In this week’s Five on Friday, it’s all about growth. AMC Networks shared their financial gains and their streaming momentum, and we talk more about Sony’s plans with their Bungie acquisition. Spotify and Amazon have their eyes on Audioboom, Nintendo is expanding their Nintendo Switch Online subscription gaming service, and the News Media Alliance shares the habits of Gen Z news readers and what makes them willing to pay for news.
AMC Networks grows to 9M streaming subscribers in 2021
AMC Networks is working its way up the streaming video food chain, reporting record revenue and exceeding financial guidance for 2021. With AMC, AMC+, IFC, BBC America, Acorn TV, and Shudder, among others, the company reported more than 9 million streaming subscribers with a projection that they’ll grow to an estimated 20 million to 25 million subscribers by the end of 2025. NBCUniversal’s Peacock also ended the year with 9 million streaming subscribers, says Variety.
“2021 was a strong, pivotal year for AMC Networks. We met or exceeded all of our guidance metrics, delivering the highest revenue in our company’s history and full-year U.S. advertising and subscription growth reinforcing the strength of our core business,” said Matt Blank, interim CEO, in a February 16, 2022 news release.
The company’s full-year revenue was $3.1 billion, a 9% increase year-over-year, driven by growth not only in streaming but also advertising revenue. AMC Networks had a large shift to genre streaming TV platforms, which seems to have struck a chord with specific audiences. For example, horror streaming service Shudder boasted more than a million subscribers as of September 2020, according to Fierce Video.
2021 operational highlights for AMC Networks included the acquisition of global anime distributor Sentai, including direct-to-consumer anime platform HIDIVE. In addition, the company launched an AMC+ premium subscription bundle in Canada and Australia on Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video Channels. For the first quarter of 2022, AMC is expecting about 400,000 new streaming subscriber additions due to their more focused streaming services.
“We have great confidence in our unique streaming model and we’re more confident than ever that we’re pursuing the right strategy for our company, for the audiences we serve, and for our shareholders,” Blank added.
Sony acquires gaming studio Bungie for $3.6B
Sony has made their next move in the gaming industry to show Microsoft that it takes two to tango. At the end of January, Sony acquired Bungie, the gaming studio that initially created Halo. In a press release, Sony stated this was a strategic step toward their continued evolution of gaming. The deal is worth $3.6 billion. This move comes as the third-largest acquisition in gaming this year, after Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion and Take-Two’s acquisition of Zynga for $12.7 billion.
Polygon reports that Bungie will remain a multiplatform studio, meaning their titles will be available on PlayStation, PC and Xbox. They will also be able to self-publish their games. With this deal, Bungie will be able to remain independent and enjoy their creative freedom. Bungie promised that their title Destiny 2 would stay on all current platforms, as well as be able to expand to new platforms, and that it will be the same game everywhere, regardless of platform.
Bloomberg speculates that Destiny 2 would be a good fit for PlayStation’s project Spartacus. Spartacus is the project Sony has underway to combine their PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus content to make a subscription like Xbox Game Pass. Sony announced they were planning more than 10 live service games before March 2026, according to The Verge.
Other game developers under Sony’s umbrella have been building multiplayer online games for years, but they have yet to come to fruition with Sony. It appears their acquisition of Bungie could be a part of a bigger plan to expand their subscription offerings. The purchase of Bungie brings employees to the table that have expertise in updating and retaining players for a living game, and they could use that on a wider scale.
“We’ve had a strong relationship with Bungie for many years. And we’ve spent considerable time with the Bungie management team to develop the right relationship that promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing. During the extensive conversations that have taken place over the past few months, it is apparent that Bungie’s management is incredibly excited at the prospect of collaborating with the PlayStation Studios teams,” said Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Playstation.
“This partnership will bring inspiring new experiences to both the PlayStation community and the community that Bungie has built. We believe that creativity, technology, and collaboration ultimately make for better games and experiences and that’s what matters most to us. At Sony, we are dedicated to entertainment and filling the world with emotion. And we hope you agree there has never been a better time to be a gamer,” Ryan added.
Are Amazon and Spotify both bidding on Audioboom?
Both Amazon and Spotify could be looking into expanding their podcast offerings with Audioboom. In a report from Bloomberg, it was shared that the companies have been considering making bids in recent weeks. Audioboom’s revenue has boomed since the start of the year, with their shares increasing by 26%. Their current worth is $376 million.
