Competitors Sony and Microsoft Ink Entertainment Innovation Partnership

Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. May 16 announced that the two companies will partner on new innovations to enhance customer experiences in their direct-to-consumer entertainment platforms and AI solutions.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed by the parties, the two companies will explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game and content-streaming services. In addition, the two companies will explore the use of current Microsoft Azure datacenter-based solutions for Sony’s game and content-streaming services.

“By working together, the companies aim to deliver more enhanced entertainment experiences for their worldwide customers,” read a joint press release. “These efforts will also include building better development platforms for the content creator community.”

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As part of the memorandum of understanding, Sony and Microsoft will also explore collaboration in the areas of semiconductors and AI. For semiconductors, this includes potential joint development of new intelligent image sensor solutions. By integrating Sony’s image sensors with Microsoft’s Azure AI technology in a hybrid manner across cloud and edge, as well as solutions that leverage Sony’s semiconductors and Microsoft cloud technology, the companies aim to provide enhanced capabilities for enterprise customers. In terms of AI, the parties will explore incorporation of Microsoft’s advanced AI platform and tools in Sony consumer products, to provide highly intuitive and user-friendly AI experiences.

“Sony is a creative entertainment company with a solid foundation of technology. We collaborate closely with a multitude of content creators that capture the imagination of people around the world, and through our cutting-edge technology, we provide the tools to bring their dreams and vision to reality,” said Kenichiro Yoshida, president and CEO of Sony, in a statement. “PlayStation itself came about through the integration of creativity and technology. Our mission is to seamlessly evolve this platform as one that continues to deliver the best and most immersive entertainment experiences, together with a cloud environment that ensures the best possible experience, anytime, anywhere. For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content. Additionally, I hope that in the areas of semiconductors and AI, leveraging each company’s cutting-edge technology in a mutually complementary way will lead to the creation of new value for society.”

“Sony has always been a leader in both entertainment and technology, and the collaboration we announced today builds on this history of innovation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in a statement. “Our partnership brings the power of Azure and Azure AI to Sony to deliver new gaming and entertainment experiences for customers.”

Google Unveils ‘Stadia’ Video Game Service

As expected, Google is entering the $140 billion video game business with hopes its cloud-based Stadia service will rival industry benchmarks Xbox (Microsoft), PlayStation (Sony) and Switch (Nintendo) among consumers.

Google announced the new service March 19 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The search behemoth, which plans to roll out the service and cost details later this year, says Stadia would enable users to play games from major developers on most devices via YouTube.

Google Stadia video game controller

“Our ambition is far beyond a single game,” Phil Harrison, VP and GM at Google, told attendees. “The power of instant access is magical, and it’s already transformed the music and movie industries.”

Harrison, who previously held executive positions at Xbox and PlayStation, said Google tested the service (Project Stream) last fall with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey that enabled users to play/stream the triple-A game via Google’s Chrome browser on any applicable device – including smart TV.

“We finally get to share Google’s vision of games,” Harrison said. “Our vision for Stadia is simple. One place for all the games you play.”

In a statement, Yves Guillemot, the co-founder/CEO of Ubisoft, said Google’s global expanse would give “billions” unprecedented opportunities to play video games.

“We are proud to partner with Google on Stadia, building on what we’ve learned with Project Stream via Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” Guillemot said. “This is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to continue collaborating closely with Google on what’s next for Stadia.”

 

Disney Outranks Netflix and Amazon Prime in Brand Study

Disney ranked No. 1 followed by Amazon Prime and Netflix in the media and entertainment industry portion of MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2019 Study.

The study is the largest study of brands based on emotions, according to the company.

Disney rose in the ranking from fifth overall in the 2018 study to first this year.

The remaining brands in the Top 10 for the media & entertainment industry were, in order, PlayStation, YouTube, Xbox, Nintendo, Hulu, HBO and WWE.

MBLM defines Brand Intimacy as “the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love.” Top intimate brands in the U.S. continued to significantly outperform the top brands in the Fortune 500 and S&P indices in both revenue and profit over the past 10 years, according to the study.

“Media & entertainment continues to be our most intimate industry,” Mario Natarelli, managing partner of MBLM, said in a statement. “The need to escape reality, consume content on demand, and lose ourselves in stories is a powerful combination of factors. Disney is leveraging its nostalgic associations to cultivate stronger bonds with customers. It has also improved its performance with men, while continuing to innovate and expand its offerings.”

Additional findings in the media and entertainment industry were:

  • Disney was the No. 1 brand with both men and women as well respondents aged 45-64;
  • Disney was also the top brand for people making over $100,000;
  • YouTube ranked first for millennials;
  • YouTube also ranked first for those making $35,000-$50,000; and
  • Media and entertainment was also the No. 1 industry for millennials.

The Brand Intimacy 2019 Study is based on the responses of 6,200 consumers and 56,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the United States, Mexico and the UAE. To view the media & entertainment industry findings, please click here. To download the full Brand Intimacy 2019 Study or explore the Data Dashboard click here.

