2017 Year in Review18 Dec, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel
• A report indicates digital sales and rentals of movies and TV shows in the United Kingdom in 2016 top packaged media for the first time.
• President Donald Trump names Ajit Pai to head the Federal Communication Commission. Pai, who was appointed to the FCC by President Obama in 2012, vows to roll back net neutrality provisions regulating equal access to the Internet for streaming services.
• Netflix reports it added a record 7 million subscribers in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2016, to push its sub base past 93 million globally.
• Lionsgate touts home entertainment expansion, having posted $160 million in Q4 revenue following its acquisition of Starz, including Starz Distribution.
• AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson meets with President Trump but says the two didn’t discuss the telecom’s pending $84.5 billion purchase of Time Warner, including HBO, Turner and Warner Bros.
• Comcast partners with four studios offering bonus material on the X1 platform previously exclusive to packaged-media releases.
• Futuresource Consulting reports global sales of DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies worldwide dropped 17% to $18 billion in 2016, and are expected to plunge to $9.1 billion by 2020.
• Warner Home Video, Paramount Home Media Distribution, Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment all report upticks in quarterly revenue.
• 20th Century Fox CEO Stacey Snider and Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara up rhetoric regarding shortening the theatrical release window.
• Walmart-owned Sam’s Club says a planned exit from packaged media contributed to a drag on quarterly fiscal results.
• RLJ Entertainment announces an amended credit agreement with minority holder AMC Networks to expand a bond provision (“tranche”) from $3 million to $15 million.
• Robert Higgins, founder/chairman of Trans World Entertainment Corp., operator of the f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) chain, dies March 1 at the age of 75 following an illness.
• Restructured Viacom announces it will focus marketing and fiscal resources on five brands: Paramount Pictures, B.E.T., Nickelodeon/Nick Jr., MTV and Comedy Central.
• AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron expresses interest in premium VOD if early in-home access to theatrical movies is done “intelligently” with “significant” revenue opportunities.
• 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment promotes Keith Feldman to president of worldwide home entertainment.
• The Walt Disney Co. extends the employment contract of CEO Bob Iger to July 2019.
• Total domestic consumer spending on home entertainment in the first quarter (ended March 31) reached $4.7 billion, a 2% increase compared with the previous-year period, according to data from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
• Sales of DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies in the United Kingdom for the 12-week period ended March 12 declined 13% compared with the previous-year period, according to data from Kantar Worldpanel.
• Netflix reports $43 million in profit from international operations in the first quarter (ended March 31) — the first profitable quarter for foreign operations.
• The National Football League agrees to a $50 million, one-year deal with Amazon to stream 10 Thursday night games exclusively for its Prime Video subscribers.
• Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquires full ownership of multi- platform premium TV network Epix after buying out partners Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures for $1.2 billion.
• Google Ventures hires Craig Kornblau, former president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, as strategic advisor.
• Warner Bros. Home Entertainment partners with Imax Corp. to bring a virtual reality (VR) experience to theaters and in the home.
• Vudu enhances its app to allow users to use their DVD and Blu-ray collection to access cloud-stored digital versions for a fee.
• GameStop, the nation’s largest video game retailer, continues to downplay packaged media and focus on collectibles, technology brands and digital games.
• The seventh annual Home Media Magazine Awards honors the Star Trek: 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection Blu-ray boxed set as the top home entertainment release of 2016.
• Netflix ignores (at least publicly) its 20th anniversary, while posting market capitalization of nearly $70 billion, or 22,000% more than the $300 million valuation when the SVOD service launched an IPO.
• Hulu hires former AMC Networks executive Joel Stillerman for the new position of chief content officer, reporting directly to CEO Mike Hopkins.
• Sales of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players are projected to top 1.4 million units in 2017, up 148% from 946,000 units sold in 2016, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting. The tally would represent 8% of the global Blu-ray player market.
• The Federal Communications Commission begins the process of reversing net neutrality provisions implemented to regulate the Internet as a utility.
• Following a rash of high-profile online hacks, Netflix, studios and other content creators announce the formation of a coalition to combat online piracy.
• Seeking to address people on food stamps and other government assistance, Amazon begins offering a special Prime membership priced almost 50% less than the standard fee.
• Time Warner signs a $100 million content license agreement with Snapchat to create/license up to 10 short-form dramas and comedies annually.
• GameStop reports a first-quarter (ended April 29) 2.3% same-store revenue spike, which it attributes to strong sales of collectibles, international revenue and Nintendo Switch.
• DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group names Oscar winner Geena Davis its first honoree of the Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology.
• Sony Pictures Home Entertainment begins giving consumers the choice of family-friendly, edited versions of movies purchased through iTunes, Vudu and FandangoNow.
• Consumer spending on home entertainment edged up nearly 2.6% in the first half of the year to $9.17 billion, from $8.94 billion in the first six months of 2016, according to estimates from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
• Hulu expands television content with license deals for programming from Fox and HBO.
• 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment announces new senior leadership, with Dan Mackechnie EVP of North America distribution, John Migliacci EVP of digital accounts, and Julia Howe EVP and co-head of marketing. James Finn continues as EVP, co-head of marketing, and Mary McLaren as COO.
• Redbox and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment reach a new agreement making Fox content available to Redbox customers seven days after retail release dates.
• Citing fiscal challenges, independent home entertainment distributor Inception Media Group files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.
• Google Play launches HDR (high dynamic range) playback for movies available for sale on the digital retail platform.
• Redbox files a lawsuit against kiosk operator DVDXpress, alleging the rental service illegally used its federally registered red color, in addition to advertising a false release window from studios.
• CBS All Access says it is expanding globally, beginning in Canada in the first half of 2018, with other markets to follow.
