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.”
OTT Platforms in India Using 5G Networks Without Paying Up, Claims COAI DG
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 15 September 2023
Cellular Operators Association of India Director General S P Kochhar on Thursday made a case for sharing profit between OTT players and telecom companies for using 5G networks.
“While telcos carry their traffic of voice and data, majority of the use of these networks is done by OTT players who load these networks with massive amounts of data which they carry to the end users.
“They get it from content providers, put it on their platform and deliver it to the end users without paying anything to the network providers who have created the network for them to roll on,” Kochhar said.
OTT players, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, SonyLIV have significant user base in India.
He said over-the-top platforms benefit from the roll-out of advanced technologies like 5G.
“It is like building a house and staying in one floor and other floors are given out on rent which are used by the tenant for commercial purposes but he doesn’t pay the rent.
“This is very silly. If I have built something and I give it out on rent, I expect some value to come out of it. I’m not saying that the entire amount of profit that you earn will come to me but some amount should,” he pointed out.
Telcos are facing financial distress because of their huge capex that they have incurred to roll out 5G networks, he added.
“We are asking for a fair share for setting up, maintaining and running these networks,” Kochhar added.
Reports suggest that India’s video OTT market is expected to touch $12.5 billion (nearly Rs. 1,03,890 crore) by 2030 on the back of access to better networks, digital connectivity and smartphones.
Viacom18 Bags Indian Cricket Digital and TV Media Rights for Nearly Rs. 6,000 Crore
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 1 September 2023
Viacom18 on Thursday created a near monopoly in Indian cricket broadcasting sphere by bagging both TV and digital rights of the national team’s home series for the next five years with a cumulative bid of approximately Rs. 6000 crore, beating Star India and Sony in a three-way battle.
The BCCI had invited separate e-bids for both linear (TV) and digital for best price discovery.
“Viacom18 paid Rs. 3101 crore (approximately) for digital and Rs. 2862 crore for linear (TV). As has been the trend, digital has fetched more in Rs. 5963 crore (approximately) deal.
“With IPL digital rights being bought by Viacom for Rs. 26,000 crore plus, they now have almost all the high profile cricket properties save IPL linear (TV) and ICC events,” a broadcasting industry source, tracking developments closely, told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
The rights will come into effect with India’s three-match home series against Australia beginning September 22 and end on March 31, 2028.
India will be playing 88 international games across three formats including 25 Tests, 27 ODIs and 36 T20Is with per match value of the deal standing around Rs. 67.76 crore. This is nearly Rs. 7.76 crore more than last cycle’s Rs. 60 crore per match value.
However, the BCCI is getting Rs. 175 crore less than Rs. 6138 crore it received during last cycle which had more games, specifically 102. If one looks at the prevailing market sentiments , it is not a bad price to fetch as the per match valuation has increased. One needs to factor in that only marquee Test matches and series versus England and Australia will fetch a decent advertisement revenue. For matches against other nations, it is only the T20 which is the cash cow.
India will play Australia in 21 games and will be pitted against England in 18 matches across three formats during the next five years.
The BCCI fell way short of the billion dollar mark (at least by Rs. 2300 crore) and one of the reasons forthat could be the declining popularity of the ODI format and there are 27 of them in the next cycle.
“One day bilateral series save World Cup year should be done away with as it doesn’t bring requisite revenues. With so many T20 leagues also happening around the world, the viewers’ fatigue should also be taken into account,” a broadcasting industry veteran said.
He also provided an interesting take on how the potential bidders do their mathematics and arrive at a particular figure.
“In case of 25 Tests, you have 15 Tests against England and Australia at home. The kind of pitches that is being prepared for Test matches in India, the broadcaster has literally no chance on most of the occasions to commercially exploit the fifth day unless there is a flat deck.
“At times games finish during first session of fourth day. Just calculate how many potential seconds of ad revenue you can lose,” he explained.
