The Top Retailers in Home Entertainment 2018: The Golden 12

Technology and innovation have transformed home entertainment retailing in a way none of us could have imagined back in the early days of the business, when the only way to watch movies and other filmed content on demand was by renting a videocassette at the local video store.
Just as our home entertainment viewing options have proliferated, the distribution pipeline charged with getting this content to the consumer has branched out into a network of increasingly diverse delivery methods — from physical disc sales and rentals to digital subscription streaming or transactional VOD.

Web Exclusive: Bubbling Under – Eight Other Key Retailers

“While retail has taken many new forms over the years, the underlying premise has never changed,” says Jason Spivak, EVP of worldwide digital distribution at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “It is all about providing great environments for consumers to discover, enjoy and collect film and TV content. As physical retail has evolved and digital services have proliferated, we believe there has never been a better time for fans to access and consume our content in any way that they wish.”

“The retail landscape continues to evolve as advancements in technology have vastly expanded the ways in which we all enjoy content,” says Bob Buchi, president of worldwide home media distribution at Paramount Pictures. “The advent of digital storefronts and streaming services has been a boon to both consumers and content providers, and while the retail landscape has changed, consumer appetite for quality content has not. As content providers we must work closely with the wide range of retailers to satisfy growing consumer demand by clearly communicating the benefits and value associated with every option, from physical to digital and rental to ownership.”

Increasingly, home entertainment retailing is not an either/or proposition. Lines have blurred and blended between digital and physical, purchase and rental/streaming. Moreover, some of the top retailers have begun acquiring and distributing their own content. This is nothing new — back in 1998, when video rental was still driving home entertainment revenues, Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. launched its own film acquisition company, DEJ Productions — but never has this push toward proprietary movies and TV shows been as powerful as it is today, with Netflix setting an ultimate goal of 50% original content and Amazon expected to spend $5 billion on original content in 2018.

Back in January 1984, Video Store Magazine published for the first time a salute to the top 12 retailers, based on consumer video rental revenue their owners willingly reported to the magazine’s research team. The cover depicted the retailers as 12 golden eggs in an egg carton, a nod to the golden opportunity video rentals presented to even the smallest mom-and-pop entrepreneurs.

This year, Media Play News is doing so again (sans golden eggs) — only this time, our market research staff has relied on a variety of components, from interviews with studio heads and retailers to public financial reports, to assemble a list of what we believe are the 12 biggest retailers of content in the United States, based on total revenue.

As Entertainment Merchants Association president and CEO Mark Fisher says, “This diverse mix of top retailers offers the consumers access however they want to enjoy home entertainment.”

Fisher adds: “In our earliest days as a trade association, the only retail model was the VHS rental store. Today our support for retailing ranges from addressing challenges in physical DVD distribution, to what’s become our core focus, guiding the digital distribution industry toward more-efficient and more-effective  processes. The one thing that hasn’t changed for us as a trade association is the need  for a platform for industry community and
collaboration.”

“The mix of top retailers illustrates the breadth of which consumers are engaging across various formats and business models — in some instances serving different audiences, interests and consumer behaviors,” says Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The retail experience continues to evolve, and in a digital environment where there is unlimited access to libraries of content, retail partners have focused on developing broad ecosystems with rich playback experiences where enhanced discovery and personalization is becoming the norm,” Bonner says. “Technological advances coupled with data have provided a nice runway for innovation, which we expect to continue at a rapid pace.”
Innovation isn’t limited to digital storefronts.

“Across the retail landscape, bold innovation, smart execution and the willingness to embrace change all have been key drivers of our category’s vitality,” notes Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “From department redesigns and striking in-store displays to compelling pre-order programs and event-level marketing, the collective redefining of the consumer experience has never been more prevalent.

“With an eye toward the future, Walmart has been an exceptional partner in its commitment to invest in the category’s longevity. From our partnership on the first WOW corrugate for Jurassic World to our more-recent collaboration in reimagining the home entertainment footprint in stores, Walmart has made exceptional strides in elevating our category and driving urgency for our products while creating newfound excitement around the shopper experience. Plans to build upon that momentum continue as we together are working to soon take WOW corrugate displays to a new level.”

Retailers are ranked alphabetically; assigning even a relative revenue value is next to impossible. Amazon, for example, said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it generated $6.4 billion in revenue related to retail subscriptions in 2017, which shakes out to about 65 million to 80 million Prime members. But how much of that should be allocated to the “free shipping” element rather than the “free streaming” component?

