Redbox Revs Up Digital Movie Store with GM Hire

Stepping up its efforts in the digital retail space, Redbox has hired a general manager for its Redbox On Demand digital video store.

As GM, Chris Yates will oversee the company’s growing digital video business, responsible for both P&L and strategy. Redbox On Demand was launched late last year 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 the Walt Disney Co.

In recent months, more than a dozen new content partners have helped to double the library of movies and TV shows available via transactional video on demand (TVOD) and electronic sellthrough (EST).

“Less than a year out from our beta launch, On Demand has surpassed major milestones and is a rapidly growing player in the competitive digital home entertainment space,” said Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox. “Having Chris at the helm of an incredibly talented team will help take Redbox On Demand to the next level.”

Yates is digital entertainment veteran. He has held senior roles in content production, distribution and consumer electronics at companies such as Dell, CinemaNow and Omnia Media. His work includes content production and distribution across transactional video, social, ad-supported and subscription video platforms with a focus on improving content monetization, licensing and original content development.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Yates most recently served as head of business development, content and strategy at Whipper Snapper Media, a digital studio and network for kids and families. He led developed overall company strategy, operations and partnership opportunities; led partnerships with OTT services including YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Hulu and other  distribution platforms; managed content and programming strategy for owned and operated channels.

In his new role as GM of Redbox On Demand, Yates reports to Jason Kwong, Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, who joined the company in September 2017 to oversee the On Demand, Video Games, media and advertising, and additional new business initiatives at Redbox.

“We’re thrilled to have a dedicated general manager on board to run our On Demand service as it becomes increasingly popular with current and new Redbox customers,” Kwong said. “Chris is the right leader as he brings deep knowledge of both traditional and digital media, and an appreciation for our unique value prop – consumer choice across price points and formats.”

Back in January 2018, explaining the rationale behind Redbox On Demand, Smith told Media Play News, “Our customers come to us for that transactional experience – it’s Friday night, and they want to watch a specific movie.

“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.”

Scream Factory Releasing ‘Single White Female’ on Blu-ray

Shout! Factory’s horror imprint, Scream Factory, will release 1992’s Single White Female on Blu-ray Nov. 13.

The film stars Bridget Fonda as a woman whose new roommate (Jennifer Jason Leigh) slowly begins to take over her identity.

New bonus material includes audio commentary with Director Barbet Schroeder, editor Lee Percy and associate producer Susan Hoffman; and interviews with Schroeder, screenwriter Don Roos, and actors Steven Weber and Peter Friedman. The Blu-ray also includes the film’s theatrical trailer.

Amazon Studios Expands Movie Production Team

Amazon Studios has upped Julie Rapaport to co-head the studio’s movie production team, joining Ted Hope and Matt Newman and reporting to studio boss Jennifer Salke.

Rapaport replaces Jason Ropell, who exited Amazon Studios two months ago. Former senior manager, development, production and acquisitions at the studio, Rapaport reportedly been tasked with developing bigger budget movies that appeal to wider audiences.

The studio, which won a best actor (Casey Affleck) Oscar for Manchester by the Seain 2017, is attempting to expand beyond indie fare, including upcoming releases, Beautiful Boy with Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying and Mike White’s Brad’s Status, among others.

Movies in the pipeline include a feature about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and a Civil War-themed title starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, among others.

“Keeping in mind the diverse range of tastes of our Prime Video customers, we are focused on continually expanding our content offerings,” Salke said in a statement. “I want to stress that across series and movies, all divisions hold quality first and foremost as their bar. With Julie joining Ted and Matt, this clears the pathway to further expand our robust movies slate to include more widely engaging stories that audiences will connect with.”





No Surprise: Millennials Love Netflix

At a time when media companies rapidly deploy over-the-top video platforms, and pay-TV operators scramble to embrace Netflix to appease cord-cutting Millennials (ages 18-34), new YouGov data finds the demo enthusiastically embraces the SVOD behemoth.

In a survey from September 2017 through August of this year, 75.6% of Millennials recalled both hearing something good about Netflix in the past two weeks and discussing the brand with friends or family members within the same time period.

Runner-up was Facebook, with 75.1% of respondents having both heard something positive about the social network and discussed the brand with friends or family members. Facebook-owned Instagram (69.0%) came in fifth place, with a slightly higher percentage than YouTube (68.9%) and Snapchat (68.8%), according to YouGov.

