Comcast Xfinity Highlights Behind-the-Scenes Diversity of Superhero Stories

In celebration of Black History Month, Comcast Xfinity is offering the new short film Groundbreakers: Heroes Behind the Mask, which spotlights some of the contributors behind America’s favorite superhero stories, shows and movies.

“Comics, sci-fi and animation have long been popular genres within the African-American community,” said Keesha Boyd, executive director of multicultural consumer services at Comcast Corporation. “We hope viewers will be inspired by this content and learn more about the powerful contributions this community has made to the world of sci-fi entertainment.”

The 12-minute program includes interviews with:

  • Phillip Boutte Jr., costume illustrator for Marvel’s Black Panther, Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time and Warner’s Justice League;
  • Cheo Hodari Coker, showrunner of Netflix’s “Luke Cage”;
  • Dr. Sheena Howard, award-winning author of Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation;
  • Alitha E. Martinez, comic book illustrator best known for her work drawing Marvel’s “Iron Man” and contributed drawings to comic book series “World of Wakanda”;
  • Reginald Hudlin, film writer, director and producer with credits including Marshall” and the graphic novel Black Panther: The Complete Collection;
  • Floyd Norman, Disney’s first African-American animator with credits including Mulan and The Jungle Book, and subject of the documentary An Animated Life;
  • Phil LaMarr, voiceover actor for several characters in the DC Comics Animated Universe and Star Wars: Rebels;
  • Ciara Renee, actress who played Hawkgirl on the CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow.”


The short film is available at the “Black Film & TV” destination on Xfinity on Demand, online at, on the Xfinity Stream app or by saying “black film and TV” into the Xfinity X1 Voice Remote.

In addition to Groundbreakers: Heroes Behind the Mask, Xfinity On Demand will offer several new films celebrating historical heroes this February, including Voices of the Civil Rights Movement, BET’s Madiba, TVOne’s Behind the Movement, Smithsonian Channel’s Malcolm X: The Lost Tapes, and The Africa Channel’s Fighting for King and Empire, along with special premiere clips for the upcoming Black Panther.

Sony Ups Q3 Home Entertainment Sales

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Feb. 2 reported third-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2017) revenue of $331 million, which was up $3 million from revenue of $328 million during the previous-year period.

Through nine months of the fiscal year, revenue topped $692 million compared to $764 million during the previous-year period.

Top 10 titles released in the quarter included Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Emoji Movie, The Dark Tower, Jungle,  All Saints and Flatliners.

Spider-Man: Homecoming remains SPHE’s top-selling title, generating $42.5 million on sales of more than 2.2 million combined Blu-ray Disc and DVD units, according to

The Emoji Movie generated $12.5 million on 703,000 discs, in addition to Baby Driver with $12.9 million on 584,000 discs.

The results do not include 4K UHD Blu-ray or digital sales.

The studio also released House of Cards: Season 5, The Crown: Season 1 and Preacher: Season 2. Sony Pictures Television produces the series for original distributors Netflix and AMC Networks, respectively.

Overall, Sony Pictures Entertainment reported operating income of $95.1 million on revenue of $2.3 billion, compared to an operating loss of $968 million on revenue of $2 billion during the previous-year period.

Last year’s period included an impairment charge of $1 billion, which the studio attributed in part to the 1989 acquisition of Columbia Pictures.

Sony said theatrical revenue was driven by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, television sales of the second season of “The Crown” to Netflix – offset in part by lower home entertainment catalog sales.

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai Stepping Down

Kazuo Hirai, CEO of Sony Corp. since 2012, is stepping down to become chairman of the board, effective April 1. CFO Kenichiro Yoshida will assume the leadership role, including a new management team implementing of a new mid-range corporate plan.

Hirai proposed the move to the media giant’s nominating committee, which was approved Feb. 2 in Tokyo.

Hirai, who formerly headed Sony’s PlayStation unit, became CEO six years ago, replacing CEO Howard Stringer, who had overseen four consecutive annual losses, with the company’s stock plummeting more than 50%.

The 57-year-old Hirai had his own setbacks, including dealing with the worst cyberattack in U.S. history in 2014 involving Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“I have dedicated myself to transforming the company and enhancing its profitability, and am very proud that now, in the third and final year of our current mid-range corporate plan, we are expecting to exceed our financial targets,” Hirai said in a statement.

Sony Corp. includes Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Amazon CFO: Voice-Activated Alexa a ‘Positive Surprise’

Amazon hit a fiscal Q4 home run in North America. One of the revenue drivers was the Echo Dot featuring voice-activated Alexa software.

With more than 30,000 skills, Amazon embeds Alexa in more than 4,000 smart-home devices from 1,200 third-party CE brands.

