Hulu and Amazon Prime Video chip away at Netflix’s dominance

Netflix is still the No. 1 subscription streaming service in the U.S., according to a new report from eMarketer, but rivals, including Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, are starting to cut into its market share. The analyst firm forecasts 182.5 million U.S. consumers will subscribe to over-the-top streaming services this year, or 53.3% of the population. Netflix is still the top choice here, with 158.8 million viewers in 2019, and it is continuing to grow. However, its share of the U.S. over-the-top subscription market will decline even as its total subscriber numbers climb, the report said.

Though Netflix announced in Q2 the first drop in U.S. users in nearly a decade, eMarketer says Netflix will see strong growth throughout the rest of the year — up 7.6% over 2018. This will be driven by the new seasons of popular series like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Stranger Things,” as well as Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese’s new movie, “The Irishman.”

But Netflix is no longer the only option for streaming video these days. Back in 2014, it had 90% of the market. In 2019, its share will have shrunk to 87%.

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This decline in market share is attributed to the rise of rival services, like Hulu and Prime Video.

Hulu, for example, is estimated to reach 75.8 million U.S. viewers this year, or 41.5% of subscription service users. The number of viewers will also increase by 17.5% in 2019, but this is a drop from 2018’s big growth spurt of 49.6%

Prime Video, meanwhile will remain the second-largest subscription over-the-top video provider in the U.S. in 2019, the report says, with 96.5 million viewers. That’s up 8.8% over last year.

The firm estimates Prime Video will reach a third of the U.S. population by 2021.

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Netflix market share dominance is about to face new threats as well, most notably from the Disney-Hulu-ESPN bundle, which is priced the same as a standard U.S. Netflix subscription.

“Netflix has faced years of strong competition for viewers, coming from streaming video platforms, pay-TV services, and even video games,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst Eric Haggstrom. “While there is no true ‘Netflix killer’ on the market, Disney’s upcoming bundle with Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ probably comes closest. Netflix’s answer has been to stick to what has made it the market leader—outspending the competition on both licensed and original content, offering customers a competitive price,” he added.

Disney isn’t the only one with a new streaming service in the works, though.

Apple TV+ is poised to launch later this year, and is said to be spending $6 billion on content — far more than the $1 billion that had been reported. It’s also said to be considering a competitive $9.99 per month price point.

NBCUniversal and AT&T WarnerMedia are also poised to enter the market, the latter with HBO Max. And following the CBS-Viacom merger, the combined company is looking to beef up its own platforms, CBS All Access and the ad-supported Pluto TV, with the newly acquired content.

“The market for streaming video has been driven by an explosion in high-end original content and low subscription costs relative to traditional pay TV,” Haggstrom noted. “A strong consumer appetite for new shows and movies has driven viewer growth for services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, as well as the broader market.”

Original Content podcast: ‘Years and Years’ takes an unsettling look at the next decade

“Years and Years” is an unusual show. It’s a co-production of HBO and the BBC, and in the course of six hourlong episodes, it covers a span of more than 10 years in our near future.

During that time, we see the rise of a terrifying Trump-style politician in the United Kingdom named Vivian Rook (played by Emma Thompson), along with lots more political, economic and technological upheaval. All of this is seen through the eyes of Manchester’s Lyons family — grandmother Muriel and adult siblings Rory, Edith, Daniel and Rosie, plus their spouses and children.

No one in the family is a major power player; they simply watch everything change with a growing sense of dread. That, in large part, is what makes the show effective — it feels true to the experience of trying to get on with your life while the world shifts around you.

On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we spend the entire hour reviewing the show. We had some reservations about the finale — which seemed to abandon the strengths of the previous episodes — but even so, we were impressed by the series, and by the way it brought so many of our fears to life.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
0:23 “Years and Years” review
30:07 “Years and Years” spoiler discussion

What lower Netflix pricing tells us about competing in India

At a conference in New Delhi early last year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was confronted with a question that his company has been asked many times over the years. Would he consider lowering the subscription cost in India?

It’s a tactic that most Silicon Valley companies have adapted to in the country over the years. Uber rides aren’t as costly in India as they are elsewhere. Spotify and Apple Music cost less than $2 per month to users in the country. YouTube Premium as well as subscriptions to U.S. news outlets such as WSJ and New York Times are also priced significantly lower compared to the prices they charge in their home turf.

