The National Basketball Association will be the first major test of the new competitive landscape. Its agreements with ESPN and Turner run through the 2024-25 season. Most sports and media executives predict that the league will stick with traditional broadcasters for most of its games, while carving out some small portion of rights for a tech company.

“It hedges them for the future and exposes the product to new audiences,” said George Pyne, founder of the sports private equity firm, Bruin Capital, and the former chief operating officer of NASCAR. “They can still have a long-term relationship with network partners but dip their toe in with new media.”

Until then, the best opportunities for Apple and Amazon may be overseas — where Amazon has been active for years — because European soccer leagues resell their rights every two to three years. Amazon recently scooped up rights to Europe’s top tournament, the UEFA Champions League, in Britain, Germany and Italy. It also has rights to France’s Ligue 1, which it offers to Prime Video subscribers for annual fee of about $90, and the English Premier League.

Media companies will be pressured to expand geographically to compete, said Daniel Cohen, who leads global media rights consulting for Octagon, a sports agency. Television broadcasters could also team up to pool their financial firepower, or buy each other outright, to compete with tech giants willing to pay billions for rights like N.F.L. Sunday Ticket.

“It comes down to a Silicon Valley ego thing,” Mr. Cohen said of the high-dollar N.F.L. deal. “I don’t see a road to profitability. I see a road to victory.”

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Comic-Con Returns In Full Force With Costumes, Crowds

It’s not clear whether the convention will draw the estimated 135,000 people who flooded San Diego before the pandemic.

The pop culture extravaganza that is Comic-Con International is back to its old extravagance. Stars, cosplayers and hordes of fans are filling the San Diego Convention Center in full force for the first time since 2019. Here’s a look at this year’s version of the four day festival.

COMIC-CROWDS

The pandemic necessitated virtual versions of Comic-Con in the summers of 2020 and 2021, and a scaled-back in-person version in November, but none were anything like the usual spectacle, with lovers of all things geeky descending from around the globe and arena-sized panels on films and TV shows that resemble sporting events.

It’s not clear whether the convention will draw the estimated 135,000 people who flooded San Diego before the pandemic. But when the doors of the Convention Center opened for Wednesday’s preview night, the fans came in droves, mobbing the floor. As required, nearly all wore masks — the protective kind, not the super-villain kind, though there were plenty of those too — and the excitement amid the crowd was palpable.

“Everybody’s just been cooped up for a while, and they’ve been anticipating this,” said Dinh Truong, 34, who came to Comic-Con for the second time from his hometown of Minneapolis. “It’s nice just to see everybody in the same atmosphere. I’m excited to see the program, see what’s going on, see everybody cosplaying and all that, and just getting back to what we used to be.”

Far bigger crowds are expected Thursday, when the events begin in earnest.

COMIC-COSPLAY

It’s likely no one has missed the in-person convention more than the captains, queens and connoisseurs of cosplay. Comic-Con is their Met Gala, and no getup is too elaborate.

Lorelei McKelvey, 54, who is from San Diego but now lives in Yokosuka, Japan, was dressed as Captain Carter, Captain America’s British, World War II-era counterpart.

“I had to do one that I could authentically replicate,” McKelvey said. “I went and did my research and found out what were the authentic British officer leathers worn in World War II, and I found manufacturers to actually make those leathers.”

She walked the Convention Center floor in real-as-possible officer cavalry boots and Royal Air Force gauntlets, and carried a 5-pound steel shield.

McKelvey came to Comic-Con and worked a booth for 20 straight years. This is her first time coming as a cosplayer, and her second time coming as a trans woman, and she’s excited to be reunited with the cherished friends she’s made here.

“My last convention is the first time they’ve seen me as Lorelei,” McKelvey said. “This is their first time to see me four years later and to see how much I’ve grown since then.”

Others wandered the halls Wednesday as “Star Wars” Stormtroopers, the Mandalorian, Wonder Woman, and Sailor Moon. Chuckie from “Child’s Play” emerged from one cosplayer’s stomach.

