With media/tech news flooding your inboxes daily, the VIP+ team stands ready to sift through the biggest stories of the week and share their insights in a rousing discussion next Friday on LinkedIn Live at 11:30 a.m. PT / 2:30 p.m. ET. (Stay tuned for a link and details as it gets closer.)
Agree — or disagree — with our picks? Want to make some of your own? Join us next week. In advance of that discussion, here are our picks for the stories that heated up this week.
Heidi Chung, Media Analyst/Correspondent
It was a tale of two streaming companies this week. First, we had streaming giant Netflix with disappointing subscriber figures Tuesday afternoon. Then there was WarnerMedia, which reported solid HBO Max subscriber growth Thursday morning. Granted, it’s important to keep in mind the two businesses are in totally different stages of their maturation, so while this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, growth rates matter to investors.
Netflix shares plunged as much as 10% on its results, and AT&T — a stock that usually sees small moves in either direction — gapped up as much as 5% on a day when the broader markets were lower.
But remember average revenue per user (ARPU), the metric that used to matter a lot more than it does now? Perhaps we should go back to caring more about how much money these companies are making per user. AT&T’s ARPU was $11.72 per month, and Netflix was at $14.25 per month in Q1. For context, that compares with just $4.03 per month for Disney+, per its latest quarterly results.
So, while subscriber growth totals are good at getting impressive headlines, let’s also start giving some love to those ARPU numbers.
Kevin Tran, Media Analyst
Apple earlier this week made the announcementthat podcasterswill be able to charge listeners for content on Apple Podcasts starting in May. The news came followingspeculation that the tech giant would start offering podcast subscriptions and Spotify confirmed it would be testing podcast subscriptions in February.
Chief executives regularly make product announcements seem bigger than they are, but Tim Cook’s statement that Apple’s podcast subscription push is the “biggest change to Apple Podcasts since its debut” actually seems appropriate.
Apple has long controlled one of the biggest U.S. podcast listening platforms, and its move to allow creators to directly monetize their content on Apple Podcasts is likely to increase the number of listeners who regularly pay for podcasts.
That’s important for creators and even news publishers seeking dollars on the relatively nascent paid podcast market: In an early March YouGovsurvey, 75% of U.S. podcast user-respondents said they’d never paid in any way to listen to a podcast. That figure was almost flat from the percentage who said as much when asked the same question in June 2020.
Hesitance to pay for podcasts likely stems from the fact that so many free shows are already available. But another reason could be the process of accessing paid podcasts currently appears too inconvenient for some casual podcast listeners — i.e., having to download a separate podcast hosting app. And Apple offering paid podcasts on its platform may solve that accessibility issue for some.
Andrew Wallenstein, Chief Media Analyst
Endeavor filed a prospectus this week with the SEC ahead of an initial public offering that values the company at $10 billion. This will be the second try at an IPO for a company that was once best known for being a Hollywood talent agency, but is repositioning itself even more this time around as the owner of UFC now that Endeavor is also seeking to buy the half of the MMA league it doesn’t already own.
If that deal closes, it will leave the company looking in better shape than it did in 2019, when it was more of a grab bag of all sorts of assets geared to live events, which got creamed by the pandemic. Endeavor is also out from underneath the shadow of its standoff with the WGA, leaving it less reliant on the production business.
Best of all, Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel has lured Tesla founder Elon Musk to his board of directors. A New Yorker magazine profile out this week didn’t offer the most flattering profile of Emanuel, portraying him as someone with a knack for establishing relationships with high-level figures of questionable character, from Donald Trump to Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Still, Emanuel is playing a better hand than he was two years ago, in a marketplace more conducive to IPOs. This one should stick, though really that will mean the challenge has just begun for Endeavor as the next phase of its company history kicks off.
Gavin Bridge, Senior Media Analyst
It’s important to know just how an ad scam works, so here’s a brief overview of the most recent one. The connected TVs and platforms themselves — the likes of Roku, Amazon Fire, Samsung and Apple — are not involved in any way. Instead, scammers utilize a complex system of smartphones running downloaded apps, altering the metadata to make the phones appear to be a connected TV or device running a streaming service app. The signal is then sent to online ad exchanges, duping advertisers into buying ad impressions on services that aren’t reaching actual viewers.
Scams like this don’t impact advertisers buying directly through the CTV platform — i.e., through Samsung to show on Samsung TV Plus or via Roku for Roku to insert into its allotted ad inventory in streamed shows. And they’re relatively easy to avoid but require the ad tech industry to create common identifiers across devices that ad exchanges can recognize.
The hope is that with this just the most recent in a growing line of streaming-TV ad scams uncovered, the industry will move quick to head this off. With CTV advertising predicted to grow, to the detriment of linear TV, frequent bouts of ad piracy may give some advertisers pause on increasing ad spend.
Kaare Eriksen, Information Editor
Activision’s hit battle-royale spin on the “Call of Duty” franchise “Warzone” has officially hit 100 million registered players a year, after it launched for free in the early weeks of pandemic-related shutdowns across the U.S.
A sub-genre of multiplayer games (usually shooters) that sees many players compete on a single map until one player or team is left standing, battle royale was popularized by titles like “PUBG” and “Fortnite,” the latter of which hit 350 million players last year.
It took EA two years to reach 100 million players for its battle royale game “Apex Legends,” so the rapid success of “Warzone” demonstrates how essential it’s become for publishers to prioritize multiplayer, free-to-play games that bring in wide berths of players who can then pay for in-game purchase as the game is continually updated with new content and items.
Activision has made new “Call of Duty” games an annual occurrence since 2005 thanks to a growing number of in-house development teams dedicated to making new installments, making “Warzone” highly indicative of shifting strategies within the highest echelons of the gaming sector and showing live-service titles are to be the norm this decade.