Movies Anywhere Available on Xbox Consoles

The cloud-based movie library service Movies Anywhere is now accessible on Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.

Xbox users can download the Movies Anywhere app through the Microsoft store to access their movie collection on their console.

Users can playback their movies via their Xbox and purchase more movies from the Microsoft store once their retailer account is connected to their Movies Anywhere account.

Video playback on Xbox via Movies Anywhere supports 4K, HDR 10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

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Movies Anywhere participating studios include Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (including DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, 20th Century Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm) and Warner Bros. Entertainment. Other participating digital retailers include Apple TV, Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play/YouTube, Xfinity, FandangoNow, Verizon Fios TV and DirecTV.

JustWatch Bows App on Microsoft Xbox

JustWatch, an international streaming guide with more than 20 million users across 52 countries, has launched a branded app on Microsoft’s Xbox platform. The app allows Xbox and Series X and Series S console users to search for movies, TV shows, and where to watch from their gaming systems.

JustWatch posts weekly Top 10 lists of most streamed movies and television shows, in addition data analytics on specific platforms’ performance compared to their competitors.

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The recommendation software has apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, FuboTV, Hulu, HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount+, Discovery+, AMC+, The Roku Channel, IMDb TV, Starz, Epix, Showtime, YouTube, Tubi, Pluto TV, BritBox and Sundance Now, among others.

NPD: July Video Game Sales Increased 10% to Record $4.6 Billion

Following a brief downturn in April, sales of video games, hardware and accessories rose 10% in July to a record $4.6 billion, compared with revenue of $4.18 billion in July 2020 at the height of the pandemic, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Spurred by greater availability of new-generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony, hardware sales skyrocketed 98% to $323 million — the best July sales tally since 2008. Hardware sales topped $161 million in the previous-year period. Year-to-date spending on consoles through July is up 50% to $2.7 billion from $1.81 billion in 2020.

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Game software sales rose 6% to $4 billion, from $3.7 billion in 2020. Year-to-date revenue rose 12% to $29.45 billion, from $26.29 last year. The top-selling game in July was Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, followed by perennial chart topper Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War from Activision.

Total consumer spending on gaming for seven months reached $33.5 billion, up 14% from $29.38 billion during the same period last year.

Roku Dominates ‘March Madness’ Streaming

With the 2021 NCAA College Basketball National Championship Tournament, a.k.a. March Madness, readying for the Sweet 16 elimination rounds, sports fans are increasingly streaming games via standalone media devices and connected televisions. The opening round set new records with more than a billion minutes streamed across 32 games in just two days, according to new data from Conviva.

The tournament thus far reveals an ongoing trend streaming games on the big TV screen. Historically the first day of round one sees the most viewership. This held true this year as day one netted 15% more time spent streaming than day two, according to the report.

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Streaming on television increased significantly in the first two rounds to 68% share of time spent in round one, from 48% in 2019 and just 41% in the opening days of 2018. While streaming games on the PC lost market share, the increase in TV consumption comes primarily at the expense of mobile viewing, which decreased to less than half the share held during the previous March Madness. The report attributed this to the pandemic-trend of in-home viewing and the overall, multiyear trend of increased streaming via televisions.

More than 40% of the tournament thus far has been streamed on TVs through Roku devices, followed by Amazon Fire TV (26%), Samsung TV (10%), and Apple TV with 8% share. LG TV and Xbox each tallied 4% share, with Chromecast picking up 3%. Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio, Android TV, and PlayStation lagged behind the field with under 2% share of viewing time.

Conviva reported that social media engagements per post rose an average of 164% for teams in round one as compared to the regular season. Teams tallied 3 million total cross-platform engagements over just two days in the first round of the tournament, with Wisconsin, Syracuse, and Illinois taking the top three spots for total cross-platform engagements.

March Madness often vaults unexpected teams into national view. This year it’s Oral Roberts with 15 times the number of social media engagements per post versus the regular season, and leading in cross-platform, Twitter, and Instagram engagement rates.

NPD: January Video Game Sales Reached Record $4.7 Billion

Strong video game sales momentum continued into 2021 as consumers seek hard-to-get new-generation gaming systems from Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox. Consumer spending across game hardware, content and accessories reached a record $4.7 billion, up 42% from $3.3 billion in the previous-year period, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Hardware sales totaled $319 million, up 144% from sales of $131 million a year ago. Accessories sales totaled $222 million, up 73% from revenue of $128 million. Software sales reached $4.17 billion, up 36% from revenue of $3 billion a year ago.

