Streaming wars
April 8, 2021

Netflix is looking to build up its streaming offerings even more with a little help from Sony.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, the company behind franchises like Spider-Man and Jumanji, has signed a five-year deal that will give Netflix the exclusive U.S. streaming rights to its movies, The New York Times reports. The deal will begin with the films Sony releases in 2022, which will include Morbius and Uncharted. These movies will still debut in theaters and then go to premium video-on-demand, but they'll head to Netflix after that.

Some older movies from Sony are also expected to be licensed to Netflix, The Wall Street Journal reports, and Sony will make two to three movies a year for Netflix, according to the Times.

This move was "a sign of how much the streamer still really wants/needs other companies' titles," wrote The Washington Post's Steven Zeitchik. Indeed, Netflix has lost a number of high-profile titles from other studios in recent years like The Office and Friends, as rivals prepared to launch streaming competitors like Peacock and HBO Max. On the film side, Netflix has also lost the U.S. streaming rights to certain Marvel and Star Wars films that now live on Disney+.

So this deal, Deadline wrote, provided Netflix with an important "boost" amid "investor worries that it has lost key draws," and seeing as Sony produces the Spider-Man films, the Journal reported that getting more Marvel content was a "key incentive" for Netflix. It was also the latest example of Netflix looking to get major film franchises on its service, CNN's Frank Pallotta noted, after the streamer recently dropped over $450 million for the rights to two Knives Out sequels — though unlike with Sony's movies, those sequels actually debut on Netflix.

Either way, Netflix is clearly looking to bring in some big guns to help it stay competitive in the streaming wars, and perhaps Spider-Man and Benoit Blanc are just who they need. Brendan Morrow

February 24, 2021

Frasier Crane is headed back on the air.

A revival of the hit sitcom Frasier has been officially announced at Paramount+, with star Kelsey Grammer set to return. The news was unveiled during a ViacomCBS presentation on Wednesday focused on Paramount+, the rebranded version of CBS All Access that's launching in March.

"Having spent over 20 years of my creative life on the Paramount lot, both producing shows and performing in several, I'd like to congratulate Paramount+ on its entry into the streaming world," Grammer said. "I gleefully anticipate sharing the next chapter in the continuing journey of Dr. Frasier Crane."

Frasier, a spin-off of Cheers, originally ran for 11 seasons from 1993 through 2004, and a potential return has been discussed for years. Chris Harris and Joe Cristalli will write and produce the revival, which Paramount+ promised "will have everything you love about the original: coziness, great writing, and of course, a cast led by" Grammer. Stars David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, and Peri Gilpin aren't currently attached to the revival, according to Variety.

This was just one of a number of Paramount+ reboots and revivals discussed on Wednesday, with others including Rugrats and Criminal Minds, as ViacomCBS reaches into its catalog in hopes of gaining an upper hand in the continuing streaming wars. Brendan Morrow

January 19, 2021

Netflix just reached a key subscriber milestone.

The streaming company on Tuesday said it added 8.5 million paid subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2020, taking it beyond 200 million subscribers, Variety reports. Netflix now has 203.7 million subscribers globally, and it beat its forecast that it would add six million subscribers in the last quarter of the year.

This came after Netflix added fewer subscribers than expected in the third quarter of 2020 with 2.2 million, as Axios reported. But the company had previously beat subscriber forecasts as COVID-19 lockdowns prompted consumers to flock to streaming, and it said Tuesday it added over 36 million subscribers in 2020. As Variety notes, this was the company's biggest annual subscriber gain ever, more than the 28.6 million it added in 2018. Netflix previously passed 100 million paid subscribers in 2017, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Netflix reaching the 200 million subscriber milestone also comes after the company recently touted its 2021 film slate, announcing that, amid uncertainty about the future of the theatrical business during the pandemic, it will release at least one new movie to streaming every week this year. Brendan Morrow

January 12, 2021

As Hollywood continues delaying theatrical films due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix is looking to fill the gap, previewing an avalanche of original movies headed to streaming through the end of 2021.

Netflix on Tuesday dropped a sizzle reel showing off its packed 2021 slate, revealing it will release at least one original movie every week this year. The streamer's lineup for 2021 consists of 70 original films, though The Hollywood Reporter notes that number is "expected to grow" after additional acquisitions. But this 2021 slate is already larger than that of Disney and Warner Bros. put together, The Verge reports, and Bloomberg describes it as Netflix's "most ambitious" ever.

The video released by Netflix teases films including the highly-anticipated Malcolm & Marie starring John David Washington and Zendaya; directorial debuts from Halle Berry and Lin-Manuel Miranda; the action-comedy Red Notice, which stars Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds; and Adam McKay's Don't Look Up, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence.

The preview comes as it still remains unclear when the movie theater business will be able to kick back into gear in a major way, with COVID-19 cases surging as vaccines roll out slower than expected in the United States. New delays to films scheduled for release in theaters early this year are expected, and on Monday, Sony postponed its Jared Leto-starring Morbius by seven months, moving it from March to October. Brendan Morrow

December 14, 2020

It looks like keeping your streaming binge of The Office going into the new year will come with a $4.99 a month price tag.

The classic NBC show will depart Netflix at the end of the year and head to NBCUniversal's streaming service Peacock instead, and on Monday, NBCUniversal announced that users will need a paid subscription to stream most of the episodes.

