Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (June 17, 2018)

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

It’s another week here at WNR headquarters, and for the first time in a little while, we actually have some ripping related news. It’s not so much that people don’t care about ripping any more, but mainly because there hasn’t been anything new that requires a decrypting breakthrough, because DVD and Blu-ray ripping has become quite easy (and a quick glance at the piracy scene indicates that most rips come from web sources as opposed to BDrips, as web sources usually have new content arrive much earlier). Ultra HD Blu-ray appeared to be unbreakable when it first appeared, but this does not seem to be true these days (as you’ll see in the story below). Not that many people are lining up to download 50GB+ files when a 2GB looks perfectly fine.

Alright, let’s get started then.

Copyright

Fury Ultra HD Blu-ray

Pirates score a direct hit against Hollywood in the on-going battle to crack Ultra HD Blu-ray discs

The war between pirates and movie studios has raged for almost two decades now (ever since the days of DeCSS), and the recent battles have all been about Ultra HD Blu-ray and the so called “unbreakable” AACS 2 copy protection scheme. Just to prove that there really is no such thing as unbreakable, the latest version of the copy protection scheme, AACS 2.1, has been broken only a month after it first made its appearance on the UHD BD version of the movie ‘Fury’.

AACS 2.1 was a response to the series of UHD discs protected by AACS 2.0 that were somehow ripped and uploaded online during the back end of 2017. It appeared that a flaw had been found in AACS 2.0, which while strictly not a full crack, allowed users to achieve the same result – to obtain an decrypted version of the UHD files. According to Arusoft, the company that broke AACS 2.1, the new version added an encrypted m2ts file that contained “forensic information”, and it was a simple process to decrypt the file and remove any potential tracking information (although this part is not completely confirmed).

The problem with trying to update AACS is that the bigger changes required to re-secure the copy protection scheme may cause it to be no longer compatible with existing hardware, which is why a crack or workaround, once discovered, pretty much means the end of the copy protection scheme. With Arusoft’s DeUHD software now claiming to rip more than 1100 UHD titles (up slightly from the 30 titles that DeUHD supported at launch), it seems AACS 2.x has reached the end stage of its lifecycle.

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Apple TV 4K

Apple looking to ink more content deals as it signs WGA master contract

Media companies are starting to realise that having original content is more important than ever. Some non media tech companies, such as Apple and Facebook, have also realised that having original, unique content is key to keeping people “loyal” to your platform, even if media isn’t your main game. So Apple signing the Writers Guild master contract last week doesn’t really seem all that surprising, considering the company is already producing a couple of shows (including the new series of ‘Carpool Karaoke’).

The Writers Guild is keen to sign up companies like Apple and Facebook because, increasingly, these companies are producing “free to consumer” type of content that’s not quite the same as the content on pay per view or subscription networks. Having agreements in place means that in future rounds of negotiations, both sides have something concrete to point to when trying to find the most equitable terms.

Shortly following the announcement of Apple’s contract signing, Apple announced that it had reached an agreement with Oprah Winfrey’s OWN in a multi-year deal that will produce (as yet unannounced) original programming. Expect more of these types of announcements in the near future.

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Righteo, we’re at the end of another WNR. Short and sweet again. Maybe minus the sweet part. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (June 10, 2018)

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Sorry about the brief hiatus last week, but in the WNR’s stead, I hope you enjoyed reading the (really really delayed) Blu-ray: The State of Play article. As the preview for the article mentioned, there were no real surprises, with Blu-ray (and DVD) continuing their slide towards VHS.

No need to skip anything this week though, as we do have a bit of news to go through.

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Netflix Remote

People are threatening to cancel their Netflix subscriptions over politics

Skipping straight to digital video news, streaming and the world of politics intersected this week when a campaign to boycott Netflix sprang up in response to an announcement by the streaming giant that angered the US conservatives community. Netflix announced that a new deal was struck with a production company linked to the Obamas, which along with the recent appointment of former Obama admin advisor Susan Rice to its board of director, had caught the ire of conservatives, now accusing Netflix of having a liberal bias.

Polling conducted by YouGov did find a serious slide (of 16%) in Netflix’s favorability rating among conservatives (unsurprisingly, they also found a 15% rise in favorability among liberals), but Netflix remains one of the most liked networks in the US (second only to the Discovery network), even among self identified Republicans.

