Disney Makes Streaming Services A Centerpiece Of Its Future

How seriously is Disney taking streaming direct-to-consumer video services?

Starting next year, the Direct-To-Consumer/International business unit will be one of four business segments the company breaks out earnings for in its quarterly reports to investors.

On the company’s latest quarterly earnings call Thursday, Disney CEO Bob Iger went into detail about its streaming video future, with an emphasis on three products: ESPN+, Hulu, and next year’s family-focused service, which Iger says will be called Disney+.

Disney+ will mark Disney’s biggest dive into streaming video, becoming a one-stop shop for Disney movies and content from Pixar, LucasFilm, Marvel, National Geographic and other Disney-owned brands.

Disney is developing a series based on the Marvel character Loki, and on the “Star Wars” film Rogue One. Both will star the lead actors who appeared in the movies.

“As with ESPN+, the launch of Disney+ will just be the starting point,” Iger told analysts on the call. “We plan to continually elevate the experience and enhance the value to consumers with a constant pipeline of exclusive new content as we move forward.”

Iger added that the company will be taking Disney+ international after its U.S. launch, with some local content added to the mix to comply with local rules in the E.U.

Disney will have a controlling stake in Hulu once its deal to acquire 21st Century Fox closes, although Comcast will still own 30% of Hulu, and AT&T will own 10%.

Iger told analysts “anything we do with Hulu will be done with an eye toward being fiscally responsible to the other shareholders, even though they’re minority shareholders.” While the company plans to invest in Hulu, it may not be able to take the big swings it is making with Disney+.

Hulu will serve as a general entertainment service, in contrast to the sports-centric ESPN+ and the family-focused Disney+.

In particular, Hulu presents a distinct opportunity for advertisers through its basic ad-supported tier and multichannel video service.

“[What] I think has been somewhat under-appreciated about Hulu in that it is a very strong play for advertisers, because it can offer targeted ads and is just a great user experience,” Iger said.

He added that the company will invest more in Hulu’s original programming and experiment with pricing, particularly with regard to its multichannel video service.

Hulu is currently only available in the U.S. Once the Fox deal closes, the company will talk to Comcast and AT&T about launching Hulu internationally.

Finally, there was ESPN+, the first streaming service launched by Disney in the U.S. earlier this year. Now with over 1 million subscribers, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said the company plans to invest $100 million in the service in the first quarter of 2019.

“We’re kind of just in the early innings, to use a sports analogy, of where we’re going to be product-wise,” Iger said. “And then we’re also in the early innings in terms of where we’re going to be from a feature set perspective.”

The company’s BamTech unit is developing personalization and customization technology that will serve subscribers content based on where they live, or their favourite team or sport.

The company will also start marketing ESPN+, beginning by targeting alumni of certain colleges whose teams don’t typically play on national sports networks.

Talk of streaming dominated the earnings call, with the company’s TV networks barely getting a mention from analysts, and only a few questions on the company’s theme parks.

During the company’s earnings call in late 2017, Iger said Disney+ would be priced “substantially below” Netflix, to account for its smaller library of content. He did not provide an update on the latest call, with pricing still TBD.

Disney is betting its content expertise will make for a competitive product with Netflix when it launches.

Source: mediapost.com; 9 Nov 2018

Namaste! You can now talk to Google Home in Hindi

Google has announced Hindi language update on Google Assistant for Google Home smart speakers for users in India. Google Home will also be able to respond in Hindi with uniquely Indian contexts.

Earlier this year, Google Assistant was made available in Hindi on smartphones allowing more users in India to take advantage of the Assistant. Last year, Google launched the Assistant in Hindi in Allo as well as made a special version available for Jio feature phones.

To converse with Google Home in Hindi, you’d need to set up Google Assistant to recognize the language on the Google Home app on your phone. Tap the ‘Account’ icon at the lower-right corner, then select ‘Settings’. Upon navigating to the ‘Assistant’ tab, select ‘Add a language’, and set ‘हिंदी (भारत)’ as the first language in the list.

Once set up, you can just say “Ok Google” to start a conversation with the Google Assistant on Google Home and ask a question in Hindi.

Some popular apps that Google Assistant can do in Hindi include Spotify, where users choose artists, songs and albums to listen to, or create playlist for special occasions; Sports app to get information and updates of favourites teams; Reminders where the Assistant prompts users of things-to-do in users’ agenda. Video calls can also be activated through voice command, and voice interaction on selected games.

Source: androidauthority.com; 2 Nov 2018

Mobile payments in China are growing so fast, predictions can’t keep up

Eight out of 10 of the world’s mobile-payment users live in Asia, and more than six in 10 live in China, according to eMarketer

China will have 63.5% of the world’s users of proximity mobile payments in 2018, higher than the 61.2% previously expected, according to the latest eMarketer forecast.

