Netflix Resumes ‘House of Cards’ Production; Diane Lane, Greg Kinnear Join Cast

Netflix Jan. 31 announced it has resumed production on the sixth and final (abbreviated) season of original series “House of Cards” in Baltimore following a forced three-month hiatus. The SVOD pioneer added Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear to cast, playing siblings in yet undisclosed storylines.

Production on the show came to a standstill last October when lead actor Kevin Spacey was publicly accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with a minor in the 1980s.

Subsequent revelations resulted in Netflix shutting down production, firing Spacey and shelving the actor’s biopic Gore, about writer Gore Vidal, among other projects. The actions contributed to Netflix reporting a $39 million write-down in its most-recent fiscal period.

“Cards,” along with “Orange Is the New Black,” helped put Netflix on the map creatively, winning myriad industry awards for Spacey as scheming politician Frank Underwood, and Robin Wright as his wife, Claire.

Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter contends the show can succeed despite likely losing viewers since the Spacey scandal broke and the storyline still being in the middle of its stride.

“My guess is that their audience going forward will be half as big as in the past” said Pachter.

The series is distributed at retail by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

SVOD, Studios Ready Super Bowl LII Ads

Amazon Studios will showcase its first Super Bowl ad for a TV show or movie when it airs a trailer for episodic series, “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski (“The Office”) – the fifth actor to play the title character after Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October in 1990.

Amazon will also run a humorous ad for voice-controlled Alexa losing her voice, with baffled CEO Jeff Bezos asking, “How is that even possible?”

“People are aware of Prime video, but they’re not always aware that they get this award-winning programming as part of the membership,” Mike Benson, head of marketing for Amazon Studios, told The Los Angeles Times.

The Big Game, which boasts a domestic TV audience of 100 million, again promises to be a showcase for Hollywood studios and subscription streaming video mainstays spending upwards millions per spot.

Few studio ads have been confirmed, but online speculation is rampant.

Paramount Pictures has myriad options, including spots for Krasinski’s horror thriller, A Quiet Place, in addition to Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, among others.  Universal Pictures has spots for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper and Fifty Shades Freed.

Walt Disney Studios could run ads for Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity Wars, among others. Warner Bros., Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox reportedly are not airing ads.

Hulu, which aired a 2017 Super Bowl ad for original series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” undoubtedly will run another spot considering corporate co-owner Comcast (NBC Sports) is broadcasting the game.

Netflix might air an ad for a Cloverfield sequel. The third installment in the franchise originally was set to be distributed by Paramount, until it wasn’t. Scuttlebutt at the Sundance Film Festival had Netflix acquiring global rights.

Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Ramping Up Original Content Spend

Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are switching from content licensing to content creation in a major way. By 2022, the investment in original movies and TV shows will triple to $10 billion annually, according to new data from The Diffusion Group.

“The Big-3 SVOD players own 60% of TV streaming time,” Brad Schlachter, senior advisor at TDG, said in a statement. “They are looking to maintain if not grow this share by creating compelling originals that serve both to attract new users and retain existing subscribers even as subscription rates increase.”

Indeed, among Netflix subscribers, 21% rate originals as “absolutely critical” in their decision to keep using Netflix, while 41% rank them “very important.”

“The data is unequivocal,” said Schlachter.

Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu – through sophisticated user data – have a much better understanding of the limits of licensed content versus the benefits of original fare.

TDG contends that as studios like Disney pull their most compelling content from SVOD platforms, the necessity of a strong slate of originals becomes all the more obvious.

But the Big-3 are not the only players eyeing a larger slice of the originals on-demand streaming market. In fact, companies such as Facebook and Apple are investing in original TV-quality programming to distribute directly to consumers.

“Of course, not all originals find an audience or generate a huge buzz,” said Schlachter. “But when they do, it can change the fortunes of a company. Just look at what ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ did for Hulu, or what ‘House of Cards’ did for Netflix.”

Netflix Interested in MoviePass?

NEWS ANALYSIS: Wall Street loves scuttlebutt. Rumors and speculation make stocks do crazy things.

On the morning of Jan. 30, shares of Helios and Matheson Analytics, majority owner of theatrical ticket subscription service MoviePass, edged up slightly (2%, the day after rising 9%) on talk Netflix is an interested suitor.

