Tag Archive for: Film

Seminar on the new giants and new technologies

New seminar – about the new giants and new technologies Colin Dixon, who is behind nScreenMedia, is coming to Copenhagen on 29 November, where we hold a brand new and in-depth seminar on the new challenges facing the TELEVISION industry. The seminar focuses in particular on strategic analyses of internationally oriented giants such as Amazon, Disney/Fox, MGM and others, and how we can expect [...]

That's how we get the movie pirates!

Studies continuously show that there are still major problems with illegal streaming and downloading. Activity remains high among people who don't want to pay for a subscription to a streaming service or buy/rent movies digitally.

But there is hope ahead!

The problem has been around since the digital dawn of media distribution. It started with illegal copying of CD discs throughout the 90s, since DVD discs, and since music files do not take up much space, the Internet could already be used in the early years for the effective pirate distribution of music.

It started with Napster in 1999 and plagued revenue in the music industry for ten years before its loss began to return with the advent of services such as Spotify in particular.

Although musicians often complain that you don't get as much money from the digital services as when the physical discs lived and had a good time, you have to note that the model works.

Streaming music has become the standard for music consumption, and for the consumer it is simply fantastic that for about a hundred dollars a month at any time and anywhere you have access to virtually all the music that is available all over the world, new and old – and in high quality.

It is simply unique when you think about it!

Especially when you think back to scratchy vinyl records that had to be turned all the time, and CD discs that had to be taken off a shelf and placed in an appliance to be able to play an hour of music. Digital distribution is an overwhelmingly efficient and fast-growing evolution for the media industry. A real revolution.

Huge amounts of plastic and logistics fuel are being saved for driving around with plastic discs, and the traffic of music and movies and TV shows has now moved into the digital online world, providing fantastic new opportunities. But the shadow side is still there, and especially the film industry in Denmark, I often hear call down curses on digital development, which is seen as a new evil time when money has disappeared and people can easily steal movies.

And that is indeed the shadow side of digital distribution. It is all too easy to develop illegal services and get away with it, and all too easy for the consumer to access illegal means of circumventing copyright, and it costs money for the industry.

Unfortunately, downloading movies illegally is almost as easy as pressing a button.

How much it costs for the industry is difficult to calculate, as you cannot count on the number of illegally downloaded films to match a similar legal purchase.

The problem recently resurfaced on media front pages when internet provider Telenor won a case in the High Court. The case was about the infamous letters that a law firm on behalf of both Danish and international film companies has sent out to consumers who have been revealed to have downloaded a film illegally.

The case sparked a debate again about how to get to the point of getting to the point. There are two factions, each with its own model for a solution: those who try to combine the hunt for the perpetrators who set up the illegal pages, and information campaigns to the media consumers that this is not going to work. And then those who want to hunt down end users reveal them with refined use of surveillance technology and court orders to the telecommunications companies to move out with people's identities to send them a threat of legal action and offers to close the case for a fee of around 2,500 kroner.

The last model appears to have been sidelined when the High Court upheld Telenor's view that in future it cannot be forced to reveal the identity of its clients on the form of a court order from a law firm that has scrutinised data on internet behaviour from pirate sites. It is unknown whether the case will go to the Supreme Court, but these are hard odds at a time of GDPR and a strong focus on our right to protect our data.

The telecom industry is cheering, and parts of the film industry are raging with rhetoric like: "You can't compete with free."

I have the impression that many professionals actually see piracy as the main cause of economic crisis in Danish film. That can hardly be the case. The fact that digitalisation has given us so many new opportunities to watch films and TV series in a number of ways probably also plays a role.

But there is cause for optimism, and the industry will eventually adopt new business models from the streaming world, while efforts to hunt down backers and develop information campaigns targeting users of illegal services continue to keep the development of illegal behavior down.

Because that is clearly the way forward.

A recent Nordic study showed that, despite the fact that the film industry is plagued by illegal online behaviour, it is worse in Sweden. In March, the Swedish Film and TV-Branschens Samarbetskommitté investigated the behaviour of downloading illegally from, for example, the website The Pirate Bay, and the figures were 21 percent for Sweden, 14 percent for Norway, 10 percent for Denmark and only 6 percent for Finland.

And it was found that the level in Sweden is the same as five years ago. The project manager at Mediavision, who carried out the study, believes that the differences between the Nordic countries are due to the fact that in Finland and Denmark we have more activities in the process of blocking illegal services than they have in Sweden.