Proprietary Fire TV Stick and Echo were the best-selling products in 2017 across all of Amazon. Both devices enable users to search, stream and buy movies and TV shows using voice commands. Echo can now – finally – also send text messages.

“We are very happy with the results of Alexa, it’s a very positive surprise for us,” CFO Brian Olsavsky said on the Feb. 1 fiscal call.

The executive said Alexa use on Fire TV is up 900% from a year ago, with music consumption up 300% over the winter holidays.

“That’s far exceeding our expectations,” Olsavsky said. “The relationship with external companies is actually helping to accelerate the adoption of Alexa with customers.”

Separately, Amazon wants to emulate North American success internationally, notably in India, which includes 17% of the world’s population, or 1.32 billion people.

The e-commerce behemoth bowed Prime India in July 2016, followed by the global launch of Prime Video in December 2016. Olsavsky said Prime adoption in India was the fastest in Amazon’s history, featuring more than 25 million local products.

Amazon also launched Prime in the Netherlands and Luxembourg, adding the ability for customers in Belgium to shop in Dutch.

Finally, Amazon this year launches second seasons of “Goliath” and “Sneaky Pete,” followed by the third season of “The Man in the High Castle,” the fourth season of “Bosch,” and “Mozart in the Jungle.” Other original content includes new episodes from “The Tick,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” and “The Romanoffs.”

‘Blade Runner 2049’ Edges ‘Geostorm’ To Maintain Top Spot on Disc Sales Charts

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Blade Runner 2049 remained No. 1 on both the NPD VideoScan First Alert sales chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Jan. 27.

The long-delayed sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner, with a domestic box office gross of $92 million, had debuted in the top spot a week earlier and held off a pair of newcomers to stay at No. 1.

Another Warner title, the disaster actioner Geostorm, which earned $33.7 million in U.S. theaters, finished a close second overall, selling 99.6% as many copies as Blade Runner 2049, according to VideoScan.

Bowing at No. 3 on the combined chart was Lionsgate’s Jigsaw, the latest in the “Saw” torture-horror franchise that earned $38 million at the domestic box office.

On the Blu-ray Disc sales chart, Geostorm and Jigsaw bowed at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, with yet another Warner title, the war drama Dunkirk, moving up to No. 2 from No. 7 the prior week.

Rounding out the top five on the overall disc sales chart were Warner’s It at No. 4 and Dunkirk and No. 5.

On the Blu-ray Disc sales chart, It finished at No. 5, down from No. 2 the prior week.

Blade Runner 2049 remains a big hit on Blu-ray Disc, with 64% of its second-week sales coming from the high-definition format, down from 76% its debut week. Fifteen percent of total unit sales came from the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, down from 23% the prior week — a record for first-week sales of a major theatrical title on disc.

On Media Play News’ rental chart for the week ended Jan. 28, Blade Runner 2049 shot up to No. 1 now that its week-long holdback from Redbox is over.  It slipped to No. 2 from No. 1 the prior week, while Jigsaw debuted at No. 3.

Rounding out the top five rentals were Universal Pictures’ American Made at No. 4 and The Foreigner at No. 5.

Continue reading “‘Blade Runner 2049’ Edges ‘Geostorm’ To Maintain Top Spot on Disc Sales Charts”

CBS Forms Viacom Merger Special Committee

CBS Feb. 1 announced that its board has established a special committee of independent directors to evaluate a potential merger with Viacom, which includes Paramount Pictures.

CBS said that despite forming a special committee there is no assurance that it would result in a transaction or on what terms any transaction might occur.

CBS and Viacom were previously legally together until 2006, when Sumner Redstone, founder and controlling shareholder of Viacom, declared that diversified media conglomerates were dinosaurs due to changing market conditions.

Fast-forward to the present and 94-year-old Redstone is still around – with an apparent polar opposite mindset.

His daughter, Shari Redstone, vice chairman of Viacom, is driving reconnecting with CBS, which is headed by Les Moonves. The rationale being that diversified consolidation is mandatory in an increasingly fragmented direct-to-consumer market.

CBS and Viacom are following M&A leads taken by AT&T and Time Warner, and Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox.



Time Warner’s AT&T Merger Cost Skyrockets to $279 Million

AT&T’s pending $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner continues to generate escalating costs for the media company.

While the deal – currently held up due to a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit – is predicated in part on fiscal synergies, Time Warner Feb. 1 reported the transaction generated $279 million in costs in fiscal 2017, including $3 million in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31.

Subsidiaries Turner, Warner Bros. and HBO accounted annual merger costs of $73 million, $78 million and $47 million, respectively. Time Warner corporate added another $91 million to the SG&A ledger.

The bulk of the costs are related to employee retention programs, including the issuance of 5.7 million in stock to select staff, including all senior executives at Time Warner – including CEO Jeff Bewkes and Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, according to a regulatory filing.