Video Game Industry Eyes Direct-to-Consumer Rewards — and Risks

Taking a cue from the subscription streaming video-on-demand ecosystem, the video game industry has quietly begun offering content to consumers online rather than solely through packaged-media retailers such as GameStop, Best Buy and Target.

Last May game publisher Electronic Arts acquired the cloud gaming technology assets and personnel of a wholly owned subsidiary of GameFly — the online packaged-media rental service that also offers movies and TV shows.

Specifically, EA aims to distribute its games to consumers online without paying license fees to third-party game platforms such as Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo. At last year’s at annual E3 gaming confab, EA bowed a prototype subscription online gaming platforms EA Access and Origin Access.

“Cloud gaming is an exciting frontier that will help us to give even more players the ability to experience games on any device from anywhere,” Ken Moss, chief technology officer at Electronic Arts, said at the time.

Sony, whose five-year-old subscription gaming service – PlayStation Now – features hundreds of catalog games for $99 annual fee, is reportedly considering direct-to-access for new releases following its purchases of online platforms Gaikai and OnLive.

“The greatest disruption of entertainment is the combination of streaming and subscription,” Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts, told Fortune. “More people are engaging, with less friction, through cloud-driven services.”

At the same time, offering consumers online access to hundreds of games for annual or monthly fees (the latter without contract) threatens an established retail market where game publishers often charge and get more than $50 for a single game.

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“I do believe that some subscribers might cancel after finishing the newest game they wanted to play, but the vast majority will keep their subscription because of the online multiplayer component of those same games,” said Greg Potter, an analyst with Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. “Publishers are okay with this model because hit games often have multiple revenue streams other than the purchase at the point-of-sale.”

Indeed, the gaming industry saw revenue reach record $43.8 billion in 2018, up 18% from 2017. That figure dwarfed the global box and SVOD markets.

The latter has Netflix CEO Reed Hastings worried.

In the SVOD pioneer’s recent shareholder letter, Hastings said Netflix controlled about 10% of domestic TV screen time – a tally he said is under threat more from online gaming than other SVOD competitors.

“We compete with and lose to [online gaming service] ​Fortnite ​more than HBO Now,” Hastings wrote. “When YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time. Hulu is small compared to YouTube for viewing time. Our focus is not on Disney+, Amazon [Prime Video] or others, but on how we can improve our experience for our members.”

 

 

Report: YouTube Top ‘Most Intimate Brand’ Among Millennials

YouTube ranked the “most intimate brand” among millennials for the first time, climbing from third last year, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2019 Study, a study of brands based on emotions.

The firm defines brand intimacy as something that leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand.

“YouTube ranked 10th with millennials just two short years ago and has steadily made its way to the top,” said Mario Natarelli, managing partner, MBLM, in a statement. “The brand has demonstrated an ability to entertain a diverse millennial audience through its extensive content. It is also continuing its expansion of services, including the launch of YouTube Music in 2018, as it finds new ways to connect with consumers. Millennials in particular bond strongly with the media and entertainment industry, and YouTube is doing a good job at building a brand that caters to the wants and needs of this audience.”

Apple and Netflix ranked as the second and third most intimate brands for this generation. Comparatively, in MBLM’s 2018 study, Apple placed first followed by Disney and YouTube.

The other brands that rounded out the top 10 were, in order: Disney, Nike, Target, Xbox, PlayStation, Google and Walmart. Millennial men selected Xbox, PlayStation and Spotify as their top three and millennial women selected Target, Amazon and Disney.

The Brand Intimacy 2019 Report, to be released in full Feb. 14, contains the most comprehensive rankings of brands based on emotion, analyzing the responses of 6,200 consumers and 56,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the United States, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates, according to MBLM.

Xbox Partners With Taco Bell to Give Away Xbox One X Consoles

Taco Bell is partnering with Xbox to give fans in the United States the chance to win limited-edition Xbox One X consoles each time they buy a $5 double chalupa box, Xbox announced.

The promotion lasts from Oct. 18 through Nov. 21.

The exclusive platinum-colored console features Taco Bell’s “ring” when powered on (exclusive to the limited-edition consoles); a white, special-edition Xbox Elite wireless controller; and three months of Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold.

An Xbox One X will be rewarded every 10 minutes throughout the promotion and it will be delivered to fans 72 hours after being declared a winner, according to Xbox.

The Xbox One S and Xbox One X both feature a built-in 4K UHD Blu-ray player and Dolby Atmos support.

Microsoft Launching Video Game Streaming Service

Microsoft Oct. 8 announced details of a new video game streaming platform – dubbed Project xCloud – that enables users to play console games regardless of device. The platform is set to launch public trials sometime next year.

Microsoft, whose Xbox brand features more than 3,000 proprietary game titles, plans to test the xCloud platform on mobile phones, tablets and desktops paired with an Xbox wireless controller through Bluetooth.

“Today, the games you play are very much dictated by the device you are using. Project xCloud’s game-streaming technology will offer you the freedom to play on the device you want without being locked to a particular device,” Kareem Choudhry, VP of gaming cloud at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

With console and PC games often requiring controls that are synched to multiple keys, buttons, sticks and triggers, Microsoft is developing a new, game-specific touch input overlay for players who choose to play without a controller.

