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Analysis for 'Studios'

  • Binge-Viewing Popularity Exposes Tensions Between OTT and VOD, TV Everywhere Priorities

    Binge-viewing is a bona fide phenomenon that's not only changing consumers' TV viewing behaviors, but also creating fissures in the TV industry. Recently, in "For U.S. Cable Operators, Netflix Partnerships Are Fraught With Risk," I outlined how binge-viewing is driving a competitive dynamic over content rights between Netflix and pay-TV operators' VOD and TV Everywhere plans. Adding further detail, this past Friday, Vulture published an excellent article with specific examples of how this battle is brewing.

    According to Vulture, FX and Turner are telling studios from which they obtain TV shows that they need rights to stream the full current season of shows (known as "stacking" rights) not just the most recent 3-5 episodes. Part of the networks' rationale is they need to give late-coming viewers an easy path to watch from the beginning of a season, rather than just enabling existing viewers a way to catch up.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #195 - FremantleMedia Capitalizes on 2nd Screen Apps; Mobile Video's Surge

    I'm pleased to present the 195th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Colin patched in from Amsterdam, where he's attending the big IBC show. Colin sat in on an interesting session with Keith Hindle, CEO of FremantleMedia's Digital & Branded Entertainment Division. For those not familiar with Fremantle, it is one of the biggest producers of TV shows in the world, with credits like American Idol and The X Factor.

    Colin shares some of Hindle's key observations about how the TV landscape is shifting, the powerful role of 2nd screen apps in attracting advertisers, the paradigm of "paid/owned/earned" media and how to balance TV distribution vs. online (Fremantle is the 12th-ranked YouTube content partner). Lots of great insights.

    We then shift our focus to the plethora of data this week quantifying the surge in mobile and tablet viewing. I have covered new reports from FreeWheel, Ooyala, VEVO and TubeMogul this week, all supporting this trend. VEVO in particular is capitalizing, with 50% of its views now on mobile, tablet and connected TVs (note, the success of VEVO TV has been a huge contributor on the latter).

    Still, as we agree, it's important to remember that TVs and desktops are where the vast majority of video viewing currently occurs, per Nielsen and FreeWheel data respectively. This is changing each quarter, but it's an evolutionary, not revolutionary shift.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (17 minutes, 43 seconds)




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    (Note there is a 3 second drop-out in the audio mid-way. Apologies, we're not sure what happened. During it, I am referencing VEVO TV.)

     
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  • Disney Online Movies' Demise Is Another Blow for Transactional VOD and Digital Lockers

    Disney's announcement that it was shutting down its Disney Movies Online service on Dec. 31 is another blow for transactional VOD and digital lockers for movies, two corners of the online video ecosystem that are struggling for traction.

    Transactional VOD - renting or buying movies online - has become a tougher sell to consumers in the digital age. Not long ago Hollywood studios' home video divisions boomed as many consumers were keen to buy DVDs and create large collections of movies that they prominently displayed. But while DVD sales have gone off the cliff recently, digital rentals and purchases haven't picked up the slack.

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  • Can YouTube Succeed With Online Movie Rentals?

    Yesterday YouTube got a lot of coverage of its new licensing deal for hundreds of movies from Paramount because separately, the studio's parent company, Viacom, has been involved in a bitter copyright litigation with YouTube for years. While it's noteworthy that the parties are able to do business despite suing each other, the bigger questions here are whether YouTube's initiative to rent Hollywood movies makes sense and can succeed?

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  • UltraViolet and TV Everywhere: It's All About Devices and Access. But That's Not Enough.

    I'd wager the two most spoken words in the media and entertainment industries these days are "devices" and "access." Executives are gripped by the idea that consumers must have access to their content across a growing universe of video-enabled devices. In fact, the premise of the industry's two most strategic initiatives - UltraViolet and TV Everywhere - is that by enabling access to content on multiple devices, traditional business models will either be reinvigorated (in UV's case for DVD purchases) or buttressed against attack (in TVE's case for pay-TV's multichannel bundle).

    If only things were that straightforward. While it's undeniable that improved access on multiple devices is extremely valuable, especially for today's on-the-go viewer, the shortcoming of both UV and TVE is that neither addresses fundamental changes in consumer behaviors or preferences. Broader access is only half the battle here; the other half is devising the right business model that meets consumers' vastly changed expectations. Until this piece of the equation is solved, I doubt that either UV or TVE is going to have the industry's hoped-for impact.

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #123 - Aereo, Starz-Netflix, UltraViolet

    I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 123rd edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Mar. 2, 2012. This week's podcast has a different format; instead of discussing one topic in depth, we touch on three areas - the new lawsuit against Aereo, Netflix's deal with Starz ending (and whether the "flix" is coming out of Netflix) and UltraViolet's strategy of using discs to drive adoption.

