Fandango Launches Program to Help Moviegoers Go Back to Theaters

Movie ticketing site Fandango has launched a program to help moviegoers go back to theaters as cinemas reopen across the country.

Starting June 23, Fandango.com and Fandango mobile apps will begin rolling out new resources and product functionality, including social distance seating maps, a one-stop guide to safety policies provided by more than 100 theater chains, a special search filter to find reopened theaters by location, instructional videos, and more.

“At Fandango, our mission has always been super-serving fans with their entertainment needs, and we cannot wait to help fans get back to the big screen safely and at the right time,” said Fandango president Paul Yanover in a statement. “It’s a complicated rollout, with various states, cities and counties opening their venues in different phases.  We hope Fandango will serve as a helpful one-stop resource for fans to find all the information and services they need for a comfortable return to their local theaters.”

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In Fandango’s guide to health and safety policies provided by theaters across the country, moviegoers can find information that theaters have provided about auditorium occupancy and social distance seating, mask and protective equipment policies, enhanced cleaning measures, special concession services, and more.

“We are working closely with our friends in exhibition to help get their ticketing back online and film fans back in seats with peace of mind,” said Melissa Heller, Fandango’s VP of domestic ticketing, in a statement. “In addition to our new product features, Fandango’s mobile ticketing will be an added benefit, helping moviegoers and cinema employees reduce the number of contact points at the box office and throughout the theater.”

When theaters begin to reopen, Fandango plans to mobilize many of its other digital properties, including Rotten Tomatoes, Movieclips on YouTube, and its media and performance marketing platforms to help moviegoers get the resources and information they need, according to the company. The company is also planning to support the reopening of theaters and new films scheduled to release this summer with original video, editorial and social content, celebrating the moviegoing experience.

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For members of Fandango’s free-to-join VIP+ loyalty program, Fandango is extending expired rewards for an additional 60 days so that Fandango customers will have more time to use the rewards they’ve earned. Fandango offers the ability to refund and exchange ticket purchases up to the posted showtime. In addition, Fandango customers can now self-process refunds as a guest user, with no account required.

COVID-19 a Push to Cut the Cord

During the pandemic, consumers are sitting at home looking for more visual entertainment than ever before — and evaluating their options. Happily, the disc has gotten a lift as consumers realize the value of the stalwart format, while digital transactional retailers have gained in part by offering premium VOD titles that bypassed or left theaters early.

But, in addition to theaters, one entertainment option that may suffer from COVID-19 is traditional cable, satellite or telco pay-TV. A study from TDG Research found that as virtual MVPD services re-create the offerings of traditional pay-TV, consumers are increasingly seeing less of a need for it. “Most OTT pay-TV services now provide a full complement of both broadcast and cable channels” said analyst Michael Greeson.

Indeed, I am finding it increasingly annoying to sit through commercials on cable that last longer than ads on any AVOD offering and don’t include that convenient countdown to tell you when the torture will end. After scrolling through the numerous cable channels and finding absolutely nothing I want to watch, I am jumping to smart-TV options more and more. The family wants to cut the cord, and the time may be right.

As TDG noted, vMVPD leaders Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV offer the four major broadcast networks, channels that previously helped tie consumers to traditional pay-TV.

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It’s ultimately a flight to quality and value, the same things that have bolstered the transactional home entertainment business since its beginning.

Over Half of Adults Report Watching More TV Since the Pandemic

New consumer research from Leichtman Research Group finds that since the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 53% of adults ages 18 and above in U.S. TV households say they now spend more time watching TV per day, while 16% say they watch less.

There are no significant differences by age, income, or gender of those agreeing that they watch more TV per day, nor is there a significant difference between SVOD and non-SVOD households. However, 56% of pay-TV subs say they now spend more time watching TV per day, compared to 45% of non-subscribers.

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This data is based on an online survey of about 1,200 TV households in the U.S. conducted in May.

Other survey findings include that 62% of pay-TV premium subs, 62% of pay-TV DVR subs, and 59% of pay-TV on-demand users say they spend more time watching TV per day. Another 43% of connected TV users say they use connected TV devices more often, while 20% say they use connected devices less often.

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The study found that 52% of connected TV users with annual household incomes above $75,000 say they use connected TV devices more often, compared with 42% with household incomes of $30,000 to $75,000, and 28% with household incomes under $30,000.

Another 45% of connected TV users ages 18-54 say they use connected TV devices more often, compared with 31% of ages 55 and older. Still 39% say they are more satisfied with their streaming video services, while 18% say they aren’t more satisfied. Indeed, 33% say they  are more satisfied with their pay-TV service, while 16% say they aren’t; 36% say they are more satisfied with their home Internet service, while 19% disagree.

“Reported increases in TV viewing since the coronavirus pandemic began are consistent across demographic categories, while perceived increases in connected TV usage are more prevalent in higher income households and among younger adults,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “Usage growth has played a role in boosting consumers’ positive perceptions of their streaming video, pay-TV and broadband services.”

Survey: 77% Ready to Return to Theaters in a Few Months

An Atom Tickets survey found 77% of respondents were ready to return to theaters within a few months, with 25% willing to return immediately. Only 1% said they never plan to return to theaters.

Digital movie ticketing platform Atom surveyed more than 1,500 moviegoers about their moviegoing intentions in the midst of theaters’ temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked to identify the most important safety measure to make them feel confident about going back to a movie theater, having spaced seating in the theater auditorium was by far the most critical safety feature at 42.2% or respondents. The next most critical safety measure was heightened theater cleaning procedures at 21.14%, followed by staff and guests wearing masks at 14.36%. Only 6.41% of moviegoers said taking staff and guest temperature readings before screenings was the most important condition that must be met before they would feel comfortable returning.

More than 88% said that purchasing digital tickets from their own device and eliminating the need to interact with a cashier was an important safety measure. As far as concessions, customers were interested ordering ahead and picking up their items instead of waiting in crowded lines and being served directly over the counter. Of those who have never pre-ordered movie theater concessions, 61% said they are now likely to try it.

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“Moviegoers are telling us that they miss the experience of going to the movies and they’re ready to get back, but that the experience needs to look slightly different than before,” said Matthew Bakal, chairman and co-founder of Atom Tickets, in a statement. “We anticipate a rapid acceleration in digital ordering, just as we have seen in other industries, in order to reduce the amount of person-to-person interactions. We’re eager to resume being together with friends and family, but we want to do so responsibly. Atom is working with our theater partners to roll out spaced seat maps so that guests can see the steps being taken in order to provide a safe environment.”

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In terms of films moviegoers were looking forward to seeing, the female superheroes led the pack with Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 taking 58% and 51% of votes, respectively. The James Bond installment No Time to Die, Disney’s Mulan and Top Gun: Maverick rounded out the top five. Millennial moviegoers weighed in slightly differently, with John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part 2 coming in third.

Comscore: Streaming Services’ Share of Streaming Hours Surged During Pandemic

Engagement with streaming services surged in the beginning of May 2020 as Americans adjusted to stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from Comscore.

Among the “big five” streaming services — which still account for upwards of 80% of total hours streamed at home — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ saw growth in share of streaming hours in the week of May 11 versus the week of Feb. 3, according to Comscore.

Netflix’s and Amazon’s streaming hour share each grew 1.5% while Disney+’s grew 0.5%. YouTube’s was steady, down just 0.1%. Hulu’s was the only share to fall, down 2.9%.

While Disney+ held a smaller share of streaming hours among the “big five,” it is nearly two times larger than the next video-oriented OTT app offering in terms of streaming hours, according to Comscore.

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Other key points included:

  • Average in-home data consumption was up 33% during the first 10 days of May 2020 compared to the first ten days of May 2019 (May 1-10, 2020 versus May 1-10, 2019). This follows 28% and 36% year-over-year increases in March and April 2020, respectively. Smart TVs (+60 percent), mobile phones (+47 percent), streaming boxes/sticks (+39 percent), and smart speakers (+35 percent) are driving the year-over-year growth trends.
  • In-home data usage remained strong through the week of April 20, 2020 but began to decline in recent weeks, possibly due to some states easing their social distancing protocols.

DVD Format Getting Pandemic Boost

The boost in home entertainment options stemming from the stay-at-home phase of the coronavirus pandemic has apparently sparked a slight resurgence from an old friend: good ol’ DVD.

The 23-year-old standard-definition disc format has seen rapid declines for more than a decade with the rise of high-definition disc, digital delivery and streaming options. But the three-week period from April 19 to May 9 saw sales of film and TV content on DVD post the format’s best year-over-year showing in nearly seven years.

In the weeks ended April 25, May 2 and May 9, 2020, the DVD format posted revenue gains of 13%, 15% and 15.2%, respectively, compared to the similar time frame from a year ago, according to data obtained by Media Play News research. Unit sales during the three weeks were up 10%, 14.4% and 13%, respectively.

Put another way, for the three-week period as a whole, the DVD format was up 14.4% in revenue and 12.5% in unit sales compared with the same three weeks a year ago.

For perspective, the high-definition Blu-ray format was up 9.6% in revenue and 7.4% in units the week ended April 25, but down 4% and 7.7% in revenue, and 6.2% and 9.5% in unit sales the subsequent two weeks, as DVD was rising. For the three weeks, Blu-ray was down 0.8% in revenue and down 2.9% in units sold.

The top title for the weeks ended April 25 and May 2 was Bad Boys for Life, and for May 9 it was Bloodshot, both Sony Pictures releases. The charts were also boosted by lingering performance from earlier hit releases such as Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level.

In terms of revenue, this is the first time DVD saw yearly gains two weeks in a row since April 2014, when Frozen was driving industry sales. It’s the first three-week gain since late-August 2012, when The Hunger Games and Battleship were the top titles.

From the perspective of unit sales, it marks the first two-week year-over-year gain just for DVD since Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit the charts in April 2016. And it’s the first three-week gain since the Christmas season in 2012.

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The recent spike may owe to a variety of factors beyond a renewed interest in home entertainment from citizens waiting out the pandemic at home. Streaming services and digital sales were on the rise prior to the pandemic, and shelter-in-place orders only aided their momentum. According to the NPD Group, even DVD and Blu-ray players have seen sales gains compared with last year around this time.

An increase in just the older DVD format could be the result of an increase in impulse bargain bin buys during grocery runs, especially at stories such as Walmart and Target where $5 catalog DVD sections are common. However, the average cost of a DVD is actually up 1.74% during the three-week period, indicating sales of the newer titles are significantly contributing to the surge.

Also, the selection of titles offered during the comparable period in 2019 seems to have been especially weak compared with now. The box office performance of titles released during the three-week period is up 25% over the same period a year ago, though most of that owes to Bad Boys for Life.

The top titles from the year-ago period were the second week of Glass, the sixth week of Aquaman, and the debut of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.

It also seems that the recent top releases have audiences that prefer the DVD version compared with other big-screen hits. For example, Bad Boys for Life during the three weeks saw about a 50/50 split between Blu-ray and DVD formats.

Compare this with movies such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker or Frozen II, which each saw more than 70% of their unit sales for their first three weeks on shelves come from Blu-ray formats. Bad Boys for Life hews more toward the Blu-ray performance of Hobbs & Shaw (55% Blu-ray its first three weeks) or Jumanji: The Next Level (54%). Bloodshot’s first-week Blu-ray share was 57%.

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The gains by DVD also pushed overall disc revenue and unit sales (DVD and Blu-ray combined) in the respective weeks up over the comparable week the previous year. it’s the first three-week year-over-year overall revenue gain since March 17 to 31, 2018, when Justice League, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrived to market in consecutive weeks. And it’s the first three-week overall unit gain since Force Awakens and The Revenant were driving sales to a four-week uptick in April 2016.

For 2020 as a whole, though, DVD remains down about 18.5% in revenue and 20.5% in units sold compared with the same period in the previous year. DVD and Blu-ray combined is down about 19.5% in revenue from the previous year and 21% in unit sales.

In the second quarter so far, however, DVD is only down about 9.7% in revenue and 8.8% in units sold compared with the previous year. In the first quarter, DVD was down about 22.3% in revenue from the first three months of 2019, and down 25.3% in revenue during that same period.

For comparison, Blu-ray Disc is down 12.8% in revenue and 17.7% in unit sales in the second quarter compared with the year-ago period. In the first quarter, Blu-ray was down 23.5% in revenue and 24% in units sold.

Sales Report for Week Ended 5-9-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 5-2-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 4-25-20

Report: 60% of MVPD On-Demand Viewers Report Increase in Use During Pandemic

Six in 10 U.S adult broadband users who use pay-TV on-demand services have increased viewing as a result of COVID-19 stay-at-home directives, with 19% reporting a significant increase, according to new research from The Diffusion Group (TDG).

“Much has been written about recent spikes in the use of on-demand streaming video services such as Netflix and Disney+, and for good reason,” noted Michael Greeson, TDG president and principal analyst, in a statement. “Our findings clearly demonstrate that, being largely confined to their homes, consumers see tremendous value in having access to on-demand shows and movies. And this holds true for all such services, including those offered by pay-TV providers.”

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According to TDG, 77% of adult broadband users that subscribe to a pay-TV service watch shows and movies via the service’s on-demand feature; of those, 60% report spending more time watching on-demand programming as a consequence of having to stay at home due to local, state or national directives related to COVID-19.

TDG also found that:

  • On-demand viewers under the age of 45 were almost twice as likely as those 45 and older to have significantly increased on-demand use (23% vs. 13%, respectively);
  • 21% of those using virtual pay-TV on-demand report significant increases in viewing, a bit higher than their cable and fiber pay-TV counterparts at 19%. Satellite on-demand viewers lag in this respect, with only 13% reporting significant increases;
  • 23% of pay-TV on-demand users in the Western U.S. report a significant increase in use, compared with 19% of those in the Northeast, 18% of those in the South, and 16% of those in the Midwest; and
  • Female pay-TV on-demand viewers were as likely as their male counterparts to have significantly increased on-demand viewing under stay-at-home directives.

 

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In late April 2020, TDG surveyed 1,997 U.S. adults with a broadband data service in the home about their TV and video behaviors. The resulting Quantum Media Behaviors study provides a timely analysis of the pandemic’s impact on media usage, particularly among legacy and virtual pay-TV users, and their counterparts (i.e., Cord Cutters and Nevers). For more information about TDG research, contact info@tdgresearch.com.

Nielsen: Radio Consumption Rises Amid Pandemic

Radio has been a comfort medium throughout modern history, especially during war and crisis. As more Americans stay home amid growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, media consumption, as repeatedly reported, is peaking.

New data from Nielsen found that among home entertainment options, 83% of consumers say they’re listening to as much or more radio as they were before the pandemic.

Similar to TV coverage during crisis, radio and on-air personalities present a connection to the real world that listeners gravitate toward and trust. Thus, Nielsen found 60% of Americans (18 and older) hold radio in high regard and trust it to deliver timely information about the current COVID-19 outbreak, according to a survey of 1,000 adults 18+ in the U.S. between March 20-22.

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“In a time of heightened uncertainty and disrupted routines, consumers are turning to radio as a trusted source of information and community connection, mirroring patterns observed during past regional and national disasters and weather events,” Brad Kelly, managing director, Nielsen Audio, said in a statement.

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Assessing the time consumers spend with media is critical for both radio stations and advertisers, regardless of whether the country is in a crisis. Americans are already spending almost 12 hours each day with media, and that time could grow by 60% among those who stay indoors, according to Nielsen.

Indeed, the research firm found that 92% of respondents said they were moderately or extremely concerned about COVID-19, with 42% saying radio helped them deal with the outbreak.

And while radio, podcasts and on-air personalities can provide listeners with information that is accurate and relevant to their markets, Nielsen contends advertisers can help listeners get what they need, as 46% say radio helps them know what stores are open and where to shop locally.

“Radio is a local lifeblood for millions of consumers and specializes in keeping audiences up-to-date and plugged into what matters most to them in their community,” Kelly said. “In this environment, it’s no surprise that people say they use radio as a major source of information and connection.”

Disney Executives Forgo Salary, Perks During Pandemic

While some media companies have set aside tens of millions of dollars for displaced workers and production personnel, The Walt Disney Co. is cutting salaries and perks to senior executives as its business units get hammered from all directions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With nearly all business segments either idled or severely curtailed due to shutdowns and consumer quarantines in major markets, Disney will subject its senior executives to significant payroll cuts and related perks, effective April 5.

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According to a regulatory filing, former CEO Bob Iger, who earlier this year transitioned to executive chairman, will forgo his entire $3 million salary, in addition to the use of a company car. Disney will still pay Iger his health care benefits.

Iger’s successor, Bob Chapek, will have his $2.5 million salary cut in half. In addition, general counsel Alan Braverman, CFO Christine McCarthy, human resources chief Jayne Parker, and head of corporate communications Zenia Mucha will see 30% cuts to their base salaries.

Disney said that except for the amount of compensation for paid time off, the salary reductions are not intended to reduce any company employee benefit provided to executives that is determined by reference to the base salary payable, except as may be required at law.

Chapek is still eligible for a bonus of “not less than 300% of the annual base salary,” according to a SEC filing. He is also in line for “a long-term incentive award having a target value of not less than $15 million” for each fiscal year of the agreement through Feb. 28, 2023.

The cuts come as Wall Street downgrades Disney’s fiscal estimates going forward. Credit Suisse analyst Doug Mitchelson, in a note, said his two-week old forecasts for Disney are moot.

“There remains virtually no visibility as to when sports and Hollywood content production will resume and re-openings for theme parks and theaters will take place — we assume beginning of June,” Mitchelson wrote. “As for the media business, the depth of ad declines is also uncertain.”

It should be noted that base salaries are what constitutes the majority of Disney’s payroll taxes and related employee costs. The bulk of senior executive compensation revolves around stock options, which are based on, and compensated by, the stock market.

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Indeed, Iger received total compensation in excess of $66 million in 2018 and $47.5 million in 2019 — the bulk of it stock options and bonuses, including a combined $18.5 million if he remained employed with the company past July 2, 2019, and closing of the Fox studio acquisition.

The Disney board  later rescinded the Fox bonus (after fiscal contributions plummeted) and Iger voluntarily forfeited the employment deadline perk.

YouTube Offering At-Home Education Videos During Pandemic

As schools around the world close their buildings and families with children find themselves at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, YouTube has partnered with learning creators to bring parents and families resources and activities to educate in the home.

YouTube says the resources — dubbed “Learning@Home” — are not meant to replace homework assigned by teachers, but meant to complement that work.

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The content, which is free, in eight languages and does not feature advertising, is categorized for families with teens, kids aged five and older and preschoolers. Subjects include science, math, humanities and electives.

The site has also partnered with Khan Academy to feature daily “homeroom” videos.

Google-owned YouTube also offers virtual field trips to destinations around the globe. The videos can be played on a Web browser, mobile phone, or by using a standalone virtual reality (VR) device.

“The resource will continue to evolve. We’ve built the hub with the support and cooperation of UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education, who is also working with other education partners to respond to this emergency,” Google said in a statement.  “As we continue receiving feedback from teachers and partners on what’s most helpful, we’ll continue to build and improve this.”

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