Streaming wars
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

October 3, 2018

Streaming companies are stampeding to get their hands on the next Game of Thrones.

Up first is Netflix, which Deadline reports has just signed a deal with The C.S. Lewis Company to develop new TV shows and movies based on the Chronicles of Narnia books. They're looking to create a "cinematic universe" in the vein of the Marvel films, meaning the shows and movies will take place in the same world of talking lions and umbrella-carrying fauns. While we don't know what Netflix paid, the deal couldn't have been cheap, as no studio has ever before held the rights to the entire Narnia book series.

This is just the latest instance of Netflx pursuing a major fantasy series adaptation of its very own. The streaming giant is also working on a new show based on The Witcher, a book series and video game franchise about a monster hunter. Netflix's adaptation will star Henry Cavill, per Variety.

Meanwhile, Amazon is moving forward with an adaptation of The Wheel of Time, the iconic 14-book fantasy series by Robert Jordan that Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin has credited with helping redefine the high fantasy genre. Amazon underwent a major shift in strategy last year in hopes of getting their own "big shows," as then-Amazon Studios Chief Roy Price put it. The platform now has a number of Game of Thrones-esque projects in the works, including The Dark Tower and The Lord of the Rings. The latter series comes with an eye-popping budget of $500 million for two seasons, meaning it will actually be more expensive than the Peter Jackson trilogy, per Reuters.

Making clear that they're following in Game of Thrones' footsteps, Price last year even likened the HBO series to Jaws in terms of its probable influence on future television — although considering that movie spawned decades of pale imitations, the comparison comes with unfortunate implications. Brendan Morrow

September 24, 2018

Apple is the latest multi-billion dollar company to branch into television production. But unlike their streaming competitors, who have basked in the freedom from cable television's restrictions, it seems that Apple will be shying away from more risqué content.

The Wall Street Journal reports that about a year ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook watched Vital Signs, a semi-autobiographical series about rapper Dr. Dre that was expected to be the company's first scripted television series. But after watching the show, Cook decided to cancel it, determining that the contents were too graphic.

"The problem?" Entertainment Weekly explains: "Characters doing cocaine, gun violence, and a rather explicit orgy scene." In addition to scrapping Vital Signs, Apple has been quite diligent about ensuring nothing that could be considered controversial ends up on its platform, the Journal reports — even when there aren't massive orgy scenes involved. The company reportedly told director M. Night Shyamalan that he had to remove the crucifixes from the main characters' house in a show he is developing, as Apple doesn't want any religious or political material, either.

The Journal also reports that when Apple removed the showrunners from a forthcoming series starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, the move was partly motivated because the company "wanted a more upbeat show and took exception to some of the humor proposed." When Apple made the same change to the upcoming Amazing Stories, it was reportedly because the show's material was shaping up to be too dark.

Per one agent who spoke with the Journal, Apple sees its TV service as less like another Netflix and more like an "expensive NBC." Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Brendan Morrow

September 21, 2018

Netflix loves to revive shows that are struggling to attract audiences on traditional television. Its latest target may be the most needy yet.

Vanity Fair reported Friday that "key people" at the Academy are beginning to discuss whether the Oscars should move to a streaming service in the future, rather than continue languishing on television. The show has been losing viewers on TV year after year, with fewer people watching in 2018 than ever before, per Variety. One anonymous board member told Vanity Fair that "TV is going nowhere. So why don't we just get our money [from a streaming deal], not worry about ratings, and call it a day?”

The report also states that Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, approached the Academy last year to express interest in streaming the Oscars. The Academy's options are limited for now, as it has a deal with ABC that lasts until 2028. Academy governor Sid Ganis told Vanity Fair that the organization and ABC are "happily partners."

Clearly, though, the powers that be have recognized the need to shake things up. The Academy has delayed plans to introduce a "best popular film" award after the idea received swift blowback, but it stills intend to cut down the length of the show in 2019, hoping a shorter runtime will keep more people engaged. But if these tweaks don't stanch the ratings bleed, it seems like the Oscars could celebrate their 100-year anniversary in 2029 by making their streaming debut. Brendan Morrow

September 19, 2018

If there was ever any doubt that Disney's upcoming streaming service is going to be a massive hit, those doubts can now be put to rest.

Variety reports that Disney's forthcoming Netflix competitor will include original TV shows based on characters in the multi-billion dollar Marvel film franchise. The idea is to give some of the heroes who haven't yet headlined their own movie a TV show lasting between six and eight episodes, with limited series based on Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) reportedly already in development. Hiddleston and Olsen are both expected to reprise their roles from the movies.

These shows will receive budgets on par with that of an actual feature film, Variety reports. And although the current slate of Marvel TV shows, like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil, are produced separately from the movies like Avengers: Infinity War, the head of Marvel's film studio, Kevin Feige, will be directly involved in these new shows. It will almost be like new Marvel blockbuster movies are being delivered directly via streaming instead of in a theater.

This move essentially guarantees that Marvel fans, many of whom have been begging for a Loki movie, will sign up for Disney's streaming service, which launches in 2019. Read more about the new Marvel shows at Variety. Brendan Morrow

April 18, 2016

For customers who are wary of locking themselves into a $99 yearly Amazon Prime membership, a new pay-by-the-month option announced Sunday could be enticing — especially for the streaming perks offered by Prime Video.

"Amazon is in this to win this. Before, video was an afterthought to free shipping. Now, it's top of mind. In order for this to [succeed], they're going to have to market it and spend a lot of money on new content," Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter told The Hollywood Reporter.

Netflix recently increased its price to $9.99 a month for a standard membership, with Hulu charging $11.99 a month. Amazon undercuts its video competitors by charging $8.99 for Prime Video per month, with full Prime membership benefits costing $10.99 a month.

Additionally, in recent years Amazon has invested in creating original shows such as Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, and picked up major arthouse films like Spike Lee's Chi-Raq and Sundance darling Manchester by the Sea. Amazon already has deals with major films screening at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

"What this says is that they now believe the content is good enough to justify a stand-alone service," Pachter said. Jeva Lange

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