President Trump’s favorite communication vehicle — Twitter — Feb. 7 reported 27 million people in the United States used the social media platform on a daily basis in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) — which was up 2 million users from the previous-year period.
Twitter, for the first time, revealed daily use of the platform, which included 10 million more users outside the U.S. to 99 million from 89 million in the previous-year period.
“We want to provide something valuable to people on Twitter every day, and we believe that monetizable [daily average use], and its related growth, are the best ways to measure our success,” founder/CEO Jack Dorsey wrote in the shareholder letter.
Average monthly use of the San Francisco-based service declined worldwide, including by 2 million in the U.S. to 66 million, and by 7 million to 255 million internationally.
Advertising revenue, which makes up the bulk of Twitter’s sales, increased 23% to $791 million from $644 million. Data licensing and other revenue increased 35% to $117 million from $87 million in the previous-year period.
Non-GAAP net income increased 73% to $244 million from $141 million during the previous-year period.
In the letter, Dorsey said abuse reports filed by users fell 16%, with the platform pledging to curb abuse of the platform by politically-motivated groups, individuals and others engaged in fraudulent or hateful activity.
“We will continue to prioritize the health of the public conversation on Twitter so people feel safe being a part of the conversation and are able to find credible information on our service,” he wrote.
In 2018, Twitter fielded 100 live-streaming video events and signed several video-on-demand agreements to complement user-generated and licensed live and on-demand video content already available on Twitter across a number of verticals including sports, news and politics, and entertainment.
Dorsey reiterated that video continues to be a “powerful, essential medium” on Twitter, enabling users and content owners to better “share experiences, engage in events, and converse with broader audiences.”
Speakers discussed changes in digital entertainment content, stars, business models and more during the Digital Entertainment World conference Feb. 4 in Marina del Rey, Calif.
Digital Media Wire founder Ned Sherman noted that in the past year the industry produced nearly 500 original scripted programs, the majority of which for the first time came from streaming services.
“There’s almost sort of an arm’s race going on in this space,” he said, noting the billions being spent on programming by Netflix and other streaming services.
Speakers discussed the advantages and disadvantages of subscription streaming models (SVOD), ad-supported free streaming models (AVOD) and graduated spending models, such as Hulu’s, which has both ad-supported and ad-free services.
Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV, extolled the virtues of free AVOD and his company’s pending acquisition by Viacom, announced last month.
“They have world class brands, well-known programming. They’ve got advanced advertising capabilities, and they are a global company,” he said, noting Viacom will help Pluto TV expand internationally.
The acquisition will “accelerate what we’ve already built,” he said. Pluto TV is “the leading free streaming television service in America,” with 12 million monthly users and 100 channels, he said.
Free AVOD fills an important need as “there has been a certain amount of subscription fatigue,” he said.
“The problem comes down to payment,” he said. “There’s only so many services that people will pay for.”
He mentioned a survey by Ampere that found the average SVOD home subscribes to 2.8 streaming services.
“You have Netflix and Amazon Prime, and everybody else fighting for that 0.8,” he said.
He said that, rather than creating channels that match those on traditional cable,
“we will create new channels that include content from Viacom.”
“I think AVOD content has been a big theme to start out this year,” said Ellation’s Eric Berman in “The Future of the Television Business” panel.
“There’s a big conundrum in the AVOD model,” said Popsugar Studios’ David Grant on the same panel. “Somehow the content has to be created.”
Viacom is buying Pluto TV, but the AVOD service is “not funding that content,” he noted.
“When is the AVOD system going to be able to fund the creation of television-sized content?” he asked.
The very nature of content is undergoing a transformation, speakers noted. Digital content isn’t constrained by the need to fill a half-hour sitcom slot or hour-long drama. It also can explore niche subjects.
As opposed to globalization, “for me the greatest power of digital is actually localization,” noted keynote speaker Gerrit Meier of the Red Bull Media Network, which creates programming around sports such as surfing and mountain biking, among other subjects. Through the internet, local communities around the world can find a voice, exposing sports “that I have never heard of before,” he said.
