DOJ Puts Oscars on Notice Regarding Streaming Video

The Justice Department reportedly has contacted the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences — the organization that runs the Academy Awards — about potential new rules that would restrict original movies distributed via streaming video channels (i.e. Netflix) from awards consideration.

First reported by Variety, DOJ antitrust boss Makan Delrahim March 21 sent a letter to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson saying any new rules put in place to restrict streaming video services from consideration could be viewed as anticompetitive.

Subscribe HERE for FREE Daily Newsletter!

“In the event that the academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns,” Delrahim wrote, as reported by Variety.

At issue are select original movies from Netflix, which the streaming pioneer submits for awards (including Best Picture) without a traditional 90-day theatrical release.

Netflix’s Roma was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Director, but losing Best Picture to Green Book.

The Oscar organization, in a media statement, confirmed receiving correspondence from the DOJ and responding accordingly.

“The Academy’s Board of Governors will meet on April 23 for its annual awards rules meeting, where all branches submit possible updates for consideration,” a representative from the Academy said in a media statement.

Delrahim previously tried unsuccessfully to quash AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which led to the formation of WarnerMedia.

 

 

 

 

 

Comcast: Lines Between Linear TV, Digital Video Blurring for Marketers

As over-the-top video expands, the differences between traditional pay-TV and streaming video are eroding, according to new data from FreeWheel, a subsidiary of Comcast.

The Video Marketplace Report outlines the increasing convergence between linear TV and premium digital video – and how that can benefit marketers.

In 2018, 40% of all ad views were delivered on a connected TV, while live viewing grew 86% as consumers watched video content in real-time – spurred by PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in Russia, according to David Dworin, one of the report’s authors.

“Watching TV can now mean tuning into a program on linear TV, streaming a favorite series on a connected TV, or following a live event on a smartphone. It’s the content, not the pipes, that viewers see,” Dworin said in a statement.

Premium video also saw strong overall growth (27%), continuing a multi-year trend, according to the report.

Indeed, FreeWheel found 52% of advertisers and agencies surveyed are combining digital video and linear TV spots and 91% say they will by 2021.

Another 74% of advertisers say it is important or very important to have integrated digital video and linear TV data/technology distribution channel.

The report cited that just 23% of viewing occurs in the key 8 to 11 p.m. timeslot, while more than 75% of viewing occurs outside of the traditional TV “primetime.”

Another 18% of desktop ad views come between 12 and 3 p.m., underscoring the ease of click-through marketing. Finally, connected TV ad views grew 53% in 2018, which represented 40% of all ad views.

 

 

Sprint Calls Out AT&T Over ‘False’ 5G Claims

Next-generation 5G wireless technology continues to get a lot of attention (and hype) — notably as an enhanced distribution channel for mobile video entertainment.

AT&T and Verizon have been among the first wireless carriers offering 5G networks in the country. AT&T last December said it become the first telecom in the United States offering 5G wireless service over a commercial, standards-based mobile 5G network.

Indeed, consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Yet, 5G is still more marketing than reality. Availability of 5G-compatible phones to consumers might occur by the end of the year — with mainstream usage on par with 4G LTE years away, according to analysts.

That’s why Sprint is calling foul on AT&T regarding what it claims are false advertising and deceptive acts by the corporate parent to WarnerMedia to confuse consumers.

Sprint, which claims to have 54.5 million subscribers and is attempting merge with T-Mobile, took out a full-page ad in the March 10 edition of The New York Times accusing AT&T of allegedly deceiving consumers into believing that their existing 4G LTE network operates on a much-coveted and highly anticipated 5G network.

A recent survey commissioned by Sprint found 54% of consumers mistakenly believed, based on AT&T’s claims, that the company’s 5G E network is the same as or better than a true 5G network. Another 43% of consumers wrongly believed that if they were to purchase an AT&T phone today, it would be capable of running on a 5G network.

