Disney is about to go to war with Netflix

Disney may be closing in on a media-industry-rocking deal to acquire a collection of assets from 21st Century Fox. CNBC reports that a deal, which would include Fox’s movie studios, could be announced as soon as next week.

The deal comes as media companies look for ways to survive as consumers shift their attention to ad-free streaming services from Netflix and Amazon, cut the cord in increasing numbers and spend an inordinate amount of time glued to mobile screens and social media.

Disney’s already declared that it is going to war with Netflix by launching its own streaming service. Already Disney has some big assets to offer subscribers to this potential service, including movies made by its own studios and the rights to mega-hits like Star Wars. But it’s going to need as many big guns as it can get in that fight. If the future is less about cable bundles and classic TV advertising, and more about bringing content directly to paying subscribers, giants like Disney can’t stand pat. That’s where Fox comes in.

As one industry observer put it, “nobody knows what the business model of the future is. But if you have a lot of content, you’re either going to get people to pay for it, run ads in it, or license it to somebody. So this is a pretty good hedge for Disney.”

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Hulu boosts content, cuts out the middleman!

Hulu on-demand just got a massive boost to its library from Fox, and Live can now distribute HBO and Cinemax. Do Hulu’s broadcast owners need pay TV to distribute their content anymore?

The launch of Hulu Live in May of this year brought another strong competitor to the virtual MVPD market pioneered by Sling TV. The slick integration between the on-demand content from Hulu with live TV and DVR’d shows caught the markets attention immediately. It also offers solid consumer value with 59 channels for $39.99 a month. However, until now consumers could not access premium channels through the service.

Last week, Hulu announced that subscribers to Live and on-demand packages can subscribe to HBO for $14.99 a month and Cinemax for $9.99. Customers will get access to HBO’s and Cinemax’s East and West Coast live feeds through service. The many other live channels will become available in the coming weeks, including channels like HBO 2, HBO Latino, and MovieMAX HD.

Of course, this nothing new. Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue also allow customers to subscribe to HBO and Cinemax. However, Hulu Live offers a nice bonus. Customers will be able to access HBO’s own branded service, HBO Now, through their Hulu account.

Fox boosts Hulu on-demand library

Hulu announced a deal with one of its investors, Fox, that brings a huge library of TV content to the on-demand service. 20th Century Fox Television is licensing 3,000 episodes of 26 shows to Hulu. Recent shows like Bones, How I Met Your Mother, and Glee join classics like Hill Street Blues and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Hulu will also be the only site with all 11 seasons of M*A*S*H and all episodes of NYPD Blue.

Last week Hulu completed another deal with 20th Century Fox Television. It added all episodes of animated series Bob’s Burgers, American Dad, Futurama, and The Cleveland Show.

Market progress on all fronts

Hulu on-demand continues to grow strongly with the overall market for SVOD services. According to TiVo/Digitalsmiths data, 6.2% of US consumers were using Hulu in Q1 2015. By Q1 2017, 7.8% of consumers reported using the service. The company has also retained its position as the third most popular SVOD service. Amazon is the second most popular with 18% of consumers saying they use it in Q1 2017, and Netflix is number 1 with 36%.

There is one area where Hulu is number one: Hulu viewers watch more video on the service than any other. According to comScore, Hulu viewers watch 2.9 hours a day versus 2.2 hours for Netflix, and 2 hours for Amazon. comScore also says the virtual MVPD side of the house, Hulu Live, is driving a lot of viewing. Hulu Live delivers 9% of total time spent watching all the vMVPDs, despite being only a few months old.

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Netflix in top 4 ‘must-keep’ viewing options

Scandal’s Olivia Pope had better watch her back, because House of Cards’ Frank Underwood is coming for her, warns consultancy firm Solutions Research Group, noting that ‘must-see’ TV is giving way to ‘much-stream’ TV, with Americans increasingly likely to name streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video among their most valued entertainment options.

These services reshaped Solutions Research Group’s 10th annual Must Keep TV Report, which interviews American consumers about which TV channels and services they regard as a must-have in their households.