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  • With New Disney Deal, Is YouTube Poised to Disrupt Online Movie Rentals?

    Last Wednesday, just before the Thanksgiving break, YouTube announced a deal with Walt Disney Studios which will make hundreds of new and classic movies from Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks available for rental. The Disney deal adds to the online movie rentals (or "iVOD" as this category is also known) initiative YouTube announced last May. Between the breadth of movies soon to be available, its aggressive pricing - including $.99 rentals on recently-released blockbusters, its integration in numerous connected devices and of course, its status as the online video market's 800-pound gorilla, YouTube may just have what it takes to disrupt the iVOD market, impacting the broader Hollywood and movie distribution industries.

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  • AnyClip Licenses Warner Bros. Movies for Clip Library

    AnyClip is announcing this morning that it has licensed thousands of Warner Bros. movies to be able to tag and create searchable clips for its library. Movies include select Harry Potter and Batman movies, Ocean's Eleven, Sex and the City, Dirty Harry, Casablanca and others. AnyClip tags each movie with over 5,000 unique elements to create a rich index. To date AnyClip's has been offering access to 50,000 clips from 12,000 movies sourced from Universal, Vivendi and others.

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  • Cinemark Shouldn't Worry: Universal's "Tower Heist" $60 VOD Test Will Also Flop

    Late yesterday, the LA Times reported that Cinemark, the 3rd-largest theater chain in the U.S., will boycott "Tower Heist," the new Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy, because of a test unveiled by its studio Universal Pictures to offer the movie just 3 weeks after its theatrical release for $60 on video-on-demand. Cinemark is concerned that the test would cannibalize box office sales. From my perspective, it needn't worry much as the test is likely to be yet another flop in what has become known as "Premium VOD."

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  • DreamWorks Gives Netflix A Much-Needed Lift, But Not Until 2013

    DreamWorks Animation's new output deal with Netflix gives the beleaguered streaming-only provider a much-needed lift, but unfortunately not until DreamWorks' 2013 movies are released. Under the deal, Netflix may pay up to $30 million per movie, an increase from the $20 million that HBO is believed to have been paying DreamWorks. The press release also notes that some of DreamWorks' catalog movies such as "Kung Fu Panda," "Madagascar 2," "Chicken Run" and "Antz" will also be included over time.  The DreamWorks deal comes on the heels of last week's news that Netflix licensed library programs from Discovery Communications.

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  • Amazon Gets Universal Movies to Stream That Netflix Already Has

    Amazon announced a new licensing deal with NBCU that gives it streaming rights to a batch of older movies from Universal Pictures, bumping to 9,000 the number of movies and TV shows available for its Amazon Prime Members. However, the move is unlikely to have the folks at Netflix quaking in their boots; like Amazon's licensing deal with CBS from last week, virtually all of the Universal movies are already available on Netflix (by my count 9 of the 11 titles identified in today's press release can be streamed on Netflix while only "Elizabeth" and "Fletch" are available solely on DVD).

    Don't get me wrong, more content is always a good thing, and these deals, along with an acquisition of Pushbutton, a UK app developer for connected devices, suggest things may be ramping up at Amazon. But the content deals do underscore the catch-up game that Amazon is playing with Netflix. That's the dynamic in today's market - Netflix got a head start in aggregating Hollywood content for online distribution. Now, to the extent it has a willingness to pay, Amazon must go do similar deals.

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  • Netflix Inks Miramax Deal; Streaming Movies Still Plenty Important

    Netflix is announcing a new multi-year deal with independent film studio Miramax, giving it streaming access to hundreds of films in the U.S., including Best Picture winners "The English Patient" and "Shakespeare in Love" plus others like "Good Will Hunting," "Pulp Fiction," "Kill Bill," "The Piano," etc. In all, the films coming to Netflix have gained 284 Oscar nominations and won 68 times. Miramax was recently spun-off from Disney, and this is the first time the films have become available in any digital subscription service.

    The deal is another significant win for Netflix and underscores the point that movies are still plenty important to the company's streaming content strategy, despite the fact that most of its recent content acquisitions have been catalog TV programs. The challenge with acquiring streaming film rights is that "windowing" (i.e. the process by which a film passes through predetermined distribution outlets - theatrical, VOD, DVD, online sell-through, etc.) is still quite strictly enforced by studios, making it challenging for Netflix to accelerate its acquisition efforts.

