Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

Weekly News Roundup (October 27, 2019)

Sunday, October 27th, 2019

Never have so many people so disinterested in the NFL watch Monday Night Football with such anticipation before. That’s right, the whole synergy things between Disney and Disney owned ESPN meant that the new Star Wars trailer was shown during half-time on MNF.

I myself took part in the craziness by trying to get a really good quality 4K upscaled trailer to the masses as soon as possible, even live-tweeting the entire process.

And I guess I got caught up in the madness (and yes, I’ve already pre-booked my movie ticket), and subsequently uploaded a French/Canadian version of the trailer, a dialogue-free music version of the trailer, and just yesterday, the original studio released 4K version of the trailer.

No more The Rise of Skywalker uploads, I promise.

High Definition

While big-budget Hollywood blockbusters are usually the ones that get all the attention, the video streaming industry has quietly overtaken Hollywood in terms of revenue just this year, globally.

And this is why every other media conglomerate is launching their own streaming platform these days, and so it makes total sense that the two rather large non-Disney ones, Warner Media and NBC Universal, would be launching their own as well.

NBC Universal’s Peacock won’t be taking on Netflix, not directly anyway

Nobody really wants to directly take on the behemoth that’s Netflix though. Amazon has long said that Prime Video is really just a way to sell Prime memberships and get people addicted to shopping on Amazon. Hulu has focused more on TV and catch-up content, although it’s starting to take Netflix head-on. And Warner’s HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock will also be avoiding direct conflict with Netflix by going after cable subscribers, with both offering free subscriptions to this demographic (and perhaps the most likely to not have a Netflix subscription), providing a transition from cable to streaming without people having to spend their hard-earned.

It’s a good strategy because asking people to spend money on yet another subscription service is going to be hard, especially when any one of these services would have more than enough content to keep you entertained (although not necessarily *all* the content you may want to watch).

But that also points to another problem. Is there such a thing as too much content? Too many new original shows and movies from too many platforms, even if some of them are “free”, that you just don’t have time to watch it all? I myself am still catching up on shows that I first added to my watch list three years ago, so I guess things are only going to get worse.

And this whole Golden Age of Television™️ thing isn’t helping! Why does everything have to be so good?!

======

Well, the only solution I can think of is to spend more time watching stuff, which is what I’m going to do right now. See you next time!

Weekly News Roundup (October 20, 2019)

Sunday, October 20th, 2019

So the Rise of Skywalker trailer didn’t materialise last week, but I promise that it’s coming this (U.S.) Monday. I’m sure this time because ESPN, of all people, actually posted a video announcing the release of the trailer, which will be shown for the first time during Monday Night Football.

Well, if ESPN can post a video promoting a Star Wars trailer, I can certainly do the same!

Still not a huge amount of news, but we do have some (and by some, I mean one story), so here we are …

High Definition

It’s not a great time to be Netflix right now. They’ve largely managed to see to the threat of Amazon and Hulu, despite the latter spending more and more on content. But they now have to contend with new offerings from Apple and Disney, namely Apple TV+ and Disney+.

To make things worse, two new players have announced they’ll enter the market, with Warner Media’s HBO Max and NBC Universal’s Peacock, both trying to tap into the lucrative streaming scene.

NBC Universal’s Peacock joins HBO Max, Disney+, CBS All Access, Apple TV+, Amazon and Hulu in competing with Netflix

But is Netflix worried? Nah, say the company’s bosses. CEO Reed Hastings was a bit too casual with his statement last month that November, when Apple TV+/Disney+ launches, will usher in a “whole new world” for streaming – and the market interpreted this as a suggestion that things are going to change (and not for the better) for Netflix. Never mind that Hastings was clearly trying to use an “Aladdin” reference to have some fun with the whole Disney+ thing, but the truth is, Netflix perhaps should be worried.

With Warner, Universal, Disney, three of the largest studios, going their own way and taking their content with them, it leaves Netflix increasing dependent on their original productions. Productions that, without a theatrical and home video sales run, are almost never profitable in any meaningful direct way. Our sister site Streambly has been monitoring the binge-watching bahaviour of Netflix subscribers and the most popular shows on Netflix are not the ones you think. They are shows like ‘Friends’ (NBC), ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ (NBC), ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (CBS) and ‘The Office’ (NBC). Shows that, in time, will probably no longer be allowed to have a home on Netflix. And that’s not to mention all the blockbuster movies that will no longer be made available on Netflix.

So while Hastings may have been just joking around with the “whole new world” statement, what he says is actually quite true. We are entering a whole new, fragmented world of streaming that won’t be a friendly one for Netflix. For the consumer, we will have access to more streaming content than ever before, but only if we’re willing to pay the price, and when combined, the price won’t be cheap. Some of these offerings will probably fail to impress and will die away naturally and we will see some consolidation again, but before then, things will be more complicated (and more expensive) than they need to be.

