NBCUniversal Expands Social Media Content Partnership With New Twitter Deal

NBCUniversal and Twitter Jan. 25 announced an agreement that would expand original content across the social media platform worldwide.

NBCUniversal offers trending news and video from myriad high-profile events such as “The Golden Globes,” “The People’s Choice Awards,” “The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” and Telemundo’s “Latin American Music Awards”; news on Noticias Telemundo;  and events on NBC Sports, Telemundo Deportes, Sky Sports and the Golf Channel developed and distributed on Twitter.

“By joining forces with Twitter on this new global partnership, we’re bringing NBCUniversal’s premium content directly to audiences around the world, and we’re leveraging Twitter’s platform capabilities to create even more engaging and interactive experiences,” Joe Cady, SVP of development at NBCUniversal, said in a statement.

Since 2015, NBCUniversal has invested heavily in digital platforms, including partnerships with Snap, Vox and BuzzFeed, among others. The media giant last year launched Peacock, its first branded SVOD/AVOD platform. The new deal with Twitter seeks to further involve NBCU’s brands on social media platforms.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“NBCU represents one of Twitter’s largest and deepest content partnerships in the U.S.,” Jen Prince, VP and global head of content partnerships for Twitter, said in a statement. “This agreement expands not only their content publishing output in the U.S., but will position international markets for growth as well.”

Facebook Decries Netflix Doc ‘The Social Dilemma’ as Unbalanced

Facebook is pushing back against the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which it claims misses the point about social media — and puts platforms such as Facebook in a negative light.

The 93-minute doc, which was released on Sept. 9, uses insight from former Facebook engineers (and others at Google and Twitter) to suggest that algorithms intended to bring people together through social media have instead been used to make billions of dollars by dividing people. And in today’s hyper-partisan political divide, that kind of influence and power draws criticism.

Facebook had 1.79 billion daily users in the most-recent fiscal quarter (ended June 30), generating $18.69 billion in revenue.

“It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that it is product,” says Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist and philosophy writer featured in the doc. “There’s nothing else on the table that could possibly be called the product. That’s the only thing there is for them to make money from. Changing what you do, how you think, who you are.”

Comments like that prompted Facebook to issue a seven-point rebuttal seeking to clear misperceptions.

“Rather than offer a nuanced look at technology, [the doc] gives a distorted view of how social media platforms work to create a convenient scapegoat for what are difficult and complex societal problems,” Facebook wrote.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The platform contends the doc’s creators do not include insights from people currently working at Facebook and other social media companies, and does not include commentary that takes a different point of view.

“They don’t acknowledge — critically or otherwise — the efforts already taken by companies to address many of the issues [raised in the doc],” Facebook wrote. “Instead, they rely on commentary from those who haven’t been on the inside for many years.”

Facebook is referring to previous revelations that it unwittingly helped third-parties working with Russia to use Facebook data to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

“Despite what the film suggests, we have policies that prohibit businesses from sending us sensitive data about people, including users’ health information or social security numbers,” Facebook wrote, adding that it has made “significant changes” as part of its agreement with the Federal Trade Commission.

“We’ve created new safeguards for how data is used,” Facebook wrote.

But as doc reviewer David Ehrlich wrote in IndieWire, the film covers a “staggering breadth” of topics and ramifications, many of which are playing again in the 2020 election cycle.

“Russia didn’t hack Facebook, Russia used Facebook,” Ehrlich wrote.

 

Disney+ Adding ‘GroupWatch’ Feature in Social Media Push

Disney+ is the latest subscription streaming video service to jump aboard the social media bandwagon promoting co-viewership among family and friends.

Dubbed “GroupWatch,” the feature — available Sept. 29 — enables a Disney+ subscriber (in the U.S. only) to invite up to six others (with Disney+ subscriptions) to stream content and interact socially together on an Internet-connected television, laptop or smart phone. The feature, which reportedly had been tested Canada, Australia and New Zealand prior to the coronavirus pandemic, was expedited into service due to the pending second-season launch of “The Mandalorian,” ongoing theater closures and influx of housebound viewers.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Subscribers (with the exception of children’s accounts) can share onscreen emojis (“like,” “funny,” “sad,” “angry,” “scared” and “surprised”) during a program — but cannot yet text chat with each other, a feature found on other platforms. The feature is available on all Disney+ programming with the exception of Premier Access, which means a subscriber paying $29.99 to own Mulan can’t share it with another subscriber who hasn’t purchased the movie.

