Executive Spotlight: A Talk With Tony Driscoll of Warner Bros.

For the third week of ETC’s Executive Spotlight series, in which we interview leaders from our member companies about how they are adapting business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had an opportunity to speak with Tony Driscoll, SVP of emerging technology strategy & data services at Warner Bros. Technology. Previously with AT&T, Driscoll is currently responsible for his studio’s strategies involving emerging trends and tech-driven innovation opportunities. He also works in close coordination with the WarnerMedia Innovation Lab. Warner Bros. has been using various technologies for remote collaboration since the offices began closing due to the pandemic in early 2020. We caught up with Tony at his home office. Continue reading Executive Spotlight: A Talk With Tony Driscoll of Warner Bros.

Filmmakers Return to Production During COVID-19 Pandemic

After months of shutdown, film and television production is reviving in two countries that have successfully flattened the curve. Producer Lucas Foster isolated his cast and crew in a small Australia town to shoot Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn.” Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur used color-coded armbands to shoot Netflix sci-fi series “Katla” in Reykjavik. Going back to production in the time of coronavirus isn’t easy, and requires security guards to monitor social distancing, medical staff and other strict protocols. Continue reading Filmmakers Return to Production During COVID-19 Pandemic

Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook has acquired the GIF platform Giphy for $400 million. Giphy’s 100+ million active daily users send over 1 billion GIFs a day. Facebook stated that Giphy’s content database will be integrated into its apps including Instagram, although it didn’t state a timeframe. Since every social app offers at least some GIF integration, including many that rely on a GIF keyboard and Giphy’s database, Facebook’s purchase is both a competitive edge and another way to harvest the kind of data that attracts advertisers. Continue reading Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

WarnerMedia’s HBO has partnered with Seattle-based Scener to allow HBO Now and HBO GO subscribers to create a private virtual theater, including video chat, for up to 20 people. Scener already allows co-viewing for Netflix accounts. This is HBO’s first significant partnership with an online co-viewing platform. Scener co-founder Joe Braidwood said the company saw a “crazy surge in demand” for the product with the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership, which began in March, includes a new design for the site and update for Google Chrome browsers. Continue reading Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

HPA Forms Task Force to Guide Return of Film & TV Industry

COVID-19 stopped film and television production in its tracks. Now, the Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) formed an HPA Industry Recovery Task Force to examine how to move forward with new content creation and sustainably restart the production and post-production industries as the world wrestles the pandemic. HPA president Seth Hallen announced that the task force’s “focus is to understand how to get our industry back to work.” The Hollywood film and TV industry directly employs about 927,000 people across the country. Continue reading HPA Forms Task Force to Guide Return of Film & TV Industry

Roku Users and Streaming Hours Skyrocket During Pandemic

Roku benefited from the rise in streaming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding 2.9 million accounts in Q1 2020, up 37 percent year over year. The company now has 39.8 million active accounts, with 13.2 billion streaming hours in the quarter, representing a 37 percent year-over-year increase. This, however, was a smaller increase than its 68 percent jump in Q4 2019 and a decline from 16.3 billion hours in the same quarter. Roku also warned that advertising revenue will also likely drop in 2020. Continue reading Roku Users and Streaming Hours Skyrocket During Pandemic

TV, Streaming and E-Commerce Skyrocket During Pandemic

According to a poll by Los Angeles-based E-Poll Market Research, Americans have doubled their TV viewing in the last month-and-a-half and expect to continue watching TV and streaming more after the coronavirus pandemic is over. E-Poll also found that people are wary of going into spaces such as theaters, concert venues, sports stadiums and theme parks where social distancing is problematic. Polling lowest was “taking a cruise.” E-commerce is also booming in the current crisis, with Amazon seen as the biggest winner. Continue reading TV, Streaming and E-Commerce Skyrocket During Pandemic

Netflix Adds About 16 Million New Subscribers, New Content

At the end of Q1 2020, Netflix added 15.8 million new subscribers, more than double the company forecast. The growth spiked in March when people began to be confined due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Netflix stated that viewing and membership growth will decline when those circumstances end. As chief executive Reed Hastings put it, “We, too, are really unsure of what the future brings.” The company is still adding to its stock of original programs, buying the rights to a period piece set in the world of Sherlock Holmes. Continue reading Netflix Adds About 16 Million New Subscribers, New Content

