We recently published a Thematic Signal in which we discussed the comment from Netflix management why it isn’t so worried about HBO, but rather Fortnite. If there was any doubt it was put to rest in the form a recent live concert held inside Fortnite that drew “25 times as many people that attended Woodstock in 1969.”
According to reports, that four-day music event that spanned August 15-18, 1969 in the Catskill Mountains attracted more than 400,000 people. Some simple math suggests the live concert in Fortnite attracted roughly 10 million people.
Watching a concert inside a game!
What were those 10 million people not doing?
Watching Netflix, HBO, Hulu or another streaming video service.
Yes, Netflix is right to be worried over competitive streaming services that take eyeballs away from its content.
This makes the much-rumored streaming gaming services from Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft even more interesting as it could alter the Digital LIfestyle market shares and make for an even more challenging landscape for the existing video streaming services as well as those that are forthcoming from Disney, NBC, and Apple.
The wildly popular video game “Fortnite” made history yesterday with a live show by EDM artist Marshmello that reportedly drew millions of viewers — which, for context, would be 25 times as many people as attended Woodstock in 1969.
“It truly felt like a glimpse into the future of interactive entertainment,” wrote Nick Statt for The Verge, “where the worlds of gaming, music, and celebrity combined to create a virtual experience we’ve never quite seen before.
Over the last several quarters, one of the few blemishes to be had with Disney has been ESPN as chord cutters moved away from the sports programming behemoth. While it took some time for Disney to get its digital offering together, which included some headcount pruning and other cost-saving measures, this past April it launched ESPN+. Priced at $4.99 per month, the service just signed up its one millionth paying subscriber.
This is significant for a few reasons. First, it shows the Content is King aspect of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme remains firmly intact. Second, it shows Disney can win consumer wallets with a streaming service that is value priced compared to some of the other streaming service bundles like those found at Netflix or Hulu. Third, in many ways, this is a test bed for Disney’s other streaming initiatives that will leverage the soon to be acquired Fox content and character library alongside those from other Disney properties such as Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars.
While the haul to be had from those one million ESPN+ subscribers is relatively small relative to Disney’s overall revenue stream, as the subscriber base continues to grow investors will begin to value the company differently. Yes, it will take time – one million is a far cry from the 130 million at Netflix, but Disney has one of the best content libraries to leverage. I’ll continue to watch the progress of ESPN+ as well as the adoption of its other streaming efforts.
ESPN said it has signed up more than one million paying subscribers for the streaming service it launched in April, a boost of confidence for majority-owner Walt Disney Co.’s effort to win over cable TV cord-cutters.
The ESPN+ streaming service, priced at $4.99 a month, offers fans hundreds of live Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games, college football and soccer matches from around the world.
It also carries Top Rank Boxing, Ultimate Fighting Championship matchups, and original studio programming like “Detail” hosted by Kobe Bryant. The service doesn’t carry live streams from ESPN’s TV channels.
ESPN has lost millions of subscribers to its cable channels in recent years, stoking concerns on Wall Street about the sports TV juggernaut’s financial health and more broadly about how deeply the cord-cutting phenomenon will hurt the entire pay-TV industry.
In a statement, Mr. Pitaro said “combining sports, technology and the ESPN brand is a very powerful combination, and we are just getting started.”
ESPN+ has been a big part of Disney’s efforts to take a piece of the burgeoning streaming economy. Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has said that the company’s pending acquisitionof 21st Century Fox Inc. is a foundational part of its plan to take on Netflix Inc. globally.
ESPN+ faces an array of competitors. Other media companies like AT&T Inc.’s Turner andCBS Corp. have released sports-focused streaming competitors, while tech companies likeAmazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. have showed keen interest in competing with ESPN for marquee sports rights.
In March, longtime Disney corporate strategy executive Kevin Mayer took over a new streaming and international division that will oversee both ESPN+ and a new family-focused streaming service that Disney will launch in 2019.
The dust has barely settled on the legal ruling that is paving the way for AT&T (T) to combine with Time Warner (TWX), and we are alread hearing of new products and services to stem from this combination. No surprise as we are seeing a blurring between mobile networks and devices, social media and content companies as Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL) and now AT&T join the hunt for original content alongside Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN), and Hulu, which soon may be controlled by Disney if it successfully fends of Comcast to win 21st Century Fox.
