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Prime Video Channels Bundling Service Launched by Amazon for Video Streaming Apps in India

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By Reuters | Updated: 24 September 2021

Amazon launched in India on Friday a bundling option on its video platform for global and local streaming services, in a move aimed at boosting subscriptions.

The launch comes at a time of increasing competition from global and domestic rivals in an important market for the US tech company.

The Amazon Channels service will help customers using its Prime flagship loyalty programme to subscribe to multiple streaming apps on a single interface, Gaurav Gandhi, the head of Amazon Prime Video in India, told Reuters in an interview ahead of the launch.

“We believe besides solving customer problems… multiple apps, multiple log ins… it also solves a lot for our partners where they are able to get the benefit of Prime Video’s reach and ubiquitous distribution,” said Gandhi.

The service is launching with streaming apps from partners including Discovery, Lions Gate Entertainment, and Mubi, said Gandhi, adding that India is the 12th country where it is being launched.

Gandhi declined to talk about specifics of revenue sharing with content partners or discuss other financial parameters of the service.

Amazon’s Prime loyalty programme, which costs an annual Rs. 999 in India, offers customers free delivery, early access to deals during sales, and free music and video streaming.

India, the world’s second-most populous nation with 1.3 billion people, is a vital growth market for Amazon and its global rivals Netflix and Walt Disney.

Prime Video’s rival Disney+ Hotstar hosts Bollywood movies, TV shows and live streams India’s popular cricket league matches, while Netflix has bet big on local original content. An announced merger of India’s Zee and a local unit of Japan’s Sony is also set to create a TV powerhouse that will challenge Prime Video and others in the market.

Amazon has invested heavily in acquiring and producing local content in India and its founder Jeff Bezos said last year that Prime Video was doing well globally “but nowhere it’s doing better than India”. Amazon does not break out user numbers by country.

But India has also proven to be a political minefield for Amazon where it was forced to issue a rare apology earlier this year for some scenes in an original drama series, which allegedly hurt Hindu religious beliefs.

“We learn from experiences and we work on,” Gandhi said when asked if Amazon Prime Video had become more careful in selecting and hosting content after the controversy.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Squid Game, Netflix’s Biggest Hit, Estimated to Be Worth About $900 Million: Report

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By Reuters | Updated: 18 October 2021

Squid Game, Netflix’s biggest original series launch, is estimated to be worth almost $900 million (roughly Rs. 6,770 crores) for the streaming giant, as per a report citing figures from an internal Netflix document.

The nine-episode thriller, in which cash-strapped contestants play childhood games with deadly consequences in a bid to win KRW 45.6 billion (roughly Rs. 290 crores), became an international hit after it launched last month.

In comparison to its estimated net worth, the showcost just $21.4 million (roughly Rs. 160 crores) to produce, Bloomberg said.

According to the report, about 132 million had watched at least two minutes of the show in its first 23 days, easily breaking the record set by UK costume drama Bridgerton, which was streamed by 82 million accounts in its first 28 days.

Netflix had earlier announced the show had amassed 111 million fans, but Bloomberg said those figures were based on slightly older data.

Los Gatos, California-based Netflix estimated that 89 percent of people who started the show watched more than one episode, the news agency said, and 66 percent of the viewers finished watching the series in the first 23 days.

Netflix declined to comment on the report. An attorney for the company told Bloomberg that it would be inappropriate for Bloomberg to disclose the confidential data contained in the documents that it had reviewed.

The series is also the first Korean drama to snatch the top spot on Netflix in the United States, and has even spurred interest among people in learning Korean.

In China, where Netflix is unavailable without a VPN, a Beijing bakery has introduced a Squid Game-themed confection-making challenge in its store.

The show has even drawn positive comments from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, with the billionaire calling the work “impressive and inspiring.” Amazon’s streaming service Prime Video competes with Netflix.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Disney to Move Hotstar Content to Hulu, ESPN+ in US as Part of Disney Bundle

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By Reuters | Updated: 1 September 2021

Walt Disney said on Tuesday that content from its streaming service Hotstar — home to India’s IPL cricket tournament and original shows like Aarya — will migrate to its ESPN+ and Hulu streaming platforms in the United States.

Disney, which has 174 million paying customers across its four streaming services, is looking to slowly consolidate its content into a Disney Bundle, which includes ESPN+, Hulu, Disney+, and more than 100,000 movies, TV episodes as well as sports events.

Sports content from Hotstar will move to ESPN+, and Hotstar movies as well as TV shows will migrate to Hulu, which is home to series like The Handmaid’s Tale.

A Hotstar annual subscription costs $49.99 (roughly Rs. 3,650) per year, while the Disney Bundle, which starts at $13.99 (roughly Rs. 1,020) per month, will cost subscribers at least $167.88 (roughly Rs. 12,260) for a year.

Hotstar users in the US will receive a redemption code to avail an offer to shift their subscriptions to the entire Disney bundle, at no cost.

IPL comes to ESPN+

Hotstar is popular in India as it streams Bollywood movies, local TV shows, and cricket tournaments.

