UPDATE, 1:45 PM: Redbox just issued this statement about the alleged deal. “The current agreement Coinstar has with Warner Bros. is to receive movie titles 28-days after their release. No revised agreements are in place.”
PREVIOUS, 12:03 PM: Warner Bros has sealed a deal with Netflix, Redbox and Blockbuster that will expand the studio’s release window for new DVDs to 56 days, the tech blog AllThingsD is reporting. The current window is 28 days between when the discs first go on sale and when customers can rent from the retailers. Warner Bros is saying it isn’t going to comment on speculation, but it has been exploring seeking wider window in an effort to offset declining DVD sales, and it is pushing the nascent UltraViolet format that allows users to rent or buy movies that can be viewed on multiple platforms. (The company said during the Citibank conference yesterday that UltraViolet, which is available via the company’s recently acquired Flixster site, is still in the growing stages. “The product is not where we want it to be, but someone has to take a leadership position,” CFO John Martin says.) The latest report says the deal for the new window is expected to be unveiled during the Consumer Electronics Show, which begins Monday in Las Vegas. The question that remains, though, is what’s stopping retailers from buying discs on the open market and making them available day-and-date, … Read More »
Everyone thinks of TV Everywhere as a mobile service, enabling pay TV subscribers to stream shows to Internet devices. But Time Warner CFO John Martin told the Citigroup Global Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference that the initiative may have its biggest impact in the living room. TV Everywhere will create “an enormous amount of on-demand programming, and that could radically change the way people with Web-connected TV sets access their favorite shows. Time Warner has been promoting just such a shift based on the theory that it will help TV’s most popular channels and programs. It has signed TV Everywhere deals for its Turner channels — including TBS, TNT, and CNN — and for its HBO GO application. “HBO GO is now available to virtually everyone and Turner isn’t far behind,” Martin says. He adds that “a lot of progress is going to be made over the next 12 months” as viewers figure out what they can do with TV Everywhere. “This is all happening quickly. … We’re on the cusp of seeing the television viewing experience get dramatically better.”
There are still bumps along the way. Time Warner saw a slowdown in scatter market ad sales in 4Q; expectations of mid-single-digit growth ”may be aspirational.” But Martin is “cautiously optimistic” about the current quarter based on low cancellations, and ads for NBA games selling at “very attractive rates.” Home video sales also were weak at year end with 4Q results that “look more challenged” than 3Q. Time Warner expects help from the UltraViolet initiative, which makes it possible for DVD buyers to also access movies remotely. The company bought a website, Flixster, to serve as a gateway for consumers. ”The product is not where we want it to be, but someone has to take a leadership position,” Martin says. Read More »
Major studios are in discussions with Amazon about bringing the online retail giant into Hollywood’s preferred online UltraViolet digital media locker, Bloomberg reports. The continuing talks center on plans to expand UltraViolet for storing and watching movies on tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire and other devices, according to sources cited by Bloomberg. Response has been tepid for UltraViolet, which allows consumers to buy videos and store them online for playback on any device. The studios hope to stimulate the digital market as declining DVD sales have not been supplanted by Blu-Ray and download purchases. Studios backing UltraViolet include Warner Bros, Sony, Fox, Universal, Paramount, Sony and Lionsgate, according to UV’s website. Several retailers have also signed up. But the problem is that there’s not a single unified hub where consumers can access the content they buy. And Disney is developing its own separate system. Apple and iTunes, which have their own online storage service iCloud, also have not embraced UltraViolet for iPads, iPods or iPhones. Amazon has the experience and computer server infrastructure for the kind of storage and playback envisioned by UltraViolet. It already allows its customers to store movies purchased on Amazon. In addition, Amazon also hosts Netflix’s streaming. It’s possible some kind of agreement might be announced at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
On December 26, Warner Bros’ Final Destination 5 will become the first UltraViolet-enabled title to be released in the UK via DVD, Blu-ray and Triple Play. From then on, all of the studio’s future home entertainment releases in the UK — including Happy Feet Two, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Dark Knight Rises — will fall under the UltraViolet “buy once, play anywhere” scheme. As with its practice in the U.S., Warner will offer the streams via Flixster.
