Five on Friday: Paying Publishers, Content Catalogs & Streaming Stats

Featuring Peacock, Facebook, Rolling Stone and Apple

It is hard to believe this is the last Friday in January. Where did the month go? We’re wrapping up with the month with some interesting features from the subscription industry. Peacock is beefing up its content catalogs by signing exclusive deals with the WWE Network, IndyCar Track Pass and the NBC Sports Network; Facebook is rolling out Facebook News to U.K. users and they’re paying publishers for their content; and, in an interesting twist on the magazine model, Rolling Stones wants thought leaders to pay the magazine $2,000 for the privilege of writing for them. Also, the Digital Entertainment Group shares 2020 stats on streaming video and digital entertainment, and Apple releases its first quarter financials for fiscal year 2021.

Peacock Grows Content Library from WWE Network, IndyCar Pass and NBC Sports Network

NBC Universal’s new streaming service Peacock is beefing up its content catalogs with content from the WWE Network, IndyCar TrackPass and the NBC Sports Network.

WWE Network: On Monday, Peacock and WWE announced they’d reached a multi-year agreement to give Peacock the exclusive streaming rights to the WWE Network in the U.S., starting March 18. This includes over 17,000 hours of new, original and archived content plus live pay-per-view events like WrestleMania and SummerSlam. The first live pay-per-view event to be shown on Peacock will be Fastlane on March 21. All WWE Network content will be available on Peacock Premium, with limited ads, for $4.99 a month. Subscribers can sign up for an ad-free experience on Peacock for $9.99 a month.

“NBCUniversal has a long-standing relationship with WWE that began nearly 30 years ago with Monday Night Raw on USA. WWE has always tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with spectacular live events and larger-than-life characters, and we are thrilled to be the exclusive home for WWE Network and its millions of fans across the country,” said Rick Cordella, executive vice president and chief revenue officer, Peacock in the announcement. “WWE Network is a transformative addition to the platform and complements Peacock’s massive catalog of iconic movies and shows, as well as the best live news and sports, from NBCUniversal and beyond.”

IndyCar Pass: After the WWE Network announcement was made, IndyCar TrackPass made a similar one, notifying racing fans that IndyCar content would move to Peacock as well. This means that auto-renewals for NBC Sports Gold where IndyCar content currently resides will end on January 31. Instead of paying $49.99 a year for the service, fans can sign up on Peacock instead at $4.99 or $9.99 a month, as noted above.

“Peacock Premium will offer NTT IndyCar Series fans in-demand track action at tremendous value,” said Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp. president & CEO. “Alongside NBC Sports, we’re providing comprehensive coverage of practice and qualifications throughout our season, while also connecting to a larger platform with a world-class roster of programming.”

NBC Sports Network: In related news, NBC Sports Network, which features sports including NHL, NASCAR and English Premier League soccer, will shut down at the end of this year. Instead, after 2021, NBC Sports Network programming will move to the USA Network and Peacock.

“At the conclusion of 2021, we have decided that the best strategic next step for our Sports Group and the entire Company is to wind down NBCSN completely, with key elements of NBCSN’s programming moving to USA Network and, in some cases, Peacock for 2022 and beyond,” NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua shared in an internal memo reported on by Deadline. “This will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace, and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost.”

Peacock already has quite a slate of content to offer subscribers, but this will make the streaming video service even more popular with viewers, particularly sports fans. With these changes, Peacock will be able to offer content catalogs no one else will have access to, a key differentiating factor.

Peacock expands its content catalogs with content from WWE, IndyPass and NBC Sports Network. Image courtesy of Peacock.

Facebook to Launch Facebook News in U.K. and Pay Some Publishers

Earlier this week, Facebook announced it was rolling out Facebook News in the United Kingdom, featuring news from hundreds of UK news outlets. Facebook users will see top headlines and daily news stories tailored to their unique interests. The social media platform also announced new partnerships with top news outlets like Daily Mail Group, Financial Times, Sky News, The Economist, The Guardian and others. According to CNBC, Facebook will pay some UK news outlets for their next content, particularly content that is not already available on Facebook, but the Facebook spokesperson was not specific.

“The product puts original journalism in front of new audiences and provides publishers with more advertising and subscription opportunities to build sustainable businesses for the future. This is the beginning of a series of international investments in news,” said Jesper Doub, director of news partnerships in Europe.

