HBO Max Greenlights First Full Series

WarnerMedia’s pending HBO Max SVOD service has greenlit the half-hour dramedy “Generation,” which marks the streamer’s first pilot to get a full series order.

The service is set to debut in spring 2020.

“Generation” is created by 18-year old Zelda Barnz and her father, Daniel Barnz, who also directs. Executive produced by Lena Dunham and Ben Barnz, the series is described as “a dark yet playful half-hour following a group of high school students whose exploration of modern sexuality (devices and all) tests deeply entrenched beliefs about life, love and the nature of family in their conservative community.”

The cast includes Nathanya Alexander, Chloe East, Nava Mau, Lukita Maxwell, Haley Sanchez, Uly Schlesinger, Sam Trammell, Chase Sui Wonders with Justice Smith and Martha Plimpton.

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“Daniel and Zelda are an incredibly passionate team with true vision and authenticity, providing an inside look at the windy path many adolescents have to navigate as they come to terms with their identity and sexuality in ‘Generation,’” Sarah Aubrey, head of original content at HBO Max, said in a statement.

“Zelda has a particular ability to speak to and about her generation with humor and relatability, only brought further to life by this incredible cast. We couldn’t be prouder of a show to mark our first pilot to series order for HBO Max,” added Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max, and president of TBS, TNT and TruTV.

“I wanted to see myself and kids my own age represented on TV in a way that felt real, without judgement or nostalgia. I’m so appreciative of my mentor and soul-sister Lena Dunham for all her support and guidance, and so thankful to HBO Max for making this crazy dream come true,” said Zelda Barnz in a statement.

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“I have fallen head over heels for this brilliant family, who have allowed their 18-year old daughter Zelda to express herself in a way that’s both effortlessly funny and plumbs the depths of the adolescent experience. Daniel’s direction is sensitive and artful and as a producer, Ben is equally committed to rigor and fun. I cannot wait for people to see Zelda’s brilliance come to life and to meet this insanely impressive cast of honest, powerful performers and I’m so excited to be a part of the soon to be juggernaut of HBO Max,” added Dunham.

Disney+ Generates 15 Million Subs in First Five Days

Disney’s high-profile subscription streaming service generated 15 million subscribers in the first five days following its Nov. 12 launch, according to new data from IMA Research.

By comparison, Apple’s branded streaming service has generated 1.1 million subs since its Nov. 2 debut.

Citing respondents from a survey of 1,097 people between Nov. 14 and 17, IMA found awareness of Disney+ extremely strong (63%) compared with 34% for Apple TV+.

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Of those aware of the streaming service, 28% reported already subscribing or intending to do so, while 40% said they would utilize a free promotion, including Verizon’s free 12 months of Disney+ service to mobile subscribers.

Nearly half (47%) of respondents thought the $6.99/month to be fair; while 25% found it too expensive. The Disney/Pixar catalog is its most attractive feature to respondents, while 24% of respondents say they would cancel an existing streaming or pay-TV service in favor of Disney+.

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Women (68%) were more aware than men (61%). Age played a factor regarding awareness of Disney+, with 70% awareness among 18- to 24-year-olds; 55% awareness among 55-64. Awareness among the oldest respondents (65+) increased to 62%.

Interestingly, almost half (49%) of respondents were not planning to subscribe to Disney+, with 23% not sure. Meanwhile, only 10% of respondents said they intended to subscribe to Apple TV+.

IMA said respondent intent to subscribe to Disney+ translated to about 23 million households. Among those with intent, 69 percent said they had already subscribed, making the early adopters total over 15 million households.

“Our estimate is in line with the 15.5 million sign-ups through the first 13 days of launch reported by Apptopia1, which included some foreign subscribers as well. (Disney reported over 10 million sign-ups by the day after launch2.).

IMA found 40% of respondents seeking to stream Disney+ (or already streaming) would do so through a free promotion; 35% would pay $6.99 monthly; 13% would pay $12.99 for a monthly bundle of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+; and 12% would pay a reduced annual fee of $69.99 (which was reduced even further as a Cyber Monday promotion).

“If the current and future subscribers break down in this fashion, and we apply it to the 23 million households with intent, they would generate $1.3 billion annually,” Jeff Hoyt with IMA Research wrote.

Hoyt said breaking down intent with actual subscription results in about 15+ million households having already subscribed to Disney+, which equates to $900 million annually.

For Apple TV+, Hoyt contends that if all 1.1 million households are paying $4.99 per month, the projected annual revenue reaches $66 million.

Main attractions to Disney+: 46% selected Disney/Pixar Catalog; 38% selected Marvel/Star Wars/National Geographic Catalog; 26% selected new original content; 25% selected $6.99/month pricing; and 21 percent selected promotions to try the service free.

