Antenna: Domestic 2023 SVOD Sub Growth Dropped 50%, While Churn Tripled

Growth of premium SVOD subscription tiers dropped more than 50% to 10.1% in 2023 from 21.6% growth in 2022, according to new data from Antenna. Last year saw 19.3 million more gross subscriber additions and 36.2 million more cancelations than in 2022, which translated to 17 million fewer net subscriber additions.

Antenna found that total SVOD subscriptions in the United States approached 243 million at the end of 2023. Peacock, Paramount+ (both up 1%), and Netflix drove the most of the sub growth, while Netflix held its market share (26%) for the first time since 2019.

With continued subscriber growth comes increased churn, or subs that don’t renew on a monthly basis. The data suggests that the churn rate has tripled over the past four years to 5.5%. Peacock saw the greatest improvement in churn and Starz saw the greatest increase. Netflix maintained it’s industry-low churn rate at just below 2%.

However, subscribers dropping service do come back to the same or similar SVOD platform — underscoring the consumer appeal of month-to-month access compared with long-term contracts, according to Antenna. Indeed, nearly a quarter of canceled accounts return to the service within three months, and more than 40% within 12 months. About 30% of SVOD gross sub additions in 2023 were returning subscribers, meaning these users had canceled service within the prior 12-month period.

Apple TV+ saw the highest instance of returning subs at 37.2%. The returning Netflix rate fell from 35.2% to 26%, driven by the password crackdown, which led to many first-time sign-ups by individuals who had previously used the service for free (password sharing) through another person’s account.

Peacock and Netflix saw the greatest number of returning subscribers, with 30% of cancelations resubscribing by within 90 days. After a year, 50% of Peacock and 46% of Netflix canceled subscribers had returned to the respective services.

About 39% of SVOD subscriptions are in their first year, with the percentage rising to 45% when excluding Netflix. More than 51% of the 95 million first-year SVOD subscribers are in the first 90 days of the service — the period of highest possible churn. The probability of canceling service drops from 9% in the first 12 months to 4% in the second year.

Warner’s ‘Wonka’ Musical to Stream Exclusively on Max Beginning March 8

Warner Bros. Pictures’  Wonka is headed exclusively to the Max subscription streaming service beginning March 8.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced the streaming debut of the film on the media company’s fourth-quarter fiscal call.

Based on the iconic character at the center of Roald Dahl’s children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka stars Timothée Chalamet in the title role as the adventure introduces audiences to a young Willy Wonka, who becomes the world’s greatest inventor, magician and chocolate-maker.

The musical generated more than $608 million at the global box office, including $211.7 million in North America.

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The movie, which is currently available across digital retail channels, heads to DVD, 4K UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray Disc Feb. 27.

NHL’s Arizona Coyotes Launch Direct-to-Consumer Live Streaming Service

The National Hockey League Arizona Coyotes have launched a direct-to-consumer streaming service as part of a new media rights deal with Kiswe and Scripps Sports.

The $11.99 monthly Coyotes Central streaming service offers all local and non-nationally exclusive games, in addition to on-demand replays, pre- and post-game shows, and other exclusive content. The remainder of the 2023-24 season is available for a one-time $24.99 fee.

All out-of-market NHL games are also available on Hulu + Live TV, among other online TV platforms.

The streaming JV marks another chapter for the troubled Coyotes franchise, which saw the Phoenix-based team taken over by the NHL before being acquired by new private ownership in 2019. The team lost its stadium lease in 2022 and has been playing in Arizona State’s 5,000-seat arena in Tempe on a interim basis, with the cheapest seat costing more than $250.

The partnership between the Coyotes, Kiswe, and Scripps Sports underscores the power D2C streaming in expanding live access to local sports through flexible viewing options.

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“This innovative direct-to-consumer option is a key component to our overall media strategy … will enable us to deliver a flexible viewing option in our local broadcast market to our fans and ‘fans in waiting,'” Xavier Gutierrez, CEO of Arizona Coyotes, said in a statement.