======

That’s it for this week. Come back on Monday night (Tuesday afternoon, Australian time) for the Rise of Skywalker trailer, one of the biggest trailers this year. And maybe I’ll see you this time next week again, assuming we have something interesting to talk about. Until then …

Weekly News Roundup (August 11, 2019)

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

Welcome back to the WNR. Sorry for the long break, but we finally have some worthy news stories to talk about, and so here we are.

High Definition

Regular readers will know how we big up streaming here, and not just because we also run an Australian news site that’s dedicated to the topic of streaming.

But you have to be living under a rock to not notice that streaming is taking over everything, but sometimes some solid stats go a long way to paint a full picture of what’s happening.

That data has been recently provided by analytics firm Conviva, and it shows that streaming media consumption has double over the last year in the United States.

The consumption was led by Roku users, who helped to drive up the adoption of Internet-connected TVs by 143% and accounted for 43% of all connected TV viewing measured by Conviva. Roku themselves are seeing a period of strong growth, with the service now having more than 30 million subscribers.

Photo of Roku Streaming Stick
Roku is the most popular streaming device, according to new data

Adoption of Amazon Fire TV devices also growing strongly over the last year, up 145% and now accounting for 18% of connected viewing.

Here in Australia, our one and only cable TV operator has finally embraced streaming and have started to bundle Netflix with their subscriptions (despite the fact that it tried to launch its own streaming platform). And with broadband speeds increasing and bandwidth costs decreasing all the time, streaming just make more and more sense.

With that said, and this is from my first-hand experience with uploading 4K trailers, we are still dealing with huge files and that it’s going to take a while before we reach mainstream adoption. For one, YouTube’s bitrate of choice for 4K content is only around 13 Mbps (and that’s using the not so efficient VP9 codec, instead of HEVC), and that’s not really enough. But any higher, the number of people able to watch 4K quickly drops from an already small pool of users actively looking for 4K content. So until people can comfortably stream a 30+ Mbps stream and still be able to use their connections for other things, 4K adoption (despite the huge number of 4K or at least 1440p capable devices, including most phones and tablets and TVs sold these days) will be bottlenecked. Let’s not even think about 8K for now.


Disney’s acquisition of Fox is a bold and potentially profitable move for the Mickey Mouse company. But not right now though, because Disney has been surprised at just how much Fox Studios is underperforming right now, with projected profits turning into losses for the last quarter.

Screenshot from Ford v Ferrari
Disney/Fox has high hopes for Ford v Ferrari

The box office for Dark Phoenix was much less than expected, and none of Fox’s other movies also did well enough. The rest of 2019 looks a bit brighter with Ford v Ferrari and Ad Astra, but these are hardly locked in winners.

So if anything, the sale of Fox to Disney came at the right time for the former News Corp studio. Maybe at the right time for Disney as well. Not so much for Fox’s release slate, since Disney is already doing pretty well this year with over $8 billion in box office takings, but as a way to acquire a great back catalogue of titles to fill their Disney+ and Hulu content libraries.


That’s all I have for you this week. Until next time!

Weekly News Roundup (June 9, 2019)

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

Well, that was a longer break than expected. A nice vacation was then followed by the need of a vacation for the vacation, and then a couple of slow news weeks, and here we are!

Even without much news, we’ve been busy adding new trailers to our YouTube channel. Now while we use real 4K content whenever possible, we’re still at the stage of 4K where most trailers are not released in the format. So we have a “special sauce” that we use to upscale it to make it look (and sound) great, unlike other channels that upload 4K trailers that look/sound no better (and often worse) than the original HD version.

Comparison between our "special sauce" upscaled 4K versus basic 4K upscaling
Our 4K quality (left) compared to your standard 4K upscaled trailer – click to enlarge

Of course, your output is only as good as your input, which is why we almost always use ProRes high bitrate (150 Mbps+) sources (not quite uncompressed quality, but close enough) for our trailers. So while we won’t be the first to upload a trailer, we’ll always try to upload the best quality version.

With this promo out of the way, let’s get to the news.

High Definition

So the big news this week, according to many in the press, is that Apple has shut down iTunes. But for those that read articles beyond the headline, you will have realised that Apple didn’t really shut down iTunes. For one, those of us who haven’t yet drunk the Apple kool-aid and still opting to use Windows will be stuck with the frustrating iTunes software to do everything from music downloads to software updates to backups (the fact that the software did so much, too much in fact, is one of the key complaints against the much-maligned software).

A screenshot of the iTunes software
iTunes 2001 – 2019: Will not be missed

Secondly, the iTunes store will remain the way it is, still allowing you to download and store your content locally if you still don’t trust the cloud. So the stories of “the end of downloads” are a bit exaggerated, which was never going to happen while Apple is still making money from them (about a billion a year – down a lot from its peak and a fraction of streaming these days, but hey, who says no to a billion dollars, right).

