New York, Jul 19 (AP/UNB) — How much is too much for streaming video?
A dramatic slowdown in worldwide growth at Netflix — including the first quarterly drop in its U.S. subscribers since 2011 — is raising questions about just how much are people willing to pay for streaming services. Especially with a host of new ones from Disney, Apple and others on their way.
A recent price increase seems to have spooked Netflix subscribers. The company lost 126,000 subscribers in the U.S., less than 1% of its 60.1 million paid U.S. subscriptions, during the April-June period. Its most popular plan rose from $11 to $13 in a U.S. price hike announced in January and rolled out for many subscribers during the second quarter. Worldwide, the service picked up 2.7 million worldwide subscribers, far below Netflix's forecast of 5 million.
"Netflix raising prices prompted people to think about whether they were getting value for money," Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said.
While people are willing to shell out for several services to meet their streaming needs, he said, they're also willing to cancel if they're not using it enough, just as they would with a gym membership or a subscription to the New Yorker magazine.
Streaming services preparing to compete with Netflix appear to be taking note.
Disney Plus, set to debut in November, will already be cheaper than Netflix at $8 a month, though Disney Plus will also have a smaller video library. Hulu has cut prices to $6 from $8 for its main, ad-supported service. Services from Apple, due out this year, and WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal, out in 2020, don't have announced prices yet, although the NBCUniversal service will be free and ad supported for traditional cable TV subscribers.
Of course, even if these individual services are cheaper than Netflix, it's not clear how many consumers will be willing to pay for.
One way to make a service appealing is not through better prices but through exclusive shows and deep libraries, including shows that Netflix will be losing. Netflix's two most popular shows, "Friends" and "The Office," will be departing in the coming months for rival services.
Group M analyst Brian Weiser said that for now, other services shouldn't be overly concerned by a weak quarter or two at Netflix. He said streaming content consumption is still growing rapidly, so the overall market has plenty of room for competitors. And the streaming arena is a growth area in the much bigger and more mature entertainment industry.
"I don't think it follows that if Netflix has an underperforming quarter that tells you about others," he said.
Some analysts also believe Netflix's trouble is temporary.
Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham said the subscriber numbers will likely hit the stock in the short term — the stock was down 11% in midday trading Thursday — but overall the company's growth remains on track, particularly overseas.
"We still see a strong content strategy and room to add large numbers of international subscriptions as key strengths going forward," he wrote in a note to investors.
Similarly, Pivotal Research Group analyst Jeffrey Wlodarczak said investors shouldn't make a "mountain out of a molehill," with the most recent quarterly figures.
The spring quarter is typically sluggish for the streaming service, and Netflix acknowledged a weak content slate could have been partly responsible for the drop. It expects to regain some momentum this summer, projecting that it will add 7 million subscribers from July through September. The optimism stems in part from the immense popularity of "Stranger Things," whose third season attracted record viewership after its July 4 release.
Netflix has said it welcomes competition. It ended June with 151.6 million worldwide subscribers, far more than a current crop of video streaming rivals that includes Amazon and Hulu.
Washington, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — Actress Sally Field and the long-running children's TV show "Sesame Street" are in the latest class of Kennedy Center Honors recipients.
Others chosen to receive the award for lifetime achievement in the arts include singer Linda Ronstadt, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the musical group Earth, Wind and Fire.
The recipients announced Thursday will be honored during a gala ceremony in early December. For the third straight year, the attendance of President Donald Trump seems likely to be a subject of speculation in advance of the event. Trump has skipped the past two celebrations. The first time , multiple recipients threatened to boycott the event if he attended.
The Kennedy Center's president, Deborah Rutter, said it was too early to tell whether Trump or first lady Melania Trump would attend.
"They are always invited," she said. "He is the president of the United States of America, and it would be good to have these extraordinary individuals acknowledged by the president."
Field was a television star at age 19 and went on to forge a distinguished career that included two Academy Awards and three Emmys. At 72, she remains active and starred last year in a Netflix miniseries called "Maniac."
"Sesame Street" debuted in 1969 and remains a force in children's educational television. The show now airs new episodes on HBO, and they are rebroadcast months later on the show's original home, PBS. In recent years, the creators have worked to embrace more modern issues, introducing a puppet named Julia with autism. The co-founders of "Sesame Street," Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett, will accept the award on behalf of the show.
Ronstadt was one of the faces of American music in the 1970s and 80s, landing on the cover of Time magazine in 1977. Her four-decade career moved smoothly between country, pop and rock with occasional deviations into Mexican folk songs. In 2011, she announced her retirement from singing, citing the advancing effects of Parkinson's disease.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ronstadt professed to a fairly ambivalent relationship to the mountain of prices, awards and honors she has accrued. "I don't think a lot about prizes," she said. "You do the work for the work."