“Those are all stories that should be told,” he said.
Content, too, can morph to suit a mobile audience, noted Jesus Chavez, CEO of Vertical Networks.
In designing mobile content, “I’m competing with everything that’s on a person’s phone,” he said. It must be engrossing in the mobile space, he noted.
Digital stars, too, have a new style. They exude authenticity and communicate more closely with their audiences.
“We are always looking to populate our projects with people who have relevance in the social media space,” said Shelley Zimmerman, co-head of digital media company Awesomeness (owned by Viacom).
Studio71’s Dan Weinstein noted that the new digital stars are more relatable, as opposed to the “untouchable” movie stars.
Speakers also discussed augmented and virtual reality.
Hilary Hoffman, EVP, global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, detailed a Jurassic World campaign that used augmented reality to allow Facebook users to view dinosaurs that jumped out at them at retail and at home. She said the campaign was much more successful than anticipated, but that monetizing AR will require more ease of use.
“Right now, it’s more promotional,” she said, but it “has so much great potential.”
Facebook Watch, the social media behemoth’s streaming video platform launched in 2016, has access to Major League Baseball and Premier League soccer, among other marquee content. But more than 50% of Facebook users don’t know what Watch is — and fewer still use it, according to new data from The Diffusion Group.
In a survey of more than 1,600 adult Facebook users, just 21% said they streamed content on Watch monthly. Another 14% said they streamed content weekly and 6% said they watched ad-supported content daily.
“Despite the slow build of Watch users, it would be remiss to underestimate Facebook’s long-term potential as a large-scale video provider,” Michael Greeson, president of The Diffusion Group, said in a statement.
Greeson said Facebook is employing Watch as a means of exploiting its “massive scale” to sell video, similar to what Amazon is doing with Prime Video. Indeed, Facebook reportedly is spending upwards of $1 billion in 2018 to fund original programming.
Programs include teen dramas, “SKAM Austin,” “Five Points,” “Sacred Lies,” and “Turnt,” in addition to comedies “Strangers,” “Starter Pack,” and “Sorry for Your Loss.”
Regardless of the strategy, TDG contends Facebook – like Amazon and Apple – has the advantage that it is not dependent upon video for revenue growth or sustainability as are standalone video, music and gaming services.
“This is why technology companies are so dangerous to legacy media companies,” said Greeson. “Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon have such deep pockets and vast business empires that they can spin up a service in short order and lose money on it for years if it serves a higher purpose, like keeping Facebook users in the branded ecosystem for longer. For large tech companies, media services are commonly a means to a larger end, not ends in themselves.”
NEWS ANALYSIS — Heading into the July 4 holiday, Sony Pictures released on YouTube what it said was a trailer to Khali the Killer, a crime drama about a retiring East Los Angeles hit man who develops empathy for one of his targets.
Instead of the trailer for the reported future theatrical release, viewers got to briefly see the entire 90-minute movie. And Sony received a windfall of media coverage about how it screwed up.
But did the studio really mess up, or did someone in marketing at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment use social media to its full viral advantage?
In a box office era dominated by superhero sequels and undermined by over-the-top video, developing an audience for a low-budget non-comedy about an ex-gang member (Richard Cabral) taking one last job to support his ailing grandmother is a challenge.
Yet, the Internet was abuzz about the alleged marketing misstep on the very day (July 3) SPHE released Khali the Killer on DVD for $14.95.
Khali may be “the hero you hate to love,” but you have to know a hero even exists before you can love them. And Sony successfully got people talking about it.
Not unlike what Artisan Entertainment (now merged with Lionsgate) accomplished 20 years ago with its low-budget ($60,000) indie horror movie, The Blair Witch Project.
Utilizing the nascent Internet and untapped social media channels at the time, Artisan cleverly “released” on YouTube video of what it claimed was selfie footage found from three student filmmakers who disappeared in 1994 searching for a mythical creature known as the Blair Witch in the town of Burkittsville, Md.