Disney+ Renews ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ for Second Season

The Disney+ series “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” has been renewed for a second season.

The upcoming season will feature the return of Walker Scobell, Leah Sava Jeffries and Aryan Simhadri, who will embark on a new adventure based on The Sea of Monsters — the second installment of Rick Riordan’s best-selling “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” book series, published by Disney Hyperion.

The series has tallied more than 110 million hours streamed to date, according to Disney+.

“Rich in magic, wonder, adventure and heart, ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ captivated the imaginations of viewers of all ages everywhere,” Ayo Davis, president, Disney Branded Television, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to embark on an exciting new quest and a season two with Rick Riordan, our fantastic partners at 20th Television, and the exceptional ensemble of cast and creative talent that bring this story to life.”

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“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” was one of the top five season premieres of 2023, according to Disney+, with the first episode garnering 26.2 million views in its first three weeks on Disney+ and Hulu.

Chicken Soup in Joint Venture With Fuel TV for SVOD, FAST Channels

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment has formed a joint venture with action-sports content company Fuel TV to create Fuel TV-branded subscription video on demand (SVOD) and free ad-supported streaming (FAST) channels.

The companies will combine their respective content catalogs, including Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment-owned SVOD channels, which will become Fuel TV Surf, and LiftTicket, which will become Fuel TV Snow. In addition, the venture will create two new channels, Fuel TV Skate and Fuel TV Bike.

Under the terms of the deal, Fuel TV will run and operate the channels. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment divisions Screen Media Ventures will contribute 1091’s library of action sports titles, and Crackle Connex will sell ad inventory. The joint venture expects to roll out the new Fuel TV branded channels in the coming months.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment plans to expand its joint venture efforts in 2024. These new business deals will drive additional revenues for existing properties it owns and operates utilizing the expertise of third-parties.

Available in more than 130 countries through more than 80 different partnerships with broadcasting and streaming (CTV, OTT) platforms, Fuel TV offers more than 600 hours of new programming every year, in addition to 250 hours of live events and 350 hours of exclusive content.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment SVOD services Echoboom features action sports titles across skateboarding and skiing; SurfnowTV features surf videos that feature the biggest names past and present; and LiftTicketTV offers viewers ski videos.

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“Fuel TV is the gold standard for action-sports content, and they are the perfect counterparty for us to work with on this joint venture,” Elana Sofko, chief strategy officer of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, said in a statement. “Their expertise, combined with our robust content and advertising teams, will make this a powerful offering.”

“We are delighted to join this venture, uniting two of the biggest action sports libraries, and both companies’ prowess in the media industry will allow us to consolidate the leadership in the action sports space,” Fernando Figueiredo, CEO of Fuel TV, said in a statement. “Moreover, it will give Surf, Skate, Snow, and Bike a standalone home for those core viewers that binge their sport for hours. For 20 years, Fuel TV action sports channel has gathered all these sports and will keep doing it by being the home of hundreds of hours of live events from across the globe.”

Omdia: U.S. Consumers Streamlining SVOD Subscriptions in Favor of FAST Services

U.S. consumers are refocusing their appetite away from subscription streaming video services, in favor of free ad-supported streaming television platforms, according to new data from London-based Omdia, which found a notable shift in subscription video on demand (SVOD) “stacking” behavior.

According to the data, there is a significant change in the way consumers are subscribing to multiple streaming services. Previously, consumers would often stack multiple subscriptions to gain access to a wider range of content. However, the data suggests that there’s a shift in this trend, indicating consumers are becoming more selective in their choices and opting for a more focused approach to their streaming subscriptions.

 

“After over half a decade of steady growth, we’re observing a shift in how paid video services are consumed,” analyst Maria Rua Aguete said in a statement.

