Netflix has surprised Studios; I cannot stress this enough. The big film companies have been slow in entering the digital age and/or understanding their position in it. Unfortunately, we have had a lot of evidence pointing to this fact. The scene has changed, just like the numbers. Electronic platforms now provide their own material. Indeed, according to current estimates for 2018, 35% of new TV productions in America mainly came from these platforms.
2019 may be a counter-attack year. Disney and Warner Media (AT&T) are preparing their own platforms. Both companies are set to release them at the end of 2019. Facebook will allocate a few billion for new productions just like Amazon will. Google, on the other hand, with its corresponding YouTube service, is still testing the waters. With Disney buying Fox, and Warner Media relying on HBO Plus, things may get complicated. Let’s look at how the scene will unfold in 2019, and what our choices will be as a result.
Netflix will probably soldier on indefinitely, with the rest simply following. I believe that it has carefully and meticulously studied the moves of its rivals, and is currently negotiating the deals it has made with Disney in order to maintain some of the programs. About 8% -10% of its content comes from Disney. Netflix will not announce the viewing percentages of the programs as it has most likely been waiting for similar moves. This is why it remains heavily reliant on its own content. Financial data still constitutes a major hassle for the company nevertheless. This has resulted in new price increases in subscriptions for platform users in the US and most Latin American countries.
As for Europe, there has been no announcement about a price raise as of yet. Of course, company executives do seem to beat about the bush when answering questions with regard to whether these increases are extended to subscribers from other countries. There is, of course, the possibility to see ads on the platform, probably in between TV series episodes. Even if this may not happen soon, it is highly likely that the company will want to redeem its large number of subscribers in the near future.
Stalking Your Clients
Although I feel that Netflix executives have taken smart decisions from time to time, I have recently been informed that they will work with Synamedia. The British company has recently introduced a new application at CES19, called Credential Sharing Insight. A “fancy” name for a mere Spy Bot that will track and record every move of the subscribers. At the same time, the company will, according to statements, implement an advanced data analysis based on some AI (at some point we must discuss the abuse of the term AI by companies for purely marketing purposes). Based on the results, it will identify potential “offenders” who will have shared their code with a friend or relative.
In a next article, we will go through the sometimes aggressive policy that companies want to follow against their own very customers. Although customers normally pay for their subscription, they are, many a time, treated as ”potential scammers” wanting to drain the company financially. If you do not believe me, just take a look at how Synamedia presents its new app:
With Time Warner’s acquisition by AT&T last June, we had the first signs of something changing. The merger of the two companies has, quite reasonably, faced legal issues in the US, which at least temporarily seems to have been overcome. A few months later, Warner Media CEO John Stankey announces the new digital platform of the company, available at the end of 2019.
Almost simultaneously, Stankey in an interview conducted by Vanity Fair, seems to shed some light on the company’s plans. Here, we must note that when we are talking about Time Warner, we essentially refer to WarnerMedia, HBO, WB, and Turner, to name only a few. According to Stankey, the new platform will be clearly based on HBO Now. He does not give specific answers about the prices that will accompany subscription packages but notes that they will be somewhat more expensive than HBO NOW. This means that we should expect higher prices even from Netflix’s full package, probably around $20 for the basic package. This is natural considering the size of the movies and series library that will be available from all the group’s production companies.
What WarnerMedia wants to be based on is quality, making it stand out with a direct comparison to Netflix. And it will succeed. It is also unlikely that we will see investments in new productions that will exceed an amount of 8 billion. The problem is that, at present, it is not possible to place the platform on markets outside the US. Especially across Europe.
Under the new Εuropean Directive, all audiovisual platforms should maintain a minimum of 30% of European productions in their library. Netflix does not encounter such a problem.
We expect the new directive to pass as a parliamentary law across each member country around the end of 2019 (does this ring any bells?). Surely, the first battle will be given in the American continent. Until then, WarnerMedia and HBO NOW will provide their content on contract with country-specific platforms within the EU, as they have done so far.
Dysney+ – HULU
The expected incorporation of Fox by Disney seems to be on the horizon. And that does not just mean increasing the already large library of the company, but also the acquisition will make Disney the majority stakeholder in HULU. Disney cannot rest on this but goes into a smart move. It announces its own independent platform, Disney + as well as its release date within the last quarter of 2019. According to sources, it will be a subscription service with a more family-oriented direction. Prices will be equivalent, if not cheaper, than Netflix.
With content from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar, it will create a rather appealing library, especially if prices are kept below $10. At the same time, Fox (FX, Fox Searchlight, etc) will create exclusive material for HULU. Given that the HULU platform starts packs from $7.99 with ads, and $11.99 without, ranking second in subscribers after Netflix, customers will undoubtedly be tempted to subscribe. On top of this, since Hulu allows you to add content from HBO, Cinemax, Starz and Showtime, I am certain that Disney will take advantage of it and create a package with Disney + and HULU.
Having said that, Disney may face off problems developing its platforms in Europe. It is said that Disney+ will be launched in America but will soon go international.
Facebook Watch – Amazon Prime – Apple TV App
Next week, I will go on a detailed presentation of these services. Certainly, they do not belong to the same category as the previous ones and they do not yet pose a threat to Netflix. Each having their own orientation, though, they are worth writing about.