In the first half of 2021, the Hotstar mobile app had only about 0.04 percent market share of installs among the top 100 streaming services in the US, according to data analytics firm Sensor Tower. In cricket-crazy India, however, it had a 29 percent market share of all new downloads among the top 100 mobile streaming video on demand apps.

The Indian Premier League (IPL), which has an estimated brand value of $6.8 billion (roughly Rs. 49,660 crores), is the richest Twenty20 league and attracts many of the best players from around the world.

The league’s fourteenth season was suspended on May 4 with 31 matches left to play after several players and backroom staff tested positive for COVID-19 amid a devastating second wave of infections in India.

The remaining matches will stream on ESPN+ in the US when the tournament resumes from September 19.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Netflix Sets TUDUM, Its First Virtual Global Fan Event, for September 25; to Feature Over 70 Titles

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By ANI | Updated: 26 August 2021

Netflix on Wednesday announced that it will be hosting its first-ever global fan event in September, titled TUDUM after the familiar sound that all viewers of the streaming platform first hear when they watch a show or movie.

The fan event will take place virtually on September 25 and will feature the biggest stars and creators from various Netflix projects, representing over 70 series, films and specials.

Netflix has stated that the goal of TUDUM will be “to entertain and honour Netflix fans from across the globe.” The three-hour virtual live stream will kick off at 9:30pm IST/ 9am PST / 12pm EST / 4pm GMT / 1am JST and KST and will be broadcasted across Netflix’s YouTube channels worldwide, in addition to Twitter and Twitch.

Pre-shows spotlighting Korean and Indian series and films, along with anime content will also take place at 5:30pm IST/ 5am PST / 8am EST / 12pm GMT / 9pm JST and KST on specific channels.

Over 70 films and series will be featured throughout the three-hour TUDUM event, including some of the most popular returning seasons on the platform like Stranger Things, Bridgerton and The Witcher, to Money Heist and Cobra Kai, as well as blockbuster films like Red Notice, Don’t Look Up, Extraction, The Harder They Fall, The Old Guard, and more.

The complete list of Netflix TV shows and movies to be featured are as follows:

Aggretsuko: Season 4
A Whisker Away
A Traves De Mi Ventana
Arcane
Army of Thieves
Black Crab
Big Mouth
Bridgerton
Bright: Samurai Soul
Bruised
The Chestnut Man
Cobra Kai
Colin in Black and White
Cowboy Bebop
The Crown
De Volta Aos 15
Don't Look Up
Emily in Paris
Extraction
Finding Anamika
Floor is Lava
The Harder They Fall
Hellbound
Heeramandi
Human Resources
Interceptor
Inside Job
The Old Guard
Oscuro Deseo
Ozark
Maldivas
Money Heist
My Name
The New World
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie
Rebelde
Ritmo Salvaje
Red Notice
The Sandman
Sex Education
The Silent Sea
Soy Georgina
Stranger Things
Super Crooks
Ultraman: Season 2
The Umbrella Academy
Vikings: Valhalla
The Witcher
The Witcher: Blood Origin
Young, Famous and African

Fans will get to experience breaking news, the premiere of trailers, exclusive clips during some of the interactive panels, and conversations with the creators and stars from Netflix. Those who are interested in hosting a co-stream can even sign-up at TUDUM.com to react on their personal Facebook, Twitch, or YouTube channels.

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South Park Creators Sign Mega Movie Deal With Paramount+ Streaming Service

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 6 August 2021

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone signed a massive deal Thursday to make 14 movies of their enduring satirical cartoon for streaming service Paramount+, as Hollywood’s frenzied scramble for online content accelerates.

While MTV Entertainment Studios – which like Paramount+ is owned by parent corporation ViacomCBS – did not release any financial figures, Bloomberg News put the deal at $900 million (roughly Rs. 6,675 crores), which would make it one of the largest in television history.

The Paramount+ streaming platform launched in March in the US in a bid to compete in a crowded and content-hungry marketplace led by the likes of Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime.

In a statement, MTV Entertainment’s Chris McCarthy said developing new content with “tremendous talent like Matt and Trey, is at the heart of our strategy to continue growing Paramount+.”

The deal also includes multiple new series of South Park for television network Comedy Central, which will see the long-running satire reach its 30th year by 2027.

South Park, set in small-town America and known for crude language and lampooning hot-button social issues since 1997, has already spawned one film, multiple video games, and other merchandise.

“Comedy Central has been our home for 25 years and we’re really happy that they’ve made a commitment to us for the next 75 years,” said Parker and Stone in the joint statement.

“We can’t wait to get back to doing traditional South Park episodes but now we can also try out new formats,” they added.

While ViacomCBS did not immediately comment on the $900 million (roughly Rs. 6,675 crores) figure, it would put the deal on a par with Reese Witherspoon’s sale of her Hello Sunshine company to a new private equity-backed media venture this week.

It also comes after Amazon in May agreed to buy MGM studios for $8.45 billion (roughly Rs. 61,500 crores).

Other streaming platforms recently launched by major media and tech companies to join the so-called “streaming wars” include HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+, each seeking vast content libraries to attract and retain subscribers.