So the work the Rights Alliance does to constantly hunt down copyright-infringing websites and have them blocked has an effect. And it would make much better sense to turn up this hunt rather than chasing down users by fining them, which can actually be seen as image-damaging scaremongering. It is hardly effective, but, on the contrary, can damage the reputation of the film industry, however unfair it may be.

The telecoms industry has worked well with the Rights Alliance to get barriers to illegal streaming services put in place effectively, so it is not fair when the film industry's people throw their anger at the telecommunications companies, which do not want to hand over people's private data.

But I still don't believe that illegal behaviour can ever be completely put to life. It will always tempt consumers with a high morale, but you can obviously keep it down. In the long term, the streaming industry's new business opportunities will also gain more and more ground, although for many in the film industry these new models are not popular, as they do not appear to be able to produce high revenues at first sight.

The model Netflix is going out with probably shows the way forward. With global distribution of a TV series or movie, even a Danish producer can reach the entire globe with a Danish TV series when Netflix presses a button. But as a producer, you have typically sold all your rights in a single agreement, and that model is hard to swallow for many.

However, everyone must be able to see that the model actually works. Although anything that can be streamed can also be pirated and pirated, the motivation for an amoral end user is, all other things being equal, significantly less when a TV series or movie is available on an affordable streaming service.

And if you're Miso Film, who has produced a TV series like The Rain on and off Netflix, you don't have to worry about pirates and illegal downloading at all.


This post was originally published by Echofilmfilm magazine. 


Hollywood's Golden Bin

In addition to both several new TV series and new seasons of popular TV series, Netflix, as we know, is also betting heavily on feature films.

There is a deliberate ban on cinema viewing, unlike streaming competitor Amazon, which with Amazon Studios plays nicely on the premise of the cinema industry and develops feature films that get regular cinema distribution before they appear as streaming.

By looking at their big data, Netflix has analyzed itself to the fact that we subscribers may love their TV shows, but we'd like to regularly take a series break and relax with a traditional feature film — perhaps an evening where we prefer a concentrated drama that's run and rounded off in a few hours of high production value.

That's why Netflix spends money on both producing movies itself and buying movies that bring brand new types of distribution deals into the film industry.

Under no circumstances will Netflix make their own films available for cinema distribution, and there can be many interesting reasons for that. Netflix's official announcement is that their subscribers must have their movies made available at any time as soon as they are finished, and the company will not let the streaming subscribers' money be used for cinemas to make money.

I've previously written here on Echo about Netflix's investments on movies, and it's a thought-provoking fact that so far most of their movies haven't been critically successful, to say the least.

Leaving aside the two films that attended the 2017 Cannes festival, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, most have snorted the horrors of Adam Sandler, a cracked Brad Pitt film and a well-produced but banal action-fantasy film starring Will Smith, the $90 million expensive Bright.

Nevertheless, Netflix has ordered four new Adam Sandler movies, and there will be a sequel to Bright. With their big data, Netflix has apparently calculated that no matter what critics say, there is a suitably large and devoted audience for these movies among their 120 million subscribers across the globe.

But as Netflix continues to invest in its own movies, and even has a big Martin Scorsese movie on the way, remarkable distribution of major Hollywood movies has recently been being tested. Here, Netflix acts almost like a golden trash can for big movies that, for Hollywood companies, have ended up becoming too risky for a large-scale cinema distribution.

Golden, because the Hollywood studio secured some real human money for films that would otherwise almost have ended up being considered best to throw in a trash can. Most notable is the example of the Paramount film Annihilation, which has a global premiere on Netflix on March 12, while in the US since February 25 it has been shown in over 2,000 cinemas. The film also had theatrical release in Canada and China.

But how can a show on Netflix just seventeen days after the world premiere in US cinemas hang together?

Paramount has lost out with money on films such as Mother!, Suburbicon and Downsizing, and the tracks from Warner Brothers' huge 2049 Blade Runner scares, so an apparently intellectually demanding science fiction film like Annihilation was early on considered financially perilous, even though it features stars like Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac and was created by the man behind Ex Machina, Alex Garland.

The film tested poorly. Audiences couldn't figure it out, and producer David Ellison demanded a series of changes that could make the film easier to digest. But he couldn't get it through when Alex Garland's co-producer, Scott Rudin, had the final cut, so Garland got his way with the film.