Unlike other forms of digital entertainment, video games are interactive experiences that dynamically change based on player input, according to Choudhry. Delivering a high-quality experience across a variety of devices must account for different obstacles, such as low-latency video streamed remotely, and support a large, multi-user network.

In addition to solving latency, Choudhry said xCloud would aim to support graphical fidelity and framerates that preserve the developers’ original intentions and the type of input a player has available.

“Our vision for the evolution of gaming is similar to music and movies — entertainment should be available on demand and accessible from any screen,” wrote Choudhry.

 

 

 

Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google Among Top Brands in Survey

Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Samsung placed among the top brands in a new survey from global consultancy firm Prophet.

The firm released its fourth annual Brand Relevance Index, in which it surveyed 12,694 consumers in the United States across 299 brands in 37 categories.

The top 10 in order were Apple, Amazon, Pinterest, Netflix, Android, Google, Samsung, Kitchen Aid, Spotify and Nike.

Among the top 25, media and entertainment companies included YouTube (No. 12), PlayStation (No. 13), Disney (No. 14), Pixar (No. 15), Sony (No. 21) and Xbox (No. 25).

“It’s clear that to be successful, brands need more than size and ubiquity,” said Scott Davis, chief growth officer, Prophet, in a statement. “They must create a product that people love enough to integrate into their everyday lives. The brands that inspire this level of loyalty will ultimately grow the fastest because they are relevant in the moments that matter most to consumers.”

Netflix and Pixar were among top brands that were most “customer obsessed,” according to the survey, while PlayStation, Marvel and Google were most “pervasively innovative.” Netflix was the category leader in the “Media” segment, PlayStation led in “Electronics & Gaming,” Apple led in “Computing & Software,” Amazon led in “Retailers” and Verizon led in “Telecommunications.”

Apple, Netflix, Pinterest, Amazon and Android were the top brands, in order, among females. Amazon, Apple, PlayStation, Spotify and Samsung, in order, were the top brands among males.

Among millennials, the top brands, in order, were Netflix, Amazon, KitchenAid, Apple and Google. Among non-millennials, top brands, in order, were Apple, Amazon, Pinterest, Android and Netflix.

Facebook (No. 205) was the “biggest mover” in the negative direction.

World Cup Soccer Helps Double Q2 Global Streaming Video Consumption

Spurred by the FIFA Russia World Cup 2018 quadrennial soccer competition, global streaming video consumption in the second quarter (ended June 30) topped 5.5 billion hours, up 115% from 2.5 billion hours in the previous-year period, according to new data from Conviva.

The media-measurement firm said a record-breaking 7.9 million people streamed the France vs. Argentina World Cup match on June 30. The quarter saw 17.2 billion total streaming video plays across 973 million apps with as many as 7.9 million concurrent streams.

North America continues to lead in OTT video consumption with 69.2% market share, followed by Europe (15%), Asia (14.2%) and the rest of the world (ROW) at 1.2%.

Streaming hours increased 139% in North America; 90% in ROW; 32% in Europe and 22% in Asia.

Conviva also measured which devices are used to stream and found that in Q2 there continued to be a shift away from PCs (24% of plays) towards mobile devices (49% of plays), especially for short-form content. On the other hand, long-form content consumption shifted toward larger screens via connected TV platforms such as Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast, which accounted for 51% of total viewing hours.

Among connected TV platforms, Roku continued to lead with 22% of all viewing hours and 8% of all plays. Meanwhile, Xbox, Google’s Chromecast, and Amazon’s Fire TV all showed tremendous gains, experiencing more than two times video consumption compared to the same period a year ago.

“The demand for streaming TV globally is growing at a stunning rate,” Bill Demas, CEO of Conviva, said in a statement. “Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV are leading the connected TV charge with growth and share of engagement.”

Latest Volume of Animated Series “RWBY” Due June 5

Rooster Teeth and Cinedigm June 5 will release the latest edition from the animated series “RWBY” when RWBY: Volume 5 arrives on transactional digital platforms, including Steam, iTunes and Xbox, as well as DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack (with DVD), and a Special Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack featuring a 32-page RWBY Official Manga Anthology sampler exclusive to FYE stores.

The RWBY Official Manga Anthology is from the upcoming Weiss book from VIZ Media.

“We love how passionate the fans of RWBY are,” said Gray G. Haddock, head of animation at Rooster Teeth, in a statement. “Volume 5 received such a great reaction and we’re really looking forward to be able to provide these episodes along with a behind-the-scenes look at the series through the bonus features.”

In RWBY: Volume 5, Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang are each entangled in journeys of their own, but they all share one destination: Haven Academy. Whether it’s the promise of ancient relics, mystical maidens, or simply more power, it’s clear that the stage for the next great battle for Remnant has been chosen.

Bonus features include “5 Years of RWBY,” a behind-the-scenes retrospective that explores how the production of “RWBY” has changed over the years, including never-before-seen interviews; Weiss, Blake and Yang character shorts; and “CRWBY: Behind the Episode.”