The Los Angeles-based company has already launched a beta version of its streaming service, Ficto, and yesterday announced a host of new shows that will appear on the app later this year.
Ficto is bringing to market adaptations of bestselling books and original productions which will be released with theatrical films and has plans in the pipeline for other forms of scripted and unscripted entertainment.
On the back end of its service, Fiction Riot is using blockchain-based tools to create a more transparent way to share revenue and manage payments among writers, artists and producers of new series, according to company founder and chief executive Mike Esola.
Meanwhile, Quibi is reportedly looking to raise another $1 billion to keep up the pace of spending big dollars for big names to draw new audiences to its service. The company is reportedly spending $5 million per hour of storytelling for some of its titles.
Both services are entering a highly competitive and increasingly fragmented entertainment landscape with many big studios building moats around their content in the form of exclusive subscription-based streaming services. Both Quibi and Ficto see short form as a way to break through with a new kind of storytelling built for mobile media first.
Alongside the series sourced from Ficto’s online “Million for Million campaign“, which will reward $1 million to the first producer of an episode that reaches 1 million unique views on the site.
“Within a week of publicizing our Million for Million campaign, we received over 400 submissions from professional and aspiring filmmakers with premium content,” said Mike Esola, Fiction Riot co-founder and chief executive. “From those, we accepted 20 outstanding series that rival anything we’ve seen across streaming services today, and are now scheduled to become available on Ficto in the coming months”
Through Ficto, Fiction Riot plans to premiere more than 50 series at launch and will release new shows weekly.
Riftwar Saga – One of the longest-running fantasy book franchises, these Raymond E. Feist novels have sold over 20 million copies. Atomic Blonde and 300 screenwriter Kurt Johnstad is adapting a series for Ficto which will focus on the first three books.
What’s impressive is that Fiction Riot is signing all of these deals without the over $1 billion Quibi is raising for its own app-based service, whose launch date continues to be something of a moving target.
“We’ve raised under $15 million,” says Esola of Fiction Riot’s financing.
In some cases, Esola said, it’s as easy as picking up shows from the cable companies that can no longer afford them. He points to the success of Netflix’s hit “You”, which the streaming service picked up from Lifetime.
“I call it the great migration of content,” Esola says.
For Fiction Riot the pitch is better revenue sharing and economics for the people involved in the productions and better tools for fan engagement that are native to mobile devices.
Things like click to purchase, push notifications for announcements of live streams or special features, and opportunities for greater interactivity for audiences with shows, are all options on mobile platforms that are much harder to pull off with linear television, or streaming, says Esola.
“It’s up to startups like us to address the grassroots movement,” for content creators, Esola says. “It will never happen from the dinosaurs. They’re never going to agree to it.”
Amazon Fire TV’s lead over rival streaming platform Roku is widening. In January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Amazon said it had “well over” 30 million Fire TV users compared with Roku’s then 27 million active users. In roughly four months’ time, Fire TV has grown to over 34 million active users, according to new statements made by Amazon this week. Meanwhile, Roku grew its user base by 2 million in the first quarter of 2019 to reach 29.1 million active users, per its earnings report this month.
The new figures for Amazon Fire TV were shared yesterday by Fire TV GM and Global Head of Marketing, Growth & Engagement, Jen Prenner, at the Pay TV Show during a panel titled “The Battle for Your Living Room: Sticks, Boxes, and Smart TV Platforms.”
Amazon also claims that Fire TV has grown to become the No. 1 streaming media player platform in the U.S., U.K., Germany, India, and Japan, thanks to its strong sales momentum.
When Amazon first announced its user number at CES, there was some question as to how those figures were calculated. Roku typically defines its “active” user as someone who has streamed through its platform over the past 30 days. Amazon, at the time, had only spoken about users more generally, without characterizing them as “actives.”
However, yesterday’s comments referenced “active users,” Amazon says, not just a total number of users.
Roku dominated U.S. streaming player market share last year, but Fire TV has likely gained ground internationally. Today, the Fire TV ships worldwide to a wide range of countries, all of which can use the device to stream Prime Video content. Roku, meanwhile, ships to a couple dozen countries including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, and parts of Latin America. However, Roku last year had to stop sales in Mexico until it addressed issues involving access to pirated content, which were only resolved in October.
Fire TV also benefits from Amazon’s frequent and steep discounts on its hardware devices — including those over the holiday shopping period, where Fire TV Stick became a best seller. It’s been known to sell devices at cost or below, in an effort to gain market share. Plus, today’s consumers may be drawn to Fire TV because of its built-in access to Alexa — something that makes it one of the cheapest ways to get the popular voice assistant into the home.
