Streaming wars
March 25, 2019

Apple is officially entering the streaming wars.

Apple on Monday announced its brand new streaming service, Apple TV+, during an event in Cupertino. After showing off a montage of clips from upcoming original shows, the company described Apple TV+ as "not just another streaming service" but rather "the destination where the world's greatest storytellers will bring their best ideas to life."

Several of those storytellers were in attendance on Monday to speak briefly about their shows. The line-up consisted of Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Jason Momoa, Alfre Woodard, Kumail Nanjiani, J.J. Abrams, Sara Bareilles, and even Big Bird.

The event ended with Oprah Winfrey, who said she's excited to work with Apple because the fact that they're "in a billion pockets" represents a "major opportunity to make a genuine impact." She's working on two documentaries for Apple, one about sexual harassment and one about mental health, and says Apple will also stream book club conversations. "I want to literally convene a meeting of the minds connecting us through books," she said.

Apple ended its event without revealing how much the service will cost, which had remained one of the biggest unanswered questions heading in. But it was announced that the service will be ad-free and available in more than 100 countries, with content being downloadable and new programming coming each month. It's set to launch sometime this fall — meaning it will likely debut around the same time as Disney's streaming service, Disney+. Brendan Morrow

March 6, 2019

Apple has just lined up another Oscar winner for its streaming service.

Brie Larson, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2016 and is about to make her superhero debut in Captain Marvel, will star in and produce a new TV series for Apple's streaming service, per The Hollywood Reporter. The show will be a CIA drama based on the true story of undercover operative Amaryllis Fox, as chronicled in her upcoming book Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA.

This is just the latest major name to join forces with Apple — Academy Award winners Damien Chazelle, Steven Spielberg, Octavia Spencer, and Reese Witherspoon also have projects in the works. Some of the other major gets for various pieces of Apple programming include Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, J.J. Abrams, and M. Night Shyamalan.

Details around Apple's streaming service still haven't been officially unveiled, but the Reporter notes they're expected to be announced at an event later this month. Brendan Morrow

March 4, 2019

Netflix is defending its love of cinema amid a fierce debate over whether they should be kicked out of the Oscars.

The official Netflix Film Twitter account on Sunday weighed into a firestorm that began with reports that director Steven Spielberg is looking to introduce a new Oscars rule disqualifying films that don't play exclusively in theaters for four weeks. Under Netflix's current strategy, this would make their movies ineligible at the Academy Awards. Roma only played in theaters for three weeks before hitting streaming, and this was seen as a major concession because Netflix usually debuts its movies online on the same day they open theatrically.

"We love cinema," the Netflix account said while adding that they also love providing broader access to films and "letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time."

Spielberg's argument is that steps should be taken to preserve the traditional theatrical moviegoing experience and prevent it from dying amid the rise of streaming platforms, while others feel that Netflix allows movies that might not otherwise make it to theaters to be seen by a wide audience.

The proposed rule change is expected to be introduced at an upcoming meeting of the Academy's Board of Governors, but it's unclear whether it will pass. One Academy executive branch member told The Hollywood Reporter that "this won't go down as easily" as previous rule changes, predicting a "huge fight." With several of this year's upcoming Netflix movies looking like 2020 Oscars contenders, don't expect this debate to slow down anytime soon. Brendan Morrow

February 11, 2019

Netflix's Marvel shows are being canceled left and right, but four new ones are in the works at rival streamer Hulu.

Hulu has announced a new deal with Marvel for four animated shows: MODOK, Hit-Monkey, Tigra & Dazzler and Howard the Duck, per The Hollywood Reporter. Similar to the deal Marvel previously struck with Netflix, these four shows will unite in a crossover event called The Offenders. Comedian Patton Oswalt is set to produce MODOK, while Chelsea Handler will produce Tigra & Dazzler and Kevin Smith will produce Howard the Duck. Variety reports the shows will be for adults.

These shows are coming from Marvel Television, the Disney-owned division of Marvel Entertainment that previously produced Netflix's Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. All three of those shows have been canceled, while Jessica Jones and The Punisher likely aren't long for this world, either. This is largely because Disney, which owns Marvel, is set to launch its own streaming service and will be focusing on Marvel originals exclusive to that platform, no longer interested in giving its content to Netflix, which will soon be its direct competitor.

The new Hulu deal makes sense, though, seeing as Disney will own a 60 percent stake in Hulu once its purchase of Fox goes through. Disney CEO Bob Iger has said Hulu will at that point become home to Disney content geared toward adults, such as these new Marvel shows, per The Verge. Everything else that's family-friendly and generally fits the Disney brand, including the new live-action shows set in the Marvel film universe, will live on Disney+, which launches later this year. Brendan Morrow

January 23, 2019

Hulu is lowering the price of its basic plan just a week after Netflix raised the price of theirs.