Hastings had also come prepared: He acknowledged that the entertainment viewing industry in India is very different from other parts of the world. To be sure, much of the pay-TV in India is supported by ads and the access fee remains too low ($5). But that was not going to change how Netflix likes to roll, he said.

“We want to be sensitive to great stories and to fund those great stories by investing in local content,” he said. “So yes, our strategy is to build up the local content — and of course we have got the global content — and try to uplevel the industry,” he said, identifying movie-goers who spend about Rs 500 ($7.25) or more on tickets each month as Netflix’s potential customers.

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Indian commuters walking below a poster of “Sacred Games”, an original show produced by Netflix (Image: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Less than a year and a half later, Netflix has had a change of heart. The company today rolled out a lower-priced subscription plan in India, a first for the company. The monthly plan, which restricts usage of the service to mobile devices only, is priced at Rs 199 ($2.8) — a third of the least expensive plan in the U.S.

At a press conference in New Delhi today, Netflix executives said that the lower-priced subscription tier is aimed at expanding the reach of its service in the country. “We want to really broaden the audience for Netflix, want to make it more accessible, and we knew just how mobile-centric India has been,” said Ajay Arora, Director of Product Innovation at Netflix.

The move comes at a time when Netflix has raised its subscription prices in the U.S. by up to 18% and in the UK by up to 20%.

Netflix’s strategy shift in India illustrates a bigger challenge that Silicon Valley companies have been facing in the country for years. If you want to succeed in the country, either make most of your revenue from ads, or heavily subsidize your costs.

But whether finding users in India is a success is also debatable.

With help from ‘Game of Thrones,’ HBO conquers Netflix in Emmy nominations

When the Emmy nominations were announced last year, Netflix had a big win, overtaking HBO for the first time. But this year, HBO is back in the lead, with 137 nominations compared to Netflix’s 117.

The Hollywood Reporter has tallied up the just-announced nominations, with Amazon Prime Video getting 47 nods and Hulu receiving 20.

HBO, meanwhile, didn’t just beat Netflix — it also beat its own record for most nominations in a single year. That’s good news for WarnerMedia, which is hoping that HBO branding can help its upcoming streaming service stand out from the crowd.

That said, its most-nominated show is one that just ended — “Game of Thrones,” which received 32 nominations, making it the most-nominated show of the year, and setting the record for the most nominations that any show has received for a single year.

That’s right: These are nominations for the show’s divisive final season, including nods for Outstanding Drama Series, Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Emilia Clarke), Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Kit Harington), Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Gwendoline Christie, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams) and Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Alfie Allen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage).

Also: I didn’t hate the finale, but I definitely raised my eyebrows when I saw that “The Iron Throne” had been nominated for Best Directing and Best Writing.

Coming in second among individual shows was Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which won a whole bunch of comedy Emmys last year and snagged 20 nominations this year, including Outstanding Comedy Series.

Among Netflix’s shows, “When They See Us” scored 16 nominations (including Best Limited Series) and “Russian Doll” received 13 (including Outstanding Comedy Series). Amazon’s “Fleabag” and Hulu’s “Handmaid’s Tale” received 11 nominations apiece.

The Primetime Emmy Awards will air on Sunday, September 22.

Daily Crunch: HBO Max is coming in 2020

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. AT&T’s new streaming service HBO Max arrives in 2020, will be the exclusive home of ‘Friends’

Hooray, we don’t have to call it the Untitled WarnerMedia streaming service anymore! Instead, it’s going to be named HBO Max, and it will launch next spring with more than 10,000 hours of content available to subscribers.

The service won’t be limited to HBO content — hence the availability of “Friends” — but the naming indicates how important HBO as a TV brand is to consumers and to parent company AT&T.

2. Visa funds $40M for no-password crypto vault Anchorage

Visa and Andreessen Horowitz are betting even bigger on cryptocurrency, funding a big round for fellow Facebook Libra Association member Anchorage’s omnimetric blockchain security system.

3. Nintendo Switch Lite’s trade-off of whimsy for practicality is a good one

Nintendo revealed a new Switch Lite version of its current-generation console today, which attaches the controllers permanently, shrinks the hardware a bit and adds a touch more battery life. It also takes away the “Switch” part of the equation, because you can only use it handheld, instead of attached to a TV or as a unique tabletop gaming experience.

Opera Opay Nigeria

4. Opera founded startup OPay raises $50M for mobile finance in Nigeria

OPay’s raise tracks greater influence in African tech from China.

