media

The streaming wars to come

After years of speculation and hype, major players in Hollywood and Silicon Valley are getting ready to challenge Netflix . It’s only been a few months since Apple launched TV+, followed quickly by Disney launching Disney+. And there’s more to come this year, with AT&T-owned WarnerMedia preparing to release HBO Max, while NBCUniversal does the same with Peacock. Even before they’re available to subscribers, these new offerings are shaking up the status quo: As part of their preparation, Hollywood studios are consolidating, and they’re reclaiming key titles like “Friends” and “The Office” from rival platforms. Netflix, in turn, has been preparing for a world where its old content partners are either unwilling to license key titles, or charging a much higher price when they do — hence th...

Former HBO exec Richard Plepler signs exclusive production deal with Apple TV+

Nearly a year after stepping down as chief executive of HBO, Richard Plepler and his production company Eden Productions have signed a five-year deal with Apple TV+. Plepler started at HBO back in 1993 and became CEO in 2013. During his time in that role, HBO had continued success with shows new (“True Detective” and “Big Little Lies”) and old (“Game of Thrones”). It also launched its direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, HBO Now, which in some ways was the precursor to HBO Max — an upcoming service from AT&T and WarnerMedia that will incorporate HBO as part of a larger offering. Plepler left HBO in the aftermath of AT&T’s acquisition of its corporate parent Time Warner. Reports suggested that AT&T executives wanted HBO to ...

Snapchat will launch Bitmoji TV, a personalized cartoon show

Snapchat’s most popular yet under-exploited feature is finally getting the spotlight in 2020. Starting in February with a global release, your customizable Bitmoji avatar will become the star of a full-motion cartoon series called Bitmoji TV. It’s a massive evolution for Bitmoji beyond the chat stickers and comic strip-style Stories where they were being squandered to date. Creating original in-house shows for its Discover section that can’t be copied could help Snapchat differentiate from the plethora of short-form video platforms out there ranging from YouTube to Facebook Watch to TikTok. Bitmoji TV could also up the quality of Discover, which still feels like a tabloid magazine rack full of scantly clad women, gross-out imagery, and other shocking content merely meant ...

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Witcher’ shows off big muscles and bigger monsters

It’s easy to see “The Witcher” as Netflix’s answer to “Game of Thrones,” thanks to its impressive special effects and its big movie star lead (Henry Cavill, previously best known as Superman in the recent DC films) — not to mention its willingness to put blood, guts and naked female bodies on-screen. But in other ways, “The Witcher” feels like a throwback to an earlier generation of fantasy TV, and to shows like “Xena: Warrior Princess.” While longer storylines weave their way through the eight-episode season — and those storylines tie together quite cleverly — the show also maintains an old-fashioned devotion to self-contained storytelling, with Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia battling different adversaries in each episode. And as we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast,...

Original Content podcast: ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ makes some questionable choices

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” opened Friday to mediocre reviews, though it’s not clear whether those reviews will put any real damper on audience enthusiasm. In the meantime, all three of your hosts of the Original Content podcast have seen the movie. And we all agree that “The Rise of Skywalker,” while flawed, is a largely entertaining and satisfying experience. Things get a little more complicated in our spoiler discussion, where we weigh in on the film’s big reveals. The trilogy’s previous installment, “The Last Jedi,” polarized fans with its bold storytelling choices (bold for Star Wars, at least). But we’re squarely in the pro-“Last Jedi” camp, so we were disappointed to see “The Rise of Skywalker”...

Will audio livestreaming take off in America?

For many podcast listeners, following their favorite shows is a solitary experience. A recent survey of 2,000 users by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications found they listened to podcasts most often at home, during commutes or while exercising. Over the past couple of years, however, a new trend, audio livestreaming, has taken off in China. The medium is basically a combination of podcasting and talk radio, with mobile apps enabling interactive features like live chats with other listeners, call-in requests and emoji reactions. If it follows other formats that gained traction in China before becoming popular elsewhere, like short-form video apps (including TikTok) and video livestreams, it may give podcasts in other markets a new way to reach more listeners an...

