Mouse House Charges More for Disney+

Everyone’s favorite rodent has been killing it in the streaming wars. Ole Mickey and friends are dominating the OTT game with recent title releases like “WandaVision” and “Falcon and The Winter Soldier.” Other companies such as HBO and Netflix continue to churn out quality content for their devoted followers but are not seeing subscriber numbers like The Mouse Empire. One must stop and wonder: how is audience engagement of this content so quickly surpassing that of the competition? Well to put it simply-they are showing the money! Disney+ is taking the sitcom-esque storytelling style and turning it up to 11. It’s obvious they spared no expense on the production quality and writers can expand certain character arcs and hash out supporting storylines without runtime or other limitations of feature film. This helps explain how, in just 18 months, the new streaming platform has accrued 100 million subscribers. Disney figured out the magical formula and it’s going to cost us.

Paul Tassi brilliantly explains the price hike for Disney+ of $6.99 a month to $7.99 a month (or $69.99 for the year to $79.99 annually). He elaborates that no one should be surprised by this given the recent influx of new titles. Mickey knows his subscribers will pay to see Han Solo reunite with Chewbacca and watch Tony Stark say “I’m Iron Man.” Tassi discusses how Disney is in a good spot right now considering they are one of the most inexpensive streaming services. He cleverly compares this initial price increase to “the frog slowly boiling in water” where at first the pot is on low, but it can bubble into a deadly figure that will eventually make your wallet scream in pain.

Disney is considered by many to be the “Happiest Place on Earth.” However, it can be a financial challenge for parents. Between trips to Disneyland, Halloween costumes, or the never-ending supply of toys and merchandise, Disney has got marketing nicely covered. Extending that reach, the Mouse King scampered his way into parent’s pockets to keep their little rascals glued to the TV, hypnotized by classic movies and shows from their vault. And let’s not forget about the other demographic subscribing to its service-the Star Wars and Marvel nerds who flock to Disney+ for shows like “The Mandalorian” and “Falcon and Winter Soldier.”

Mickey was astute in his foray into big budget productions like “The Mandalorian” which is two seasons in and a megahit for the platform. “WandaVision” was so hot that is caused the platform to crash and most recently, “Falcon and The Winter Soldier” has broken records since its premiere. And there are a slew of other Star Wars and Marvel shows still in production. So, it’s safe to say-Disney+ is here to stay. They have solidified themselves as a streaming kingpin, compelling parents, and fans alike to hit that subscribe button.

Other streaming platforms should be taking notes. According to Tassi, Disney+ is ramping up production and kicking its original content creation into high gear. Disney will soon be releasing new Star Wars or Marvel content every other week. In five weeks “Falcon and Winter Soldier” will have its season finale and right around the corner is “Loki.” Season 3 of “The Mandalorian” is scheduled to drop around Christmas this year. Tassi suggests that “things are going to move quickly now, and you’ll have to pay a tiny bit more to stick around.” I’m sure subsequent years will bring additional price increases. It’s funny how quickly Disney+ has managed to climb to the top of the streaming business heap and sit pretty alongside Netflix and HBO. When all is said and done, I’m sure many people will not find the price hikes amusing. One thing is clear, the Mouse King is taking their laughs to the bank.

The U.K.’s Creative Industry Faces “A Point of Jeopardy” as Streaming Gains Ground

It has been a year since citizens of the world were asked to shelter in place to keep family, friends, and neighbors safe. With everyone staying home, the entertainment industry has had to adapt and evolve. People who would normally go out for dinner and a movie on a Friday night have whipped up new recipes at home and hit play on the latest Amazon Prime or Netflix original movie. This brought many broadcasters face to face with the “existential threat” of streaming.

According to Variety, the latest virtual Deloitte and Enders Media and Telecoms conference hosted many people from the U.K.’s technology, media, and telecom sectors. They highlighted how, before the pandemic, the “creative industry was going through a period of phenomenal growth” but in the year since is confronting “a point of jeopardy.”