Warner Bros was the first to release UV titles in the U.S. back in October with Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern. Although I was told by a Warner UK spokesman that there is no industry evidence as yet on the impact of the added UltraViolet aspect, the Associated Press today reports that consumers of those earlier films found the system didn’t work as expected. Warner Bros UK spokeswoman Deborah Lincoln, who had not read the AP report but was aware of certain complaints, tells me the confusion was largely related to the fact that those first titles didn’t have download ability to certain devices — which she assured me was not going to be the case in the UK. In part, she said, the confusion may have come from early media reports regarding UltraViolet touting it as an anytime, anywhere technology for all devices including IOS — … Read More »
That’s the most interesting part of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s announcement today about its video plans for the movie starring Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Yes, it’s noteworthy that people who buy a Blu-ray disc will also be able to access digital streams of Moneyball from the industry’s new UltraViolet initiative. Sony’s a vocal supporter of that, and already offers the same online streaming deal for people who buy Blu-ray discs of Smurfs and Friends With Benefits. But Sony’s stood alone so far in selling digital downloads of movies before they hit the stores. Digital sales of Moneyball begin on December 22 while the discs come out on January 10 (DVDs will go for suggested retail price of $30.99 and Blu-ray for $35.99). That’s a longer window than Sony gave to its first two films that provided early digital downloads: Bad Teacher was sold online about two weeks ahead of discs in October. The second film, 30 Minutes Or Less, had a similar window in November. The studio liked the results. Sony says total digital revenues were 24% higher than comparable films released the same day as discs — and it saw no signs of cannibalization from VOD.
Continuing to ramp up its interests in the movie biz, UK supermarket giant Tesco is launching its own version of a digital locker with an initiative that will allow customers who buy a physical DVD or Blu-ray in-store to also have access to the content online. Tesco is launching the service in conjunction with digital movie service Blinkbox, in which the retailer acquired a majority stake earlier this year. The program starts with the release of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 on DVD and Blu-ray at midnight tonight in the UK. The service is open to all Tesco Clubcard customers who link their Clubcard and Blinkbox accounts. Clubcard’s a fidelity program that allots points for money spent at Tesco supermarkets which are then redeemable for Tesco products.
Along with Harry Potter, there are 24 other titles currently available including The Hangover Part 2, The Smurfs and Conan The Barbarian. Once physically purchased, the titles will be available for viewing through Blinkbox on PCs, Macs, PS3, LG and Samsung Smart TV and soon on Xbox 360 and the iPad. Tesco calls the bundling initiative a first for the industry. It somewhat echoes the Ultraviolet system, which provides access to content across multiple platforms and has the participation of most of the major studios, VOD providers and … Tesco Entertainment. In the past year, Tesco moved deeper into the movie biz by partnering with Amber Entertainment to make feature versions … Read More »
UPDATE, 10:55 AM: Dish Network CEO Joe Clayton was clearly talking about Warner Bros, although he didn’t single the studio out by name in his company’s conference call with analysts. Warners wants to make Blockbuster wait 28 days for new home videos, leading the rental operation that Dish bought in April to go to the open market to buy DVDs of WB’s Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern. The studio withheld them, largely to help its efforts to promote VOD and sales of new discs that include UltraViolet’s digital streams to PCs and mobile devices. That “creates some challenges,” Clayton says – adding that Blockbuster rentals improve promotion for films as they move to TV and other markets.
As for the main satellite video business, Clayton says: ”Progress was made in the third quarter. Was it enough? No.” He vowed to step up Dish’s marketing, which he says “needed the most work,” adding that he’s “cautiously optimistic” there’ll be progress in 4Q. Chairman Charlie Ergen said that DirecTV’s strong 3Q results last week shows that “there’s still a big business out there for satellite television on a stand-alone basis…. We’re just not getting our fair share.” Dish would consider offering less expensive video packages. Read More »
Warner Bros and Dish Network’s Blockbuster are at odds over a rental-release window for the studio’s films, and now Warners has stopped giving Blockbuster its latest releases. According to the Financial Times, the retailer is refusing Warner Bros’ request to adhere to a 28-day window between films going on sale and their availability for rent, and has purchased films like Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern on the open market to make them available in stores. Those two titles are the first to be released by the studio on the UltraViolet service, which allows playback on multiple devices, so it’s no coincidence that Warners wants to protect its ability to add value in the sale window via such initiatives in the face of declining DVD revenues (see Will ‘Horrible Bosses’ In UltraViolet Begin A Turnaround For Home Video?). “The question is: how do we make ownership more valuable and attractive?” Warner Bros Home Entertainment president Kevin Tsujihara told the FT. “We have started the process of creating a window in bricks-and-mortar DVD and Blu-ray rental.” He added: “(Blockbuster) felt it was important to continue to offer day and date rental, so rather than work with us they went around us.” And watch out, Netflix and Redbox: Tsujihara also said Warner Bros planned to put the same pressure on you, too. “The Netflix and Redbox deals are … Read More »
HBO plays a bigger role than you might imagine in Apple’s negotiations with Hollywood to offer recent movies via the iTunes Store and its new iCloud service to devices such as the iPhone and iPad. HBO’s deals with studios including Warner, Fox, and Universal give it the exclusive right to digitally distribute their films during the premium TV window. (Others such as Starz have similar rights.) That’s been an issue for the new UltraViolet cloud initiative backed by most major studios and consumer electronics companies. Except Disney and Apple: UltraViolet is designed to reinvigorate home video sales by giving people who buy certain DVDs and Blu-ray discs the right to access their movies from the Internet cloud.
