Disney+ Launching in India on April 3

Eager to expand its branded subscription streaming video service worldwide, Disney+ will launch April 3 in India with sister over-the-top platform Hotstar.

Disney acquired Hotstar, which reportedly has 100 million monthly views, as part of the $71.3 million 20th Century Fox transaction.

India, with the second highest population behind China, has become hotbed for American media companies seeking to tap a consumer base that exceeds 1 billion.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week ordered citizens not to leave their homes in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“To save India, every citizen of India is being banned from 12 o’clock tonight, on exiting homes, completely,” Modi said in a series of March 24 tweets.

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Roy Morgan: Disney+ Attracts 1.8 Million Subs in Australia

New data from Roy Morgan reveals Disney+ is now Australia’s fourth most-popular subscription streaming video service four months after its launch.

The Aussie research company said Netflix remains the nation’s most watched subscription television service, with 12.20 million residents having access to it, an increase of 942,000 on a year ago. It is followed by Foxtel on 4.85 million (-98,000) and Stan on 3.70 million (+1.09 million).

Disney+, which entered the Australian market in November 2019, is ahead of Amazon Prime Video on 1.48 million (+914,000) and YouTube Premium on 1.48 million (+244,000).

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Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine says that while Netflix is the clear leader in subscription television services, there is growing competition to secure the attention of Australian viewers.

“Since entering the Australian market in 2015, Netflix has reshaped how we watch television,” Levine said in a statement. “It created a product which allows users to make their own selection of uninterrupted television to watch whenever they want. Its success not only brought other players into the market, it forced commercial television to adapt by creating its own online streaming channels.

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Levine said the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many Australians to self-isolate at home indefinitely, presents an unexpected opportunity for streaming services such as Disney+ to continue the momentum of customer growth in the months ahead.

The research firm said Netflix and Stan remain the most popular SVOD combination in Australia, with 3.44 million viewers having access to both services and closely followed by Netflix and Foxtel (3.14 million).

The report — based on online survey of 12,082 respondents over the age of 14 — found that 1.67 million Disney+ subs also have access to Netflix. This represents 93% of Disney+ viewership but only 14% of Netflix viewers.

Nearly 900,000 Aussies have access to both Disney+ and the locally owned Stan. This level of viewership is equal to half of all Disney+ viewers and represents nearly a quarter of Stan’s 3.7 million viewers. A far higher rate than for rival streaming service Netflix.

Significantly for traditional pay TV service Foxtel, only 11% of their viewers have signed up for Disney+, a lower rate than for either Netflix or Stan.

MGM Launches SVOD Service in South Africa

Seeking to expand its catalog of movies and TV shows internationally, MGM has launched a branded subscription streaming video-on-demand service dubbed “MGM” with mobile operator Vodacom.

The service will be marketed as part of Vodacom’s Video Play Premium service, priced at R99 ($6.31), as well as a standalone options priced at R59 ($3.75) monthly; R25 ($1.60) weekly and R10 (64 cents) daily.

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Movies include The Hobbit trilogy, Legally Blonde, Get Shorty, The Pink Panther and Teen Wolf, as well as the TV series,”The Handmaid’s Tale,” among others.

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Report: Asia Pacific SVOD Subs to Reach 417 Million by 2025

Despite the negative impact from the coronavirus and the Chinese economic downturn, Asia Pacific will have 417 million streaming video-on-demand subscriptions by 2025, up from 269 million in 2019, according to new data from Digital TV Research.

The London-based company said China would have 269 million SVOD subs in 2025 — or 65% of the region’s total. India will supply a further 45 million — more than double its 2019 total.

Three Chinese companies will top the DTR’s Asia Pacific SVOD subscriber rankings in 2025 — with two recording 100 million subscribers. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which do not operate independently in China, will take fourth and fifth places respectively.

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“The top five platforms [Tencent Video, Iqiyi, Netflix, Disney+ and Youku Tudou] will account for two-thirds of the region’s SVOD revenue by 2025,” analyst Simon Murray said in a statement.

Netflix’s revenue will more than double between 2019 and 2025 to $3.19 billion. Disney+ will generate $1 billion in 2025. Asia Pacific SVOD total revenue will reach $18.25 billion in 2025; up by $8 billion on 2019.

“These forecasts are lower than our previous edition,” Murray said.

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Comscore: OTT Streaming Grew by Double-Digit Percentages in Early March

OTT streaming has significantly increased across connected TVs and streaming boxes/sticks in recent weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing stay-at-home measures, according to new research from Comscore.

