Streaming, Consolidation Dominate Top 10 Home Entertainment Stories of 2019

Streaming and consolidation dominated the home entertainment headlines in 2019, with the Walt Disney Co. leading the way. Netflix got some subscription streaming competition, and free streaming through advertising, or AVOD, emerged as a new star. It was also a year that saw the home entertainment industry lose a venerable studio player that had helped birth the business more than 40 years prior — 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Meanwhile, physical disc sales and rentals continued a structural decline, while electronic sellthrough, the digital sale of content, was a solid performer in the transactional business.

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Here are the top 10 home entertainment stories of 2019, as chosen by Media Play News staff:

  1. Disney Acquires Fox: Disney closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. The deal included myriad Fox properties, including Fox’s interest in Hulu and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which helped birth the home video industry in 1979. The merger also saw the departure of several executives, including Mike Dunn and James Finn at Fox and Janice Marinelli, president of global content sales & distribution for Disney’s direct-to-consumer & international unit.
  2. Disney + Bows: Calling it the company’s most-important consumer product ever, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the launch of Disney+, a standalone SVOD service aimed at taking on segment pioneer Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The service launched Nov. 12 at $6.99 a month offering a trove of catalog movies, including its venerable animated classics and Marvel hits, and catalog TV shows, in addition to original “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian,” an instant fan hit from director Jon Favreau. Disney also unveiled the bundle offer of ESPN+, Hulu (now controlled by Disney) and Disney+ at $12.99 a month.
  3. AVOD in the Spotlight: Advertising-supported video-on-demand, or AVOD, emerged from the SVOD shadows, gaining traction among subscription-weary consumers looking for free content. Mega-media companies Comcast, Viacom (through the acquisition of Pluto TV) and Amazon (through IMDb) acknowledged the growing market. Reports surfaced that Comcast is eyeing acquiring AVOD player Xumo TV to go along with 2020’s Peacock streaming service debut.
  4. Apple TV+ Launches: Apple Nov. 1 launched a standalone branded subscription streaming service at $4.99 a month, Apple TV+, in more than 100 countries and regions through the Apple TV app. Original content included Golden Globe-nominated “The Morning Show,” “See,” “For All Mankind” and “Dickinson.”
  5. Electronic Sellthrough Continues to Grow: Outside of subscription streaming video, the only home entertainment category to post an increase in consumer spending during much of 2019 was electronic sellthrough, the digital purchase of movies and other content. The segment generated an estimated $1.9 billion in consumer spending through the third quarter of 2019, up 6.7% from the previous-year period, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
  6. Redbox Gets Into Content, Out of Disney Movie Code Sales: Redbox launched Redbox Entertainment, a new label to acquire and produce content exclusive for Redbox’s 50 million kiosk consumers. The company tapped Broad Green Pictures and Lionsgate veteran Marc Danon to head content acquisition. The kiosk vendor also settled 2-year-old litigation with Disney, agreeing not to sell the studio’s digital movie codes.
  7. Filmmakers Tweak UHD: The UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies and episodic TV called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended.
  8. Netflix Takes a U.S. Sub Hit: Disaster struck Wall Street favorite Netflix after the streaming behemoth posted a 126,000 domestic subscriber loss in Q2 after projecting growth of 300,000 subs. It was Netflix’s first domestic sub loss since 2011 when co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings announced the short-lived separation of the company’s DVD rental business from its subscription streaming business. Regardless, stock plummet nearly 20% (or $26 billion) in value after the disappointing numbers.
  9. Changes Afoot at Vudu: Vudu — rumored to be up for sale by owner Walmart, which executives told The Information considers it a non-core business — quietly downsized support for its Vudu To Go/In-Home Disc to Digital app, effective Jan. 1, 2020. The digital movie transactional service will still allow users to convert DVD and Blu-ray movies for digital access by scanning UPC codes on the Vudu app via select portable devices such as a mobile phone and tablet.
  10. Netflix Hails Discs: Taking its eye off its dominant streaming business for a moment, Netflix acknowledged a milestone: Delivery of 5 billion discs since the launch of its legacy disc-by-mail rental service more than two decades ago. The disc rental: Paramount’s Rocketman.