COMIC-COMING ATTRACTIONS

Comic-Con makes most of its news as a venue to show off trailers and footage from forthcoming films and TV shows during star-studded mega-panels held in Hall H, which holds some 6,000 people. Announced panels include Warner Bros. and the DC Universe’s “Black Adam.” It will include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who plays the titular antihero, director Jaume Collet-Serra, and the stars playing Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and other members of the Justice Society.

“Get ready, because the hype is real,” Johnson said in pro-wrestler promo mode on Instagram earlier this month. “Guess who’s coming to town, the most electrifying man in all the DC Universe.”

Warner Bros. will also provide a preview of “Shazam: Fury of the Gods.”

Marvel may hold back its best material for Disney’s forthcoming D23 Expo, but is expected to tease its next film, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and the Disney+ TV series “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.”

A pair of much-anticipated fantasy prequels will also give fans a taste of their worlds. A new trailer dropped Wednesday in advance of a panel from HBO Max that will show off the “Game of Thrones” spinoff “House of the Dragon,” set 200 years before the original series.

Amazon is going back in time 2000 years for “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” a tale of the emergence of evil among the elves long before Frodo and Bilbo walked Middle Earth. Their panel this year comes 21 years after director Peter Jackson presented footage from the first of the original films at Comic-Con.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Netflix Says It’s Business as Usual. Is That Good Enough?

While being honored at the Banff Film Festival in Canada in early June, Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s head of global television, surprised some with what she didn’t say. Despite the recent turmoil at the streaming giant — including a loss of subscribers, hundreds of job cuts and a precipitous stock drop — she said Netflix was charging ahead, with no significant plans to change its programming efforts.

“For me, looking at it, the business works,” Ms. Bajaria said from the stage. “We are not doing some radical shift in our business. We’re not merging. We’re not having a big transitional phase.”

Two weeks later, after Netflix had laid off another 300 people, Reed Hastings, the company’s co-chief executive, doubled down on Ms. Bajaria’s message, reassuring the remaining employees that the future would, in fact, be bright and that in the next 18 months the company would hire 1,500 people.

“Spiderhead” and the series “God’s Favorite Idiot” have been critically derided.) A producer who works with Netflix said the word “quality” was being bandied about much more often in development meetings.

Emily Feingold, a Netflix spokeswoman, disputed the idea that focusing on a show’s quality was somehow a change in strategy, referring to such disparate content as “Squid Game,” the reality television show “Too Hot to Handle,” and movies like “Red Notice” and “The Adam Project.”

“Consumers have very different, diverse tastes,” Ms. Feingold said. “It’s why we invest in such a broad range of stories, always aspiring to make the best version of that title irrespective of the genre. Variety and quality are key to our ongoing success.”

The producer Todd Black said that the process for getting a project into development at Netflix had slowed down but that otherwise it was business as usual.

“They are looking at everything, which I get,” said Mr. Black, who last worked with Netflix when he produced “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in 2020. “They are trying to course correct. We have to be patient and let them do that. But they are open for business. They are buying things.”

Indeed, the company still intends to spend some $17 billion on content this year. It paid $50 million last month for a thriller starring Emily Blunt and directed by David Yates (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”). And it plans to make “The Electric State,” a $200 million film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo (“Avengers: Endgame” and “The Gray Man”) and starring Millie Bobby Brown and Chris Pratt, after Universal Pictures balked at the price tag. The company also just announced a development deal for a television adaptation of “East of Eden” starring Florence Pugh.

On Tuesday, Whip Media, a research firm, said Netflix had fallen from second to fourth place in the firm’s annual streaming customer satisfaction survey, behind HBO Max, Disney+ and Hulu.

The most significant change coming for Netflix is its advertising tier, which, as it has told employees, it wants to roll out by the end of the year. Netflix’s foray into advertising stoked excitement among media buyers at the industry’s annual conference in Cannes last week.

“It was pretty intense,” said Dave Morgan, who is the chief executive of Simulmedia, a company that works with advertisers, and who attended the conference. “It was one of the top two or three issues everyone was talking about.”

