1Q 2023: HBO Max loses theatrical film sources as decade-long contracts lapse HBO had long been home to the biggest selection of major Hollywood films that had premiered in theaters within the past year. But, like everything else, theatrical movies must eventually shift to the direct-to-consumer model too when it comes to their initial pay TV windows. All theatrical films released on or after Jan. 1, 2023 from Disney's 20th Century Fox and related studios will go exclusively to Disney’s own Hulu and/or Disney+ SVODs rather than HBO, where they had gone since the late 20th century. (The Fox movie studios, of course, have been a division of Disney since 2018.) Likewise, all new theatrical films from Universal will go exclusively to Comcast/NBCUniversal’s own NBCU SVOD rather than HBO. And finally, HBO also loses access to theatrical films from Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate, due to the simultaneous lapse of that contract on Dec. 31, 2022. CBS, owner of Lionsgate, shuts down the Summit label at this time. 1Q 2023: Major league sports get serious about OTT direct-to-consumer MLB.TV had launched several years earlier as a direct-to-consumer OTT subscription service that let Major League Baseball fans buy season passes to stream their favorite team's games all season long -- so long as that team was based hundreds of miles away, in a distant TV market. The far more lucrative broadcast and streaming rights for in-market baseball games were still held by various third parties, mainly regional sports networks. But that begins to change with the advent of the 2023 MLB season. The league and certain individual teams have renegotiated deals with the RSNs and others to allow those specific teams to sell full-season subscriptions to their in-market fans via the MLB.TV streaming service. The relevant RSNs and/or other television and streaming outlets (e.g. Fox, Turner Sports, ESPN, etc.) continue to hold non-exclusive rights to all the games as well. MLB says the move is an experiment but, if all goes well, the arrangement could eventually expand to every team in the league. MLB.TV continues to a offer free game for viewing every day, including the occasional local game, in order to encourage sampling and new subscriptions. Industry observers say the development is a harbinger of the same trend that has already largely transformed the rest of the video entertainment industry: content producers (in this case, the MLB) pulling their content back to their own direct-to-consumer streaming outlet. Will all pro sports games, including the NBA, NHL, MLS and possibly even the NFL, eventually be offered this way? 1Q 2024: DISH buys remainder of DirecTV Per the terms of their deal struck over two years earlier, DISH buys out the remaining 51% of DirecTV from AT&T, giving it complete ownership and total control of the business, its satellite fleet, and all other commercial assets. The move also removes DISH’s only direct competitor, a necessary development for DISH’s continued survival. During the preceding two years, DISH had standardized on using their own Hopper line of DVRs for customers of either brand service, which proved to be a popular move with DirecTV customers. They had also installed rooftop dishes pointed at the DirecTV fleet of satellites whenever possible, as that fleet offered greater bandwidth and had a longer expected usable lifespan than DISH’s own aging fleet.They had also revised DISH’s channel packages (but not pricing) to closely resemble Sling TV’s, but with local channels relegated to an optional Locals Pack on DISH with the price differing depending on the subscriber’s address. As with Sling TV, DISH offered customers the option of saving money on local channels by integrating free OTA signals into their DISH DVRs. Both DISH and DirecTV had seen steep drops in subscribers in the 2020s, with satellite TV now used almost exclusively by rural, older and/or poorer Americans without home broadband service, as well as a decent number of commercial establishments such as sports bars, restaurants and motels. The total number of residential subscribers for both satellite TV services totals only 12 million at this point. All subscribers on the DirecTV-branded service are immediately migrated to the DISH-branded service and assigned the channel package that most closely approximates their previous line-up. Having the entire customer base on the same set of packages will help DISH negotiate better carriage rates with the cable networks and local station owners going forward. AT&T will continue to provide HBO Max and their basic cable networks at discounted wholesale rates to DISH through 2030, or the suspension of DISH services, whichever comes first. 2Q 2024: NBCU sells out of Hulu and removes next-day access to their shows Per the terms of the deal they struck five years earlier, NBCU sells its 1/3 stake in Hulu to Disney, giving them full ownership. At the same time, NBC also removes next-day access to their primetime shows from Hulu, making that an exclusive feature of their own NBCU SVOD. They had already slowly taken a few of their past series, such as 30 Rock, away from Hulu (and other SVODs) in order to make them exclusive to their own service. There would be even more of that with regard to Hulu going forward.The with-ad and ad-free prices of the NBCU SVOD was lowered to slightly undercut the corresponding prices of Hulu’s basic service in an effort to better compete for dollars among non-cable-bundle subscribers. And, of course, NBCU’s SVOD had benefitted greatly from being included as a part of every X1 TV plan sold by Comcast, Charter, Cox and other broadband operators to their customers.