A little more than a year after the grand opening of its new flagship store in the Westfield Century City mall, Video and Audio Center on April 17 held another showcase event. More than 200 invited guests at “High Definition Redefined” got the chance to preview Samsung’s latest 8K TVs, ranging in size from 65 inches to 98 inches. The new TV sets have built-in Artificial Intelligence (AI) processing to upconvert content to 8K. And that’s a critical factor, says Tom Campbell, Video and Audio Center corporate director and chief technologist. “Content is king,” he says. “Content drives our business.” Video and Audio Center carries a limited selection of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, currently the optimum way to view content in the home.
Samsung Electronics and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will bring to market titles mastered with HDR10+, according to a Samsung press release.
HDR10+ is an open source-based, next-generation high dynamic range video standard led by Samsung. HDR adds brightness and contrast dynamically for each scene, delivering brighter brights and deeper darks, according to the release.
Samsung and UPHE will collaborate on a wide selection of new release and catalog fare with HDR10+ technology, according to the release.
“We are delighted to team with Samsung Electronics on HDR10+ to deliver this striking, cutting-edge technology to entertainment consumers, providing them the opportunity to enjoy unparalleled, state-of-the-art movie-watching experiences across an array of Universal physical and digital titles,” said Michael Bonner, EVP, digital distribution, UPHE, in a statement.
“We have launched a new era of picture-quality technology with HDR10+, providing an amplified vivid viewing experience for consumers” said Hyogun Lee, EVP of the R&D team, visual display business, at Samsung Electronics. “Based on Samsung Electronics’ unique technology and proficiency, we will continue to expand our alliances with premier partners like Universal to provide consumers with the best HDR content possible.”
Samsung Electronics has been collaborating with various companies such as movie studios and OTT operators since the formation of the HDR10+ LLC in August 2017, according to the release. In addition to efforts in Korea, Japan and the United States, Samsung will continue to strengthen the HDR10+ logo and certification program partnership in other territories around the world, according to the release.
Additional details on the HDR10+ certification/logo operating program can be found at www.hdr10plus.org. Logo and technology fees are free.
Dolby also has a dynamic metadata, scene-by-scene, next-gen HDR format, Dolby Vision, requiring a licensing fee.
Spotify March 8 announced a deal with Samsung offering mobile device users direct access to the second-largest music streaming service in the world (after Apple Music). Starting today, the Spotify app will be pre-installed on millions of new Samsung mobile devices globally.
New Spotify consumers in the U.S. with select Samsung Galaxy mobile devices, including the just-launched Galaxy S10, can qualify for six months of free Spotify Premium, redeemable through the app.
The partnership expands last year’s agreement affording Spotify with Samsung’s virtual assistant software, Bixby. Spotify also enhances the Bixby Home screen by providing Spotify content and recommendations tailored for each listener.
“This partnership makes it easy for Samsung mobile users to access their favorite music and podcasts on Spotify, wherever they are and however they choose to listen,” Sten Garmark, VP of consumer products, Spotify, said in a statement.
The embedded Spotify app aims to make Samsung mobile devices more appealing to consumers.
“Our goal is to deliver the best possible mobile experience … and Spotify is the ideal music partner to help us make that vision a reality,” said Patricio Paucar, VP of marketing, Samsung Electronics America. “Whether they’re listening to the latest hit albums or checking out their favorite playlist, we’re giving eligible Galaxy S10 users access to an amazing six month Spotify Premium offer.”
Samsung is stopping production of 1080p and 4K Blu-ray Disc players for the United States market — leaving Sony, Panasonic and LG as the last CE manufacturers supporting the next-generation packaged media format.
The South Korean company had been working on a follow-up to the UBD-M9500 4K BD player, which has now been scrapped. Samsung last bowed a new BD player in 2017.
Though speculated after Samsung didn’t showcase any new BD players at CES in Las Vegas in January, the company confirmed the move in a media statement.
“Samsung will no longer introduce new Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray player models in the U.S. market,” a spokesperson told CNET.
Samsung’s decision follows the exit of Oppo Electronics Corp., the Chinese company known as Oppo, which ceased production of a 4K BD player last year.
While observers contend the move could be due to Samsung backing its proprietary HDR10 and HDR10+ high dynamic range formats versus Dolby Vision, a more realistic reason is market forces.
For the week ended Feb. 9, 4K Blu-ray accounted for just 5% of sales of the top 50 titles, according to VideoScan. That compared with nearly 40% for Blu-ray and 55% for standard DVD.