Tilson Thomas, who has served as music director of the San Francisco Symphony for the past 14 years, has become particularly renowned for his interpretations of the entire works of Gustav Mahler. Asked why he felt he was chosen for the award, Tilson Thomas laughed and said, "I guess I've just been around a long time! I started out always being the youngest person on stage, and now I'm the oldest person on stage."
Earth, Wind and Fire was originally formed in Chicago by lead singer Maurice White. The group drew elements from rhythm and blues, funk, and disco in a flashy crowd-pleasing mix that spawned eight No. 1 hits. Songs such as "September" and "Shining Star" remain in heavy rotation for both radio station programmers and wedding DJs.
Maurice White died in 2016, but his brother Verdine, the group's longtime bassist, said he was proud of how their songs have become part of the soundtrack of American music.
"We're part of the culture. We're part of people's lives," he said. "The music makes people happy. When you come to a show you leave happier than when you came."
The 42nd annual Kennedy Center Honors Gala will be held on Dec. 7. The presenters and performers are usually kept secret from the honorees until the show.
Ronstadt played a role in the tribute to The Eagles, 2016 Kennedy Center Honorees, and she said she enjoys the surprise format of the evening. "I'll be curious to see who they come up with," she said.
The event will be broadcast on PBS on Dec. 15.
Washington, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — A-list celebrities seem to be opening their hearts — or at least their wallets — to Pete Buttigieg.
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor was a virtual unknown months ago. But he used breakout town hall performances, viral moments and his biography as a millennial, gay military veteran and a former Rhodes scholar to get the attention of the entertainment industry and rake in cash.
Among the more than 50 celebrities who gave Buttigieg money during the second quarter are rocker Joan Jett ($150), recording industry mogul David Geffen ($5,600), fashion icon Anna Wintour ($2,800), designer Tom Ford ($5,600), actress Sharon Stone ($5,600) and comedian Ellen DeGeneres ($5,600). They helped fuel his field-leading $24.8 million fundraising haul.
Democratic politicians — and particularly White House hopefuls — have long leaned on the entertainment industry's home of California to serve as an ATM for their political ambitions. During the second quarter, Buttigieg proved to be particularly effective at it, outraising home-state Sen. Kamala Harris on his way toward collecting $3.8 million there, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
"We're very interested in Pete. People are drawn to civility and intelligence in this moment more than ever before," said Michael S. Smith, a designer and major Democratic donor who has cut checks to several 2020 candidates and hosted a fundraiser for former Vice President Joe Biden that raised over $750,000.
It's unclear whether Buttigieg's early popularity in Hollywood is sustainable for a campaign that's still in its early stages. Many entertainment industry heavies who have given to Buttigieg are keeping their options open and have also given to others in the race.
Smith and his husband, James Costos, the former ambassador to Spain, both gave to Buttigieg. But they are also among the co-hosts of another Biden fundraiser in Los Angeles on Thursday at the home of Sony's Motion Picture Chairman Tom Rothman, an event that has also drawn super-agent Bryan Lourd, Warner Bros. Chairman Toby Emmerich, and former Sony chair Amy Pascal.
Buttigieg was supposed to have a massive LGBT fundraiser last month that included Lourd, showrunner Ryan Murphy and Billy Eichner, among others. But it was cancelled — and has yet to be rescheduled — so that so Buttigieg could deal with unrest at home after a white South Bend police officer shot and killed a black man who police say was armed with a knife.
Still, when it comes to the sizzle of celebs, Buttigieg appears to be surpassing his rivals.
During the second fundraising quarter, Buttigieg kept up an aggressive fundraising schedule, often hitting multiple events in one day, including one held by Gwyneth Paltrow, who gave him $2,800.
He also collected money from Star Trek actor George Takei ($1,250); DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn ($5,600); Full House star John Stamos ($1,000); actress and singer Barbra Streisand ($1,000); and comedian and writer Larry David ($2,800).
He was also given $5,600 by Playboy heir Cooper Hefner and collected $250 from Jennifer Aniston, records show.
Other presidential contenders have drawn celebs of their own, too.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has sworn off attending big-dollar fundraisers, received donations from Scarlett Johansson ($2,800), Amy Schumer ($5,600), Rosie O'Donnell ($355), Jett ($235), Bette Midler ($2,800), actor and producer Ryan Reynolds ($2,000), Shonda Rhimes ($2,800) and musician Jackson Browne ($1,200).
