IHS Report: African TV and Online Video Markets Poised for Growth

The Sub-Saharan African TV and online video markets are both underdeveloped and, in the case of online video, at a very nascent stage of development, but recent data from IHS Markit points to strong growth.

Pay TV growth is closely linked with the state of the economy, and particularly with the disposable income of families, according to a report from IHS Markit. Between 2010 and 2017, gross domestic product per-capita across Sub-Saharan Africa increased 19.1%, while the per-capita disposable income rose by 25.5% during the same seven-year period. Consumer spending on goods and services — a crucial factor for pay TV growth — has increased by 20.3% over the same period, IHS found. The number of households in the Sub-Saharan African region grew 21.8% between 2010 and 2017, while TV households grew with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6% during the same period. Still, the growth of low-priced digital terrestrial television (DTT) services at the expense of incumbent DTT platforms has contributed to a significant decrease in the proportion of consumer entertainment spending.

Online video in Sub-Saharan Africa has had a “delayed and sluggish start” compared to the rest of the world, according to IHS, due to several limiting factors hindering both pay TV and online video, including a lack of infrastructure, relatively high access costs, volatile exchange rates, diversity of audiences in terms of language and stringent regulation. In 2017, there were just over 500,000 OTT subscriptions — excluding multiscreen services — across the region, including South Africa.

South Africa has the most subscriptions and the highest revenue in the region, according to IHS. Subscribers have doubled, growing from 3.6 million in 2010 to 7.1 million in 2017, while revenue grew with a CAGR of 15.2% during the same period. In 1986, South Africa was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to launch a pay TV service. It remains the most lucrative pay TV market in the region. It is also the most advanced in terms of technology, content offerings, business models and customer care. Still, the South African pay TV market is the least competitive, according to IHS. One pay TV operator, Naspers Multichoice, has dominated the sector for more than 30 years. Naspers’ satellite service, DStv, controls more than 93% of the market, in terms of both subscribers and revenue.

Viacom Upping Content Game

While Viacom remains ensnarled in the crosshairs of a power play between corporate parent National Amusements and CBS, the media giant has quietly ramped up original content creation and licensing.

Last month, the corporate shell to Paramount Pictures, MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Nickelodeon, among others, inked license agreements with Hulu, while reportedly signing up to create programming for Netflix.

Much of the latter through the recent launch of MTV Studios, which pledges to develop and produce a full slate of original programming with a focus on series, franchises and spin-offs that span MTV’s 35-year history.

With over 200 titles, MTV Studios has one of the largest libraries of young adult series and franchises. The initial production slate includes rebooted editions of animated series “Daria,” with writer Grace Edwards from “Inside Amy Schumer”; sci-fi series, “Aeon Flux” from “Teen Wolf” creator Jeff Davis; reality series, “The Real World”; and an update of the Emmy Award-winning coming of age unscripted series, “Made.”

The slate will include two new titles: “The Valley” (working title), a coming of age docuseries that follows a group of young friends growing up in the town of Nogales, Arizona, a city split in half, with one side in the United States and the other in Mexico.

Also included is “MTV’s Straight Up Ghosted,” which follows young people trying to reconnect with lost friends, lovers and family members and confront them about why they have been ghosted.

“With MTV Studios, we are for the first time ever opening up this vault beyond our own platforms to reimagine the franchises with new partners,” Chris McCarthy, president of MTV, said in a statement.

MTV claims to be the fastest growing network on TV, with viewership in prime time up 21% year-over-year. It generated 2.9 billion streams in 2018 and has amassed more than 350 million social followers globally.



MoviePass Parent Lobs More Fiscal Hail Marys

NEWS ANALYSIS — With its shares worth pennies, Helios and Matheson Analytics, corporate parent of ticket subscription service MoviePass, has launched a salvo of fiscal Hail Marys.

The company July 2 announced a “mixed shelf” securities filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which would allow it to sell $1.2 billion worth of securities over the next three years in various amounts and pricing.

The move follows a June 28 filing in which HMNY quietly agreed to exchange 22.6 million actual shares of HMNY with holders of more than 26 million warrants (to buy stock).

The latter sent the stock up nearly 35% to an (still) anemic 31 cents per share, a momentary swing that dropped to 27 cents in pre-market activity the morning of July 2.

Regardless, the action was a win for the holders of HMNY warrants, which were reportedly actionable only when the stock price topped $5.50 per share.