Like many critics have concluded, Netflix’s move has very little to do with politics, but very much to do with business (like any good corporation). The Obamas are popular in many of the markets that Netflix are trying to grow, and so business trumps (pun unintended) any real or perceived political bias.

For those that haven’t cancelled their Netflix subscriptions yet, they are increasingly watching Netflix and other media via their streaming media devices such as the Apple TV or Roku, as opposed to using their smart TV to do so, according to new data released by Parks Associates. In fact, 50% of people who have smart TVs also down a streaming media device that probably duplicates many of the functions they already have on their TV.

Amazon Fire TV

People prefer Amazon’s Fire TV over Google’s Chromecast

For anyone who has used both types of devices, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Smart TVs often have cumbersome interfaces that makes little effort to be user friendly, and have apps that aren’t updated frequently enough to take advantage of the latest features of services such as Netflix. There’s nothing “smart” about many of the set ups on these so called smart TVs, with many of the features merely an afterthought and it’s more for marketing reasons than anything else that these features exist.

The Parks data also pointed to a small decline in Google’s share of the streaming media device market, with Amazon filling the void. The Chromecast, as good as it is, is also limited in the number of supported apps and in terms of usability (relying on your smartphone/tablet app in order to provide much of the usability, leading to a lack of a coherent and consistent interface between services).

Other data shows the adoption of 4K/Ultra HD television sets is gathering pace, with 30% of TV purchasers now going for the 4K type over the standard HD ones. Again, not too surprising considering the sometimes small price premium between HD and UHD models.

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And unsurprisingly, we’ve come to the end of another (short) WNR. See you next week!

Blu-ray: The State of Play – 2017

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

Welcome to another edition of our annual Blu-ray sales analysis, where we look at how Blu-ray has performed over the last year.

The data used in this analysis derives from our weekly updates, based on figures released by Media Play News (previously known as Home Media Magazine). Some of the historical figures you’ll see have also been adjusted, due to slight tweaking of the metrics used by MPN to create these sets of data, although the changes have been very subtle and does not change the bigger picture in any way.

The conclusion from last year’s report centered on the fact that while Blu-ray revenue made a slight recovery off the launch of 4K Ultra HD and the better caliber of releases from 2016, Blu-ray revenue’s peak seems to have been reached in 2013.

Read on to find out if this is still true, or if UHD has helped Blu-ray turn a corner!

Blu-ray Market Share

As has been the case with all of our “Blu-ray: The State of Play” reports in the past, we start with the ever wider Blu-ray Market Share graph. Blu-ray market share represents weekly Blu-ray sales as a percentage of total packaged disc sales. So a Blu-ray market share of 45% means that 45% of all disc packages sold in that week contained a Blu-ray disc (inversely, this also means that 55% of disc packages sold only contained the DVD version of the content). With the way sales figures are reported, any edition that includes a Blu-ray version of the film is counted as a Blu-ray package (even if the package also contains a DVD version of the film). Ultra HD Blu-ray sales are also counted in the Blu-ray column. In the graph below, we also point out some of the more obvious milestone releases. 2017’s major releases, at least those that had a significant impact on Blu-ray market share for the week that they were released, were MoanaRogue One, Logan, Beauty and the BeastThe Fate of the FuriousGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Cars 3.

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2017 – Click to see larger version

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2017 – Click to see larger version

Note that because Blu-ray market share is proportional to DVD market share, any drop in DVD sales will also result in a higher Blu-ray market share, even if Blu-ray sales are steady. With DVD on a steady decline, Blu-ray market share will continue to rise as long as it’s own sales decline is slower than that of DVD’s.

Below is the same data condensed and with a trend line added. The trend line does seem to indicate some kind of flattening for most part of 2017, and certainly the peak recorded in 2016 (for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’) was not bested in 2017, although there were a few smaller peaks that, had it not been for the record breaking week in 2016, would themselves have been record breaking. The standout releases were ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’, both of these did much better on Blu-ray than your typical release, hence the peaks in the graph.