Retailer profiles were originally compiled for the EMA annual report, which Media Play News editors — through parent company JCH Media Inc.’s custom publishing division — also produced.

The Top 12 Home Entertainment Retailers

Amazon

Amazon.com, the largest Internet retailer in the world, is also one of the leading sellers of home entertainment product, physical as well as digital. And its Amazon Prime Video service is a strong No. 2 to Netflix in streaming, giving subscribers unlimited access to thousands of movies, TV shows and other filmed content.

Amazon in April said it had exceeded 100 million Prime members globally since launching the $99 annual membership loyalty platform with free two-day shipping 13 years ago. Prime membership includes free access to Prime Video, Prime Photo, Twitch Prime (video games), Prime Now deliveries and Prime Music, among other services. Shortly after that announcement, Amazon bumped up its annual Prime membership fee by $20, to $119.

Amazon reported total 2017 sales of $177.9 billion, a 31% spike from the prior year. In July 2017 The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon had about a 20% share of the digital sellthrough and streaming business, thanks to both its Amazon Prime subscription service and its standard Amazon Video catalog.

Amazon has promised an even bigger push into original content as it competes globally against Netflix and other SVOD platforms. In early 2018, JPMorgan’s Doug Anmuth estimated the company will spend $5 billion on video content this year, keying in on big-budget original shows and sportscasts.

In 2017, Amazon’s most-popular original content included the Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea, the Emmy-winning series “Transparent,” and Amazon Studios’ Paterson. “We’re going to continue to invest in video and increase that investment in 2018,” CFO Brian Olsavsky said on an October 2017 earnings call. “We’re very bullish on what we’re seeing both with how customers are responding and the quality of the [original] content.”

Apple/iTunes

More than a decade ago, Apple’s iTunes Store launched the digital sellthrough/rental market when its revolutionary digital music store, which opened in 2003, began offering video content. Today, the iTunes Store features more than 112,000 movies and 300,000 TV shows for sale or rent, playable across a broad array of Apple devices.

In July 2017 The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple’s share for selling and renting movies, TV shows and other video content has dropped to between 20% and 35% — down from over 50% as recently as 2012. Apple responded to requests for comment by the Journal by saying it focuses on providing users with content from HBO, Netflix and other subscription services through the App Store. Apple also told the Journal that its movie rentals and purchases had risen over the last year and had reached their highest level in more than a decade.

Despite revolutionizing digital media consumption, Apple until recently hadn’t put much focus on original content. Interviewed by CNN last March at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Eddie Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services, said this is changing. “We’re completely all-in,” he told CNN, noting that Apple’s focus is on quality rather than quantity. “You need to have a great story,” he said.

Last year, Apple hired former Sony executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to run its original content team — which over the past year has grown to about 40 people. Cue told CNN that Apple was after someone who “really knew the business but was also willing to think about it differently.” Since hiring Van Amburg and Erlicht, Apple has signed deals for more than 10 TV shows, many with big-name actors, producers and directors. Just this month, Apple inked a content deal with Oprah Winfrey.

Apple Services (which includes the App Store and iTunes) has been the fastest-growing revenue segment for Apple, adding 270 million customers in the latest quarter — up 100 million from the same period in the previous year. “Services is fast becoming Apple’s primary growth driver,” Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty wrote in a May note.

AT&T/DirecTV Now

The entertainment division of giant telecom AT&T includes TV streaming service DirecTV Now, in addition to pay-TV units DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and broadband. Both DirecTV and U-verse offer digital sales of movies to subscribers. In its year-end report for 2017, AT&T said DirectTV Now tallied 368,000 net adds to reach nearly 1.2 million DirecTV subscribers. DirecTV Now offers linear channels from major media companies such as A&E, AMC, CBS, Discovery, Disney, Fox, MLB, NBCUniversal, Turner, Univision and Viacom. The service also allows users to add on Cinemax, HBO, Showtime and Starz for an extra charge, giving them access to HBO Go, Showtime on Demand and Starz on Demand, respectively.

Meanwhile, AT&T has completed its acquisition of Time Warner (now called WarnerMedia), which includes Warner Bros., after a judge ruled June 12 that the merger could go forward. The U.S. Justice Department had sued to block the merger on the grounds that the combined companies would force rivals to pay more for “must-have” content from the Turner Networks, including CNN, TBS and TNT, and that the result would be higher prices for consumers.

