Did Netflix’s ‘El Camino’ Run Out of Gas?

Netflix’s big-budget “Breaking Bad” movie sequel (El Camino) from creator Vince Gilligan offers a lengthy tale of morality and redemption through the gritty eyes of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) — the meth-cooking partner-in-crime to high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston), whose character perished in the 2013 series finale.

El Camino — name of the 1978 Chevrolet Pinkman made his escape in the series conclusion — premiered on Netflix Oct. 11, reportedly generating 8.2 million viewers in the United States opening weekend, including an average of 6.5 million per minute, and 2.6 million per minute opening day, according Nielsen.

Some media reports say the data portended a strong theatrical weekend if Netflix bothered to distribute original movies via industry norms.

The data made news largely based on the “Breaking Bad” legacy and the fact Netflix remains secretive about ratings data of original programming.

It also suggests the possibility El Camino hasn’t generated much traction with subscribers as might be expected compared with other high-profile Netflix movies. Or perhaps Nielsen disclosed incomplete data.

Regardless, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and CCO Ted Sarandos made no mention of the movie during the service’s Oct. 16 fiscal webcast. Which was telling.

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The service last year said a lot about Bird Box, Sandra Bullock’s dystopian thriller that attracted 45 million households during its first week of release.

Kevin Costner’s Bonnie & Clyde thriller The Highwaymen generated 40-million first-month views, and Ben Affleck auctioneer Triple Frontier attracted 52 million households in 30 days.

The Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston original comedy Murder Mystery set an all-time weekend streaming record with 30.87 million views. Another 20 million streamed The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus.

On the Oct. 16 webcast, however, Sarandos just talked about pending movie releases 6 Underground, The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes, among others.

“It’s our first time we’ve seen the scale and this volume of films in one quarter, so we’re really excited about it,” Sarandos said.

Meanwhile, El Camino remains idling in the garage.

‘Breaking Bad’ Movie a Streaming Sensation

El Camino, the feature film sequel to the TV series “Breaking Bad,” was seen by nearly 6.5 million viewers its opening weekend, according to Nielsen, the ratings company.

According to Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings, the film reached nearly 8.2 million unique viewers in the United States during its first three days of availability on Netflix.

El Camino has Aaron Paul reprising his role as Jesse Pinkman, who in the series finale had been enslaved by a drug lord and ordered to cook meth, only to be set free by his former partner, Walter White (Bryan Cranston. He’s last seen driving off in an El Camino that belonged to a drug lord.

Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings does not include mobile or PC streaming.

Netflix Nabs Rights to Comic Book Series ‘Bone’

Netflix on Oct. 16 announced that it has secured the rights to Jeff Smith’s  New York Times best-selling international comic book series, Bone, with plans to develop an animated children’s series that follows the Bone cousins on an adventure through a desert and into a mysterious valley filled with various creatures.

Bone has been published in over 30 countries since 1991, with over 8 million copies sold in North America alone.

“I’ve waited a long time for this,” Smith said in a statement. “Netflix is the perfect home for Bone. Fans of the books know that the story develops chapter by chapter and book by book. An animated series is exactly the way to do this! The team at Netflix understands Bone and is committed to doing something special – this is good news for kids and cartoon lovers all over the world.”

Report: India Considering Censorship of Netflix, Amazon, Disney Streaming Video Content

With India and its second-largest population in the world, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney have aggressively sought an over-the-top video presence in the nascent market.

The influx of foreign SVOD services has reportedly prompted some government officials to ask for increased monitoring of content on the platforms — above existing regulations.

Reuters reports that public complaints about alleged obscenity or religious slights included in foreign streamed programming has some Indian lawmakers considering content censorship.

“The self-regulation isn’t the same for all, which is raising a concern … the directions are clear, we have to see how to address the problems,” an unidentified government official told the news agency.

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Indeed, Netflix and Disney-owned Hotstar agreed to sign a self-regulation of content code, while Amazon did not.

