Entertainment Sector Roundup: June 15 Edition

films in flux
Cheyne Gateley/Variety Intelligence Platform

Here are five top media-tech biz happenings that you might have missed from last week:

1.) AMC says when (some) light at the end of the tunnel could arrive. 

Almost all (97%) of AMC theaters will reopen in July, ending a painfully long 4 month wait-and-see period. Studio heads will be keeping a close watch on Solstice’s “Unhinged,” out July 10, and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” (now releasing July 31), long seen as the launching pad for the post-COVID-19 lockdown saved-for-later slew of blockbusters. While exhibitors are more than happy to take whatever they can quickly get in July, the problem is many still indicate they won’t be comfortable at theaters for a while (certainly beyond July for some). Greater than expected consumer trepidation could cause media execs to more heavily lean on their D2Cs as feature film distribution avenues.

2.) The commingling of Silicon Valley and Reliance Industries increases

Reliance Industries, one of India’s most-valuable firms, held talks with Netflix to enter a multiyear content deal that would help the American streamer expand in India, per Reuters. Netflix shot down the idea that talks were in place, but Reuters’ report indicates there was at least some level of partnership interest, one-sided or not. This helps solidify the notion of Reliance’s attractiveness in Silicon Valley (see: Facebook’s 10% Reliance Jio Stake), which remains obsessed with claiming stake in India. For tech and media companies, gaining a foothold in the country is a must for the next stage of meaningful growth. In 2019, only 59% of internet users in India watched digital video monthly, while this figure was 83% for the U.S., per eMarketer.

3.) China flexes its muscles on the video communication app of the coronavirus era. 

Zoom shut down (and later reinstated) the account of a U.S. based activist group holding an event in honor of the Tiananmen Square protesters, and admitted it had done so at the behest of China. The company clarified it would only take such action again for China-based Zoom-ers, but the damage is done. This surely dents the perceived level of privacy that Zoom offers to some consumers: U.S. lawmakers last Thursday asked Zoom’s CEO whether or not the company had been sharing data with Beijing, for example. And while privacy concerns don’t necessarily lead to decreased consumer usage (as we’ve covered before), it could hurt corporate usage and trust, which makes the idea of media cos licensing content for a native Zoom watch party feature seem further out of reach. 

4.) Big California theme parks’ recovery plan faces a hitch. The outlook for the theme park business is gloomy (Disney’s annual attendance figures could total half what it amounts to in a regular year, per UBS), but the biz will further recovery efforts with Disneyland’s planned July 17 reopening. Tens of thousands signed a petition asking Disney to delay its opening amidst COVID-19 fears, but that may not amount to much more than background noise for Bob Chapek. The exec has already experienced a social-distance style reopening in his Shanghai park, and noted early demand was promising. To have similar uptake in California, Chapek may aim to heavily market to consumers in the local cities neighboring Anaheim, CA. “Theme parks in Los Angeles County disproportionately serve the local market,” Universal Studios Hollywood President Karen Irwin told an LA County economic recovery task force in early June. 

5.) Stories copycatting far from over. Snapchat pioneered, Instagram stole, and then YouTube and Netflix hopped on the bandwagon. Up next: Twitter’s take on the product (“Fleets”) hit India last Wednesday, while Pinterest has been testing “Story Pins” with select U.S. creators since April, TechCrunch reported last Thursday. Twitter’s Fleets disappear, so they are closer to the traditional “Stories” product we’re used to on Instagram than Story Pins are (which can be saved). The continual spread of the feature speaks to its enduring popularity among users and hints at its almost expected place within certain products of the tech universe. Not only do things like Fleets give users a chance to post things more casually, it creates more potential ad inventory for social platforms and brands.