Apple TV, Major League Soccer Strike 10-Year Exclusive Deal for New Streaming Service
By Reuters | Updated: 15 June 2022
Apple TV and Major League Soccer — the US equivalent of the English Premier League — announced a 10-year media rights agreement on Tuesday, worth a reported $2.5 billion (nearly Rs. 19,500 crore). that will see every single MLS game broadcast from the 2023 season onwards.
“Apple is the perfect partner to further accelerate the growth of MLS and deepen the connection between our clubs and their fans,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.
The new agreement will see MLS games made available on Apple TV via a new MLS streaming service. Season ticket-holders for MLS clubs will be able to access the app for free.
“For the first time in the history of sports, fans will be able to access everything from a major professional sports league in one place,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services.
“It’s a dream come true for MLS fans, [football] fans, and anyone who loves sports. No fragmentation, no frustration — just the flexibility to sign up for one convenient service that gives you everything MLS, anywhere and anytime you want to watch.”
No figures for the deal were revealed, but Sports Business Journal said the contract was worth $250 million (about Rs. 1,950 crore) per season.
The new deal will also herald a reorganisation of how MLS games are scheduled. Currently games are played on multiple days throughout a given week.
As of next season, games will be played on Saturday nights, with midweek games taking place every Wednesday.
“We’re going to make it easy for people to fall in love with MLS and root for their favourite clubs,” Cue said.
The deal reflects the steady rise of MLS in the United States. Launched in 1996, the league now features 28 teams with a 29th due to join in 2023.
The United States, Canada, and Mexico are set to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
“MLS is already on a tremendous trajectory as the fastest-growing [football] league in the world,” Cue said.
“We think it’s going to get even bigger as the (2026) World Cup comes to the US, Canada and Mexico.”
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Netflix, Disney, Amazon, JioCinema to Challenge Tobacco Warning Rules for Streaming Services in India
By Reuters | Updated: 2 June 2023
Streaming giants Netflix, Amazon, and Disney on Friday privately discussed a possible legal challenge and other ways to stall India’s new tobacco warning rules, amid fears they will need to edit millions of hours of existing web content, sources said. The pushback is the latest headache for streaming giants in India, a top growth market. Companies often face legal cases and police complaints their content sometimes hurts religious sentiment, and many have self-censored content over the years. As part of India’s anti-tobacco drive, the health ministry this week ordered streaming platforms should within three months insert static health warnings during smoking scenes.
Also, India wants at least 50 seconds of anti-tobacco disclaimers, including an audio-visual, at the start and in the middle of each program. In the first signs of industry distress, executives of the three global streaming companies, and India’s Viacom18 which runs billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s JioCinema app, held a closed-door meeting, where Netflix said the rules would hit customer experience and push production houses to block their content in India, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.
Executives in India also discussed ways of a possible legal challenge to assert that other ministries – IT and information & broadcasting – have powers over streaming giants, and not the health ministry, said one of the sources. The companies, and India’s health ministry, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment. Reuters is the first to report the industry’s planned pushback.
Already, all smoking and alcohol-drinking scenes in movies in India’s cinemas and on TV, under the law, require health warnings, but so far there were no regulations for the streaming giants, whose content has become increasingly popular. In 2013, Woody Allen stopped his film, Blue Jasmine, from being screened in India after learning about mandatory anti-tobacco warnings would be inserted into its smoking scenes. Activists have welcomed new anti-tobacco rules by India, the world’s second-largest producer of tobacco that kills 1.3 million people each year in the country. India also has stringent cigarette pack warning rules.
HEALTH VS WARNINGS “HARASSMENT”
Truth Initiative, a public health nonprofit group, in March, said 60 percent of the 15 most popular streaming shows among 15- to 24-year-olds it analyzed contained depictions of tobacco, “effectively exposing 25 million young people to tobacco imagery” in 2021. But in India, companies from Netflix to Amazon to Disney, also have popular Hindi content which often shows Bollywood actors smoking, something activists say encourages tobacco use.