The company defines a proximity mobile payment as a point-of-sale transaction made by scanning, tapping, swiping or checking in with a mobile device.

This year in China, 525.1 million people will use a proximity mobile payment app at the point of sale, up more than 13% over last year, the research company reports. That equates to 79.4% of China’s smartphone users.

In a distant second in terms of user numbers is India, which has 73.9 million users but is now the fastest-growing market. Adoption in India will jump 39.7% this year, and eMarketer expects double-digit increases through 2022.

“Chinese citizens have skipped the adoption of credit cards, making proximity payment apps part of day-to-day life,” eMarketer junior forecasting analyst Showmik Podder said in a release. “This starkly contrasts with Western countries, where payment app adoption has been slow, and the credit card is still king. The biggest players in China—Alipay and WeChat Pay—design their systems such that they are easily integrated with already popular social media and on-demand services platforms. This ease of use is helping to drive expansion, with further growth coming from rural users.”

Source: campaignasia.com; 31 Oct 2018

What’s up with WhatsApp Business?

5 reasons brands shouldn’t overlook the text-messaging app.

In many parts of the world WhatsApp has become like breathing; we don’t give it much thought.

It’s such a big part of our lives, we just about overlook it entirely. This was not the case for Mark Zuckerberg in 2014. Facebook bought the up-and-coming platform for close to US$20 billion and just, well, carried on living life. Or so we thought. Many industry onlookers were wondering how in the world Facebook was going to make all that money back.

In January this year, the company finally launched WhatsApp Business. Offering small business owners an opportunity to establish themselves on the platform. Businesses were able to set up profiles, save & reuse responses, and optimise answers to messages through message statistics.

A fast and convenient way to communicate with a small pool of existing customers, yes. But it wasn’t anything new. Small business owners were already, albeit unofficially, communicating with their customers via the platform. The release of the separate app for businesses just made an existing trend more official, rather than adding more value.

It’s the series of announcements that followed in August, that have really got the industry talking. We round up five of the latest developments from WhatsApp that have the potential to change the mobile game for customers and brands.

1. Release of the WhatsApp API: Throwing the media into its first frenzy was the release of the API in early August, targeted at larger enterprises. The API (Application Programming Interface) is the glue, or rather connection, between apps, data and devices. The release of this API is just the starting point to realise dreams of automation and integration with other platforms and systems. For example, at the most basic level, businesses would be able to connect their WhatsApp Business account with social media management platforms, like Hootsuite & Sprinkler, optimizing workflow and communication.

2. Verification Pilot Program: Just like Twitter’s blue tick, WhatsApp Business announced that they would be assigning green badges to businesses they can confirm are legit. The instructions are already up on the WhatsApp Business FAQ page, however the program is limited to a small number of businesses, with no further updates on when another intake is possible.

3. WhatsApp partners with Google: WhatsApp and Google have struck up a deal; WhatsApp users can now back up their conversations, photographs and videos on Google Drive without it eating into their 15GB of free storage. After the announcement both companies came under fire; this free storage comes at the cost of losing end-to-end encryption of your messages. However, the bigger question we should be asking is, what other developments can we expect, or hope for, from a partnership between two of the biggest tech companies of our time?

4. WhatsApp Payment: Although currently limited to India, WhatsApp released its first pilot payment solution to a small number of users this May. Through Unified Payment Interface (UPI), a system that facilitates inter-bank transactions, users can conveniently make and receive payments from people on their contact list. Unlike a regular transfer, UPI’s transfers are immediate, no 3 hour window period needed.

5. Advertising in WhatsApp Status: According to a statement from WhatsApp, in 2019 brands will be able to advertise to their 1.5 billion users through WhatsApp Status ads. The WhatsApp team told TechCrunch, “WhatsApp does not currently run ads in Status though this represents a future goal for us, starting in 2019. We will move slowly and carefully and provide more details before we place any Ads in Status.” Why Should Brands Care?

All of this tinkering offers new avenues for brands and customers, both now and in the future, that goes beyond automatic greetings, responses and notifications.

Source: campaignasia.com; 5 Oct 2018

Indian YouTube channel will soon dethrone PewDiePie in subscriptions

T-Series, a YouTube channel dedicated to Indian music videos, will soon surpass PewDiePie as the most subscribed account on YouTube, according to Tubular Labs. PewDiePie — a Swedish vlogger best known for his video game commentaries — has 67 million subscribers to his channel, inching just ahead of T-Series at 66 million subscribers.

But the latter is growing at a more rapid clip — T-Series expanded its subscriber base by 4.2 million in September against PewDiePie’s 863,000 — and Tubular predicts the Bollywood channel will hit No. 1 next week. The data underscores the growing importance of India — and the greater Asia-Pacific (APAC) region — for US-based tech companies as the next major market for expansion.

