Nielsen to Begin Tracking PVOD Movies

In a sign of the pandemic times, Nielsen announced it would begin tracking theatrical movies released separately or concurrent with box office distribution.

After Universal Pictures reported generating $100 million streaming animated sequel Trolls World Tour on PVOD instead of theaters early in the pandemic, the evolution of theatrical distribution has changed significantly. Nielsen contends the entire media food chain, from studios to talent, have a need to analyze the volume and reach of their audiences by detailed household and person’s characteristics, such as age and gender, ethnicity or even territory.

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Nielsen’s TVOD measurement service will help clients uncover how many people are streaming this type of valuable content in relation to other content options. Additionally, it will deliver detailed demographic and behavioral information beyond what the standard box office metrics, transactional rental or purchase information often provides, allowing for crucial audience-driven decisions in regard to licensing and promotion.

The pandemic has driven a rise in streaming consumption. In fact, streaming now accounts for nearly a quarter (23%) of total usage among OTT video capable homes, up from 21% just a year prior, and a much broader swath of consumers have enabled streaming capabilities, presenting a new opportunity to deliver this form of entertainment directly.

“As this unprecedented pandemic continues to influence consumer behavior, perhaps even through a prolonged state of recovery waves, being able to measure and help clients appropriately monetize new revenue streams has never been more crucial,” Scott Brown, GM  of audience measurement for Nielsen, said in a statement.

Brown said Nielsen would monitor audience behavior following any virus recovery; how the adopted stay-at-home orders might influence habits when consumers have the ability to go back to theaters.

“[Nielsen will track] how content creators will leverage data to make the best decisions regarding distribution platforms in the future,” Brown said.

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Weekend Box Office Continues Decline, Down 45% to $3 Million

With the pandemic-related death toll climbing and national politics raging, consumers are not heading to the movie theater to escape.

Data for the weekend of Jan. 8-10 saw box office leader Wonder Woman 1984 generate $3 million in domestic ticket sales, down 45% from $5.45 million in the previous weekend. The Warner Bros. superhero movie has generated $32.6 million in the United States in three weeks of release, and $131.4 million worldwide — significantly behind Warner’s Tenet with $207 million at the same time of release.

It should be noted that WarnerMedia has made the DC actioner starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Kristen Wiig available simultaneously on the HBO Max subscription streaming service.

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Universal Pictures again dominated the majority of weekend Top 10 theatrical titles, led by The Croods: A New Age with an estimated $1.6 million in ticket sales. The DreamWorks Animation sequel has generated $36.7 million in the U.S. and $117.5 million worldwide since its Nov. 25, 2020 release.

Other titles included the Tom Hanks starrer News of the World with $1.24 million ($7.1 million total); Screen Gems’ Monster Hunter ($9.8 million/$13.4 million globally); Lionsgate’s Fatale ($610,000/$3.9 million); Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman ($550,000/$2.7 million); Roadside Attractions’ Pinocchio ($185,000/$21.6 million globally); 101 Studios’ The War With Grandpa ($115,000/$33 million worldwide); and Universal’s Come Play ($79,000/$12 million globally).  Walt Disney Studios’ re-release of the 1979 20th Century Fox sci-fi thriller Alien generated $66,000/$190,000 globally.

 

AMC Entertainment Selling 50 Million Shares for $125 Million

Fiscally challenged AMC Entertainment, parent of world’s largest movie theater chain, AMC Theatres, is selling 50 million shares of Class A Common Stock to generate about $125 million in much-needed funding.

AMC said it will use the proceeds for “general corporate purchases, which include repayment, refinancing, redemption, or repurchase of outstanding debt.”

AMC shares are down 68% in 2020 after the pandemic all but shuttered the chain’s business in mid-March as the coronavirus began to spread. Earlier this month, AMC announced it had enough funds to keep the doors open through January.

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Headquartered in Leawood, Kansas, AMC celebrated its 100th birthday this year. The chain is the largest operator of movie theaters in world; as of December 2020 it has a global count of 960 theaters and 10,700 screens, down from  1,004 theaters and 11,041 screens at the beginning of this year, according to its corporate website.