5. Flaws in hospital anesthesia and respiratory devices allow remote tampering

Security researchers have found a vulnerability in a networking protocol used in popular hospital anesthesia and respiratory machines, which they say if exploited could be used to maliciously tamper with the devices.

6. Snapchat announces new shows from Serena Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others

The shows will begin airing this month. They’re all exclusive to Snapchat, and many of them come from creators who have a substantial following on other platforms

7. Understanding mental health in Silicon Valley, with professional coach and former investor Jerry Colonna

In a conversation with Connie Loizos, Colonna discusses how previously developed standards of success can impact your ability to lead and find fulfillment at work. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

AT&T’s new streaming service HBO Max arrives in 2020, will be the exclusive home of ‘Friends’

AT&T’s acquisition of HBO goes beyond just offering premium TV programming – the company revealed on Tuesday that it’s going to call its new streaming service HBO Max, and that this will launch next spring, with over 10,000 hours of content available to subscribers.

It’ll have ‘Friends,’ dear readers, which is all that matters in the modern streaming wars where weirdly services compete for dominion over a couple of decade-plus-year old TV shows including ‘The Office’ and this highly-unrelatable 90s NBC sitcom.

HBO Max won’t offer exclusively HBO content, as you can probably tell by the availability fo Friends, but the Wall Street Journal reports that the naming is meant to indicate how important HBO as a TV brand is to consumers. In other words, they’re going to make the most of that purchase, even if it dilutes the actual HBO brand in the process. It’s beginning to become much more clear why HBO CEO Richard Plepler resigned in February.

The new service enters a teeming field of competitors, including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix and many more I can’t even remember off the top of my head. It’s also not launching until after Apple puts live its own Apple TV+ service, and Disney+ comes online in November, and per the WSJ, it’ll cost “slightly more” than HBO’s currently $14.99 per month pricing for Go alone.

AT&T is spending on content, however, including the high purchase price for ‘Friends’ rights, as well as development deals with a number of top talents from the film and television industry, including Reese Witherspoon, Greg Berlanti and more. Future CW shows will also reside in HBO Max instead of on Netflix, which is bad news for my habit of bingeing subpar DC superhero TV including ‘Arrow’ and ‘The Flash.’

Video platform Kaltura adds advanced analytics

You may not be familiar with Kaltura‘s name, but chances are you’ve used the company’s video platform at some point or another, given that it offers a variety of video services for enterprises, educational institutions and video on demand platforms, including HBO,  Phillips, SAP, Stanford and others. Today, the company announced the launch of an advanced analytics platform for its enterprise and educational users.

This new platform, dubbed Kaltura Analytics for Admins, will provide its users with features like user-level reports. This may sound like a minor feature, since you probably don’t care about the exact details of a given user’s interactions with your video, but it will allow businesses to link this kind of behavior to other metrics. With this, you could measure the ROI of a given video by linking video watch time and sales, for example. This kind of granularity wasn’t possible with the company’s existing analytics systems. Companies and schools using the product will also get access to time period comparisons to help admins identify trends, deeper technology and geolocation reports, as well as real-time analytics for live events.

eCDN QoS dashboard

“Video is a unique data type in that it has deep engagement indicators for measurement, both around video creation – what types of content are being created by whom, as well as around video consumption and engagement with content – what languages were selected for subtitles, what hot-spots were clicked upon in video,” said Michal Tsur, President & General Manager of Enterprise and Learning at Kaltura. “Analytics is a very strategic area for our customers. Both for tech companies who are building on our VPaaS, as well as for large organizations and universities that use our video products for learning, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, marketing and sales.”

Tsur also tells me that the company is looking at how to best use machine learning to give its customers even deeper insights into how people watch videos — and potentially even offer predictive analytics in the long run.

HBO cancels daily news show ‘Vice News Tonight’

Just ahead of the 2016 presidential election, HBO announced its plans to carry a nightly news show courtesy of Vice News, called “Vice News Tonight.” That show is now being canceled, which puts an end to HBO’s seven-year-long relationship with the new media brand Vice Media, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter out on Monday.

HBO and Vice had expanded their relationship over the years, with a 2013 deal for a weekly news magazine, “Vice;” plus multiple documentary specials and, later, the launch of the nightly news program.

The goal with “Vice News Tonight” was to reach a younger audience who had grown “increasingly skeptical of daily broadcast news,” Vice had explained in its announcement at the time of launch.