The Apple iPhone (71.1%) came in fourth place, behind retail behemoth Walmart (73.6%).

Three brands — Victoria’s Secret, McDonald’s, and Chick-fil-A — tied for eighth place, with 66.8% of young adults reporting they came across positive information pertaining to each one around the same time they discussed the particular brand.

Among consumer brands generating the most improvement among Millennials, Dunkin’ Donuts had the biggest rise, climbing from 53.7% in 2017 to 59.7% in 2018. The chain, which just announced it would drop “Donuts” from its brand name in 2019, offering customers the ability to place their order via smartphone.


Report: U.S. Movie Consumers Remain a Fragmented Audience

The good news is that American consumers still covet movies. The summer domestic box office was the second-highest in history at $4.8 billion – erasing the gloom of 2017, which was the worst for theatrical revenue in 10 years.

For industry markets, however, Americans remain fragmented in how they consume movies and distribution channels delivering them, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

The London-based research firm said movie distribution includes premium channels such as HBO, Epix, Showtime and Starz; buying/renting DVD and Blu-ray Discs; subscription streaming video; digital/pay-TV purchases/renting and theatrical.

In a survey of 4,000 respondents, 71% said they subscribed an over-the-top video service offering movies; 51% frequent movie the cineplex; 37% buys packaged media; 32% subscribe to a premium movie channel; and 26% buy/rent digital movies.

Ampere said 97% of people who went to movie theaters at least once in the last six months also have an SVOD service that offers movies. Another 54% have access to a premium movie channel; 45% purchase/rent DVD/Blu-ray/digital titles; 19% buy/rent packaged media exclusively; 8% rent/purchase movies exclusively online or through a pay-TV operator; and 5% only rent/purchase movies.

SVOD-only respondents (those who don’t purchase or rent movies, visit movie theaters/cinemas or have premium channels) are now the largest category, at 15% of U.S. respondents, but there are a wide range of other access means in use.

Half of domestic Web users visit movie theaters at least infrequently, while over a third buy or rent DVD/Blu-ray.

Ampere said theatrical distribution is a key mechanism for reaching older consumers, who it claims are under-represented across all distribution categories relative to the average U.S. consumer.


PBS Inks Streaming Deal for International Dramas

PBS Distribution has inked a deal with Walter Presents, a streaming on-demand video service, to bring more than 300 hours of the international drama to Prime members on the PBS Masterpiece channel available on Prime Video Channels.

Starting Oct. 19, subscribers in the United States can access the Walter Presents collection of top, award-winning drama series from around the world for $5.99 per month after a seven-day free trial.

Curated by Walter Iuzzolino, whose venture first gained popularity in the United Kingdom, the library of international dramas includes series ranging from Nordic thrillers to French political dramas, all with English subtitling. Additionally, select top-tier titles will be chosen by PBS for broadcast on PBS stations and streaming on PBS Passport, a digital member benefit available through local stations.

“PBS Distribution has always offered the best British dramas. Expanding our Prime Video Channel to include the best of foreign language dramas is a natural fit, giving our subscribers access to premium international series,” said Andrea Downing, co-president, PBS Distribution, in a statement. “Walter Presents will deliver hand-selected global hits to our audience.”

“I’m delighted and excited to be partnering with PBS Distribution, a company synonymous with quality drama and premium programming,” said Walter Iuzzolino, co-founder and curator of Walter Presents, in a statement. “The PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel already provides audiences with a fabulous collection of British series. Now, subscribers will have access to some truly amazing global drama series providing a chance to enjoy the very best the rest of the world has to offer.”

Walter Presents series coming to PBS include “Norskov,” a Nordic noir story about a police detective fighting corruption in his home town; “13 Commandments,” a Belgian thriller about a self-proclaimed modern-day Moses Inspired by the 10 commandments who is committing a series of gruesome crimes in a bid to restore society’s moral standards; and “Professor T,” another Belgian series about an eccentric and socially inept criminal psychology genius who reluctantly becomes an advisor to the police.

Walter Presents launched in the United Kingdom on Channel 4’s on-demand service “All 4” in January 2016.

EMA Presents 2018 Digi Awards

The Entertainment Merchants Association presented the 2018 Digi Awards at the Digital Pipeline summit in Los Angeles Sept. 26.

The Content Provider Digi Award, recognizing a company supplying a movie, television program or other audio-visual work, was awarded to Sony Pictures for “always being ready to team up on pilot programs that push toward automation,” according to the EMA.