The analyst contends that the traditional model of stacking multiple paid services is losing ground. This is partly driven by the increasing popularity of free ad-supported television (FAST) channels, “which are becoming a preferred choice for supplementary viewing,” according to Rue Aguete.

The number of SVOD subscriptions per household in the United States was approaching 3.5 in April 2023, but the data now suggests that the number fell more than 10% to under three services by November 2023.

FAST has remained on track to become a prominent service in the United States, with weekly users of these channels representing 46% of total video users. Brazil has also seen a dramatic rise in FAST viewership, with weekly users now accounting for 36% of the video audience, a 4.5-fold increase from 2020. The United Kingdom, another key territory in the FAST market, has seen a surge in FAST viewers, now representing 21% of total video users, according to Omdia.

“The FAST channel market continues to witness strong growth … with ad-revenue projected to reach $8 billion by 2024,” Rue Aguete said in a statement. “This poses both opportunities and challenges for service providers as they adapt to the changing landscape to keep up with evolving viewer demands.”

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Max Series ‘Bookie’ Renewed for Second Season

The Max original comedy series “Bookie,” from Emmy-nominated creators Chuck Lorre and Nick Bakay, has been renewed for a second season.

The season one finale debuted on Dec. 21, and the full first season is available to stream on Max.

The darkly funny comedy follows veteran Los Angeles bookie Danny (Sebastian Maniscalco) as the potential legalization of sports gambling in California threatens to upend his business for good. Alongside best friend and former NFL player Ray (Omar J. Dorsey), side-hustling sister Lorraine (Vanessa Ferlito), and reluctantly reformed drug dealer Hector (Jorge Garcia), Danny must contend with his increasingly unstable clients as he tries to settle their debts — all while making plenty of risky bets of his own.

“The collaboration between Chuck and Sebastian has proven to be a winning hand, and we’re looking forward to continuing the story with this incredibly talented cast and crew,” Amy Gravitt, EVP of HBO programming and head of HBO and Max comedy series, said in a statement.

“We couldn’t be more excited that Max listened to their gut, paid the juice, and let it ride on season two of ‘Bookie,'” executive producers Chuck Lorre and Nick Bakay said in a statement.

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“There’s no doubt that Chuck and Nick’s ‘Bookie’ won big this season as they took us on a hilarious ride into the underbelly of illegal sports gambling, featuring a cast led by another dynamic duo: Sebastian Maniscalco and Omar J. Dorsey,” Channing Dungey, chairman of Warner Bros. Television Group, said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to watching more of their antics in season two.  Congratulations to the entire cast and crew, and thanks to our partners at Max.”

World Cinema SVOD Service Film Movement Plus Adds 32 Films

World cinema subscription streaming VOD service Film Movement Plus Dec. 29 debuts 32 films new to the platform.

Just launched on Prime Video Channels for $5.99 per month, with a seven-day free trial for eligible new subscribers, the service is also available at filmmovementplus.com.

Among the several dozen acclaimed films are two masterworks from Hirokazu Kore-Eda (Monster, Shoplifters), After the Storm and The Third Murder; Antonia’s Line, the 1996 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film; Jan Komasa’s Corpus Christi, a 2020 Oscar nominee for Best International Feature Film, and Theeb, nominated for the same award in 2016; as well as classics including Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence and Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-Bi (Fireworks).

After the Storm (2016, Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda) — In Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Official Cannes Selection, a struggling novelist, now working as a private detective under the pretense of doing research, attempts to reconcile with his aging mother, ex-wife and 11-year-old son. As a typhoon passes, they end up spending the night together in his mother’s Tokyo apartment, but things don’t go particularly well for this fractured family. (117 minutes, Japanese w/English subs)

Antonia’s Line (1995, Director Marleen Gorris) — In the aftermath of WWII, strong-willed Antonia and her free-spirited daughter return to their hometown, ingratiating themselves with its tight-knit and eccentric community and fostering a vibrant circle of strong, liberated women in Marleen Gorris’ winner of the 1996 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. (102 minutes, Dutch w/English subtitles)

