Last week was busy in the entertainment business. While Warner Media announced a bold strategy to reinforce HBO Max as its main product for 2021, Disney slated a series of tv shows, movies and new streaming services to empower Disney Plus around the world – and even if they have not admittedly put cinema in the background, the actions of both companies make it clear: streaming is the main battleground for entertainment in 2021.
Some could say that Warner Media‘s decision to simultaneously launch its movies on streaming and theaters in the US will shatter the remaining life of movie theaters.
It is not only too early to say that as we can see that move more as a decision about 2020 than about 2021 – a year that’s already lost for most businesses involved with cinema in general. The vaccine is arriving but not even the most optimistic analysts say that will see the majority of the population immunized by the second half of next year. That said, studios need to prepare for one more year of low incomes from box offices especially in the US, where most of their money comes from.
Without discussing if that was a good or a bad decision, it’s safe to say that it settles almost all of the entertainment giants in one common ground: streaming. Most of them are already in the US so the race to get more subscribers and watch will happen in different regions, and Latin America is admittedly one of the most important markets in the world.
Disney Plus is already available but Disney Investor Day showed that in 2021 a new streaming service called Star+ will arrive there not only with content from Fox, but also with live sports content.
That approach can put the service in a special spot since it will be the only one with that option in a region completely addicted to sports in general – add to that the partnerships made by Disney with Globo, Mercado Libre, Bradesco and Vivo, and we can see a huge potential of growth on their user base.
Disney will do all of that while betting on a slow recovery for theaters all around the world. They are confident that its tentpole movies like Black Widow and Shang-Chi, both from Marvel Studios, will not be a huge loss like Tenet was for Warner.
At the same time, the studio put all “small or medium” movies going straight to Plus – animations like Kaya and live-action versions of Pinocchio and Peter Pan will not be seen on a big screen in the US. What will happen globally is still a mystery. But not for those at Warner.
The company from Burbank guaranteed that all of its movies will be internationally released in theaters like it’s happening now in Brazil with Wonder Woman 1984.
It’s hard to say right now that the strategy will work cause we’re still in a pandemic – and in one of the worst periods ever – but this put Latin America in another important spotlight since the more money these movies make, the more confident studios will be to invest in theaters again.
Now we can say that the first semester will have a huge impact on that strategy since HBO Max will only reach LatAm and Europe in the second half of the year. Will international moviegoers be confident enough to gather inside a theater to watch Tom and Jerry or Godzilla vs Kong? Probably, Latin America will have the answer.
Whether for streaming subscribers or for theaters, the region will lead the way when it comes to international investments and changes in the entertainment business – everything, of course, followed by health and sanitary institutions.
Throughout 2020 the latin consumers showed themselves to be eager for digital platforms and heavy users of online services. It is not a coincidence that Warner and Disney are eying for a big investment there in 2021. The pandemic accelerated a lot of tendencies and in the LatAm market one of the biggest was the dispute for users’ attention on digital platforms.
Amazon and Netflix are already on the forefront of that race, but soon enough we’ll see other giants and news strategies along the way, led by companies without a technology background but with brands important enough to make a difference on their portfolio.