

Content recommendation satisfaction varies greatly by distribution format. Just 25% of TV viewers of Fox, ABC and NBC rated these networks as “very good” for finding content to watch. Another 25% rated the overall user experience as “very good.”

By comparison, Netflix’s ongoing appeal globally is amplified by the fact 52% of its subs rated the service “very good” for finding content they want to watch and 55% also rated their user experience “very good.” Not only does this finding highlight the value of the Netflix content recommendation software, it also underscores the connection between content discovery and an easy-to-navigate user experience.

IHS said video providers trying to match Netflix on content discovery must also contend with big discrepancies among various consumer age groups. About 23% of consumers age 17 to 34 prefer to discover content using their search functionality provided by their video services; however, this number falls to just 10% for consumers age 55 and older, 49% of whom preferred using a TV guide. 

Content recommendations from friends and social media is another key area to better understand and leverage competitive differences among TV and video providers. This type of content recommendation fell from a peak of 10% in 17- to 24- year-olds to a low of 3% among consumers age 65 and older.

IHS said the finding reveals that targeting key groups in the lower age range can potentially help proliferate knowledge of content availability.

 

Netflix Finally Available on Sky

Netflix, beginning Sept. 19, is now available as a direct link to U.K. pay-TV service Sky – about six months after first announcing a partnership with the high-profile satellite TV operator.

The SVOD behemoth is available to Sky’s most-expensive Q bundle for an extra £10 monthly as part of Sky’s “Ultimate On Demand” add-on feature. Existing Netflix subscribers can link their account to Sky Q or log onto the Netflix app separately.

But direct access, including Netflix original programing on display alongside traditional pay-TV selections is precisely why multichannel video program distributors such as Comcast, Virgin Media (since 2013), Altice USA, Charter Spectrum, Cox, Liberty Global and T-Mobile, among others, have embraced Netflix.

“We are partnering with a growing number of pay-TV providers across the world to the benefit of our mutual customers,” Netflix said in its Q4 shareholder letter. “These partnerships make it easier for consumers to sign up, enjoy, and pay for Netflix, while our service allows our partners to deepen their relationships with these subscribers.”

Amber Pine, commercial director at Sky, says the satellite TV operator with about 9 million U.K. subscribers has a lot of mutual customers.

“The depth of this integration provides them with a unique experience where they can have the best of both worlds,” Pine said in a statement.

Indeed, British regulator Ofcom recently reported that over-the-top video across the pond has now topped pay-TV in the number of subscribers: 15.4 million to 15.1 million.

“On a simplistic level, Sky and Netflix look like direct competitors,” Andrew McIntosh, the head of TV analysis at Enders Analysis, told Wired. “But they act on different levels, which Sky is well aware of. Sky doesn’t offer what Netflix offers. Now it is providing what it can’t offer, but still through the Sky package. And it makes Sky look good, because it is putting the customer first. It’s a very clever move.”

And interesting, considering both Comcast, Fox (and Disney) have competing acquisition bids on the table for Sky.

 

Marvel Superhero Series Surge on Digital Originals Chart

Two Marvel superhero series from Netflix are back in the top 10 on the digital originals chart for the week ended Sept. 15, led by “Marvel’s Iron Fist.”

The arrival of the highly anticipated second season propelled the action series to No. 4 from No. 22 the prior week, with a whopping 139% gain in Demand Expressions, Parrot Analytics data shows.

The perennially popular “Marvel’s Daredevil” also reappeared in the top 10 with a 20% bump in Demand Expressions, triggered by the release of a teaser trailer released on Sept. 11.

“Demand Expressions” is a proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Finales and premieres also impacted the top 10. After a successful season launch, Hulu’s “Castle Rock” ended on Sept. 12; high demand for the finale prompted the series – based on the writings of horror author Stephen King – to shoot back up to No. 2 from No. 4 the prior week, even though demand was up just 2%.

Meanwhile, “BoJack Horseman” experienced a 24% week-on-week spike on demand after new episodes started airing on Sept. 14, resulting in a bump up to No. 5 from No. 8.

“Stranger Things” remains No. 1 on the digital originals chart for the week ended Sept. 15, with demand relatively flat from the prior week.

The Netflix series took the top spot on the chart the previous week, ending a five-week run at No. 1 by “Orange is the New Black,” the women-in-prison drama series now in its sixth season.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

BBC Boss Strikes Populist Chord; Calls for Increased Funding, Greater Oversight on Foreign OTT Video

As expected, Tony Hall, director general of the publicly-owned British Broadcast Corporation, Sept. 18 issued a call to arms of sorts, as the public service broadcaster competes against international over-the-top video behemoths Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, among others.