Best Buy

Since the launch of DVD in 1997, Best Buy has been a key player in home entertainment software sales. The company was founded by Richard Schulze in 1966 and called Sound of Music before the name changed to Best Buy in 1983. Best Buy generates nearly $40 billion annually. Best Buy has more than 1,500 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and contends that more than 70% of the population lives within 15 minutes of a Best Buy store.

In February 2018 Best Buy announced plans to close all of its roughly 250 smaller-format mobile phone stores by the end of May. Around the same time, Best Buy announced it will no longer sell CDs as of July 2018. But while observers fear cutbacks in DVD and Blu-ray Disc may be next, there has been no indication of this. Five years ago, CEO Hubert Joly said store floor space optimization mandated shrinking packaged-media space and redoubling emphasis on growth areas. But when asked about DVD and Blu-ray Disc, he said, “I love these categories.”

Today, the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer continues to sell packaged media in stores and online — including 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. In May 2018 the company said entertainment segment same-store sales for the first quarter were flat, after a 16.8% increase in the fourth quarter.

The entertainment segment, which includes products such as DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs, and computer software, in Q1 generated just 7% ($589 million) of Best Buy’s $8.4 billion in domestic revenue.

Comcast

Comcast Cable, the country’s largest cable TV company, also is a key player in digital movie sales, with an estimated 15% share of the market, according to a July 2017 report by The Wall Street Journal.

Comcast in 2013 became the first pay-TV operator to sell subscribers digital movies with the launch of its Xfinity X1 platform. As Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, told Home Media Magazine in January 2017, “Comcast’s 2013 entrée into EST was an unequivocal game changer for the digital sellthrough market. Overnight, Comcast took its place among the industry’s top digital retailers.” In December 2016, Comcast inked pacts with Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures to include bonus material and related movie extras long associated with packaged media. Access to the digital store is promoted through Comcast’s cloud-based X1 set-top. X1 upgrades include a so-called “smart” keyboard, a simplified transactional VOD folder, a personalized screensaver, a power saver and DVR.

Earlier this year, ABC News observed, “Comcast has turned its X1 TV set-top box into something resembling a Roku or Apple TV streaming player, complete with app-like menus and a voice-activated remote. During the Olympics, X1 merged both TV and online videos to give viewers a one-stop experience.”

Comcast has also embraced Netflix, with the streaming service launching on Comcast’s X1 cable set-top box in November 2016. Philly.com at the time said the launch “broadens consumer appeal for their respective services and helps Comcast with federal regulators who say that pay-TV companies should integrate traditional TV and streaming services on set-top boxes.”

Dish Cinema/Sling TV

Sling TV, the streaming TV service owned by Dish Network, was launched in January 2015, marking the first time a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) offered non-subscribers access to both live TV channels and on-demand content. Dish in February 2018 said Sling TV had 2.212 million subscribers as of the end of 2017, putting it well ahead of such
rivals as DirecTV Now (1 million subscribers as of December 2017), PlayStation Vue (455,000 as of December 2017), Hulu with Live TV (450,000 as of January 2018), and YouTube TV (300,000 as of January 2018).
Like other SVOD services, Sling TV allows users to choose between various tiers, with prices that start at $20/month for a small amount of channels and go up as more channels are added.

Google Play

Google Play Movies & TV is an online video store considered one of the big four digital sellthrough dealers, along with Amazon, iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu. The store sells and rents movies, TV shows and other filmed content, as well as video games, digital music, magazines and newspapers, and various Android devices.

Google Play was launched in March 2012, bringing together the Android Market, Google Music and Google eBookstore under one brand. The services operating under the Google Play banner are Google Play Books, Google Play Console, Google Play Games, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music and Google Play Newsstand.

Google Movies & TV periodically runs promotions, like the 2017 holiday season’s “The 12 Days of Play,” with 99-cent movie and TV show rentals.
In March, Google unveiled a major revamp of its Google Play Movies & TV app and an update to the Google Play Store itself “that show you which streaming services have the content available, in addition to whether it’s available for rent or purchase, as before,” according to Tech Crunch. “In the updated Google Play Movies & TV app, you’ll now find three tabs in the new bottom navigation bar which will direct you to your “Home,” “Library” or your “Watchlist.” The watchlist is a feature the app recently gained as well, but now it has a much more prominent position. As you browse through the app, you can click on titles to read more about them, as before, but now you’re also able to see where the item can be streamed.”