(L-R) Presenter Suyin Lim of Sony Interactive Entertainment, FandangoNow’s Cameron Douglas and the EMA’s Mark Fisher. FandangoNow won the Digi Innovation Award.

The Innovation Award, given to a company that has demonstrated noteworthy innovation through its technology or programming to enhance the consumer experience of digital entertainment, was awarded to FandangoNow for its “Binge Bundles,” an initiative that allows consumers to rent multiple movies in one package at a discounted price.

The Service and Technology Provider “Digi” Award, which goes to a company that advances the development and growth of the digital video retailing sector through outstanding products and/or services, was given to Vubiquity for being a leading provider to premium content services and technology solutions and for continuing to innovate and provide state-of-the-art products and services to transform digital video distribution, according to the EMA.

The Digital EMA Industry Leadership Award, given to a company or individual that has made a significant contribution to the industry, was awarded to Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment, for his leadership managing the largest indie studio and aggregator in the home entertainment space, for his overall participation in industry leadership, and for his leadership in guiding discussions regarding the EMA’s focus and future. A second Digital EMA Industry Leadership Award was given to Erick Opecka, Cinedigm’s EVP of digital networks, for his leadership in broadening the EMA’s focus developing a program to support those companies offering OTT channels, and specifically for his chairmanship of the EMA’s OTT Channels council and the successful OTT Channels conference at the EMA’s LAES this past summer.

Director Flies Classic ‘The Seagull’ With Star Power

Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss and Brian Dennehy are a just a few of the top actors that Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer was able to assemble for the latest film adaptation of the Anton Chekhov Russian classic The Seagull.

The film is available on DVD and digital from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Annette literally made the film happen because it was her signing on that made the project attractive to the other actors,” Mayer said. “Also, I asked Annette to do it, and then Stephen Karam could write with her voice in his head.”

Tony-winning playwright Karam adapted the film from Chekhov’s play about the obsessive nature of love, the tangled relationships between parents and children, and the toll of making art.

“We had an idea to do a contemporary feeling film,” Mayer said.

It was a hectic shooting schedule of just 21 days, so “it was helpful to have so many theater actors in these roles,” he said.

Ronan, recently nominated for an Oscar for her lead performance in Lady Bird, also signed on.

“Saoirse did an early reading of the screenplay, and she was incredible,” Mayer said. “I loved working with her. She brings great truth and bravery to her work.”

Moss, currently starring in the award-winning “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “was fantastic to watch and direct,” he said, while Dennehy “is a living legend and gave so much of himself.”

“The whole company was a joy to work with,” he said. “It was fast and furious and great fun.”

Corey Stoll, Mare Winningham, Jon Tenney, Glenn Fleshler, Michael Zegen and Billy Howle also star.

Another character in the film was the setting, a house on a lake that reflected the play’s Russian roots.

“It’s a house on a lake in upstate New York that is owned and operated by Russian Americans,” Mayer noted. “Our production designer, Jane Musky, who is of Russian descent, spent summers at the house when she was a young girl and remembered it when we went scouting.”

Bonus features include the Tribeca Film Festival cast and crew red carpet and a Q&A with Mayer and Bening.

Amazon Bowing First Female-Hosted Thursday Night Football Pre-Game Show, Game Webcasts

Rachel Lindsey

The NFL has yet to employ a female referee, but Amazon is about to make history on “NFL Thursday Night Football” with the Prime game webcast and special pre-game show – both hosted exclusively by women.

As previously announced, all 11 Thursday Night Football games on Amazon Prime – for the first time – will be called by veteran sports reporters Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm (replacing Joe Buck and Troy Aikman),

Prior to the webcast, Amazon is debuting “The Drive,” hosted by Fox Sports/ESPN sports reporter Charissa Thompson and reality TV star Rachel Lindsay.

The show will interview two opposing players on and off the field as they gear up for their “Thursday Night Football” game. One interview will be conducted with a player during an in-car ride-along during his daily commute, and the other player interview will take place at the team’s training facilities or the player’s home.

The series (with the first episode available here) will air weekly the Tuesday ahead of each week’s “Thursday Night Football” match-up in the U.S.

“The Drive” and “Thursday Night Football” games will be made available on the Prime Video app for TVs, game consoles, set top boxes, and connected devices, which includes Amazon Fire TV, mobile devices and online.