Netflix’s popular original series “Sacred Games,” about an Indian cop rooting out corruption and violence, has reportedly faced unsuccessful legal challenges regarding alleged offensive scenes and negative comments about Hindus and a former Prime Minister.

Other complaints have revolved around the lack of mandatory anti-smoking messages on Bollywood content streaming Netlfix and Prime Video.

“With [censorship] regulation, all of the [global] content will need to be sanitized for India – a huge, expensive and time-consuming exercise,” global tech analyst Prasanto Roy told Reuters.

“Sacred Games,” now in its second season, has been an international hit for Netflix, including translation in 20 languages.

“We’ve been producing shows that are incredibly relevant in their home territories, and the nice windfall is that they get viewed all over the world,” Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos said March. “It’s really accelerating the brand perception of Netflix as … someone who’s producing content that you care about in every part of the world.”


Netflix Brass Doubles Down Indifference to Pending SVOD Competition

With Disney and Apple just weeks away from launching branded subscription streaming video services, Netflix remains defiant to the pending competition, which includes service launches from WarnerMedia (HBO Max) and NBC Universal (Peacock) early next year.

Speaking on the Oct. 16 fiscal earnings webcast, CCO Ted Sarandos walked back any apparent corporate weakness regarding comments CEO Reed Hastings made in the United Kingdom last month about a whole new world in over-the-top video awaiting come November.

“I think I got the subtlety of the brave – the whole new world Aladdin reference,” Sarandos quipped. “Everyone else took it pretty literal.”

Many on Wall Street had taken Hastings’ comment to suggest Netflix was concerned, especially after HBO Max and Peacock took away Netflix streaming rights to popular reruns of “Seinfeld” and “The Office,” respectively.

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“From when we began in [2007] streaming, Hulu and YouTube and Amazon Prime Video were all in the market,” Hastings said. “All four of us have been competing heavily, including with linear TV, for the last 12 years. So fundamentally, there’s not a big change here.”

Hastings said he found it “interesting” to see both Apple and Disney launching services in the same week after 12 years of not showing much interest in SVOD.

“I was being a little playful with a whole new world in the sense of the drama of it coming,” Hastings added. “But fundamentally, it’s more of the same, and Disney is going to be a great competitor. Apple is just beginning, but they’ll probably have some great shows, too.”

Indeed, until just recently, Disney exclusively licensed original movies and rights to create original Marvel TV series to Netflix.

The Netflix co-founder reiterated that the SVOD market remains more in competition with linear TV than within its market. He said OTT video is still a relatively small player compared to broadcast TV.

“So, just like in the [shareholder] letter … [writing about] multiple cable networks over the last 30 years not really competing with each other fundamentally but competing with broadcast TV, I think it’s the same kind of dynamic here [with streaming video],” Hastings said.


Netflix Just Misses Q3 Subscriber Growth Estimates; Shares Up Regardless

Netflix Oct. 16 said it added 6.77 million subscribers in the third quarter ended Sept. 30. The tally was 230,000 fewer than the subscription streaming video pioneer had projected — but up 700,000 subs from the previous-year period.

In the U.S., paid net sub adds totaled 500,000, down from 800,000 forecast and 998,000 last year. It ended the period with 60.6 million domestic subs compared to 56.9 million in the previous-year period.

The SVOD behemoth has added 2.1 million domestic subs through nine months of the fiscal year compared 4.1 million in the first nine months of 2018.

Netflix ended the fiscal period with 158.33 million subs worldwide compared to 130.42 million subs during the previous-year period.

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In the shareholder letter, CEO Reed Hastings and CFO Spencer Neumann tried sugarcoating the sub growth miss as a result of management’s desire to “strive for accuracy” in fiscal disclosures.

“In Q3, our guidance forecast was our most accurate in recent history,” they wrote.

Netflix cited the recent domestic price hike for undermining sub retention from pre-price-change levels in the U.S.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based service has revised downward global Q4 sub growth estimates to 7.6 million from 8.8 million a year ago, with 600,000 in the U.S. and 7 million for the international segment.