Hulu

Hulu is one of the big three streaming giants, behind Netflix and Amazon. The SVOD service is jointly owned by Comcast Corp., 21st Century Fox, WarnerMedia and the Walt Disney Co. It offers two streaming subscription plans: one with limited commercials for $7.99 a month, and a commercial-free plan for $11.99.

Hulu has a big library of arthouse and foreign films, although its strength lies in TV series. Hulu offers next-day streaming of network TV shows and it is also developing a growing slate of original series, including “The Path,” with Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” fame, and the teen superhero drama “Runaways,” based on the Marvel comic book. In 2017 Hulu won eight Emmy Awards for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a web television series about a dystopian future following a Second American Civil War in which women, called Handmaids, are forced into sexual and child-bearing servitude.

In May 2017 Hulu launched a live online TV platform, offering access to more than 50 channels for $39.99 per month. Those channels include ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and local affiliates, along with Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, CNN, ESPN, FX, USA Network and many more. At the same time, Hulu announced that it had signed a deal with Scripps Networks Interactive to bring their channels — including Food Network, HGTV, and Travel Channel — into the on-demand and live-TV service.

In March 2018, Hulu launched a personalized March Madness experience that included push notifications for game start times.

Netflix

Netflix is the 800-pound gorilla of the streaming world. Originally a disc-by-mail video rental service aimed at consumers frustrated with late fees and return trips to video stores, founder Reed Hastings took the monthly subscription model to the nascent streaming world in 2007 and never looked back.

Based in Los Gatos, Calif., Netflix expanded its rapidly growing subscription streaming business internationally, beginning with Canada in 2010, and within six years was operating in 190 countries. Netflix began producing original content in 2013 with its first series, “House of Cards,” and now vows to ultimately produce 50% of the content it airs.

CFO David Wells in February said Netflix will spend more than $8 billion on content in 2018 and expects to have around 700 original TV shows on the service worldwide this year, on top of 80 original movies.

Current hit digital originals include “Orange Is the New Black,” “13 Reasons Why,” “Arrested Development” and a reboot of the 1960s sci-fi series “Lost in Space.”

Netflix said it ended the first quarter (March 31) with 125 million subscribers worldwide. Hastings in March said the company expects to generate $15 billion in user fees in 2018 — almost twice the $8 billion it will spend on original content. Netflix now has more domestic subscribers than all of cable television, combined. Speaking at a Los Angeles tech event, he reiterated Netflix has no desire to pursue live sports — unlike rival Amazon Prime Video — focusing instead on original episodic programming and feature films.

In May, Netflix’s market cap hit $153 billion, higher than that of the Walt Disney Co. — which is planning to launch its own SVOD service in 2019.

Redbox

Redbox is the country’s leading video rental dealer, operating not a chain of physical stores but, rather, a fleet more than 40,000 bright-red video rental kiosks at Walmarts, supermarkets and drug stores. Consumers can rent DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, video games and, in a growing number of kiosks, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs.

The Seattle-based company for years was at odds with studios that claimed its low-cost rentals cannibalized movie sales, prompting three of the six majors to institute month-long holdbacks. But those battles are now largely over, with all studios selling new product to Redbox — direct and either on street date or within a week of it — with the exception of the Walt Disney Co., which is suing the kiosk operator over the sale of digital movie codes.
Selling anything is new ground for Redbox. A little more than three years after abandoning a failed SVOD venture with Verizon, Redbox in December 2017 launched Redbox On Demand, a digital distribution service with more than 6,000 movie and TV show titles available for on-demand streaming or purchase and digital deals with all major studios except for Disney.

“Our customers come to us for that transactional experience — it’s Friday night, and they want to watch a specific movie,” Redbox CEO Galen Smith told Media Play News in January 2018. “We try to satisfy them with our kiosk network, but there are occasions where you might not want to go out and rent a movie from a kiosk. So rather than lose that transactional occasion, we’re giving them the chance to get it online.”

Making good on a promise it made in January at CES, Redbox in May announced the launch of 4K Ultra HD rentals in six test markets. 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs rent for $2.50 per night, 50 cents higher than the rental rate for regular Blu-ray Discs (DVDs are $1.75). The test is rolling out across more than 2,500 kiosks in Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Detroit, Miami and New York City.

