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The empires strike again: Disney, Comcast, AT&T proceed streaming battle

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Disney +, Netflix, HBOMax and CBS logos in this combo photo from Reuters files

By Helen Coster

(Reuters) – In the next year, when coronavirus vaccines roll out globally, consumers are expected to return to restaurants, sports arenas, and movie theaters.

But with movies like "Matrix 4", "In the Heights" and "Dune" coming on TV at the same time as the theaters, and the Marvel series "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" and "Loki" going on Disney + will they even want to be streamed?

The pandemic accelerated the already ongoing push into subscription streaming video services like Netflix (NASDAQ 🙂 and Disney +, which resulted in a surplus of great content available to consumers in 2021. But behind the scenes of this new golden age of television is a battle for the future of Hollywood.

2020 was the year major media companies placed their bets on AT&T Inc (NYSE :), Comcast Corp (NASDAQ 🙂 and Walt Disney (NYSE 🙂 Co announces new strategies for how and where content is distributed. While their approaches are different, they share a unique focus on streaming videos to address viewers directly.

It is less clear who will emerge victorious when the pandemic is over. Will the experience of seeing a movie in a theater – with a community of fans, a huge screen, and enveloping sound – beat the convenience and lower cost of watching it at home?

The answer will help determine the future of Hollywood in 2022 and beyond.

AT & T's Warner Bros studio took the boldest step of its peers when it announced plans to release all of its 2021 films in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service on the same day, including potential blockbusters such as "Matrix 4 "," The Suicide Squad ". "Dune" and "In the Heights". "Wonder Woman 1984" will be in theaters and on HBO Max on December 25th.

Warner Bros said the strategy, which AT&T CEO John Stankey described as a "win-win-win" for consumers and partners, will stay in place for a year.

"I don't know why you had to go all year round," said Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman 1984, in an interview with Reuters. "I wish we could have waited and seen what happened to the theaters."

Comcast's Universal Pictures took a less drastic approach, going through contracts with three major theater operators – AMC Entertainment (NYSE 🙂 Holdings and Cinemark Holdings (NYSE 🙂 Inc, and Canada's Cineplex – at the cinema window.

The parties agreed to shorten the window between the theatrical release and the theatrical release of a film. After only 17 days in the cinemas of one of these operators, Universal was able to make films such as “Sing 2” or “Minions: The Rise of Gru” available on digital platforms for USD 19.99.

Rather than announcing major changes to its movie release strategy, Disney decided to recharge its streaming services. The company plans to release 10 new TV series in each of the Marvel and Star Wars franchises over the next few years, including two spin-offs from "The Mandalorian" on the Disney + streaming service.

An additional 15 live action shows from Disney Animation and Pixar and 15 feature films from Disney Animation and Pixar will be available on the service.

Customers should expect about 100 or more titles on Disney + per year, executives said on Dec. 10. To fund the $ 16 billion, Disney plans to spend on new content in fiscal 2024. In March 2021, Disney will increase the price of Disney + by US $ 1 in the US to US $ 7.99 per month and EUR 2 in continental Europe to EUR 8.99 (US $ 10.92).

In early 2021 ViacomCBS (NASDAQ 🙂 will rename its CBS All Access streaming service to "Paramount +". These include episodes and films from ViacomCBS-owned brands like Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures, including series like "The Twilight Zone". and "The Good Fight".

These changes couldn't have happened so quickly without the pandemic, though some Hollywood insiders consider them to be inevitable.

"Without a doubt, we are in the great curve of change that I believe has been due since people first appeared (premium video on demand)," actor Tom Hanks said in December. "(Probably) since the VHS cassette was first introduced cheaply, this is only just on the horizon."

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