When you go long writing about OnlyFans, some stuff winds up on the cutting room floor. But let’s not leave it there! Let’s pick it up, dust it off, and give you a bonus 1,200 words of my thoughts on the entertainment strategy of last week.
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Almost Most Important Story of the Week – The Latest Invasion of Europe by U.S. Entertainment Companies
A trio of stories caught my eye about Europe. If they represent a theme, it’s that U.S. companies are trying out different strategies in that divided media ecosystem.
Folks have asked me to do a deep dive on Curiosity Stream, and I want to but haven’t had time. Still, I like this move for them, as it leverages the content they’ve produced, but is also lower risk.
I’d add that I looked into including Curiosity Stream in my “U.S. Subscriber Estimates” but I allocate most of their subscribers to cable partnerships that I think are more akin to subscriber fees than actual direct-to-consumer partnerships. If they provide more fidelity on direct subscribers, I’ll add them.
Second, ViacomCBS is partnering with a European player as well, but more out of necessity than want. Specifically, ViacomCBS will let Sky (owned by Comcast) sell Paramount+ subscriptions to its customers. (And, yes, the M&A heads will salivate over what this “potentially” means.)
ViacomCBS will also sell Paramount+ directly-to-consumers, and this deal clears away the roadblocks preventing that due to their preexisting Sky deals. In exchange, ViacomCBS content, including films, will continue to be available on Sky services. This deal will cover the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. That makes this a good compromise on both sides: it allows the Paramount+ roll out while dealing with existing content licensing deals. (And shows just how complicated all these conglomerate deals are.)
Third, Discovery is exploring a bid to buy a broadcast channel in the UK. Specifically, Channel 4. That’s an advertising-supported channel, and the UK government is soliciting bids. (Sky and ITV are interested as well.) The number of firms buying legacy channels in the E.U. surprises me, but there you go. Discovery actually has a fairly substantial linear TV business in Europe already, and this is likely an extension of that strategy.
Other Contenders for Most Important Story
Local Production is Back!
Local film and TV productions have mostly returned to pre-pandemic levels. Unfortunately, Covid-19 and its “delta variant” could shut down production again. Of course, there is a very simple solution: mandate everyone on set gets vaccinated.
Combined with a knowledge of the tremendous efficacy of vaccines (virtually impossible to die for adults; kids are very, very low risk anyways) this should mean we can continue with film production.
AT&T Is Losing Money on (and trying to sell) Xandr
When AT&T bought Warner Media, one of the supposed advantages was Xandr, the ad-tech AT&T started after acquiring another ad-tech firm called AppNexus. However, it, too, seems to be underwater and losing money, especially after AT&T pivoted away from video. Seriously, AT&T should never acquire other companies.
NuFox Sees Ad Revenue Rise in Their Latest Earnings Report
In general, my rule of thumb isn’t to bet against Rupert. Not that I admire what his media outlets do—the exact opposite—but I do admire his business acumen. I think he sold at the top of the market for 21st Century Fox, while buying many other assets at the bottom. In short, an exact BLASH—Buy Low and Sell High—strategy.
Still, NuFox—my name for everything left over from the Disney sale—still seems to be a bit of an oddity in the entertainment landscape. The broadcast channel actually has a smart strategy to beat DVRs/streaming, and NuFox is leaning into Tubi, its free linear streamer. And Fox News makes lots of money. But most of that is dependent on the linear TV ecosystem continuing. So there is a lot of risk.
Amazon Licenses Rights to Country Music Awards in 2022
Oh, this story isn’t just a contender, it’s big, big news. So big I plan to write much more about it next week.
Context Update – Poland passes new media law
One of the game changers for Netflix was the fact that they decided they could launch a streamer globally. Traditional media, approaching things from a conventional distribution approach, assumed that was impossible because owning a cable channel in every country would be crazy from a regulatory perspective. (Though many conglomerates own some cable channels, they aren’t available in every country around the world.)
A recent law in Poland shows the reality that regulators still matter. They passed a bill which would ban non-European broadcasters from owning channels. This would impact, for example, Discovery who operates the largest independent broadcast in Poland. (Discovery has vowed to fight this bill.)
But notably, it doesn’t apply to streaming. So Netflix is fine.
For the most part, regulators have been slow to catch up to the streaming wars. Which makes sense: business moves faster than regulations. Which was genius on Netflix’s part. This latest story, though, is a reminder that each country has its own media environment to regulate. Some are stricter than others (Netflix still isn’t in China!), but everyone regulates media to some degree. And already we see countries like France or the European Union mandating certain amounts of locally produced content. Whether or not more regulation comes to streaming remains to be seen.
M&A Updates – Sony Pictures Closes CrunchyRoll Acquisition
Like Curiosity Stream above, I looked into putting the world’s biggest anime streamer into my “U.S. subscriber estimates” but with very little way to triangulate on the number of U.S. users specifically, I couldn’t do it. Needless to say, CrunchyRoll has been successful in its little corner of the niche streaming world. The news of the week is that AT&T has officially sold CrunchyRoll to Sony.
In hindsight, the fun question is whether or not Warner Media wishes it could have this spinoff back. Would a HBO Max, Discovery+ & +CNN+ want a CrunchyRoll?
Lots of News with No News – Jeopardy Host Troubles
Differentiation is key in business strategy. If you want an example of what distinguishes this website from the trades, it’s the Jeopardy story/saga.
This was front page news all week on every trade/newsletter. And frankly, I think it will have little bearing on the future of media, entertainment or streaming. Yes, you can pluck out warnings about bad PR, but business strategy-wise does it matter? Not compared to Covid, Only Fans, shifting release models, China or piracy. I mean, we’re talking about the host of one syndicated game show on for 30 minutes every day.
That’s worth thousands and thousands of digital words? Really?