Warner Bros had to restructure its deal with corporate cousin HBO to clear the way for this week’s first UltraViolet release, Horrible Bosses. But Apple’s now talking to studios to secure the right to offer movies at the iTunes Store that can be accessed via the iCloud service — which was launched on Wednesday. That poses two challenges to Time Warner: The company has lot invested in UltraViolet as it reintroduces its web site Flixster as a user-friendly gateway for films stored in those digital lockers. And HBO is making a big push to promote its HBO Go digital streaming service. So keep an eye on Time Warner and HBO: The fate of their initiatives, as well as iCloud, will be shaped by the positions they take … Read More »
UPDATE: The question about whether Apple devices can show UltraViolet films is complicated, it seems. The folks at Warner Bros say that iPhones and iPads can handle them – but not through the traditional channel, the iTunes Store. Users must download an app to also register with Flixster, a site that Time Warner owns. Movies can be streamed, but not downloaded yet. Sony’s likely to have a similar work-around for its Dec. 2 release of UltraViolet-enabled Blu-ray discs for Friends With Benefits and The Smurfs.
PREVIOUS, 10:50 AM: There’s still a fair amount of skepticism about the entertainment industry’s long-awaited UltraViolet program today as it kicks off with Warner Bros’ home video release of Horrible Bosses — to be followed on Friday by The Green Lantern. The DVD and Blu-ray versions of Bosses will be first that make it possible for buyers to watch it on mobile devices from UltraViolet’s Internet cloud. Studios and consumer electronics companies have a lot at stake in promoting the “buy once, play anywhere” concept. It’s part of a process to slow the stomach-churning decline in home video sales. Consumers will spend about $16.9B on home video this year, down from $24.4B in 2004, SNL Kagan says. If UltraViolet catches on, then it also could give studios a lot of flexibility to control the way their films are presented and handled as consumers begin to abandon discs and just rely on digital streams and downloads.
The problem? UltraViolet movies won’t play on Apple gadgets such as the iPhone and iPad. The initiative also won’t include movies from Disney, which is preparing its own cloud-based system called Disney Studio All Access. “Not only is the ecosystem not fully launched, with a common downloadable file format a ways off, but there has been no consumer education on the technological transition from a pre-UV world to the new UV ecosystem,” BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield says. Read More »
UPDATE, 9:30 AM: CEO Jeff Bewkes tried to stick to his optimistic story for Time Warner, but analysts forced him to play defense as well in this morning’s quarterly earnings call. In response to a question, Bewkes acknowledged that Green Lantern “did not live up to expectations” — although he wouldn’t say whether Warner Bros has ruled out a sequel. Despite the film’s disappointing performance, the CEO says that he’s “not concerned” about the studio’s effort to capitalize on DC Comics superheroes: “DC will be a major contributor,” with new films on tap featuring Batman and Superman.
Bewkes also said that TNT and TBS’ ratings suffered because “we had some bad programming choices in series we acquired over the last few years.” The problem may have been exacerbated by the fact that some of the shows were also available on digital platforms. As streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu become more popular, “hit shows win, and mediocre stuff loses.” Turner hopes to fix the problem by adding reruns of popular series including The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-0. One hit “can have a significant impact,” Bewkes says. He urged analysts to keep an eye on Time Warner’s upcoming initiatives involving Flixster, the movie site it recently bought, and the entertainment industry’s UltraViolet program that enables consumers who buy a home video to access it on almost any kind of device. Beginning with Warners’ Green Lantern the “vast majority” of its releases will work with UltraViolet, Bewkes says. He adds that a beta version of Flixster that will be “deeply integrated” with UltraViolet will be released this week. Beginning this fall, consumers also will be able to bring DVDs they already own to retailers who will be able to make them available from the broadband cloud. All in all, investors seemed unimpressed with today’s news even though the financial numbers beat analyst estimates: Time Warner shares are down about 2.2% in mid-day trading.
PREVIOUS, 4:42 AM: The entertainment giant ended 2Q with net income of $638M, up 13.5% vs the period last year, on revenues of $7B, up 10.2%. Earnings at 60 cents a share handily beat the Street’s forecast of 56 cents. Analysts also anticipated revenues of $6.8B. Read More »