Instead, he can bemoan the fact that his films, carefully created for the big, beautiful cinema screen, are not shown in a cinema in his native England. By contrast, virtually the entire globe can watch it via Netflix from March 12.

Annihilation has cost $55 million, and it did indeed go really badly in American cinemas despite fine reviews. Rather than start considering whether it was worth launching on the European market, Paramount left it to Netflix, which pays the equivalent of about half of the film's budget of $55 million.

For Netflix, it's probably really cheap.

Here they get wide-ranging exclusives to a fine feature film for about $27 million rather than spending $90 million to make a movie like Brightthemselves . After all, Netflix has only one simple goal to keep making itself so delicious to the 120 million subscribers that they don't quit. Such notable film deals are an effective means to the goal and a smaller grip in your pocket with the $8 billion that Netflix will spend on content in 2018.

The Cloverfield Paradox - produced for cinema screens but ended up on the +120 million screens of Netflix customers.

The Cloverfield Paradox is another paradoxical example of quite a large film with a budget of $45 million that was so distorted that, despite high production budget and very fine actors, it was considered unsuitable for theatrical release.

Paramount chose to let Netflix rip a big stunt out of the unknown movie: a surprise commercial during the Super Bowl with the message: "Watch the movie on Netflix right after the game." Then you also didn't have to let the reviewers see the film before the release. And Paramount probably got most of the money home for the film without sacrificing cinema viewing and marketing on it.

This development will be extremely interesting to follow. Is this just some lone swallow or a new trend in which movies that are just the least creatively and intellectually challenging for moviegoers will completely disappear from the big screens?

Do cinemas end up offering only films as easily digestible as popcorn and coke? Superheroes vying for the great cinema screens in endless rows of prequels and sequels, a few annual big animation films and every now and then a successful Danish comedy or Danish psychopathy?

We can then choose to stay at home and pick up the wasted talent of cinemas from the golden Netflix trash can.


This post was originally published by Echofilmfilm magazine. 


Danflix

The Liberal Party's media policy Christmas surprise came in the form of a proposal for a new, large public service pool, to which a "public service equivalent of the popular streaming service Netflix" is to be attached.

As Britt Bager, the Liberal Party's culture and media spokesman, explained on Thursday afternoon:

"When we call it Danflix, of course it comes from Netflix. But at the same time, it is a way of emphasizing that we believe that in the future we should bring all Danish content together in one place."

There, bells rang in my Christmas tree head, since these were phrases I myself once formulated! I even registered the domain, but I wonder if I've remembered to pay it.

I went through my extensive digital archives and found powerpoint planks and emails from 2011. And sure enough. At a workshop on 10 October 2011, I had introduced the word "Danflix" to a larger customer, and I found that I was still the owner of the domain.

I also found that in both 2013 and 2014 I had proposed to major Danish players in the media market that a unified streaming service for Danish content could be an obvious bulwark against the continued growth among Danish customers that Netflix continued to perform.

It was amusing to see that the Liberal Party had come up with a similar idea, and not least quite the same name, so I wrote a little petty update on Facebook:

Then it came loose – with headlines on, among other things, dr.dk, eb.dk and bt.dk as well as lots of interest on social media.

I should not, invoking more oracous insight than what is reasonable. But in 2009, it became clear that Netflix was onto something right with its streaming service, which started in 2007. By the fall of 2011, major Comcast in the U.S. (similar to YouSee) had begun losing customers to Netflix.

It was a hot topic in media analytic circles, and I gave many speeches, seminars, workshops, lectures and conferences where Netflix was analyzed and warned that they were probably coming to Denmark. In 2013 or 2014, we thought then.

But I actually saw that pretty much everyone in the industry – broadcasters, producers, telecom operators and TV distributors – did not believe at all that broadcasting TV and video over the Internet would be possible on a larger scale and that consumers would not be interested.

So my idea that a Danflix should be built in collaboration between producers and broadcasters, it was impossible to get anyone interested.

But the idea is still really good – even if it's not particularly original, since it's heavily inspired by the US streaming service Hulu.

Hulu went on the air as a streaming service in 2007 with a concept that brought together the most popular TV shows and shows from the major U.S. broadcasters into one service. Today, Hulu is owned by Fox, Disney and NBC/Universal (owned by cable TV operator Comcast) with a 30 percent stake each, while TimeWarner has 10 percent.