India is a hot market for streaming giants, and executives fear business impact and higher costs. Ambani’s JioCinema has just in recent weeks signed multiple content deals with NBCUniversal and Warner Bros, bringing popular shows like ‘Succession’ and ‘The Office’ to its platform. Together, the companies have millions of hours of content.
“New content being created needs to be changed and old content needs to be modified. It could require insertion of ad-type warning in between,” said Kaushik Moitra, partner at Bharucha & Partners who advises streaming firms and production houses. During the Friday meeting, Amazon and other companies made the point there was no way films can be edited in three months, said the second source, adding the industry decided to consult lawyers and write letters in protest.
Dylan Mohan Gray, a filmmaker who directed documentaries such as ‘Fire in the Blood’, said the new Indian rules amount to ‘harassment’, saying that murder, war, and extremely violent crime scenes were not regulated in the same way. “Smoking, which though certainly a serious public health problem, is both legal and a massive source of government revenue in this country,” he said.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Netflix Says Its $7-a-Month Ad-Supported Subscription Tier Now Has Nearly 5 Million Monthly Active Users
By Reuters | Updated: 18 May 2023
Netflix’s recently launched ad-supported tier reaches nearly 5 million active users per month, executives said on Wednesday in a pitch that emphasised the breadth of its programming to potential advertisers.
The streaming video pioneer launched a $7-per-month (roughly Rs. 500) option with commercials last November in 12 markets, including the US, as an alternative to ad-free plans that start at $10 (roughly Rs. 1,000) a month. It was designed to attract more customers and add a new revenue stream as competition for online viewers intensified.
On Wednesday, Netflix made its first presentation to advertisers at the annual ritual known as the upfronts, where networks aim to lock in ad commitments for upcoming shows. Walt Disney, Comcast and other companies also are vying for digital ad dollars.
Netflix executives stressed the company’s wide range of programming, from sci-fi hit Stranger Things to Korean drama Squid Game and upcoming action movie sequel Extraction 2.
“No other entertainment company aspires to create great movies and shows across so many genres in so many countries, and for such a broad, diverse audience,” said Bela Bajaria, chief content officer for Netflix.
Jeremi Gorman, Netflix’s president of worldwide advertising, said that global monthly active users had reached 5 million. Monthly active users count all adult profiles used on one account with ads. Children’s profiles do not run commercials.
Netflix reported 232.5 million paying subscribers around the world as of the end of March.
Executives said they wanted to work with advertisers to create new types of advertising that could only be done on a digital service. For instance, a 30-minute commercial could play out over several days, with a story unfolding each time a viewer watches a show on Netflix, co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos said.
“You can’t do that in linear TV because people don’t live on one channel,” Sarandos said.
Netflix had planned to make the ad presentation live in New York but switched to a virtual event to avoid protests from striking members of the Writers Guild of America.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
PVR-INOX Will Shut Down Around 50 Loss-Making Cinema Screens Over the Next 6 Months
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 17 May 2023
Leading cinema exhibitor PVR INOX plans to close around 50 loss-making screens, having an accelerated depreciation. “The company plans to shut down approximately 50 cinema screens over the next 6 months,” said PVR INOX in its investor’s update for the fourth quarter and financial year ending on March 31, 2023.
These properties are loss-making, or housed in malls which have reached the end of their life cycle with little hope of any revival. “The company has taken an accelerated charge of the depreciation in its books and written off the WDV of assets,” it said.
PVR-INOX has been created after the merger of two leading cinema brands PVR and INOX Leisure. The merger was effective from February 6, 2023.
The merged entity is operating 361 cinemas with 1,689 screens across 115 cities by the end of FY23 in India and Sri Lanka.
The merged entity is operating 361 cinemas with 1,689 screens across 115 cities by the end of FY23 in India and Sri Lanka.