• About half of all households in the United States are projected to have access to Amazon Prime (Amazon Prime Video, Prime Music, Prime Now, Prime Pantry) by the end of the year, according to analyst form Cowen & Co.
• Roku increases its lead in the streaming media player landscape, with 37% of U.S. households owning and using a Roku device in Q1 2017, up from 30% in Q1 2016, according to Parks Associates.
• The last major studio to join the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray camp, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Aug. 22 releases its first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
• Former 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment executive Mary Daily is named president of international theatrical marketing and worldwide home media marketing at Paramount Pictures.
• Netflix names DreamWorks Animation veteran Melissa Cobb VP of kids and family content, including animation and live-action.
• After dropping the monthly fee to $9.95, theatrical subscription service MoviePass says it surpassed 400,000 paying subscribers, up from 20,000 a month earlier.
• RBC Capital Markets reports that 49% of survey respondents in the U.K. stream Netflix, compared with 32% who stream Amazon Prime Video. YouTube use topped both SVOD juggernauts at 52%.
• AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says that by Q1 2018 he would expect to see increased marketing of Warner and HBO movies and programming across more than 5,000 AT&T retail stores.
• Five major studios and four digital retailers launch Movies Anywhere. The cloud-based digital rights locker service now features more than 7,300 digital titles from Disney, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros.
• CBS All Access reports that “Star Trek: Discovery,” the new series of the famed sci-fi franchise, is driving record subscriber growth at the standalone subscription streaming video service, and renews the show for a second season.
• Theatrical ticket subscription service MoviePass continues to rely on debt/equity offerings and increased revenue from subscribers to fund operations, CEO Mitch Lowe tells Bloomberg.
• Hulu says CEO Mike Hopkins is leaving the company to become chairman of Sony Pictures. Replacing the four-year chief executive is Randy Freer, who serves on the Hulu board.
• Amazon Studios’ head of content Roy Price resigns after being suspended by the e-commerce behemoth following allegations of sexual harassment.
• Subscription streaming video in the United Kingdom — spearheaded by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — continues to negatively impact sales of DVD, Blu-ray and digital, according to research firm GfK.
• Redbox begins quietly testing higher rental pricing in select markets. The nation’s largest rental service is marketing DVD rentals 17% above the standard $1.50 price, and 12.5% above the standard $2.25 for Blu-ray.
• Nielsen announces it can now measure viewer data from third-party subscription streaming video services such as Netflix, which disputes the accuracy of the research firm’s numbers.
• Netflix halts production on the sixth and final season of “House of Cards,” saying it is “deeply troubled” by sexual harassment allegations against series star Kevin Spacey.
• Amazon shuts down disc rental service Lovefilm By Post in the United Kingdom and Germany Oct. 31, citing waning demand for packaged media rental.
• Redbox begins selling digital codes to Disney movies.
• The Walt Disney Co. says it expects upward of $100 million in additional losses at Hulu in the next fiscal year.
• More than half of all broadband households in the United States subscribe to both pay-TV and at least one subscription video-on-demand service, according to Parks Associates.
• A dearth of distribution channels for 4K content continues to challenge the higher-resolution format despite increasing sales of 4KTVs, according to Futuresource Consulting.
• AMC Theatres says it will begin selling digital and physical movies on its website starting in 2018.
• Taking a page from rival T-Mobile’s pact with Netflix, Sprint collaborates with Hulu, offering access to the SVOD for new and existing “Unlimited Freedom” customers.
• Sports Illustrated launches ad-supported OTT video service, featuring 130 hours of on-demand programming, including original documentaries, weekly studio shows and licensed sports movies.
• Cinedigm formally closes the Bison Capital $30 million investment, making China-based Bison Capital majority owner of the home entertainment distributor.
• Apparent closure of AT&T’s $84.5 billion acquisition of Time Warner by the end of the year is suddenly uncertain, CFO John Stephens tells an investor group. Soon after, the United States Department of Justice files an antitrust lawsuit to block the merger, contending it would substantially lessen competition, dampen innovation and result in higher prices for consumers.
• Disney sues Redbox over the sale of digital codes, alleging the kiosk vendor’s online distribution of the studio’s content is illegal.
• Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos tells an investor group that rolling back net neutrality would hurt its competitors. “It doesn't affect us commercially, but we are for [net neutrality] because it does affect innovation,” he said.
• Seeking closure for original series “House of Cards” following the ouster of star Kevin Spacey after sexual misconduct allegations, Netflix announces production of the sixth and final season of the political drama will resume in 2018, with Robin Wright in the lead role.
• CBS All Access, the media giant’s standalone OTT video service, announces a new original show based on 1960’s sci-fi series “The Twilight Zone.”
• Citing a surge in e-commerce, Walmart drops “Stores” from its legal Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. name, changing it to Walmart Inc.
• Lionsgate co-COO and motion picture group co-president Steve Beeks, who oversees the home entertainment department, announces he is departing at the end of the month after nearly 20 years with the studio/distributor.
• The Federal Communications Commission Dec. 14 voted to repeal the commission’s 2015 net neutrality provisions in a party-line 3-2 vote, with chairman Ajit Pai and the two other Republican members supporting the rollback.
• Disney Dec. 14 reported a $52.4 billion deal to purchase 21st Century Fox’s studio assets, cable and international channels (excluding television properties such as Fox Broadcasting, Fox News, Fox Sports 1 and select others). Comcast, which had also been rumored to have interest in the assets, bowed out of negotiations, paving the way for a Disney deal. Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox studios would return movie rights to various comic book properties (X-Men, Fantastic Four) back to Disney’s Marvel Studios unit, and would give the Lucasfilm division full control over distribution of the “Star Wars” films, as Fox controlled the 1977 original in perpetuity.