Are you watching Amazon Prime Video?
Amazon broke big news yesterday with its latest high-dollar purchase: It’s buying MGM for $8.45 billion to beef up its repertoire of titles for its streaming video service. The motivation: Bring more people to Amazon Prime and drive sales.
Whether Prime Video plays any role in whether people decide to buy a Prime membership is not clear. Amazon management suggests it is the case, but some counter that’s not entirely true.
Either way, Forrester analyst Jim Nails says, Amazon needs to compete with the other major streaming services, like Netflix and Disney+, if it wants to keep Amazon Prime members on its service. “With new entrants to streaming from all the major studios and TV networks, Amazon has to increase its commitment to video or risk losing engagement,” he wrote following the announcement. And if that were to happen, it could undercut “the value of Prime in members’ eyes.”
Prime Video is the second most-watched streaming service, according to Forrester. Over the past year, 175 million Prime members streamed video on the service. For reference, Netflix has more than 200 million subscribers, and Disney+ has more than 100 million.
Amazon means business. The company has been ramping up high-quality original content, receiving 12 Academy Award nominations, and scoring two wins for “The Sound of Metal,” JMP analyst Ronald Josey points out. But streaming services are only getting better and better. Amazon has “a couple of hits in the past,” Nails says—The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, anyone?—but hasn’t created the “kind of consistent stream of popular programs that Netflix” and others have a history of doing.
In terms of the price tag, Colin Sebastian, an analyst at investment banking firm Baird, says Amazon is already spending at least $1 billion to make multiple seasons of the upcoming Lord of the Rings series. But for nearly $9 billion Amazon will obtain the distribution rights to movies including James Bond, Rocky, and The Pink Panther, along with hit series like The Handmaid’s Tale. (Aaron catalogued a bunch of other blockbuster hits Amazon will inherit as part of the deal). So while the purchase is Amazon’s biggest buy since scooping up Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in 2017, the company may get a lot of bang for its buck.
Another justification for the deal: Amazon could make additional revenue if it’s able to use new viewership to expand its advertising segment. In a sense, Amazon may be able to kill two birds with one stone.
Generally speaking, several analysts saw the buy as a big booster for Amazon to lure and keep Prime members. Still, I wonder how many people bought or considered buying Prime memberships based on the company’s streaming option. (I, personally, know of none.) Perhaps with big upcoming hits from MGM, it’ll become much more common.
Summer is right around the corner which means…grilling! And this season there are more plant-based meats on the market than ever before. But startups are increasingly using other methods to develop alternative proteins too—and investors are flocking to support their efforts.
Today’s Brainstorm podcast is all about these alternative meats: the case for developing them, how Silicon Valley is embracing the challenge, who is most interested in backing these companies and—perhaps most importantly—do they taste good? Fortune senior writer Beth Kowitt wrote her first big feature on the industry in 2017 and has been following it closely ever since. She gives Brian O’Keefe and Michal Lev-Ram an industry overview. Listen to the podcast here.
Amazon’s big birthday gift. Speaking of Amazon, we now know when the company’s new CEO Andy Jassy will take over: July 5, the company’s 27th birthday. The company first announced Jassy’s appointment in February. Jassy, the current CEO of Amazon Web Services, has been at the company since the late '90s. Amazon founder and current CEO Jeff Bezos, who will become executive chair of Amazon’s board, announced the transition date on Wednesday, saying, “I guarantee that Andy will never let the universe make us typical. He has the energy needed to keep alive in us what has made us special.”
Pushing for personal accountability. Facebook has rolled out some new consequences for users who regularly share misinformation: It will now limit the distribution of all posts from those users. Facebook didn’t specify how many times a user could share falsehoods before it takes the action. The punishment is an extension of a policy the company already had for groups and pages on its service. Aiming to curb the problem even further, Facebook also said will serve users with a pop-up warning when users like a page that is a regular disseminator of misinformation. The message will notify users that fact-checkers have previously debunked posts on the page.
A disinformation machine. Russia is still the largest producer of disinformation on Facebook, according to a new report from the company. The news comes five years after Russia's Internet Research Agency disseminated disinformation to 126 million Facebook users ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook detailed 150 disinformation operations the company has discovered in more than 50 countries since 2017. Perhaps the most disturbing part? Other operatives are learning from the Russians and have begun their own disinformation campaigns in various parts of the world.
Joining the Club. The buzzy audio-based social app Clubhouse has recruited a heavy hitter to help develop its audio infrastructure. Justin Uberti, who served as a Google engineer for nearly 15 years, announced his appointment on Twitter on Wednesday. The engineer will be Clubhouse’s head of streaming technology, which makes sense, given that he helped create the open-source project WebRTC that provides developers with real-time communication capabilities. “I'm really optimistic about the potential here: everyone in the world knows how to use voice,” he tweeted. “It's such an expressive medium (compared to text), and advancements like AirPods are making it easier to consume audio.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
When it comes to privacy and data collection, most lawmakers and regulators seem to focus the issue around one thing: People’s personal data. But Martin Tisne, managing director at philanthropic organization Luminate, suggests the narrow focus leaves out an even more complex and growing issue: collective user data.
As Big Tech companies collect more and more data on groups that aren’t protected classes (like age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation), people have less legal recourse when it comes to algorithmic discrimination. In an opinion piece for the MIT Tech Review, Tisne encourages lawmakers to develop laws specifically for collective user data rights.
“Individuals should not have to fight for their data privacy rights and be responsible for every consequence of their digital actions. Consider an analogy: people have a right to safe drinking water, but they aren’t urged to exercise that right by checking the quality of the water with a pipette every time they have a drink at the tap. Instead, regulatory agencies act on everyone’s behalf to ensure that all our water is safe. The same must be done for digital privacy: it isn’t something the average user is, or should be expected to be, personally competent to protect."
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
By buying MGM, Amazon gets these 8 blockbuster movies By Aaron Pressman
Insurance firm Lemonade backtracks on claims it uses A.I. to scan customer faces for hints of fraud By Jonathan Vanian
Big companies are reinventing customer experience after the pandemic By Danielle Abril
Crypto investor sues IRS over tax enforcement rules By Chris Morris
(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)
BEFORE YOU GO
In case you missed the news, Hollywood has cast an award-winning actor to portray a controversial Bay Area founder. Joseph Gordon Levitt is slated to play ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in Showtime's upcoming series Super Pumped.
Variety reports that this will be an anthology series, by the creators of Showtime’s Billions, in which each season will explore a story “that rocked the business world.” The first season will cover Uber and be based on the book Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by New York Times writer Mike Isaac. Gordon Levitt has played everything from a prosecutor in an infamous trial to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Are you as ready as I am to see his take on Kalanick?
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