On the $6.99 price point, IMA found 47% think the price is fair, 17% found it “good” and 11% found it a “great” deal. Another 25% found the price too expensive.

“It is too early to predict whether Disney+ will steal significant market share from existing competitors (i.e Netflix), but 24% of those subscribing or intending to subscribe indicated they would cancel an existing streaming/pay service in exchange for Disney+,” Hoyt wrote.

The analyst contends the best predictor of subscriber intent is a subscription to Hulu, which is owned by Disney and offered in a money-savings bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+.

According to Apptopia1, both Hulu and ESPN have seen downloads increase since the launch of Disney+, with Hulu seeing the biggest boost.

“Even if Disney does steal market share away from its competition, Disney+ appears to be doing a good job so far of not cannibalizing itself,” Hoyt wrote.

Netflix Film Chief Talks Theatrical Windows, Viewership Data, Building Studio ‘From Scratch’

Netflix film chief Scott Stuber discussed his leap from the studio system to Netflix, releasing viewership data and the SVOD service’s theatrical model at the Variety Innovate conference in Los Angeles Dec. 5.

“The appealing thing was to do something from scratch,” he said of his joining the streaming service after a long studio career, adding that he “saw Reed [Hastings] and Ted [Sarandos] as decent human beings.”

The mission is to “evolve storytelling and give new voices chances,” he said.

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Variety editor-in-chief Claudia Eller asked about the service’s evolution on the theatrical window, from day-and-date on the streaming service to giving theaters a few weeks’ exclusivity, as it did with the Oscar-lauded Roma, and more recent award contenders such as Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Marriage Story.

Stuber said that Netflix has to consider the desire of its subscribers, which finance the business, to get the content as soon as possible.

“For that $10 [monthly sub price], do you get that content or do you have to wait?” he said.

He said giving Roma and other films from the studio a theatrical window only increased the appeal, noting Roma is still playing theatrically in Europe.

“We are sometimes categorized as anti-theatrical, and that’s not the truth,” he said.

Discussing the SVOD service’s legendary reticence to release viewership data, Stuber said Netflix would be more forthcoming in the future.

“No one’s afraid of it, and we really want to do it,” he said. “It’s just getting it right.”

He noted that some films theatrically are declared failures when they don’t meet a certain box office benchmark, but at Netflix they see a streaming audience not reflected in the theatrical numbers.

“I just want it to be articulated correctly to protect the filmmaker,” he said, adding, “You’ll see more numbers from us, more transparency.”

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Eller noted Netflix has a shot at a Best Picture Oscar with The Irishman and Marriage Story, which are getting rave reviews.

If that happened, “it would be big,” he said.

“I will be running around cheering.”

Panelists Discuss SVOD Services, Data at ‘Variety’ Conference

SVOD services’ design, data collection and effect on content creation were front and center at the Variety Innovate conference Dec. 5.

On the heels of its launch Nov. 12, Michael Cerda, VP of product at Disney+, told attendees, “What it really comes down to is building a really compelling consumer experience that’s easy to use that honors the content.

“We weren’t going to reinvent the wheel, but what you do is put touches in.”

That included putting buttons on the site with brand names such as Marvel, Disney and National Geographic that help consumers find the content they want.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” he said.

Households can have up to seven profiles, with kids getting buttons that appeal to them, such as “character sets like princesses,” rather than brands.

Executives also quietly tested Disney+ in the Netherlands for a month before its U.S. launch, he noted.

As for the much-reported glitches at launch, he said, “It’s software and stuff happens with software. You deal with it quickly.”

“Amongst CTO’s there’s a great deal of empathy for Disney,” said Jeremy Legg, CTO, WarnerMedia, who noted that its upcoming SVOD service HBO Max will be using human curation, in addition to algorithms, to help consumers discover content.

The services are using data and algorithms to better target consumers.

“All of us are using some sort of personalization algorithm,” said Lindsay Silver, VP of product at Conde Nast.

“We collect 100 terabytes of data every day,” added Jim Denney, VP of product management at Hulu.

That data is combined with input from such sources as surveys and ethnographic studies.

“You have to collect all these things,” Denney said.

Variety co-editor-in-chief and moderator Andrew Wallenstein asked if streaming services can gauge such things as interest “when Baby Yoda comes on screen,” referring to the new Disney+ original “The Mandalorian.”

“We do have real-time video analytics,” Cerda said. “You pay attention to this stuff.”

“You have to pick and chose what works together,” said Sonu Durgia, director, product management, search, Walmart Labs. She noted that someone who buys diapers might be receptive to content for young kids.

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The growth of streaming services has generated an explosion in spending on content, noted Wallenstein.

“We have crossed the $100 billion mark,” he said with spending in 2019 at an estimated $108.2 billion, according to the magazine’s research.