Tim Davie, director of the BBC, told Variety that the creative industry is “a brilliant British success story and it needs fueling and [investment].”

“The government are proactive on this,” he continued, “which is a situation in which we can ensure that there’s the right prominence in new environments for public service broadcasters. That is critical. It protects local creative work.”

Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, told Eminetra the public service broadcasts (PSBs) need “fair competition for it to work.” With streaming companies taking increasingly more users away from standard broadcasting and cable providers, “a broadcaster that provides public goods … will be dramatically eroded.”

Everyone likes to see local talent and fan favorites on TV; Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel 4, surveyed viewers and found that “viewers see them as being more responsive to their experiences and to their lives …. helping them to view the U.K. and the world from the inside of the U.K., taking the familiar and sharing it through a new lens, as opposed to the exports who are looking from the outside in, often showing us people that we enjoy watching, but that we can in no way relate to.”

But even with such positive feedback, in the face of Big Tech and streaming platforms, it may be time for PSBs to band together to save themselves.

“It’s critical we collaborate,” said Davie, “The truth is we’ve always come together and created things that have had real value. We need to be working together and creating scale together in the new world. In areas like platform, we’ve got to think about what’s the future of open platforms. And, finally, I think we stand together in areas like prominence. There is a question for us as a community, as a culture, as the U.K., which is what kind of media market do we want? And we’ve always made those choices.”

Even with “niche streaming services” like Britbox, Freesat, and Freeview, local channels will fade away to make room for their competitors if they do not do something to increase viability. Coming together in collaboration could ensure that they keep the essential elements of public service broadcasting in an age where content is just a click away.

 

Australia’s New Media Bill Could Give Big Tech the Boot

Big Tech is on watch with Australia’s new media bill. Introduced to parliament in December 2020, the new bill “will pass into law fairly soon” and require digital platforms to pay for news. This means that companies like Google and Facebook will have “to pay local media outlets and publishers to link their content,” according to CNBC.

Paul Fletcher, Australian Minister of Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities, and the Arts, spoke with CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” about the new law, saying the government expects large companies like Google and Facebook to comply with the bill. “The democratically elected government of Australia expects that businesses that are doing business in Australia will comply with our laws.”

How Much Does Each Company Pay?
According to the bill itself, each digital platform must make an offer to each registered news business corporation (RNBC): “the agreement specifies that the responsible digital platform corporation will ensure the payment of remuneration to the covered RNBC (or a related body corporate of the covered RNBC) for the making available of the registered news business’ covered news content by one or more of the covered services, in respect of the covered period.” Any offer made by a company then becomes a binding agreement.

Essentially, the amount paid is determined by an offer made by the company in question (Google, Facebook, etc.) to an RNBC, and it is then either accepted or declined by the RNBC.

What Kind of News Are They Paying For?
The bill defines all covered media content as “core news content” or “content that reports, investigates or explains current issues or events of interest to Australians.” Essentially any news that a user could get through a basic Google search or scroll through their Facebook feed would be regulated by this law. This has executives at Google and Facebook concerned.

What Does this Mean Going Forward?
According to CNBC, Google could pull its search engine from Australia entirely, despite its 94.5% market share. This move could allow other companies such as Bing or DuckDuckGo, to expand their reach and user base. Facebook (and FB-owned companies) have also come out saying they could prevent Australians from sharing news on their social networks.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai met with Fletcher as well the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to discuss the bill. During the meeting, it was made clear that Google would have to comply with the terms if they wanted to maintain a presence in Australia.

“We have seen from time to time over the last few years, big tech companies — typically U.S. tech companies — make threats about leaving Australia if they weren’t happy with our regulatory settings,” Fletcher said.

According to The Guardian, Tim Berns-Lee, who invented the iconic world wide web (WWW) in 1989, said this new media bill “risks breaching a fundamental principle of the web by requiring payment for linking between certain content online.”

