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Top Product Placement Monthly Insights – September 2023

Here’s a breakdown of this month’s key product placement insights.

key takeaways

  • The Japanese market has driven massive viewership for The Super Mario Bros. Movie, making it Universal’s No. 1 studio picture since the beginning of the pandemic. While superhero films aren’t drawing in the same numbers as before, popular intellectual properties still reign supreme across the globe, attracting built-in audiences in ever-increasing numbers. 
  • Disney+ has shared promising viewership figures for the original series Ashoka, marking the first release of concrete viewing data for one of its shows. As brands continue to invest in media for streaming ad-supported tiers, streamers are facing pressure to provide consistent and transparent reporting. While sharing a snippet of viewing figures is a start, there will be a push for much more from these platforms. 
  • The first AI-generated song titled ‘Heart on My Sleeve’ has been submitted for Grammy consideration. This submission will be a big early test of the rules and regulations surrounding AI for entertainment industry award recognition. While the song’s lyrics were written by a human, the vocal performances are computer-generated facsimiles of popular artists. Although it seems unlikely that the track will be considered Grammy-eligible, the reasoning handed down either way could set a precedent for future consideration. 
  • After 146 days, the writers’ strike has come to an end. There were many winners and losers to come out of this summer’s joint strike, and it’s not over yet, as the WGA prepares to vote on its hard-fought new contract and SAG-AFTRA looks to seal its own deal with the AMPTP. But in addition to the details of AMPTP negotiations, it’s worth noting how different figures, from Drew Barrymore to Drew Carey, have been affected. 
  • Streamers have been sharing discount offers in an effort to entice consumers to subscribe to their ad-supported tiers. Increasing subscription numbers for ad-supported tiers on streaming services makes good sense for platforms looking to grow ad revenue. It remains to be seen whether consumers who have become accustomed to ad-free services will bite on these introductions. 


Illumination/Nintendo/Universal’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie has crossed the $100M (13.74B yen) mark in Japan. In doing so, it becomes Universal’s top title ever there. In local currency, Mario overtakes Top Gun: Maverick as the No. 6 Hollywood film of all time in Japan and is the No. 1 studio picture since the beginning of the pandemic. Japan debuted Super Mario in late April with a huge $14.3M to score the biggest opening weekend ever for an animated studio movie, as well as the biggest Saturday box office in Universal history – topping Jurassic World Dominion. In only two days, Mario and Luigi led the fastest Universal film to reach 1B yen. That weekend’s result was Universal’s best ever start in the market. 


The streamer offers up concrete viewing figures for one of its shows for the first time. According to the streamer, the first episode of the series, starring Rosario Dawson as the titular Jedi, has racked up 14 million views worldwide since its Aug. 23 debut. Disney+ is using the same methodology for counting a “view” that Netflix has employed for the past couple of months — dividing the total viewing time by the run time for a given title. “Views” doesn’t necessarily equal “viewers,” however, as the total viewing time doesn’t necessarily account for multiple people watching the show together or a single person watching the episode several times. Disney+ also didn’t release any figures for episode two of Ahsoka, which also premiered Aug. 23. The view figure for Ahsoka represents the first time Disney+ has released any kind of concrete viewing data for one of its titles. Like most other streamers, it has typically only alluded to relative performance (albeit with a baseline for comparison) when touting the success of its series or movies.


A collaborative track featuring AI-generated facsimiles of Drake and the Weeknd’s voices titled “Heart on My Sleeve” has been submitted for Grammy consideration. One caveat: Neither Drake nor the Weeknd had anything to do with it. Ghostwriter, the shadowy creator of the AI-generated song that went viral in April, is seeking the music industry’s most coveted award for a fake duet — and according to Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. in an interview with The New York Times, “it’s absolutely eligible because it was written by a human.” 

Product Placement insights concerning end of WGA strike

The Winners and Losers of the WGA Strike, From Drew Carey to Drew Barrymore

A lot can happen in 146 days. When the Writers Guild strike started in May, Drew Barrymore was one of its early folk heroes, when she stepped down as host of the MTV Movie & TV Awards in solidarity. But four months later, Barrymore became one of the strike’s most reviled public figures when she tried to rationalize the decision to bring back her daytime talk show in the midst of a work stoppage. There were many winners and losers to come out of this hot labor summer, and it’s not over yet, as SAG-AFTRA looks to seal its own deal with the AMPTP. But as the WGA prepares to vote on its hard-fought new contract, here are some of the entities that made it to the other side on the rise — or a bit imperiled.


Disney is launching a significant promotional effort meant to help drive subscribers to the advertising-supported tier of Disney+. Beginning Wednesday and running through Sept. 20, Disney will offer the basic ad tier for $1.99 per month for three months. The tier normally costs $7.99 per month, making the offer an $18 savings. The offer is available to both new and returning subscribers. Disney+ and other streaming services have been pushing consumers toward ad-supported tiers via price hikes to ad-free offerings and other efforts. With the ad tiers having better economics and more growth potential, they have become a strategic priority for many companies. While streaming services have historically offered discounts around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Disney+ offer is meant to take advantage of a wave of new content set to hit the platform this month.

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