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Just as the much-disrupted entertainment landscape seemed to be leveling out, a new wave of upheaval has swept through the industry, affecting both traditional and online players alike… and not always in the direction initially expected.

Revealed with great pomp just over a year ago, Xbox Entertainment Studios were supposed to revolutionise TV, drawing on the console’s massive user base to deliver custom-produced series from creators as prestigious as Steven Spielberg. Last week, as Microsoft announced the biggest wave of layoffs in its history, it was revealed that the studios, headed by TV industry veteran Nancy Tellem, would be closed. Although Tellem will stay on, and plans for Spielberg’s Halo series remain intact, the move questions the relevancy of the Studios’ existence in the first place, said VideoInk: “when you have 20 million paid subscribers tuning in primarily for gaming and access to Netflix, Hulu, and other OTT offerings, why should original content take precedent?

More setbacks/cutbacks came as Rupert Murdoch’s €80bn bid for Time Warner was rejected (reported The Guardian); a move initially motivated more by the Australian mogul’s appetite for HBO than for Time Warner itself, suggested QZ, citing analysts claiming the premium channel alone is worth a tidy €20bn. This value is not just due to its seemingly endless flow of high-quality series (Game of Thrones, True Detective…) but also to those series’ huge potential should HBO ever spin off an internet-only offering.

Not that Murdoch’s rejected offer risks slowing an ongoing wave of industry consolidation: Fox still plans to merge Endemol, Shine and Core, as TBI reported in May, just after Discovery and Liberty Global bought out UK producer All3Media (via MediaGuardian); not forgetting that the same Liberty Global, the owner of Virgin Media, bought BSkyB’s 6.4% stake in ITV last week. No doubt Fox’s James Murdoch will comment on some or all of the above at his MIPCOM keynote interview come October…

Meanwhile, more obstacles to innovation cropped up as Aereo was deemed illegal in the US Supreme Court, as TechCrunch reported. The service, which planned to offer multiscreen access to around 30 channels for $12 per month, was judged to be too similar to cable and broadcast companies’ offerings. A victory, then for the industry establishment, as many claimed after the verdict? US cable TV’s notoriously onerous monthly subscriptions, which Aero had set out to challenge, at least remain intact for now…

More bad press for cable companies came last week, as Netflix released a 28-page manifesto against what it sees as Comcast trying to create “fast lanes” on the internet through special access fees, in contradiction with the principle of net neutrality (QZ resumed the manifesto here).

Comcast’s response came via an interview with Ars Technica, in which it claimed the sort of deal it has with Netflix is not new. In fact, it’s “been going on for a long time, and it’s also been widely reported,” said Barry Tishgart, vice president of Comcast Wholesale network services. Does that make the cable company any less of a Star Wars-style AT-AT, trampling over the competition, as in Ars’ illustration? (above) That remains to be seen…

Consolidation has also cracked on apace in the online video world, with leading MCN (multi-channel network) Base79 being acquired by former rival Rightster, in a deal worth $85.6m. The merged company will be able to claim a reach of 1.1bn video views per month, almost triple the 371m Rightster was generating on its own, VideoInk reported Rightster as saying. MCNs may soon no longer be the main way producers can make money from platforms like YouTube; VideoInk also picked up on a Reuters report claiming the Google-owned platform had approached Hollywood producers and agencies, as well as YouTube-native producers, to finance premium content directly. The platform would not confirm the speculation when asked for comment. Watch this space…

Community Season 5 Online platforms also recently confirmed their potential for keeping alive series that had not met incumbent networks’ criteria. Cancelled by NBC in May, cult show Community (photo) will return this autumn on Yahoo Screen, the portal’s video platform, reported WIRED. The series as such gets closer to its ironically stated aim of “six seasons and a movie”… thanks to online video, not to the ‘old’ TV biz. Sign ‘o’ the times?

 

Discover more TV industry knowledge on our TV Biz News page, where the hottest business developments are curated by the MIP Markets team, via scoop.it… Image by Aurich Lawson, via Ars Technica


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About Author

James Martin

As Head of Social Media for Reed MIDEM, James Martin oversees social strategy and deployment for B2B events MIPTV and MIPCOM, Midem (music industry) and MIPIM & MAPIC (real estate & retail). He is based in Reed MIDEM's Paris office.

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