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi (2019, Director Jan Komasa) — After spending years in a Warsaw prison for a violent crime, 20-year-old Daniel is released and sent to a remote village to work as a manual laborer. When he arrives in town, one quick lie allows him to be mistaken for the town’s new priest, and he sets about leading his newfound flock. Though he has no training, his passion and charisma inspire the community. At the same time, his unconventional sermons and unpriestly behavior raise suspicions among some of the townsfolk — even more so as he edges towards a dark secret that the community hasn’t revealed in the confessional booth. The film is a 2020 Academy Award nominee for Best International Feature Film. (116 minutes, Polish w/English Subtitles)

Dead Pigs (2018, Director Cathy Yan) — The fates of an unlucky pig farmer, a feisty home-owner defending her property, a lovestruck busboy, a disenchanted rich girl, and an American expat pursuing the Chinese Dream converge and collide as thousands of dead pigs are found floating down the Huangpu River, towards a modernizing Shanghai in Cathy Yan’s (Birds of Prey) debut feature. The film won the Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting at the Sundance Film Festival. (122 minutes, Mandarin w/English subtitles, English)

Hana-Bi (Fireworks) (1997, Director Takeshi Kitano) — Feeling responsible for the shattered lives of his loved ones, beleaguered police detective Nishi (Takeshi Kitano) takes desperate measures to try and set things right in a world gone wrong. With his wife suffering from leukemia and his partner paralyzed from a brutal gangster attack, Nishi borrows money from a yakuza loan shark and then robs a bank to clear his debt. The yakuza, however, are not so easily bought off, sending Nishi down a road paved with nihilism and violence. Considered Kitano’s first true cinematic masterpiece, the film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. (103 minutes, Japanese w/English subtitles)

Harmonium (2016, Director Koji Fukada) — Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) sees his seemingly ordinary life take an ominous turn when Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), a mysterious friend from his past, arrives unexpectedly. Recently released from prison and in need of a helping hand, Toshio gives him a job and generously takes him in to live with his wife and daughter. Toshio soon regrets this decision, as Yasaka gradually disrupts the family before finally causing irreparable damage.  (120 minutes, Japanese w/English subtitles)

My Love, Don’t Cross That River (2014, Director Jin Moyoung) — A blockbuster in its native Korea, where it would go on to become the country’s most successful film of all time, this film presents story of true love that transcends both generations and cultures. In the film, Jo Byeong-man and Kang Kye-yeol, “100-year old lovebirds,” have been inseparable companions for 76 years. Observing this fragile couple for 15 months, director Moyoung Jin acts as a fly-on-the-wall, capturing the tender moments of their twilight days — as the two face the inevitable reality that their time together will soon be approaching an end. (86 minutes, Korean w/English subtitles)

Oh Lucy!

Oh Lucy! (2017, Director Atsuko Hirayanagi) — Bored Tokyo lady Setsuko (Independent Spirit Award-nominee Shinobu Terajima) breaks free of her monotonous life when her niece Mika (Shioli Kutsuna) convinces her to enroll in an unorthodox English class. There, she adopts a blonde-haired alter ego name “Lucy” and develops romantic feelings for her American instructor John (Josh Hartnett).But after his sudden disappearance, Setsuko follows his trail halfway around the world to Southern California, where family ties and past lives are tested as she struggles to fulfill the promise of “Lucy.” From executive producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the film was nominated for both a Palme d’Or and Critic’s Week Grand Prize at Cannes. (96 minutes, English, Japanese w/English subtitles).