The media company argued that the nightly news format hadn’t changed in roughly 60 years, but the way younger viewers consumed information has. They no longer watch nightly news out of obligation, but because the show has earned their time and attention, the company said.

The program grew to reach an audience of over 500,000 viewers per episode and won five Emmys, but still faced a ton of competition in the broader news market.

The show also meant to appeal to younger viewers who have cut ties with traditional pay TV. But today, these viewers have a number of ways to stream the news — including through live TV internet services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, or Hulu with Live TV, for example, as well as via the streaming platforms themselves, like within Roku’s The Roku Channel or dedicated apps for media players like Apple TV. They can also now get the news through other dedicated news streaming services, like CBSN, CBS All Access, NBC News Now, Cheddar, or even on social networks like Snapchat.

Today, news streamer NewsON announced it was coming to Amazon Fire TV, as another example.

In addition, THR points out that “Vice News Tonight” was more of a passion project of former HBO CEO Richard Plepler, who left earlier this year following AT&T’s acquisition of WarnerMedia.

Along with the cancellation of “Vice News Tonight,” Vice Media news chief Josh Tryrangiel will depart at the end of the month, a report from The Wrap notes. Meanwhile, former New York Post CEO and publisher Jesse Angelo will come on board as president of global news and entertainment.

“Jesse is a news pioneer and has built an incredible career by successfully expanding the world of publishing into wider forms of distribution through a multitude of platforms, including digital, social, audio and television,” Vice Media CEO Nancy Dubuc, in a statement. “With him joining our executive team, Vice’s strategic growth plan for news will begin and complement wider partnership opportunities already underway. We’ve had a great run with our friends at HBO and now we’re excited to launch our news products on new platforms, solidifying our place as one of the most trusted brands out there, drawing the youngest audience of anyone in hard news.”

The cancellation follows layoffs of 10% of Vice staff in February and the hiring of Katie Drummond, previously deputy editor at Medium, as SVP of Vice Digital in March.

Though “Vice News Tonight” may be over, it’s not the end of Vice’s streaming platform presence. The company is reportedly working on a new show for Hulu, a report a few months ago said. That deal hasn’t yet been announced. And Vice is shopping a daily news show to other networks and platforms, THR says.

“Vice News Tonight” will end in September when the contract is up.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia might be punting on its original streaming service plans

WarnerMedia’s plans for a three-tiered streaming service appear to be influx. The AT&T-owned company is reportedly scrapping that idea and opting instead to offer HBO, Cinemax and the library of Warner Bros. content in a single subscription service that would cost between $16 and $17 a month, Wall Street Journal reported citing unnamed sources.

The service would first be offered as a beta product later this year and could be offered broadly as early as next March.

TechCrunch will update the article if WarnerMedia responds to a request for comment.

This latest development follows a number of changes over at WarnerMedia, including the departure of HBO CEO Richard Pleper and Turner president David Levy.

Former NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt has joined as chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer, putting him in charge of HBO, TBS, truTV and the WarnerMedia streaming service.

AT&T first opened up in November about its plans for its WarnerMedia streaming service. The company said at the time, that the service would have three tiers — an entry-level, movie-focused service; a premium tier with original programming and blockbusters as well as a bundle that includes them both.

During an earnings call a few months later,  AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson expounded on the service and said it would have a “two-sided business model.” The idea was to include subscription-based, commercial-free programming on the high-end as well as an entry-level portion of the service will be ad-supported, according to the Stephenson’s comments at the time..

Whatever the structure ultimately ends up being, the aim is to leverage the entertainment properties AT&T gained by way of its Time Warner acquisition last year.

‘Game of Thrones’ season finale sets record as HBO’s most-viewed episode ever

Despite disappointing many longtime fans of the show, the “Game of Thrones” series finale set a new record for HBO as the most viewed episode in the network’s history. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the episode reached 13.6 million viewers during its initial airing on Sunday night, which rose to 19.3 million once replays and early streaming was included. The record was previously held for a short time by the season’s penultimate episode, which drew in 12.48 million viewers when first aired and a total of 18.4 million during its first night.

The eighth and last season of “Game of Thrones,” which premiered in 2011, averaged 44.2 million viewers through Sunday after streaming, on-demand, DVRs and replays were added in, or 10 million more than the season 7 average, said HBO .

The previous HBO series finale with the most viewers was “The Sopranos” with 11.9 million viewers, though that was in 2007, before streaming and other digital services took off.