Starting on Jan. 1, the first two seasons of The Office will stream on Peacock for free with ads, but seasons three through nine will require either a $4.99 a month Peacock Premium subscription or a $9.99 a month Peacock Premium Plus subscription, according to Variety. The former subscription plan comes with ads, while the latter is ad-free.

It had been unclear how much of The Office would require a paid Peacock subscription ever since the streaming move was revealed in 2019. When it launched, Peacock in its advertising heavily played up the fact that it has a free tier, although only certain content is available without a paid subscription. Of course, those unwilling to subscribe to Peacock for The Office could purchase all of the seasons of the show, either on DVD or through a digital platform.

But The Office has been one of Netflix's biggest streaming hits, and NBCUniversal hopes it will be a major draw to Peacock, with Bloomberg calling this a "bid to attract more paying customers to the fledgling streaming service." In fact, the company is reportedly paying $100 million a year for the streaming rights to the show. Brendan Morrow

May 27, 2020

HBO Max is entering the streaming wars. So how do you get it, exactly, and what's the difference between this and HBO's other services?

HBO Max, which officially launched in the U.S. on Wednesday, is the new WarnerMedia streaming service, and it includes content from the company's library of movies and shows of which HBO programming is just a part. There's everything from The Big Bang Theory and Friends to films that aren't on the regular version of HBO, as well as original content that's exclusive to Max, including new Sesame Street and Looney Tunes shows (and, starting next year, the infamous Snyder cut of Justice League).

There are confusingly now three separate services called HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max. As HBO clarifies, HBO Go is the streaming service that comes with a subscription to HBO through a TV package. HBO Now, on the other hand, is an HBO streaming service that doesn't require a cable subscription.

Then there's HBO Max, which includes everything you'd normally get with an HBO subscription, plus significantly more content that isn't HBO related. As of Wednesday, a new customer can subscribe to Max for the same $14.99 a month price as Now, which offers far less content than Max.

If you're an HBO customer, you may or may not already have Max, as Now subscribers are being upgraded for no additional cost depending on how they're billed, while if you use HBO Go, you get access depending on which TV provider you subscribe through, as CNET explains. Comcast customers aren't getting upgraded at the moment.

Check out more information about which HBO users automatically get HBO Max here. The service is now available, meaning after leaving Netflix, the Friends are once again there for you.

Update: Since the original publication of this article, HBO Max announced it reached a deal to provide access to Comcast customers. Brendan Morrow

April 21, 2020

HBO Max will officially make its streaming debut next month, no longer with the Friends reunion special but with one thing no other service offers: an Elmo talk show featuring Batman.

An official launch date of May 27 was announced for the new WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max on Tuesday, with a trailer debuting that highlights its 10,000 hours of content from Friends and Game of Thrones to A Star Is Born and Aquaman. This will be the new streaming home of Friends after it was removed from Netflix.

HBO Max, which will cost $14.99 a month, is also launching with some originals, including new Looney Tunes shorts and the content the world has long demanded: a late-night talk show hosted by Elmo. A trailer for The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo released on Tuesday makes it look exactly like a typical network late-night show but with Elmo as host, and his guests include John Mulaney, Jason Sudeikis, and ... Batman? Sure, why not? There's also trailer for HBO Max's new Looney Tunes cartoons, although seeing Bugs Bunny use a modern smartphone in it is already a little too weird for some.

Love Life, a new comedy series starring Anna Kendrick, and On the Record, a documentary about the sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons, will also be available at launch. One notable omission from the HBO Max launch slate, though, is the Friends reunion special, which was originally meant to be a major draw to the service at launch but has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

HBO Max will be the latest streaming service to launch amid the pandemic after Quibi did so earlier this month and after NBCUniversal's Peacock debuted for some last week, although it won't be available for most until July. Brendan Morrow

April 15, 2020

Yet another new streaming service is making its debut, at least for some. The coronavirus pandemic, however, will push much of its original content off this year's calendar.

NBCUniversal on Wednesday rolled out a free "early preview" of its new streaming service Peacock for Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex customers. It will be available for everyone in July, although moving that launch up is a possibility, the company says. The service will ultimately feature a combination of original programming and classic movies and shows from NBCUniversal's library, from Parks and Recreation to Jurassic Park. Late night shows will also be made available on Peacock earlier than they actually air on TV.

But as far as the original programming, NBCUniversal said this week a "significant" number of them are being delayed to 2021 as productions shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. "We're unclear when things are exactly going to be back to normal," Peacock chair Matt Strauss said, although he added the company is "optimistic" about being able to finish some originals this year like the Saved by the Bell reboot, Variety reports.

When Peacock ultimately launches wide in July, it will offer both premium versions and a limited free version, something The Hollywood Reporter notes could be key if customers are especially wary of spending more money on another streaming service during the coronavirus pandemic. It will also eventually become the exclusive streaming home of The Office when it leaves Netflix. The summer Olympics, though, was supposed to help launch Peacock, but now that it's been delayed to next year, The New York Times notes the company has "lost a marketing advantage."

NBCUniversal ahead of the April 15 preview seemed to concede the service won't really be firing on all cylinders until 2021, with Strauss saying, "What was postponed in 2020 will come back to us even bigger in 2021 when Peacock will arguably be hitting its stride." Brendan Morrow

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