Paradise (2016, Director Andrei Konchalovsky) — Olga is a beautiful Russian countess and member of the French Resistance; Jules is a French-Nazi collaborator who is assigned to investigate her case; and Helmut is a handsome, high-ranking, yet naïve German SS officer who once fell madly in love with Olga and meets her again when she is shipped to a concentration camp. While they recount their stories, Paradise drifts between the bloody end of World War II and the gilded, halcyon days when their destinies first crossed. Victim, bystander, or monster — director Andrei Konchalovsky, who captured the Silver Lion for Best Director at Venice, collapses these identities, offering a new perspective on the Holocaust. Shot in black and white, the film depicts the morally complex choices that one must make during the darkest of times. (132 minutes, Russian, German, French w/English subtitles)

The Great Silence (1968, Director Sergio Corbucci) — On an unforgiving, snow-swept frontier, a group of bloodthirsty bounty hunters, led by the vicious Loco (Klaus Kinski) prey on a band of persecuted outlaws who have taken to the hills. Only a mute gunslinger named Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant) stands between the innocent refugees and the corrupt bounty hunters. But, in this harsh, brutal world, the lines between right and wrong are not always clear, and good does not always triumph. Featuring superb photography and a haunting score from maestro Ennio Morricone, director Sergio Corbucci’s bleak, brilliant and violent vision of an immoral, honorless West is widely considered to be among the best and most influential Westerns ever made. (105 minutes, Italian w/English subtitles, English)

The Third Murder (2017, Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda) — Leading attorney Shigemori takes on the defense of murder-robbery suspect Misumi who served jail time for another murder 30 years ago. Shigemori’s chances of winning the case seem low — his client freely admits his guilt, despite facing the death penalty if he is convicted. As he digs deeper into the case, as he hears the testimonies of the victim’s family and Misumi himself, the once confident Shigemori begins to doubt whether his client is the murderer after all in this Golden Lion nominee at the Venice Film Festival. (124 minutes, Japanese w/English subtitles)

Theeb (2014, Director Naji Abu Nowar) — In 1916, while war rages in the Ottoman Empire, Hussein raises his younger brother Theeb (“Wolf”) in a traditional Bedouin community that is isolated by the vast, unforgiving desert. The brothers’ quiet existence is suddenly interrupted when a British Army officer and his guide ask Hussein to escort them to a water well located along the old pilgrimage route to Mecca. The young, mischievous Theeb secretly chases after his brother, but the group soon find themselves trapped amidst threatening terrain riddled with Ottoman mercenaries, Arab revolutionaries, and outcast Bedouin raiders. Naji Abu Nowar’s directorial debut, set in the land of Lawrence of Arabia, is a “Bedouin Western” about a boy who, in order to survive, must become a man and live up to the name his father gave him. The film was nominated for the 2016 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and a Golden Lion winner for Best Director at Venice.

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Other films added include:

  • 2 Autumns, 3 Winters (2013, Director Sebastien Betbeder, France, Romantic Comedy)
  • Abigail Harm (2012, Director Lee Isaac Chung, US/Hong Kong, Drama)
  • Aliyah (2012, Director Elie Wajeman, France, Thriller)
  • Amnesia (2015, Director Barbet Schroeder, France/Switzerland, Drama)
  • Amour Fou (2014, Director Jessica Hausner, Austria, Drama)
  • Corpo Celeste (2011, Director Alice Rohrwacher, Italy, Drama)
  • Glory (2016, Directors Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov, Bulgaria, Drama)
  • God of the Piano (2019, Director Itay Tal, Israel, Drama)
  • Helena From the Wedding (2010, Director Joseph Infantolino, USA, Dramedy)
  • Human Capital (2014, Director Paolo Virzi, Italy, Thriller)
  • Ilo Ilo (2013, Director Anthony Chen, Singapore, Drama)
  • In Between (2016, Director Maysaloun Hamoud, Israel, Drama)
  • Karl Marx City (2016, Directors Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker, Germany, Documentary)
  • Munyurangabo (2007, Director Lee Isaac Chung, Rwanda, Drama)
  • Nina Wu (2019, Director Midi Z, Taiwan/Malaysia, Thriller)
  • Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack (2019, Directors Deborah Shaffer, Rachel Reichman, USA, Documentary)
  • The Auction (2013, Director Sebastien Pilote, Canada, Drama)
  • The Carer (2016, Director Janos Edelenyi, U.K./Hungary, Drama)
  • The Dinner (2014, Director Ivano De Matteo, Italy, Thriller)
  • The White King (2016, Directors Alex Helfrecht, Jörg Tittel, U.K., Sci-fi)