Target

Target Corp. is the second-largest discount store retailer in the United States, behind Walmart. The Minneapolis chain, with 1,812 stores as of 2017, has long been a big seller of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, and along with Walmart was a key player in driving mass adoption of DVD, using discs as a loss leader to drive traffic into its stores.

In February, Billboard reported that in the fourth quarter of last year Target told music and video suppliers that it wants to switch to scanned-based trading. As of Feb. 1, the chain only pays for DVDs after they are rung up at the register, Billboard says, with music suppliers sent down the same path two months later.

Walmart/Vudu

Unlike fellow mass merchant Target, Walmart Inc. shows no signs of cutting back on packaged-media sales. The footprint devoted to product has been reduced a bit over the years, but the company remains one of the top retailers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, as well as video games.

Based in Bentonville, Ark., Walmart as of Jan. 31, 2018, had 11,718 stores and clubs in 28 countries, operating under 59 different names. Of those stores, 4,761 are in the United States, accounting for more than 62% of total sales.
Walmart in February reported a low single-digit increase in same-store entertainment sales during the fourth quarter (ended Jan. 31), driven by the winter holidays. It was the strongest entertainment quarter in the fiscal year. (Walmart doesn’t disclose actual revenue figures.) “Entertainment” includes electronics, toys, cameras and supplies, photo processing services, cellular phones, cellular service plan contracts and prepaid service, DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies, music CDs, video games, and books.

In May, Walmart said U.S. comp-store sales were up 2.1% from the prior year, while total revenue for the quarter rose 4.4% to $122.7 billion.

Walmart also owns Vudu, a digital movie platform that celebrated its 10th anniversary in June 2017 by offering 10-cent movie rentals on select catalog titles. Other special offers included $4.99 weekend movie rentals and $10-and-under TV weekends. Vudu in March 2017 upgraded its app, giving users — for a fee — access to cloud-stored digital versions of their DVD and Blu-ray Disc collections from a smart phone or mobile device. Converting DVD to standard-definition or Blu-ray to high-definition costs $2 each, while up-converting DVD to HD (1080p) costs $5. The app effectively extends Walmart’s in-store disc-to-digital service, which was launched with studios in 2012. Consumers can also convert discs from a computer at Vudu.com.

In August 2017, Vudu arrived on Apple TV. The new app allows users to watch the movies and TV shows saved to their Vudu libraries, but like its iOS counterpart, the Apple TV version of Vudu doesn’t allow them to rent or buy videos through the app directly. Instead, they have to make a purchase through the browser or another device first.

Comedy ‘Across the River’ Due on Disc, Digital July 17 from Random Media

Indie Random Media will release director Warren B. Malone’s comedy Across the River on digital, DVD and VOD July 17.

The film is the story of one couple’s second-chance at goodbye. The film stars Elizabeth Healey as Emma and Keir Charles as Ryan, first loves reunited by accident as they seek to get home amidst a public transportation strike in London.

The film has been an official selection at the Manchester Film Festival, the Int’l Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema Milan, the Footcandle Film Festival, the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival, the Maryland Int’l Film Festival and the East End Film Festival.

Watch the trailer here.

Canal Plus CEO Blames Netflix, Regulation for Imminent Shuttering of SVOD Service CanalPlay in France

Canal Plus will close its SVOD service CanalPlay, due to waning subscription numbers in the face of competition from global players such as Netflix and Amazon, CEO Maxine Saada said during a hearing with the culture commission of the French senate, according to reports.

First launched in November of 2011, Canal Plus’s CanalPlay beat Netflix’s launch in France by nearly three years, reported Screen International.

CanalPlay at one time had some 800,000 subscribers but numbers have fallen to just 200,000 subscribers following Netflix’s arrival, Saada told the commission, according to reports. He said French regulations preventing CanalPlay from offering Canal Plus’s high-end originals on the service in the early years of its existence had hindered the ability of the service to compete with the global digital players, according to Screen International.

“At the moment when Netflix arrived on French soil, the only French SVOD player at the time was CanalPlay,” he said. “It had 800,000 subscribers, and we were banned from including originals in the face of Netflix and Amazon.”