One content producer taking advantage of this explosion is legendary TV creator Chuck Lorre, who at the event explained how his “The Kominsky Method” on Netflix has changed how and what he writes. For one thing, appealing to the advertising sweet spot of those 18-49 isn’t a concern with streamers.

“You’re not concerned with how old the audience is,” he said. “You are determining if there is one.”

This allowed Lorre to explore a subject with “Kominsky Method” that he couldn’t on broadcast TV.

“I wanted to write about the minutia of getting old,” he said, as well as older folks’ “fears of being irrelevant.”

Writing for a streaming service without commercials also allows for different pacing.

“You’re not writing to an ad break,” he said. “You’re not writing to the ‘Perils of Pauline’ cliffhanger [hoping the viewer will come back].”

He compared watching a season of “Kominsky Method” to a four-hour movie or reading a book. Viewers can choose when they want to pause before continuing the story.

“In the Netflix environment, if an audience is watching show four, you know they’ve watched one, two and three,” he said, which isn’t true in broadcast TV.

“It changes the way the story unfolds,” he added. “It’s not so episodic.”


Study: New SVOD Players to Challenge Netflix, YouTube Viewing Domination

The reign of Netflix and YouTube as top online video destinations globally is under threat from a new group of over-the-top platforms such as Disney+ and Apple TV+.

With HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock launching next year, global OTT video viewership will be fragmented further, according to new data from eMarketer.

The venerable dotcom research firm said Netflix in 2018 topped YouTube as the most-watched video service, with average daily consumption reaching 23.2 minutes compared to 22.3 minutes for YouTube.

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eMarketer claims, beginning in 2020, Netflix’s daily video consumption will decline from a peak of 27% to 25.7% by 2021. YouTube’s daily digital video time will drop from 23.4% to 21.7%.

“Even though Americans are spending more time watching Netflix, people’s attention will become more divided as new streamers emerge,” analyst Ross Benes said in statement. “The video streaming landscape will get crowded, which will drive down the share of time that people devote to Netflix.”

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While increased competition may impact Netflix’s global ranking, usage among its subscribers is projected to increase, according to eMarketer. Average daily Netflix viewing time among adult users is projected to increase 2.2% to 56.6 minutes per day in 2020.

2019 was the first year digital video topped 25.4% of users’ total digital consumption, which includes time spent on apps and surfing the Web, but excludes social media.

“Video streaming is a mainstream, daily routine for most US adults, occurring on all devices and increasingly when viewers are on the go,” added analyst Oscar Orozco said. “In fact, an April 2019 study from OpenX found that nearly one-third of users of subscription streaming platforms say screen size has no impact on what they watch or for how long. Because of this, video will continue to be the main driver of digital media consumption in the coming years.”

‘Friends’ Top Binge on TV Time Chart

The classic 1990s sitcom “Friends,” which is available on Netflix, was the top binge on the TV Time chart for the week ended Dec. 1.

TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day.

Coming in at No. 2 on the binge chart was Netflix’s “The End of the F**king World,” the second season of which hit screens Nov. 5. “The Crown,” which took the bronze on the binge chart, had its third season debut Nov. 17 on Netflix with Olivia Colman taking over in the role of Queen Elizabeth II.

Arte’s French series “Mytho,” available on Netflix, topped the “Shows on the Rise” chart, which is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program.

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended Nov. 24 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Friends” (NBC) — 2.50%
  2. “The End of the F***ing World” (Netflix) — 2.07%
  3. “The Crown” (Netflix) — 1.80%
  4. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.765%
  5. “Atypical” (Netflix) — 1.73%
  6. “Riverdale” (The CW) — 1.44%
  7. “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC) — 1.41%
  8. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) — 1.38%
  9. “The Good Place” (NBC) — 1.29%
  10. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) — 1.26%


Top Shows on the Rise Week Ended Nov. 24 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Mytho” (Arte) — 98%
  2. “La Villa des Coeurs Brises” (TFX) — 97.5%
  3. “Who Killed Little Gregory” (Netflix) — 88.8%
  4. “Nailed It! Holiday!” (Netflix) — 82.2%
  5. “Final Space” (Adult Swim) — 77.3%
  6. “The Man in the High Castle” (Amazon Prime Video) — 77%
  7. “Umbre” (HBO Europe) — 72.5%
  8. “Prodigal Son” (Fox) — 61.1%
  9. “Carnival Row” (Amazon Prime Video) — 53.9%
  10. “Nobody’s Looking” (Netflix) — 51.6%

Research: Content Variety, Ease of Discovery and Original Programming Key in OTT

The top three reasons why consumers would recommend their OTT service are content variety, ease of content discovery and good original programming, according to research from Parks Associates.

