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Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Semi-frequent musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

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My Annual Ten Predictions List

Ten Predictions for 2019
  1. Mergers & Acquisitions: 2018 was the year for big mergers like Disney & Fox and AT&T & Time Warner, and 2019 will be the year for interesting M&A action in the lower levels of media. My bets for acquisition: IFC Films, A24, Neon, KinoLorber, First Run, Alamo Drafthouse, MoviePass (it’s not dead yet, and has a lot of good data, see below) & Magnolia. You heard it here first - one or all of these will be bought by someone (likely not the same someone), and I just don’t know by who (yet). One great new acquisition was just announced - PictureMotion and Film Sprout - and I expect many more.
  2. Netflix will buy a theater chain. Netflix tried to get Landmark, but Mark Cuban jacked up the price (and it went to Cohen Media), but this year, they’ll get serious, so they can lock in more talent and more press. I thought it would be Landmark or Alamo, but perhaps someone bigger?
  3. Amazon will buy MoviePass, Merge it with Prime, and offer the best mix of online and real-world cinema going for one low price. Ok, they may just launch this service without buying MoviePass, but with it, they’d get a lot of data and a head-start;
  4. Failures: As the economy gets shakier and crazier, things will start to shake-out and a lot of people carrying too much debt, or too little business model will die off in 2019. I don’t want to single out anyone for this honor, but I bet we see many OTT channels/providers hitting the scrap heap, a clearing out of all of these short-form “channels” that no one is watching, and a few film entities that don’t merge will end their runs in 2019. Unfortunately, I think the downturn will hit sponsorships, which will seriously hurt if not close a few great film festivals (that’s 3 predictions in one, btw);
  5. New Models: In 2018, the talk of the town was - “WTF do we do if Netflix didn’t buy us at Sundance?” And no one had an answer. As Netflix continues to focus on originals, which means less indie acquisitions at the fest stage, we’ll see more creativity around how to finance and release films, especially documentaries. Back in 2016, Roco Films helped launch the International Buyer’s Coalition to counter Netflix’s might (pooling resources to buy films for international public television), and I think a few more of these new business models will be launched in 2019. My hope is that we’ll see more collaborations between nonprofits/fests and distributors around audience-building, because that (and curation) are what we need most now;
  6. Diverse Voices: Thanks to a stellar year for diverse cinema in 2018, we should see more investment in diverse voices for 2019 - an ongoing change that should only continue for quite some time. But I’ll go a step further and say that one of 2019’s biggest media investments will be in a new venture to fund and bring more diverse voices to market - something like the 2017 launch of Macro, but maybe bigger.
  7. #MeToo Continues - yes, more revelations and reverberations, but just as importantly - more initiatives to address gender inequity behind the camera, in front of it too, and in the stories being told. Like diversity, this is a trend long-overdue and sure to continue. As a branded content person now, my biggest hope here is that Brands start to take this more seriously in finding creative voices for their content;
  8. More Brand Studios - Every year, I talk about the rise of branded content, but I think this year will see a few more brands get serious and launch dedicated branded content divisions, and finally capitalize them right and also own their distribution and marketing (as opposed to just partnering with a distributor, YouTube or Facebook).
  9. More Blockchain Platforms, with less success - Last year at Sundance, I met with at least ten different groups promising to launch blockchain enabled platforms for film distribution, and a few did launch, but more will hit in 2019. While 1 or 2 might score some press, I predict most will die as they remain focused on a problem that doesn’t exist - just making a new version of Netflix powered by Blockchain, instead of things that might work, like back-end rights management systems for existing providers. But if any of them want to succeed, do this - take ½ of whatever your total budget for the year is and re-dedicate it to consumer marketing, because all y’all got an awareness problem first.
  10. A Stellar Sundance - The economy should still be strong enough through the fest, and lots of players have open wallets looking for films. Netflix will be less active, but Amazon and others should be more active. The lineup looks great, and we should even see some (more) acquisitions of New Frontier stuff - VR and AR, interactive and mobile-first entertainment (and I don’t even have a grasp of what’s on offer there yet). In addition to acquisitions announcements, I can’t wait to hear some press confirmation of some of the ideas above - mergers and new models in particular.