Snopes rolls its own crowdfunding infrastructure to prepare for 2020’s disinformation warfare

2020 will likely be one of the most bitter and hard-fought elections in decades, not just on pulpits and stages, but on the true battleground of modern politics: the internet. And veteran fact-checker Snopes is girding itself for the fight with a crowdfunding effort it hopes will free it from a dependence on internet platforms for which the truth is a secondary consideration. The last we heard from the company, it was emerging from a — disastrous is too strong a word, but perhaps we could say ineffectual — fact-checking partnership with Facebook. The obvious mismatch in priorities made Snopes think hard about its future and how to guarantee it could pursue its mission without begging for coins from companies that so obviously cared little for what they could provide. The new plan is to see...

Hulu is down

Less than one month after a major Hulu outage, Hulu is down again. We’ve been seeing reports on Twitter of Hulu streaming issues. It appears the issues have been ongoing for the last few hours. At this point, Hulu does not seem to have a clear idea of what’s going on. Thanks for tweeting us, Kara — sorry for the hiccup! Please know that you're not alone as we've received similar reports regarding this issue. We've got all hands on deck working to resolve this, so we hope to have a fix in place soon. For now, we appreciate you bearing with us! — Hulu Support (@hulu_support) December 19, 2019 This comes one day after Hulu increased its monthly price for Live TV to $54.99 from $44.99. As of 3:30 p.m. PT, Hulu says it has resolved the issue.

‘The Rise of Skywalker’ delivers a messy but satisfying finale to the new Star Wars trilogy

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is the ninth and final film in what Lucasfilm is calling The Skywalker Saga. It’s the end of the story — that’s both its greatest asset and its heaviest burden. Certainly, if you’re hoping that a single movie can effectively wrap up every storyline, complete every character arc and answer every lingering question from the eight preceding films, you should abandon that hope now. Director J.J. Abrams is pitching this as the culmination of a nine-film epic, but how could any single movie live up to 40 years of theories and daydreams from millions of Star Wars fans? (This review describes the general plot of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” but contains no major spoilers.) Yes, you’ll see some returning faces ...

Hulu launches its viewer-friendly ‘binge watch ads’

Hulu today is launching a new kind of ad experience that allows brands to specifically target binge-watchers — that is, viewers who are watching multiple episodes of a favorite program over a long stretch of time. These “binge watch ads” utilize machine learning techniques to predict when a viewer has begun to binge watch a show, then serves up contextually relevant ads that acknowledge a binge is underway. This culminates when the viewer reaches the third episode, at which point they’re informed the next episode is ad-free or presents a personalized offer from the brand partner. The binge watch ad concept was first announced at Hulu’s annual NewFronts presentation in May, where it introduces to advertisers its new shows, features and ad formats. The company r...

MUBI’s production effort nets it a Sundance selection as the company goes cashflow positive

Streaming services are popping up like weeds these days, but MUBI has been at it basically since streaming video first emerged as a business. Founded in 2007, MUBI focuses on curated, independent film from international artists and creators, and the company has recently further differentiated itself from its competitors by becoming a distributor and production house – while also going cash-flow positive-during its most recent quarter. The MUBI story is a rare example of a startup maintaining clear and consistent focus over a long, storied history and achieving sustainable growth in the process. MUBI CEO Efe Cakarel told me at Disrupt Berlin that the company will be cash-flow positive this quarter, and that its revenue has grown at a rate of 72% year-over-year for the past three years runni...

Spotify’s founding story is going to be a Netflix series

Facebook’s founding got the movie treatment with Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network.” The story of how Snapchat came to be will be a flagship series on the upcoming streaming service, Quibi. Today, Spotify is the latest startup to get its story told on screen — this time, as a new Netflix show. Netflix says it’s developing a scripted series inspired by the book “Spotify Untold” by business reports at Swedish Dagens Industri, Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud. The story will focus on Spotify’s founding and how it changed the way people listen to music over the past decade. “The founding tale of Spotify is a great example of how a local story can have a global impact,” said Tesha Crawford, Director of International Original...