In a keynote to the 2018 Royal Television Society London Conference in London, Hall said the BBC, which is funded by the government through a special tax, is increasingly asked to do more with less as operating budgets get cut.

He said that while Netflix and Amazon will spend a combined $13 billion on original content this year, the BBC and other public broadcasters will spend around $3.3 billion. Hall said the spending gap is resulting in a dearth of local content production, which he claims impacts British culture.

“Netflix and Amazon are not making up the difference,” Hall said. “Ofcom’s data suggests that less than 10% of the [catalog] of Netflix and Amazon [is] comprised of content produced in the U.K. Two separate estimates have suggested their investment into new U.K. programs is around £150 million a year.”

The executive believes reduced spending on localized content negatively impacts British viewers and the country.

“The content we produce is not just an ordinary consumer good,” Hall said. “It helps shape our society. It brings people together, it helps us understand each other and creates an incredibly powerful shared narrative.”

Specifically, the BBC claims to be a superior value economically to British consumers. Hall said each hour of BBC TV costs households 8 pence per hour to consume. For an equivalent SVOD service it’s around 17 pence and hour. And for a pay-TV service it’s 35 pence.

He said British media content is also a source of “soft power” required to combat fake news and online disinformation, which Hall claims contributes to the “undermining of traditional truths and values.”

The executive outlined five courses of action the BBC is addressing, which include original local content production, reinventing BBC services, investing more in children’s and young adult content, fighting fake news, and thinking beyond its London headquarters.

“But while we believe the BBC’s public mission is as important as ever, and that we can do more for Britain, we do not believe this ambition is sustainable with the resources we have,” Hall said.

He called on Britain to do more to support the broader PSB “ecology,” while sustaining “great relationships” with companies like Google, Apple, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Indeed, many “original” Netflix shows in the United States are licensed from the BBC, including, “River,” “The Great British Baking Show,” “The IT Crowd,” “Foyle’s War,” “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” “Wallander,” “Broadchurch,” “Planet Earth,” “London Spy,” and “Call the Midwife,” among others.

Netflix just announced it has secured exclusive U.S. rights to BBC One Drama, “Bodyguard, set to begin streaming Oct. 24.

“It’s important we work with them now and in the future,” Hall said.

At the same time, Hall argued “it cannot be right” that the U.K. media industry is competing against global SVOD giants with “one hand tied behind its back.”

He said the BBC is often hamstrung by government-mandated competition rules, advertising, taxation, content regulation, terms of trade and production quotas – rules he said “barely” apply to Netflix & Co.

“That needs rebalancing,” Hall said. “The big picture is a simple one: the public believes in public service broadcasting and a strong BBC.”

‘[Netflix & Co.] have their job to do, their services to provide. We have ours. Scale is not everything. Smaller can be beautiful,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon’s ‘Mrs. Maisel,’ HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Lead Way at 70th Emmys

For the second year in a row, a show from a streaming service won the Emmy for best series in its category.

While last year Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” won Outstanding Drama Series, this year it was Amazon Video taking the top prize in the Outstanding Comedy Series category with the first season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

“Maisel” ended up with eight Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Rachel Brosnahan as the title character, and Outstanding Supporting Actress for Alex Borstein (who won another Emmy this year for her voiceover work on Fox’s “Family Guy”).

The 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced Sept. 17 at a televised ceremony in Los Angeles and at the Creative Arts ceremony a week earlier.

Netflix and HBO ended up tied as the top networks with 23 wins apiece.

Outstanding Drama Series again went to HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” this time for its seventh season, which is readily available for digital download or on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Game of Thrones” previously won the Best Drama Series Emmy in 2015 and 2016 for its fifth and sixth seasons, respectively, but a quirk in its production meant the show didn’t air during the 2017 eligibility period, opening the door for “Handmaid’s Tale” to win last year.

“Thrones” won nine Emmys this year, including Peter Dinklage winning his third trophy for Outstanding Supporting Actor for the role of Tyrion Lannister (previously won in 2011 and 2015).

FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story won seven Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series. The nine-episode miniseries is available for digital download.

Among some other notable categories, HBO’s “Barry” (on DVD Oct. 2) won Outstanding Actor and Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Bill Hader and Henry Winkler, respectively. Matthew Rhys won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for the sixth and final season of FX’s “The Americans,” coming to DVD Oct. 23 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Claire Foy won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for playing Queen Elizabeth II in the second season of Netflix’s “The Crown.” And Thandie Newton won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for season two of HBO’s “Westworld,” which will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 4 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

For a complete list of 2018 winners, visit Emmys.com.

Netflix Picks Ownzones for Post Technology Alliance

Netflix has picked over-the-top video distribution and media company Ownzones Entertainment Technologies to be part of Netflix’s new Post Technology Alliance, a program for manufacturers whose products serve the needs of the post-production community through innovation and support.