MoviePass has been in the news lately as a significant disruptor of the theatrical ecosystem. The service gives members access to one screening daily for a $9.95 monthly fee. In less than six months more than 1.5 million people have signed up.

What piques Wall Street attention about MoviePass – besides the disruptor subscription business model – is the fact that CEO Mitch Lowe once was a senior executive at Netflix and is often credited with co-launching the streaming video behemoth. Lowe also once headed Redbox.

Of course there is no official word from Netflix, considering many observers characterize the “news” as crazy.

MoviePass pays theater operators full value for tickets used by subscribers. The service is now trying to extract revenue-share agreements with major chains as it has with about 1,000 independent screens.

The company says it has driven significant attendance to theaters. Market observers contend MoviePass accounts for about 4% of foot traffic at AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest chain.

Indeed, Netflix has a tortured history with theaters. It doesn’t much care for them. The service contends the 90-day theatrical window is archaic in today’s tech-savvy market with ubiquitous access.

Netflix, which is planning to bow upwards of 80 feature movies through next year, makes original movies – such as the big-budget futuristic cop drama Bright – available globally for streaming concurrent with theatrical.

As a result, theaters passed on the Will Smith- Joel Edgerton buddy film that reportedly generated 11 million streamings in the first 72 hours upon launch. Ditto for Okja, the $50 million Korean sci-fi drama and Cannes Film Festival nominee.

Regardless, Wedbush Securities Michael Pachter says suggestion of Netflix’s interest in MoviePass is as much amusing as baffling.

“That makes no sense to me whatsoever,” Pachter said. “Remember, Mitch Lowe was a co-founder of Netflix [with Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph], and presumably, they’re no longer best friends.”

Netflix Expanding Spanish Pay-TV Access with Telefónica

Netflix reportedly is about to sign a distribution agreement with Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica.

Under terms of the deal – which hasn’t been publicly disclosed – Telefónica would offer full access (i.e. content integration) to Netflix on its Movistar pay-TV service, which has 3.7 million subscribers, according to Reuters.

By comparison, Netflix’s pay-TV deals with France’s Orange and Vodafone in the United Kingdom enable subscribers direct access to the SVOD pioneer.

Telefónica has operations in almost 20 countries outside Spain, and is the fourth-largest company globally, according to Forbes.

Moviestar, which recently launched original series, “The Plague” to record viewership for a Spanish telecom, has already taken a page from the Netflix playbook enabling subscribers access to all episodes at launch.

Indeed, 20% of viewers binged-streamed the entire series in the first four days, according to Variety.

Netflix has more than 1.1 million subs in Spain – low by European standards.

 

Netflix Snubs the Queen

Anyone familiar with Netflix award-winning original series, “The Crown,” knows Queen Elizabeth II puts loyalty to the monarchy above all else.

It’s status-quo the Queen isn’t to be denied. Ever.

So, it was humorous to read about Claire Foy, who won the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for “outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series” portraying Her Royal Highness, joke about the cast having to pay for Netflix.

“We got it [free] for six months and then it was cut off,” said Foy, as reported by In Touch Weekly.

A Netflix rep wasn’t immediately available about whether the Queen’s comp subscription would be renewed.

Netflix Launching Italian Pro Soccer Docu-Series

Netflix may not be interested in streaming live sports and Italy is not competing in this summer’s FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. But the SVOD behemoth understands the value of the world’s most-popular sport.

Beginning Feb. 16, Netflix will begin streaming globally the first three episodes of “First Team: Juventus,” a reality-based series about Italian Series A soccer powerhouse, Juventus Football Club S.p.A.

The series gives viewers – especially in the United States – an understanding of the players, the coaches and management of the club, which currently sits in 2nd in Series A competition behind Napoli. Juventus has won six straight Series A championships.

Netflix will follow the most compelling stories and characters on the club during the current 2017-2018 season, spending time with the players both on and off the field, on the road and at home.

Fans and supporters worldwide will have access to the club’s marquee players, including Alessandro Del Piero, Federico Bernardeschi, Giorgio Chiellini, Douglas Costa, Gonzalo Higuaín, Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic, Daniele Rugani, 40-year-old captain goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and hyper-critical coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Consumer SVOD Mobile App Spending Rose 77% in 2017

Consumer spending on the top 10 mobile apps for subscription video-on-demand services via the App Store and Google Play rose 77% in 2017 to about $781 million compared to 2016, according to new data from Sensor Tower. Revenue grew almost 88% just in the fourth quarter to $242 million.