HMNY, which owns 92% of MoviePass, is attempting to right a loss-leader business model that enables MoviePass subscribers access to one theatrical screening daily for a $9.95 monthly fee.

While a boon to consumers, MoviePass (with more than 3 million subs) is a fiscal nightmare to HMNY’s liquidity: reportedly costing $40 million alone in May ticket purchases by subscribers.

The service from Jan. 1, 2017, through Dec. 10, 2017, lost more than $31 million, spending $46 million on tickets while generating less than $15 million in subscription revenue.

Simply put: MoviePass is hemorrhaging millions of dollars more than it takes in.

Not a position it wants to be in during a burgeoning domestic box office that saw revenue surpass a record $3 billion in the second quarter, according to AMC Theatres, which launched its own ticket subscription service in June.

Later this month, HMNY is expected to authorize a reverse stock split aimed at raising the share price well above the Nasdaq-mandated $1-per-share minimum. Indeed, the reverse split — which must be approved by shareholders — is a pre-requisite to the aforementioned securities offerings.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Designing Woman’ and ‘My Sister Eileen’

Designing Woman

Available via Warner Archive      
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Gray, Mickey Shaughnessy.
1957. Directed to the hilt with his own designer’s eye by Vincente Minnelli and boasting an Oscar-winning story and screenplay by George Wells, this cosmetically gorgeous old-school romantic comedy showed off — and for just about the only time — Gregory Peck’s gifts as a farceur, or, if you wish, flawless straight man to incessantly farcical goings-on.
Read the Full Review

My Sister Eileen

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Betty Garrett, Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall.
1955. The central hook presents sister Ruth as an aspiring writer who makes an Ohio-to-Village journey along with slightly less worldly sis Eileen, who has smitten men falling all over her (jn other words, a role made for the 1955 Janet Leigh).
Read the Full Review

Designing Woman


Available via Warner Archive;
$21.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Gray, Mickey Shaughnessy.

Directed to the hilt with his own designer’s eye by Vincente Minnelli and boasting an Oscar-winning story and screenplay by George Wells, 1957’s Designing Woman was supposed to be a James Stewart-Grace Kelly reunion pic, post-Rear Window, before it evolved into something else entirely following the stars’ departure from the project. Of all things, we’re talking a cosmetically gorgeous old-school romantic comedy that showed off — and for just about the only time — Gregory Peck’s gifts as a farceur, or, if you wish, flawless straight man to incessantly farcical goings-on.

For that matter, Designing Woman’s replacement co-star Lauren Bacall (brought in on after Kelly elected to marry that Prince guy, causing Stewart to bolt) had a surprise in store herself when she turned out to be funny as well. Adding to her challenge is Woman’s historical status as the picture Bacall was making when Humphrey Bogart was in his final months of dying painfully of cancer — which meant that, speaking just professionally, Bogart and Bacall never got to shoot a planned comedy that eventually became 1957’s Top Secret Affair. In that case, the roles were taken over by Kirk Douglas and Susan Hayward — two actors who then proved they couldn’t do farce, in case you think it’s all that easy.

Back to Minnelli-Wells. Somehow, at age 10, I more or less fell into seeing what was an unlikely-sounding pleasure for a kid who loved rock-’n’-roll, baseball and reading biographies about hoods during what was termed my “Johnny Stompanato era” by one or two at the time. But as it turned out, I loved the picture (and actually, there is a teeny bit of baseball plus a whole of shebang of hoods here — and besides, I’d liked Funny Face as well a couple months earlier). I even got my parents to take me to see Woman again the following summer at a drive-in (and in a double bill with Witness for the Prosecution, talk about a daily double).

Thus, it’s a longtime favorite — far more than, say, Father of the Bride as a Minnelli comedy (which looks drab and speedily knocked off by comparison) and to the Tracy-Hepburn team launcher Woman of the Year, which it resembles in a few respects. No non-European filmmaker could fill a CinemaScope frame with color-coordinated costuming the way Minnelli could, which has a little to do with why there are so many laughs here but everything to do with why every shot is a visual delight. Remember how sprightly and pigment-drenched the opening and also the “Drop That Name” number look in Minnelli’s underrated movie of Bells Are Ringing? This is the way Woman looks most of the time as Minnelli is always going the extra mile to punctuate a funny script with visual whip-cracks that romance the eye.