The projection suggests Netflix would add 26.7 million subs in 2019, down from 28.6 million last year.

Again, management alluded to “less precision” in its ability to forecast the impact of the current Q4 content slate, which consists of several new big IP launches (as opposed to returning seasons), the elevated sub churn in response to price changes, and forthcoming competition, i.e. Apple TV+, Disney+.

“While the new competitors have some great titles (especially catalog titles), none have the variety, diversity and quality of new original programming that we are producing around the world,” Hastings & Neumann wrote.

Indeed, the service said revenue growth has accelerated as domestic ARPU increased 16.5% from the previous-year period.

“With more revenue, we’ll continue to invest to improve our service to further strengthen our value proposition,” they wrote. “Our long term outlook on our business is unchanged.”

Finally, Netflix’s legacy by-mail disc rental service ended the period with more than 2.2 million subs, down from 2.8 million last year. The segment continues to generate substantial profits with more than $44 million added to the bottom line. That was down from contribution income of $51.6 million last year.

Wall Street welcomed Netflix’s increase profit (up 65% to $665 million) and relatively flat sub additions. Shares increased more than 8% in aftermarket trading.


Hulu Adds ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ Buttons to Content

Hulu Oct. 16 announced it is adding a Netflix-like perk for viewers interested rating content negatively or positively. The like/dislike buttons give viewers the opportunity to provide Hulu direct feedback on content recommendations.

When a viewer “likes” a show or movie, Hulu will suggest similar titles and TV shows. Conversely, if  programming is “disliked,” a show or movie will disappear from the subscriber’s screen.

“We’re beginning to roll out this feature today on Hulu.com, Amazon Fire TV devices, XboxOne, Nintendo Switch, select LG, Samsung, and Android TVs, VIZIO SmartCast TVs, and Chromecast, with other devices coming soon,” Jason Wong, director, product management, said in a statement.

Hulu is also upping user personalization to the home page, including displaying the most relevant content collections and ordering them based on the subscriber’s preferences.

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“As we roll this out, our viewers will not only be able to find their favorite shows and movies faster, but also see more diverse and relevant collections,” Wong wrote. “For animation fans, we’ll show the collection of animation programs higher on their home page, and for those who never watch kids content, we’ll order the kids collection lower on the page.”

Hulu’s improved search functions include accepting sentence abbreviations and spell check. Wong said that during testing of spell check, the software was able to identify and correct over 1,500 unique misspellings for “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

“We’ll be rolling out even more improvements to our recommendation engine to build collections tied to what you watched in the past and refine suggestions for upcoming content,” he wrote.


Netflix’s ‘Big Mouth’ Again Top Binge, CW’s ‘Batwoman’ Top ‘Show on the Rise’ on TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “Big Mouth” took the top spot on the “Binge Report” for a second week, while The CW’s “Batwoman” led the “Shows on the Rise” on the TV Time charts for the week ended Oct. 13.

TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program.

The third season of “Big Mouth,” an animated series aimed at adults, hit screens Oct. 4. It follows pre-teens and teens experiencing the wonders and horrors of puberty.

“Batwoman,” which premiered on The CW Oct. 6, stars Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, who is seeking justice as Batwoman in Gotham City.

Two Netflix shows, “Insatiable” and “The Hook Up Plan,” took the silver and bronze spots on both charts. “Insatiable,” the second season of which hit screens Oct. 11, was the No. 2 binge and No. 3 show on the rise. It follows a once-overweight beauty queen seeking revenge. “The Hook Up Plan,” a French series, was the No. 2 show on the rise and No. 3 binge. Set in Paris, the series follows a group of friends who hire a male escort to date their perpetually single friend Elsa. In the second season, which also debuted Oct. 11, Elsa returns to Paris after four months away.

