Best Buy Closing All Domestic Mobile Stores

Best Buy reportedly is shuttering all 250 branded mobile stores in the United States, effective May 31.

The closures do not affect 52 mobile stores operating in Canada, according to Reuters, which cited an internal memo sent to affected employees by CEO Hubert Joly.

In 2015, Best Buy shuttered all 131 Future Shop stores in Canada, converting 65 to Best Buy Mobile outlets.

The consumer electronics chain opened the smaller (1,400 square-foot) mall-based mobile stores in 2006, focusing on mobile phones and other portable media devices compared to general CE and household appliances at larger (40,000 square feet) big box stores.

With smartphones sales stagnating worldwide, Best Buy saw mobile store operating costs exceed revenue. The stores, which represent about 1% of Best Buy total sales, are about three miles from a standalone Best Buy – a reality Joly believes won’t negatively affect consumers.

“We feel good about the opportunity to retain customers and transition them to another one of our sales channels,” Joly told staff, adding the company would assist affected employees with severance and job opportunities in other Best Buy stores.

Best Buy reports fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2017) financial results March 1.

 

 

Verizon, Straight Path Pay Record $614 Million FCC Fine

The Federal Communications Commission Feb. 28 announced that Straight Path Communications and Verizon Communications paid a $614 million civil penalty in connection with a January 2017 settlement regarding wireless spectrum.

The fine is the largest civil penalty ever paid to the U.S. Treasury to resolve a FCC investigation. The payment – and relinquishment of 20% of spectrum licenses – is on top of $15 million Straight Path previously paid to the U.S. Treasury.

The agreement was made prior to closure of Straight Path’s $3.1 billion sale and transfer of licenses to Verizon.

The settlement resolved an investigation into allegations Straight Path failed to properly use (or was sitting on) the spectrum it was awarded by the federal government – violating the government’s buildout and discontinuance rules in connection with about 1,000 licenses in certain millimeter wave spectrum bands.

High-frequency bands, or 5G, represent the next-generation of wireless technology.

Verizon and Straight Path entered into a merger agreement May 11, 2017 to transfer licenses, and on Jan. 18, 2018, the FCC’s wireless telecommunications bureau approved the transfer.

 

 

 

 

TiVo Mulls Going Private, Among Other Strategic Alternatives

Digital video recording pioneer TiVo is pursuing range of strategic alternatives, including returning to private status, in an effort to enhance shareholder value, new CEO Enrique Rodriguez said on the Q4 (ended Dec. 31, 2017) fiscal call.

Despite myriad technology license agreements in place industrywide, including with four of the five top online TV services (Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV), in addition to Discovery, HBO, Netflix, CBS Interactive, A&E Network and Sony Pictures Entertainment, TiVo saw quarterly revenue fall 15% to $214.2 million compared with revenue of $252.3 million during the previous-year period. Net income topped $18.4 million compared to $9.8 million last year.

Meanwhile, TiVo shares have lost nearly 30% of their value over the past fiscal year.

As a result, Rodriguez is considering a series of moves aimed at upping the shareholder price. Tech advancements include the “TiVo Experience 4,” which enables users to more easily to search, navigate, buy or rent movies, TV shows, recorded content and over-the-top video via a voice-activated remote.

TiVo is also suing Comcast, claiming the cable giant’s X1 set-top violates eight of its patents.

“We need to determine the optimal path to maximize our value proposition, so we can best deliver value to our shareholders,” Rodriguez said. “We have enlisted LionTree Advisors, to assist us in this process.”

News of a possible return to private ownership sent TiVo shares up more than 10% in afternoon trading.

NBC Universal Cutting TV Commercials 20%

In an era of ad-free subscription streaming video, NBC Universal Feb. 28 announced it would air 20% fewer commercials during original primetime programing – decreasing overall ad-time by 10% this fall.

The company is launching/marketing a new 60 second contextually-programmed “prime pod” in the first or last break of a show to two advertisers for stronger impact with viewers.

“Sometimes, a little bit less means a whole lot more,” Linda Yaccarino, chairman, advertising and client partnerships, NBC Universal, said in a statement. “We need to make the [TV] experience better for viewers.”

NBC isn’t alone. Turner and Viacom are experimenting with fewer ads across all of its networks.