In comparing OTT streaming behavior March 1-16 in 2019 to the same period in 2020, the research found notable year-over-year growth in both the number of households and time spent with OTT content on both connected TVs and streaming boxes/sticks.

Streaming hours grew 24% on connected TVs and 16% on streaming boxes/sticks. Overall, streaming boxes and sticks made up 56% of to-date OTT streaming hours in March 2020, and connected TVs accounted for 32%.

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The number of households grew as well comparing the two periods, with connect TV OTT households jumping 29% and streaming box/stick OTT households soaring 43%.

At the app level, the “big four” streaming services still accounted for the majority of total OTT hours viewed on both connected TV and via streaming boxes/sticks with Netflix leading both categories for March 2020.

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“Comscore’s latest information shows that the millions of Americans who are remaining indoors to comply with coronavirus public health measures are hungry for news and entertainment, and streaming options are an increasingly important piece of the consumption pie along with traditional TV,” said Bill Livek, Comscore CEO, in a statement. “Advertisers who are looking to pivot their planning to match the rapidly-changing media consumption landscape can benefit from engaging with these growing audiences.”

Comscore is providing frequent updates on its Coronavirus insights hub.

Disney+ to Stream ‘Elephant’ Nature Film Narrated by Meghan Markle for Earth Month

In recognition of Earth Month, Disney+ will stream the Disneynature film Elephant, narrated by Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, beginning April 3 alongside previously announced Dolphin Reef, with narration by actress Natalie Portman.

Following its theatrical release last year, the Disneynature film Penguins will also make its Disney+ debut April 3.

The Earth Month collection on Disney+ will also contain additional Disneynature titles premiering on the service April 3, including In the Footsteps of Elephant, A Life on the Edge and Diving with Dolphins, which give viewers behind-the-scenes access into the unique filmmaking process of all three films.

The films will join a collection of animal and nature titles highlighted throughout the month including National Geographic’s America’s National Parks, Wild Yellowstone, The Flood, JANE, Before the Floods, Planet of the Birds, Sea of Hope: America’s Underwater Treasures, Kingdom of the White Wolf, Tree Climbing Lions, Hostile Planet and Wild Russia.

Elephant follows African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo as their herd make an epic journey hundreds of miles across the vast Kalahari Desert. Led by their great matriarch, Gaia, the family faces brutal heat, dwindling resources and persistent predators, as they follow in their ancestor’s footsteps on a quest to reach a lush, green paradise.

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In recognition of Elephant, Disneynature and the Disney Conservation Fund are supporting Elephants Without Borders, an organization working in Botswana to ensure people and elephants thrive, according to the Disney release.  Elephants Without Borders is working on strategies to protect Botswana’s elephant haven, helping to reduce human-wildlife conflict through education, economic development, and solutions that either redirect elephant migration away from people, or provide communities with tools that help to protect themselves and their properties when elephants are nearby.

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Dolphin Reef introduces Echo, a young Pacific bottlenose dolphin who can’t quite decide if it’s time to grow up and take on new responsibilities. Dolphin society is tricky, and the coral reef that Echo and his family call home depends on all of its inhabitants to keep it healthy.

Sling TV Offering 14 Days of Sling Blue for Free

Sling TV has opened its Sling Blue service to consumers for 14 days at no charge (through April 5) as a public service.

Sling TV’s Blue service offers more than 45 live channels, free cloud DVR, more than 50,000 on-demand titles, and allows simultaneous viewing on three screens. It features news channels including CNN, Fox News, HLN, MSNBC, Bloomberg TV, Cheddar News, Newsy and Local Now.

“With more states and municipalities issuing shelter-in-place orders, everyone needs the latest information to do their part,” Warren Schlichting, group president of Sling TV, said in a statement. “We’re hoping to motivate Americans to stay home, and stay informed during this critical time.”

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As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, television news consumption on Sling TV has climbed by triple digits over the last month, according to the service. Since Feb. 24, Sling TV’s viewership of top news channels increased by 121 percent.

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“Now more than ever American’s are anxious to stay up to date, and no other streaming service offers the depth of live news available on SLING Blue,” said Schlichting in a statement.

The offer is part of Sling TV’s “Stay in & Sling” initiative launched last week.

Coronavirus Quarantines Expected to Up Global SVOD Subs 5% In 2020

With an increasingly captive audience due to quarantine efforts worldwide to halt the spread of the coronavirus, new data from Strategy Analytics contends the forecast for global streaming video subscriptions will increase by 5% in 2020.