Sky disclosed these bids could come as soon as this month. It’s rumored that an approach would be pitched at a significant premium of their current share price. Audioboom’s growth has surged since its inception. Their CEO said 2021 was a phenomenal year. Currently, their shows are downloaded 100 million times per month, by 32 million unique listeners globally. Their podcasts rank fourth place in US listeners.
Both companies making a move for Audioboom would make sense. Spotify needs something to save their name after their recent controversy with Joe Rogan. Additionally, they have also made many podcast and audio purchases over the last year. In 2021, they acquired Podz to improve their podcast discovery tactics, as well as acquiring Findaway to expand their audio offerings. Their acquisition of Findaway would allow them to branch into audiobooks, and further expand their audio offerings. And last week, they announced the acquisition of Podsights and Chartable.
Amazon acquired Wondery at the beginning of last year, and they have continued to expand their offerings since. With Wondery, they launched Wondery for Kids, aimed at getting younger ages into podcasts. They also acquired podcast hosting and monetization platform ART19 to better equip their creators, as well as attract creators, publishers, and advertisers.
This wouldn’t be the first time that someone has made a move for Audioboom. According to Music Business Worldwide, All Active Asset Capital made a takeover offer for Audioboom, but the offer was withdrawn before an agreement could be reached. The London-based Audioboom is in a prime position. They cross-promote their own shows, which allows for organic traffic. They also offer a variety of original content and celebrity content, and have a large global footprint. Their network makes up 9,000 podcast channels. Who will win the bidding war, or will another company make Audioboom an offer they can’t refuse?
Nintendo updates subscription gaming service
Nintendo has updated their subscription service, Nintendo Switch Online. They now have two options: their standalone membership, as well as an Expansion Pack membership. Their Expansion Pack will give subscribers access to a library of vintage Nintendo 64 and SEGA Genesis games, as well as additional content for games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
So far, Nintendo has seen success with their subscription model. The Washington Post disclosed that Nintendo had 32 million subscribers as of November 2021. When compared to other game subscription services, it may have seemed a little less packed, as it only offered vintage games versus newer titles. However, Nintendo is working on bulking up their subscription service to give subscribers more bang for their buck.
During their Nintendo Direct conference, the company shared that they would be adding 48 additional tracks to beloved game Mario Kart 8 Deluxe over the next two years. This would serve two purposes: it would breathe life into an old game and drive new subscribers to Nintendo Switch Online. Mario Kart 8 is Switch’s most popular game. IGN reported that Mario Kart 8 is the best-selling racing game in US history in April 2021.
The first wave of courses will launch on March 18 and feature courses from previous iterations of Mario Kart. These courses will come from all possible iterations of Mario Kart, including the mobile version, Tour. Nintendo has also confirmed they will be making this available for users that don’t want to purchase a subscription. They will be able to pay $25 for access to those 48 tracks. Nintendo did this with Animal Crossing: New Horizons expansion as well.
In addition to their Mario Kart 8 announcement, Nintendo told fans they would be making Earthbound and Earthbound Beginnings available to subscribers of the lower cost subscription tier. They are also planning to add more classic games to their Switch Online library.
Nintendo’s American CEO Doug Bowser said of the announcement, “The plan is to continue to focus on the quality of that content and adding to the value as we go forward.”
Why and when Gen Z will pay for news
Ever wonder what it would take a younger person to pay for news? Now you don’t have to! The News Media Alliance put together a report to ask members of Gen Z what it would take for them to be able to pay for news, and how they are consuming their news regularly.
Currently, about half of Gen Z read news daily, according to the report. The majority, 60%, are likely to use local news products, and one-third would be likely to pay for local news. Apple News is doing great with this information. A few weeks ago, they launched their first daily newsletter of sorts for the Bay Area. They are also offering local news in 11 different markets. They are currently looking at expanding these offerings.
Where are Gen Z consuming their news content? Those in a younger age range are getting their news via social media apps and web searches versus print copies of their favorite newspaper. This allows them to curate or tailor their news stories to what they want to read and leave out the rest. News Media Alliance shared that Gen Z newsreaders prefer their news in bite-sized pieces. Extra motivated readers will subscribe to news outlets and take advantage of free trials.
One area that they are taking a critical look at is what they are reading about. Popular news topics include:
- Social justice/civil rights/racial discrimination
- Environment and climate change
- Women’s rights
- Financial advice
- Health and wellness
In the local news arena, Gen Z readers are looking into topics like weather, events in their area, arts and entertainment, as well as recent news stories. Another thing that Gen Z shared is they are attracted by clear visuals. Something impactful draws them in and keeps them in. They are also more easily enticed by videos and websites that are easy to navigate.