The studio/distributor also created a website (which still exists) chronicling the missing students’ last known contacts with town locals and interactions with family and friends. The website reportedly generated more than 21 million unique visitors/hits prior to the film’s release.
The studio had successfully tapped into the social conscience of the 18- to 34-year-old target audience. The Blair Witch Project would go on to generate almost $250 million at the global box office — and millions more on home video.
NEWS ANALYSIS — The close of Netflix’s first business day (June 25) following the ouster of its communications boss for racist comments saw the subscription streaming video pioneer’s stock lose $12 billion in valuation.
Netflix shares closed down 6.7% — the largest drop since 2016 when it elected not to renew a content license agreement with Epix, the multi-platform pay-TV channel co-owned at the time by MGM, Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures.
To some, the decline reflected short sellers reacting to co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings’ decision to terminate Jonathan Friedland, head of Netflix’s PR team, for repeated racist comments in the workplace.
Hastings, in a June 22 email to employees, attempted to intellectualize his reasons for not terminating Friedland the first time he used the “N-word” in a company meeting reportedly about insensitive words.
“We hoped this was an awful anomaly never to be repeated,” Hastings wrote.
The executive then went on to say that his “privilege” had likely caused him to not comprehend the seriousness of the issue and how offensive the use of the racial slur by “non-black people” is.
“There is not a way to neutralize the emotion and history behind the word in any context,” Hastings wrote.
But does Wall Street really care about social issues, including race?
Starbucks last month closed 8,000 stores in the United States for racial-bias training after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia store while waiting for a friend — and not buying anything.
The April 12 incident caused a national uproar regarding ongoing concerns about racial profiling (the Starbuck store’s manager called police) and police response. The two men said they feared for their lives when the authorities arrived.
Regardless, Starbuck’s stock went up slightly following the event.
To Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, Netflix’s market correction wasn’t directly due to social issues.
Instead, the analyst contends some investors used the episode to cool an overheated stock. Netflix’s market capitalization in May briefly topped Disney and Comcast.
“It has appreciated more than any of big tech this year, so it was a little frothy,” Pachter said in an email.
Years ago, the predecessor to Media Play News (Home Media Magazine) interviewed Roseanne Barr regarding a pending DVD release. Barr, who was long past the original “Roseanne” TV show at the time, was charming, witty (“I’m only talking to you for the money”) and bored.
“I sit around the house and watch a lot of TV,” she chuckled. “I like ‘Nancy Grace.’”
Unfortunately for Barr, boredom these days apparently includes wading into the social media abyss — and leaving common sense to others.
Which is what happened to the former standup comic this morning, resulting in a tirade of offensive tweets, including a racist post about a former Obama Administration official. All that was missing was a noose.
Not even Nancy Grace could (or would) save Barr from the swift blowback in the media and on social media condemning her comments. Comic Wanda Sykes, a writer on the “Roseanne” reboot on ABC quickly quit the show in protest.
Barr apologized for her tweets, adding she would be leaving Twitter for good.
Of course, no one should really be surprised considering Barr’s questionable public statements in the past, unrepentant support of President Trump, who launched his campaign on the back of bigotry, and politically incorrect tone in the new “Roseanne” show.
Barr’s comments are protected under the First Amendment, not unlike the Second Amendment affording gun rights to individuals who should never have access to a firearm.
Indeed, Harris Faulkner, a black female host on Fox News, defended Barr.
“I don’t understand it to be anything other than free speech,” Faulkner said.
Yes, but free speech is a slippery slope. Just because you can spout bigoted thoughts, doesn’t mean you should. Especially when you are in the public eye — and advertisers are footing the bill.
ABC wisely canceled “Roseanne,” despite the show’s top ratings in a media landscape under siege by over-the-top video.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” Channing Dungey, entertainment chief at ABC, said in a statement.
Barr’s agent, ICM Partners, agreed, dumping her as a client.