Mr. Hastings said Netflix would work with an outside company to help get its nascent advertising business underway. The Wall Street Journal reported that Google and Comcast were the front-runners to be that partner. Still, advertising executives believe that building out the business at Netflix could take time, and that the company might be able to introduce the new tier only in a handful of international markets by the end of the year.

It could take even longer for advertising to become a significant revenue stream for the company.

“You have a lot of media companies duking it out, and it’ll take quite a while to compete with those companies,” Mr. Morgan said. “I could imagine it will take three or four years to even be a top 10 video ad company.”

In an analyst report this month, Wells Fargo threw cold water on the notion that subscriber growth for an ad-supported tier would be quick. Wells Fargo analysts cautioned that the ad model would offer “modest” financial gains in the next two years because of a natural cannibalization from the higher-paying subscriber base. They predicted that by the end of 2025 nearly a third of the subscriber base would pay for the cheaper ad-supported model, roughly 100 million users.

Bank of America went further last week. “Ad-tiering could serve as a way for consumers across all income brackets to extend their streaming budget by trading down to subscribe to an additional service, benefiting Netflix’s competitors much more than Netflix itself,” it said in an analyst letter.

Netflix has also reached out to the studios that it buys TV shows and movies from in recent weeks, seeking permission to show advertising on licensed content. In negotiations with Paramount Global, Netflix has mentioned paying money on top of its existing licensing fee rather than cutting the company in on revenue from future ad sales, said a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss active talks.

This mirrors the approach Netflix took with studios when it introduced its “download for you” feature, which allowed users to save movies and TV shows to their devices to watch offline. When Netflix added that feature, executives at the streaming service agreed to pay studios a fee in addition to their licensing agreement.

In the end, though, Netflix’s success will most likely come down to how well it spends its $17 billion content budget.

“Netflix, dollar for dollar, needs to do better, and that falls on Ted Sarandos and his whole team,” Mr. Greenfield said, referring to the company’s co-chief executive. “They haven’t done a good enough job. Yet, they are still, by far, the leader.”

Benjamin Mullin contributed reporting.

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CNN+ Streaming Service Will Shut Down Weeks After Its Start

Executives at Discovery, wary of antitrust rules, were constrained from advising their counterparts at CNN until the merger was done. CNN+ had lost its champion when Mr. Zucker left in February because of an undisclosed romantic relationship with a colleague. But Jason Kilar, the WarnerMedia chief executive, forged ahead anyway, launching the streaming platform on March 29 to the frustration of the Discovery leadership.

It quickly became apparent that Mr. Zaslav had a very different view on digital strategy.

On the morning of April 11, the first business day of Discovery’s ownership — and 90 minutes before its WBD stock even went live on Nasdaq — JB Perrette, Discovery’s global head of streaming, convened a meeting with CNN executives.

Mr. Perrette had a message: Marketing of CNN+ was to be suspended, pending a formal review of the business, three people familiar with the conversation said.

Executives at Warner Bros. Discovery wanted to merge its other subscription platforms — Discovery+ and HBO Max — into one giant streaming service. They were not convinced that a niche product like CNN+ could be viable on its own.

And there was the matter of the debt. Discovery’s merger left the conglomerate owing about $55 billion, which executives are now under pressure to repay. CNN had been planning to spend more than $1 billion on CNN+ over four years, two people familiar with the matter said, even renting out an additional floor of its pricey Manhattan skyscraper.

Andrew Morse, CNN’s chief digital officer and a key architect of CNN+, who became the biggest internal champion of the service, countered that subscription-based online news could be successful, citing The New York Times as an example. Executives at CNN+ said they had secured 150,000 paying subscribers and were on a pace to hit first-year subscription goals.

Executives at Discovery were not impressed: At any given time, fewer than 10,000 people were watching the service, said two people familiar with the numbers, who were not authorized to speak publicly. (On Thursday, Mr. Morse said he was leaving the network entirely.)

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