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  • Premium VOD is a Train Wreck Though It Just Doesn't Matter

    Yesterday marked the official launch of "Premium VOD" by DirecTV, a plan under which movies will be released just 60 days after their theatrical opening (half the usual time) for 48-hour rental by subscribers for $30. The first movie being offered this way, which DirecTV dubs "Home Premiere," was Sony Pictures' "Just Go With It" starring Adam Sandler. Three other studios, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures and Fox have already signaled their intent to release movies on Premium VOD with DirecTV and other pay-TV operators who have expressed interest.  

    Theater owners and the Hollywood creative community are livid about Premium VOD, which they perceive as paving the road to cannibalizing theatrical attendance which would in turn harm a movie's overall economics, creating a dangerous downward spiral. In addition, there's concern that if consumers switch to watching movies on the small screen then the creative license implicit in a big screen emphasis will get squeezed. While their concerns are completely justified, the good news for them is that Premium VOD will be lucky to achieve even minimal success. Instead it will more than likely end up being a short-lived experiment that will have virtually no impact on larger Hollywood dynamics. Here's why:

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  • New Netflix Deals Show How Little "Dexter" and "Californication" Really Matter

    A couple of weeks ago, in "Showtime Circles Its Wagons, But to What End?" I questioned Showtime's decision to withdraw from Netflix streaming rights to early seasons of 2 of its hit shows, "Dexter" and "Californication." One of the points I made was that Netflix would survive this loss just fine because they have enough streaming content already, and more coming all the time.

    Sure enough, Netflix has more than proved my point, announcing a deal last Friday with 20th Century Fox that gives it streaming rights to the first season of the Fox hit "Glee," the first 2 seasons of the FX favorite, "Sons of Anarchy" and the library of "Ally McBeal" and "The Wonder Years." Then this past Wednesday, Netflix announced a deal with Lionsgate for streaming rights to the first 4 seasons of AMC's signature series "Mad Men," with 3 more seasons to follow after their on-air run (Netflix already had the Canadian streaming rights to the show).

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  • Sony Pictures Taps Value of Archive With Thought Equity's Metadata Editor

    Major content providers are continuing to realize that new value can be mined from archives of long-form premium content by creating and indexing metadata in order to distribute shorter clips of key scenes. The latest example came this week as Sony Pictures Entertainment struck a deal with Thought Equity Motion to use its T3 Metadata (screen shot below) for its enormous catalog of entertainment content.

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  • Movie Windows Back in the Spotlight

    Movie windows were back in the spotlight this week as Hollywood executives continue to air out their anxiety over digital distribution's impact. In a pair of articles (here and here), Home Media Magazine covered remarks by Disney CFO Jay Rasulo and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes at the Deutsche Bank conference in Palm Beach, FL. Rasulo put his finger on Hollywood's challenge of how to "re-work release windows to generate incremental revenue, without cannibalizing existing revenue streams and upsetting distribution partners."

    However, as Disney knows from its experiment last year of accelerating the DVD release of "Alice in Wonderland," which raised the ire of British theater owners, balancing these objectives is no easy feat. Meanwhile, as "Premium Video-on-Demand," an early window release plan for $30-$40 per movie approaches, theater owners' unhappiness will become even more apparent.

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  • Facebook-Warner Bros.: Big Deal or Little Deal?

    Speaking of movies, this week brought news that Facebook was dipping its toe into Hollywood's waters, by offering Warner Bros. "The Dark Knight" for purchase and rental to its members. Though Warner positioned the move as an experiment, Netflix stock went into a free-fall as investors swooned over Facebook's possibilities. But as a former business school professor of mine was fond of asking his class, "Is this a BIG deal or a LITTLE deal?"

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  • As DVD Sales Wane, Experiments With Movies' Digital Delivery Windows Rise

    Yesterday brought more evidence of how digital distribution release windows and promotions are rising as DVD sales wane. First there was news that Disney had teamed up with Wal-mart to allow buyers of the Toy Story 3 DVD to get a bonus digital version of the film playable through the company's recently acquired Vudu digital outlet. That offer was quickly one-upped by Amazon which announced an increase from 300 to 10,000 movies in its "Disc+" program, which provides a digital copy to the user's Amazon VOD account when they purchase a qualifying DVD.    

    Meanwhile at the Blu-con conference in Beverly Hills, studio executives debated how to best calibrate digital, VOD and DVD distribution. Even emerging practices come with exceptions and debates about results. For example, while VOD has largely gained day-and-date release with DVD, exceptions are still made on a case-by-case basis, such as with Universal's "Despicable Me" which will have its DVD go on sale on Dec 14, but its VOD release not until after Christmas.

