WarnerMedia Inks Shaquille O’Neal to Multi-Platform Deal

WarnerMedia’s Turner Sports has signed NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal to multiyear extension that will expand the outsized personality’s media scope beyond the hardwood.

A 15-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA Champion, O’Neal will continue in his role as studio analyst for TNT’s Sports Emmy Award winning “Inside the NBA,” along with the “NBA on TNT Tuesday Night” franchise.

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He’ll also appear on NBA TV and contribute to NBA.com. His NBA TV airtime will include a new show in development on “The Business of Basketball,” with more details to be announced at a later date. O’Neal will expand his “Shaqtin-a-Fool” franchise to include new genres and platforms, contribute podcasts to the WarnerMedia Podcast Network.

“Shaq is so critical to our success, and such a huge part of the heart and soul of our coverage,” Jeff Zucker, chairman, WarnerMedia News and Sports, said in a statement.

Tara August, SVP of talent services and special projects at Turner Sports, said O’Neal’s appeal to consumers resonates beyond sports.

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“His fun, infectious personality is engaging, entertaining and beloved by fans,” August said. “We’re thrilled to extend and deepen our relationship with him for many years to come.”

iHeartMedia, WarnerMedia Ink Deal to Co-Produce Slate of Podcasts for HBO Max

iHeartRadio and WarnerMedia Entertainment June 23 announced a partnership to co-produce a slate of companion podcasts for HBO Max’s upcoming catalog of original and legacy shows.

The first podcasts will be for the comedy thriller series “Search Party,” created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers and Michael Showalter, and sci-fi drama, “Raised by Wolves,” directed and executive produced by Ridley Scott. These podcasts, along with the entire slate of co-produced companion podcasts, will be available on HBO Max, iHeartRadio and everywhere podcasts are heard.

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The new slate of companion podcasts will play as standalone productions in their own right, but will often center on and help promote HBO Max programming. Additionally, iHeartMedia and WarnerMedia will both commit marketing resources to promote the podcasts and other HBO Max content across the iHeartPodcast Network and other iHeartMedia broadcast and digital platforms. The companies may also produce podcasts for WarnerMedia’s television networks, TNT, TBS and truTV.

“Today’s streaming fans are hungry for more content the second they finish an episode of their favorite shows, and podcasts are a great way to keep those fans engaged while also giving our roster of creative talent additional tools to extend the worlds of their shows and stories,” Kevin Reilly, president of TBS, TNT and truTV, and CCO of HBO Max, said in a statement.

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Primarily set in New York City, “Search Party” follows a group of privileged, self-absorbed twentysomethings whose search for a long-lost missing friend leads them down a dark and shocking path of no return. The first two seasons of the show are currently available on HBO Max and all episodes of season three will debut on the streamer June 25.

“Raised by Wolves” centers on two androids, Father and Mother, tasked with raising human children on a mysterious new planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.

Futuresource: Music Streaming Declines in COVID-19 World

With the exception of vinyl records, subscription streaming music services remain the number one growth driver in the global music market, accounting for more than 70% of spending on music last year, according to Futuresource Consulting.

Yet, as measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 begin to reshape the lives of consumers, music streaming is experiencing a temporary decline, with consumption down from 15% to 20%.

“We may have expected to see an uptake in the use of streaming music services, as people become confined in their homes,” market analyst Alexandre Jornod said in a statement. “This is linked to consumers adjusting to new confinement rules, which have removed key music listening situations like the daily commute, as well as office and gym time.”

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Futuresource says that as families spend more time at home together, music consumption is becoming a shared activity. Before the pandemic people were using separate accounts to play different music, now smart speakers are likely to be used with a single account used to play music in the household.

The London-based firm said there is also competition from gaming, movie and TV show streaming. These activities require a higher level of attention and tend to be favored when some extra time is freed up as a result of routines being interrupted.

“Once consumers become accustomed to the situation and establish new routines, we expect streaming music to get back to levels similar to before the crisis,” Jornod said. “Home listening will dominate, with a shift in the music types and genres as consumers seek out lean-back mood playlists as opposed to searching for specific songs or artists.”

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Meanwhile, Futuresource said Spotify and Apple account for more than 60% of combined global subscriptions. Spotify remains No.1 globally, with Apple No. 1 in the United States. Amazon Music’s multiple streaming plans cater to a wide audience, although its subscriptions are closely linked to Echo smart speaker geographies, which skew heavily towards the U.S. and U.K., according to Futuresource.