2020 Retail Winners: E-Commerce, Consumer Electronics

To say online shopping boomed in 2020 would be an understatement,, especially during a pandemic. The trend toward e-commerce isn’t new. It’s been a reality of retail for awhile as stores big and small embrace transacting over the Internet as a means of dealing direct with the consumer and better competing against Amazon.

New data from eMarketer suggests that lost pre-pandemic spending on restaurants, bars, salons, travel, live events, movie theaters, etc., contributed to a $100 billion uptick in e-commerce spending, notably on consumer electronics.

In January, eMarketer forecast total e-commerce sales would reach $675 billion in 2020. Now, that estimate is closer to $795 billion.

Consumer electronics were particularly well suited to serve the needs of a population suddenly stuck at home managing unexpected work, school and leisure time. Online CE sales are tracking toward $179.3 billion, up from pre-pandemic estimate of $150.1 billion.

“That’s $29.3 billion in unanticipated online spending on devices to help us work, learn, [entertain] and play from home,” analyst Ethan Cramer-Flood wrote in a Dec. 29 note.

Indeed, tech spending on hardware and services during the 2020 holiday season (October-December) is projected to reach $135 billion in revenue in the United States — a 10% increase from a year ago, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

Projected top-selling CE devices over the holidays include smartphones, laptops, next-generation video game consoles, TVs and wearables.

“The 2020 holiday season will bring economic, safety and political unknowns — but the consumer desire to give and receive technology gifts is certain,” said Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of market research at CTA. “With consumers forgoing budgets for travel and experiences this year, more dollars will go towards technology gifts that support connection, productivity, health and home entertainment, as technology has been a critical asset to so many during the ongoing pandemic.”

Perhaps no CE retailer has better adapted to the pandemic than Best Buy, which saw a near 174% increase in e-commerce revenue and entertainment in the most-recent fiscal quarter. The nation’s largest CE retailer was quick to offer online purchases with curbside pick-up during the early days of the pandemic.

The chain’s entertainment segment, which includes products such as DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software, saw same-store sales increase 17.5% compared with a 20.8% decline during the previous-year period. The division generated 5% of domestic revenue, or $542.5 million, compared with $448.2 million last year.

Domestic online revenue of $3.82 billion increased 173.7% on a comparable basis, and as a percentage of total domestic revenue, online revenue increased to approximately 35.2% versus 15.6% in 2019.

CEO Corie Barry said the pandemic has underscored Best Buy’s purpose to “enrich lives through technology,” and the capabilities the chain is “flexing and strengthening” to benefit sales going forward.

NPD: Domestic TV Installed Base Getting Bigger, Newer

Few things can drive television purchases and screen size upgrades more than a pandemic. That trend emerges in new data from The NPD Group that found in the last several years American TV screens have been getting bigger. Among installed TVs, 15% are 60 inches or larger, up from 11% a year ago — and newer — the average unit age is 4.9 years old, down from 5.4 years in 2019.

According to NPD’s TV Ownership Trends Report, the average size of a replacement TV jumped to 51 inches from 49 inches in November 2019, and up from 47 inches in November 2018.

“This year home entertainment became even more crucial as consumers spent more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” analyst John Buffone said in a statement. “TV sales, among other tech items, saw strong interest and as a result we saw notable shifts in the installed base.”

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Buffone attributed the surge in TV purchases to consumers housebound without the ability to go to the movies or live entertainment, including sports.

“Americans shifted spending to technology that offered at-home opportunities to consume content,” said.

In 2020 year to date, TV sales are up 19% compared with the same period in 2019. Through Cyber Monday week, 65-inch TV sales increased 27% versus 2019, while 70-inch and above TVs increased by 82%. In total, 65-inch and above TVs made up 21% of sales, increasing from 18% in 2019 and 13% in 2018. NPD projects that by 2022, 65-inch and above TVs will be 27% of sales.

While screen size is a key motivator, features such as high-dynamic-range imaging (HDR) and apps are continuing to matter more as consumers consider replacement purchases. In fact, HDR now impacts 13% of replacement TV sales and the availability of apps reportedly impact 31% of replacement TV sales, up from 23% a year ago.

“This year consumers saw the value in bigger screens and newer, more modern technology to support their entertainment needs,” said Stephen Baker, VP and industry advisor for The NPD Group. “This commitment to new technology and the value it can provide to the consumer will be key for the continued growth in larger-screen TVs in 2021 and beyond.”