Top 10 for 2023: The Biggest Home Entertainment Stories of the Year — Streaming

The year 2023 saw the entertainment business hit with two strikes — one by the actors and one by the writers — that slowed the production pipeline and added to the ongoing upheaval in the industry. Roiled by the walkout and Wall Street’s new focus on profit in the industry after the giddy growth days of the pandemic, the streaming business struggled to find ways to cut costs and grow revenue.

Here is a countdown of the top 10 home entertainment news stories of 2023 in the streaming business as chosen by the Media Play News editorial staff:

10. Streamers Tackle the NFL

Subscription streaming video’s growing embrace of live sports took center stage over the winter holidays. NBCUniversal’s inaugural “Peacock Holiday Exclusive” on Dec. 23, which pitted the Buffalo Bills vs. the Los Angeles Chargers on the Peacock streaming platform, included the NFL’s first-ever commercial-free fourth quarter. The promotion generated a 40% reduction in standard NFL TV commercials resulting in more than 12 minutes of additional game-related content, according to the companies.

In January 2024, Peacock will become the first streaming service to live stream an NFL Playoff game, presenting an NFL Wild Card Playoff in primetime on Jan. 13, 2024. With the two Saturday NFL Wild Card games and a Sunday primetime NFL Wild Card game (on Peacock and NBC), NBCUniversal will be the first media company to present three NFL Playoff games in a single weekend.

Separately, Prime Video live-streamed the first-ever Black Friday (Nov. 24) NFL game, featuring the New York Jets losing to the Miami Dolphins, 34-13. Amazon, which is paying the NFL $11 billion to exclusively distribute “Thursday Night Football” through 2033, reportedly paid the NFL an additional $100 million to stream the Black Friday game, which featured for the first time in-game shopping features, aimed at melding the company’s legacy e-commerce platform with live-sports streaming. Commercials during the game featured commercial QR codes directed viewers to Amazon.com to complete purchases.

9. Disney’s Cricket Woes

India continues to be a coveted market for U.S. media companies, including its streaming marketplace. The Walt Disney Co. in December signed a non-binding term sheet with Reliance Industries Ltd. to merge the companies’ Indian media assets, which include the Hotstar streaming platform and JioCinema, an ad-supported free streaming service. The proposed cash-stock deal — expected to close in February 2024 — is significant due to India’s importance to Disney+. The Hotstar platform accounted for nearly 40% of total Disney+ subscribers after the service’s 2019 launch. Disney acquired Hotstar as part of the $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox. Key to Hotstar was the platform’s exclusive streaming rights to the Indian Premier League, the professional cricket league. Cricket is a national sport in India. When Hotstar lost the multibillion-dollar IPL rights earlier this year to Viacom18, an Indian-based media company co-owned by Paramount Global and Reliance, Disney looked to cut its losses, which included millions of Indian streaming subscribers.

8. NASCAR Revs Live-Streaming Engine

Streaming video’s growing embrace of live sports ventured from the playing field to the brickyard. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) inked a seven-year, $7.7 billion media rights agreement for its Cup Series that included first-time access to live streaming on a variety of streaming services, beginning in 2025 through the 2031 season. NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage will encompass the final 14 events of the 2025 season, including the Playoffs and Championship race, featuring a mix of races and content on Peacock.

Prime Video will live stream practice and qualifying for the first half of the season with the exceptions of the Busch Light Clash, Daytona 500, and NASCAR All-Star Race. The deal marks Amazon’s second major live sports streaming deal following its landmark $11 billion pact with the NFL for “Thursday Night Football.”

