Company / division: Disney
Five major movie studios have banded together to join a successor to Disney’s Movies Anywhere service, which serves as a digital locker consolidating digital movie purchases across major retailers like iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Video, and Vudu. This is a pretty big deal, because the service was Disney only in the past and competed with UltraViolet, a competing platform. This partnership now brings together five of the biggest names in movies, and it’s fairly compelling – I just signed up and was able to consolidate my past purchases from iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Video into one big collection, which I can now view on various devices and even download for offline viewing on a phone. That’s important to me because even though I’ve tended to favor one particular storefront over the last few years, I have at various times acquired movies on other platforms for pricing, availability, or testing purposes, and they’ve been kind of lost on there. This therefore feels like the first time something like this might actually take off in a meaningful way.
This LA Times piece has some good numbers on how this season’s broadcast fall TV premieres fared, and the answer is that they saw another drop year on year in live viewing. The ongoing drop in life NFL viewing was a big contributor to the overall drop, but there were broader drops for dramas and comedies as well, despite a fairly strong performance on the comedy side overall. None of this is new, nor should it be surprising at this point – the trend away from live viewing and towards DVR and streaming viewing of the same shows as well as digital-native streaming through services like Netflix is well established and unstoppable at this point, with significant implications for legacy TV companies. As measurement of non-live viewing – both DVR and streaming – both improves and increasingly gets counted in official figures used to calculate ad payouts, some of the effects on ad revenues will be mitigated, but certainly not all.
via LA Times
Disney and cable operator Altice (owner of the former Cablevision properties) came to a last-minute agreement on Sunday to avert a blackout both sides had been warning customers about as they negotiated new terms. This has been one of the first big renegotiations for Disney since it became clear how badly the ESPN business is going from a subscriber perspective, and as such is seen as a bellwether for how the next few years will go for Disney. All the details haven’t emerged yet, not least because the sides are still apparently hammering some of them out, but it’s clear that Altice did pay for price increases, though not as large as Disney wanted. That’s critical because regularly contractual price increases have been the thing keeping many cable operators’ revenues growing even as their subscriber numbers have been falling. If the increases aren’t large enough to offset the declines in subscribers, that picture starts to change, and so far we don’t know for sure whether that’s the case. But whether Disney is able to get the price increases it needs to stay ahead of subscriber declines is the critical factor in future negotiations. Altice is one of the smaller pay TV providers in the country, and if it had sufficient leverage to negotiate price increases down, that likely doesn’t bode well for Disney going forward. You’ll see headlines saying that the deal demonstrates pay TV companies will still pay for sports, but that was a given – the question was how far Disney would budge to ensure that remained the case.
Last night’s Emmy awards once again provided an interesting set of insights into the winners and losers among both traditional and online streaming TV properties. HBO won the most overall awards with 29, while Netflix beat out the other streaming services with 20. Hulu did much better than in the past, almost entirely because of one show – The Handmaid’s Tale – which has been extremely well reviewed but may also have garnered additional favor by being deemed particularly relevant in today’s rather dystopian real-world political scene. That’s a huge coup for Hulu as Netflix has never won best drama, but it would be dangerous to read too much into it, given Hulu’s lack of past or broader success. Netflix won twice as many awards overall, including wins for multiple shows in different categories. Amazon, meanwhile, took away just two wins. In addition to HBO, NBC did well among the traditional TV companies, coming in third behind Netflix, while ABC, Fox, and CBS all took home single digit trophies. It still feels like HBO and Netflix are the real powerhouses when it comes to high-budget, high-quality TV, but the Hulu wins show that others in the streaming world aren’t being shut out entirely, which should be heartening to Apple and others coming into the game late but with big budgets and ambitions.
Disney/ABC TV to Cut Staff to Reduce Costs (Aug 31, 2017)
TV Networks Score Growth in Upfront Ad Commitments (Jul 13, 2017)
Netflix Squeezes Fox Out of Top 4 Must-Keep Viewing Options (Jul 12, 2017)
I’ve been watching the news from the recent TV upfronts and waiting for the definitive article that summarizes what’s been said and done, and while I’m not convinced this is it, it does a good job of characterizing the basic trends at issue. The two big underlying trends are the continuing decline of live linear viewing of traditional TV and the massive growth of online advertising, which could be presumed to have put an enormous dent in TV ad spending but actually haven’t. However, the TV companies still see online advertising platforms as a big threat, and spent an unusual amount of time during the upfronts trashing Facebook and Google (though mostly not by name) while talking up their own massive reach. At the same time, though, these companies are increasingly mimicking the very same things that make Facebook and Google’s ad platforms attractive: detailed targeting of ads and tracking of what happens after viewers see them. At the same time, the TV networks seem somewhat lost on the content side, rebooting old shows and formats, latching onto new gimmicks like live musicals, and generally showing a lack of imagination in protecting and rejuvenating their brands. Meanwhile, the strongest audiences on traditional TV are live sports fans and older generations watching procedural franchises like CSI and NCIS. And of course the big online platforms are investing in lots of both traditional sports content and some new formats of their own. Therefore, though each side would like to paint itself as providing unique value, the two are increasing converging on a similar set of content and ad capabilities, while the audience continues to shift from traditional linear TV to a host of online and streaming alternatives, which will inevitably pull ad dollars that way too.
via LA Times
ESPN Lays Off 100 On-Air Personalities (Apr 26, 2017)
ESPN takes you inside a college football rivalry with VR (Dec 30, 2016)
Though high-quality gaming content exists, other top-notch content for VR is still pretty experimental, so seeing a brand like ESPN investing in VR content is a good sign. For this kind of thing, VR is obviously still a far better fit than AR, and immersive video content in general will be critical for taking VR beyond gaming.
Disney-ABC to Produce Snapchat Original Series | Variety (Dec 21, 2016)
One of the biggest challenges facing Snap as it approaches an IPO is providing advertisers with the products and tools they need to make markedly bigger investments on the platform. Getting more professionally produced video content onboard is one way to go about that, and I’m betting this won’t be the last of these deals.