“Of these, 9 screens have been opened till date, 15 screens are awaiting license for commercial opening and 152 screens are currently under various stages of fit out,” it said.
It has realigned all upcoming handovers of new sites for fit-outs till the time business fully recovers. “The company has robust pipeline of screens signed up for development over the next 5 years,” it added.
PVR INOX had on Monday reported a consolidated net loss of Rs 333.99 crore and revenue from operations was at Rs 1,143.17 crore for the fourth quarter that ended on March 31, 2023.
“We believe increased footfall growth is the only key driver of revenue growth in FY24, as SPH (Spend per head)/ATP (Average Ticket Price) are 16 percent/ 30 percent higher than pre-COVID level,” said Taurani.
Management is not concerned about losing some screens in the pipeline since there is a huge opportunity.
Streaming Giants Like Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video Battle for Anime Supremacy
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 11 May 2023
From R-rated sci-fi to teen biker gang adventures, streaming platforms are locked in an intensifying battle for dominance in one of the entertainment sector’s hottest and most lucrative mediums: anime. Fuelled in part by the pandemic, the popularity of the cartoons pioneered in Japan has created a goldmine for streaming giants such as Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime.
The global anime market was valued at $28.6 billion (about Rs. 2,34,825 crore) in 2022, according to Grand View Research, and is forecast to double in value by 2030. “The peak may still be ahead of us,” Aya Umezu, CEO of Tokyo-based entertainment consulting firm GEM Partners, told AFP. “We doubt the competition in anime will slow down soon.”
Globally, demand for anime increased by 35 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to industry specialist service Parrot Analytics. It is little wonder, then, that international streamers are scrambling for ways to capitalise on the surging interest. Recent years have seen Disney+, a relative latecomer to anime, start offering fan favourites also found elsewhere like Demon Slayer, Spy x Family, and Jujutsu Kaisen.
“Having them can prevent subscription cancellations — that’s how strong these IPs (intellectual properties) are,” Umezu said. Offering these titles is seen as a baseline, and far from sufficient to win the loyalty of anime fans with increasingly diverse options available. That has meant platforms are looking to either secure exclusive rights to the content or co-produce their own original anime in a bid to stand out.
Breaking open the market
Last year, Disney+ announced exclusive streaming rights to season two of the smash-hit teen biker gang saga Tokyo Revengers, part of a lucrative deal with publishing giant Kodansha.
Amazon Prime has also sought to ‘monopolise’ blockbusters, said anime expert Tadashi Sudo, including One Piece Film: Red — Japan’s highest-grossing movie last year.
Netflix has proven something of an outlier in this market, going beyond snatching up existing hits to work directly with animation studios, granting them an unusual amount of creative leeway to make new stories.
Traditionally, Japanese anime emerges from ‘production committees’ made up of publishers, TV broadcasters, toy-makers and other industry players. These have long had a key role in broadening revenue possibilities for a series, from character merchandising to gaming. Netflix ruffled industry feathers when it teamed up directly with Tokyo animation studio Production I.G in 2018, bypassing the system.
“Some [in the anime industry] were upset because they thought we would destroy what they had built over all these years,” Production I.G president Mitsuhisa Ishikawa said. He went as far as likening Netflix to the ‘Black Ships’ — the 19th-century US vessels that forced the opening of Japan after hundreds of years of trade isolation. “The domestic way of making anime was suddenly forced open,” he said.
Netflix has reaped the rewards, with its original content making it “the platform that drove the largest increase in global demand for anime in 2021”, said Christofer Hamilton of US-based Parrot Analytics.
But even streaming goliaths with worldwide influence have comparatively small audience numbers in Japan. That raises red flags for some industry players, especially publishers who want maximum exposure for anime adaptations of their manga titles and worry exclusive streaming deals would limit their reach in Japan.