Netflix ranks fourth overall in its first appearance in the study. It finished behind ABC, CBS and NBC but ahead of FOX. This is the first time in the study’s 10-year history that the Big Four networks failed to occupy the top four spots, with Netflix’s emergence pushing FOX into fifth place. Rounding out the top 10 are ESPN, HBO, Discovery, PBS and CW.

History came in at #11 this year, followed by AMC at #12, unchanged from last year. HGTV is the momentum brand of the year, coming in at #13, up six spots from #19 in 2016.

The three largest streaming brands – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu – were included in the tracking for the first time in 2017. They performed extremely well as a group, all landing in the top 25 for the full 12+ population, coming in at #4 (Netflix), #14 (Amazon Prime Video) and #22 (Hulu).

The top two news cable channels appear stronger than ever in terms of viewer engagement. CNN came in at #15 overall, neck-and-neck with FOX News at #16. The two rivals have been this close together only once in the study’s 10-year history, in 2008 – when CNN was ranked #14 overall and FOX News came in at #18.

CNN is the clear choice among Americans under 50, coming in as the #15 ‘must keep’ TV brand among 18-49, far ahead of FOX News at #28. Among affluent households – those with income of over $100,000 – FOX News is seen as slightly more important, ranking #8, compared to CNN at #12.

Sports cable channels continue to perform well among men 18-49: ESPN is #5 overall, and the #1 cable channel in this demographic for the 10th straight year. Fox Sports 1 and ESPN 2 are ranked #20 and #25 respectively, similar to their previous positions. Fox Sports 2 dipped slightly in the past year, while NBC Sports is up slightly.

More US households now have a streaming service than a DVR, which means that digital-era services will continue to grow in importance, particularly among younger Americans.

The three streaming brands included in the study all ranked highly among 18-34s, with Netflix and Hulu in the Top 10: Netflix claimed the top spot while Hulu came in at #9. Amazon Prime Video was a hair outside the Top 10, coming in at #11.

Network and general cable brands with momentum in the younger demographic this year include: NBC, CW, FX, HGTV, History and Travel.

With ABC, CBS, and NBC ranking #1, #2, and #3 respectively, Netflix elbows its way in at #4, with FOX rounding out the top 5 ranking for Women 25-54.

Amazon Prime Video debuts at #8 for this demographic, putting two streaming services in the top 10 and speaking to the importance of being able to access entertainment on their own schedule.

Movers gaining top 10 status this year include CW at #7 (its first time in the top 10), HGTV (#9, its second time in the top 10 in the past 10 years) and ESPN. Hallmark Channel broke into the top 20 for the first time since tracking began in 2007, and is now ranked #19 among Women 25-54, its best showing since 2007.

In 2017, 72 per cent of those interviewed included at least one of the big four networks (one or more of ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) on their ‘must keep’ channel list. While that is still a strong majority, it represents an 11-point drop from the historic high of 83 per cent in 2007.

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Google starts Unplugged Streaming TV Service

Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google unit has reached a final agreement or one in principle with CBS (CBS) , Disney (DIS) , Viacom (VIAB) and 21st Century Fox (FOXA) and could launch its streaming video service as soon as February, according to people with knowledge of Google’s plans.

Time Warner (TWX) is in talks as well, but they haven’t yet progressed as far as the others, said one person with knowledge of the situation.

The video streaming service, Google Unplugged, will be operated by Google’s YouTube service and will join a growing number of subscription video-on-demand offerings lining up to offer consumers so-called skinny bundles of networks that are less expensive than those offered by cable or satellite operators.

The service initially was expected to be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that begins in Las Vegas on Jan. 5, but unspecified technology delays and the need to finalize contracts have pushed it back to February or later, according to two knowledgeable people.

The crowded field of cablelike streaming services includes DirecTV Now, which AT&T’s (T) DirecTV satellite service launched in November, as well as Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation Vue service and Dish Network’s (DISH) Sling TV.

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