The Week Kick-off: From Friends Reunited to Russia with(out) Love

Today we welcome ourselves back from a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK and what was a hallmark moment for mainstream media last week, as the cast of US sitcom Friends reunited for one seemingly final soiree, which aired across HBO Max, Now TV, and Sky One. In fact, it was a BIG week for Stream Wars fans in general, as Amazon completed its US$8.45bn purchase of Hollywood studio MGM, inclusive of the James Bond franchise. However, it certainly wasn’t a case of ‘From Russia with Love’ for Google, who now finds its relationship with the Russian Media Watchdog increasingly frayed. All this and more as we delve into another week of media headlines, from both in-front of and behind the silver screen…  

Friends Reunited

In a reunion episode that received predictably mixed reviews, the cast of Friends was at last back together last Thursday by way of a nearly two hour ‘factual’ show. From a content perspective, the production represented a kindof hotchpotch media put-together consisting of interviews, celebrity appearances, and popular scene readthroughs, which BBC Culture Critic, Caryn James, affectionately refers to as a “skilfully packaged reunion, designed to perpetuate [the show’s now streaming] afterlife.” 

And it’s that emphasis on the distribution side of the show that is perhaps most interesting. China, as reported by the BBC, is believed to have cut guest stars BTS, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Additionally, as alluded to above by James, the show was designed to sound the WarnerMedia klaxon that HBO Max is now very much available for streaming in the US, inclusive of the Friends franchise. But if you live for example in the UK, then Netflix remains your go-to home for the sitcom’s 10 seasons.

MGM checks into Amazon

And speaking of streaming franchises, Amazon was looking to spend big on MGM last week… which on Wednesday, it did. The media tech giant purchased MGM for $8.45 billion, in a deal that swallowed-up the Hollywood studio’s entire back-catalogue, including James Bond. However, as we and a number of other sources including Variety reported at the time, the deal does not necessarily give Amazon outright creative control of the brand, which is overseen by stewards Eon Productions and the Broccoli family.

Where one set of authority begins and the other ends remains to be seen, but it’s another big picture example of a resurgence in the importance of content and distribution rights that is taking place across the industry right now. 

Google Russia

From Russia with Love to Licence to Kill… internet speeds, as Google – a company that knows all about the content-distribution tussle going on in the world today – finds itself increasingly at odds with Russian Media Watchdog, Roskomnadzo. Numerous reports last week indicated that the Authority had given Google 24hrs to delete what it calls “prohibited content” or face fines and a possible traffic slowdown, which is a tactic that has already been used against Twitter this year. The news came just two days after the FT’s Moscow Correspondent, Max Seddon, reported that “Google’s entire Russian business [is] in jeopardy.” 

Don’t be Blue… Twitter! 

It seems The freemium World is Not Enough (probably last one) for Twitter, as rumours gather pace that the company is about to launch a monthly subscription offering. In a story broken by independent researcher, Jane Manchun Wong, which has now been reported by numerous outlets including TechCrunch, a $2.99 monthly subscription option is said to be being introduced. This will include features such as an undo tweet button, easy-to-read threads, and the ability to organise tweets into collections. 

We looked recently at Twitter’s acquisition of Scroll, a subscription based platform that allows users to view participating news sites without ads. Earlier in the year the company also acquired Revue – a service that enables users to start-up their own editorial newsletters direct-to-readers, in a similar way to Substack. All of which points to the fact that as Facebook’s heavily ad-dependent model feels the fallout from an increasingly privacy-based web, it’s No Time to Die (definitely last one) for Twitter, as it carves out smart direct-to-consumer based revenue streams. 

As for FIPP

We’ve launched a new strategic partnership with e-commerce expert Tipser, who we’ll be working with on events, content, and whitepapers to help media owners better monetise content online. Tipser specialises in embedded e-commerce, content commerce, and reader loyalty, and helps publishers to find straightforward, discreet e-commerce solutions to enrich their content and diversify revenue streams. In turn, this also strengthens interactions with audiences. They’ll be working with us on our new D2C Summit this month and you can rea the full partnership announcement here.

And finally… 

The Minecraft Championship took place online over the weekend, testing ten teams in a variety of mini-games across parkour, survival, combat, teamwork, and more. After eight games, the two teams with the most coins are pitted against one another in the final, which was this year won by Aqua Axolotls. It’s actually the fourteenth instalment of the MC Championship, which is hosted by Noxcrew – a community of creators from around the world. In addition to hosting the eSports tournament, the platform is also renowned for creating special maps that enable users to get more out of the game – Tomorrow Never Dies! 


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