Sharp to Showcase 120-Inch 8K, 5G Televison

South Korean consumer electronics manufacturer Sharp has been carrying the 8K resolution TV banner since 2011.

So, it’s little surprise the company plans to showcase a 120-inch 8K TV screen with 5G network compatibility at the upcoming IFA confab in Berlin.

8K resolution claims to offer 16 times the pixels of HD and four times the pixels of 4K.

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“Since our launch of the world’s first-ever 8K display, Sharp has continued to develop 8K products in the [business to consumer] realm, but thanks to advances in communication and imaging technology, we are now also able to offer fresh value in the field of [business-to-business],” Kazuhiro Kitamura, business unit president, global TV systems and head of Europe business, said in a statement.

Kitamura said Sharp is partnering with other companies to run verification tests in various fields to perfect the 8K, 5G TV.

“By working in tandem with other firms’ technology, rather than promoting our own 8K offerings in isolation, we are able to foster breakthroughs and nurture 8K+5G Ecosystem across an ever-wider range of disciplines,” he said. “The more partners we can bring on board with groundbreaking technological advances of their own, the more we can achieve together to enrich society and people’s lives.”

Big plans considering the 8K TV market remains a curiosity among consumers.

According to Statista, 8K TV will have about 3% of the UHD TV market by 2023. 8K unit sales are projected to reach 11 million annually, up from 400,000 units this year.

‘The Shining’ to Terrify in 4K UHD Oct. 1 From Warner

Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic The Shining will come out on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digital Oct. 1 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The 4K remastering, done using a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging, is of Kubrick’s original 144 minute version of the film which premiered in the United States May 23, 1980. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg and Kubrick’s former personal assistant  Leon Vitali worked closely with the team at Warner Bros. during the mastering process. May 17 the restored 4K version of the film will be screened at The Cannes Film Festival.

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The Shining, based on the Stephen King novel, was directed and produced by Kubrick, who wrote the screenplay with Diane Johnson. It stars Jack Nicholson in an iconic role as Jack Torrance, Shelley Duval as Wendy Torrance, Scatman Crothers as Dick Halloran, and Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance. In the film, Jack Torrance becomes the winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy and his son Danny, who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing goes nowhere and Danny’s visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.

In 2018, The Shining was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  The film ranked 29th on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills list, and Jack Torrance was named the 25th greatest villain on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains list.  Additionally, the quote “Here’s Johnny” from the film was ranked 68th on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes list.

The Shining Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the feature film in 4K with HDR, a Blu-ray disc with the film in high definition and the special features in high definition, and a digital version of the movie. Fans can also own The Shining in 4K Ultra HD via purchase from select digital retailers.

The Ultra HD Blu-ray of The Shining will include more than three hours of previously released special features, including:

  • audio commentary by Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter;
  • “Video from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining”;
  • “The Visions of Stanley Kubrick,” a detailed look at one of cinema’s greatest visual storytellers and his unique ability to move audiences through the magic of unforgettable images;
  • “The Making of The Shining,” a cinema verité documentary offering a rare glimpse into the directing style of Kubrick as he interacts with Nicholson, Duvall and others;
  • “Wendy Carlos, Composer,” in which composer Wendy Carlos reflects on working with Kubrick and developing music scores for The Shiningand A Clockwork Orange.

Report: UHD TV Market Growing on Price Cuts

The global Ultra HD TV market is expected to expand at a combined annual growth rate of 28.23% from 2018 to 2022, according to a new report  “Global UHD TV Market 2018-2022” from Research and Markets.

