AT&T Re-Evaluating Focus on DirecTV Now

Less than three months after disclosing DirecTV Now lost 83,000 subscribers in the most-recent fiscal quarter, corporate parent AT&T appears to be re-adjusting its focus on the much-ballyhooed online TV service.

Launched in 2016, DirecTV Now ended the first quarter with about 1.5 million subscribers — many of them attracted by the service’s initial $34.99 monthly fee — a win for consumers but unsustainable to the bottom line.

Earlier this year, AT&T rolled out two new subscription plans ranging from $50 to $70 monthly. It also operates Watch Now, a mobile-only streaming service.

David Christopher

Speaking June 19 at the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Telecom & Media Conference in London, David Christopher, president of AT&T Mobility and Entertainment, said DirecTV Now would be downsized to a “thin” service targeting the telecom’s 170 million mobile connections.

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“We have emphasized it slightly less than we did when it first launched because we are focused more on other elements of the portfolio,” Christopher said.

Those elements include a pending $15 WarnerMedia branded service with HBO and Warner Bros. central assets to the streaming platform.

“Our job is to make the media company more valuable,” Christopher said, adding that he thinks the WarnerMedia SVOD service can “get to tens of millions” of subscribers in the U.S. “in short order.”

“It’s a big opportunity for distribution. It’s a big opportunity for advertising,” Christopher said. “That SVOD product fits into our distribution product line of video very well.”

He said AT&T doesn’t currently have a standalone “SVOD product,” at a time when the executive contends a one-size-fits all approach to over-the-top video distribution isn’t working.

Indeed, with increasingly fragmented consumer segments in the media landscape, AT&T believes an SVOD service targeting aficionados of movies and premium TV shows can generate significant market share.

“Premiere content at a great value is always going to find a place [in the market],” Christopher said.

When asked about declining video subscribers, Christopher downplayed the economic impact, saying video accounts for just 7% of AT&T’s total revenue.

“You have to understand that relative weight,” he said, adding that the company is “working through” 1.6 million subscribers with two-year, loss-leader plans it believes will disappear by the end of the year.

“That’s a big relief for us,” Christopher said. “We are cleaning up our customer base.”

Netflix Announces a Series of Features, Including Lin-Manual Miranda’s Directorial Debut

Netflix June 19 announced several features for its upcoming slate, including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut.

Tony, Grammy, Emmy and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, lyricist and actor Miranda (Hamilton) will direct Imagine Entertainment’s film adaptation of Tick, Tick … Boom!, to which Netflix has acquired worldwide rights. Tony Award winner Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen, Fosse/Verdon) will adapt the screenplay based on the original stage show by the late Rent (Pulitzer Prize winner for drama in 1996) creator Jonathan Larson.

Set in 1990, Tick, Tick…Boom! tells the story of Jon, an aspiring theater composer who is waiting tables in New York City while writing Superbia — which he hopes will be the next great American musical and finally give him his big break. Jon is also feeling pressure from his girlfriend Susan, who is tired of continuing to put her life on hold for Jon’s career aspirations. Meanwhile, his best friend and roommate Michael, has given up on his creative aspirations for a high-paying advertising job on Madison Avenue and is about to move out. As Jon approaches his 30th birthday, he is overcome with anxiety — wondering if his dream is worth the cost.

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Netflix also announced the live action family movie The Main Event, set to premier on the service in 2020. It’s based on an original screenplay by Larry Postel, directed by Jay Karas and produced by WWE Studios’ Richard Lowell. WWE Studios is WWE’s multi-platform content division that develops and produces scripted and non-scripted series, documentaries and feature films.

The film follows an 11-year-old aspiring wrestler who, after discovering a magical mask, enters a competition to become the next WWE superstar. It stars Seth Carr (Black Panther), Tichina Arnold (The Neighborhood, “Everybody Hates Chris”), Adam Pally (“The Mindy Project”) and Ken Marino (The Other Two, Black Monday, Bad Milo), alongside WWE superstars Kofi Kingston, The Miz and Sheamus, among others.