Global Video Gaming Revenue Expected to Hit $187.7 Billion in 2023 as Console Sales Rise by Over 7 Percent
By Reuters | Updated: 8 August 2023
The global video games market would return to growth in 2023 on the back of strong sales of consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation 5, according to gaming market research firm Newzoo.
Newzoo said it expects industry revenue to rise 2.6 percent to $187.7 billion (roughly Rs. 15,54,231 crore) in 2023, driven by a 7.4 percent rise in console sales in the year. Gaming revenue fell 5 percent in 2022, according to the research firm’s data.
“Many highly anticipated delayed titles launched in 2023, with more scheduled for release in H2 (second half), and the supply of new consoles has finally caught up to demand,” said Newzoo analyst Tom Wijman.
PlayStation maker Sony said in July it expects to sell 25 million units of PS5 consoles this year, a record for any PlayStation devices, as supply chain issues ease.
Market research firm Circana said US consumer spending on video game hardware was up by 23 percent in the first half of 2023. But spending on video game content was flat during the period, as gamers stuck with proven franchises such as Activision Blizzard’s “Call of Duty”.
Earlier this month, “Apex Legends” publisher Electronic Arts forecast downbeat net bookings for the September quarter due to lower in-game spending on items such as character skins. However, the company maintained its 2024 bookings forecast as it expects to debut “EA Sports FC”, its football franchise game, in September.
Newzoo expects mobile games to account for nearly 50 percent of global gaming revenues in 2023 even as privacy policies of Apple and Google hamper their monetization.
Newzoo also said cloud gaming, which allows gamers to stream titles directly on devices irrespective of their technical specifications, has the potential to rack up 43.1 million paying users by the end of the year.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Barbie, Starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, Crosses $1 Billion at Global Box Office
By ANI | Updated: 7 August 2023 13:41 IST
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling starrer fantasy comedy-drama film Barbie has now crossed $1 billon (approximately Rs. 8,273 crore) globally in just its third weekend after its release on July 21. Taking to Instagram, the makers announced the news of the box office collections landmark with a special post which they captioned, “Here’s to our incredible Barbies and Kens from all around the world for making our Barbie dreams come true. We’re excited to share that #BarbieTheMovie has hit $1 Billion at the Global Box Office.”
According to Variety, a US-based media house, this makes director Greta Gerwig the first-ever solo female filmmaker with a billion-dollar film. Three other billion-dollar blockbusters were co-directed by women, including Frozen ($1.3 billion) and Frozen 2 ($1.45 billion) both co-directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, as well as Captain Marvel ($1.1 billion), co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, as per Variety.
Barbie hit the milestone just after 17 days of its release, becoming the fastest Warner Bros. release to join the $1 billion club. Earlier the fantasy drama film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 held that record for the studio at 19 days. It’s only the second blockbuster this year and the sixth of the pandemic era to cross $1 billion, following Spider-Man: No Way Home, Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World Dominion and Avatar: The Way of Water, reported Variety.
Barbie is directed by Greta Gerwig, and stars Margot Robbie as the famous doll and Ryan Gosling as her boyfriend Ken. As per Variety, Greta’s directorial Barbie raked in $155 million (approximately Rs. 1,282 crore) in its opening weekend, marking the biggest debut ever for a film directed by a woman. Barbie cost $145 million (approximately Rs. 1,200 crore) to produce, not including a marketing campaign that propelled the movie into the mainstream long before it landed in theatres. Gerwig, the Oscar-nominated director of Lady Bird and Little Women, co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Noah Baumbach.
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling star as the stereotypical versions of Barbie and Ken, who leave the world of Barbieland on a quest for self-discovery in the real world. The cast also includes America Ferrera, Issa Rae, Dua Lipa, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, Helen Mirren, John Cena, and Will Ferrell, among others.