Indeed, pending Oscar-nominated new release The Favourite (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) and Stan & Ollie (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), reportedly are not getting 4K UHD releases, while Oscar nominee Bohemian Rhapsody and Widows (Fox) are.
Regardless, home entertainment studios remain bullish on 4K UHD.
Format sales surged nearly 70% in the third quarter last year, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. There were 392 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles available in Q3 representing more than $162 million in consumer spend for the period, and 595 4K titles available digitally.
“4K UHD discs already account for almost one in 10 new release discs sold in the U.S,” Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, told Media Play News.
Paramount Home Media Distribution boss Bob Buchi in January said the studio would offer most of its theatrical releases on 4K UHD Blu-ray, as well as select catalog titles.
“The response to our catalog 4K releases has been very promising, so we expect to see increased interest in owning treasured classics in the very best format available,” he said.
The biggest news during last week’s CES occurred hundreds of miles away in Los Angeles.
Amazon’s IMDb.com movie industry website confirmed previous rumors and nixed executive denials with the launch of a branded ad-supported video streaming platform.
IMDb Freedive enables customers to watch TV shows, including “Fringe,” “Heroes,” “The Bachelor” and “Without a Trace,” as well as movies, such as Awakenings, Foxcatcher, Memento, Monster, Run Lola Run, The Illusionist, The Last Samurai and True Romance, without purchasing a subscription, according to Media Play News’ Stephanie Prange.
The launch is significant. Heretofore, AVOD was a distant stepchild to SVOD — the latter spearheaded by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. With a media landscape littered with SVOD and subscription-based online TV, ad-supported platforms offer an economical (i.e. free) alternative.
To be sure, Sony Crackle and Shout! TV have offered ad-supported content without subscription largely to niche audiences for some time. The Roku Channel upped the format by tapping into a user base of more than 27 million Roku subscribers — users who registered to the platform for access to third-party platforms such as Netflix.
The channel, which features catalog TV shows and movies, is now among Roku’s Top 5 accessed platforms. Roku recently licensed the platform to Samsung’s Internet-connected TVs.
“Strong active account growth and accelerating streaming hours point to consumers’ growing enthusiasm for [free] streaming,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood.
Freedive takes AVOD to another level.
Long before there was Google, IMDb.com was the go-to source for actors, TV shows, movies and behind-the-scenes information. Through October, the platform had about 5.3 million titles (including episodes) and 9.3 million personalities in its database, as well as 83 million registered users. Subscription-based IMDb Pro is considered a must-have database for the business-side of Hollywood.
“Once you’ve signed up for Netflix and Amazon and Hulu, you’re more than $30 deep,” Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo, an-ad-supported live TV/on-demand platform, told Digiday.com. “Price-sensitive consumers are seeing [free video streaming services] as viable alternatives or complements to paid services — that’s probably the biggest factor.”
Los Angeles-based Pluto TV launched in 2013 featuring about 100 channels via an ad-supported app that operates on 14 platforms, including Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku and PlayStation consoles.
Last August, Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio rolled out WatchFree, a proprietary ad-supported streaming video platform that partnered with Pluto TV featuring action movies, black cinema, news channels, NBC News, MSNBC, Fox Sports and related fare.
NBC Universal plans to roll out an ad-supported streaming video service in 2020. The media company Jan. 14 re-organized its management structure to accommodate the future streaming service.
Bonnie Hammer, who was named chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, will also oversee NBCU stakes in digital media outlets, including Vox, Snap and BuzzFeed.
The ad-supported service will be available at no cost to NBC Universal’s pay-TV subscribers in the U.S. and major international markets. Comcast Cable and Sky will provide the service to their 52 million subscribers. An ad-free version will also be available for a fee.
Additionally, non-pay TV customers can purchase a subscription to the service. Consistent with the company’s long-standing strategy to distribute its content broadly, NBC Universal will continue to license content to other studios and platforms, while retaining rights to certain titles for its new service.
“Our new service will be different than those presently in the market and it will be built on the company’s strengths, with NBC Universal’s great content and the technology expertise, broad scale and the wide distribution of Comcast Cable and Sky,” said Steve Burke, CEO, NBC Universal.
Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, doubts AVOD will threaten Netflix & Co. anytime soon. He considers the formats largely supplemental to SVOD.
“I’m sure that there are people who can’t afford Netflix who will watch, and there are a handful of subscribers who will defect from Netflix, but most subscribers appreciate the unique content available only on Netflix and will remain subscribers so long as there is fresh original content,” he said.
LAS VEGAS – Samsung Electronics on Jan. 6 announced it will offer iTunes movies and TV shows, and provide Apple AirPlay 2 support, on 2019 Samsung Smart TV models beginning this spring.