According to the report, one driver in the market is the reduction in the average selling price of UHD TVs. The North American TV market witnessed a 90% reduction in UHD TV prices since its induction in 2012, and the average selling price of UHD TVs in China fell by about 85%.

One trend in the market is the rising popularity of curved UHD TVs. With TV manufacturers such as Samsung and Mitashi introducing curved TVs, the coming years will witness a growing preference for curved UHD TVs, according to the report.

Still, one challenge is a lack of UHD content, which is one of the key factors that could hinder the adoption of UHD TVs, according to the report.

Report: Panasonic Might Add Second New UHD Blu-ray Player in U.S. This Year

Panasonic could add a second new Ultra HD Blu-ray player to its 2018 U.S. product lineup, according to a report from HD Guru.

The new player, model DP-UB9000, announced at a Panasonic Product Convention in Europe last week, could join the previously announced UB820, HD Guru reported. The Panasonic UB820 was unveiled at CES last month, where it won HD Guru’s Best Ultra HD Player of CES 2018 award.

In 2016 Panasonic introduced its first premium 4K UHD Blu-ray player, model UB900, in the United States.

Technicolor Touts Its Own HDR Technology

LAS VEGAS — While much of the buzz on the advanced high dynamic range (HDR) front came from the announcement of Fox and Warner backing HDR10+ and manufacturers incorporating Dolby Vision in their products, Technicolor/Philips touted its own HDR solution at the Consumer Electronics Show.

What’s behind door No. 3?

According to Kirk Barker, SVP, emerging products, technology division, for Technicolor, Advanced HDR by Technicolor offers a dynamic metadata technology that is cheaper than the competitor that charges royalties (Dolby Vision) and more friendly to broadcasters than either of the other two solutions (HDR10+ and Dolby Vision). Dynamic metadata in all three technologies adjusts contrast scene by scene.

LG was the first TV manufacturer to integrate Technicolor’s HDR technology. The technology is also in Funai products.

“Our solution has three different modes,” Barker said.

These modes make the technology a better solution for broadcasters that have to broadcast in HD as well as UHD with HDR. Essentially, Advanced HDR by Technicolor means broadcasters don’t have to have two sets of crews/trucks, one for HD and another for UHD with HDR.

“It’s a better solution for broadcasters,” Barker said.

The technology was first tested at a 2016 Dodgers game.

UHD Alliance Signs Google, Eyes Consumer Education

Five months after taking charge of the UHD Alliance as its first full-time president, longtime consumer electronics executive Mike Fidler on the eve of CES 2018 unveiled an ambitious agenda to not just grow membership, but also to increase consumer education and maximize device interoperability for a better user experience.

The push comes amid word that Google has joined the trade group, a global coalition of leading film studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, content distributors and technology companies seeking to promote the next-generation premium in-home entertainment platform, which offers 4K resolution as well as a mix of other features that include high dynamic range, wide color gamut, high frame rate and immersive audio, among other features.

Fidler, known in the home entertainment community for his work with Pioneer Electronics and Sony Electronics and as a founding board member of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, came to UHDA in August 2017 at a time when the group’s focus was changing. Previously, he said, the group was engaged primarily in developing UHD specifications and expanding licensing. While beefing up membership is still a goal, he said, the group is now focusing on a consumer and press engagement push in the hopes of expanding UHD’s user base beyond early adopters.

“We want to move to a new level of engagement with consumers and the press and to broaden the marketplace beyond just early adopters,” Fidler said. “In accelerating the adoption of UHD, we need these groups to understand what it is and what it does or does not do.”

The group recently launched its consumer web site, experienceuhd.com, with a list of all UHDA-certified products, links to member web sites, answers to frequently asked questions, advice on setting up home theaters, and detailed information about the features required for a device to earn UHDA certification.

“Our job is to break it down and emphasize the benefits of HDR, 4K UHD resolution, wider color spectrum, 10-bit color depth and immersive audio, Fidler said in a DEG blog posting.

