As ‘Streaming Wars’ Rage, Social Networks Create Their Own TV Series

 

Even as Disney, HBO and Apple lavish billions on content to gatecrash TV streaming wars, social networks like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat are creating their own original shows to get their piece of the advertising pie.

Historically, these three social networks are better known for hosting user-generated content.

But in recent years, each has invested in scripted programming which is free to view — unlike the streaming giants, who charge subscriptions.

At one stage, YouTube planned to charge for shows such as “Karate Kid” spinoff “Cobra Kai” and Generation Z comedy “Liza on Demand” using its premium service. But it backtracked this year.

Free access “gives advertisers more opportunities to engage with a broader audience … and align with top Hollywood talent and YouTube creators,” the company said in May.

For YouTube, which has at times been condemned for the questionable content posted by users, offering high-quality series with production values matching conventional television also burnishes its reputation.

Quality not quantity

Mark Beal, a Rutgers professor who wrote a book (“Decoding Gen Z”) on the generation born since the mid-1990s, said young people “do not respond to traditional advertising.”

But they may be more receptive to branding tied to original content on platforms such as YouTube, he said.

Still, after its ambitious burst of content, YouTube has slowed down its original production, scrapping multiple new and existing programs to focus on a few successful shows.

Quality not quantity also appears to be Facebook’s strategy on scripted shows.

In mid-October, it released “Limetown,” a web drama starring Jessica Biel based on a popular podcast of the same name.

In addition to boosting the social network’s image with prestige content, the show helps drive its Facebook Watch video platform.

Both “Limetown” and Elizabeth Olsen-starring flagship show “Sorry for Your Loss” benefit from and drive interaction among Facebook’s nearly 2.5 billion monthly users.

“That, to me, is the most exciting part,” Michelle Purple, co-producer of “Limetown,” said at the Toronto film festival in September.

“From week to week, audiences can have their water cooler moment together and talk about what happened, and what they think is going to happen.”

“Sorry for Your Loss” tackles themes of grief, and moderators are on hand to offer online psychological support for users seeking help.

Both dramas are dark in tone and intended for older audiences, reflecting Facebook’s demographic compared to younger platforms, such as Snapchat and TikTok.

Smartphone dominance

While Snapchat also produces fictional programming to increase user interactions and time spent on its platform, it does so in its own distinctive way.

Episodes are typically only a few minutes long, shot at a frantic pace with flashy visual effects, and are filmed vertically to suit smartphone viewing.

And unlike YouTube and Facebook, Snapchat is not skimping on quantity.

In April, it announced six brand new scripted shows, followed by a further three in September, on top of those already available including sorority hacking comedy “Kappa Crypto” and supernatural mystery “The Dead Girls Detective Agency.”

Though a long way from the $15 million per episode Apple TV+ is throwing at flagship series “The Morning Show,” parent company Snap is still happy to spend up to $50,000 per episode, according to media website Digiday.

“Mobile is now the dominant medium for telling stories and consuming content,” said Snapchat original content head Sean Mills at a summit in April.

“This transformation is creating massive new opportunities.”

AFP

Netflix Revenue Grows Bigger As Streaming TV War Looms

Netflix logo is seen on the backdrop of Netflix’s “Stranger Things 3” premiere at Santa Monica high school Barnum Hall in Santa Monica, California. Chris Delmas / AFP

 

Netflix shares rallied Wednesday after its latest quarterly update showed robust subscriber growth and better-than-expected profits ahead of a major escalation in the streaming television war.

Netflix reported a net income of $665 million in the recently ended quarter, jumping up from $403 million in the same period last year and topping most analyst forecasts.

Revenue and subscriber growth, however, came in just shy of market consensus. The California-based company saw revenue up 31 percent at $5.25 billion and added 6.8 million subscribers worldwide to reach a total of 158.3 million.

Netflix shares climbed more than 10 percent after-market trades.

The company, whose recent hits include “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” was upbeat on its ability to thrive even as powerful competitors such as Disney and Apple enter the streaming market in November.

