Patrick Wachsberger, Fabrice Gianfermi, Philippe Rousselet with their Oscars
Photo: P. Lehman/Future Publishing via Getty Images

'CODA’s' Oscars win paid off for Apple TV+

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we’re crunching the numbers on “CODA’s” big night at the Academy Awards. Plus: what to read, watch and play this weekend.

Tracking that Oscar bump

When “CODA” was crowned Best Picture at the Academy Awards Sunday night, it made history for being the first movie from a streaming service to win the prestigious award. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have aimed for years to achieve this goal, making it a bit of an upset that late-comer Apple was first to get Hollywood’s ultimate stamp of approval.

Bragging rights aside, did the win actually make a difference for Apple TV+? Data that analytics company Samba TV shared exclusively with Protocol this week suggests the win did indeed give “CODA” a notable viewership bump.

  • “CODA” was viewed by 146,727 U.S. households in the first three days following the awards ceremony.
  • That doesn’t make it the most popular of the Best Picture nominees; “Dune” was viewed 473,422 times during the same time, followed by “King Richard” with 249,507 views.
  • But it still handily beat all other Best Picture nominees, including Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up” (48,069 views),”Licorice Pizza” (20,319 views) and “Drive My Car” (16,371 views).
  • “CODA’s” viewership bump is especially notable in light of its relative obscurity. Views from those three days equaled 15% of the movie’s pre-awards lifetime viewership, according to Samba.
  • Samba TV’s analytics technology is embedded in TVs sold by 24 brands, and the company arrived at these audience numbers by extrapolating viewership from a panel of 3 million households. Samba’s total U.S. footprint is 28 million TVs, but it doesn’t measure any mobile or desktop viewing, so absolute audience numbers for all of these movies are likely bigger.

There’s no win like an underdog win. Hollywood’s biggest awards show has long helped generate buzz for movies, and just having a film nominated does help to grow its streaming audiences. However, the impact the show had on Best Picture nominees was notably unequal this year.

  • “CODA” was viewed 375,000 times between the announcement of its nomination on Feb. 8 and March 20, a week before the awards show took place, according to Samba TV. This means that it gained more than a third of its lifetime pre-awards viewership following the announcement of its nomination.
  • “Dune” was viewed 1 million times after nominations were announced, which equals around a fifth of its pre-awards lifetime viewership.
  • “Don’t Look Up” amassed 641,000 views from Feb. 8 to March 20. However, this equaled only around 6% of its pre-awards lifetime views.

There’s something to be said about availability here. “Dune” streamed on HBO Max for a month last year, and then disappeared to give theater sales a bump. The film finally returned to streaming in early March.

  • “Don’t Look Up,” on the other hand, has been on Netflix without interruptions since early December, giving many more people time to watch it even before the nominations were announced.
  • But timing isn’t everything: “CODA” has been on Apple TV+ since August, and is only now gaining steam. The awards show clearly had a massive impact on the film’s success.

What this means for Apple’s broader TV ambitions is anyone’s guess. The company has been tight-lipped about its video service’s subscriber numbers, but Apple TV+ is clearly a lot smaller than some of its key competitors.

  • Last summer, the company reportedly told IATSE that Apple+ had fewer than 20 million paying subscribers in North America.
  • Analysts have since said that Apple TV+ will reach nearly 36 million subscribers by 2026.
  • For comparison’s sake, Netflix ended its most recent quarter with nearly 222 million global subscribers.

“CODA’s” Oscar could help Apple TV+ grow its audience, but the bigger impact is likely on Hollywood itself. Before Sunday, Apple TV+ was a service that comparably few people were actually watching. Now, Apple executives can brag that they can help movies like “CODA” go for gold, which will help strike new deals that can then further accelerate its audience growth.

— Janko Roettgers


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TGIF: How to spend your weekend

“Investigating Three Indie Superstars Accused of Emotional Abuse” — People Make Games. The latest in-depth investigation from YouTube channel People Make Games helps dispel the myth that the game industry’s pervasiness harassment, sexism and discrimination issues are restricted to larger or more traditional studios. The 40-minute video focuses on three indie darlings — Mountains, Fullbright and Funomena — and how leaders of each created abusive work environments. Since the video went live earlier this month, Funomena announced it may close down due to a lack of funding.

“Atlanta” — Hulu. Donald Glover’s dark, hilarious and often surreal drama centered on hip-hop manager Earnest "Earn" Marks has returned for a third season on FX/Hulu, this time relocating the narrative to Europe during an overseas tour leg for Marks’ rapper cousin Paper Boi. We haven’t seen a new episode of “Atlanta” since 2018, and the show’s superstar cast and writing and directing talent have all been plenty busy with other projects.

But Glover and director Hiro Murai’s unique flavor of social and racial commentary and often biting pop culture criticism has been sorely missed, and early reviews already have “Atlanta’s” third season as just as good, if not better, than the last.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land — Nintendo Switch. The newest Kirby game has landed on the Switch, featuring the titular voracious pink puff and its new Mouthful Mode, which is this entry’s twist on Kirby’s traditional power-stealing metamorphosis ability. Instead of becoming a new being, though, Kirby just takes on the shape of whatever it eats. It’s hilarious and outrageous in equal measure, and players who like the newer Super Mario games and have a fondness for the linear simplicity and the adorable art direction of these Nintendo classics will surely find Forgotten Land worthwhile.

Sky: Children of the Light — iOS, Android, Switch. Thatgamecompany of Flow, Flower and Journey fame took a radical new direction with Sky: Children of the Light, which released on iOS in 2019, Android in 2020 and Nintendo Switch last year. But speaking at this year’s Game Developers Conference, game director Jenova Chen outlined how Sky took an altruistic approach to free-to-play monetization on mobile, resulting in more than 40% of the game’s seasonal passes being gifted to other players.

Sky is now Thatgamecompany’s most successful title to date, with more than 160 million players as of this year. For those who might not consider themselves traditional gamers, Sky is a fantastic way to experience accessible, high-quality mobile gaming absent any form of exploitative monetization.

“Silicon Valley Founders Are Not the Protagonists of Reality” — The Nation. A lot has been written about the rise and fall of tech founders, with countless books and documentaries and TV shows diving into their professional and personal lives. But what if we step back from all the glitz and glory and maybe even schadenfreude? It’s there that we see that these founders are nothing more than businesspeople, and as Malcolm Harris puts it in this great article in The Nation, the founders are nothing more than “symptoms of a finance-led economy.” And unless something changes, these won’t be the last founder stories we hear about.


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