Survey: One-Third of Consumers Signed Up for a New TV Service Since Summer

From July to November, one-third of consumers in Hub’s “Predicting the Pandemic” research survey had signed up for a new TV service, up six points from the summer.

The second, just-released wave of the study shows how the pandemic has accelerated the already well-established shift to online consumption of entertainment content.

During that same period, one in four canceled a TV service, up five points. All told, 40% had made at least some change to their TV subscriptions by November, nine points higher than in the summer.

The top four streaming services saw the strongest net increases among those who either added or dropped. Netflix and Disney+ were the most likely to see a net gain in November with half of those who made changes to their TV services adding Netflix and one-third adding Disney+. Meanwhile, only single-digit percentages dropped each of these services.

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On the other hand, consumers were much more likely to drop a live TV service than to add one. Half of those who made TV service changes dropped a live TV streaming service (such as YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV or Sling TV). One-third dropped a traditional cable, satellite or telco TV subscription. Fewer than one in five added either type of service.

Use of free, ad-supported TV platforms (AVODs) continued to accelerate, including the newly launched, free version of Peacock. AVOD use continued the upward trend seen in the summer with the percent using each major service up since July (and use in July was higher than February, before the start of the crisis). Peacock, released to the general public in mid-July, has quickly become the third-most watched AVOD service, behind the Roku Channel and Tubi.

With many films skipping theatrical release due to COVID, consumer purchase of first-run movies from streaming platforms has jumped significantly. One-fourth of all TV consumers in November said they’d purchased a first-run movie from a streamer, up from fewer than one in five over the summer.

Among those who currently owned a Smart TV, 26% said they purchased their Smart TV during the pandemic — up a full 12 points from July.

“If there were any doubts that some of the changes we’re seeing in leisure habits are here to stay, those doubts were erased when Warner Bros. announced that its entire slate of 2021 films would be released on HBO Max at the same time as theaters,” said Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study, in a statement. “And with providers like Comcast deciding to impose data caps across its entire footprint as of Jan. 1, it’s clear that many companies agree that streaming content is now the new normal.”

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The hub study surveyed 3,000 U.S. consumers, age 14-74, who watched at least 1 hour of TV per week. The data were collected in October and November 2020.

Parks: Nearly 10% of U.S. Broadband Households Canceled a Video Service During the Pandemic

New data from Parks Associates research finds that, as of May 2020, 8% of U.S. broadband households canceled at least one video service due to the COVID-19 crisis, including 4% of that canceled a traditional pay-TV service, due in large part to the cancellation of sports programming.

“The lack of sports programming had a significant role in households canceling their pay-TV services early in the pandemic,” senior director Jennifer Kent said in a statement.

Kent contends that with all major sports leagues now resuming play, consumer adoption should bring back many of these canceled households, especially online TV subscribers, who have an easier path to re-subscribe compared to traditional pay-TV.

“However, the ongoing economic crisis could push additional households to trim services,” Kent said. “Service and video providers are shifting to focus on retention and finding ways to keep subscribers through innovative partnerships and unique content.”

Parks reports more than 40% of former pay-TV subs said they would re-subscribe once sports resumed, while more than two-thirds of former online pay-TV subscribers would sign back on.

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Parks: 40% of U.S. Broadband Households Trialed at Least One OTT Video Service During Pandemic

Parks Associates research finds roughly 40% of U.S. broadband households trialed at least one over-the-top subscription video service during the COVID-19 pandemic. These free trials are important drivers to paying subscriptions, and by leveraging data on viewer activities and preferences, providers can personalize their services to improve subscriber stickiness.

Free trials do not apply to ad-supported VOD platforms such as Pluto TV, IMDb TV, The Roku Channel, Shout! TV and Tubi.

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Dallas-based Parks found that 2% of U.S. broadband households that subscribed to an OTT service during the COVID-19 crisis cite a free trial as a key driver for this new subscription. Average monthly spending on OTT video service subscriptions was $16 in Q1 2020. Two-thirds of domestic broadband households that canceled an online pay-TV service would consider re-activating it when live sports content become available.

“The use of data, which moving forward will be better informed with the use of advancements such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, will guide an improved user experience and content offering,” research director Steve Nason said in a statement.