When Netflix began streaming television to subscribers online some 12 years ago — in a pivot from just lending video discs through the mail — it was essentially Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube and Netflix itself competing with traditional television, chief executive Reed Hastings said in an earnings broadcast.

And all of the streaming rivals will still find their main competition in broadcast TV, according to Hastings, who was confident Netflix would thrive through compelling original shows.

“We see both Apple and Disney launching essentially the same week after 12 years of not being in the market,” Hastings said.

“Fundamentally, it is more of the same. Disney will be a great competitor; Apple is just beginning but, you know, they will probably have some great shows too.”

Clouds loom? 

But eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom said the latest report includes signs of trouble ahead for the market leader, which fell short of its subscriber targets.

“The fourth quarter represents a completely new ballgame for Netflix as Disney+ and Apple TV+ will compete not just for subscribers, but for hit shows as well,” Haggstrom said.

“The fact that Netflix has shown disappointing growth without the new competition present is a negative omen for Netflix in 2020 and beyond.”

And more competition looms on the horizon, as AT&T’s WarnerMedia will launch its new Netflix rival “HBO Max” in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights from Netflix to stream its popular television comedy “Friends.”

Netflix slightly trimmed its forecast for subscriber growth, saying it expected the count to be up 26.7 million at the end of this year, but that its positive outlook for the future remained firm.

It cited factors such as uncertainty about new viewers, response to price changes and forthcoming competition.

The third quarter’s rise in revenue also means Netflix could invest to improve the service and make more original shows to battle competition in markets around the world.

“We have been moving increasingly to original content both because of the anticipated pullback of second run content from some studios and because our original content is working in the form of member viewing and engagement,” Netflix said.

“We’re expanding our non-English language original offerings because they continue to help grow our penetration in international markets.”

Netflix has released originally produced local language shows in 17 countries and has plans to expand to 30, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

Netflix’s original films released in the recently ended quarter included “solid hits” such as “Secret Obsession,” starring Brenda Song, and “Otherhood,” directed by Cindy Chupack.

Netflix-backed films set for release this quarter include Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” with actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, and “Marriage Story,” starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver.

“Amazing content can be expensive,” Netflix said.

“We don’t shy away from taking bold swings if we think the business impact will also be amazing.”

Netflix said it would spend about $15 billion in cash on content this year, with the majority of that money devoted to producing original shows.

Netflix also sees its technology platform as an advantage, enabling it to stream to people on all kinds of devices and to mine mountains of data to feed users recommendations about what to watch next — and to give producers insights about what audiences like.

Hastings reasoned that with Facebook and YouTube boasting billions of active users, and billions of mobile phones users who can stream shows from the internet, there is a huge market for Netflix and its rivals to share.

AFP

Google Moves To Disrupt Video Games With Streaming, Studio

Google Vice President Majd Bakar speaks on-stage during the annual Game Developers Conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California on March 19, 2019. 
Josh Edelson / AFP

 

Google set out to disrupt the video game world on Tuesday with a Stadia platform that will let players stream blockbuster titles to any device they wish, as the online giant also unveiled a new controller and its very own studio.

The California-based technology giant said its Stadia platform will open to gamers later this year in the United States, Canada, Britain and other parts of Europe.

For now, Google is focused on working with game makers to tailor titles for play on Stadia, saying it has already provided the technology to more than 100 game developers.

“We are on the brink of a huge revolution in gaming,” said Jade Raymond, the former Ubisoft and Electronic Arts executive tapped to head Google’s new studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment.

“We are committed to going down a bold path,” she told a presentation at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Photo: Josh Edelson / AFP

 

The Stadia tech platform aims to connect people for interactive play on PCs, tablets, smartphones and other devices.

Google also unveiled a new controller that can be used to play cloud-based individual or multiplayer games.

Stadia controllers mirrored those designed for Xbox or PlayStation consoles, with the addition of dedicated buttons for streaming live play via YouTube or asking Google Assistant virtual aide for help beating a daunting puzzle or challenge.

Chief executive Sundar Pichai said the initiative is “to build a game platform for everyone.”