Peck is a New York sportswriter who marries a well-connected NYC fashion designer following a whirlwind courtship without realizing just what she does for a living. As a result, he and his poker-playing newshound cronies are forced to share their weekly apartment game (when it’s his turn to host) with an effete theater crowd from another planet once Bacall begins inviting them over. This occurs because she’s been hired to design duds for a Broadway show — one, turns out, in which Peck’s former squeeze (Dolores Gray) has been hired to star under the tutelage of a dance director (played by maestro choreographer Jack Cole) who gets on Peck’s nerves. Without engaging in spoilers, he comes in handy.

Adding to the stress is Peck’s targeting of a crooked fight promoter (Edward Platt, from Rebel Without a Cause and TV’s “Get Smart”) in a series of articles that results in Platt sending a few of the “boys” (one played by Chuck Connors) to the apartment for a dose of persuasion. This results in Peck’s being assigned a hopelessly punch-drunk boxer with unusually odd peccadilloes to be his bodyguard, and Mickey Shaughnessy is so uproarious in what is now probably a politically incorrect role that it was basically “1957” that enabled the actor to sustain his career. Contributing to this run were Shaughnessy’s turns in the Naval comedy Don’t Go Near the Water (perhaps understandably forgotten as having been a huge box office hit at the time) and as the cellmate who teaches Elvis his guitar basics in Jailhouse Rock. Cast as country singer “Hunk” Houghton, it is, in fact, Shaughnessy who first strums the C-chord for the initially green once and future King — pronouncing it, more or less in cathedral tines, as “a big one.”

Though the limitations of MGM’s Metrocolor can sometimes compromise the success of Warner’s admirably exacting Blu-ray standards, Designing Woman looks exceptionally good for its source and visage — presumably due to a combo of the negative’s overall health and Minnelli’s painstaking orchestration of color in the first place. I can remember even as a kid noting in my mind how sickening ravioli remnants looked (and still do) in one beautifully staged set piece, but I don’t want to spoil the gag. Other than to say that Peck plays the scene perfectly — and this coming directly after Moby Dick, an ambitious and not unimpressive movie where he nearly lost an acting leg from critics’ harpoons. The quality of his performance in that John Huston opus is at least debatable, but in Woman, he’s perfect. In terms of this kind of movie — my favorite Pecks are Twelve O’Clock High and The Gunfighter — I didn’t know he had it in him.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Designing Woman’ and ‘My Sister Eileen’

My Sister Eileen


Available via ScreenArchives.com;
Twilight Time;
$29.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Betty Garrett, Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall.

As a Columbus, Ohio, Midwesterner who lived for a period in Greenwich Village during grad school, My Sister Eileen’s Columbus-to-the-Village trajectory has obvious appeal to me — though there was no way, of course, to predict any future whereabouts when enjoying the original 1942 screen version for the first time and on its own merits, sometime in the early ’60s. That one has a final gag built on a surprise walk-on appearance that I guarantee you’ll never see in any other version of the story — a real brainstorm of a capper that sent the audience out laughing and likely contributed to Eileen I becoming Columbia’s biggest hit of that year.

But let’s clarify: The ’42 go-round would be Eileen I in terms of movies but Eileen III in the full chronology, which is a tougher one to finesse than even the Here Comes Mr. Jordan/Heaven Can Wait maze. Following its origin as a series of Ruth McKinney New Yorker short stories, Eileen’s history is such a subway sandwich that its breakdown justifiably dominates the entire opening of Julie Kirgo’s Twilight Time liner notes for this CinemaScope/Technicolor revamp. First, post-New Yorker, there was a smash 1940 play, followed by that Rosalind Russell-Janet Blair movie version two years later.

[We’ll now take a pause here for ten pushups.]

Then, in 1953, it became a Broadway musical (another smash, with a title change to Wonderful Town) with Russell again — plus the young Edie Adams and a score by some pikers named Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. But before Town was re-adapted into a TV special in 1958 (Roz again), there was this 1955 musical version from (again) Columbia, which had an entirely new score by Jules Styne and Leo Robin. Though these latter songs are a notably weak link here, the studio came up with a balding magic potion to put at least some of them over. It was “Robert” Fosse, as the choreographic credits billed him — though as an actor here playing the amiable soda jerk who gets on both the good and bad sides of Eileen, the screen lists the more familiar “Bob.”