“Storytelling comes alive when you’re able to share and enjoy it with others, and in this moment when many are still apart from their friends and family, GroupWatch offers a way to safely connect virtually by co-viewing your favorite Disney+ stories with your favorite people from the comfort of your living room,” Jerrell Jimerson, SVP of product management for Disney+, said in a statement.

The Social Dilemma

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Documentary;
Not rated.

If you’ve got a kid constantly glued to their phone (which is just about every kid), this documentary may be very frightening.

The Social Dilemma, much like another Netflix doc The Great Hack (nominated for an Emmy), explores the insidious nature of social media — and how it may be controlling us. While The Great Hack looked at election manipulation, The Social Dilemma examines how algorithms are attempting to control our minute-by-minute attention — all in order to serve advertisers looking to attract eyeballs — with dangerous consequences.

Through interviews with former employees of the big tech companies and dramatic scenarios, the documentary lays out the case that social media, in its conquest to capture our attention (much like a drug), is manipulating our actions and our very perception of the world around us. To monopolize viewers’ attention, algorithms serve up a warped world that is only designed to do just that — keep us engaged. The content that it delivers is inconsequential to the impersonal algorithm (dramatically portrayed by actor Vincent Kartheiser, who many may remember from “Mad Men”), which doesn’t care how violent, slanted or downright untrue that content is. In fact, the more incendiary or untruthful, the more engaging that content is. All the algorithm (Kartheiser) cares about is how long it can keep a subject’s attention.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The fictional sections of this hybrid doc — in which actors portray the effects of social media — work to dramatize digital control, but not always to a great effect. Some of the scenarios seem a bit overdrawn. Still, the actors help illustrate the real-world implications of social media, and in the case of Kartheiser (playing the algorithm trying to get the actors’ attention), personify the intentions of an abstract concept that many may find hard to understand.

Indeed, it is control that the algorithm wants — control of our time. And, in taking that control, the algorithm pushes our thinking and actions in directions that they might not have gone otherwise.

One of the most shocking moments in the documentary is when a tech exec — who admits to being addicted to social media — says he won’t let his children have screen time.

If social media is so dangerous that its creators won’t let their own children use it, why should we?

‘Cuties’ Director Responds to Media, Political Backlash

NEWS ANALYSIS — In an era of hyper-partisan politics during an election year, Netflix’s French-language film Cuties, about an 11-year-old girl from Senegal who joins a dance troupe to escape an overbearing mother, has found a perfect storm.

No issue riles people more than child endangerment and/or exploitation. Throw in the Internet and social media, and incendiary charges of sexualization of underage girls quickly morph into child pornography and worse.

That’s the reality Netflix and Cuties director Maimouna Doucouré find themselves in as national politicians, parent groups and right-wing media jump on the bandwagon of condemnation — with pitched calls to boycott the film and cancel Netflix subscriptions across social media (#CancelNetflix).

Former presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) called Cuties “child porn” on Twitter, claiming the movie would “certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles [and] help fuel the child sex trafficking trade.”

Netflix says the movie projects the opposite message.

Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” the service said in a statement. “It’s an award-winning film [Sundance Film Festival] and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Regardless, Netflix has no less than three petitions circulating on Change.org totaling almost 1 million supporters seeking to either remove the movie or drop the service. The platform is undermined in part by its own content tracking metric that registers a viewer after just two minutes. As a result, Cuties — despite requiring English-language captions for most American viewers — is trending as the 7th most-popular program on the platform after launching on Sept. 9.

Then a Sept. 14 report from research firm YipitData suggested Netflix was experiencing record churn, or subscribers not renewing service, with eight times more subs dropping the service on Sept. 12 than did in August, according to Fox Business. Netflix, per policy, does not report churn data. It ended the most-recent fiscal period with 193 million subscribers.

When Netflix tried to soften the movie’s marketing by replacing images of the young female characters in suggestive dance poses, critics only amplified their response.

“By removing the offensive poster and replacing it with a more innocuous one, Netflix might actually have made the situation worse by suggesting that Cuties is nothing more than a cute, coming-of-age movie,” Melissa Henson, program director for the Parents Television Council, a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment, said in a statement.

In a virtual interview hosted by French cinema’s UniFrance, director Doucouré appeared taken aback by the media criticism and social backlash.

“The most import thing is to watch the film and understand we have the same fight [against child exploitation],” Doucouré said, adding she thought the film would be accepted in the U.S. despite differences between French and American culture.

“It played to Sundance and was watched by American people there; I met the public there and they really saw that the film is about a universal issue,” Doucouré said. “It’s not about French society — the hyper-sexualization of children happens through social media and social media is everywhere. People [at Sundance] agreed with that.”

