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With MGM, Amazon will double down on ads

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we’re taking a closer look at Amazon’s acquisition of MGM, Meta’s attempts to make VR safe for teens, and a unique anti-war demonstration in Moscow.

Amazon’s MGM acquisition will supercharge its video ad business

Amazon has officially closed the acquisition of MGM, it announced Thursday morning, following an approval by EU regulators. Amazon first announced its intention to buy MGM for $8.45 billion in May, and EU regulators now decided that the deal doesn’t violate antitrust regulations because “MGM’s content cannot be considered as must-have,” according to Variety.

Ouch, that hurts, but it also helps to put the acquisition into context. Sure, acquiring MGM will help Amazon produce more exclusive content for Prime Video, and specifically could help the ecommerce giant get access to high-profile movies in order to better compete with Netflix and Disney+. But at least in the near term, it may actually have a bigger impact on something that is only loosely related to Prime: Amazon’s $31 billion advertising business.

  • MGM is home to a couple of massive film franchises, including Rocky and James Bond, which it co-owns with Eon Productions. Some of the studio’s other recent high-profile movies include “House of Gucci,” “Licorice Pizza” and “Cyrano.”
  • Amazon’s approach to movies has been a lot less disruptive than Netflix’s: Amazon Studios regularly releases films in theaters first before they stream to Prime subscribers.
  • On the TV front, MGM has worked with a number of Amazon’s competitors: “The Handmaid’s Tale” streams on Hulu, “Fargo” is a key FX property and “Vikings: Valhalla” is currently in Netflix’s Top 10.
  • It’s fair to assume that MGM’s TV efforts will eventually shift focus to bolster Prime, but this is likely going to be a years-long process, similar to the slow unwinding of Disney’s partnership with Netflix and NBCUniversal’s support of Hulu’s library.
  • Amazon said last year that MGM “complements the work of Amazon Studios,” suggesting that the studio will continue to operate as a separate brand and entity. In other words: It’s much more than a Prime content mill.

MGM’s huge catalog will have a bigger near-term impact. The studio owns 4,000 films and 17,000 TV show episodes; Amazon has said that it plans to “help preserve MGM’s heritage and catalog of films, and provide customers with greater access to these existing works.”

  • Some of the MGM movies and shows that haven’t been available on subscription services, including recent Bond titles, are likely going to find their way to Prime.
  • It’s safe to assume, though, that a good chunk of this catalog will also pop up on Amazon’s free, ad-supported streaming service, IMDb TV, sooner or later.

Advertising has become a massive business for Amazon, in part because of the fees the company charges sellers for sponsored listings on

  • However, the company’s video ad business has been growing as well: A year ago, Amazon told Upfront buyers that it was now streaming ads to 120 million viewers a month. Expect even bigger numbers when Amazon returns to the Upfronts this year.
  • IMDb TV has been a key part of Amazon’s video ad strategy. As a free service, it allows the company to stream content to and make money from people who don’t pay for Prime.
  • But Amazon also seems perfectly content using IMDb TV as a vehicle to stream ads to Prime subscribers as well, setting it apart from the way Disney and others approach advertising in a subscription video context. Instead of providing a cheaper tier to customers willing to watch ads, Amazon simply presents IMDb TV as a free add-on.
  • Want to watch “Mad Men,” “24” or “Lost”? Then just deal with the ads, no matter whether you pay for free shipping or not.

Amazon does have big plans for IMDb TV. Not only is the service streaming exclusive shows, including a “Bosch” spin-off, but there have also been persistent rumors that it is getting a new name to appeal to an even wider audience.

  • Amazon has been experimenting with different brands abroad. In India, for instance, the company has been streaming ad-supported video with a service called miniTV, which is available through the company’s mobile shopping app.
  • Amazon applied for a U.S. trademark for miniTV in October.
  • The company also recently renewed a trademark application for Fireview, which could be another contender.
  • It’s even conceivable that Amazon might use one of MGM’s brands for an IMDb TV relaunch. Free Epix, anyone?

Whatever the brand ends up being, one thing is for certain: Amazon’s ad-supported video efforts have been getting a lot less attention than its Prime Video efforts. With the MGM deal about to close, that could be changing soon.

— Janko Roettgers

Parental controls are coming to VR

Meta is trying to make VR safer for teenagers: The company announced plans this week to bring parental controls to its Quest VR headset.

  • In April, Quest owners will be able to secure individual apps with an unlock pattern to keep their children away from inappropriate content.
  • In May, Meta wants to start blocking teenagers from downloading select apps based on content ratings.
  • The company also wants to release parental control tools, which will enable adults to selectively approve blocked downloads, monitor screen time, view a teenager’s friends list and more.

All of this is good news for those of us who have children interested in VR, and it also helps developers make more meaningful choices about the way they position their apps and games. Some may choose to tone things down to meet a certain age rating, while others will likely opt to target mature audiences.

It also starts to address the elephant in the room: Meta has long insisted that its Quest headset is not for children under 13, arguing that both the hardware and the content are simply not designed for younger children.

That age cutoff is not as arbitrary as it seems. Children under 13 are protected by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which among other things requires parental consent for data collection. Meta has long steered clear of these requirements by simply not allowing children under 13 to create Facebook accounts, and since extended it to Quest usage as well.

Of course, children use VR headsets all the time, despite these rules. Up until now, parents had to figure out how to regulate this kind of usage on their own. With its new parental tools and restrictions, Meta is throwing these parents a lifeline — even if it still publicly insists that tween VR usage doesn’t exist.


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In other news

Cord cutting is sending TV networks to the cloud. There’s been a boom of streaming channel tech providers like Wurl and Amagi, and they're changing the world of television for good.

Perfect Dark’s development struggles. Microsoft-owned studio The Initiative, which is working on a reboot of seminal N64 classic Perfect Dark, has seen dozens of departures in the last year, VGC reported.

Netflix is trialing another crackdown on password sharing. The streaming service is testing an “add extra member” feature in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru.

Tencent snaps up Tequila Works. The Chinese gaming giant’s acquisition spree is extending further into niche indie studios, and its latest buy is Madrid-based developer Tequila Works, the team behind Rime and Gylt.

LimeWire’s founder doesn’t like its NFT resurrection. Torrentfreak got a hold of Mark Gorton, whose Lime Group used to own LimeWire when it was still all about free MP3s.

EA is ditching its E3-themed event. With the official E3 2022 canceled, Electronic Arts is skipping its summer EA Play Live showcase this year. The company said it will reveal more details about upcoming games “when the time is right for each of them.”

Charter puts plans for its video aggregation storefront on ice. Turns out potential aggregators have the same problem as everyone else: There are just too many subscription services out there!

Snap embraces location-based AR. The company’s new Custom Landmarkers will allow any Snapchat Lens developer to tie AR experiences to public places.

AR against the war

It’s week three since Russia invaded Ukraine, and news coming out of the country has been truly heartbreaking. At the same time, Russia’s crackdown on demonstrators and independent media continues, prompting Russians to find unusual outlets to express their opposition to the war. Moscow-based players of Niantic’s Ingress game recently banded together to create field art of a dove carrying an olive branch. Here’s what one of the players hads to say about it: “We don't want any blood, killing ,and destruction. We oppose war in all of its aspects and want to believe that one day, light will return to our world once again.”


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