The interface on Hulu is similar to Netflix, but is composed of program content from both the largest broadcasters in the United States, as well as a large number of smaller ones. Consumers very much see Hulu as the ultimate "tape recorder" service for running TV shows.

In addition, following the merger with Fox, Disney will hold a 60 percent total stake in Hulu, and Disney/Fox will dominate the continued development of Hulu. Hulu has also started producing its own original series, with The Handmaid's Tale being the most sensational (which HBO Nordic currently distributes in our part of the world).

So my recurring vision has been that on Danish soil there is fertile ground for a "Danish Hulu", a Danflix, built on elements of the same model as Hulu.

But since 2014, I haven't thought about the idea any more because the trend was going in a different direction. The individual Danish broadcasters really started building their own streaming services, and today we now have TV 2 Play, Viaplay and DR TV, for example, all working well on their websites, but especially as apps on all our modern media devices – even with live TV.

So developments have moved away from shared platforms to individual apps. Here DR itself is also well advanced with an excellent service for license payers, and streaming from DR is highest ranking on Danish user surveys.

But it has also provoked many players in the Danish television market, where very big questions have been raised about whether DR should even take on the role of distributor and spend license funds on technological investments?

This is one of the issues that clearly needs to be politically clarified in the upcoming media conciliation negotiations, and the issue must also have rumbleed in the Liberal Party's heads when they planned the presentation. Because could Danflix just be taking the current DR streaming service and putting it outside dr in a new construction? Or do you think that a new organization should start over and build a brand new streaming service from scratch?

That's possible. Streaming is no longer rocket science, but there are quite a few technical challenges in making it run just as well as consumers are used to from, say, Netflix. It can get expensive. And now we Danes for our licensing funds have already paid for one streaming service – DR TV – so maybe they should just drive on in a slightly different direction?

Or should one of the country's TV operators build the new national streaming service? They face huge challenges as customers flee the cable tv packages, revenue drops, because now customers are streaming live from DR and TV 2 and filling up the rest of their lives with Netflix.

So cable TV operators need something new to tear into, a new way to bring customers together, and they all have experience with streaming services as well. But which one will it be? And can a Danflix streaming service be commercial? And will TV 2 even be included? They are clearly betting their own closed universe with TV 2 Play – that they will own the customer themselves.

Before one can begin to see the contours of some concrete answers, there is a large complex of political elements that need to be reconciled before one can see whether the idea makes sense.

We're not talking about pennies.

In the proposal, the Liberals will cut 400 million of DR's 3.7 billion from the licence fee funds and place them in a new pool from which everyone will be able to apply, to create content that will then ultimately show up on Danflix, which will not cost the Danes any further, i.e. apparently without subscription. In addition, an additional 100 million in the pot from the current media support scheme, so the Danflix pot will be at least 500 million.

A newly created public service board – occupied by professionals – must distribute the funds from the Danflix pool, and all taxpayers in Denmark can apply from the pool – including DR and TV 2. You immediately wonder who these professionals might be? And where will this new media-powerful public service board rule from? Surely the Film Institute can see itself as self-written, and would like to make some desks and public service pool-experienced heads available?

There are a lot of questions, and many of us are looking forward to 1 February, when, according to Britt Bager, the government will present its overall bid for a media settlement. There is good good won on the proposal so far, as Culture Minister Mette Bock finds it "incredibly exciting".

Back to Danflix. Is that a good name? Perhaps there is a reason why I have not followed danflix more vigorously myself, because perhaps the name, despite owning the domain, is not the most ingenious.

Or it is just a fantastically perfect and beautiful popular name for the Danes' very own public service streaming service! Danflix is beautifully leaning on the fine tradition of example Danland, Dankort and Danbriketter ...

Despite all this beautiful Dan, Morten Marinus from the Danish People's Party has spoken out offensively to both the Liberal Party and me by making this insulting assessment of the name Danflix in Berlingske: "It's stupid. I think it sounds like some company title from some Olsen gang movie."

But there are also many other options, such as DanPlay, DaneFlix, LetStream, NemTV, DanTV, BorgerTV, DanTube and what do I know. DR TV sounds good too.


This post was originally published by Echofilmfilm magazine.