Berns-Lee went on to say that blocking a user’s ability to share links with other users was a core value of the web and requiring companies to pay for that privilege was considered a world-first provision.

“If this precedent were followed elsewhere it could make the web unworkable around the world,” he said. “I therefore respectfully urge the committee to remove this mechanism from the code.”

Google and Facebook are the primary targets of this bill, since they make up 80% of the advertising spend in Australia. Facebook appealed to the Australian Senate committee, arguing that the new regime created by the bill was “complex, unpredictable and unworkable for our business.” They even suggested that such a bill runs “contrary to the Australia-US free trade agreement,” echoing a similar concern from the US government.

Google also believes the code is unworkable, and “would break the way search engines and the internet work for everyone.” It even proposed that their search engine be exempt from Australia’s new code.

According to Financial Review, Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, thinks the media bill helps “level the playing field” between Big Tech and news media. He said he would make sure Microsoft complied with the order and was willing to sacrifice profit if the US government decided to adopt a similar bill.

STX Entertainment Merges with India’s Largest Film Studio

STX Entertainment is merging with Eros International, India’s largest film studio, after a “trying year,” according to Variety, and will henceforth be known as the Eros STX Global Corporation. In 2019 viewers saw some midbudget films from STX, including “Hustlers” and “Ugly Dolls.” The merger with Eros International will bring both studios into a higher financial bracket, currently slated around $300 million for future revenue.

What This Means

Merger specifics include a “stock-for-stock” and publicly traded, independent content. Eros STX Global is currently set to remain on the New York Stock Exchange, according to Yahoo Finance and will maintain offices in Mumbai and Burbank. The newly consolidated company will also have a new distribution presence in the United States, India and China.

As new content is created, existing partnerships with NBCUniversal, Google, Apple, YouTube, Amazon and Microsoft will expand. Eros STX Global Corporation 2020 slate consists of 40 feature films and over 100 hours of original episodic content.

Company Expansion

New team members are excited. Robert Simonds, the new Co-Chairman and chief executive officer, spoke with Variety about the now vast resources the companies have brought to the table.

“Together we will have the relationships, management expertise and resources to create new content and grow rapidly in the largest and most attractive global markets,” said Simonds. “On Day One, we will have the ability to tap into our significant combined libraries and draw upon our deep relationships with A-list actors, directors and producers across the globe to create even more compelling content for millions of consumers.”

As a combined entity, the company is excited about creating new opportunities in China. Although STX has had limited success in China, Eros aims to bridge that gap. Eros has a good track record in distributing successful Indian films in China. Eros India CEO Pradeep Dwivedi explains that “Asian sensibilities of movies are very different from American sensibilities. There is a certain understanding of the cultural ethos of China that we believe we can work with much better compared to STX.”

Content Expansion

Taking a cue from the ongoing success of super-hero films, the company is also keen on building franchises based on stories from Indian mythology, eliminating the socio-religious aspects and adapting them for universal appeal much like the DC and Marvel models.

While STX’s recent film releases have garnered some attention, this union with Eros will serve to strengthen their viewership. Eros Now, a popular streaming platform, brings in roughly 188 million registered users around the globe. This association will increase that market share.

The existing Eros Now platform deals with Indian content, it plans to soon launch a standalone English-language subscription based offering. In March, Eros announced that it had signed NBCUniversal to join this tier. STX content will follow.

Eros also has a new technology deal with Microsoft. As part of the tie-up, Microsoft will build an online video platform for Eros using Azure technology, which will offer interactive voice search features in multiple Indian regional languages. It will also create an AI-powered platform that will enable high-speed subtitling and translations of Hollywood content. This will be available to customers in price-sensitive mass markets like middle India, Africa, Latin America and migrant workers in the Middle East.

Eros STX Global Corporation plans to complete the merger by the end of second quarter, 2020.