Netflix reports third-quarter fiscal earnings (ending Sept. 30) on Oct. 15.

Ex-Disney+ Boss Kevin Mayer Quits as TikTok CEO

Kevin Mayer, who helped launch and lead Disney+, has resigned as CEO of Chinese-owned social media app TikTok — just three months after taking the job.

Mayer, who was also COO of TikTok parent ByteDance, apparently tired of being in the center of an escalating U.S.-China tech war that has also affected CE manufacturer Huawei, WeChat and Zoom.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for,” Mayer said in an letter to staff disclosed to the media. “Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.”

“We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevin’s role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision,” TikTok said in a statement regarding Mayer’s decision.

Follow us on Instagram

Venessa Pappas, GM of U.S. operations, will head TikTok on an interim basis.

TikTok, which has become a social media phenomenon (100 million monthly users in the U.S.) offering short-form video selfies and related user-generated content, has been under attack by the Trump Administration, including a recent executive seeking to ban the app in the United States unless it is sold. The app this month surpassed 2 billion global downloads.

The federal government contends the app is a security threat because its collects data on users, which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information,” according to the executive order.

ByteDance reportedly is looking to move TikTok’s servers out of China in addition to selling the app. Interested parties include Microsoft and Oracle.

Regardless, Mayer wanted no part of pending changes at TikTok.

“The role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally -— will look very different as a result of the U.S. Administration’s action to push for a sell off of the U.S. business,” Mayer wrote. “I’ve always been globally focused in my work, and leading a global team that includes TikTok U.S. was a big draw for me.”

Report: Video Streaming Leads in Brand Trust; Social Media Less So

During the pandemic, consumers are looking to digital/streaming video platforms for nearly every aspect of their lives. At the same time, trust in digital distribution is declining, according to new data from Intent Lab, a research partnership between Performics and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications.

Intent Lab has been tracking consumers’ satisfaction with their digital experiences since Q2 2016, and trust is at the core. Consumer trust in digital experiences reached its lowest point in October 2018. Since then, trust rose, but has now fallen again over the past six months.

Social media, e-commerce, gaming and video/audio streaming platforms are experiencing a surge in usage, but consumers don’t always trust information from these platforms, according to the report. Consumers rate Amazon as the most trusted platform, with Google and Apple following. Consumers most trust information from video platforms (53%), commerce (45%) and gaming (44%), with social media far behind (25%).

“In crisis, trust can make it or break it for brands,” Esteban Ribero, SVP of planning and insights at Performics, said in a statement. “Over time, the Intent Lab has identified factors that make consumers trust or distrust brands, like protection of personal information, familiarity, adequacy of privacy practices, utility, quality of services or products, honesty, customer service and prevalence of misinformation.”

Control and transparency are key to boosting consumer trust in digital experiences, and respondents want the government to take action. The Intent Lab study found that people want more control over their information online:

  • 80% of consumers say they would like more control over their personal data online. But one in five said they would provide brands with personal information in exchange for a 50%+ discount.
  • 71% would like to see the government reform how companies treat their data. Three in four Gen X and Baby Boomers said they’d like to see the government reform how companies treat consumer data (vs. 64% of millennials).

 

“The pandemic has accelerated consumer adoption and use of digital, whether it’s online commerce, apps, social media or streaming everything from movies to fitness classes. As consumer reliance on these platforms increases, trust is the most critical factor in maintaining and growing this level of adoption,” Ribero said. “Most importantly, our study proves that brands must obtain permission to use consumer data and be transparent in how they use that data.”

Report: Netflix a Global Influencer on Twitter

Move over, President Trump. You’ve got company as a significant influencer on social media platform Twitter. That’s according to new intel from analytics company GlobalData, which found SVOD pioneer Netflix has dominated online chatter during the past 90 days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Twitter-related discussions to Netflix spiked more than 60% from March through May compared with the previous-year period due in large part to people being forced to stay at home due to COVID-19. The subscription streaming video behemoth has more than 8.2 million followers on Twitter.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In April, Twitter chatter about Netflix skyrocketed when the company announced it had added an eye-popping 15.8 million new subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31) due to home restrictions, and reported quarterly revenue of $5.77 billion against an estimated $5.76 billion. In fact, unlike many companies, the COVID-19 crisis has had a positive impact on the company’s stock price as it is up by almost 14% since the beginning of the year.

Follow us on Instagram

“Due to COVID-19, people are streaming more content online as they spend more time at home, bringing companies like Netflix to a bright spot in the entertainment sector, with significant growth in new subscribers and higher viewing time,” Prashant Saxena, influencer expert at GlobalData, said in a statement.