Netflix will adapt August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom into a feature film starring  Academy Award winner Viola Davis (Widows, Fences), Chadwick Boseman (42, Get On Up, Black Panther), Emmy Award winner Glynn Turman (“How to Get Away With Murder”), Tony and Olivier Award Nominee Colman Domingo (If Beale Street Could Talk), and Michael Potts (Show Me a HeroTrue Detective). Academy Award winner Denzel Washington (who starred with Davis in the feature adaptation of Wilson’s Fences), Academy Award Nominee Todd Black and Dany Wolf will produce.

The story follows Ma Rainey, the “Queen of the Blues.” While making a record in a studio in Chicago, 1927, tensions boil between her, her white agent and producer, and bandmates.

Finally, Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (Five Feet Apart and The Curse of La Llorona) are adapting the horror-fantasy children’s book Nightbooks by J.A. White for Netflix. The story follows Alex, a boy obsessed with scary stories, who is trapped by a witch in her modern, magical New York City apartment. His original hair-raising tales are the only thing keeping him safe as he desperately tries to find a way out of the twisted place.

Amazon Re-Launching ‘Prime Student’ Program; 50% Off Prime Video, Music, Games

School may have just ended, but that isn’t stopping Amazon from promoting its Prime Student membership program targeting future college students.

Prime Student offers students enrolled in two-year and four-year schools all the perks of an Amazon Prime membership — at half the cost ($6.49 month or $59 annually) following a free six-month trial.

Students can stream music, movies and TV shows, receive discounts on college essentials and free shipping on more than 10 million products. Members also get free same-day delivery on more than three million items across 44 major metropolitan areas, along with two-hour delivery with Prime Now in more than 30 major cities.

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Members get access to movies and TV shows like “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” or Emmy-winning “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” as well as The Jonas Brothers’ documentary “Chasing Happiness” and “Guava Island,”starring Donald Glover and Rihanna.

Users also get two million songs and thousands of stations and playlists ad-free included with Prime. For unlimited access to over 50 million songs students can try Amazon Music Unlimited for free for 30 days.

Students can also check out the Back to School playlist on Amazon Music. Simply ask, “Alexa, play the Back to School playlist” in the Amazon Music App for iOS or Android, and on all Alexa-enabled devices.”

 Prime Student members also get gaming benefits on Twitch, including in-game “loot” for some popular titles, a selection of free games and a Twitch channel subscription.

 

Dish Offering Netflix Access in Hotels

Dish Network June 18 announced it is now offering access to Netflix for guests staying at hotels connected to the satellite operator’s platform.

Separately, Bloomberg reports Dish is finalizing a $6 billion deal to buy assets from Sprint and T-Mobile to help the telecom meet regulatory approval for their merger.

Guests staying at hotels equipped with Dish’s Evolve platform can access to their personal Netflix accounts directly from the TV in their room.

Users can subscribe to Netflix or sign into their existing account by accessing the Netflix app via the on-screen TV menu, the linear channel guide or simply by pressing the Netflix button on the remote control. User credentials are automatically removed from the system when they check out of the room.

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The launch of Netflix access makes Dish the first major pay-TV provider in the U.S. to integrate the SVOD service on a customized hotel TV platform.

Dish also introduced a new streaming service that allows guests to watch TV anywhere in a hotel, in-and-out of their rooms, on personal devices connected to the property’s network.

“Hotel operators can [now] offer … entertainment options for guests by personalizing the in-room TV experience or providing the flexibility to watch content anywhere on the property, like at the pool or gym,” Alistair Chatwin, VP of Dish Business, said in a statement.

Launched in 2017, Evolve integrates live linear programming, casting and streaming apps via the Google Play Store. It is designed to work with any hotel wiring scenario, as well as existing or upgraded network infrastructure.

Dish’s streaming service is available on browser-enabled devices and features 24 channels selected by the hotel and delivered over the property’s IP network.

Hotel owners have the option to customize the guest experience with personalization and branding opportunities in the streaming TV service user interface.

Analyst: Demand for Disney+ Streaming Service Stronger Than Expected

Disney’s branded subscription streaming video service, Disney+, is launching on Nov. 12.

Wall Street investment bank UBS is the latest to jump on the self-serving bandwagon championing the pending Netflix rival.