“AT&T is not offering its customers 5G but is delighted by the confusion they’ve caused with their deceptive ‘5G E’ marketing and attempt to convince consumers that they’ve already won the 5G race,” David Tovar, SVP, corporate communications, at Sprint said in a statement. “We’re not standing for this kind of deception, and neither should consumers.”

Indeed, Sprint filed a federal lawsuit asking that AT&T’s ads be stopped.

“Every carrier – every company – should tell consumers the truth and be held accountable for the promises they make,” Tovar said.

An AT&T representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

 

 

 

 

Comcast Has High Hopes for Pending Streaming Video Service

Comcast has long eschewed over-the-top video, arguing its legacy cable pay-TV service and Xfinity X1 set-top box offer superior content and access options.

With much of the entertainment industry coveting OTT distribution, including pending platform launches from Disney and WarnerMedia, Comcast recently changed its tune announcing it would launch a free streaming service for its pay-TV subs in 2020.

Speaking on the Jan. 23 fiscal call, corporate CEO Brian Roberts said the service would be “distinct and compelling” offering current and prior seasons of NBC Universal programming, some original content and a “light” advertising load.

“It’s a great value proposition for consumers and provides marketers with a unique, targetable digital advertising and high quality premium programming,” said Roberts. “It will harness all the things that make our company so unique.”

He said that when presented to the company’s combined 54 million subscribers (with British satellite operator Sky and its Now TV OTT video platform), Comcast would be able to generate “significant value” over time by enhancing the company’s content monetization and strengthening the value of pay-TV.

“We will continue to sponsor a broad, varied distribution environment and see this platform as being a valuable addition to this highly effective strategy,” said Roberts.

NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke, a long-time foe to OTT video, embraced the strategic change, saying he believes the company now “under-monetizes” its content on the Internet.

In a fiscal call last year, Burke said that while the media company had deals with online TV services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu Live and YouTube TV, he doubted the platforms would make much of an impact.

“They’re off to a relatively slow start,” he said.

Indeed, NBC’s attempt at a standalone OTT comedy platform (SeeSo) shuttered after 18 months.

Neil Smit, former CEO of Comcast Cable, in 2016 infamously declared that he hadn’t seen an “OTT model that really hunts.” Less than a year later Smit stepped down as CEO, replaced by company veteran Dave Watson, whose stance on OTT is only slightly changed from his predecessor’s.

But management opinions have apparently changed in the face of market reality.

“In terms of content and taking things that are currently licensed elsewhere and moving them to the platform, I think it is going to be very positive for us financially, because in effect, we’re going to be a brand new buyer,” Burke said.

 

 

GfK: Streaming Video is Not a Solo Sport

While more and more Americans are watching video content — TV shows, movies, and short video — on their smartphones, new data from GfK MRI shows that video remains a highly social medium.

The latest findings show that Americans watch TV or video in groups almost half (48%) of their total viewing time. In addition, 49% of all adults — and 60% in the 18-to-34 age group — report that they are “co-viewing” more often now than they did three years ago.

Over half (58%) of co-viewing time is spent watching with a “significant other,” while children account for 19%; adult family members, 16%; and friends, 9%.

Preferred genres for watching with others change depending on who else is in the room; while movies come in first or second in all four co-viewing situations, and comedy TV Shows consistently place in the top three, sports score highest when friends are the co-viewers.

The survey also found that more than half (55%) of solo viewers are men. Parents, on the other hand, are more likely to be co-viewers; three-quarters (77%) of parental co-viewers have children under the age of 11 in the home, while one-quarter (23%) have children ages 12 to 17.

The data — based on 24,000 in-person, in-home interviews — underscores that co-viewing streaming video is not a platform-driven behavior.

MRI found that, when asked which types of TV services they use most often when co-viewing, respondents were equally likely to say they co-view via traditional TV services (48% — cable, satellite, fiber optic service) and streaming services (52% — Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.). Not surprisingly, younger adults (ages 18-34) are more likely than average to choose streaming as their medium of co-viewing (72%, 137)

“The social nature of TV viewing continues to drive people to this enjoyable shared experience,” Amy Hunt, VP of TVideo media sales at MRI, said in a statement. “A lot has been said recently about the introduction of dynamically inserted ads for shows; but this seems to be predicated on the idea of only one target watching. The increase of co-viewing suggests that more ad options will need to be available, to appeal to the widest possible audience range.”