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2017

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2017

Blu-ray Revenue

For actual revenue, unfortunately, no records were broken as you can see from the graph below. In fact, none of 2017’s releases managed to beat 2017’s The Force Awakens, and even the important Black Friday/Cyber Monday and holiday sales weeks were lower in 2017 than compared to the same week in 2016. 2017’s peaks were also somewhat lower than even 2015’s, but the record remains with 2013 (and may always be the case). 2013 being the peak Blu-ray year, at least when it comes to revenue, remains a likely fact for the foreseeable future – it’s not so much that disc sales were so much higher, but that discs costs less per unit than they did in 2013 – so more sales could still mean less revenue.

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2017

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2017

2016 vs 2017 Comparison

So let’s take a closer look at how 2017 did compared to 2016, starting with Blu-ray market share as shown in the graph below. Overall, it looks like 2017’s market share was, in most weeks, better than 2016’s. This may have more to do with the decline in DVD revenue being faster than the decline in Blu-ray revenue, which causes Blu-ray market share to naturally rise.

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2016 vs 2017 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2016 vs 2017 Comparison

Revenue wise, the differences between 2016 and 2017 were less visible. It was mostly an up and down affair, with some weeks being higher, some being lower, although 2017 really failed to hit the peaks that 2016 did, especially towards the important end of the year holiday sales period.

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2016 vs 2017 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2016 vs 2017 Comparison

We can get a clearer picture by looking at the raw numbers. Out of the 52 reporting weeks in 2017, 23 of them were better than the same week in 2016, with 29 being worse. This is almost a complete reversal of 2016, and is actually more similar to 2015, when 31 weeks had a weekly revenue worse than the same week in 2014. It appears that without record breaking huge releases, Blu-ray is definitely experiencing a steady decline.

Average Blu-ray market share was 39.6% in 2017 compared to 36.36% in 2016.

As a result, Blu-ray revenue continued the decline first seen in 2014. Total Blu-ray revenue for 2017 was $1.88 billion, compared to $2.02 billion in 2016, a decline of 6.74%.

Conclusion

To sum up:

  • Blu-ray market share grew, but it may largely be due to the decline in DVD than any rise in Blu-ray sales
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the title to beat in 2017
  • Blu-ray revenue continues its decline

These results still seem to confirm that 2013 was the peak for Blu-ray sales, and that the “Rey” of hope for in 2016 may have been just a temporary one. There are some bigger releases in 2018, including The Last Jedi, the latest Avengers movie and surprise mega-hit Black Panther, but even these may not be enough to slow or stop Blu-ray’s decline.

Weekly News Roundup (May 27, 2018)

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. Hope you’ve had a pretty good week, and now you’re ready for this pretty poor excuse of an WNR. Yes, once again, the news Gods haven’t smiled upon us this week, but there are still things to talk about. So let’s get started!

Copyright

Record Player

Copyright extension will endanger creativity and cultural preservation

Will it ever end? The US Congress is considering extending the copyright term again, this time to 144 years. This means that recordings from as old as 1923 won’t fall out of copyright protection until 2067. Worst of all, the extension will be applied across the board automatically, as opposed to requiring rights holders to apply for the extension. This is all and well for recordings for which the current rights holders are still receiving royalties for, but for “orphan works” where the owners have long given up practical ownership of the work, the extension to 2067 will hamper efforts to (legally) preserve and archive these works, and so many may be lost forever.

It’s often easy to forget that it is as important for copyright protection to exist as it is for it to expire. Big media and the copyright lobby has placed most of the focus on copyright’s ability to protect the owners from earning royalties, which is important. However, if this was the only goal of copyright, then why did it originally have a component which will see it automatically expire after a set term (usually the life of the creator, plus X number of years). In other words, why should copyright expire and simply not exist indefinitely?

The reasons why copyright should expire is also the reason the copyright lobby cites in their argument for the strengthening of copyright – creativity. When works expire into the public domain, these works can then be referenced, remixed, edited freely or otherwise used to create new works. It is the reason why Disney can take classic stories such as Pinocchio and Snow White and create new (copyrighted) works from them without the hassle of buying the rights to these stories. And without anyone owning exclusive rights on something, it is also the reason why studios other than Disney can take the same stories and create their own copyrighted works, such as Universal’s ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ or Relativity Media’s ‘Mirror Mirror’. It’s also the reason if the original Star Wars trilogy ever falls out of copyright, someone other than Disney/Lucasfilm can take a shot at it. But at this rate, you and I would be long dead before that ever happens, if it ever happens at all. Plus there’s that tricky thing called trademarks, that will prevent anything real from materialising. #Sad.