“For consumers, video services are all about the content and experience,” Brett Sappingston, senior research director and principal analyst at Parks Associates, said in a statement. “While pricing does matter, people are ultimately looking for something to watch. So, having a compelling library with unique content is critical. Services that can quickly surface desired content will maximize viewing time and continue to prove their value to users.”

Other considerations in OTT recommendation were if the service has the genres desired or regularly adds new programs.

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Parks Associates: Top Reasons for OTT Service Recommendation

Pluto TV Launching 24-Hour ‘Awesomeness TV’ Channel in the U.K.

Viacom’s ad-supported video-on-demand service Pluto TV, is launching a 24-hour edition of Awesomeness TV in the United Kingdom on Dec. 6.

Pluto, which Viacom acquired earlier this year for $340 million, has become integral in Viacom’s global over-the-top video aspirations, currently offering 65 channels of content across multiple genres.

Awesomeness TV currently streams in the United States targeting Gen Z audience with reality-based programming such as “My Dream Quinceañera”  and competition-themed “DIY Dash,” among other shows.

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“The [SVOD] market has changed drastically, especially in the last two years,” Olivier Jollet, managing director of Pluto TV in Europe, told Variety.  “We’re seeing from the user point of view that the willingness to pay is not unlimited. People will take two, three or four services … but not 10.”

Pluto TV, with 150 content partners, features ad-supported movies: Pluto TV Movies 1 & 2and Drama, Comedy, Family, Indies, Romance, Documentaries, Thrillers, Cult Films, Horror 24/7, Action Movies, Flicks of Fury, The Asylum, and Black Cinema.

Hulu Bows $1.99 Monthly Black Friday Service Special

Hulu, Disney’s majority-owned subscription video-on-demand platform, is offering its basic streaming service with ads for $1.99 monthly for a year. The offer, which ends Dec. 2 (Cyber Monday), then converts to $5.99 monthly after 12 months. The company also offers a $11.99 monthly ad-free option.

Hulu, which at one time was co-owned by 20th Century Fox, Comcast, Time Warner and Disney, is now wholly owned by Disney following the Magical Kingdom’s purchase of Fox and buy-out of Comcast’s stake.

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The service had almost 27 million subscribers as of May 1, which was up from 25 million in the previous-year period and 15 million in 2016.

Rival Netflix ended the most-recent fiscal period with nearly 61 million domestic subscribers.

Disney also offers Hulu with ESPN+ and Disney+ for $12.99 monthly.

Netflix Series ‘The Witcher’ and ‘You’ Top TV Time Most Anticipated Shows Charts

Netflix dominated the list of top anticipated returning and new shows on TV Time’s December charts.

TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

Netflix’s “The Witcher,” debuting Dec. 20, took the top spot on the anticipated new shows chart. Based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s book series of the same name, the adventure follows the story of Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) who struggles to find his place in the world where people often prove to be more wicked than beasts. Coming in at No. 2 was Netflix’s “V Wars,” about a doctor pitted against his best friend when a fast-spreading disease starts to make people crave blood. It debuts Dec. 5. Showtime took the third spot with “The L Word: Generation Q,” a sequel series that relocates to the east side of Los Angeles and follows a new, diverse generation of LGBTQ+ friends as they experience love, sex and heartbreak. Rounding out the top five anticipated new shows were Hulu’s “Reprisal” (No. 4), about a femme fatale who leads a campaign against her brother and his gang of gearheads, and new streaming entrant Apple TV+’s “Truth Be Told” (No. 5), following a true-crime podcaster (Octavia Spencer) during an investigation of a convicted serial killer.

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Among returning shows, Netflix took two of the top five spots. The service’s “You” topped the chart. In season two of the drama, debuting Dec. 26, the stalker moves to Los Angeles and begins to obsess over a new love interest. Netflix’s “Lost in Space,” season two of which debuts Dec. 24, took the silver. “Vikings,” the History Channel’s first original scripted series, appeared at No. 3 among returning shows, while Amazon Prime’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” with season three debuting Dec. 6, was No. 4, and Hulu’s “Marvel’s Runaways,” with season three (its last) hitting screens Dec. 13, rounded out the chart at No. 5.


Most Anticipated New Shows for December:

  1. “The Witcher” (Netflix) — Dec. 20
  2. “V Wars” (Netflix) — Dec. 5
  3. “The L Word: Generation Q” (Showtime) — Dec. 8
  4. “Reprisal” (Hulu) — Dec. 6
  5. “Truth Be Told” (Apple TV+) — Dec. 6


Most Anticipated Returning Shows for December:

  1. “You” (Netflix) — Dec. 26
  2. “Lost in Space” (Netflix) — Dec. 24
  3. “Vikings” (History Channel) — Dec. 4
  4. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime) — Dec. 6
  5. “Marvel’s Runaways” (Hulu) — Dec. 13