Amazon is focused this year on expanding access to content and Alexa voice controls on Fire TV. On the content front, it recently came to an agreement with Google that allows it to finally bring YouTube to Fire TV, and following that, YouTube TV and YouTube Kids. It also has plans to support both Disney+ and Apple TV+ later this year, the company says.
Media center app Plex today is rolling out new features to expand upon its partnership with TIDAL, the streaming music service it began working with last November. Before, Plex subscribers could fill in the missing albums from artists in their library by way of TIDAL, but this option was only available within playlists. Now it’s available in users’ own music collection, too. In addition, a new feature called Artist TV allows you to play the artist’s video catalog along with other similar videos, with just a click.
While Plex has always had a sort of casual, conversational tone to its various product announcements, this weird and confusing bit of fiction had its community members scratching their heads.
Here’s a sampling:
After he sweeps away our garlic-soaked crumbs, Hector declares that he is a huge fan of Steely Dan (the band, not William S. Burrough’s prop that, er, electrifies the masterful Naked Lunch).
And I say to him (YES WITH MY MOUTH FULL BECAUSE THIS POINT IS THAT IMPORTANT) “Sure, right, you’re a big Steely Dan fan. But does your library have ‘Everyone’s Gone to the Movies (Demo Version)’?
And he stares down at his fancy Italian leather shoes and you can see his face turn the slightest shade of primavera red, and being the kinda guy who doesn’t want to embarrass friends and waiters, I said, “Hey Nineteen, don’t feel Deacon blue.” Two quick song title references helped lighten the mood up a Peg. “I can show you how you can complete your collection in like 60 seconds.”
Somewhere in this more than 2,000-word (!!) story is a mention of the changes to Plex’s software.
Plex members weren’t thrilled about the lack of a tl;dr since they just wanted to know what was new and how it worked.
While Plex’s announcement itself bombed, the actual updates are still worth noting.
For starters, a new “complete your collection” feature will allow a Plex Pass member who signed up for the discounted TIDAL subscription to fill out their music library by adding songs, albums or the artist’s entire library by way of TIDAL. These additions will then appear next your owned collection of music, making it more seamless to stream your favorites.
Of course, you could just stream directly from TIDAL, but Plex’s newer focus has been making itself a one-stop shop for all your media — not just the music and videos you already own.
Today, that means you can access your own music and video library, your subscription-based music collection, your podcasts, streaming TV (via your digital antenna), your DVR recordings, your photos, your personalized news and even web shows. (It still lacks a way to jump to your streaming subscriptions, similar to Amazon’s Prime Video channels or The Roku Channel, but this is something Plex said it has planned.)
The other new feature arriving today, “Artist TV,” also leverages TIDAL to offer music video streaming.
The company initially likened it to your own version of MTV’s TRL. But it’s not about playing the most popular hits — so that’s not an apt comparison. Instead, Artist TV will kick off a stream of an artist’s videos when you click its button on an artist’s profile. It then intersperses these with videos from similar artists. In other words, it’s more like an “Artist Radio”-type of feature, but with video.
The features are rolling out today on Android mobile, Android TV, iOS and Apple TV with other platforms supported soon.
Start spreading the news. Netflix is coming to New York City in a big way.
The streaming media service has committed to invest up to $100 million to build a production hub and hire hundreds of new staffers in the Big Apple, according to a statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
“New York has created a film-friendly environment that’s home to some of the best creative and executive talent in the world, and we’re excited to provide a place for them at Netflix with our production hub,” said Jason Hariton, Director of Worldwide Studio Operations & Real Estate at Netflix, in a statement.
The new corporate offices Netflix has planned will occupy 100,000 square feet in Manhattan at 888 Broadway, housing 127 new executive content acquisition, development, production, legal, publicity and marketing positions. They’ll join the 32 employees Netflix currently has in New York.
Netflix already produces Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, She’s Gotta Have It, The Irishman, Someone Great, Private Life and Russian Doll in New York and has leased 161,000 square feet to build sound stages and support spaces in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood.
To sweeten the pot for Netflix, the Empire State Development Corp. has offered $4 million in performance-based Excelsior Tax Credits over ten years, which the corporation says are tied to real job creation. To receive the incentive, Netflix must create 127 jobs by 2024 at its executive production office and retain those jobs for another five years.
New machine learning technologies, user interfaces and automated content creation techniques are going to expand the personalization of storytelling beyond algorithmically generated news feeds and content recommendation.
The next wave will be software-generated narratives that are tailored to the tastes and sentiments of a consumer.
