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MoviePass co-founder’s new startup PreShow gives you free movie tickets for watching ads – TechCrunch

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As founding CEO of MoviePass, Stacy Spikes has already changed the way we think about paying for movie tickets. Now he’s pursuing a new approach — providing a free ticket to people who watch 15 to 20 minutes of ads.

Spikes noted that when it comes to watching movies outside the theater, there are three basic business models — pay-per-view, subscription and ad-supported. MoviePass brought a subscription approach into theaters, but Spikes (who stepped down as MoviePass CEO in 2016) told me he kept wondering, “Well, why can’t you have an ad-supported version that will allow you to go to movies for free?”

It’s hard to imagine digital advertising being worth enough to really pay for that ticket, but Spikes insisted, “You’re paying your way. This is not going to be a loss-leader model. It’s an ad-revenue based business.”

To make that work, he said the new service, called PreShow, is bringing a of couple innovations to the table. First, there’s facial recognition technology that ensures you’re actually present and watching the ad.

Spikes demonstrated this feature for me last week, showing me how his face unlocked the PreShow app. Once he’d chosen the film he wanted to watch, he was presented with a package of video ads that were specifically selected to run with that movie — and any time he looked away from the screen or moved too far away from his phone, the ads would stop playing. (Apparently the sensitivity can be dialed up or down depending on user feedback.)

Spikes also said the ads should tie into the film in some way, whether that’s thematically, or by highlighting products that are also featured in the movie. And they’ll always include an opportunity to further engage with the advertiser.

So although 15 to 20 minutes might sound like a long time to watch ads, it should be more interesting for the viewer than just a random collection of promotional videos. And for the advertisers that are already paying for product placement in a film, this could be a way to reinforce their message with consumers who are actually watching the movie. (Spikes also compared this to the marketing packages that usually play before showtime in theaters — hence the company name.)

By watching one of these 15 to 20-minute packages, you should earn enough points to purchase a ticket at the theater using a virtual credit card provided by PreShow. Technically, those points can be used to buy any movie ticket, but Spikes said you won’t be able to earn more than two tickets at once, “so people don’t stockpile.”

As for whether PreShow is competing with his old company, Spikes said, “I don’t think they’re competitive in any way. If you compare a subscription platform to an ad platform to a pay-per-view platform, they’re different animals.”

Stacy Spikes

Stacy Spikes

The plan is to start testing the service with a select group of users in the next three to six months, and to find those users, PreShow is launching a Kickstarter campaign today. Pledge levels range from $15 to $60, with the amount you pay determining how early you get access, and how many friend invites you receive.

Spikes said he’s less interested in raising money (which is why the campaign’s official goal is only $10,000) and more in attracting film lovers who want to try the app.

“It’s a way to have innovation happen more organically, versus if you just open it up for the general public,” Spikes said.

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‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3 will premiere on March 1 • TechCrunch

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Disney announced today The Mandalorian’s long-awaited third season will debut on March 1st on Disney+. The company had previously said that the third season would debut in February, so fans will have to wait a little longer than expected to see the upcoming season.

The third season will take place following the events of “The Book of Boba Fett,” in which Din Djarin reunited with Grogu. A teaser for the upcoming season shows Mando fighting armed warriors on Mandalore.

The second season “The Mandalorian” premiered back in October 2020, so fans have had to wait quite some time to see their favorites together again. Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito and Katee Sackhoff will all be returning in the third season of the show.

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YouTube launches its first-ever official trends podcast, ‘Like & Describe,’ with content creator MatPat • TechCrunch

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YouTube launched its first-ever official trends podcast today, the company announced. Hosted by popular content creator MatPat and produced by YouTube’s Culture & Trends team, the “Like & Describe” podcast will tackle lesser-known stories behind the biggest YouTube trends.

Episodes will release monthly on YouTube’s main channel for viewers to watch as well as all on major podcast platforms for listeners, including Spotify, Apple, Amazon and Google. Episode one debuted on December 1 with a second episode set to premiere on January 1.

The announcement comes a few months after YouTube introduced a dedicated podcast homepage. It’s likely the company launched “Like & Describe” to further cash in on the ever-growing podcast industry. Plus, MatPat could draw in millions of listeners since the creator has over 34 million subscribers in total across his four channels–The Game Theorists, The Film Theorists, The Food Theorists and his gaming channel, GTLive.

In the first episode, titled “The Rise of the VTubers,” MatPat explores Virtual YouTubers (aka VTubers), animated characters voiced by humans that garner a collective total of 1.5 billion views every month, according to YouTube.

MatPat meets with VTubers like Gawr Gura, a 9,000-year-old half shark/half girl, and Mori Calliope, a Grim reaper that raps in motion-capture music videos, among others. He also speaks with Earnest Pettie, Trends & Insights Lead of YouTube’s Culture & Trends team, content creator Dave Cherry and other experts.

Unlike most video podcasts where hosts sit in front of a camera and speak into a mic, “Like & Describe” has viewers follow along with graphics as MatPat narrates—similar to his video style for his YouTube channels.

The second episode will have MatPat meet with more special guests from the Culture & Trends team as they provide commentary on the biggest videos and creators of 2022.

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Netflix is letting more subscribers preview its films and TV shows, report says • TechCrunch

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Content is king for streaming services, and Netflix may be going the extra mile to ensure its content is up to par with subscribers. According to the Wall Street Journal, Netflix’s prerelease screening program will soon enlist tens of thousands of subscribers to preview new movies and shows and provide their feedback.

Netflix declined to comment to TechCrunch on the Wall Street Journal’s report.

Similar to how major Hollywood studios have test screenings for new films, the “Netflix Preview Club” has over 2,000 previewers that review Netflix titles before they release to the streaming platform, the Wall Street Journal wrote. The program will reportedly increase by 400% in early 2023, should the report prove accurate.

The program has existed since May 2021, Variety previously reported. Netflix confirmed to Variety that it runs subscriber-feedback panels in the U.S. only.

According to Reddit users who claim to be in the program, the Netflix Preview Club is invite-only. Subscribers are required to sign an NDA before watching the film and then answer a series of survey questions one person wrote. “You get a special Netflix account, and they email when they have a movie in there for you to watch. Usually, you have to watch and review within a week,” the Reddit user added.

Amazon and Hulu have similar programs, the “Amazon Preview” program and the “Hulu Brain Trust,” where subscribers offer feedback on content.

WSJ points out that “Don’t Look Up” was apparently too serious for the Netflix Preview Club, and creators took this feedback and added more humor before it was released. Although “Don’t Look Up” was poorly reviewed by critics and has a 56% Tomatometer score and 78% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, it had four Oscars nominations and broke a Netflix record with 152.29 million weekly viewing hours.

Netflix intends to spend $17 billion on content next year, so it’s imperative that it’s smart about what it invests in. And in order to avoid repeating the disaster of Netflix’s first and second quarters of 2022, the company needs to keep subscribers engaged to limit churn.

Netflix rebounded in Q3 2022, jumping to 223 million global subscribers, so if expanding its preview program proves to be successful, its content could grow its subscriber base even more.

The streamer has seen success with its drama shows like “Stranger Things,” “Bridgerton,” “Squid Game,” and Tim Burton’s newest series “Wednesday,” which just topped 340 million hours viewed. However, Netflix needs more than that if it wants to fill in the gaps. Hopefully, the program will help give the streamer a better idea of what viewers want.

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