Universal PVOD Plans


Chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Donna Langley talks PVoD

The pandemic has accelerated the change in audience viewing habits. Do you think this will have a long-term impact, and what are the prospects for theatrical and exhibition?

Consumer consumption of content has never been higher, so that’s great. Streaming, which was disrupting our business to begin with, will continue to disrupt and particularly this sort of legacy business. That said, I do believe theatrical is and will continue to be, on the other side of this, a very important part of the ecosystem. I don’t believe theatre-going and streaming are binary; both are part of how we like to consume content.On the other side of this we are potentially going to see fewer screens, fewer movie theatres just by virtue of the small chains not being able to hold on, and some of the larger chains, in an effort to right-size their business, seeing some of their locations going away. That was already happening pre-pandemic. I don’t think fewer screens is going to mean less box office, necessarily — big blockbusters rarely occupy 100% of available screens and theatres, so I think we’ll be OK there. It really is a question of how quickly can theatrical rebound, how long is it going to take to get the audience comfortable to go see a movie again, and what do they want to see in the movie theatre.

Is a wide theatrical release for a tentpole and the ensuing revenue waterfall still the most financially prudent way of releasing these movies for the foreseeable future?

The theatrical revenue driven by some of our tentpole titles remains very important to our bottom line. Global franchises like Fast & Furious, Jurassic World and Minions benefit from a robust moviegoing market and marketing campaign to support it. Seeing films like this on the big screen is a rite of passage for film lovers, and creating a new PVoD window weeks, rather than months, later allows consumers more opportunity to experience these blockbusters…Movies can go into theatres and 17 days later at the earliest they can then also go into the home. They can keep playing theatrically, there’s real optionality there. It is creating an additional window, and therefore an additional revenue stream for the movie in its life cycle. We believe it’s additive, not cannibalistic on any level. And we’ve seen that play out with Trolls World Tour and some of our other movies in the marketplace….It’s better for us, more efficient in the deployment of our marketing dollars. We can launch the movie, and then pivot and use a lot of that noise and those marketing dollars to create that noise to push into the home.

And it’s great for the exhibitors because they get a cut of the PVoD revenue, so it’s giving them a lifeline. Again, this is all opportunity in crisis, but I think it’s a win-win for everybody.

Can we expect similar deals with international exhibitors?

PVoD is most successful in the US where consumer habits are in tune with the digital rental transactions. It’s robust in the UK, and to a degree in the Nordics and in Germany, but beyond that it’s not really a habitual thing. We would love it, particularly because two of the chains that we have deals with in the US have footprints in those territories, but it’s not a requirement. Those conversations hopefully will happen at some point, but we’re not there yet.

Sony Pictures Chief Tony Vinciquerra Anticipates a Weekly Blockbuster for 18 Months Straight Once Theaters Reopen

“The pandemic is adding to the tremendous upheaval that we’re already facing in the business. The hardships from COVID-19 are accelerating the changes in the theatrical windows and the erosion of the traditional linear television bundle.

I think you are going to see theatrical windows change to give people a lot more flexibility. The time between the theatrical and home entertainment window for some films may be as short as 30 days, and for some it may be longer than 90 days. We see things starting to open up in the spring and summer. We think you’re going to see a blockbuster movie every week in theaters for 18 months. We think consumers will be in theaters.”

Could Upstart Disney Plus Eclipse Netflix in the Streaming Wars?

In just a year, Disney Plus has proved to be a powerful siren of its own, boasting more than 86 million paying subscribers — most of them not even households with children, disproving skeptics who believed the service to be a niche streamer. Together with Hulu and ESPN Plus, the Walt Disney Co. already has more than 137 million global SVOD customers, and its Dec. 10 investor day laid out the blueprint for years of shiny “Star Wars,” Marvel, Pixar and Disney-branded eye candy to come….Amid the deluge of flashy news, one takeaway not to be overlooked? In just four years, Disney is likely to have more streaming customers than Netflix.

