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Content Licensing

New Media: Streaming, TV & Movies

Entertainment properties distributed primarily through streaming services aren’t the biggest source for consumer products licensing—linear TV programs reign, for many reasons. But licensees are getting wise to the potential behind streaming.

For one, technology can offer new ways to market and sell goods à la traditional TV shopping, albiet in less obstructive ways. For another, the growing diversity and quality of original programming means that there are a lot more entertainment properties that have the potential to be “the next big thing.”

According to 2016 data collected by comScore, 53% of American wi-fi households use at least one over-the-top (OTT) streaming service, with Netflix present in 75% of those homes. YouTube’s reach is 53%, and is followed by Amazon (33%) and Hulu (17%). But as the research firm points out, there are 11 streaming services today that reach one million or more homes in a given month.

Consumers watch OTT streaming services an average of 19 days a month, 2.2 hours a day—during prime-time TV hours. In effect, these are the cord-cutters who still want a TV experience, just accessed differently. According to eMarketer, by 2021, total pay TV viewership is expected to fall 10%. This year, there will be a total of 22.2 million cord-cutters aged 18 and over, up 33% from last year. The firm notes that “even the Olympics and presidential elections could not prevent younger audiences from abandoning pay TV.”

Kids, on the other hand, spend roughly 2.3 hours with screen media each day, according to Common Sense Media (including TV and mobile devices). Families with young children are more likely to have a subscription video service like Netflix or Hulu (72%) than they are to have cable TV (65%).

But are viewers getting the “TV experience” they’re used to? Current streaming services are falling behind in providing the curated experience that traditional programming offers. The current trend behind streaming is to offer “micro services,” with each studio offering its own streaming service. While the business move worked out for HBO Now, NBC’s SeeSo hasn’t been as successful, for example.

People don’t subscribe to streaming services just because of original TV series or films—they want to see their favorite programming, too. And they don’t want to be confused by choice. In 2017 alone, approximately 500 TV series will be streamed. As successful subscription box services (merch licensees like Loot Crate, and every other fashion or home/furniture start-up) are teaching us, customers want individualized, no-fuss, expertly curated experiences.

But despite the current fractured state of streaming, it’s still the preferred mode of consumption. DVD sales fell 10% in the first half of this year from a year earlier, while electronic sales have grown 8%, according to the Digital Entertainment Group. Meanwhile, North American theater ticket sales are down almost 5%, according to comScore.

The State of Streaming

In a throw-back move, Disney recently announced that its Movies Anywhere service, which offers movie downloads, counts major partners like 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, and potentially Lionsgate (but not Paramount Pictures). What makes this news significant? Disney has more leverage to drag these studios into its new streaming service, expected to launch late 2019.

While it’s unlikely that the major studios will follow Disney in entirely snubbing Netflix, the fact that Disney content will be made available exclusively through its own streaming service will encourage at least some families to shift their dollars to the House of Mouse.

Netflix probably won’t go away, especially considering its significant investment in children’s programming. More generally, the company has $17 billion in content commitments over the next several years, including original content.

Some recent highlights from the world of streaming:

  • Apple is making its own TV shows for distribution on Apple TV. The company is also reported to be planning to offer movies two to three weeks after cinema release.
  • Facebook pays Turner-owned Bleacher Report “millions” for the right to host reality show No Script in an exclusive window. The social media network might pay up to $3 million an episode in an effort to boost its brand new Watch tab, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • The streaming partner of NFL’s Thursday Night Football, Amazon, pulled in a reported average audience of 372,000 concurrent viewers, which eclipsed the 243,000 viewership average for Twitter’s first TNF broadcast a year ago.
  • Amazon’s Twitch launches its official merchandise store with 18 products including hoodies, pillows, shirts, hats, and cups.
  • YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged that YouTube “definitely could” spend billions on high-end video in the future.
  • Netflix orders Rilakkuma and Kaoru, the first stop-motion animated series based on the popular Japanese characters. It will premiere globally in spring 2019.
  • Viacom will launch of a new Nickelodeon linear channel via OTT and mobile platforms in Japan—the first time that Viacom has made a Nickelodeon-branded subscription TV channel available only via streaming services for international audiences.

We’re Going Live

Scheduled, live broadcasts will never go away—and they’re expected to appear in greater number on streaming services,  despite their impersonal nature. Viewers like the inclusive experience of being part of a wider viewing experience.

The most extreme are those Netflix has identified as “binge racers”—people who watch a full season of a new show within 24 hours of its debut. The company says that 8.4 million subscribers have binge-raced at some point, or 8% of the total global subscriber base. While small, Netflix says that the binge-racing trend is accelerating.

So how to connect to these live viewers? The second screen—mobile devices, tablets, and even smart watches. In 2016, Statista estimates that 68% of American internet users accessed the internet via smartphone and TV simultaneously, the most popular second screen usage combination ahead of desktop/TV and tablet/TV usage.

While development of the smartphone/TV shopping experience sputtered  a couple of years ago, that doesn’t mean content providers aren’t looking to engage fans through the second screen.

In one recent example, Turner EMEA and Austrian start-up Tonio are launching a live, interactive TV experiment inspired by The Amazing World of Gumball. Called Gumball VIP, the experience combines linear TV viewing with an interactive second screen, utilising Tonio’s audio-recognition tech to serve live quiz questions to fans via their mobile device.

While this type of initiative can be pre-planned, one real-time example comes from Eurosport. The company is using live data with the help of technology specialist CA to create a Live Map function in its mobile app. It allows fans to use their phones to track the peloton during cycling’s three Grand Tours in real-time.

Tracking Woes

The biggest issue facing studios and merchandisers today is that we don’t know exactly how many people are streaming which media at what times. This, and money, is likely the true impetus behind studios launching their own subscription services.

Nielsen is looking to change that—the tracking service launched Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) Content Ratings, which track viewer stats on Netflix, including the streaming service’s list of original programming. It expects to add Amazon Prime and Hulu data sometime in 2018. For now, Netflix isn’t impressed—in a statement, a spokesperson noted that the data “is not accurate, not even close.”


We’ve updated TLL’s list of Planned Feature Films with Licensing Potential. Among the major changes to the upcoming movie list:

  • 20th Century Fox announces that its hit TV show, Bob’s Burgers, is coming to the big screen on July 17, 2020. The series won an Emmy Award in 2014 and 2017 for best animated series; it was nominated for seven consecutive years. The show stars a family that runs a hamburger restaurant in a seaside town. Fox has sent the brand on the road with the “Bob’s Burgers Live” tour over the last three years.
  • Disney cancels Gigantic, its 2020 animated feature based on the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. The project was to be directed by Nathan Greno (Tangled) and Meg LeFauve (Inside Out), and on board for music were Frozen’s Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. According to Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios President Ed Catmull, the film “just isn’t working.” In its place, another development is in the works for Thanksgiving 2020.

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