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Top 20 January physical and full-game digital games based on dollar sales:

Rank December 2020 Rank Title Publisher
1 1 Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War Activision Blizzard
2 3 Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla Ubisoft
3 4 Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Sony
4 5 Madden NFL 21 Electronic Arts
5 6 Animal Crossing: New Horizons* Nintendo
6 7 Mario Kart 8: Deluxe* Nintendo
7 19 Ring Fit Adventure Nintendo
8 26 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Activision Blizzard
9 11 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate* Nintendo
10 8 NBA 2K21* Take-Two Interactive
11 10 Super Mario 3D All-Stars* Nintendo
12 14 FIFA 21 Electronic Arts
13 9 Immortals: Fenyx Rising Ubisoft
14 20 Mortal Kombat 11 Warner Bros. Interactive
15 12 Just Dance 2021 Ubisoft
16 17 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild* Nintendo
17 31 Minecraft: PlayStation 4 Edition Microsoft
18 2 Cyberpunk 2077* Warner Bros. Interactive
19 18 Super Mario Party* Nintendo
20 40 UFC 4 Electronic Arts
* Digital sales not included

 

Microsoft Bows 40-Foot Replica of Xbox Series X to Celebrate Nov. 10 Launch

Microsoft Corp. unveiled a 40-foot-tall replica of the Xbox Series X in the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington state the weekend before the Nov. 10 launch of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.

The structure featured a rotation of dream-inspired art from local artists — a nod to the Xbox Power Your Dreams campaign for the new consoles.

Nov. 9 the installation footage started streaming online, revealing clues for #SolveForX, an online global scavenger hunt. Consumers can follow @Xbox Twitter to review rules and participate for their chance to win the Ultimate Xbox Experience bundle or one of seven Xbox Series X consoles. Select pieces of art will also be made available digitally after launch.

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The installation is one of many activations worldwide approaching launch day, all of which will be featured in the official Xbox launch livestream on Nov. 10 starting 11 a.m. PT.

Disney Offering ‘Mulan’ Access via Roku, Apple, Google Play

The Walt Disney Co. is a longtime champion of preserving the traditional theatrical window, eschewing industry efforts to push premium VOD in the home for new release movies.

As a result, the company’s decision to offer the live-action remake Mulan directly to consumers on Sept. 4 for $29.99 is a one-time bet requiring maximum distribution.

To that end, Disney will sell “premium access” to Mulan to Disney+ subscribers via Google Play, Apple and Roku. The move is significant considering that when CEO Bob Chapek first announced direct-to-consumer access to Mulan on the the company’s fiscal call, it was through Disney+ exclusively. Now Disney will share Mulan revenue with Apple, Roku and Google.

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The move suggests Disney might be having difficulty convincing Disney+ subs to directly purchase the film on its app.

“Starting Sept. 4, with Premier Access, you can watch Mulan before it’s available to all Disney+ subscribers,” Disney said in its FAQ section. “Disney+ will offer Premier Access to Mulan for $29.99 on DisneyPlus.com and select platforms, including Apple, Google and Roku. Once you have Premier Access to Mulan, you can watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available. Your access to Mulan will continue as long as you are an active Disney+ subscriber.”

The movie thus far is not available through Amazon Fire TV, Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox, despite the platforms affording access to the Disney+ app.

NAB Show to Bow ‘Streaming Experience’ Content Showcase

The NAB Show is introducing The Streaming Experience, a new content showcase curated by streaming and online video expert Dan Rayburn that will feature more than 50 OTT platforms and streaming devices.

The showcase, which will give NAB Show attendees a first-hand look at the latest streaming video services, according to organizers, will be located in the Central Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center and is open to all registered attendees during exhibit hours starting April 19.

The NAB Show takes place in Las Vegas April 18-22.

A living-room setting will allow attendees the opportunity to test OTT services side-by-side to compare content, video quality, ad formats, playback features and delivery methods. The Streaming Experience will feature hardware from Amazon, Apple, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, LG, TCL and Samsung. Streaming services on display will include Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Disney+, Hulu, NBC Sports, Netflix and YouTube TV, among others. New services from HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi may also be showcased, dependent on their launch dates, according to organizers.

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“Streaming is a major focus of the 2020 NAB Show, and the new Streaming Experience is the largest showcase of its kind in the industry,” said NAB EVP of conventions and business operations Chris Brown in a statement. “We are excited for attendees to join their industry peers in this living room environment and experience nearly every live and on-demand streaming service on the market today.”

Additional details of the Streaming Experience, including renderings of the new space, can be found here.

 

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.”