There is “a clash of two opposing interests — between platforms who want more exclusives and production committee players who want as little of a monopoly (for streaming services) as possible”, said anime specialist Sudo. Experts say this conflict often leads to Netflix original deals being based on works that are less likely to become national sensations like Demon Slayer.
None of Netflix’s original anime made their top-20 most-watched list for Japan users in 2022, according to GEM Partners senior data analyst Shota Ito. The streamer is, however, an attractive prospect for studios with more commercially challenging projects that the traditional market could find too niche.
Early original content on Netflix reflected this, and was heavy on shows critics say evoked the hardcore sci-fi anime of a few decades ago. Among these was Devilman Crybaby, the tale of a ‘demon-boy’ that featured violence and nudity galore.
“My sense is that creators wanted to do something with us that they had little chance to do under the existing system,” Netflix chief anime producer Taiki Sakurai told AFP. That initial ‘experimental’ push has since given way to a broader roster, including comedy, traditional ‘shonen’ targeting young boys and even a stop-motion project starring a teddy bear. Long-standing fans also have other dedicated services to turn to, including the huge online anime library Crunchyroll.
Netflix content director Yuji Yamano is convinced the market is far from saturated, though, and believes competition will only make “the industry even more exciting”. “Globally, I only see more room for growth in anime.”
Modern Love Chennai to Stream May 18 on Amazon Prime Video
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 8 May 2023
Streaming service Prime Video on Monday announced that the Tamil version of its Modern Love anthology series will premiere on May 18. This is the third Indian adaptation of Modern Love, the internationally acclaimed Original anthology helmed by John Carney, following Modern Love Mumbai (Hindi) and Modern Love Hyderabad (Telugu).
Modern Love Chennai brings together six brilliant creators of Indian cinema Bharathiraja, Balaji Sakthivel, Rajumurugan, Krishnakumar Ramakumar, Akshay Sundher, and Thiagarajan Kumararaja.
According to the makers, the upcoming six-episode anthology presents “a bouquet of compelling and unique love stories set in the city of Chennai that explore relationships, push boundaries, and open minds”.
After the successful launch of Modern Love Mumbai and Modern Love Hyderabad, Aparna Purohit, head of India Originals, Prime Video, said the streamer is excited to bring the third Indian edition of the well-acclaimed international franchise, Modern Love, to the service.
“At Prime Video, we are constantly working towards bringing locally rooted stories that have a universal appeal. Modern Love Chennai celebrates and explores love in all its beauty, joy, and glory, hand-in-hand with the intricacies and complexities that go with the emotion. It has been wonderful collaborating with Thiagarajan Kumararaja and all the other wonderful directors to tell these heart-warming stories that explore the city’s culture and nuances,” Purohit said in a statement.
Kumararaja, the creator of the series and writer-director of one of the episodes ‘Ninaivo Oru Paravai’, said Modern Love Chennai was an interesting challenge since love stories were never his cup of tea.
“It has been a pleasure to partner with Prime Video to bring the latest Indian edition to the viewers. With these stories, we have explored and celebrated the old-world charm of the city, which remains rooted in a distinct blend of tradition and modernity. All the stories in this anthology take us through the journey of exploring the very complicated, and yet very simple, emotion — love — in all its eclectic forms,” he added.
‘Ninaivo Oru Paravai’, directed by Kumararaja, features Wamiqa and PB, and has music composed by veteran director Ilaiyaraaja. Ilaiyaraaja has also scored for ‘Margazhi’, directed by Akshay Sundher, and Bharathiraja’s “Paravai Kootil Vaazhum Maangal”.
Rajumurugan has directed ‘Lalagunda Bommaigal’, an episode that has music composed by Sean Roldan, and features Sri Gouri Priya, Vasudevan Murali, and Vasundhara.
Director Balaji Sakthivel’s chapter is titled ‘Imaigal’, starring Ashok Selvan and T.J. Bhanu, with music composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja.