Google Aims to Make Life Easier While We’re Stuck at Home

Google Search has been offering personalized movie and TV recommendations since last fall. Now it is adding a new Watchlist tab that enables mobile users to easily track and save desired content. In addition, to help Android TV users navigate news and entertainment as we spend more time sheltering at home, Google has introduced three new rows of content from YouTube on the home screen: COVID-19 News, Stay Home #WithMe videos, and ad-supported free movies from YouTube. These new features are among a larger set of announcements made by the company this week. Continue reading Google Aims to Make Life Easier While We’re Stuck at Home

NBCU’s Fandango Purchases Streaming Video Service Vudu

Following the soft launch of its Peacock streaming service to Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex customers, NBCUniversal is bringing another streamer into the fold, this time to expand its Fandango offerings. Movie ticket seller Fandango has acquired digital movie and TV streaming platform Vudu from retail giant Walmart, with plans to merge it with digital marketplace FandangoNOW. According to Walmart, Vudu is available on more than 100 million devices, while its mobile app has more than 14 million downloads.  Continue reading NBCU’s Fandango Purchases Streaming Video Service Vudu

NBCUniversal Launches Peacock Service for Comcast Subs

NBCUniversal debuted its streaming platform Peacock to more than 10 million subscribers of parent company Comcast’s cable service using Xfinity X1 and Flex devices. Peacock is slated for a wider rollout this summer. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing many in the U.S. to stay at home, TV and streaming services have seen skyrocketing usage, according to Nielsen. Streaming via Comcast Xfinity was up 50 percent in March from February. NBC had planned to promote Peacock during the Tokyo Summer Games, which have since been postponed. Continue reading NBCUniversal Launches Peacock Service for Comcast Subs

Founders of eSports and Gaming Network Speed Up Launch

Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin, co-founders of VENN (Video Game Entertainment & News Network), plan to launch their eSports, gaming and pop culture network in July, three months ahead of schedule. To do so, they are raising $40 million, building a Los Angeles studio, hiring, and setting up creators to program from home. The 24/7 linear network is aimed at the streaming generation, including hardcore eSports fans and casual gamers. VENN already raised $17 million from Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, Riot Games co-chair Marc Merrill and Blizzard Entertainment co-founder Mike Morhaime. Continue reading Founders of eSports and Gaming Network Speed Up Launch

Fox Corporation Acquires Streaming Platform Tubi for $440M

Fox Corporation is purchasing San Francisco-based, ad-supported streaming platform Tubi for $440 million in cash and the potential of $50 million in future deferred consideration and unvested options. Tubi, which currently has 25 million users in North America and Australia, streams thousands of movies and TV shows from more than 250 content partners including Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Tubi is accessible via numerous streaming devices, including the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Roku, and smart TVs from brands such as Samsung and Sony. Continue reading Fox Corporation Acquires Streaming Platform Tubi for $440M

Broadcast TV Programmers Move Upfronts to Online Platforms

Due to concerns regarding the coronavirus, broadcast TV programmers have canceled their in-person Upfront pitches to advertisers, scheduled for May in New York City. Viacom’s CBS, NBCUniversal, Fox Corp. and ABC parent Disney are calling off their annual stage shows, although advertisers will still seek to ink deals with them. NBCUniversal’s chair of advertising and partnerships Linda Yaccarino noted that, “this year’s Upfront presentation will ensure everybody’s safety, while allowing us to give fans and marketers a preview of the upcoming season.” Continue reading Broadcast TV Programmers Move Upfronts to Online Platforms

Streaming Format GPEG Aims to Improve Gaming, Interactivity

Instant Interactive, a game-focused division of Primal Space Systems, is creating GPEG (Geometry Pump Engine Group), a “cousin of the MPEG format” and a different way of visualizing data. The parent company invested $8 million in the venture, aimed at game engines for more efficient streaming and interactivity for video entertainment. Primal Space Systems was co-founded by Barry Jenkins, a graphics expert; chief technology officer John Scott, formerly at Epic Games; and medical vision expert/chair Solomon Luo. Continue reading Streaming Format GPEG Aims to Improve Gaming, Interactivity

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