Concretely, it means that your digital footprint, personal preferences and context unlock alternative features in the content itself, be it a news article, live video or a hit series on your streaming service.
The title contains different experiences for different people.
When you use Youtube, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix or Spotify, algorithms select what gets recommended to you. The current mainstream services and their user interfaces and recommendation engines have been optimized to serve you content you might be interested in.
Your data, other people’s data, content-related data and machine learning methods are used to match people and content, thus improving the relevance of content recommendations and efficiency of content distribution.
However, so far the content experience itself has mostly been similar to everyone. If the same news article, live video or TV series episode gets recommended to you and me, we both read and watch the same thing, experiencing the same content.
That’s about to change. Soon we’ll be seeing new forms of smart content, in which user interface, machine learning technologies and content itself are combined in a seamless manner to create a personalized content experience.
What is smart content?
Smart content means that content experience itself is affected by who is seeing, watching, reading or listening to content. The content itself changes based on who you are.
At the same time, Netflix has recently started testing new forms of interactive content (TV series episodes, e.g. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) in which user’s own choices affect directly the content experience, including dialogue and storyline. And more is on its way. With Love, Death & Robots series, Netflix is experimenting with episode order within a series, serving the episodes in different order for different users.
Now, imagine, that TikTok’s individual short videos would be automatically personalized by the effects chosen by an AI system, and thus the whole video would be customized for you. Or that the choices in the Netflix’s interactive content affecting the plot twists, dialogue and even soundtrack, were made automatically by algorithms based on your profile.
Say that a news article you read or listen to is about a specific political topic that is unfamiliar to you. When comparing the same article with your friend, your version of the story might use different concepts and offer a different angle than your friend’s who’s really deep into politics. A beginner’s smart content news experience would differ from the experience of a topic enthusiast.
Content itself will become a software-like fluid and personalized experience, where your digital footprint and preferences affect not just how the content is recommended and served to you, but what the content actually contains.
How is it possible to create smart content that contains different experiences for different people?
Content needs to be thought and treated as an iterative and configurable process rather than a ready-made static whole that is finished when it has been published in the distribution pipeline.
Importantly, the core building blocks of the content experience change: smart content consists of atomized modular elements that can be modified, updated, remixed, replaced, omitted and activated based on varying rules. In addition, content modules that have been made in the past, can be reused if applicable. Content is designed and developed more like a software.
Currently a significant amount of human effort and computing resources are used to prepare content for machine-powered content distribution and recommendation systems, varying from smart news apps to on-demand streaming services. With smart content, the content creation and its preparation for publication and distribution channels wouldn’t be separate processes. Instead, metadata and other invisible features that describe and define the content are an integral part of the content creation process from the very beginning.
Turning Donald Glover into Jay Gatsby
With smart content, the narrative or image itself becomes an integral part of an iterative feedback loop, in which the user’s actions, emotions and other signals as well as the visible and invisible features of the content itself affect the whole content consumption cycle from the content creation and recommendation to the content experience. With smart content features, a news article or a movie activates different elements of the content for different people.
It’s very likely that smart content for entertainment purposes will have different features and functions than news media content. Moreover, people expect frictionless and effortless content experience and thus smart content experience differs from games. Smart content doesn’t necessarily require direct actions from the user. If the person wants, the content personalization happens proactively and automatically, without explicit user interaction.
Creating smart content requires both human curation and machine intelligence. Humans focus on things that require creativity and deep analysis while AI systems generate, assemble and iterate the content that becomes dynamic and adaptive just like software.
Sustainable smart content
Smart content has different configurations and representations for different users, user interfaces, devices, languages and environments. The same piece of content contains elements that can be accessed through voice user interface or presented in augmented reality applications. Or the whole content expands into a fully immersive virtual reality experience.
In the same way as with the personalized user interfaces and smart devices, smart content can be used for good and bad. It can be used to enlighten and empower, as well as to trick and mislead. Thus it’s critical, that human-centered approach and sustainable values are built in the very core of smart content creation. Personalization needs to be transparent and the user needs to be able to choose if she wants the content to be personalized or not. And of course, not all content will be smart in the same way, if at all.
If used in a sustainable manner, smart content can break filter bubbles and echo chambers as it can be used to make a wide variety of information more accessible for diverse audiences. Through personalization, challenging topics can be presented to people according to their abilities and preferences, regardless of their background or level of education. For example a beginner’s version of vaccination content or digital media literacy article uses gamification elements, and the more experienced user gets directly a thorough fact-packed account of the recent developments and research results.