Support on 2018 Samsung Smart TVs will be made available via firmware update.
In what is believed to be an industry first, a new iTunes Movies and TV Shows app will debut only on Samsung Smart TVs in more than 100 countries. AirPlay 2 support will be available on Samsung Smart TVs in 190 countries worldwide.
Speaking at the Samsung “First Look CES” preview event at the Aria Resort & Casino, Andrew Sivori, a VP of TV product marketing at Samsung Electronics America, told members of the press, “For the first time, users in more than 100 countries will be able to access the iTunes Movies and TV Shows app…. Users will be able to access their iTunes Movies and TV Shows purchases as well as buy or watch something new from the iTunes store, plus the app will work seamlessly with Samsung TV services like Universal Guide, the new Bixby and Search.” (Bixby is Samsung’s answer to Google Home or Amazon Alexa.)
Jonghee Han, president of the Visual Display Business at Samsung, told Media Play News the Apple deal is significant because it makes it easier for users to access content. “The presentation is very important,” he said.
With AirPlay 2 support, Samsung customers will be able to effortlessly play videos, photos, music, podcasts and more from Apple devices directly to Samsung Smart TVs, including QLED 4K and 8K TVs, The Frame and Serif lifestyle TVs, as well as other Samsung UHD and HD models.
“We pride ourselves on working with top industry leaders to deliver the widest range of content services to our Smart TV platform,” said Won-Jin Lee, EVP of the Visual Display Business at Samsung Electronics. “Bringing more content, value and open platform functionality to Samsung TV owners and Apple customers through iTunes and AirPlay is ideal for everyone.”
“We look forward to bringing the iTunes and AirPlay 2 experience to even more customers around the world through Samsung Smart TVs, so iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favorite content on the biggest screen in their home,” said Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services at Apple.
Also at the First Look preview event, Samsung introduced its latest innovations in modular Micro LED display technology. The new Micro LED technology designs featured at the event included a new 75-inch display, a 219-inch The Wall (significantly bigger than the 146-inch Wall at last year’s CES) as well as other various new sizes, shapes and configurations for a next-generation modular Micro LED display – a 2019 CES Best of Innovation Award winner.
“What is the next top screen?” asked Han at the event. “Consumers should have the freedom to choose their desired shape and size.”
Featuring self-emissive technology and modular capabilities, Samsung’s Micro LED displays deliver improved picture quality, versatility and design. These TV displays are made up of individual modules of self-emissive Micro LEDs, featuring millions of inorganic red, green and blue microscopic LED chips that emit their own light to produce brilliant colors on screen – “delivering unmatched picture quality that surpasses any display technology currently available on the market,” Samsung said in a news release.
The new technology promises longer lifespan, less power use and the ability to adapt to greater resolution, such as 8K or 10K, according to Samsung. Even when adding more modules, Samsung Micro LED displays can scale to increase the resolution — all while keeping the pixel density constant. Additionally, Micro LED can support everything from the standard 16:9 content, to 21:9 widescreen films, to unconventional aspect ratios like 32:9, or even 1:1 – without having to make any compromises in its picture quality.
Also, because Micro LED displays are bezel-free, there are no borders between modules – even when you add more.
Cinedigm Dec. 18 announced a partnership with Samsung to give viewers access to the home entertainment distributor’s over-the-top video platforms — fandom-dedicated CONtv and the family friendly faith-based Dove Channel — available on Samsung’s TV Plus video service.
TV Plus is Samsung’s owned and operated video service, which provides access to a variety of free streaming channels covering sports, lifestyle, and related third-party content on select Samsung TVs.
It does not require a subscription fee, account set-up, or credit card info to access. CONtv and the Dove Channel – which do require separate subscriptions – are currently available on 2017 and 2018 Samsung Smart TV models, and will be rolling out to more in the future.
CONtv offers access to thousands of hours of content showcasing an eclectic catalog of must-watch favorites featuring quintessential cult films, and classic television shows, spanning a wide array of genres including sci-fi, horror, fantasy, anime, grindhouse, and martial arts.
Dove Channel offers viewers a large library of high-quality values-based films, children’s programs, documentaries, and series. All content featured on Dove Channel meets the standards of The Dove Foundation and its esteemed Faith & Family Dove Seals of Approval — serving as an invaluable resource for families across the country for over 27 years.
“Samsung is the top television brand on the market today,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement. “Cinedigm is proud to partner with them to bring two of our most popular digital-first networks to their users on their convenient TV Plus service.”
Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Samsung placed among the top brands in a new survey from global consultancy firm Prophet.