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker collected $732 from his girlfriend, the actress Rosario Dawson, $500 from Alicia Silverstone and $2,800 from Ben Affleck.
Actress Jane Fonda gave $1,000 a piece to Warren, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who she co-hosted a fundraiser for. Fonda gave $2,000 to Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, records show.
Inslee also collected $5,600 from Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard.
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, who was late to enter the race and languished in fundraising, collected at least one contribution from a celebrity. Actor Steve Buscemi gave him $5,600, records show.
New York, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — British singer-songwriter-producer Labrinth knew what he was in for when he learned he was about to work with Beyoncé: "She's a perfectionist and she's a Virgo, like my wife. Virgos are serious perfectionists."
"I was like, 'I know what I'm in for and I like that,'" he added.
The Grammy-nominated musician, born Timothy McKenzie, worked on the pop icon's newest song, "Spirit," from the new "Lion King" film, where she voices the character Nala. Labrinth said he and co-writer Ilya Salmanzadeh, who has crafted a number of Top 10 hits for Ariana Grande, were working on tracks for the film and hoped they'd come up with something Beyoncé could connect to.
"We kind of sent a rough demo over to her. She heard the song and she loved the vibe. She was like, 'OK, I'm going to get in on it with you.' She started helping us write the rest of the record," Labrinth said in an interview from London on Wednesday. "It was just like, 'This is incredible. It was just one of those moments where it was like, 'OK, I think God's blessing me now.'"
"Spirit" was released last week and appears on two albums: The new "Lion King" soundtrack as well as "The Lion King: The Gift," a Beyoncé-produced album featuring songs inspired by the film. "The Gift," out Friday, includes collaborations with Jay-Z, Blue Ivy and Kendrick Lamar, as well as African artists such as Tiwa Savage and Burna Boy.
Labrinth, who has six Top 10 hits in the United Kingdom and has produced for the Weeknd, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran and Nicki Minaj, said he was impressed with Beyoncé's attention to detail and human spirit when working together.
"She cared about everything that was in the record. She cared about what piano we were going to use. Is there enough bass? Not many artists care that much," he said. "Also, just the way she treated us as well. A lot of artists in her position, they can be divas and they can be hard to deal with. Her energy and the messages she sent to us in terms of saying thank you for contributing to 'The Lion King' — she sent really beautiful messages. I was really kind of surprised to see that someone in her position still has that humility. For me that's when I was like, 'She's got all the respect from me in the world that I can give.'"
Labrinth, 30, is probably having his best month ever: He's also the lead composer on the hit HBO series "Euphoria," which stars Zendaya and is co-produced by Drake. The show, which follows a group of suburban high school students dealing with sex, drugs, love and social media, has been highlighted for its acting and also its music, which ranges from '50s crooner Jim Reeves to Beyoncé and Lil Wayne.
Labrinth, who is in the supergroup LSD alongside Sia and Diplo, said he got the gig after show creator Sam Levinson heard his song "All for Us" and more of his music, and asked him to jump on board.
"Being involved with 'Euphoria' has given me another outlet to show how deep my world goes. I'm kind of doing orchestral compositions on there as well electric productions, hip-hop, 1960s classic music. It's allowed me to be a kid in a playground," he said.
Though Drake is part of the show, Labrinth hasn't gotten a chance to work with the rap star yet: "Funny enough, I did a tour years ago and I supported him around Europe and we spoke then. It was weird that we crossed paths again on a whole different platform (with 'Euphoria')."
"Zendaya's actually been a good creative to bat ideas with (regarding) the music," he added.
The show has become a family affair, literally, for Labrinth, who grew up in a musical home and has relatives who have worked with gospel icon Kirk Franklin and R&B singer Angie Stone.
"My family is singing on some of the 'Euphoria' records," Labrinth said. "I love using their voices. They sound amazing together."
Los angeles, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — The 76TH Venice Film Festival is opening with Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's "The Truth."
Festival director Alberto Barbera announced the selection starring Catherine Deneuve, Ethan Hawke and Juliette Binoche in a statement Thursday.
This is the first time in years that Venice has not started with a Hollywood film. Recent openers have included "First Man" and "La La Land."
"The Truth" features Deneuve as a French movie star who reunites with her daughter and son-in-law after publishing her memoirs. The director said the small family story takes place primarily inside a house.
The film will premiere on the Lido in competition on Aug. 28.
"The Truth" is the Palme d'Or-winning director's first film to be made outside of Japan. He directed last year's Oscar-nominated drama "Shoplifters."