The London-based research firm now projects 949 million paid subscriptions globally by the end of 2020, an increase of 47 million from earlier forecasts.

Longer term, the forecast predicts that paid SVOD subscriptions will grow by 621 million between 2019 and 2025, reaching 1.43 billion. Currently, China and the United States combined account for nearly two-thirds (65%) of paid SVOD subscriptions globally, however, as these markets mature and approach market saturation and paid subscriptions, particularly in Southeast Asia grow, their share of global SVOD subscriptions will fall to 55% in 2025.

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“One significant factor affecting future SVOD growth is the impact of the coronavirus in both the short and long term,” Michael Goodman, director of TV & Media Strategies, said in a statement. “In the near term the coronavirus will actually boost SVOD subscriptions, as well as viewing of these services, as an ever growing number of consumers adopt social distancing or are forced into quarantine.”

Goodman said long-term effects of the virus on SVOD depend on the length of the pandemic and resulting economic damage. As businesses shut down and individuals are laid off consumers will alter how they spend money on essential and non-essential services.

Strategy Analytics said China would remain the largest SVOD market with 438 million paid subs in 2025, up from 131 million from 2019. The U.S. will follow with 342 million subs, up from 125 million from 2019.

With nearly three-quarters of U.S. TV households subscribing to one or more SVOD service the domestic SVOD market is becoming saturated, according to Goodman.

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“With U.S. SVOD households continuing to add additional services such as CBS All Access, Disney+, and the soon-to-launch HBO Max, the total number of SVOD subscriptions in the U.S. will continue to grow,” he said.

AT&T Giving Subs Free Access to Premium Content

AT&T March 26 became the latest media company offering limited free access to proprietary and third-party content during the coronavirus pandemic.

The telecom is offering DirecTV, U-Verse, AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now subscribers free access to HBO, Starz, Cinemax and Epix into April. Starz and Epix are owned by Lionsgate and MGM, respectively.

Starz will be available from March 26 to April 4, Epix from April 4 to April 16, and HBO and Cinemax available from April 17 to 20.

CBS All Access earlier announced it would give a free 30-day trial to new subscribers.

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The strategy comes as AT&T readies the May launch of HBO Max — the $14.99 SVOD platform it hopes to carry initially on the backs of existing pay-TV subscribers. For the telecom, unfortunately, those subs have been leaving in droves.

AT&T lost 1.2 million streaming video and pay-TV subs in the most-recent fiscal period. It lost 2.9 million subs in the previous three fiscal quarters combined.

And with 3.3 million people filing for unemployment benefits this week — the highest tally since 1982 — due to the drastic economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, pay-TV might become an unnecessary luxury to millions more.

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Netflix to Bow ‘Angry Birds’ Series Worldwide in 2021

The new animated series “Angry Birds: Summer Madness,” based on the world of the “Angry Birds” made famous by the game and movie series, will debut globally on Netflix starting in 2021.

The 40, 11-minute episode series will be “taking its cue from the humor and tone of The Angry Birds Movie franchise while revealing a fresh new look,” according to a Netflix release.

“Angry Birds: Summer Madness” sees much-loved birds Red, Bomb and Chuck, as well as a cast of new feathered friends, as tween birds at summer camp under the questionable guidance of their counselor Mighty Eagle. Explosive antics, improbable pranks and crazy summertime adventures see the birds pushing boundaries and breaking all the rules while fending off the brash and obnoxious pigs on the other side of the lake.

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This is the latest collaboration in a long-term partnership between CAKE and Rovio Entertainment, which includes international distribution rights to Rovio’s expanding library of non-dialogue shorts.

“Angry Birds are about to smash the small screen and we are thrilled to be making the journey with Netflix as our global partner,” Ed Galton, CCO and managing director of CAKE, said in a statement.

“Angry Birds animated content plays a key role in our long-term franchise strategy,” Ville Heijari, CMO of Rovio, said in a statement. “After more than a decade in hit games, blockbuster movies and licensed products, this is the Angry Birds’ first foray into a long-form series. We’re delighted to continue our partnership with CAKE and can’t wait to unveil the world of ‘Angry Birds: Summer Madness’ to viewers on Netflix.”

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“Angry Birds have been a true phenomenon for kids around the world and we’re excited to bring them home to the nest at Netflix where they will be angrier and bird-ier than ever,” Curtis Lelash, Netflix director of original animated series, said in a statement.