Smart content is also aligned with the efforts against today’s information operations such as fake news and its different forms such as “deep fakes” (http://www.niemanlab.org/2018/11/how-the-wall-street-journal-is-preparing-its-journalists-to-detect-deepfakes). If the content is like software, a legit software runs on your devices and interfaces without a problem. On the other hand, even the machine-generated realistic-looking but suspicious content, like deep fake, can be detected and filtered out based on its signature and other machine readable qualities.
Smart content is the ultimate combination of user experience design, AI technologies and storytelling.
The first players that master the smart content, will be among tomorrow’s reigning digital giants. And that’s one of the main reasons why today’s tech titans are going seriously into the content game. Smart content is coming.
On the heels of yesterday’s announcement of the streaming service’s November 12 launch date and slate of programming, Disney’s stock price is currently up 9% to $127.23 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Ending months of speculation about what would and wouldn’t be included in a streaming package from the mouse house, yesterday’s “investor day”, satisfied public market investors that Disney’s run at the current king of streaming video, Netflix, would be credible.
Netflix shares were down slightly in morning trading, around 3.5% — or roughly $13 — to $354.50.
For stock market watchers, the big question was going to be pricing and on that front, Disney’s service didn’t disappoint. Although the streaming offering from Disney’s entertainment juggernaut was more about moving cash out of one pocket instead of another for most American consumers, as Matthew Ball, a media analyst and the former head of strategy at Amazon Studios, pointed out on Twitter.
American households already spend around $2.8 billion per year renting and buying Disney video — averaging around $24 per year for every household or 40 million annual subscriptions, Ball wrote.
Nice to become one of the biggest svod's on earth just from shifting pockets. Not as risky as most think
While the market may be setting up the new entertainment landscape as a Netflix versus Disney battle there are important differences between the two and both are likely to thrive in the new era of streaming entertainment.
The companies that are most likely to be challenged by the streaming offerings from Netflix and Disney are AT&T’s Warner Media and CBS/Viacom .
As paid services proliferate, the walls around intellectual property will only grow higher. Entertainment companies are all going to vie for more exclusive offerings and that means artists and creators will win as these companies pay more for quality entertainment that they can make exclusively to lock in subscribers. It’ll be a delicate dance between monetizing intellectual property on other platforms and keeping things behind a gate to bring in customers.
This morning, The WSJ reported Apple’s streaming music service overtook Spotify in paid subscribers in the U.S., and now it hopes to do the same in the Indian market by way of a big price cut. The company’s individual plan in India is now 99 rupees per month ($1.43 USD), versus the 120 rupees per month ($1.73 USD) it was previously.
In addition, the price for the Apple Music student plan dropped from 60 rupees per month to 49 rupees; and the Family Plan is now 149 rupees per month versus the 190 rupees per month it was before the price cuts.
The new, lower prices are available to both existing subscribers and new customers, it appears.
India is a crucial market for streaming services, and one that’s a more recent battleground for major U.S. tech companies in addition to Spotify.
In March, YouTube Music and its paid subscription service, YouTube Premium, launched in India, following Amazon and Google which already operate their music services in the region. This year, Spotify also entered India amid a complicated licensing dispute with Warner Music, which impacted the number of tracks available.
But these companies aren’t just duking it out with one another for domination.
India today has a rich music scene which includes local players like Gaana, JioSaavn (created via the JioMusic and Saavn merger), Wynk, and others.
And recently, JioSaavn and Gaana both slashed their annual subscription prices by 70 percent. Those cuts were focused on locking down customers for a year – keeping them away from YouTube, Spotify and Apple, as a result. The recently discounts saw JioSaavn’s premium tier drop to Rs 299 per year – 70 percent down from Rs 999. Meanwhile,Gaana Plus was discounted to Rs 298 per year instead of Rs 1098, as before.
Apple doesn’t disclose its Apple Music subscriber count in India, but it has 56 million subscribers on a global basis.
The service has been customized for the Indian market with playlists that feature local music, including those popular in regional languages like Malayalam and Tamil, The Indian Express noted. It also has 14 localized radio stations and deals with leading Indian labels like Saregama, T series, Zee Music, YRF, Universal, and Sony.
The scales are about to tip in favor of streaming music becoming the number one driver of global recorded music revenues – a shift that appears to be on track for sometime this year. According to a new industry report, global recorded music revenues jumped 9.7 percent in 2018 to reach $19.1 billion – up from $17.4 billion in 2017. Streaming music revenues, in particular, now account for nearly half (47%) of global revenue, thanks to a sizable 32.9 percent jump in paid streaming last year. This brought streaming revenues to $8.9 million in 2018, and puts them on track for a further jump in 2019.