Over the past five years, the video viewing environment has become more cluttered with more than 400,000 ads, according to Nielsen. As consumer behavior has shifted and viewers have migrated to other platforms, mass TV advertising effectiveness has waned.

As a result, NBC Universal is making reductions in more than 50 Primetime original shows across its entire portfolio. It will also unveil a suite of new ad products, including “interactive picture in picture,” and “social commercials,” and “social first pods.”

The new ad formats were experimented with during NBC’s telecast of the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

NBC contends contextually targeted ads fuel greater consumer conversion and will use a new artificial intelligence (AI)-based content targeting product that comb through scripts and data sources to make every ad that much more relevant to its audience.

“In TV now, what’s largely done is we don’t program our pods the way we program our networks,” Yaccarino told AdAge.com. “This is a wholesale effort to stop doing that and start programming our pods in a way that marry advertisers creative with our originals.”

 

Amazon’s IMDb.com Live-Streaming Academy Awards Companion Show

Amazon-owned website Internet Movie Database Feb. 28 announced it will for the second year offer a live streaming companion show to the 90th Annual Academy Awards, dubbed “IMDb Live Viewing Party.”

The live 4:30 pm (Pacific) event March 4 at the former CBS Radio Studio in Los Angeles will be available on IMDb.com, the IMDb mobile app, Twitter and Twitch.

The event will feature conversations with celebrity guests, past nominees, experts and industry insiders, along with IMDb data and information.

In addition to “The IMDb Show” co-hosts Tim Kash and Kerri Doherty, celebrities slated to appear include Aisha Tyler (“Criminal Minds,” “Archer”), Anne Heche (“The Brave”), Lea Thompson (“Switched At Birth”), past winner Tatum O’Neal (Paper Moon), two-time nominee Peter Fonda (Easy Rider), longtime Academy head writer Bruce Vilanch, IMDb’s founder and CEO Col Needham, Clifton Collins Jr. (“Westworld”), Tamara Taylor (“Altered Carbon”), and Boots Riley (“Sorry To Bother You”), among others.

“Our goal is to produce a multi-hour, live Academy Awards companion show that is worthy of Hollywood’s biggest night,” Needham said in a statement.

“Twitter is the place to see and join the real-time Oscars conversation,” added Kay Madati, global head of content partnerships. “We’re excited to collaborate with IMDb to bring fans this behind-the-scenes broadcast alongside the real-time commentary from experts and fans during one of Hollywood’s biggest nights.”

The Oscars will be broadcast on ABC at 5 pm (Pacific), and hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

Amazon Selling ‘UFC 222’ Pay-Per-View Fight

Netflix may have no interest in live sports, but streaming video rival Amazon is taking a different approach.

In a first, the ecommerce behemoth has begun selling pay-per-view streaming access to “UFC 222 Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya,” a female featherweight mixed martial arts fight taking place March 3 in Las Vegas. The four-hour event is available in HD for $64.99.

The main card also includes contests between Frankie Edgar and Brian Ortega; Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath; Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski; and Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Viera.

The package does not require a Prime membership.

Amazon previously sold fight retransmissions, including “UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor” in 2015 and “UFC 220,” a curated collection of past fights.

While PPV events are typically sold through pay-TV operators and can be acquired through other channels, Amazon’s move marks another step toward live sports.

Amazon paid $50 million to the NFL in 2017 to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games on Prime Video – an arrangement the company hopes to continue next season.

 

‘Coco Day in L.A.’, Feb. 27, 2018

The city of Los Angeles declared Feb. 27 “Coco Day in L.A.” in celebration of the home entertainment release of Disney/Pixar’s animated feature film Coco. Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who represents the city’s First District, presented the honors at City Hall to director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson.  Additional voice talent in attendance included Anthony Gonzalez (the voice of Miguel), Renee Victor (the voice of Abuelita), Gabriel Iglesias (voice of the Clerk), Alfonso Arau (the voice of Papa Julio), Selene Luna (Voice of Tia Rosita), Lombardo Boyar (voice of Mariachi/Gustavo), Blanca Araceli (voice of Emcee), Dyana Ortelli (voice of Tia Victoria) and Carlos Moreno Jr. (the voice of a handful of characters including Corn Man).