Charissa Thompson has spent almost a decade covering sports, and currently hosts “NFL GameDay Prime,” which airs Sunday nights on NFL Network and Fox. Prior to joining Fox, she co-hosted ESPN2’s “SportsNation,” and covered the NHL, including the 2010 All-Star Game and Stanley Cup Finals.

In 2010, Thompson reported on the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, the FIFA World Cup, the BCS National Championship Game, Super Bowl LI and the NBA All-Star Game for Yahoo! Sports.

Rachel Lindsay is an attorney, broadcaster, and columnist, with progressive experience in sports and entertainment. Lindsey is best known for her role as a contestant on the 21st season of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” and the lead on the 13th season of “The Bachelorette.” She is the first African-American lead in the franchise’s history. She works as a guest host for ESPN’s “First Take.”

Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm










Full schedule and details below.

Thursday Night Football on Prime Video:

Week 4: Thursday, September 27
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams

Week 5: Thursday, October 4
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

Week 6: Thursday, October 11
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

Week 7: Thursday, October 18
Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals

Week 8: Thursday, October 25
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans

Week 9: Thursday, November 1
Oakland Raiders at San Francisco 49ers

Week 10: Thursday, November 8
Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 11: Thursday, November 15
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Week 13: Thursday, November 29
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys

Week 14: Thursday, December 6
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans

Week 15: Thursday, December 13
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Panel: Digital Movie Sales Need Added Value, More Promotion

Digital sales are growing, but not enough to grow the overall ownership pie, and more needs to be done to boost the market, panelists noted Sept. 26 at the Digital Media Pipeline ’18 summit in Los Angeles.

(L-R): Fandango’s Chad Ludwig, Vubiquity’s Craig Heiting and Lionsgate’s Adam Frank.

“We need to do a better job of growing ownership,” said Adam Frank, SVP, worldwide digital sales and distribution, Lionsgate, during the “Issues in Digital Retailing” panel at the summit presented by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Digital sales now represent 41% of the overall sellthrough market, and at the end of 2017, it was about 31%, which is good news, he noted. Still, the overall sellthrough pie needs to expand, rather than shrink.

Adding value to the digital buy is one way to entice customers, panelists said.

“We have a value proposition problem on the EST side,” said Chad Ludwig, head of brand marketing at Fandango.

As far as bonus content, like the additional scenes during the end credits of movies, “Why not hold that back for EST only?” he suggested.

Bundling of content, such as the dynamic bundling on Walmart’s Vudu, is another potential value add, Frank said.

Bonus features should be more integrated into the movie where you can click on something and get bonus features while watching, said Craig Heiting, EVP of sales at Vubiquity.

“I think that bonus content is very good,” he said. “It’s how you find it.… You need to make it available for the digital age.”

Thomas K. Arnold

Bonus content should be “dynamically added into the feature,” Frank agreed.

More targeted marketing is another tactic that could boost digital buying.

Fandango targets buys at the most enthusiastic consumers, Ludwig said.

Timing is also important.

“Ask people after they saw the movie if they’d like to buy it,” suggested Heiting, rather than asking them to make that commitment before watching it digitally.

Frank said the industry needs to let consumers know that they are buying something they can’t get on a streaming service by telling them, “Hey, this title is not available for SVOD [subscription video-on-demand].”

He also said studios need to try to get transactional purchase offerings on non-transactional platforms, such as DirecTV Now and Sling.

“You need to fish where the fish are,” he said, mentioning the younger audience in particular is moving to digital platforms.

Some platforms do a good job at integrating transactional buys, Frank said.

“Amazon is a great example,” he said. “We’ve seen an incredible amount of transactions coming from that platform.”

Hulu would be a logical platform to integrate transactional buys, considering its studio ownership, he noted.

Digital ownership also has a name problem, panelists said. Electronic sellthrough (EST, “It sounds like you’re going to get an x-ray or something,” Heiting said.), transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) and Digital HD are among the many awkward terms that have been used to describe buying a digital copy, noted moderator Thomas K. Arnold, publisher and editorial director of Media Play News.

“Digital locker is really what it is,” Heiting said. “It’s not marketed well.”

The digital locker Movies Anywhere is a good description of digital ownership, noted panelists, but it too needs to up marketing.

Its first big mission was to “alleviate any friction” in purchasing movies and storing them in the cloud, but education is the next big mission for the service, Fandango’s Ludwig said. FandangoNow joined the retailer lineup for the service in March.