‘Kaadhal Enbadhu Kannula Heart Irukkura Emoji’ is directed by Krishnakumar Ramakumar and has a score composed by G.V. Prakash Kumar. It features Ritu Varma, Samyuktha Viswanathan, Pawan Alex, and Aniiruth Kanakarajan.
‘Margazhi’ features Sanjula Sarathi, Chu Khoy Sheng, and Srikrishna Dayal, and ‘Paravai Kootil Vaazhum Maangal’ stars Kishore, Ramya Nambessan, and Vijayalakshmi.
Modern Love Chennai is produced under the banner of Tyler Durden and Kino Fist.
Hollywood Strike Intensifies Due to Claim That AI Could Do Writers’ Jobs
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 8 May 2023
The Hollywood writers’ strike broke out this week over pay, but the refusal of studios like Netflix and Disney to rule out artificial intelligence replacing human scribes in the future has only fueled anger and fear on the picket lines. With their rapidly advancing ability to eerily mimic human conversation, AI programs like ChatGPT have spooked many industries recently. The White House this week summoned Big Tech to discuss the potential risks.
As part of the weeks-long talks with studios and streamers that collapsed Monday, the Writers Guild of America asked for binding agreements to regulate the use of AI. Under the proposals, nothing written by AI can be considered “literary” or “source” material — industry terms that decide who gets royalties — and scripts written by WGA members cannot “be used to train AI.”
But according to the WGA, studios “rejected our proposal,” and countered with an offer merely to meet once a year to “discuss advancements in technology.”
“It’s nice for them to offer to have a meeting about how they’re exploiting it against us!”, joked WGA negotiating committee member Eric Heisserer, who wrote Netflix hit film Bird Box.
“Art cannot be created by a machine. You lose the heart and soul of the story… I mean, the first word is ‘artificial,'” he told AFP on the picket line outside the streaming giant’s Hollywood HQ Friday. While writers already know this, the danger is that “we have to watch tech companies destroy the business in an attempt to find out for themselves,” he said.
Not just scripts
While few television and film writers who spoke to AFP on the picket lines believe their work could be done by computers, the apparent conviction of studios and streamers that it can has been an extra slap in the face.
They fear that belt-tightening executives in Hollywood, where Silicon Valley companies have upended many traditional practices such as long-term contracts for writers, may seek to cut costs further by getting computers to write their next hit shows.
Comments by top Hollywood executives at this week’s Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills will have done nothing to quell writers’ concerns. “In the next three years, you’re going to see a movie that was written by AI made… a good one,” said movie producer Todd Lieberman.
“Not just scripts. Editing, all of it… storyboarding a movie, anything,” added Fox Entertainment CEO, Rob Wade. “AI in the future, maybe not next year or the year after, but if we’re talking 10 years? AI is going to be able to do absolutely all of these things.”
The studios’ own account of the breakdown in WGA talks offered a more nuanced take. In a briefing note shared with AFP, they said writers do not in fact want to outlaw AI, and appear happy to use it “as part of their creative process” — so long as it does not affect their pay.
That scenario “requires a lot more discussion, which we’ve committed to doing,” the studios said.
For Leila Cohan, a 39-year-old writer on Netflix smash hit Bridgerton, the only usefulness of AI for writers is limited to “busy work” such as coming up with names for characters. But she predicted that studios “could start making incredibly bad first drafts with AI and then hiring writers to do a rewrite.”
“I think that’s certainly a very scary possibility… it’s very smart that we’re addressing this now,” she said.
Indeed, the last Hollywood strike in 2007–08 won writers the right to be paid for online viewing of their shows or films — highly prescient, at a time when streaming was in its infancy. Back then, Netflix had barely started online viewing, and the likes of Disney+ and Apple TV+ were more than a decade away.
Even for sci-fi writer Ben Ripley, who believes there is no role whatsoever for AI in writing, introducing legislation now “to put guardrails up” is “very necessary.” Writers “have to be original,” he said. “Artificial intelligence is the antithesis of originality.”
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