 

Extending Black Friday in an OTT World

When you rent and sell packaged media in a streaming world, Black Friday (Nov. 22) becomes a mandatory weeklong sales event. Especially for the country’s last-standing brick-and-mortar video rental store.

Family Video, the privately-owned Glenview, Ill.-based chain of more than 700 stores operating in 29 states, launched special deals on DVD and Blu-ray Disc titles (new and used) beginning Nov. 19 through Nov. 26.

With DVDs priced from $4 and Blu-ray priced from $5, Family Video is also offering 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles priced from $12.

Even better: You don’t have to live in the Midwest or South to partake in the sale. FamilyVideo.com will ship (U.S. Postal) for free on any size order through Dec. 16.

The news caught the attention of local NBC television affiliate WYFF4 in Greenville, S.C., which sent an incredulous news crew (“People still go to the video store?”) to a Family Video location in Mauldin to document.

Said one customer, “Man, I haven’t been to a store like this in 10 years. I had to Google why does Family Video even exist?”

And with good reason.

Packaged-media rental revenue from brick-and-mortar stores dropped more than 18% in the third quarter to $71.5 million compared to $87.5 million in the previous-year period, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. The tally is down almost 34% from the first three months of 2017.

As Black Friday approaches even big box retailers such as Target are feeling the heat from over-the-top video. Circling a freestanding point-of-purchase display of discounted animated winter holiday DVDs near the gift cards at a Target in Greer, S.C., a mother and her young kids scanned the titles – on her cell phone.

“No, I think Hulu has that,” said the mom, who left empty-handed.

Pluto TV Launches Classic Game Show Channel Buzzr

Free streaming TV site Pluto TV announced the launch of a new channel, Buzzr, featuring classic game shows.

On Buzzr, viewers can play along with iconic game show hosts such as Gene Rayburn and Alex Trebek in a pop culture TV time capsule. The channel features such shows as “Supermarket Sweep,” featuring contestants filling their carts with grocery items in an effort to have the highest total at check-out; “Match Game,” in which host Rayburn is the ringmaster to a panel of celebrity guests; and “Classic Concentration,” hosted by Trebek, in which contestants challenge their memories and ability to solve complex puzzles.

Pluto TV delivers 100-plus live and original channels and thousands of on-demand movies in partnership with major TV networks, movie studios, publishers and digital media companies, according to the company, and is available on all mobile, web and connected TV streaming devices.

‘black-ish’ Creator Kenya Barris Signs Deal With Netflix

Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated writer and producer Kenya Barris has entered into a multi-year overall deal to produce new series exclusively at Netflix.

Under the deal, Barris will write and executive produce all projects through his production company, Khalabo Ink Society.

Barris is the creator of ABC’s Peabody award-winning comedy series “black-ish” and its spin-off series “Grown-ish,” as well as the writer of last summer’s comedy feature Girls Trip.

“Barris has continually demonstrated his ability to tell stories about the Black experience that resonate with all audiences,” read a Netflix release. “With an innate sense for what is funny, truthful and timely, Barris will continue to create stories that reflect culture through an urban, youth and female focused lens.”

“Kenya Barris is one of our great modern storytellers,” said Cindy Holland, VP, original content at Netflix, in a statement. “Kenya uses his voice to make audiences more aware of the world around them, while simultaneously making them laugh. His honesty, comedic brilliance and singular point of view, combined with the creative freedom he will enjoy at Netflix, promises to create powerful new stories for all our members around the world.”

“When my agents reached out to me about this little garage start-up called Netflix, I wasn’t sure what to think,” said Barris in a statement. “But after I talked to Ted and Cindy, I started to believe that maybe this mom-and-pop shop with only 130 million subscribers might just be something… so I decided to take a swing… a leap of faith if you will, and take a chance with the new kids on the block.”