That ban has since been lifted, but Saada said the change had come too late, Screen International reported.

“It’s over for CanalPlay. In two years, it has been erased from this market which is in the process of replacing that of television,” he told the French legislators.

“The announcement that CanalPlay is to close in France is another reminder of the growing requirement for major content investment to compete in the increasingly dynamic subscription video sector, particularly amongst local services,” stated Futuresource Consulting after the announcement. “CanalPlay will join the list of high profile closures worldwide over the last couple of years, all with significant parent companies; that includes Shomi (Canada), Watchever (Germany) and KPN Play (Netherlands). Futuresource estimates that CanalPlay had approximately 600,000 subscribers at the end of 2017, but has struggled to maintain pace in 2018 as Netflix momentum continues to build. Netflix doubled its subscriber base in France in 2017 hitting 2.5 million, with more subscriber growth expected for 2018.”

“Offering content that is unique, high quality and ideally, exclusive or original” is key, the Futuresource commentary noted.

“Such a strategy does not come cheap though, something that Canal+/Vivendi was seemingly not willing, or able to fund, particularly when its addressable market is more localised than the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime Video,” Futuresource stated.

Warner Bros. Bowing ‘DC Universe’ SVOD Service

Warner Bros. in August will beta-launch “DC Universe,” a first-of-its kind subscription streaming video service affording access to exclusive content and experiences “not available anywhere else.”

Subscribers will have access to original live-action and animated series, classic TV series and films, a curated selection of digital comic books, breaking news, an expansive DC-centric encyclopedia, social media connections and exclusive merchandise.

Operation of “DC Universe” will be managed by Sam Ades, GM and SVP, Warner Bros. Digital Networks, based in Burbank. Ades formerly served as the SVP, direct-to-consumer, for DC Entertainment, where he was responsible for creating and executing DC’s digital marketing strategy.

The service (dcuniverse.com) will be available in the United States at launch on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV, as well as the Web.

“Developing new ways for consumers to access some of our most popular and iconic brands and franchises as well as exclusive new content whenever they want, on the devices they choose, is one of our studio’s top priorities,” Craig Hunegs, president, Warner Bros. Digital Networks, said in a statement.

With an undisclosed price-point, “DC Universe” was first disclosed last year, and jump-started following AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner (including Warner Bros.). A mandate of the deal is leveraging Warner Bros.’ assets through digital channels.

“We are investing in and creating original, high-quality shows, including the new ‘Titans’ series, and curating the most beloved nostalgic content, while at the same time elevating the comic reading experience to new heights. Nothing this robust has ever been offered to fans before,” said Jim Lee, chief creative officer and publisher, DC Entertainment.

At the heart of “DC Universe” will be an exclusive original live-action and animated series based on DC’s iconic characters. Developed by Warner Bros. Television, “Swamp Thing” and “Doom Patrol” are scheduled to debut in 2019, following live-action adventure series, “Titans,” which premieres later this year. Warner Bros. Animation is also developing a slate of animated TV series based on existing fan favorites, including “Harley Quinn” and the third season of “Young Justice: Outsiders” animated series, which are both scheduled to debut in 2019.

The platform’s launch will also include all four original Supermanmovies, as well as a selection of animated movies, including Justice League: The Flashpoint ParadoxGreen Lantern: First Flight, and Wonder Woman. The service will also feature classic TV shows, including the first two seasons of “Batman: The Animated Series” and the original “Wonder Woman” series available for the first time in HD.

The “DC Universe” comics reader will feature access from a smartphone or tablet to a living room screen. Subs can scroll through their favorite comics. A curated selection of thousands of DC comics will be available to subscribers from a library that includes decades of comics creations.

“We wanted the ‘DC Universe’ comics reader to be a blend of art and technology that would further enhance fan’s experiences of the live-action and animated programming,” said Dan DiDio, publisher, DC Entertainment. “This hand-curated selection … gives fans a thematic digital long-box to carry with them … or lets them watch exclusive video content on a big screen followed by the comic that inspired it.”

 

Verizon Officially Pulling Plug on Go90 Streaming App

As expected, Verizon is reportedly calling it quits on Go90, the oddly named ad-supported mobile-centric streaming video app launched in 2015 with much fanfare and hundreds of millions of dollars to the Millennial market.