The central hook presents sister Ruth as an aspiring writer (last named changed from McKinney to fictional Sherwood) who makes the Ohio-to-Village journey along with slightly less worldly sis Eileen, who has smitten men falling all over her (jn other words, a role made for the 1955 Janet Leigh). Cast as Russell “Ruth” role is the onetime MGM featured player Betty Garrett — her first movie in six years by virtue of her sustained marriage to Larry Parks, a candidate for one of worst of countless HUAC casualties. Compounding a melancholy streak that never invades the film, do note that the real-life Eileen married the great Day of the Locust writer Nathaniel West and was killed with him in a 1939 car crash just before the original play opened.

Even in the role of what used to be called a “spinster” (the movie is sometimes so male-piggish in ’50s fashion that I had some discomforting moments), Garrett comes off as too senior for her role — some of which this has to do with her romantic casting opposite a very fresh-faced Jack Lemmon. This was just his fifth movie, and one so early in his career that it immediately followed the Mister Roberts triumph that eventually got him an Oscar and eventually into more substantial projects than Columbia could offer him at the time. Rounding out the romantic principals are Fosse and Tommy Rall (the latter one of the original “7 Brothers” but also one of the great trio of male dancers, with Fosse and Bobby Van, in the movie version of Kiss Me, Kate). From that moment on, Fosse was on his way as a choreographer.

Eileen begins irresistibly with widescreen footage of Washington Square closely surrounded by motorized vehicles — a delightfully New York retro look that reminds me of the Columbus Circle area shots that opens George Cukor’s It Should Happen to You (Lemmon’s big-screen debut, as coincidence would have it). In addition, we also get a filmed record of Village streets and shops to augment the studio-created apartment scenes, of which there are many. This hovel is quite a joint: below the street; curtains in name only; a kitchen that’s even thinner than its wall plaster; direct-hit subway-construction explosions at constant intervals; and street cleaner trucks that regularly re-create the “East River Experience” through their open window. Through all this, Ruth is trying to sell short stories to a ladies’ man magazine publisher (Lemmon) while Eileen pursues stardom in auditions whose “break” opportunities feel like something that Tempest Storm would have stormed out of (as does she).

Following the delightful travelogue opener, the movie turns labored amid a long set-up, but matters improve — ironically, in a movie with female principals — when the guys show up. As ever, the early Lemmon is fun to watch, though his part is small despite second billing (Columbia was giving him the big build-up). The real propellants are Fosse and fellow Eileen rival Rall, cast as a slick newspaper reporter named “Chick” Clark (a moniker I might have been willing to try in my own newspapering days). Dick York (later of Bewitched) is easy to take as an unemployed jock neighbor; his squeeze is played by Lucy Marlow, who shortly after the film’s release married Yankees third baseman Andy Carey, whose nifty fielding on a couple plays helped preserve Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game the next year. (Just getting in a Pinstriped Plug here.)

Leigh pretty well delivers on her perfect casting, but it’s Fosse who has to put the movie over to at least half-successful degree because the Styne-Robin tunes are a) really uninspired; and b) so awkwardly integrated into the action that it’s like an armored truck ammo delivery to non-lovers of musicals who hate the idea of folks just arbitrarily breaking into song. Given what he has to work with, Fosse’s choreography is splendid — including a couple numbers where you can see how hard non-dancer Leigh must have worked here (Garrett already had a musical background) and a standout one where Fosse and Rall try to upstage one another with athletic moves. Like anyone else, I admire poets and philosophers, but I also admire guys who can do back flips in street clothes.

Columbia used Technicolor in the ‘50s before moving to some awful variations of Eastman in the early ’60s, which is why movies like EileenThe Long Gray Line and The Eddy Duchin Story still have color values today that are much richer than those in movies that came years later from the studio (thank you, George Sidney, if you were the one, to get Bye Bye Birdie shot in Technicolor). This is a very handsome print, though maybe “handsome” isn’t the word for a Janet Leigh movie from this period — and I remember that Columbia’s 35mm studio copy looked pretty dazzling itself when I showed it at the AFI Theater. Eileen makes for a nifty widescreen/color demo for big-screen TVs, where you can see the apartment suddenly and amusingly becoming wider at the end when a slew of dancing extras cast as the Brazilian navy invades the apartment for a conga number. Oh, well — just another day that Henry James didn’t envision when he wrote Washington Square.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Designing Woman’ and ‘My Sister Eileen’