The research firm contends Google-owned YouTube Music has the potential to become a key player thanks to its established YouTube audience. Smaller players like Deezer, Tidal and Napster are focusing instead on strategies such as targeting local markets, serving niche audiences or B2B operations.

“Streaming music subscriptions also benefit from markets where physical media has been historically strong and they are now transitioning to streaming,” Jornod said, alluding to Germany, Japan and France, which he said are experiencing accelerated adoption — unlike maturing markets in North America.

“Watch out for a rise in podcasts beginning to exert its influence, as well as enhanced listening experiences such as Hi-Res audio, Dolby Atmos Music and Sony 360 Reality Audio,” Jornod said.

Parks: One-Third of U.S. Broadband Households Listen to Podcasts Weekly; 9% Subscribe to Online News Service

With millions of people home-bound through work and school due to the coronavirus pandemic, new data from Parks Associates finds 36% of U.S. broadband households listen to podcasts weekly, although the research firm expects patterns of video, music, and news consumption to change dramatically as a result of the current public health crisis.

The study finds that podcasts dealing with video, music and news have a stronger appeal among younger consumers than older consumers and almost half of podcast consumers are heavy users, spending more than five hours per week listening. Podcast users are also very interested in bundling podcast services with video and music.

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The Dallas-based research company reports that in the third quarter of 2019, 9% of U.S. broadband households subscribed to an online news service.

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“While news consumption is going up during the COVID-19 crisis and daily briefings, most online news outlets have provided their coverage free of charge or outside of the paywall, so the number of households subscribing to an online news service will likely not increase as much in the short term,” research director Steve Nason said in a statement. “Long term, we will be tracking consumer trends to see if current events will drive broader online news consumption and subscription habits.”

TuneIn Streaming ‘Coronavirus News’ Audio and Podcasts

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, TuneIn, a San Francisco-based streaming and on-demand audio service, is offering listeners the “Coronavirus News” channel with community updates via local radio stations searchable by state, as well as dedicated COVID-19 podcasts and live breaking news from top-rated national networks, including MSNBC, CNN, Fox News Talk, CNBC, and Bloomberg News, among others.

TuneIn streams more than 100,000 owned & operated and partner radio stations globally, in addition to more than 5.7 million podcasts, and is available across 200 platforms and connected devices.

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Barnes & Noble Using Tech to Connect with Young Adults. But to What End?

NEWS ANALYSIS – Earlier this year Barnes & Noble, the nation’s last-standing retail book chain, reported sobering financial results, including near 6% drop in same-store sales due to lower foot traffic. Notable, since the winter holiday shopping period typically drives even non-readers to the bookstore.

The decline of the bookstore, unfortunately, mirrors much of the brick-and-mortar retail landscape. People are increasingly purchasing and consuming everything (except food and gasoline) online.

The trend among book readers, especially teens and young adults, is interesting since so much of Hollywood’s fare (Harry PotterThe Twilight Saga, Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner) is based on popular novels and book series targeting the young.

The same demo that consumes everything through a smartphone or connected device.

So, B&N May 17 launched the “YA Podcast,” featuring an interview with bestselling teen author Cassandra Clare, whose “The Mortal Instruments” series was turned into the 2013 Sony Pictures movie, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, starring Lily Collins.

“YA Podcast” follows the launch last year of the B&N Podcast and will feature in-depth interviews with what B&N calls the “leading voices in the vibrant teen publishing community.”

Upcoming guests include authors Renée Ahdieh, Gayle Forman, Stephanie Garber, Marisha Pessl, Rainbow Rowell and Sabaa Tahir.

The YA Podcast, which can be accessed at BN.com, iTunes and Stitcher, is hosted by YA author Melissa Albert, and will offer new episodes every two weeks, with the goal of giving readers a “fresh and unique” perspective on what is on the minds of some of their favorite authors.

“We’re launching this YA podcast to provide our customers with a new platform to delve deeper into this diverse community and hear from their favorite authors and those they might not have found otherwise,”said Stephanie Fryling, VP of merchandising, children’s books.

Fryling said publishers are requesting more content from this genre, adding a“dedicated podcast around YA is a clear response to this demand.”

But will they still buy the book at the retail store?