“I think we can change the game by bringing together the entirety of the ecosystem,” Pichai told a keynote audience.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on-stage during the Game Developers Conference.
Josh Edelson / AFP

‘Netflix of gaming’

Google’s hope is that Stadia could become for games what Netflix or Spotify are to television or music, by making console-quality play widely available.

Yet it remains unclear how much Google can grab of the nascent, but potentially massive industry.

As it produces its own games, Google will also be courting other studios to move to its cloud-based model.

Google collaborated with French video game titan Ubisoft last year in a limited public test of the technology powering Stadia, and its chief executive was in the front row at the platform’s unveiling.

A coming new version of blockbuster action game “Doom” tailored to play on Stadia was teased at the event by iD studio executive producer Marty Stratton.

“If you are going to prove to the world you can stream games from the cloud, what better game than ‘Doom’,” Stratton said.

Streaming games from the cloud brings the potential to tap into massive amounts of computing power in data centers.

For gamers, that could translate into richer game environments, more creative play options or battle royale matches involving thousands of players.

At the developers conference, Google demonstrated fast, cloud-based play on a variety of devices. But it offered no specific details on how it would monetize the new service or compensate developers.

Money-making options could include selling game subscriptions the way Netflix charges for access to streaming television.

“I think it’s a huge potential transition in the video game industry, not only for the instant access to games but for exploring different business models to games,” Jon Peddie Research analyst Ted Pollak said of Stadia.

“They say it’s the Netflix of gaming; that is actually pretty accurate.”

Ubisoft on board

Ubisoft, known for “Assassin’s Creed” and other titles, said it would be working with Google.

Its co-founder and chief Yves Guillemot predicted streaming would “give billions unprecedented opportunities to play video games in the future.”

An “Assassin’s Creed” title franchise was used to test Google’s “Project Stream” technology for hosting the kind of quick, seamless play powered by in-home consoles as an online service.

The reliability and speed of internet connections is seen as a challenge to cloud gaming, with action play potentially marred by streaming lags or disruptions.

Google said its investments in networks and data centers should help prevent latency in data transmissions.

In places with fast and reliable wireless, internet players will likely access games on the wide variety of devices envisioned by Google, while hard-core players in places where wireless connections aren’t up to the task could opt for consoles, according to Pollak.

“I think it is good news for everyone,” Pollak said when asked what Stadia meant to major console makers Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

The US video game industry generated a record $43.4 billion in revenue in 2018, up 18 percent from the prior year, according to data released by the Entertainment Software Association and The NPD Group.

AFP

Dr. Dre Taking A Deep Into Music Streaming Service

Rapper and music producer Dr.Dre has taken another huge step in the music industry surely to allow the million dollar man to rake in more dollars into his coffers as he recently acquired MOG; as the headphone maker is indeed working on a streaming service to launch sometime next year.

Beats acquired MOG mostly for its technology, as music licenses are not transferable in a sale like this.

Beats thought in the line of spreading its tentacles before anyone thought of it as Dre’s ace in using MOG to accelerate plans to launch its own streaming service.

And recent info is that Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor is affiliated with the project, which is codenamed Daisy.

The service will offer music streaming, but with a big focus on curation, both algorithm and human based and it’s the current low point of any on-demand streaming service.

Former CNN Talkshow host Larry King now online with Hulu

Having the King of talk show off the screen for a while is something lots of people haven’t gotten used to due to power-charged interviews with individuals fans want to see.

But now, Larry King the former talk show host of Larry King Live on CNN is back on to do what he know how to do best but this time streaming online real-time on Hulu streaming channel but unfortunately it kick-started with fans in the United States only and the talk show has been named Larry King Now.

Airing four times a week from Monday to Tuesday the programme will feature King interviewing people as usual and the first interview of the first episode online had Seth MacFarlane – the creator of Family Guy and American Dad on the hot seat.

It is a 30-minute talk show that will have different guests and talking about guest being expected this week for Larry King Now are Meghan McCain and Matthew McConaughey.