Stuff I'm Reading

 This history of the Hollywood Reporter’s founder, Billy Wilkerson, is going on my GoodReads Books to Read list asap: Hollywood Godfather: The Life and Crimes of Billy Wilkerson by his son, W.R. Wilkerson III. The review in the WSJ (may link to a Paywall) is fascinating, detailing how being spurred by the Hollywood moguls, Wilkerson started the Hollywood Reporter as a “hand-full of papers thrown over the Studio walls” and built it into a fearful source of news that the Studios didn’t want reported. Of course, it was also a religious war (devout Catholic vs. the Jews running the studios), which would lead him to another religious war later against the (atheist) commies as a proponent of the Blacklist.  He also fell in with mobsters and apparently single-handedly started the battle that became the Hollywood Antitrust case, or Paramount Decree, leading them to divest of their theaters (which is currently being reviewed for repeal). Good and bad, this guy did a lot, and the Hollywood Reporter marches on. Reading this review, however, made me pine for the days when the Trades actually reported news - you know the stuff not sent in a press release  -instead of being mere industry promo-tools, which is all they are now.
Is it the end of Netflix’s Golden Age? Don’t count on it, says me, but maybe so, argues Mark Sweney in the Guardian. And he has some good points - it’s getting more expensive for them to license content, they need to focus more on international growth and everyone else has finally woken up to streaming. But Netflix has beat the negative prognastications for many years, and my bet is that the upstart rivals will have a harder time winning back customers than Netflix has in keeping them happy.
File under Kitchen-Sink - which is apparently AT&T’s strategy for the future, according to DigiDay. Faced with cord-cutters and the decline in advertising, AT&T will try a bit of everything to maintain dominance. My take - it will make for a fun 2-3 years before the inevitable death of these ideas.
Maybe we just need to be watching films more slowly, which is what the new Very Slow Movie Player does. It plays one film at 24 frame per hour. TechCrunch has the report.

Photo via VSMP:

Or however the fuck we want: Bilge Ebiri has a year-end post about many things cinema for Slate where he admits some of his best cinematic viewings were off old, 10th generation bootleg VHS tapes. But noting that the big streamers seem to not just want to privilege their method, but kill all others, he asks the obvious question: “So you guys tell me: Am I just a privileged fuddy-duddy hanging on to the outmoded ways of his youth? I want Netflix and Amazon to exist, and I want movie theaters to exist, and I want Blu-rays and DVDs to exist. Do I ask the impossible?” Me: Nope, they’ll all exist - but not every movie will exist on each format, you and every cinephile will be stuck watching all of the above to watch what you want, when you want.
Branded Content
CNN Builds New Year’s Eve Ad With Lots of Spin:, CNN offered robust sponsorships of their countdown clocks and various other graphics over their coverage of NYE, reflecting a changing paradigm within televised news; where before it might be considered unethical to present logos of outside companies during news coverage, branded content is now fully embraced in the newsroom. While it’s not hidden at all  - you could tell what was sponsored - it does show that nothing is sacrosanct anymore when it comes to finding revenue to keep the “news” beast growing.

The Betches started as a blog, but is now a branded-content funded, media empire. Forbes reports on how they did it, and how it works. From the story: “Betches' revenue is predominately earned from brand partnerships that include 360-degree strategic campaign conceptualization, video production and execution, branded social and digital assets and artwork, experiential event marketing and influencer activation, according to their advertising page, which also states that Betches had 2 billion impressions, more than 6 million users and 155 million video views per month.”

AdAge Wraps up the Best Ads in Film & TV for 2018, and I can’t disagree with their top-4 for ads, but it could use more from the actual branded content side. But there’s a few good ones here.
Net, News, Media and Culture:

In the end of the year rush, I forgot to link this nice little article from The Verge detailing how the new AT&T could “bully its way into streaming domination.” Can’t beat Netflix at the content game? Just throttle them, give preferred access to your own channels and content. As former FCC lawyer (and Public Knowledge founder) Gigi Sohn says in the article: ““The repeal of net neutrality — and more importantly, the abdication of the FCC’s duty to protect consumers and competition in the broadband market — ensure that AT&T will have carte blanche to discriminate in favor of the video content it owns.” And Ajit Pai is too busy drinking from his gigantic mug to give a fuck.
Is the future of media likely to become even more partisan as the ad-model breaks? Yes, says Derek Thompson in The Atlantic - but it’s a good thing. As he points out, when newspapers switched from patronage to ad-support in the past, “large ad-supported newspapers grew to become profitable behemoths, but they arguably emphasized milquetoast coverage over more colorful reader engagement.” Voter rates were actually higher under the more politicized papers as well. As the ad-model breaks and we head back towards patronage - via Bezos owning WaPo as well as digital subscribers - we’ll get more partisan news, but maybe that’s actually better for us. Interesting and quick read.
Copyright © 2019 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

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