This is the fourth consecutive year of growth for the global music market, and the highest rate of growth since IFPI – the music industry trade group behind the new report – first started tracking the market in 1997.
Paid streaming accounted for the majority of streaming’s contribution to revenues, with a 37 percent share of the market versus ad-supported streaming’s 10 percent share.
At year-end, there were 255 million users of paid subscription streaming accounts, the report found.
Meanwhile, physical disks dropped 10.1 percent over the past year, to account for 24.7 percent of revenues. Within that segment, vinyl is still growing – it posted its 13th consecutive year of growth, to reach a 3.6 share of the market. But it couldn’t make up for the fact that physical format revenue, overall, still declined.
As consumers drop physical disks, they continued to turn to digital.
Digital revenues grew by 21.1 percent in 2018 to reach $11.2 billion – which represents the first time they’ve crossed the $10 billion mark, the report noted. Within this category, streaming grew by 34 percent to reach $8.9 billion (~$7 billion was paid subscription streaming), while downloads declined 21.2 percent to 7.7 percent of the market.
In 38 markets, digital makes up more than half of revenues, the report said.
Revenues from performance rights and synchronization revenue (the use of music in TV, movies, games and ads), represented a 14 percent and 2.3 percent share of the total music market, respectively.
North America, in particular, posted another year of double-digit revenue growth with a 14 percent jump, with strong streaming growth (33.4%) offsetting the physical revenue declines (-22%).
Asia and Australia overtook Europe to become the second largest global region for revenues with 11.7 percent growth. And Latin America was the fastest growing region with 16.8 percent growth.
In order, the top markets by revenue were: the U.S., Japan, the U.K., Germany, France, South Korea, China, Australia, Canada, and Brazil.
Led by an independent research firm, the survey had roughly 2,000 consumer respondents across demographics – with the report categorizing respondents based on age (Gen-Z: ages 14-21, Millenials: 22-35, Gen-X: 36-52, Boomers: 53-71, and Matures: 72+).
While already accompanied by a succinct 13-page executive summary, the report can largely be summarized in just a couple of sentences: more people are using streaming or alternative media services than ever before, largely due to more user freedom and customization, though the growing quantity and fragmentation of platforms are becoming more frustrating for users to manage.
The survey results directionally echo already well-discussed dynamics, which we’ve previously dug into such as here, here and here. Instead, the most poignant aspects of the report were not the answers or conclusions themselves, but the immense level of support many of them received.
On the heels of its groundbreaking foray into interactive storytelling with the choose-your-own-adventure style “Black Mirror” episode, Bandersnatch, Netflix will look to produce much more interactive entertainment, according to vice president of content, Todd Yellin.
Speaking at the FICCI-Frames conference for Indian media and entertainment in Mumbai, Yellin said in a keynote that audiences could expect many more interactive stories to come from the streaming media service, according to a report in Variety.
“We realized, wow, interactive storytelling is something we want to bet more on,” Yellin reportedly said. “We’re doubling down on that. So expect over the next year or two to see more interactive storytelling.”
One of the things Yellin floated was the idea of a romantic comedy where the audience would choose “will-they or won’t-they”? It sets up the potential for a world where viewers could determine that Ross and Rachel never go on a break.
The initiative would likely require a lot of heavy lifting from writers, editors and actors. Black Mirror took two years to get from concept to screen and involved a lot of heavy lifting from Netflix .
In Bandersnatch, Netflix collaborated with the writers and directors of Black Mirror to develop the technology to support streaming a film that relied on the “branching narrative” storytelling structure that required viewers to pick between choices to advance the story.
Bandersnatch doesn’t have an official run time, and viewers can spend anywhere from an hour and a half to two and a half hours to make it until the credits roll.
Netflix’s investment included new technology that the company calls “state tracking” which logs the choices viewers make as they watch the Bandersnatch episode. The company also engineered a new technology that would load the episode without any lags. And Netflix created a new internal writing tool called Branch Manager so that Brooker could write his script and deliver it directly to the company, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
After all of that internal investment, it’s little wonder that Netflix is planning to roll the new narrative framework out in other storylines, or across different titles.
Netflix had previously applied the choose-your-own-adventure style narratives to children’s animated programming, but since the success of Bandersnatch, that is definitely going to be expanding.
“We do want to take a number of gos at this and see what works for different audiences,” Netflix’s director of product innovation, Carla Engelbrecht Fisher told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s what we’re engaged in now: What are the other kinds of stories that we can tell and that folks are excited to tell? And continuing to unearth this iceberg of opportunity and see what’s there.”