While we as consumers have become used to having the content I want, when I want it with Tivo and then the content I want, when I want it on the device I want it on with streaming services, it looks now like it will be “the content I want, when I want it, on the device I want on the platform I choose.” All part of the overlapping to be had with our Connected Society and Content is King investing themes that we are reformulating into Digital Lifestyle – more on that soon.
In short, a content arms race is in the offing, and it will likely ripple through broadcast TV as well as advertising. Think of it as a sequel to what we saw with newspaper, magazine and book publishing as new business models for streaming content come to market… the looming question in my mind is how much will today’s consumer have to spend on all of these offerings before it becomes too pricey?
And what about Sprint (S) and T-Mobile USA (TMUS)…
Taking advantage of the recent approval of its merger with Time Warner, AT&T on Thursday announced WatchTV, a new live TV service premiering next week — and initially tied to two new unlimited wireless data plans.
WatchTV incorporates over 30 channels, among them several under the wing of Time Warner such as CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS, and Turner Classic Movies. Sometime after launch AT&T will grow the lineup to include Comedy Central, Nicktoons, and several other channels.
People will be able to watch on “virtually every current smartphone, tablet, or Web browser,” as well as “certain streaming devices.” The company didn’t immediately specify compatible Apple platforms, but these will presumably include at least the iPhone and iPad, given their popularity and AT&T’s long-standing relationship with Apple.
The first data plan is “AT&T Unlimited &More”, which will also include $15 in monthly credit towards DirecTV Now. People who pay extra for “&More Premium” will get higher-quality video, 15 gigabytes of tethered data, and the option to add one of several “premium” services at no charge — initial examples include TV channels like HBO or Showtime, and music platforms like Pandora Premium or Amazon Music Unlimited.
&More Premium customers can also choose to apply their $15 credit towards DirecTV or U-verse TV, instead of just DirecTV Now.
WatchTV will at some point be available as a $15-per-month standalone service, but no timeline is available.
We continue to hear more and more about chord cutting as consumers increasingly to over the top and streaming vidoe services and they shift how, where and when they consume that content. Given the Content is King perspective that we have, it comes as little surprise to see that consumers are utilizing multiple platforms because they want the content they want – plain and simple.
While it’s one thing to have one or two streaming services, as companies like Apple and Disney/ESPN follow Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others the content game, it means consumers could very well see their montly content bill soon rival the monthly cable bill they were looking to avoid. If we game it out, it means either consumers will swallow and pay those bills or as we have seen with in other industries market share will consolidate around less than a handful of providors. In many ways this will be the same evolution the internet went through over the last decade plus, the only difference is it will be unfolding not on the PC but across all of our other connected devices.
No matter what type of media consumer you are, there’s a difference between paying $13.99 per month for Netflix and the thousands of dollars you will be paying per year when you add up all the streaming services you will probably want to subscribe to. And that doesn’t even include the $40 to $300+ per month you will have to spend on broadband access. Let’s have a look at the various ways you might spend your streaming media dollars.
Movies, TV, and Video Streaming Services … Oh, My!
The rise of video streaming services has given us a world of alternatives to traditional cable and satellite video providers. Whether you’re a cord-cutter (ditching cable in favor of streaming services), a cord never (someone who’s never paid a cable provider for monthly services), or a cord plus (someone who pays for cable plus services like Netflix or Hulu), you’re likely paying for at least some of these services:
- Netflix – $13.99/month ($10.99/month without 4K)
- Hulu – $11.99/month ($9.99/month with ads)
- Amazon Prime Video – $13/month (includes free shipping on Amazon purchases)
- CBS All-Access – $9.99/month ($5.99/month with ads)
- HBO Now – $14.99/month
- Showtime Anytime – $10.99/month
- Starz Play – $8.99/month
- YouTube Premium – $11.99/month
What started out as an inexpensive way to replace trips to Blockbuster (or to keep you from buying DVDs) has turned into a battleground for your eyes and your wallet. And if you’ve got TV FOMO? Forget about it. Almost every service offers at least some awesome original content. We are lucky to be living in the Platinum Age of video storytelling.
I paid $99 for the first year of CBS All-Access, just to watch Star Trek: Discovery. Is that a smart financial decision? No! Is it worth it? For me it is, because I am a die-hard Star Trek fan and Discovery is awesome!
What further complicates the issue is the ever-changing landscape of rights ownership. Want to binge Parks and Recreation? Better sign up for Netflix. Oh, it’s on Hulu now? Better pay for that, too. Sure, you could buy the complete series on DVD for less than $50, but are you really going to get up from the couch and walk over to the DVD player 21 times to swap out the discs?