The other reason is much more for works that are less well known than Snow White or Star Wars, and it’s about the preservation of these works for future generations. With automatic copyright extension and orphaned works, any effort to digitize and archive these works may be deemed illegal until their copyright expires, by which time, it may be technically impossible to preserve them.

So let’s not be too shortsighted when it comes to copyright, as it’s most than just about money and protecting the interests of a few big corporations.

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Blu-ray Logo

Blu-ray sales for 2017 may disappoint despite gains made by Ultra HD Blu-ray

I know I’m a little late this year in publishing our annual Blu-ray: The State of Play report, but rest assured, it’s coming soon. And before that glorious day occurs, I thought I would just share with you a preview of what you might expect. As you might have guessed, things aren’t looking great for physical media. But how not great, I hear you ask.

Well, the last State of Play report saw Blu-ray revenue make a small comeback, rising slightly even. At that time, I put that down to the better caliber of releases for 2016 (compared to 2015), as well as the positive effect of Ultra HD Blu-ray. The same factors still applied for 2017, but unfortunately while UHD continued to grow, the caliber of releases was comparatively lacking, and these two factors failed to arrest the decline of physical media sales in general. As a result, Blu-ray revenue fell by more than 6%, and the majority of weeks in 2017 was poorer than the same week in 2016, in terms of sales.

The full report will have lots of other juicy details such as a list of the year’s best selling Blu-ray titles and a closer look at Blu-ray’s market share. Look out for the full report here in the coming days (although with my track record, it will be more likely weeks/months).

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Looks like we’ve reached the end of another WNR. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (May 20, 2018)

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

Welcome back from a “much longer than I thought it would be” hiatus. A combination of travelling, getting sick from travelling and then lack of news meant that the WNR had to be postponed. Until now!

So we finally do have news this week, not too much, but enough to get the old keyboard out and write up a WNR.

Copyright

Roku FBI Warning

Roku accidentally blocks YouTube and Netflix for suspected piracy

There’s been a bit of an unwanted copyright spotlight on Roku, with the company facing legal action in Mexico. This is probably why Roku has decided to take a more proactive strategy towards anti-piracy enforcement, and they have started to remove channels that aren’t solidly in the legitimate camp in terms of content.

This strategy appears to have caused some friendly fire last week, when Roku decided that both YouTube and Netflix were no longer on the right side of the (copyright) law, and blocked both channels with their now infamous “FBI warning screen” (where they explain why the channel was removed).

Facing a customer backlash, Roku quickly took to Twitter to explain the whole thing had been a mistake, and that the channels may have been inadvertently blocked during one of Roku’s anti-piracy actions (when they were trying to block another channel).

With the creative industry taking aim at all streaming related activity, I guess it’s only wise on Roku’s part to take proactive action. Just not so proactive that they start blocking the likes of Netflix and YouTube, obviously.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi 4K Ultra HD Cover

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is the only physical media format that’s not in serious decline

The latest DEG report on the state of the (US) home entertainment industry is out for Q1 2018, and it pretty much reads as you would expect it to read. Almost everything digital is doing great, particularly streaming, and that’s more than making up for losses in physical media sales and all kinds of rentals.

Of particular interest to loyal readers of this feature will be the near 29% increase in revenue for subscription streaming compared to Q1 2017, shows that there seems to be still room to grow for the streaming business. 4K Ultra HD sales are booming as well, with sales up 130% and now accounting for 12% of all Blu-ray sales. And 35 million households now have at least one 4K TV set.

So it seems that the home entertainment industry is moving towards digital, streaming and 4K and a rather rapid pace, and it seems this time at least, they are ready to take advantage (with a little bit of help from Netflix, Amazon, Apple and other tech companies).

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Short and sweet one this week. No idea if the next week is going to be better, or worse, or absolutely amazing. Hoping for the latter then!