For more, click here:  ‘Coco Day in L.A.’ Celebrates Release of Latest Disney/Pixar Animated Hit.

‘Coco Day in L.A.’ Celebrates Release of Latest Disney/Pixar Animated Hit

The city of Los Angeles declared Feb. 27 “Coco Day in L.A.” in celebration of the home entertainment release of Disney/Pixar’s animated feature film Coco, issued that day on Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, DVD and on-demand. (The film was released two weeks earlier digitally on HD, 4K and Movies Anywhere).

Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who represents the city’s First District, presented the honors at City Hall to director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson.  Additional voice talent in attendance included Anthony Gonzalez (the voice of Miguel), Renee Victor (the voice of Abuelita), Gabriel Iglesias (voice of the Clerk), Alfonso Arau (the voice of Papa Julio), Selene Luna (Voice of Tia Rosita), Lombardo Boyar (voice of Mariachi/Gustavo), Blanca Araceli (voice of Emcee), Dyana Ortelli (voice of Tia Victoria) and Carlos Moreno Jr. (the voice of a handful of characters including Corn Man).

Coco tells the story of Miguel, a 12-year-old aspiring musician, who finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead after a mysterious chain of events. This is the first-ever animated feature to include an almost entirely Latino voice cast, including many who reside and grew up in the City of Los Angeles.

Coco is nominated for two Academy Awards – Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song “Remember Me,” and also won the 2018 Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Motion Picture. The film topped the domestic Thanksgiving holiday weekend box office, became the highest-grossing film of all time in Mexico, and broke records in China.

PHOTO GALLERY: ‘Coco Day in L.A.’, Feb. 27, 2018

Formula 1 Launching OTT Video Racing Service

As expected, Formula 1 is set to launch a proprietary over-the-top video service prior to the start of 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season March 25 at the Melbourne Grand Prix in Australia.

Dubbed “F1 TV,” the $8-$12 monthly service will be available in four different languages (English, French, German and Spanish) and available in nearly two dozen markets, including Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and Latin America.

Access will initially be available on the Internet, with mobile apps and TV apps phased in on Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Android.

Subscribers will be able to view practice, qualifying and races, in addition to press conferences and pre-and post-race interviews. Subs will also be able to watch live races of the main support series, the FIA Formula 2 Championship, GP3 Series and Porsche Supercup, among others.

“We are beginning on the journey to build a cornerstone of our digital transformation,” Frank Arthofer, director of digital and new business, Formula 1, said in a statement.

F1 TV joins a growing market of sport-specific OTT platforms (MLB.tv, NHL.tv, NBA League Pass, MLS Live, etc.) aimed at hardcore fans and attracting new, tech-savvy audiences.

“Our objective … is simple: provide these fans with the best available service to watch live Grands Prix and provide them with the best sports OTT customer experience in the world. Live streaming video is an exciting space changing almost daily,” Arthofer said.

Amazon, Lionsgate Ink Latin America Distribution Deal

Amazon and Lionsgate Feb. 27 announced an exclusive multiyear agreement under which Lionsgate will make available select movies to Prime Video members in Mexico, Brazil and the rest of Latin America. The agreement includes Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment movies to stream on Prime Video following their local theatrical release in the region.

Under the pact, Prime Video becomes the exclusive long-term streaming home in Latin America for Lionsgate movies and branded properties, beginning with John Wick: Chapter 2Saban’s Power Rangers; The Shack; and Jigsaw, the latest installment of Saw horror franchise.

Prime Video will add new Lionsgate releases, including breakout Wonder, starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, along with future releases such as action comedy, The Spy Who Dumped Me, starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon; noir thriller, A Simple Favor, featuring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick; action adventure Robin Hood, featuring Jamie Foxx and Taron Egerton; and young adult thriller, Chaos Walking, starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland.

“Amazon is committed to delivering great movies to our Prime Video members across Latin America,” Jason Ropell, VP, worldwide movies, Prime Video, said in a statement.

All titles will be available in HD, and can also be temporarily downloaded and watched offline on compatible mobile devices.

“The complementary strengths of Amazon and Lionsgate, including the innovation of the Prime Video service and the premium quality of Lionsgate content, set this deal apart,” said Peter Iacono, president of international television and digital distribution, at Lionsgate.