Two logos, Ultra HD Premium (for TVs, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players and pre-recorded content) and Mobile HDR Premium (for laptops, tablets, phones and other battery-operated devices), promise certified products will meet or exceed strict performance levels for 4K resolution and high dynamic range, along with recommendations for immersive audio. The Ultra HD Premium and Mobile HDR Premium logos are intended to help convey that and confer a “Good Housekeeping seal of approval”-type cachet on products that carry them, says Fidler.

“One of the Alliance’s key messages to consumers will be around HDR,” Fidler said. While HDR was not part of the original 4K specification, it is an important and very visible improvement in picture quality set forth by the major studios.

Another part of the UHDA’s education program is working with retailers and manufacturers to help set expectations for consumers about what they can expect to see and what is currently available.  An abundance of content “will happen,” Fidler said in the DEG blog posting, “but not at the pace people might expect.”

While there are more than 250 Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles in the marketplace and streaming services including Netflix and Amazon regularly make content available in 4K UHD, broadcast content availability is sparse but growing.

DEG Gives Movies Anywhere First-Ever Innovation Award

Trade group DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group during its annual reception at CES on Jan. 9 will showcase its Achievement Awards, honoring the best 4K UHD hardware and software products released during 2017.

Movies Anywhere also will be honored by DEG leadership with the new DEG Emiel N. Petrone Innovation in Entertainment Technology Award.

The reception will promote 4K UHD products and content in various ways, with reception sponsor Redbox celebrating its plans to test 4K content at kiosks in 2018 by presenting one reception guest with the ultimate 4K home entertainment center, including a Sony BRAVIA OLED 4K HDR TV, winner of the DEG: Excellence in 4K UHD Product Award; a gaming system; and peripherals including a sound bar and gaming headset. All attendees prior to the drawing will receive a chance to win the grand prize, presented during the reception by Redbox CEO Galen Smith.

The DEG Emiel N. Petrone Innovation in Entertainment Technology Award honors the memory of the DEG’s founding chairman, the late Emiel N. Petrone. The new award recognizes a technology development release in 2017 that has created new opportunities for the home entertainment industry.

The first DEG Emiel N. Petrone Innovation in Entertainment Technology Award winner is Movies Anywhere, the Disney-owned industry initiative that at launch last October brought together films from five major studios (Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Studios – encompassing Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment) with four key digital retailers (Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu) to provide movie owners with the ability to store their digital content in the cloud and access it across a wide range of devices and platforms.

Nominations by DEG leaders focused on those innovations that generated significant new trends in home and mobile entertainment. Voters recognized Movies Anywhere as “the best innovation we’ve had in years, with huge potential to come” and “this year’s innovation that has the best chance of transforming our industry.”

Winners of the Excellence in 4K UHD Awards were selected by a panel of product reviewers from the industry’s home theater enthusiast and business publications, including Media Play News. One hardware and one software product will be awarded with the top honors.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, is recognized with the DEG: Excellence in 4K UHD Content Award. The criteria for the Content Award include demonstrated excellence in 4K image capturing/transferring; HDR encoding; wide color rendering; and immersive (object-based) audio.

The DEG: Excellence in 4K Product Award goes to Sony Electronics for its Sony BRAVIA OLED 4K HDR TV. For the Product Award, criteria include delivery, on a consistent basis, of outstanding audio/video performance, convenience and versatility. Sony’s OLED TV boasts more than 8 million self-illuminating pixels and sound that comes from the entire screen, with the industry’s first Acoustic Surface.

“As home entertainment consumers increasingly demand enriched visual and audio experiences, delivered in a more convenient and frictionless way than ever before, DEG member companies are moving quickly to not only meet their needs, but to introduce them to new possibilities,” said Amy Jo Smith, DEG president and CEO. “DEG is delighted to recognize Sony Electronics and Warner Bros. as purveyors of best-in-class 4K UHD for the home, and Movies Anywhere as a model of seamless content delivery perfectly positioned for the future.”