The firm released its fourth annual Brand Relevance Index, in which it surveyed 12,694 consumers in the United States across 299 brands in 37 categories.
The top 10 in order were Apple, Amazon, Pinterest, Netflix, Android, Google, Samsung, Kitchen Aid, Spotify and Nike.
Among the top 25, media and entertainment companies included YouTube (No. 12), PlayStation (No. 13), Disney (No. 14), Pixar (No. 15), Sony (No. 21) and Xbox (No. 25).
“It’s clear that to be successful, brands need more than size and ubiquity,” said Scott Davis, chief growth officer, Prophet, in a statement. “They must create a product that people love enough to integrate into their everyday lives. The brands that inspire this level of loyalty will ultimately grow the fastest because they are relevant in the moments that matter most to consumers.”
Netflix and Pixar were among top brands that were most “customer obsessed,” according to the survey, while PlayStation, Marvel and Google were most “pervasively innovative.” Netflix was the category leader in the “Media” segment, PlayStation led in “Electronics & Gaming,” Apple led in “Computing & Software,” Amazon led in “Retailers” and Verizon led in “Telecommunications.”
Apple, Netflix, Pinterest, Amazon and Android were the top brands, in order, among females. Amazon, Apple, PlayStation, Spotify and Samsung, in order, were the top brands among males.
Among millennials, the top brands, in order, were Netflix, Amazon, KitchenAid, Apple and Google. Among non-millennials, top brands, in order, were Apple, Amazon, Pinterest, Android and Netflix.
Facebook (No. 205) was the “biggest mover” in the negative direction.
Walmart-owned online movie service Vudu.com has upgraded its Android TV app to include Sony televisions, enabling users to watch Vudu UHD titles in 4K with Dolby Vision HDR and HDR-10 functionality.
4K claims four time the pixels of 1080p with added life-like color of high dynamic range technology.
Vudu currently offers 4K UHD on most TV brands (Samsung, LG, Vizio, inadddtion to streaming media devices Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, TiVo, Xbox One S and Nvidia Shield video game consoles.
“4K and HDR represent the best possible cinematic experience in the home – and we want to be able to deliver that experience to as many people as possible, accorss as many devices as possible,” Kristine Lopes, senior manager, product marketing at Vudu, said in a statement.
Virtual reality headsets – video game technology briefly championed as a home entertainment savior – appear to have lost their mojo among consumers.
Global shipments of VR headsets dropped 33.7% in the second quarter of 2018, according to new data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Augmented and Virtual Reality Headset Tracker.
Tethered VR headsets declined 37.3% as major brands such as Oculus and Sony were unable to maintain consumer demand following price reductions in the previous-year period, according to IDC.
The report said the two brands managed to ship 102,000 and 93,000 headsets respectively in the period. The category leader, HTC, shipped close to 111,000 headsets (excluding the standalone Vive Focus) thanks to the growing popularity of the Viveport subscription service as well as the launch of the Pro headset.
Screenless viewers, which enjoyed initial popularity when Samsung, Alcatel, and Google bundled the headsets with smartphones, has seen consumer interest dwindle. The category has shrunk from 1 million headsets in Q2 2017 to 409,000 units this year. This category was the largest contributor to the decline in shipments for the overall VR headset market.
“One of the major issues with the VR market is that consumers still find it difficult to try a VR headset,” Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC, said in a statement.
IDC expects this to be a temporary setback as the VR market finds its legs. The arrival of new products, such as the Oculus Go and HTC Vive Pro, and new brands, combined with the need for greater headset fidelity all point to a positive outlook for the quarters ahead.
“This is where the commercial market has an opportunity to shine,” said Ubrani. “HTC’s recent partnership with Dave & Busters or Oculus’ work with schools around the world stand to play an important role in educating and enticing consumers to use VR.”
Indeed, standalone VR headset shipments grew 417.7% in the quarter, largely due to the global availability of the Oculus Go/Xiaomi Mi VR, which managed to ship 212,000 headsets.
While the consumer side of the VR headset market remains the focus of attention, the commercial side is gaining traction. In Q2, roughly 20% of VR headsets were destined for the commercial sector, up from 14% last year. Along with the increase in share, average selling prices have also increased from $333 to $442 during the same period.
“In a market where mainstream VR content is still lacking, a growing number of vendors are looking to commercial as a way to build their business while they wait for the consumers to catch up,” said Tom Mainelli, VP, devices and augmented and virtual reality at IDC. “These vendors are moving beyond entertainment-focused deployments to real-world training scenarios in companies of all sizes, all over the world. IDC expects commercial buyers to represent an increasingly important percentage of the market going forward.”