In November, Parks reported that 61% of broadband households subscribed to two or more OTT services as of 3Q 2020, up from 48% the previous year. Forty-five percent subscribe to three or more, up from 27%, and 31% subscribe to four or more, up from 14%. SVOD services cited included Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, Apple TV+, CBS All Access, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

ViacomCBS Releases First Environmental, Social and Governance Report

In the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, racial injustice protests and coronavirus pandemic, ViacomCBS, like other media giants, established an in-house corporate position aimed at elevating the company’s social, workplace and pandemic-responses. The report focuses on ViacomCBS’s on-screen content and social impact, workforce and culture, sustainable production and operations.

“ViacomCBS is focused on how we use the power of our platforms as content creators to meaningfully impact the issues that matter to our employees, audiences, partners, communities and investors,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.

Bakish said  that as a “global content powerhouse,” ViacomCBS, which includes Paramount Pictures, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon, has a unique role shaping culture, social attitudes and societal outcomes.

“We’re committed to the opportunity and responsibility that comes with this reach and are proud to share how our company is taking action in our ESG report,” he said.

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Among the areas addressed in this report include:

  • Committed $100 million to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including support for non-staff employees on ViacomCBS productions and other entertainment industry workers through third-party organizations and relief funds.
  • Worked to keep employees and the public safe and at home during the pandemic by leveraging ViacomCBS brands and on-air talent to amplify official health guidance through the #AloneTogether campaign, which consisted of 174,000 television spots, social media posts and other content across company platforms.

 

On-screen Content and Social Impact:

  • Responded to nationwide protests over victims of racial violence and police killings by donating an additional $5 million to social justice and criminal justice reform organizations, participating in the industry-wide “Blackout Tuesday” day of reflection on June 2 and honoring the death of George Floyd by going dark for eight minutes and 46 seconds on ten networks. The monetary donations build on the company’s standing contributions each year to a range of community organizations.
  • Set several new goals to increase diversity behind the camera, including at least 40% representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in the writers’ rooms of CBS and Showtime Network shows during the 2021-22 programming season.

 

Workforce and Culture:

  • Expanded company-wide efforts to strengthen ViacomCBS’ diversity and inclusion, including through its commitment to publicly disclose the diversity data of its workforce.
  • Continued to hold its annual Global Inclusion Week, an expansive multi-day experience featuring speakers, immersive sessions and interactive workshops designed to raise awareness and foster conversation about diversity and inclusion, and inspire a sense of engagement and belonging across the company.

 

Sustainable Production and Operations:

  • Committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the requirements of the Paris Agreement, continuing a declining trend that saw GHG emissions at legacy Viacom drop by 20% from 2014-2018.
  • Increased the number of productions following the Green Production Guide to minimize the environmental impact of filming and derived 10% of the company’s global energy use from renewable sources.

 

“While we know we have more work to do, this ESG report reflects our dedication to greater transparency and disclosure as we continue to develop our ESG strategy and strengthen our impact in these areas going forward,”  said Crystal Barnes, SVP of corporate social responsibility and ESG. “This is just one of the many steps ahead on our ESG journey.”

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ to Bow on HBO Max Simultaneously With Dec. 25 Theatrical Release

In an unprecedented move for a major tentpole title, Warner Bros.’s highly anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 will debut in theaters and on streaming service HBO Max on the very same day, Dec. 25.

After a series of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, Warner Bros. had finally set Wonder Woman 1984 for a Christmas Day theatrical release. Following tepid box office response to Warner’s Tenet over the summer, and with a surge in coronavirus cases nationwide, industry observers had been speculating whether Warner would again push back the release of the big-budget comic book blockbuster into 2021, as many other studios have done with their tentpole titles.

Instead, Warner on Nov. 18 announced that instead of moving Wonder Woman 1984 off its theatrical date, it would instead release the film on HBO Max as well.

HBO Max subscribers in the United States will be able to access the film for a month with no additional cost to the $14.99 monthly fee (HBO Max offers a seven-day free trial for new members). International markets without HBO Max access, the film will open Dec. 16.

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A sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman, which grossed $821.8 million worldwide, the follow-up reunites director Patty Jenkins with star Gal Gadot and moves the setting from World War I to 1980s America, where the DC Comics heroine confronts the challenges of the Cold War. The budget of the sequel is estimated at around $200 million.