With consumers increasing shifting their content consumption to streaming services, be it online or via mobile, we are seeing a number of moves by companies to position themselves accordingly. AT&T (T) is looking to buy Time Warner (TWX), Alphabet (GOOGL) is expanding the reach of YouTubeTV and Apple (AAPL) is hiring programming talent. Amid all of this, Disney scooped up key content assets of Twenty-first Century Fox (FOXA) this week, a long-time strategy of the House of Mouse, but it also acquired the controlling interest in stream service Hulu.
That extra nugget could radically change and potentially accelerate Disney’s already announced plan to launch its own set of streaming services, one for Disney content and the other for ESPN. We see this as a potential gamechanger that also adds our Connected Society tailwind to the Content is King company that is Disney.
The deal puts Fox’s movie studio, 20th Century Fox, under the Disney umbrella, bringing with it the studio’s intellectual property. Having 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” and “Avatar” under the same roof as Disney’s “The Avengers” and “Star Wars” could have huge ramifications in both the streaming world and the film industry.
Disney announced in August that it will pull its content from Netflix, effectively ending its relationship with the streaming service to start its own in 2019. This means Netflix users will no longer be able to watch content from Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and Disney Animation.The deal between the two media giants means that Disney’s streaming service will include its own deep vault of intellectual property, as well as Fox’s decades of popular franchises, which would most likely get pulled from streaming competitors.
As much as this deal is about the content that Disney would be getting from Fox, it’s also about content competitors like Netflix would not.The deal also means Fox’s stakes in Hulu now belong to Disney, which already has an equal stake along with Comcast. With a majority stake in Hulu, Disney could change the award-winning streaming service’s offerings.
After days of speculation, Content is King champ Walt Disney (DIS) formally announced it was acquiring the film, television and international businesses of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA) for $52.4 billion in stock. Viewed through our thematic lens, Disney is once again expanding its content library, which means that finally the X-Men and other characters will be reunited with their Marvel brethren under one roof. As the inner comic book geek in me sees it, perhaps we will know get the X-Men movie we deserve.
While I only half kid about the comic book potential of the deal, the reality is the transaction expands Disney’s reach to include movies, TV production house, a 39% stake in Sky Plc, Star India, and a lineup of pay-TV channels that include FX, National Geographic and regional sports networks. Via a spinoff, Rupert Murdoch will continue to run Fox News Channel, the FS1 sports network and the Fox broadcast network in the U.S.
Viewing the combination through our Connected Society thematic lens, we see the move by Disney as solidifying not only its streaming content business but its streaming platform potential as well. Recently Disney shared that over the next few years it would launch its own streaming services, one for Disney content and one for ESPN, in order to better compete with frenemy Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN) and other streaming initiatives at Alphabet (GOOGL), Facebook (FB) and the burgeoning one at Apple (AAPL). Let’s remember these streaming services are all embracing our Content is King investing theme as they bring their own proprietary content to market to lure new subscribers and keep existing ones. We have previously shared our view that we are in a content arms race, and acquiring these Fox assets certainly adds much to the Disney war chest once the deal is completed in the next 12-18 months.
The added Connected Society benefit to be had in acquiring Fox is it ups Disney to a controlling interest in streaming service Hulu, which has roughly 12 million streaming subscribers and 250,000 subscribers for its new live TV streaming offering — the online TV package that replicates a small cable bundle. Hulu used to have three different bosses — Disney, Fox, and Comcast (CMCSA) — each owning an equal stake. Following the Disney-Fox deal, odds are Comcast’s role in Hulu will diminish and over time I would not be surprised to see Disney acquire that ownership piece as well. What this does is quickly lay a solid foundation for Disney’s streaming service plans, and I would not be shocked to see Disney convert Hulu into its own branded streaming service once the Fox acquisition closes.
From a thematic investing perspective, the Disney-Fox combination is a win-win on several levels, even though Disney is spending quite a bit of capital to get it done. The reality is there is no better company at monetizing its content and squeezing dollars from consumer wallets and in the coming quarters, Disney will have two very strong thematic tailwinds behind it — a more solidified Content is King tailwind and a burgeoning Connected Society tailwind keeping its sails full.
Near-term, this weekend is the domestic opening of the next Star Wars movie – initial reviews are very positive and advance ticket sales indicate a $200 million opening weekend or better.
- We continue to rate Disney (DIS) shares a Buy, and our long-term price target remains $125