A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Is Apple about to disrupt cinemas?
ALSO: First details on new Aussie streaming service Binge.
The news flow has begun regarding new Australian streaming service Binge (name still yet to be officially confirmed). The Foxtel service will launch one week from today on May 25. That’s a Monday launch a work week ahead of the launch of HBO Max in the US. That gives Foxtel five days of trouble shooting and testing servers in a live environment ahead of a potential influx of more content for the weekend.
Pricing is expected to be between $10-14 per month.
The new streaming service, understood to be called Binge but yet to be confirmed by Foxtel, will launch next Monday, boasting “10,000 hours of the best local and international drama and movies”. Drawing on its renewed content deal with WarnerMedia, the service will show full seasons or “stacks” of television series rather than screen week-to-week episodes.
Is this actually telling us that there won’t be any weekly episodic drops at all and the entire platform will just be complete seasons of shows? I’d imagine subscribers wanting day and date episodes of new HBO and FX series would be pretty disappointed by that. The only reason to do that would be to continue giving people a reason to subscribe to Foxtel.
But I don’t think this is actually the case. My assumption is just that it has been badly phrased in the article and rather it’s that the platform will have an emphasis on box sets rather than weekly episodics, but that there will still be weekly episodes added.
If that’s not the case, Binge may be a non-starter for a lot of potential subscribers.
We’ll find out more this week as Foxtel officially announce the service. I’m expecting a media release in my inbox very soon.
The better-than-you’d-expect Apple TV+ show Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet has filmed a COVID-19 episode with its cast at home using iPhones. Okay. It’ll debut May 22. Source: THR
Timothy Olymphant will make an appearance in season 2 of The Mandalorian. Considering his own stints in shows like Deadwood and Justified, his appearance in the space western seems practically mandatory.
Michael Biehn will also make an appearance during the season.
One of the highlights of Star Trek: Discovery in its second season was the introduction of Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn, and Ethan Peck as classic Star Trek characters Captain Pike, Number One, and Spock. The three will star in a spin-off series - a prequel set ten years before Captain Kirk took over from Pike as Captain of the starship… Enterprise.
The new series will enter production sometime. Who can say these days, really.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will stream on CBS All Access in the US. No word on any international sale that will help offset the cost of production, as had been the case with Star Trek Disco (sold to Netflix) and Picard (sold to Amazon Prime Video). One would assume that such a deal will be dependent on the international roll-out of the rebranded CBS All Access over the next 12 months (will ViacomCBS keep the show for the streaming service?). Whatever the distribution method, the result will likely be that ViacomCBS will end up copping more of the cost of this show than previous series.
Is Apple about to radically disrupt cinemas? And your loungeroom.
One of the barometers everyone is looking to when sensing a return to normalcy post COVID-19 shut-down is the re-opening of cinemas. To me, it has re-emphasised the cultural value that we all place on the cinema. But lost in the conversation around the re-opening of cinemas is that cinema attendance has been dropping. We may miss the cinema now that we can’t go, but the reasons why we haven’t been going are pretty obvious:
Ticket prices are expensive
We have a lot more entertainment options at home, with vast streaming libraries of movies and TV shows for the cost of half an adult ticket.
TV screen sizes at home have gotten big enough that the thrill of a big screen movie experience isn’t quite what it once was.
It’s that last point that is of the most interest to me. Cinemas have two things going for it over the experience of watching a movie at home:
Big screen. Big sound.
Movie releases are windowed. Cinemas have them exclusively for the first 4 months or so, then they go to home video.
Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve seen a disruption already to point number 2. Companies like Universal have started bypassing the cinemas exclusivity period with direct to consumer movies. This is temporary, but the cracks in the ice have formed.
On the first point Apple are about to go mainstream with a huge disruptor.
Here’s two stories you need to pay attention to:
Apple has just bought NextVR. Think of NextVR as Netflix for VR content. The deal is said to have been worth $100 million.
NextVR has deals with sports leagues including the National Basketball Association and entertainment networks such as Fox Sports. The startup also has expertise in live streaming in virtual reality, which could also be useful for live concerts and games.
An internal presentation to staff at Apple has the company working on an Augmented Reality headset for release in 2022 and a sleeker set of AR glasses set for 2023. Source: The Information
So, what does this mean really?
One of the emerging use cases for virtual reality has been watching regular TV shows and movies in virtual environments. Pop your VR headset on and you can watch movies in a virtual cinema, in a Mad Men style apartment with a HUGE TV on the wall, by the beach, on the moon, in a rowboat, at the House of Blues theatre (a weird environment available through Hulu VR), etc.
Screen video quality is usually at 720p (though, the new Amazon Prime Video VR app delivers a nice 1080p). The experience isn’t quite as good as watching a real screen in the meat world, but if you’re in a small apartment where you can’t have a decent sized TV or are watching TV in a second room away from the lounge, it is a vast improvement over watching on your laptop/phone/tablet. Also, it’s pretty fun.
This is an enthusiast showcasing the experience of watching via the new Amazon Prime Video VR app:
There’s no hard information on what Apple are planning, but my assumption is that the first move for Apple in launching this technology is a bid for the loungeroom. One could easily see Apple bringing large viewing screens into people’s lounge powered by their TV app. Through their app, Apple users can buy/rent movies as well as watch shows on its Apple TV+ service and any other streaming service that makes its content available to watch through its TV app. The launch of an AR headset also gives Apple leverage to get hold outs like Netflix to connect to its TV app.
3D TVs never took off because they asked viewers to wear dorky glasses to create the 3D experience. The thing is, 3D TV isn’t a wildly compelling thing to watch and it was too big an ask to get people to put on the glasses for a slightly better experience. Glasses to increase your TV to 5x the size? That has a value proposition.
The purchase of NextVR suggests that Apple may also have bigger plans in store for live concerts and sporting events.
Apple are ready to give us a very big reason not to go to the movies.
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