Ownzones Connect provides content owners and post-production facilities with a fast and inexpensive cloud solution for processing and transferring video to any major streaming or broadcasting platform.

Manufacturers of products bearing the Post Technology Alliance logo have early access to the Netflix technical roadmap and collaborate with the subscription streaming giant on technical support, training, and updates. The Post Technology Alliance logo signals that a product meets and Netflix’s technical and delivery specifications.

“At Netflix, empowering our creative partners is incredibly important, and the Post Technology Alliance program will build a more seamless experience from production through post-production,” said Chris Fetner, director of post partnerships and integrations at Netflix. “Products that bear the logo are committed to better interoperability and faster innovation cycles, which will allow artists to focus their energy on what matters most – the storytelling.”

Since it was founded in 2010, Ownzones has created, launched and operated over 400 subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) channels, reaching hundreds of thousands of users and transcoding and managing more than 5 million digital assets. Recently Ownzones has pivoted toward its core technology competencies, building a suite of products centered around cloud-based video supply chain solutions.

“Our inclusion in the Netflix Post Technology Alliance is a huge vote of confidence in our technology and in Ownzones as a trusted service provider to entertainment companies that supply content to Netflix,” said Ownzones CEO Dan Goman. “Ownzones thrives in the evolving entertainment and tech landscape as the partner companies need today for tomorrow’s transformational changes, bringing complete video supply chain and monetization solutions under our customers’ command.”

Ownzones Connect is a cloud-native video supply chain platform with an on-demand, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. Hosted in the cloud through Amazon Web Services, Connect eliminates the need for studios and post-production houses to continually make capital investments in data servers and allows them to rapidly deliver any format to any platform, including IMF packages.

Ownzones Connect supports the SMPTE Interoperable Master Format (IMF), which is on track to become the industry standard for storing and transferring digital video files. Netflix already uses IMF to store its masters in the cloud.

Ownzones is currently attending IBC 2018, Europe’s largest media, entertainment and technology show, being held in Amsterdam through Sept. 18. Ownzones is showcasing its products in Amazon Web Service’s exhibit space.

Report: Content, Ease of Use Driving Global SVOD Growth

Original content – including localized fare, coupled with simplified billing and low-cost business models are driving over-the-top video service subscriber growth, according to new data from Vindicia, a Belmont, Calif.-based business-to-consumer subscription management company.

Research exploring the prospects of premium OTT service across Western Europe, U.S., Latin America and Asia Pacific was conducted by research firm MTM on behalf of Vindicia and found that the U.K. will remain the largest market for premium OTT in Western Europe, with revenue forecast to rise from $1.18 billion in 2017 to $1.63 billion by 2020.

In the U.S., OTT subscription revenue will surge past $21.2 billion by 2020, up from $16.4 billion in 2017. While Netflix, Amazon and Hulu will continue to dominate, direct-to-consumer offerings from the likes of Disney, specialist services such as Crunchyroll and WWE, and live sports delivered via OTT will also flourish.

Revenue from OTT services will also grow rapidly in Asia Pacific, albeit from a low base in some cases. Thailand, for instance, will see revenues rise from $66 million in 2017 to $108 million in 2020, while Indonesia will expand from $26 million to $72 million in the same period. The market for premium OTT services in Asia Pacific will be driven by pan-regional players, such as HOOQ, Viu and iflix, that focus on local content and are priced for local audiences.

“The demand for high-quality paid-for video services delivered via OTT is growing in all regions of the world,” Nick Thomas, associate director at MTM and author of the report, said in a sttement. “While it is important to understand local and regional trends, industry executives in all markets now recognize that exclusive content, appropriate pricing and seamless payment solutions are all key to acquiring new subscribers.”

Indeed, the premium OTT market in Australia is one of the largest in the Asia Pacific region and will continue to see considerable growth, with revenue reaching $420 million by 2020, up from $280 million in 2017, the study found. Netflix will be the dominant subscription service in Australia for the foreseeable future.

In Latin America, improved broadband connectivity is driving growth in premium OTT subscriptions, where local content offerings are bundled with internet access. However, greater connectivity is also encouraging content piracy. Mexico will become the largest market in Latin America for premium OTT services by 2020, with revenues forecast to reach $678 million, up from $410 million in 2017, according to the report.

“As revenue for premium OTT services increase in all regions and the global players continue to dominate, a common thread to this research is that consumers will nevertheless choose to subscribe to niche content when the price and the experience are right,” said Kris Nagel, head of Vindicia. “Premium OTT services that offer local, live and linear content, and that can also seamlessly integrate with payment platforms to make payments almost invisible to the user, can expect strong subscription growth going forward.”