“Following the creation of Oath [which includes Yahoo and AOL], Go90 will be discontinued,” Verizon said in a statement first reported by Digiday.com. “Verizon will focus on building its digital-first brands at scale in sports, finance, news and entertainment for today’s mobile consumers and tomorrow’s 5G applications.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO of Oath, earlier this year alluded to Go90’s pending demise at the Recode tech confab in Southern California.

The end of Go90 underscores Verizon’s (and exiting CEO Lowell McAdam) failure to create a standalone streaming video platform capable of competing against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu – or online TV.

While Verizon still has exclusive mobile streaming access to the Super Bowl, the nation’s largest wireless telecom with more than 150 million subscribers continues to struggle in OTT video.

In 2014, the company – along with Redbox – shuttered Redbox Instant, an ambitious platform aimed at melding disc rental with streaming video.

With both companies unwilling or unable to enter the content arms race against Netflix & Co., Verizon – backed by a dedicated staff of Go90 employees – reportedly spent more than $200 million on original short-form content for the platform.

One of the service’s first big series was a reality-competition show produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, dubbed “The Runner”.

The series offered a $1 million prize to one contestant capable crossing the country unnoticed over a 30-day period while eluding eight two-person chase teams following clues.

The show had the misfortune of launching just as the Pokémon Go augmented reality game was becoming a summer cultural phenomenon among smartphones’ biggest target market: teens and Millennials.

Go90 did score a creative hit with Kobe Bryant’s Oscar-winning short film, Dear Basketball. Less so, apparently, with targeted audiences.

 

 

Disney, Fox Shareholders to Vote on Merger July 27

The day after The Justice Department June 27 approved The Walt Disney Co.’s $71.3 billion cash/stock acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film (which includes British satellite TV operator Sky Plc.) both Disney and 21st Century Fox announced their respective shareholders will vote July 27 on the mega-merger.

Both companies canceled previously-slated July 10 shareholder votes after Comcast submitted a rival $65 billion all cash offer that trumped Disney’s initial $52.4 billion bid.

The new vote date gives the corporate parent of Comcast Cable, NBC Universal and DreamWorks Animation less than a month to secure a new bid.

Media reports suggest Comcast – whose cable operations are under threat from over-the-top video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and needs Fox content – will counter.

“We believe another counteroffer from Comcast for Fox is likely,” John Hodulik, analyst with UBS, told Deadline.com.

Moody’s Investor Service reportedly said Comcast’s current offer would push the company’s debt load to more than $170 billion.

While corporate debt is relative, both Fox and Disney contended their deal would pass regulatory muster more easily than Comcast’s. And apparently it did.

While the antitrust unit of the Department of Justice entered into a consent decree with Disney and 21st Century Fox that allows the acquisition to proceed – mandating the sale of the Fox Sports Regional Networks as a requirement – it has made no ruling on Comcast’s offer.

Regardless, Disney has at least 90 days from the date of closing the transaction to complete the sale, with the possibility that the DOJ can grant extensions of time up to another 90 days. The decree is subject to the normal court approval process.

But first, shareholders have to vote.

 

Disc Sales Charts Led by an ‘Uprising’

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Pacific Rim Uprising easily debuted at No. 1 on 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 June 23.

The sci-fi action sequel about giant robots fighting giant monsters to defend the Earth earned $59 million at the domestic box office, a little more than half as much as its predecessor.

No. 2 on both charts was Lionsgate’s I Can Only Imagine, the surprise faith-based hit that debuted in the top spot a week earlier.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Tomb Raider reboot slipped to No. 3 on both charts.

Another newcomer, Sony Pictures’ Paul, Apostle of Christ, debuted at No. 4 on the overall chart and No. 6 on the Blu-ray chart.

Walt Disney Studios’ Black Panther landed at No. 5 on the overall chart and No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart in its sixth week on store shelves. The Marvel Comics superhero blockbuster is still playing in a handful of theaters as it inches toward the $700 million mark at the domestic box office (it currently sits at $699.77 million).

The No. 5 Blu-ray was 20th Century Fox’s The Greatest Showman.

The theatrical release of Universal’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom helped push all four previous “Jurassic Park” films back into the overall top 20 — with the 1993 original at No. 14, 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park at No. 20, 2001’s Jurassic Park III at No. 15, and 2015’s Jurassic World at No. 6. A four-film collection landed at No. 11.