Here’s why India is a strategic international market, and how some major tech firms are starting to adjust their strategies:

– Smartphone penetration is still growing, and sits well below 50%. India’s smartphone users are estimated to reach 466 million — or 34% of the population — by 2020, up from 308 million (24% penetration) in 2018, per eMarketer. Smartphone users in the US stand at 252 million, good for 77% of the population, so the opportunity to grow customers domestically pales in comparison to the opportunity in APAC. While China has the largest base of smartphone users on Earth, US-based companies have struggled to launch there because of strict regulation. India presents the best opportunity to reach a massive, largely untapped market.

– India has the world’s fastest-growing economy. While access to a large and growing audience is a vital step in international expansion, companies still need a viable way to monetize audiences once they reach them. The Indian economy is the fastest-growing in the world, forecast to jump 7.3% year-over-year (YoY) in 2019, and 7.6% YoY in 2020, according to the Asian Development Bank. The twin factors of an accelerating economy and steady smartphone penetration are positive signs that demand for advertising and subscription-based services will continue to rise in the country.

– Streaming giants are localizing content to cater to Indian consumers. Netflix is launching local content across the globe, but the streamer is particularly bullish on the Indian market. Earlier this year, when Netflix’s global subscribers stood around 120 million, CEO Reed Hastings claimed: “the next 100 million is from India.” Meanwhile, the number of Amazon Prime Video users in India is growing faster than any other country, according to its Head of International Originals, James Farrell.

– Facebook has more users in India than in any other country. The social giant’s monthly active user base in India stands at 251 million, higher than in the US & Canada where it has 241 million users. And Facebook-owned WhatsApp is India’s most-used app, according to comScore. For now though, Facebook’s main role in India is serious damage control after misinformation campaigns have led to dozens of lynchings, per CNN.

The increasing western influence could spark Indian government to impose new rules and regulations on American tech companies. Last summer, the country’s Supreme Court declared that Indians have a fundamental right to privacy, and pushed Parliament to pass a data privacy law, according to The New York Times.

Potential legislation could hinder growth in India, or limit how user data can be used by tech, much like GDPR in Europe. In the meantime, global companies should start thinking about localization strategies to capture a piece of the market.

Source: businessinsider.com; 25 Oct 2018

Facebook has revamped Messenger

Facebook launched a new, simplified version of Messenger, dubbed Messenger 4, which started rolling out this week. Messenger 4 provides a simplified user experience by making it easier to navigate the chat app’s various features. This is a big step in appealing to Messenger users’ preferences, as more than 7 in 10 (71%) say simplicity is the top priority to them in a messaging app, according to Facebook.

The streamlined interface in Messenger 4 will better facilitate communication and discovery. The updated app reduces the number of tabs within Messenger from nine to three — Chats, People, and Discover — which lets users more quickly access Messenger’s features.

For instance, the new Chats tab houses one-to-one and group conversations, enabling users to quickly switch between their group and individual conversations within one location; previously, users had to switch between separate group and individual chat tabs to do so.

Additionally, the new Discover tab enables users to access Instant Games, business conversations, and travel booking features in one location. Previously, users had to switch between a separate Games tab and Discover tab to do those activities. The People tab houses a list of active Messenger users, Stories, and the ability to search for friends — whereas before, those features were scattered between the Home tab and People tab.

Streamlining Messenger’s interface is a smart move for Facebook, as it will likely spur deeper engagement in the app. Since a majority of Messenger users value simplicity above all else, the updated app will likely enable a more enjoyable experience for a large portion of users, potentially resulting in longer average sessions. The streamlined interface could benefit brands as well, since users who open the Discover tab to see the news or play Instant Games could also be exposed to business-facing chats in the same location.

Source: businessinsider.com; 26 Oct 2018

Brands can play with our emotions…and memories too

BBC StoryWorks study finds links between emotions, memory and brand influence.

We all know great brand campaigns can trigger real emotions. We can probably remember the ones that do. With that in mind, BBC StoryWorks, the content marketing unit of BBC Global News set out to find the scientific basis behind those connections in its latest research study.

Called The Science of Memory, the study tested six of StoryWorks’ branded content videos on BBC.com on 2,179 respondents based in Singapore, Australia, USA and Germany using its own proprietary emotion-tracking tool together with neuroscience techniques from specialist firm Neuro-Insight.

Researchers recorded electrical brain activity and facial coding data and claim to have mapped not just the emotional intensity triggered by the videos, but also the level of long-term memory encoding in the brain. Among the study’s key findings:

– Emotions are a key driver of memory. If you’re watching a brand film, the bigger the emotional spike, the more likely it is to trigger long term memory. When it comes to triggering long term memory, there is no such thing as a bad emotion. The influential factor is the intensity of the emotion being experienced, not the nature of the emotion.

– Emotions can be fine-tuned to maximise and ‘colour’ memory. There are certain strategies to employ emotional spikes like compelling storytelling to make content more memorable.

– Triggering emotions early and often is most memorable. Brand films that triggered their highest emotional intensity in the first third of their duration ultimately delivered stronger memory of the content overall. Also, content that provokes numerous peaks of emotional intensity throughout, rather than slow building to a singular event, delivers a higher memory impact.

– Brands can ‘ride’ memory moments. Emotion often precedes memory. A sudden spike in emotional intensity causes memory encoding to rise shortly afterwards. So content marketers who can seamlessly integrate a brand in the memory window after moments of high emotional intensity allow that brand to ride the wave of the narrative into memory.

– Emotional reactions can vary by region. Shown the same piece of content, viewers in APAC showed surprise while American viewers demonstrated sadness or empathy and European viewers showed happiness. Yet all these emotions, researchers said, still delivered the same level of memory impact.

– Cuing the lights is worth remembering. Cinematic devices like lighting changes, unique camera angles and (more obviously) music changes all play a role in keeping the viewer engaged and creating long-term memories.

Naturally, the goal for BBC StoryWorks is to figure out how to integrate the science of memory into its storytelling techniques to create more last impressions without giving up the art of creative.

“There is real science that underpins effective brand storytelling and helps us drive the way we create content,” said BBC StoryWorks senior vice-president Richard Pattinson in a release. “But there is also an art to great storytelling—an art that has been part of the BBC’s DNA for almost a hundred years and continues to resonate in every innovation in storytelling we embark upon.”

Pattinson went on to say their work will continue to try to strike the right balance between art and science.

Source: campaignasia.com; 13 Oct 2018

A new Amazon patent reveals Alexa could become emotionally intelligent

Amazon was issued a patent for new technology last week that would enable Alexa to detect users’ physical, emotional, and behavioural states. The technology would allow Alexa to recognize audible cues, such as a cough or a tone of voice, to identify how a user is feeling, mentally or physically, and provide responses based on that information.

For instance, if Alexa detects a cough or sniffles when a user makes a voice request, the assistant might respond by asking if the user wants to order lozenges. Alexa would also be able to use consumers’ demographic and behavioural information such as age, location, accents, and past search and purchase behaviour to help inform those suggestions.

Alexa’s potential ability to constantly monitor its users and respond in real time would pave the way for brands to interact with consumers in a flexible manner, which could help boost brand awareness and drive voice purchases. Here’s how:

– It could expose consumers to relevant skills that they might not have used otherwise. For instance, if Alexa detects that a user is suffering from anxiety through their tone of voice, the voice assistant could suggest a stress relief skill that the user was unaware of.

– It could enable Alexa to target users with brands’ relevant products and information. Alexa would be able to intuitively surface specific products based on consumers’ physical or emotional states at that exact moment, which could boost voice purchases. And although Amazon doesn’t allow ads on its voice platform yet, the technology enables the potential to run targeted ads and promotions based on users’ emotional and physical states, enabling businesses to reach users when their products or services are most relevant.

Alexa’s capability to detect cues from voice data could result in an improved user experience, if consumers are interested. Alexa’s proactive suggestions would lend to a highly personalized experience by catering to users’ real-time emotional and physical needs.

It would also lead to more natural conversations with Alexa, as the voice assistant can understand and ask relevant follow-up questions, increasing the back-and-forth nature of the voice experience.

However, given the privacy concerns surrounding other big tech companies, like Facebook, many consumers might be uncomfortable with Amazon automatically collecting deeply personal information, which could impact the popularity of this feature if it’s ever rolled out.

Source: businessinsider.com; 17 Oct 2018

Shell to ‘turbocharge’ its clean energy drive

Royal Dutch Shell is preparing to “turbocharge” its bid to become a global leader in clean energy in the coming years as it seeks to overcome the “existential” challenge posed by climate change, boss Ben van Beurden has told The Sunday Telegraph.

Mr van Beurden said that the FTSE 100 giant should be able to gauge by the early 2020s whether its recent moves into the clean electricity market will be stepped up. The energy giant has so far pledged to spend between $1bn and $2bn of its $25bn (£19bn) a year spending budget on technologies including electric car charging and ­renewable energy.

“It is a highly charismatic part of our business, but it’s also very small,” Mr Van Beurden said. “I wouldn’t say that we have a deadline, because much of it will depend on how society wants to change, but I would imagine that the way things are going by the early 2020s we will know whether the hypothesis holds, and whether we therefore want to turbocharge this business.

“The biggest calling card we have is scale. We can scale much faster than anyone else,” he added.

Mr Van Beurden said Shell’s recent pledge to cut its carbon emissions by a fifth is “about the longevity of the company, and is therefore an existential issue. This is not about being altruistic.”

Source: telegraph.co.uk; 13 Oct 2018