“We are all greatly distressed by the disgraceful and unacceptable tweet from Roseanne Barr this morning,” ICM said in a statement, as reported by The Wrap. “What she wrote is antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency.”
Paramount Network, TV Land, CMT and Hulu dropped airing/streaming “Roseanne” re-runs. The show is still available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
And thus, in a matter of hours, Barr went from TV’s biggest comeback story to social outcast, joining “Seinfeld” legend Michael Richards (Kramer) – whose 2006 racist outburst during a standup gig sent the actor’s career into extinction.
Thanks to a record stock price, subscription streaming video behemoth Netflix quietly ended May 23 with a market value exceeding Comcast for the first time.
The same Comcast that owns NBC Universal, DreamWorks Animation and wants to own 20th Century Fox Film and British satellite TV operator Sky.
Netflix ended the day with market capitalization of $149 billion, which bested Comcast’s $147 billion market cap. Netflix opened May 24 up to $151.8 billion, which passed Disney’s $151.7 billion market cap.
With more than 125 million subscribers globally, Netflix continues to grow. The service expects to add 6.2 million subs in the second quarter ending June 30.
The service also continues to expand its creative product with the bow of “Dear White People,” “The Break with Michelle Wolf” on May 27, and announcement of future projects with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
The latter drew some pushback on social media, with several subscribers saying on Twitter they would cancel their service, according to Fortune.
Apparently, President Obama’s desire to “cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples and help them share their stories with the entire world,” being an affront to some.
Chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the Obamas are “uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better.”
Facebook March 19 saw its market cap plummet $37 billion after media reports said the social media behemoth violated privacy rules selling user information to a third-party company active in the 2016 presidential election.
Specifically, The New York Times reported Facebook sold personal information of about 50 million users to Cambridge Analytica, a conservative London-based consulting firm that combines data mining and data analysis to “change audience behavior” for the electoral process.
Facebook, which became aware of the data breach in 2015, according to the Times, has been under pressure to do more about the spread of politically-motivated fake news posts during the election.
Last November, the paper reported that many of the posts on Facebook had been paid for by Russian operatives seeking to disrupt the electoral process in favor of Donald Trump.
“America, we have a problem,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said at the time. “We basically have the brightest minds of our tech community here and Russia was able to weaponize your platforms to divide us, to dupe us and to discredit democracy.”
Now, members of Congress want to grill Facebook and other tech companies about data security.
Lawmakers Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) March 19 called on Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before Congress to answer questions.
“While Facebook has pledged to enforce its policies to protect people’s information, questions remain as to whether those policies are sufficient and whether Congress should take action to protect people’s private information,” Klobuchar and Kennedy said in a joint statement. “The lack of oversight on how data is stored and how political advertisements are sold raises concerns about the integrity of American elections as well as privacy rights.”
Separately, Facebook reportedly will hold an open meeting with employees March 20 to discuss the Cambridge debacle. Alex Stamos, chief information security officer at Facebook, has already announced plans to leave the company this summer.
In a first, Major League Baseball has signed a deal with Facebook enabling the social media behemoth (1.4 billion active daily users) to exclusively stream one afternoon MLB Network game per week. The deal reportedly is worth upwards of $35 million.
The deal, which primarily involves Wednesday games, starts April 4 with the Philadelphia Phillies taking on the New York Mets. Facebook reportedly will include graphics and links during games to enhance the social media appeal among younger viewers.
Last May, MLB and Facebook partnered to stream select Friday night games – the league’s first regular-season live streams on a third-party platform beyond MLB.com and MLB.tv. Facebook previously streamed Spring Training games in 2011.
Unlike Netflix, which thus far is shunning live sports programing, Facebook, YouTube and Amazon have become active platforms/bidders for National Football League, UEFA Champions League soccer and NCAA basketball live contests.
“Much like the migration of sports from broadcast to cable, you’re reaching these milestones where the combination of the financial incentive and the audience allow you to make the next great leap,” industry consultant Lee Berke told Bloomberg.com. “This is part of the next great leap.”