Hulu said Wednesday that the price of its cheapest plan would be reduced from $7.99 per month to $5.99 per month, The Verge reports. This is the Hulu plan with commercials; getting rid of ads will still cost $11.99. The streaming service is, however, raising the price of one of its plans: the live TV package, which will now cost $44.99 rather than $39.99. These changes will be implemented at the end of February.

Like Hulu, Netflix's cheapest plan used to be $7.99, but that will soon go up to $8.99, meaning a basic Hulu account will now cost $3 less per month than a basic Netflix account. The key difference, though, is that no Netflix plan includes advertisements. These are just the latest shots Hulu has fired at Netflix after previously dropping a documentary about Fyre Festival days before Netflix was able to release its own.

As The Verge notes, changes are likely to come to Hulu in the coming year, as Disney is set to take majority ownership over the platform. Disney currently owns a 30 percent stake in the company, as does Fox — Disney will take over those shares once the company finalizes its purchase of Fox. Disney also plans to introduce the new streaming service Disney+ in late 2019. Brendan Morrow

January 10, 2019

Netflix's library of original content will soon include not one but two original films from one of the all-time greatest directors.

The streaming platform has nabbed the rights to a new documentary by Martin Scorsese about Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue concert tour, Variety reports. The movie will reportedly be titled Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, and Netflix describes it as "part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream."

Scorsese also made a 2005 documentary about Dylan, titled No Direction Home. Like that film, this new one will include interviews with Dylan. There's no set release date, but Variety reports it's rumored the movie could begin streaming in the spring.

This is Scorsese's second time collaborating with Netflix: his movie The Irishman has been in the works at the streaming platform for years. This crime drama starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Peschi reportedly cost in excess of $140 million, partially because elaborate visual effects are being used to make the stars look decades younger in some scenes, as IndieWire reports. In fact, this extravagant budget is reportedly why Scorsese ended up at Netflix, since Paramount Pictures wasn't willing to spend that much money. The Irishman doesn't yet have an official release date but will reportedly come out this year. It seems poised to be the biggest film ever released by Netflix, and Oscar buzz is already building.

Scorsese also has a third film in development, Killers of the Flower Moon, which will star Leonardo DiCaprio and be produced by Imperative Entertainment. It will reportedly film this summer. Brendan Morrow

December 14, 2018

Apple just signed a massive deal that will surely make executives at Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon let out a collective "good grief."

Apple has purchased the rights to new Peanuts shows, specials, and shorts for its upcoming streaming service, per The Hollywood Reporter. The classic comic-inspired content will be produced by DHX Media, and it will reportedly include educational programming for kids, such as shorts with an astronaut Snoopy. Details about the other shows and specials haven't been revealed yet, but this will be the first new Peanuts material since the 2015 feature film The Peanuts Movie, which was released by Fox and made $246 million at the box office.

This is a huge get for Apple, which has been making moves this year to build up a library of original content with plans to launch its own streaming service to compete with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. The details of this service, such as whether it will be a standalone app or will live on existing Apple platforms like Apple TV, haven't yet been confirmed, but one recent report suggested it will roll out within the first half of 2019, per The Information.

Ahead of the platform's launch, Apple has already reeled in talents like M. Night Shyamalan, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Oprah Winfrey for other shows on the service. The company also signed a deal for new content from the Sesame Workshop in June, per The Hollywood Reporter. Needless to say, expect the escalating streaming wars, which resulted this year in more scripted content on streaming than on broadcast or cable TV for the first time ever, to become even more competitive in 2019. Brendan Morrow

November 15, 2018

Get ready to one day see Apple CEO Tim Cook at the Academy Awards.

Apple, having previously set aside $1 billion to start producing original TV shows and films, has signed a multi-year deal for original movies with hit indie studio A24, Variety reported Thursday.

Some of A24's films include Moonlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017, as well as Room, Lady Bird, The Florida Project, The Disaster Artist, and The Witch. Founded in 2012, the studio has had at least one film nominated at the Oscars for the past three years, and in 2019, its movies Eighth Grade, Hereditary, and Mid90s are among those in contention for top awards. Apple did not buy A24 completely, though, as had been rumored.

The deal with Apple is not exclusive, so A24 will make an unspecified number of movies for Apple and other movies elsewhere. It's not yet clear whether these films will be released in theaters or premiere exclusively on an Apple streaming platform, Variety writes.

This news shows that Apple is committed to attracting some serious talent for its slate of originals: the company reeled in Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Chris Evans, and Charlie Day for its new Apple TV shows. Before this deal, Apple acquired the rights to two movies from the Toronto International Film Festival, Deadline points out.

Amazon and Netflix have both previously received Oscar nominations for their original films, and Netflix's Roma is thought to have a chance at Best Picture in 2019. No streaming platform has yet taken home that top prize — it remains to be seen who might get there first, but with Apple now in the mix, the race is on. Brendan Morrow

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