So what exactly are the changes? For one, on iDevices, the iTunes app will be replaced with three different apps: Music, Podcasts and Television. By splitting the bloated iTunes app into three separate apps, it allows each app to be better customized for the user’s needs, and to have an interface that’s better suited for the content in question. You got to remember that iTunes started out as a media player before it morphed into software that attempted to do everything. So it’s a great idea for the three iTunes sub-apps to go back to their roots.

As for how will Mac people do updates, backups and restores? They will find the same functionality that used to be in iTunes as part of the Finder app, which should have been the way from the get-go. I don’t know about you, but I think using a media player to do OS updates and system backups makes zero sense, and it’s something even the worst Windows versions (Me, Vista, in no particular order) didn’t force users to do. So it’s ironic that Windows people are still stuck having to use iTunes to do everything.

Moving quickly away from the beginnings of a Mac vs Windows flame war, and to the upcoming Netflix vs Disney+ flame war, it appears many in the U.S. are already aware of Disney+ despite almost zero promotional stuff so far.

And the awareness to sign-up ratio is actually pretty good, with 22% of U.S. households appear willing to sign up. And a great sign for Disney is that the group with the highest potential sign-up rate is households with kids, which surely has to be the Mickey Mouse company’s main demographic.

A screenshot of the Disney+ interface
Disney+: There’s something there for everyone, but probably not enough to seriously harm Netflix

Also interesting was seeing what kind of content each age group were most drawn to when deciding whether to sign up or not. 35 and older people (me!) were most drawn to the Star Wars stuff on Disney+ (that’s true for me!). 25 to 35-year olds, the group most likely to have young children and most likely to have grown up with Disney animated hits like The Lion King and Aladdin were most interested in Disney’s animated hits. And 18 to 24-year olds wanted to watch the Marvel stuff the most, the studio that has produced the biggest hits for Disney in recent times. It all makes sense!

But Disney+ is still no Netflix killer. For one, Netflix will have content from Warner Bros., Paramount and Sony, while Disney+ will obviously be limited to only Disney branded content. Disney has also said that Disney+ will be more family oriented, and so don’t expect to see series like Sex Education and You, or even the fantastic When They See Us. These would most likely end up on Disney’s other streaming platform, Hulu, if they ever get made. And that’s a big if because Disney’s original production budget is minuscule compared to Netflix’s ($500 million versus $15 billion). If anything, Hulu has a better chance of competing with Netflix than Disney+, especially if Disney decides to throw more content into the platform.

=======

Well, that’s all we have this week. Until next time!

Weekly News Roundup (May 12, 2019)

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

Happy Mother’s Day!

Not a mum/mom myself, so I have to work today. Which is just as good, as we do have some news to cover, and as I’ll be unavailable for the next two weeks, this will serve as the last WNR for a bit.

I’m still having a lot of fun with my new broadband connection (especially the much faster uploads), so have uploaded many more trailers to our YouTube channel.

I’m putting my knowledge to good use upscaling some of them to 4K (with 5.1ch audio upmix as well), optimizing them for clarity, without making them look (or sound) too artificial. All using free tools that you can download from Digital Digest as well, tools like MeGUI, AviSynth and filters like Nnedi3/nnedi3 rpow2 and SpecWeb.

Anyway, onto the news.

Copyright

There’s a new way to stream pirated movies online, and you don’t have to go to a dodgy site to do so (unless you consider Facebook dodgy, which is a fair point these days). Pirates are using Facebook Watch Parties to stream popular pirated content, such as new episodes of Game of Thrones, and Facebook can’t always get to them as quickly as they should.

Game of Thrones being streamed illegally on Facebook

What Facebook is going through it pretty normal though for a new video platform, which Facebook’s Watch platform/section qualifies as. Pirates will always find a way to exploit a new video platform to host their stuff, and it’s up to the platform to figure out a way to stop them. YouTube has had to deal with it, and Vimeo and Dailymotion are still dealing with it (and not doing as good a job as YouTube). When Twitch first launched, pirated content was everywhere on it, and it’s still there if you look for it, especially for big TV events like the last season of Game of Thrones.

But for all the problems with Facebook these days, this one is probably the least serious. Unless you’re a content owner, of course.

High Definition

It may end up being the biggest movie ever, but ‘Avengers: Endgame’ will be “free” to watch for anyone who’s signed up to Disney+.

Disney+ subscribers will be able to stream Avengers: Endgame on December 11

Disney has announced the mega-blockbuster will be available for unlimited streaming on Disney+ in December, one month after the streaming service launches. This follows the previous announcement that ‘Captain Marvel’ will be one of the “launch” titles for the platform, which will cost $6.99 per month.

If the release schedule of the previous ‘Avengers’ movie is any indication, December will be roughly 3 months after ‘Endgame’ launches on home video, suggesting that “three months” will be the typical delay between Blu-ray and Disney+ releases.

Disney is also trying to buy the part of Hulu that they don’t own from Comcast, suggesting the company still have big plans for the streaming platform, even after Disney+ launches.

======

That’s all for this week, and for the next couple of weeks. Until then, have a (few) great one(s).