Equity analysts largely project Netflix reaching 295 million to 310 million subscribers by 2024. By Disney’s projections, revealed on investor day, Disney should have somewhere between 300 million and 350 million paying subscribers by then. That figure is a sum of three parts: a forecast 230 million to 260 million paid subscribers to Disney Plus (Hotstar customers account for 30%-40% of that figure), 50 million to 60 million Hulu subscribers and 20 million to 30 million ESPN Plus customers.

HBO Max signs long awaited deal with Roku

The deal comes one month after the company reached a long-awaited agreement for HBO Max to be available through Amazon’s Fire TV devices and gives the streaming service another boost…Starting tomorrow (December 17), Roku users will be able to download HBO Max from the Roku channel store and subscribe directly on their Roku device. The service, launched in the US in May, had reached 12.6m activations by the beginning of December, though its availability had up to now been limited by the failure to reach deals with Amazon and Roku.

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar on Why He Stands by the Decision to Release 2021 Theatrical Slate on HBO Max

Unfortunately, we don’t think that the world will snap back to the way it was on a magic date, in April, or June, or September. We think this pandemic is going to have some long-lasting effects. So we had a decision to make, which is what do we do [to release movies] in the context of a pandemic?…I feel very good about the decision [to offer day-and-date streaming and theatrical releases for Warner Bros.’ 2021 film slate], which is about being able to give fans the choice.

Much like every other aspect of all of our businesses, not just at WarnerMedia but for anybody who’s in the storytelling business, marketing is going to change on the road ahead…I think that technology provides so many great things that candidly were not available two years ago or five years ago in terms of what we can and should do…This is beyond media. We are in a moment of accelerated change.

Bill Mechanic, Former chairman/CEO of Fox Filmed Ent on AT&T and Warner Media

Denis Villeneuve (director of “Dune”) wrote that WB went “from being a legacy home for filmmakers to [a] new era of complete disregard… There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here.”…Jason Kilar (CEO of Warner Media) said that they made the decision to dump their entire slate of films to their streaming service because it’s what the fans want. Let’s be clear here: It has nothing to do with the fans. Or the talent. Or the pandemic (which yes, does provide a short-term excuse). It has to do with an unsuccessful launch of HBO Max, which is not a failure, by any means, though compared to the subscription levels of Netflix or Disney, it has to be viewed thus far as an also-ran. With the earlier entry into entertainment with DirecTV also a laggard, all AT&T cares about is the impact on their stock. They need to prove the billions they spent acquiring DirecTV and WB will deliver transformative profits.

Film fans—or maybe called by their real names, film buffs—aren’t clamoring for movies via streaming. Fans go to theatres to see them with other moviegoers to get the fullest impact of both the big screen and their fellow audiences (sometimes good and sometimes bad)..Left to its natural evolution, the industry will find a happy medium of serving the “fans” in theatres and the more casual or older and perhaps busier film lovers at home. Theatres don’t have to go away to allow streaming to continue on its growth spirals.

A simple truth: releasing movies first in theatrical establishes value; releasing movies first in streaming destroys value. There is a reason that Disney, right now leading the way both in theatrical box office share and in propelling its streaming service, isn’t turning their back on Marvel, or Pixar or Lucasfilm movies in theatres. Doing so would cost Disney billions of dollars of profit from those labels, and I would imagine would lose them filmmakers like Kevin Feige, and all the other fantastic directors and animators on their other labels.

‘Mortal Kombat’ Delays Release Amid HBO Max Shift

Warner Bros. and New Line are pushing back the release of their Mortal Kombat reboot from Jan. 15, 2021, to April 16, 2021. Monday’s follow-up announcement also included new dates for Tim Story’s family film Tom and Jerry, which is moving up from March 5, 2021, to Feb. 26, 2021, and filmmaker Lisa Joy’s sci-fi drama Reminiscence, which has been taken off the calendar. It previously was dated for April 16, 2021, and is expected to find a new home at some point in 2021.