The research firm said that 43% of respondents in an internal survey said they were interested in subscribing to the $6.99 Disney+ service. That tops UBS’ previous 20% to 30% market penetration prediction by 2030 for Disney+.

“Marketing for the service has yet to hit critical mass,” analyst John Hodulik wrote in a note.

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Morgan Stanley projects the SVOD service could help Disney generate more than 130 million subscribers when combining Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu.

Analyst Ben Swinburne contends Disney+ will have upwards of 90 million subs within five years, including 13 million subs by the end of 2020.

“We believe the market has often overstated the risk and underappreciated the reward of the transition to streaming,” Swinburne wrote in a June 13 note. “Investing in Disney shares is a play on the durability of its IP.”

Pluto TV Joins Comcast’s X1 Platform

Viacom’s online ad-supported TV service Pluto TV June 13 announced it has launched on Comcast Cable’s Xfinity X1 platform.

Pluto TV, which is already available on Comcast’s Internet-only $5 monthly Xfinity Flex service, joins Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video reaching the cabler’s cloud-based X1 subscribers.

“The launch of Pluto TV on Xfinity X1 is a pivotal moment for Pluto TV, expanding our reach to a whole new audience in search of free streaming entertainment,” Tom Ryan, CEO and co-Founder of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Pluto TV is the perfect complement to the X1 platform, delivering a rich lineup of original live channels and on-demand movies and TV shows to Comcast’s customers right where they enjoy the rest of their entertainment experience.”

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The AVOD service would appear to complicate Comcast’s planned launch of an NBC Universal branded SVOD/AVOD service to subscribers in 2020. The ad-free version would be available to non-subs and priced comparable to Hulu and Netflix, or $9 to $14 monthly.

Regardless, Pluto TV, with 150 content partners, features movies: Pluto TV Movies 1 & 2and DramaComedyFamilyIndiesRomanceDocumentariesThrillersCult FilmsHorror 24/7Action MoviesFlicks of FuryThe Asylum, and Black Cinema.

News with Today’s Top StoryNews 24/7Cheddar NewsTYT NetworkNewsmaxTVTop Stories by NewsySky NewsBloomberg TV and WeatherNation.

Sports with Pluto TV SportsFox SportsMLS,Impact WrestlingFightCombate WorldStadiumSurf ChannelSports NewsWorld Poker TourCombat GoLucha Libre AAA, and Big Sky Conference.

Comedy with Funny AFPluto TV SitcomsStand Up TVMST3K,RifftraxFail ArmyCats 24/7The OnionCracked and Pet Collective.

Gaming with The FeedHiveAnime All DayAnime All AgesMinecraftvIGNGeek & Sundry and Nerdist.

Entertainment through the Crime NetworkThe New DetectivesUnsolved MysteriesForensic FilesDog the Bounty HunterPluto TV ConspiracyPluto TV AnimalsCold Case FilesShout TVBuzzrClassicTV,ConTVWipeoutKids TV, After School CartoonsClassic ToonsAwesomeness TVNoseyWhat?! and RevryMTV Pluto TVParamount (PZG) Movie Channel, Comedy Central Pluto TVSpike Pluto TVPluto TV LogoBET Pluto TVNick Pluto TV and Nick Jr. Pluto TV – all featuring iconic, hit shows from Viacom’s deep library.

Lifestyle content with Pluto TV CarsPeople TVGordon Ramsay’s Hell’s KitchenComplex NetworksWahlburgersPluto TV HerPluto TV Her DramasPluto TV TravelPluto TV WeddingsFrontDoorAdventure TVFood TV and Faith TV.

Curiosty with Voyager DocumentariesScience TVPluto TV HistoryDocuTVPluto TV BiographyLaw & CrimePluto TV Military and NASA.

Report: Netflix, HBO Drive Norwegian SVOD Market

Norway continues to expand over-the-top video consumption in Western Europe – spearheaded by subscription streaming video services such as Netflix and HBO Nordics.

New data from Futuresource Consulting found the Norwegian home video market grew 6% in 2018 — with 20% of consumers using SVOD services and spending 2.5 billion NOK ($290 million).

The London-based research firm said Netflix has dominated the Nordics with more than 1 million subscribers since launching service there in 2012.