In March, there was another spike in chatter when the streamer agreed with the European Union to slow down the speed of its streaming service for 30 days to reduce traffic across Europe by 25% and ensure that broadband networks perform adequately with millions of people confined to their homes.

“As the world starts easing lockdown restrictions and slowly reopening restaurants and other recreational destinations, it is expected that the viewership and membership numbers for Netflix will likely be impacted, including [driving up social media banter], Saxena said.

U.K. Daily Internet Usage Tops 4 Hours

Internet use in the United Kingdom is surging. Adults in the U.K. now spend more than a quarter of their waking day online with myriad services such as TikTok and Zoom, according to new data from Ofcom, the region’s regulator for the communications services.

In April, during the height of the coronavirus lockdown, U.K. adults spent a daily average of four hours and two minutes online. This was up from just under three and a half hours in September 2019. With people looking for new ways to keep connected, informed, entertained and fit during the pandemic, video-sharing and video-calling services surged in popularity.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

TikTok, which allows users to create and share short dance and lip-sync videos, reached 12.9 million U.K. adult visitors in April, up from just 5.4 million in January. Twitch, the live-streaming platform for video gamers, saw an increase from 2.3 million adults to 4.2 million.

The number of people making video calls doubled during lockdown, with more than 70% doing so at least weekly. Houseparty, the app which combines group video-calls with games and quizzes, grew from 175,000 adult visitors in January to 4 million in April. But the biggest growth was seen by Zoom, the virtual meeting platform, which grew from 659,000 users to reach 13 million users over the same period — a rise of almost 2,000%.

Follow us on Instagram

Ofcom found that 90% of adults, and almost all older children aged 8-15, with access to the Internet used at least one of these platforms (YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok) in the past year, with many doing so several times a day. About 32% of online adults now spend more time viewing video-sharing services than broadcast television.

“Lockdown may leave a lasting digital legacy,” Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s director of strategy and research, said in a statement. “The coronavirus has radically changed the way we live, work and communicate online, with millions of people using online video services for the first time.”

The study shows that, before the pandemic, many people were moving away from more established forms of communication — particularly landline calls and SMS text messages — and adopting newer methods.

In the 12 months to February, more people were sending daily text messages using online messaging platforms (52%), such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, than using SMS (41%) or email (26%). Daily use of online voice calls (31%) was only slightly lower than mobile calls (38%).

The pandemic appears to have sped up the adoption of online services to keep in touch. More than 70% people in the U.K. are now making video calls at least weekly, up from 35% pre-lockdown. This trend is particularly noticeable among older Web users; the proportion of online adults aged 65+ who make a least one video-call each week increased from 22% in February to 61% by May.

Reuters: COVID-19 Ups Consumer Consumption, Trust of News Reporting

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has increased consumer confidence in and consumption of news reporting on television and the Internet, including social media platforms, according to new data from Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, more than half of survey respondents in six countries (U.K., U.S., Germany, Spain, South Korea, and Argentina) said they were concerned about what was true or false on the Internet when it came to news.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Domestic politicians were singled out as the single most frequently named source of misinformation, though in some countries — including the U.S. – people who self-identify as right-wing are more likely to blame the media, with Facebook seen as the main channel for spreading “fake news.”

Over the past nine years, Reuters has found online news overtaking television and print as the most frequently used source of news. The virus crisis has significantly changed that picture. Data from surveys conducted in early April found respondents gravitated toward traditional TV for coverage of COVID-19 more so than other topics, including politics and global warming.

Follow us on Instagram

TV news saw an uplift in all six countries polled separately in January and April. Germany saw a 12-point decline in reach for TV news reversed as people turned to the medium for virus-related news, including public service announcements.

“Journalism matters and is in demand again,” Nic Newman senior research associate, wrote in the report.

The use of online and social media for news has significantly increased in most countries, according to Reuters. WhatsApp saw the biggest growth in general with increases of around 10% in some countries, while more than 51% of respondents used some kind of open or closed online group to connect, share information, or take part in a local support network.

Reuters also found that trust in media doubled for social networks, video platforms and messaging services when it came to the virus and economic shutdowns. Across all countries surveyed, 28% turned to a website or app for their news. Respondents 18 to 24 years old preferred accessing social media. Indeed, use of Instagram for news has doubled since 2018 and looks likely to overtake Twitter through 2021, according to the report.

“Facebook [which owns Instagram] and other social media groups are now used on average by 31% of respondents for local news and information,” Newman wrote.