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Home » Officer Columns » President's Message » Media Talks Driven by Streaming Growth

Media Talks Driven by Streaming Growth

  -  AFM International President

This is the first of two articles on the continued rise of streaming and its effect on Federation media industry negotiations.

Mid-year revenue statistics released by the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) on September 20 underscored the value of the Federation’s January 2017 deal with the recording industry, where major record labels agreed to earmark a percentage of domestic and foreign streaming revenue toward the AFM-EP Fund (US), Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), and the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF).

For the first half of 2017, estimated US retail revenue from recorded music grew by 17% to $4 billion, led by streaming revenue growth, which accounted for a whopping 62% of total income. Total record industry revenues from all streaming platforms were up 48% year over year to $2.5 billion. The industry’s streaming revenue sources include paid subscription services such as Spotify and Apple Music, revenues distributed by SoundExchange (Pandora, Sirius XM and other Internet radio services), and ad-supported, on-demand streaming services (YouTube, Vevo, and ad-supported Spotify).

Across all sources of streaming income, record high levels were reached. Record industry revenues from paid subscription services grew 61% to $1.7 billion and accounted for 43% of total revenue. Ad-supported, on-demand streaming revenue grew 37% and total revenue from digital radio was up by 21%.

Digital download sales declined by 24% over the first half of 2016, but sales of physical product (CDs and vinyl albums) decreased by only 1%, much lower than recent trends, due mainly to a resurgence in popularity of vinyl.

The record industry’s mid-2017 statistics show that the Federation has effectively addressed the decline of digital downloads and physical product by negotiating streaming royalties to provide new revenue for MPTF, SPF, and the AFM-EP Fund.

But what is happening in the live television and motion picture/TV film industries, where the Federation has bargained musicians’ residual and supplemental market royalties for decades? Has new media—the buzzword for streaming distribution of digital content— disrupted traditional consumption models in TV and film? 

According to a March 2017 report by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the percentage of free and paid streaming video subscribers in the US has caught up with the percentage of paid cable and satellite TV subscribers. The report also says that the time spent watching traditional TV (down 11% from 2012) is now equal to the time spent watching video content on all other consumer technology devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

The latest quarterly TV viewing figures, issued in July 2017 by Nielsen, confirm that youth aged 18 to 24 are watching less traditional TV, down 41% since 2012. The report also says that viewers aged 18 to 34 spend more time accessing apps and the web on smart phones than they do watching traditional TV.

Across the board, the numbers for live and pay TV are bad, according to a May 2017 article by Business Insider. Adult viewership of traditional TV is down 6%, cable TV subscriptions are down, and TV ad revenue is stagnant. Over half of US consumers now own a smart TV capable of streaming Internet video and subscribe to streaming video on-demand (SVOD) services, even though traditional TV still represents the majority of viewing.

Viewers with smart TVs say they spend 39% of their time watching live TV, compared to 24% for streamed video, but daily digital TV streaming is growing quickly. Streaming viewership has doubled in two years, with viewing of original digital video content produced by Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube on the rise. Just like streaming in the music industry moved sales away from downloads and physical product, the increased competition from digital video services and new hardware to access content is accelerating a shift in video consumption away from live and traditional linear television toward streaming.

What about the film industry? Some say Netflix is snuffing movie box office receipts. The US stock market agrees. Shares of AMC Entertainment (AMC Theaters), the world’s largest movie chain, hit an all-time low in August, after the company said it would report a $175 million net loss for the second quarter of 2017. Regal and Cinemark also took hits. The summer 2017 movie box office is projected to be the weakest in 25 years.

Some analysts believe the film industry has been too slow to react to changes in consumer habits. Doug Creutz, media analyst at Cowen and Co., told the Los Angeles Times, “People are only going to see movies they think they have to see in theaters, and there aren’t that many of them.”

A global forecast released in May 2017 by Dublin-based Research and Markets estimated the video streaming market will grow from $30 billion in 2016 to $70 billion by 2021 driven by online streaming, with mobile devices cited as the fastest growing platform.

Compare those numbers with 2016 global box office receipts of $38.6 billion reported by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), a paltry 1% increase over 2015.  Against the background of shrinking home video sales, down 7% as consumers switched to streaming, subscription movie streaming grew 23% in 2016. Physical rentals and sales continued to evaporate during 2016, down 18% and 10%, respectively.

As noted above, the change in traditional consumption habits for live television and motion picture films toward the growth of streaming has negatively impacted TV and film producers in prime markets of traditional TV viewing and movie box office, and in supplemental markets such as pay TV (cable) and home video/DVD sales and rentals. These trends have presented extraordinary challenges at the bargaining table in our current discussions with the major television networks, and will factor greatly in our discussions with the film industry early next year.

With the recording industry, the Federation overcame the challenges presented by digital distribution and concluded a progressive agreement. These issues will be tested in film and television.

Next month: What streaming provisions does the AFM have in TV and film? What do we want, and what do other unions have?

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