Facebook also noted that they want regulators to be accepting of their innovative tools and attempts to support responsible journalism.

“Facebook News was built to bring people closer to the stories that impact their lives and the community around them. Our aim is to build on our efforts to sustain great national and local journalism and create more value for publishers. We’ll continue to learn, listen and improve Facebook News as it rolls out across the UK and into other markets, including France and Germany, where we are in active negotiations with partners. In order to bring Facebook News and other news products that help publishers transition in the digital age to more countries, it is critical that regulatory environments invite this kind of investment and innovation,” Doub said.

Facebook started its roll out of Facebook News in the U.K. earlier this week. In some cases, Facebook will pay publishers and news outlets for original content.
Facebook started its roll out of Facebook News in the U.K. earlier this week. In some cases, Facebook will pay publishers and news outlets for original content. Image courtesy of Facebook.

U.S. Consumers Spent $26.5B on Digital Entertainment in 2020

Last year, in the United States, consumers spent over $26.5 billion on digital entertainment, video on demand and subscriptions, a 32% increase over 2019, reports The Digital Entertainment Group. Though those media formats continue to grow in popularity year-over-year, there is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on those totals. Other highlights from DEG’s report, published on TVTechnology.com, include the following:

  • There was a 37% increase in streaming subscription revenue in 2020.
  • Digital entertainment purchases increased 16%, and VOD purchases and rentals increased 18%, year-over-year.
  • In the fourth quarter alone, total digital entertainment spending increased more than 27%, and streaming subscription revenue grew 33%.
  • Rentals of internet services increased 43% for all of 2020 and 33% just in the fourth quarter.
  • TV digital entertainment purchases in the fourth quarter grew 39% and 37% for the full year.
  • Digital movie rentals grew 25% in the fourth quarter and 40% for the full year.
  • Digital purchases of movies grew 6%.
  • In the fourth quarter, consumers spent $7.8 billion on both digital and physical home entertainment, a $1 billion increase over the fourth quarter of 2019.

The top five most watched movies at home last year were:

  1. Frozen 2 (Disney)
  2. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony)
  3. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (Disney)
  4. Joker (2019) (Warner Bros.)
  5. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)

Read the complete report on the Digital Entertainment Group’s website.

Streaming wars heat up in 2020.

Rolling Stone Wants “Thought Leaders” to Pay for the Privilege of Writing for the Magazine

In a new twist on the magazine business model, Rolling Stone is looking for thought leaders who are willing to cough up $2,000 for a chance to write for the magazine, reports The Guardian. Approved thought leaders pay a $500 initiation fee and a $1,500 annual fee to publish original content to “shape the future of culture.”

The Guardian believes this is part of Rolling Stone’s Culture Council, which is offering the opportunity to publish as an exclusive, members-only benefit. Interestingly enough, you don’t even have to be a writer, Rolling Stone says it has “a dedicated editorial team to guide you through the writing and publishing process.”

This seems to blur the line between editorial content and sponsored content. A spokesperson for the Penske Media Corporation, who bought Rolling Stone in 2019, addressed that concern in a statement.

“Rolling Stone does not allow paid content to run as editorial in any context whatsoever. Content created by Culture Council members exists in its own channel separate from editorial content and is clearly labelled as originating from a non-editorial, fee-based member network, which allows industry professionals to share ideas in a paid forum,” the spokesperson said.

Apple Reports Record Revenue of $111.4B, a 21% Increase, in Q1 FY21

Apple has set the stage for another strong year, reporting record revenue of $111.4 billion, a 21% increase year-over-year, in the first quarter of its fiscal year 2021. For the period ended December 26, 2020, the company also reported net income of $28.8 billion, and earnings per diluted share of $1.68, an increase of 35% year-over-year.

“This quarter for Apple wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless and innovative work of every Apple team member worldwide,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re gratified by the enthusiastic customer response to the unmatched line of cutting-edge products that we delivered across a historic holiday season. We are also focused on how we can help the communities we’re a part of build back strongly and equitably, through efforts like our Racial Equity and Justice Initiative as well as our multi-year commitment to invest $350 billion throughout the United States.”

iPhone sales remained the largest category in terms of net sales, followed by services, a growing category for Apple. Net sales, broken down by category, are as follows:

Net sales by categoryIn millions
   iPhone$65,597
   Mac$8,675
   iPad$8,435
   Wearables, home and accessories$12,971
   Services$15,761
Total net sales$111,439