Blu-ray Disc accounted for 71% of first-week unit sales of Pacific Rim Uprising; 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc contributed 17% to its total.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended June 24, Tomb Raider moved up to No. 1 after a week-long holdback at Redbox rental kiosks (an embargo that should be absent from future Warner titles thanks to a new distribution agreement). Pacific Rim Uprising debuted at No. 2.

Rounding out the top five rentals were I Can Only Imagine at No. 3, Paramount’s Sherlock Gnomes at No. 4 and Fox’s Death Wish remake at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 06-23-18
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 06-24-18
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 06-23-18
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 06-23-18
Sales Report for Week Ended 06-23-18
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 06-25-18

PBS ‘American Masters’ Documentary on Baseball’s Ted Williams to Bow July 24 on DVD and Digital

PBS Distribution will release American Masters — Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived” on DVD and Digital HD July 24.

The program premieres July 23 on PBS.

Co-produced by Albert M. Tapper Productions, in association with Major League Baseball, David Ortiz’ Big Papi Productions and Nick Davis Productions, the program explores not only the Baseball Hall of Famer’s on-field accomplishments but also his complicated relationships with family, teammates, press, fans and himself. The release honors Williams’ centennial and marks the first baseball subject in the series’ 32-year history.

Narrated by Jon Hamm, the documentary features never-before-seen archival footage and in-depth interviews with those who knew and studied Williams, including his daughter Claudia Williams, author/journalist Ben Bradlee Jr., veteran baseball writer Roger Angela, and broadcasters Bob Costas and the late Dick Enberg.

Williams is the last player to hit over .400, finishing the 1941 season batting .406. Former players — including Baseball Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Wade Boggs, three-time All-Star Jim Kaat, and current Cincinnati Reds first baseman and former National League MVP Joey Votto — share how Williams influenced them in the program.

Netflix to Adapt Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ for Global Original Series

Netflix announced a new Netflix original series based on Sir Salman Rushdie’s book Midnight’s Children. The series will be available exclusively to more than 125 million Netflix members in 190 countries around the world.

Midnight’s Children won the 1981 Booker Prize, the Best of the Booker twice — both in 1993 and 2008, and the James Tait Memorial Prize. Sir Salman Rushdie was knighted in 2007 for services to literature.

Midnight’s Children is one of the great novels of the world, and its themes are still relevant to the India of today,” said Erik Barmack, VP, international originals, Netflix, in a statement. “The narrative continues to fascinate audiences decades after it was first published. We are incredibly excited to translate this pioneering work of fiction that parallels the birth of modern India, for a global audience. The rich experience and talent of Indian creators combined with the global reach of Netflix, have the potential for millions of more people around the world to rediscover this story.”

“I am absolutely delighted that Midnight’s Children will have a new life on Netflix, and greatly look forward to working with them to help create it,” Rushdie said in a statement.

Midnight’s Children follows the life of Saleem Sinai, born on the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the time of India’s independence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of India’s national affairs. Telepathic powers also link him with India’s 1,000 other “midnight’s children,” all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts.

‘Luke Cage,’ ‘Queer Eye,’ ‘Goliath’ Return to Digital Originals Top 10, Parrot Analytics Says

Demand expressions for digital originals were mostly down the week ended June 23, according to Parrot Analytics data.

Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” remains No. 1, despite a 26% drop in demand from the prior week. The controversial teen drama series, centered around a high school girl’s suicide and its aftermath, has now topped Parrot Analytics’ top 10 digital originals chart for five consecutive weeks. The series shot to No. 1 when Season 2 debuted in mid-May.

Parrot uses a proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

“The Handmaid’s Tale,” an award-winning dystopian series from Hulu, rose back up to No. 2 from No. 3 the prior week, with demand essentially flat.

“Sense8” was bumped down to No. 3, with demand down nearly 23%. In the prior week, the sci-fi drama series shot to No. 2 after a 40% uptick in demand.

Three digital originals made it back into the top 10.

Buoyed by the Netflix debut of Season 2, “Marvel’s Luke Cage” shot up to No. 5. The action series, which last week was ranked No. 16, had 6% more demand expressions than Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” the second season of which also debuted in June. “Queer Eye” re-entered the top 10 digital originals chart at No. 6 after demand more than doubled from the prior week.

The third series to make it back into the top 10 was Amazon’s “Goliath,” which came in at No. 10 after a No. 18 finish the previous week.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.