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“The 26-35 age group has proven to be the key age demographic for Netflix and has almost gained a utility status,” market analyst Tristan Veale wrote. “As these consumers come of age, they have their own disposable income and convert from being Netflix users on someone else’s account, to account holders themselves.”

Veale said HBO accounted for 20% market share despite the lack of new “Game of Thrones” programming in 2018.

Regardless, Futuresource said traditional pay-TV remains strong in Norway, accounting for 70% of total home entertainment consumer spending. The company contends by 2023, the average Norwegian household will subscribe to two SVOD services, with OTT household penetration reaching nearly 80%.

Game-Based Feature ‘The Division’ Starring Jessica Chastain and Jake Gyllenhaal Coming to Netflix

The Division, a feature to be based on Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy video game, is coming to Netflix.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain will star in and produce the project.

Rafe Judkins, who is creating the upcoming series “Wheel of Time” based on the fantasy novels for Amazon, will adapt the screenplay. David Leitch (Deadpool 2) will direct.

In the film, set in the near future, a pandemic virus is spread via paper money on Black Friday, decimating the city of New York and killing millions. By Christmas, what’s left of society has descended into chaos. A group of civilians, trained to operate in catastrophic times, are activated in an attempt to save who and what remains.

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At launch, The Division quickly became the fastest-selling new IP in video game history and currently has more than 20 million players, according to the Netflix release.

The Division 2 launched in March 2019. During E3 June 10, Ubisoft announced it would offer the game free to play June 13-16 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. Players have the option of purchasing it at a discount through June 24, keeping progress made during the free period.

PBS Kids Launches Spanish-Language Shows on Amazon Prime Video Channel

PBS Distribution has launched Spanish-language versions of a variety of PBS Kids programs on the PBS Kids Amazon Prime Video Channel.

Spanish-language versions of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Dinosaur Train,” “Scigirls,” “Cyberchase” and “Caillou” debuted on the PBS Kids Amazon Prime Video Channel May 24.

“We’re excited to expand our PBS KIDS channel offering to include a selection of episodes presented in Spanish,” said Andrea Downing, co-president, PBS Distribution, in a statement. “Our aim is to provide educational and entertaining programming for all kids, and this expansion helps further that mission.”

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The launch includes a total of 30 episodes of PBS Kids programming available in Spanish. Subscribers of the PBS Kids Amazon Prime Channel will not need to pay any extra fee for the newly available programs.

Report: 22% of U.S. Households Likely to Subscribe to Disney+ Streaming Service

The Walt Disney Co.’s upcoming subscription streaming service Disney+ will reportedly attract 22% of U.S. households when it launches in November, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

The London research firm, which cited data based on a survey of 1,003 Internet users in the U.S., said 27% of respondents are familiar with Disney+ streaming service, despite minimal promotional activity to date. 

There is greater awareness among the two audiences Ampere has identified as key for the Disney SVOD: 45% of 18 to 24-year olds and 36% of households with children were aware of Disney’s plan to launch a new streaming service.

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The report found that nearly two thirds of these people fall into two distinct audiences – those in the 18 to 24-year old bracket, and households with children – with minimal crossover between them.

“There’s no question of a strong appetite for the Disney+ service – particularly amongst two distinct target audiences: households with children and 18 to 24-year olds,” Minal Mocha, consumer research lead at Ampere, said in a statement. “Away from this core group, there’s also a clear opportunity to broaden the content offering and attract a new audience by leveraging the Fox movie catalogue with titles such as Bohemian Rhapsody and The Post to reach an older audience.”

Ampere found that Marvel, Disney’s catalog of animated films, and Pixar titles were perceived as the most valuable content to gain access to via Disney+. Programmes available via broadcast or basic cable channels, such as the Simpsons and National Geographic were considered less crucial.

Marvel was ranked as the most important content to have as part of Disney+ for those 18 to 24.

The 25 to 34-year age group have the most affinity with Disney’s animated films. This age group not only is significantly more likely to have children in their household, but also to have built an emotional connection with these films in childhood.

Those aged 35+ are more likely to value Star Wars compared to younger audiences where it underperforms. The franchise will be key to attracting older audiences to the service – these groups of consumers may be less influenced by Disney’s animated titles, and by the Marvel franchise.