TNT Sports will initiate its NASCAR coverage with five midseason races simultaneously broadcast live and streaming on the B/R Sports Add-On on Max. Practice and qualifying for the remainder of the season will stream on Max and air on truTV.

7. Max. Just Max.

Warner Bros. Discovery combined its HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming platforms into the standalone Max service as part of a plan to reduce costs and turn a profit. The union of the two subscription streaming services had been in the works ever since the merger of WarnerMedia with Discovery. The new Max SVOD service features HBO Max’s high-profile series such as “The Last of Us” and “White Lotus” as well as Discovery+ content, including HGTV favorite “Property Brothers” and Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network.

Separately, the company’s branded online Bleacher Report (B/R) Sports unit in October began offering for the first-time access to live streaming sports and news on the Max platform, including a full slate of live sports, including MLB, NHL, NBA, NCAA Men’s March Madness, and U.S. Soccer events.

6. Peacock Drops Free AVOD 

Streaming’s embrace of ad-supported VOD and free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) may have been a trend in 2023, with Tubi, Pluto TV and The Roku Channel each making it onto Nielsen’s monthly household TV streaming chart. Then NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform poured cold water on the parade, dropping its free ad-supported option for new subscribers. The service said the move was part of a focus on growing Peacock’s ad-supported $4.99 and ad-free $9.99 subscription tiers. Peacock topped 30 million paid subscribers through October.

5. Bundle Power

The bundling of subscription streaming video services to help consumers save money was a big trend for the year. In December, Verizon began offering ad-supported access to both the Netflix and Max services for a $10 combined monthly fee. That’s 40% off the standard combined monthly fee. Verizon, which has no proprietary streaming service, has aggressively marketed discounted access to third-party platforms to its wireless customers, including Apple TV+, Walmart+ (which includes Paramount+), the Disney bundle (Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+). Bundling is expected to soften churn rates (non-renewing subscribers), and entice new subs via lower monthly fees, especially to the ad-supported service levels.

4. Prime Video Adds Ads

The lure of incremental advertising dollars snagged another legacy SVOD  player with Prime Video informing subscribers about its pending transition to an ad-supported service beginning on Jan. 29, 2024. Prime Video subscribers can continue streaming ad-free content after Jan. 29, 2024, by paying an additional $2.99 monthly surcharge. Prime Video currently charges $14.99 monthly ($139 annually). “[Ad-supported Prime Video] will allow us to continue investing in compelling content and keep increasing that investment over a long period of time,” Amazon said in a statement to subscribers. Prime Video, along with Apple TV+, had been the last ad-free SVOD service. Netflix and Disney+ launched ad-supported options in late 2022, joining Hulu, Max, Paramount + and Peacock. Amazon says ad-supported Prime Video will have “meaningfully fewer ads” than linear TV and other streaming TV providers.

3. An Actual Streaming Profit?!?!?!

Outside of Netflix and Hulu, most studio-backed subscription streaming VOD services continued to hemorrhage millions of dollars in 2023. Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming business unit, which includes Max, Discovery+, and linear HBO, bucked the trend, posting a first-ever pre-tax profit ($50 million) in the first quarter, ended March 31, compared with a loss of $227 million in the previous-year period. The media giant said it expected the direct-to-consumer business to be profitable for fiscal 2023 — a year ahead of guidance. “We’ve said it’s not about how many subscribers, it’s about how much money we make,” CEO David Zaslav said on the fiscal call.

2. Sharing is Not Caring

After Netflix said it would begin cracking down on subscribers (100 million worldwide) sharing their account access password with non-members, conventional wisdom suggested the move would backfire into a PR mess, angering subs and even possibly sending the company’s stock price into a nosedive. Apparently Wall Street and most Netflix subs really don’t like freeloaders. The streamer in September announced that its solution of offering subscribers the ability to add non-paying members to their account for an additional $7.99 monthly fee not only generated incremental revenue, it also spurred 9 million non-members to sign up. The strategy saw Netflix’s lower cost $7.99 ad-supported plan up its membership by 70% in the third quarter.