As expected, Netflix topped all SVOD apps, generating $290 million in revenue in 2017, up 113% from 2016. Notably, apps from YouTube, Starz and CBS All Access grew even more at 154%, 147% and 128%, respectively.

The data underscores the brand strength of Netflix generating revenue from alternative sources. The SVOD pioneer generated total 2017 revenue of $11.67 billion, including $3.28 billion in Q4.

The report suggests programing plays a big part in app use. HBO Now saw revenue peak to $67.3 million in Q3 when season seven of “Game of Thrones” aired. Revenue declined 21% in Q4 to $53.2 million.

CBS touted Star Trek reboot “Star Trek: Discovery” as a revenue driver. And it didn’t disappoint. Spending increased 105% in Q3 to $4.1 million compared to $2 million in the previous-year period. Revenue grew 33% to $5.4 million into Q4.

 

 

 

TiVo: Average Global Viewer Watches 4.4 Hours of Video Daily

Fueled by more than $130 billion investment in programing globally, the average person watches more than four hours of video on a daily basis, according to new data from TiVo.

The United States tops all countries with 5.1 hours spent per day on average consuming video. Other documented regions included the Brazil (4.7 hours), United Kingdom (4.2), Columbia (4.1), Mexico (4.1), France (3.7), and Germany (3.3).

TiVo said the average person spends 28 minutes daily searching for video content, based on online survey of 8,500 pay-TV and over-the-top video respondents.

“Viewers, content owners, new streaming services and devices have created a feedback loop where both supply and demand have grown exponentially,” wrote Jocelin Lee, senior manager, strategic research & market insights, and co-author of the report.

While 87% of U.S. respondents said they subscribe to pay-TV, 64% also pay for streaming video, including 44% using a streaming media device.

Not surprisingly, Netflix dominates among SVOD services with 82% penetration in the U.S., followed by Amazon Prime Video at 47% and Hulu at 32%.

Netflix’s highest regional penetrations include Mexico and Brazil at 91%, respectively. By comparison, Netflix has 65% penetration in France.

Among streaming devices, Roku (29%) enjoys a slight lead over Google Chromecast (21%), followed by Apple TV at 18% market penetration. Google Chromecast enjoys superiority in Columbia, Brazil, Mexico and France – all countries Roku is not sold.

Amazon Fire TV Stick ranks No. 1 in the U.K. and Germany – two strong Amazon ecommerce markets.

Sky Bows Original Movies Platform

Taking a page from the Netflix playbook, U.K. TV satellite operator Sky Jan. 25 announced the launch of an original content production platform, dubbed Sky Cinema Original Films.

Sky is the largest satellite TV operator in Europe with 23 million subscribers, and co-owned (39%) by 21st Century Fox. It could become majority owned by The Walt Disney Co. should the latter’s $52.4 billion Fox asset purchase come to fruition.

In addition to original productions, Sky Cinema Original Films would feature more than 1,000 movies available on demand. Unique to the offering is that the original movies will be available to subscribers day-and-date with their theatrical launch.

The strategy mirrors Netflix’s controversial move to make all of its original movies available for global streaming concurrent with theatrical screening. Major theater operators in the U.S. have responded by boycotting Netflix movies.

The first Sky original movie, animated comedy Monster Family, will launch in March, with the Rob Cohen’s action movie, The Hurricane Heist set to follow in April. Sci-fi crime thriller Anon and British production Final Score are slated for later this year.

“Sky’s original content strategy has already been successful across eight genres of television – now we’re taking it to film to give our content-hungry customers even more reasons to keep coming back,” Ian Lewis, group director of Sky Cinema, said in a statement.

 Separately, Sky inked a new content license deal in the U.K. and Germany with Warner Bros. The pact gives subscribers faster access to new titles and a stronger line up of Warner movie franchises, including all Harry Potter titles, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and the Lego movies.

Sky is also the exclusive distributor of U.S. pay-TV series, “Billions,” “Westworld,” “Big Little Lies” and “Modern Family.”