Barris was awarded the Humanitas Prize in 2017 as well as NAACP Image Awards in 2016 and 2017 for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and a show win for “Outstanding Comedy Series” for the fourth year in a row. In 2018 Barris premiered the spinoff series, “Grown-ish,” starring Yara Shahidi for Freeform. As a writer, Barris has worked on several television shows, including CBS’s “Listen Up”, The CW’s “The Game” and “Girlfriends,” and Fox’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.” He has also sold a number of pilots, including “America’s Next Top Model,” which he co-created and is currently shown in 49 countries with 21 internationally formatted offshoots, BET’s “The Start Up,” Hulu’s first half-hour comedy series “We Got Next,” and, most recently, the NBC half-hour comedy “Bright Futures.” On the feature side, in addition to writing Girls Trip, he is credited as co-writer for Barbershop 3: The Next Cut. His upcoming feature titles include Son of ShaftComing to America 2, and an animated film based on the songs of Bob Marley.

Roku Bows Service to Help OTT Ad Sellers and Buyers Target Audiences

Streaming TV pioneer Roku June 27 introduced its Audience Marketplace, allowing advertising buyers and sellers to more effectively target audiences on the Roku platform in the United States, according to the company.

By leveraging Roku’s first-party data and proprietary ad technology, publishers can use Audience Marketplace to sell targeted audiences on the Roku platform to advertisers, according to a Roku press release.

“Roku has extensive insights into its millions of OTT streamers, and offers the ability to precisely target specific segments at a household level,” the release stated.

“The business of streaming is winning – both in the minds of consumers and advertisers,” said Seth Walters, VP, demand partnerships, Roku, in a statement. “As the industry’s leading TV streaming platform, we’re well-positioned to empower our publishers to unlock the full potential of OTT advertising and help them to meet the needs of brands and consumers.”

Initial publishers participating in Audience Marketplace include Fox, Turner and Viacom. Advertisers can use the Audience Marketplace for programmatic or traditional direct selling methods.

“Over-the-top distribution has been a key audience driver for Turner’s portfolio of premium content, with Roku being one of the preeminent partner platforms,” said Larry Allen, VP, ad innovation and programmatic solutions, Turner, in a statement. “Participating in Roku’s Audience Marketplace gives us access to rich insights and enhanced audience targeting capabilities, extending the ability for ad buyers to reach and engage with streaming viewing audiences that are critical to grow their business.”

“Roku’s ability to precisely message luxury auto-intenders in premium TV programming unlocks great value for our clients,” said Garrett Winkler, director of connected TV Lead, Modi Media, in a statement. “It helps significantly reduce waste and delivers a more relevant viewing experience. We see this as a huge step towards unifying targeting for connected TV campaigns.”

Netflix Announces New Toni Collette Series, Movie Reuniting Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston

Netflix announced a new series starring Toni Collette and a new movie reuniting Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.

Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever have been cast in “Unbelievable,” a series based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning article by The Marshall Project and ProPublica, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.” Collette and Wever will play detectives whose lives become intertwined in their mutual pursuit of a possible serial rapist.

Sandler and Aniston, who teamed in Just Go With It, will reunite in Murder Mystery, due in 2019. It follows a NYC cop (Sandler) who finally takes his wife (Aniston) on a long promised European trip. A chance meeting on the flight with a mysterious man (Luke Evans) gets them invited to an intimate family gathering on the Super Yacht of elderly billionaire Malcolm Quince. When Quince is murdered, they become the prime suspects.

Directed by Kyle Newacheck, the film also stars Gemma Arterton (Their Finest, The Girl With All The Gifts), Luis Gerardo Mendez (Club de Cuervos, Nosotros Los Nobles, Time Share), Shioli Kutsuna (Deadpool 2), David Walliams (Little Britain), Adeel Akhtar (The Big Sick, Murdered By My Father, Four Lions), John Kani (Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, The Lion King), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The Meg, True Detective, The BFG), Dany Boon (R.A.I.D. Special Unit, Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis) and Terence Stamp (Miss Peregrine’s, The Limey, A Song For Marion).