The merger – announced Oct. 16, 2016 – generated $42 million in related costs in 2016.

The fees could be moot should the merger not happen. AT&T is on the hook to Time Warner for $500 million should the government kill the deal.

While speculation suggests President Trump ordered the lawsuit due to his dislike of CNN, which he calls “fake news,” the DOJ argues the merger combining AT&T’s DirecTV with Time Warner’s TNT, HBO and CNN would form a monopoly that is detrimental to consumers and competitors.

Trial date is slated for March 19.

Amazon Reports 31% Hike in Net Sales for 2017 Inc. Feb. 1 announced a 31% spike in net sales for 2017, to $177.9 billion, compared with $136.0 billion in 2016. Excluding a $210 million favorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the year, net sales increased 31% compared with 2016.

Operating income decreased 2% to $4.1 billion, Amazon said, compared with operating income of $4.2 billion in 2016. Net income was $3.0 billion, or $6.15 per diluted share, compared with net income of $2.4 billion, or $4.90 per diluted share, in 2016.

In the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017, net sales rose 38% to $60.5 billion, compared with $43.7 billion in fourth quarter 2016. Excluding  a $1.1 billion favorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 36% compared with sales in the fourth quarter of 016.

Operating income in the fourth quarter of 2017 increased 69% to $2.1 billion, compared with operating income of $1.3 billion in 2016. Net income was $1.9 billion in the fourth quarter, or $3.75 per diluted share, compared with net income of $749 million, or $1.54 per diluted share, in Q4 2016.

Amazon says that in 2017, more than 5 billion items shipped with Prime worldwide. More new paid members joined Prime in 2017 than any previous year – both worldwide and in the United States, the company said.

Fire TV Stick and Echo Dot were the best-selling products in 2017 across all of Amazon. Customers purchased tens of millions of Echo devices last year.

In other home entertainment-related news announced by Amazon, the company said that the Prime Video app is now available on Apple TV in over 100 countries.

NFL Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video saw a total of 18.4 million views in 11 games. Prime members in more than 200 countries and territories streamed games on living room devices, including smart TVs and Fire TVs, as well as the Prime Video mobile app and the web.

CBS All Access is now available through Amazon Channels, the over-the-top streaming subscription program for Prime members. CBS is the first Amazon Channels partner to offer a linear feed of a subscriber’s local broadcast station in addition to video on-demand.

Amazon Prime Video continues to launch local original series, including “Breathe” in India, as well as “Pastewka” and “Glory is Gone” in Germany.

Amazon also pointed out that the Amazon Studios’ original movie The Big Sick, written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

For the first quarter, the company said in a news release, net sales are expected to be between $47.75 billion and $50.75 billion, or to grow between 34% and 42% compared with first quarter 2017. This guidance anticipates a favorable impact of approximately $1.2 billion or 330 basis points from foreign exchange rates. Operating income is expected to be between $300 million and $1.0 billion, compared with $1.0 billion in first quarter 2017.

‘Blade Runner 2049’ and ‘Riverdale’ Top the Google Play Charts in January

Blade Runner 2049 and season two of the series “Riverdale” were the top trending movie and TV series on Google Play in January.

The top five movies in January were, in order: Blade Runner 2049, It, American Made, The Foreigner and Geostorm. The top five TV shows were, in order: “Riverdale” season two, “The Magicians” season three, “Rick and Morty” season three, “Vikings” season five and “The Walking Dead” season eight.

Study: Cord Cutters Saving More Than $100 a Month by Dumping Cable

Cord cutters are saving an average of $115.33 a month by nixing cable, according to a survey from personal finance site LendEDU.

LendEDU surveyed 500 cord-cutters who canceled their traditional cable services within the last two years and 500 consumers that are still using a cable subscription for their homes.

Cord cutters are also saving an average of $51.38 a month by using online streaming subscriptions that are not theirs, the survey found. About a third of cord cutters (34%) use a service that isn’t theirs.

Cord cutters did spend a bit more on streaming services after cutting cable, an average of $35.33 a month versus $33.74 before.

Meanwhile, even cable subscribers spent an average of $30.87 a month on streaming services, and just over half (52%) of that group said they used their cable service more than streaming. Still, that means 48% of cable subscribers said they use streaming more — an ominous sign for the future of cable, according to LeadEDU

“As the years go by and cable is rendered useless, due to online streaming services becoming more robust, one would have to imagine these results will reverse,” the report stated.

Even the majority of cable subscribers (56% versus 44%) said they would consider cutting the cord, according to the survey.

“Chances are that if cable users are already thinking about cutting the cord in mass, it will happen eventually,” the report stated.

For more on the report visit: