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Apple TV

Apple’s original shows may launch next March, report says

Apple’s upcoming slate of original TV shows may finally see the light of day as early as next March, according to a report from The New York Times on Sunday. Citing producers and entertainment exec sources, the article says Apple has been taking advantage of its significant cash stores to fund its TV efforts – and is, in fact, spending north of the $1 billion budget it had first committed to original programming. The report also notes Apple has now outspent both Facebook and YouTube on original content, and has beaten Netflix in a few bidding wars for new series. So far, Apple has greenlit 12 projects, nine of which are straight-to-series orders – meaning, they’re skipping the pilot phase and heading straight into production. Many of Apple’s forthcoming series include big names in Hollywood. They also sound far more promising than its first efforts in this space, which had included a pitch-off show about apps (“Planet of the Apps”) and a longer version of “Carpool Karaoke.” The upcoming roster of Apple shows spans genres, including a Reese Witherspoon/Jennifer Aniston drama about morning news shows, a Steven Spielberg reboot of “Amazing Stories,” a thriller starring Octavia Spencer, and a new space drama from “Battlestar Galactica’s” creator, and a Kristen Wiig-led comedy, an M. Night Shyamalan thriller, a Kevin Durant-inspired scripted basketball show, a documentary about extraordinary homes, and a series from “La La Land’s” director, among other things. Beyond who’s involved with each of these projects, details about the shows themselves are still vague. But The NYT report claims Apple is not focused on shows that are “gratuitously dark” or heavy on social issues. In other words, don’t expect the next “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu’s Emmy winner) on Apple, it seems. Unlike Netflix, Apple will limit the number of series it puts out, focusing on quality over quantity. It’s still unclear how Apple will distribute its series to customers, though it’s expected access will be tied to a subscription of some sort. The shows might be housed in Apple’s existing TV app, which today organizes video programming from Prime Video, Hulu, CBS, Starz, Showtime, HBO, and others that require sign-in from a TV provider. The TV app is already starting to shape up to become an alternative to television, especially with the recent addition of streaming news channels, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, Cheddar, CNBC and Bloomberg. The March 2019 launch date is the best-case-scenario for Apple, which has so far ceded a ton of ground to rivals like Amazon, Google (YouTube), Netflix, and Hulu in terms of streaming TV and original programming. The target launch time frame is actually anywhere from March to summer 2019, the report said.

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Baidu's earnings suffered in 2016

US IPO for Baidu video unit as Q4 net income flattens

Chinese search engine giant Baidu will spin off its Netflix-like video arm iQiyi and list it in the US market, the company said in a statement that revealed its net profit grew only one percent during the fourth quarter. The company said it has submitted a draft registration to the US securities regulator, the SEC, for a proposed initial public offering of iQiyi, without giving further details. The news sent Baidu's shares up more than seven percent in afterhours trading on NASDAQ. Baidu "expects to remain iQiyi's controlling shareholder" after the offering, the statement said. Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that the online video streaming unit is valued at $15 billion. iQiyi is the leading mobile video provider in China with 463 million monthly active mobile users, closely followed by Tencent's video site and Alibaba's Youku Tudou, according to QuestMobile, a Beijing-based data research firm. Last year iQiyi reached a content licensing agreement with Netflix, whose shows include "Black Mirror" and "Stranger Things". New Street Research analyst Kirk Boodry told Bloomberg that the IPO will be able to fund Baidu's content costs for the video unit. "The iQiyi IPO confirmation is positive and we think that video will be a top story in 2018," he said. Baidu's earnings suffered in 2016 as the company clamped down on dubious ads, but it has gradually recovered in 2017. Net income in the final three months of last year came to $639 million (4.2 billion RMB), up just one percent from the same period last year, according to Baidu's earnings report. Revenue growth in the fourth quarter remained strong, up 29 percent year-on-year to $3.62 billion. Mobile revenue continues to grow, accounting for 76 percent of the total revenue. Net income jumped in the second and third quarter year-on-year as the company disposed of non-core businesses such as food delivery. "In 2017, Baidu sharpened its strategic focus. We strengthened our management team and built strong momentum by adopting AI-first in our mobile businesses and investing in new AI businesses," said Robin Li, the company's Chairman and CEO. Baidu also made headway in autonomous driving, where it is cooperating with several Chinese auto companies including BAIC Group.

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