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended Oct. 6 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Big Mouth” (Netflix) — 3.88%
  2. “Insatiable” (Netflix) — 3.13%
  3. “The Hook Up Plan” (Netflix) — 3.o7%
  4. “Friends” (NBC) — 2.37%
  5. “Peaky Blinders” (BBC One) — 2.24%
  6. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) — 1.94%
  7. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) — 1.53%
  8. “Elite” (Netflix) — 1.39%
  9. “Lucifer” (Netflix) — 1.33%
  10. “Disenchantment” (Netflix) — 1.30%


Top Shows on the Rise Week Ended Oct. 6 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Batwoman” (The CW) — 99.9%
  2. “The Hook Up Plan” (Netflix) — 96.9%
  3. “Insatiable” (Netflix) — 96%
  4. “Haunted” (Netflix) — 92.8%
  5. “Coronation Street” (ITV) — 87.8%
  6. “All American” (The CW) — 86.9%
  7. “Legacies” (The CW) — 86.9%
  8. “Super Dragon Ball Heroes” (YouTube) — 84.9%
  9. “Riverdale” (The CW) — 80.2%
  10. “Mr. Robot” (USA) — 76%

Parks Associates: User Interface Important in Video Service Satisfaction

Almost three-quarters (70%) of U.S. broadband households with a major video service consider its user interface to be good, with 48% rating it “very good,” and these scores impact their willingness to recommend the service to others, according to research from Parks Associates.

Analysis of consumer responses reveals quality of the user interface and the ease of finding content are the most likely factors to drive willingness to recommend a video service.

In addition, one-fifth of households cancelling an OTT subscription cited an inability to find something to watch as a factor.

“Consumers are interested in finding particular shows or genres of content and have less interest in browsing by channel,” said Kristen Hanich, senior analyst, Parks Associates, in a statement.

The new report UI Preferences and Content Discovery examines consumer preferences related to new UI options and the ways that consumers find, and want to find, entertainment content. It also explores preferences by owners of various in-home devices and examines interest in new innovations such as smart speakers, personal assistants and voice interaction.

“User interfaces are a key factor driving satisfaction for OTT services, and Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon — the big three in OTT streaming — have largely set the standard for content navigation and ease of use,” Hanich said in a statement. “Other services have had to follow similar structures established by these three, but as new OTT services launch with greater and greater expectations, innovations in UIs could be an even greater differentiator contributing to their success or failure.”

Other findings include:

  • 70% of CE purchasers said ease of use is a “very important” purchase consideration;
  • when searching for something to watch, 12% of OTT users consider recommendations from the service as their first step; and
  • Apple TV owners give high marks to the device’s UI.

‘Stranger Things’ Spends 16th Week Atop Parrot Analytics’ TV Demand Charts

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” remained No. 1 on not only Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended Oct. 12, but also the data firm’s overall list of TV series from any platform, including broadcast and cable, for the 16th straight week.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

For the week, “Stranger Things” registered 93.4 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was down 20% in expressions compared with the previous week.

The show has done a number of things to stay in the spotlight since the July premiere of its third season, from extensive merchandising to Netflix signing its creators and some of its stars to new development deals.  Oct. 12 cast member David Harbour even hosted “Saturday Night Live,” which placed third on Parrot’s demand expressions rankings for all TV shows.

DC Universe’s “Titans” held onto the No. 2 spot on the digital originals chart, with expressions up 0.72% to 52.2 million. The show is in the midst of its second season.

Jumping up to No. 3 on the digital originals chart was Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” up from No. 26 the previous week. It doubled expressions to 16.8 million to 33.6 million after the Oct. 4 release of its third season.

Netflix’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” dropped a spot to No. 4, with expressions down 5% to 32 million.

Amazon Prime Video’s “The Boys” slipped to No. 5, though expressions rose 0.5% to 30.7 million.

CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Discovery” returned to the top 10, hitting No. 9 from No. 17 the previous week. Its demand expressions were up 17.3% to 23 million after a trailer for its third season debuted at New York Comic Con.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from 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.

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.