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  • Time Warner's "Premium Video-on-Demand" Experiment is a Blind Alley

    Talk about an initiative that flies in the face of all prevailing sentiment: Time Warner is moving forward on testing a new window for early-release movies on VOD priced at $20-30 apiece in 2011, according to comments its CFO John Martin made yesterday at the Goldman Sachs conference. Never mind the wrath the idea will stir up among movie theater owners whose traditional windows get cannibalized as a consequence (Disney learned about that with its "Alice in Wonderland" early DVD release experiment last February), the real issue is that pay-TV operators should deem the idea a non-starter.

    Typical VOD rental rates of $4-5 already look expensive to consumers compared to Netflix's $9 all-you-can-eat monthly plans and Redbox's $1 DVD rentals. And while there are scenarios where getting a group or family together to watch a movie makes sense, it's getting harder than ever to do so. The reality is that families are atomizing to their individual activities; perusing or playing on Facebook, watching YouTube/Hulu/Netflix/etc., playing with the Wii or Farmville, chatting on Skype, shopping on Amazon, etc. Corralling this crowd and getting them to agree on any one movie is already a challenge; the prospect of paying $20-30 for the pleasure just sets the bar that much higher.

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  • Hollywood Considers Squeezing Theatrical Window

    An article in the WSJ.com this past weekend, "Hollywood Eyes Shortcut to TV," describes how some Hollywood studios' appear ready to further squeeze their bread-and-butter theatrical relationships in the name of accelerated electronic distribution to viewers' TVs.

    The article cites proposals that Time Warner Cable, America's 2nd largest cable operator, is discussing with studios to offer movies to Video-on-Demand (VOD) just 1 month after they open in theaters, instead of today's typical 4 months. The idea, dubbed "home theater on demand" ("HTOD" for short) would mean a movie would be available on HTOD while still playing in theaters. Adopting such an approach would be akin to Hollywood sticking its finger in the eye of its theatrical partners, who would obviously suffer some degree of diminished ticket sales.

    Hollywood studios surely know the firestorm an HTOD move would create. In the past 6 months, plans to overlap theatrical and electronic distribution - with Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" and Sony's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" - met with stiff resistance from theater owners. With the new HTOD concept, studios seem intent on pushing further into this perilous territory, motivated by a desire to get movies into viewers' hands earlier than ever before.

    In general I applaud studios willingness to experiment, but I think the value of HTOD and other early release plans is overestimated and more likely to backfire on studios than produce any tangible financial benefits.

    The first issue is cannibalization. It's hard to imagine, given all the marketing effort around a movie's premiere, that the aggregate short-term audience for a particular movie can be expanded all that much. Certainly few people who just paid to see the movie in the theater will pay again to see it at home so quickly thereafter. And if you really wanted to see a movie, wouldn't you have made it to the theater in the first place?

    Instead of tempting people to not bother going out, studios should be giving consumers more reasons to actually do so. Studios have so many new opportunities with social media, local-based services and user-generated content to add excitement to movie premieres. This is particularly true for younger audiences critical to box office results. Some of these new efforts can extend all the way through a movie's DVD and electronic release, adding downstream value as well.

    In addition, even with movie ticket prices now approaching or hitting $20 apiece, in my opinion, HTOD's proposed fee of $20-30 is way too high. Most VOD movies today cost around $5-6; trying to justify a multiple of that price for HTOD, for the sole benefit of earlier in-home access, is a huge stretch. In reality, consumers seem plenty willing to wait in exchange for lower prices. That's the key takeaway from Netflix's willingness to do the 28-day DVD window deals with major studios. If a consumer can pay a paltry $9/mo they'll be just fine waiting until the movie becomes available on DVD or for streaming. Hollywood needs to be careful not to overestimate the value of its product.

    Last but not least, HTOD is a risky play because cable-delivered VOD itself is going to be coming under intensifying competition. Recently I explained how competition for movie rentals is intensifying, making VOD just one of many, many choices for consumers. Initiatives like Google TV undermine VOD because when a consumer can just as easily access movies from various online outlets directly on their TVs, VOD usage will inevitably suffer. Though I'm skeptical about new efforts from retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, they will add more on-demand movie choices and will further turn up the pressure on VOD.

    Electronic distribution is a hot topic these days, and studios are right to explore their options. But while studios' relationships with theater owners are far from optimal, in my opinion studios need to be very careful about jeopardizing them further. Rather than undermining theatrical release with ever-earlier electronic distribution plans, studios should be figuring out how to build more value into them.

    (Note - if you want to learn more about how Hollywood succeeds in the digital distribution era, make sure to join us for the upcoming VideoSchmooze breakfast in Beverly Hills on June 15th! Click here to learn more and register for the early bird discount)

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
     
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