1. ‘Suits’ Summer Catalog Re-Awakening

When the pipeline for new streaming content slowed this year due to the Hollywood strikes, Netflix and Peacock pulled the re-run card — with spectacular results. The streamers saw subscribers’ loyalties remain strong due in part to older, licensed content, including a former USA Networks legal TV series “Suits.” The show, which ended after nine seasons in 2019, and stars Meghan Markle before she quit acting to marry Prince Harry, regularly generated more than 1 billion viewing minutes each week across its 130-plus episodes through mid-October, according to Nielsen. The success of the show highlighted data from Hub Research that found 64% of viewers said their current favorite streaming show was an older catalog series that had been on for several seasons — up from 54% in 2021.

Film Movement Plus Streaming Service Launches on Prime Video Channels

Film Movement’s streaming service, Film Movement Plus, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, Dec. 15 became available to Prime Video customers via Prime Video Channels in the United States.  

The service is priced at $5.99 per month, with a seven-day free trial for eligible new subscribers. New titles will be added each week.

The Film Movement catalog features a curated collection of independent and world cinema, cult and arthouse classics, documentaries and North American exclusives.

Films available at launch on the Prime Video Channel include dozens of exclusives, such as Diamond Island, directed by Davy Chou (Return to Seoul); Holy Beasts with Geraldine Chaplin and Udo Kier; Mario Martone’s The Mayor of Rione Sanita; Hellhole, directed by Bas Devos (Here); Wayne Wang’s While the Women Were Sleeping; Claire Darling starring Catherine Deneuve; and the New York Times Critic’s Pick documentary Faith, the final film by Valentina Pedicini.

Critically lauded films from some of today’s most talented auteurs will be available as well, including A White White Day directed by Hlynur Pálmason (Godland); Koji Fukada’s A Girl Missing; Ciro Guerra’s The Wind Journeys; Diao Yinan’s The Wild Goose Lake; Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book; Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond’s My Little Sister; and Bruce LaBruce’s Saint-Narcisse. Award-winning documentaries include David Osit’s Mayor; Philippe Bellaiche’s and Rachel Leah Jones’ Advocate; and James Crump’s Antonio Lopez: Sex Fashion & Disco. Digitally-restored classics include Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence, Ang Lee’s theatrical debut Pushing Hands (available Dec. 15), Lee Tamahori’s Once Were Warriors, and Ming-liang Tsai’s Vive L’Amour.

Each month, Film Movement Plus will be updated with new exclusives and streaming premieres. Coming Dec. 22 is the exclusive premiere of The Inner Cage, a Venice competition title directed by Leonardo Di Costanzo and starring Toni Servillo (The Great Beauty), and on Dec. 29, Sonia Braga in the film that made her an international star, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, directed by Bruno Barreto. Also coming in December are Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After the Storm and The Third Murder; Naji Abu Nowar’s Academy-Award nominee Theeb; Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-Bi (Firesworks); Cathy Yan’s Dead Pigs; and Marleen Gorris’s Oscar winner Antonia’s Line.

Coming in January are Philipp Stölzl’s Chess Story, starring Oliver Masucci; Laura Wandel’s Oscar-shortlisted drama Playground; and exclusives including Asimina Proedrou’s Behind the Haystacks, Greece’s official submission for this year’s Best International Picture Academy Award, and Claudio Noce’s Italian drama Padrenostro, winner of a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for Pierfrancesco Favino.

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“Since 2002, Film Movement’s objective has been to acquire cinematic gems from around the world and share them with American audiences.  And, for the past five years, Film Movement Plus has given us a broad platform to serve cineastes with curated cinema wherever they may be,” Michael Rosenberg, president of Film Movement, said in a statement. “By launching our service on Prime Video via Prime Video Channels, we make it even easier for customers to enjoy our films and find the many titles that are only available on Film Movement Plus.”