- Release Date21 July 2023
- GenreComedy, Romance
- CastMargot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Simu Liu, Kate McKinnon, Ariana Greenblatt, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Will Ferrell, Issa Rae, Michael Cera, Hari Nef, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Rhea Perlman, Ncuti Gatwa, Emerald Fennell, Sharon Rooney, Scott Evans, Ana Cruz Kayne, Connor Swindells, Ritu Arya, Jamie Demetriou
- DirectorGreta Gerwig
- ProducerMargot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Robbie Brenner, David Heyman
Netflix Cuts Ad Prices, Restructures Partnership With Microsoft: Report
By Reuters | Updated: 27 July 2023
Netflix is restructuring its advertising partnership with Microsoft for its lower-priced ad-supported subscription plan and is also cutting ad prices, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The streaming company launched the $7(roughly Rs. 560)-per-month plan with commercials last year in 12 markets, including the US, to attract more customers and selected Microsoft as its technology and sales partner for the offering, partly because it offered to pay a revenue guarantee, the report said.
Netflix is now reworking the agreement to reduce the revenue guarantee due to slowing growth of the ad tier, the report said, adding that company executives are frustrated that Microsoft has not sold more ad inventory.
In addition, Netflix has held early discussions to sell ads through other partners apart from Microsoft, and has also offered them better deals, the report said.
Some advertisers have agreed to pay Netflix roughly $39 (roughly Rs. 3,100) to $45 (roughly Rs. 3,600) per 1,000 viewers in recent deals, according to ad buyers, down from around $45 to $55 (roughly Rs. 4,500), WSJ said.
Microsoft and Netflix did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Last week, the video-streaming company reported a lackluster revenue rise which sparked concerns of a longer road to growth from its new initiatives, with co-CEO Greg Peters cautioning it would take “several quarters” to see returns from those efforts.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Toronto International Film Festival Unveils Packed Lineup Despite Actors’ Strike
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 25 July 2023
The Toronto International Film Festival, North America’s largest, on Monday, unveiled an A-list lineup of world premieres amid the Hollywood strikes, including movies starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Seth Rogen. The festival, which has been a launchpad for numerous Oscar-winning movies, is moving ahead with plans for its September 7 to 17 event in the face of doubts over whether the big names will come to promote their work. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) is on strike in a battle with studios over pay and other work conditions, meaning that its members generally cannot promote films produced by studios and streamers involved in the dispute.
However, SAG-AFTRA negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told Hollywood news outlet Deadline that actors could benefit from some kind of ‘interim agreement’ to head to Toronto in support of independent features. On the list of world premieres slated for TIFF are several expected award contenders including ‘Dumb Money’, starring Rogen and Paul Dano, about the amateur investors who turned GameStop into a Wall Street phenomenon in 2021. De Niro stars in actor Tony Goldwyn’s ‘Ezra’, about a man (Bobby Cannavale) who moves back in with his father (De Niro) after blowing up his career and marriage.
Other world premieres include Taika Waititi’s sports comedy ‘Next Goal Wins’, French filmmaker Ladj Ly’s drama ‘Les Indesirables’, Atom Egoyan’s ‘Seven Veils’ starring Amanda Seyfried, and Michael Keaton’s ‘Knox Goes Away’, starring Pacino. Also on tap is the international premiere of awards hopeful ‘The Holdovers’ from director Alexander Payne (Sideways) about a teacher (Paul Giamatti) tasked with supervising students at a boarding school who cannot go home for Christmas break.
TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey said in a statement that the lineup showcased a “rich tapestry of talent, vision, and storytelling.” The Toronto film fest is a key part of the fall festival lineup, along with Venice and Telluride, at which movies hoping to build early Oscars momentum typically hold lavish premieres.
TIFF’s annual People’s Choice Award has become an increasingly accurate Oscars bellwether, predicting eventual best picture winners such as ‘Nomadland’, which took home the Academy Award in 2021, and ‘Green Book’. The event only returned to full strength in 2022, after two years of online or hybrid events staged amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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