ViacomCBS said Wednesday that it had reached 42 million streaming subscribers. Current market leader Netflix has more than 200 million.

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Amazon Music, Apple Music Not to Charge Extra for Lossless Music

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By Reuters | Updated: 18 May 2021

Amazon and Apple will let users stream high-quality lossless audio at no extra charge, as they explore new ways to keep subscribers tuned in to their services amid intense competition.

Amazon Music, which so far charged a premium for lossless audio, became the first major music service on Monday to upgrade its subscribers to the format.

Lossless is a higher quality audio format that preserves every detail of the original audio file without compressing the quality while streaming.

American rapper Jay-Z’s Tidal was among the first to roll out the technology, charging $19.99 (roughly Rs. 1,460) per month for lossless music.

The e-commerce giant’s Amazon Music Unlimited with lossless music will cost less than half that at the industry standard price of $9.99 (roughly Rs. 730) per month.

Separately, Apple said subscribers would be able to listen to its entire music catalogue of more than 75 million songs by next month in the lossless format at no additional cost.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Plans to Buy Arsenal Football Club

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 7 May 2021

Spotify’s billionaire CEO Daniel Ek, who revolutionised on-demand music listening for millions of people, is a resilient entrepreneur from a Swedish working-class suburb who now hopes to bring his business acumen to “the beautiful game”.

The 38-year-old, known for his no-nonsense attitude, has offered to buy Premier League club Arsenal amid supporter backlash against unpopular American owner Stan Kroenke.

Ek co-founded Spotify with Martin Lorentzon in 2006, and the company which made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange in 2018 now has a market capitalisation of $56 billion.

Bald, bearded and a casual dresser usually seen in sneakers, T-shirt and a blazer, Ek is known for his reserved style and pragmatism — a shy problem-solver with a creative streak who takes long walks to think things through and who prizes collective teamwork over the individual.

Ek got into computer programming as a young kid, and was a dollar millionaire by the age of 23 when he sold his online advertising company Advertigo in 2006 for a reported $1.25 million.

“But he’s more of a businessman than a tech nerd,” Sven Carlsson, co-author of “The Spotify Play”, told AFP, painting him as a visionary.

“He’s always thinking six months ahead. He’s not into the details. He’s known for having ambitious, lofty goals, with no understanding for how unrealistic they are,” he said.

“He thinks big, and he has patience” to see those projects through to fruition.

Ek was raised in Stockholm’s working-class suburb of Ragsved. His father left the family when Daniel was young.

“He’s always had something to prove… Being left by his dad was a formative experience,” Carlsson said.

Pelle Snickars, co-author of “The Swedish Unicorn: the story about Spotify”, describes Ek as “quite Swedish in terms of values”.

“We don’t see him on magazine covers alongside celebrities, he’s not hierarchical and does not hesitate to showcase his collaborators,” Snickars told AFP.

With around 9 percent of Spotify’s capital and 37 percent of voting rights, Forbes put Ek’s fortune at an estimated 4.8 billion in April 2021.

Spice things up
In 2006, Ek and Lorentzon came up with the idea of creating a platform to distribute music online legally, a practice that at the time was dominated by illegal file sharing sites.

The duo experimented with sharing mp3 music files between the hard drives on their computers. In October 2008 Spotify was finally ready to go live after Ek pleaded with music labels to open their catalogues.

“Innovations are never entirely new,” Ek told the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm during a 2013 visit.

“The success comes from combining things that already exist and trying to solve a problem that one is really involved in,” he added.

Ek reportedly dropped out of the university’s engineering programme to pursue an IT career — though his enrolment at the school has never been proven, Carlsson noted.

He said Ek’s former colleagues nicknamed him “Spice”.

“They thought he always spiced up his stories a little to make them more interesting,” Carlsson said, adding that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Storytelling is something Spotify and Daniel Ek have always been good at.”

Football next?
Ek’s perseverance may have led to the remarkable rise of the startup, but artists have over the years complained of it paying them too little and cannibalising sales from their albums.

Ek has repeatedly argued that streaming is a better alternative for artists and that “piracy doesn’t pay (them) a penny — nothing, zilch, zero”.

Snickars and co-author Rasmus Fleischer dispute the idea that Spotify was founded to end piracy and force consumers to pay for music.

They claim that neither Ek nor Lorentzon “had any experience with working professionally with music”, but they had a common background from digital advertising.

“They weren’t particularly interested in music…they could have worked on skin products instead,” Snickars told AFP.

Now, Ek is ready to dive into the football arena.

“As a kid growing up, I’ve cheered for Arsenal as long as I can remember. If KSE (Kroenke Sports Enterprises) would like to sell Arsenal I’d be happy to throw my hat in the ring,” Ek wrote on Twitter on April 23.

Kroenke has however insisted Arsenal is not for sale despite growing supporter unrest at the American billionaire’s ownership of the club, whose last Premier League title came in 2003/04.

Ek, the father of two children, married his long-time partner Sofia Levander in 2016 on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como in the presence of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, comedian Chris Rock and singer Bruno Mars.

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