WarnerMedia Alleges Politics in Dish Network Dispute

WarnerMedia is accusing the Department of Justice of using a carriage disagreement with Dish Network as leverage in its appeal of a federal judge’s favorable verdict in AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia — which includes HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. — for the first time (Nov. 1) pulled HBO and Cinemax from Dish Network after it claimed the satellite operator refused to negotiate. The move reportedly affected about 2.5 million of Dish’s 13 million pay-TV subscribers.

“Dish’s proposals and actions made it clear they never intended to seriously negotiate an agreement,” Simon Sutton, HBO president and chief revenue officer, said in a statement as reported by Reuters.

While carriage disagreements and negotiations aren’t uncommon, the AT&T/Time Warner merger is different. The deal has been entangled in partisan politics since the election of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s ongoing characterizations of certain media outlets — notably Turner’s CNN — as fake news and biased against him has prompted allegations the Justice Department’s last-minute objection to the merger was more about politics than antitrust issues.

The DOJ contends AT&T has too much power owning and controlling major content creators and distribution channels — leverage it claims hurts consumers. The carriage dispute, says the government, offers a blueprint example of that.

“This behavior, unfortunately, is consistent with what the Department of Justice predicted would result from the merger,” said a DOJ representative. “We are hopeful the Court of Appeals will correct the errors of the District Court.”

WarnerMedia says Dish is using the current political environment to extract more favorable contract terms. Indeed, it alleges Dish is collaborating with DOJ on the issue.

“That collaboration continues to this day with Dish’s tactical decision to drop HBO — not the other way around,” said a WarnerMedia rep. “DOJ failed to prove its claims about HBO at trial and then abandoned them on appeal.”

Andy LeCuyer, SVP pf programming at Dish, argues otherwise.

“It seems AT&T is implementing a new strategy to shut off its recently acquired content from other distributors,” he said.

‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ Sings to No. 1 on Disc Sales Charts

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again danced its way to the top spot on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Oct. 27.

The sequel to the 2008 adaptation of the popular musical built around the songs of Abba earned $120.6 million at the domestic box office. A double feature of both “Mamma Mia!” films debuted at No. 9 on both charts.

The musical’s arrival pushed Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Ant-Man and The Wasp to No. 2 on both charts. The latest Marvel Studios superhero actioner debuted at No. 1 a week earlier, and sold three-fourths as many copies in its second week as the “Mamma Mia!” sequel did in its first.

Maintaining its hold on the No. 3 spot, where it has been positioned for more than a month, was Disney’s 25-year-old perennial Halloween classic Hocus Pocus.

Coming in at No. 4 on both charts was Sony Pictures’ Hotel Transylvania 3.

Universal Pictures’ Skyscraper slipped a spot to No. 5 on the overall sales chart and No. 6 on the Blu-ray Chart, where Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story was No. 5 (and No. 6 overall).

Blu-ray Disc accounted for 56% of total unit sales for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, with the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version comprising 4%.  The “Mamma Mia!” two-pack, which was not available in 4K, saw 51% of its tally come from Blu-ray.

By comparison, Ant-Man and The Wasp‘s second week saw 69% of its tally come from Blu-ray, compared with 70% in its first. And its UHD tally held steady at just over 16.5%.

The only other newcomer in the top 20 was Universal’s Scorpion King: Book of Souls, which debuted at No. 12 on the overall chart and No. 15 on the Blu-ray chart. The direct-to-video sequel is the fifth film in the “Scorpion King” franchise, which itself is a spinoff of 2001’s The Mummy Returns.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Oct. 28, Ant-Man and The Wasp moved into the top spot, while Skyscraper slipped to No. 2.

Hotel Transylvania 3 slipped to No. 3, while Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again debuted at No. 4. Universal’s The First Purge moved up a spot to No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 10-27-18
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 10-28-18
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 10-27-18
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 10-27-18
Sales Report for Week Ended 10-27-18
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 10-29-18

 

Apple Ups Q4 ‘Services’ Revenue 27%

Apple services revenue, which includes sales of digital movies and TV shows on iTunes and Apple TV, remains an emerging giant.

The tech company Nov. 1 reported fourth-quarter (ended Sept. 29) services revenue of more than $10 billion, up 27% from services revenue of $7.9 billion during the previous-year period.

The segment, which also includes AppleCare, Apple Pay, licensing and other services, benefited from a one-time adjustment of $640 million due to a change in estimate based on the availability of additional supporting information.

Overall, Apple generated net income of $14.1 billion on revenue of $62.9 billion, compared to income of $10.7 billion and revenue of $52.5 billion last year.

The company sold more than 46.8 million iPhones, 9.7 million iPads and 5.3 million Macs in the quarter.

“We set September quarter revenue records for iPhone and wearables and all-time quarterly records for services and Mac,” CFO Luca Maestri said in a statement.

 

Radio Station Documentary ‘New Wave: Dare to Be Different’ Coming to DVD and Digital Dec. 7 From MVD

New Wave: Dare to Be Different, the story of influential radio station WLIR, is coming to DVD and digital Dec. 7 from MVD Entertainment Group.

U2, the Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Blondie, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Clash and The Cure were boosted by a small suburban radio station on Long Island, NY, WLIR. In August 1982, a small group of radio visionaries knew they couldn’t compete with the mega-stations in New York City, so they changed the sound of radio forever. Program director Denis McNamara, the WLIR crew and the biggest artists of the era tell the story of how they battled the FCC, the record labels, corporate radio and all the conventional rules to create a musical movement that brought the New Wave to America.

The soundtrack includes more than 50 songs from the era and a new original theme song by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

The film features Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, Billy Idol, Nick Rhodes, Denis McNamara, Jim Kerr, Vince Clarke, Curt Smith, Fred Schneider, Thomas Dolby, Midge Ure, Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’ Abate, Seymour Stein, Paul McGuinness, Dave Wakeling, Annabella Lwin, Miles Copeland, Joel Peresman, Larry Dunn, Donna Donna, Max Leinwand, “Malibu Sue” McCann, Michael Pagnotta and Steve Thompson, among others.

Trans World Entertainment Amends Credit Facility Regarding F.Y.E. Store Closures

Trans World Entertainment, parent of the f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) home entertainment retail chain, Nov. 1 announced an amended agreement with Wells Fargo regarding its five-year, $75 million revolving credit facility.

Specifically, TWEC agreed to receive written consent from Wells Fargo prior to closing additional f.y.e. store locations. The company said closures would not exceed 35 locations, or 68 stores in aggregate through the end of the fiscal year (Feb. 2, 2019).

The agreement provides that any store closures from the signing of the amended agreement until the end of the fiscal year shall be made in accordance with liquidators or liquidation consultants “reasonably” acceptable to Wells Fargo.

Mall-based f.y.e. posted an operating loss of $6.6 million in its most-recent fiscal period operating 241 stores. Revenue dropped 15% to $104.6 million from $123.9 million.

Hulu Expands Fox TV Content Deal With Animated Hits

In a deal that further expands its licensing agreement with 20th Century Fox Television Distribution, Hulu has added all 13 seasons of Emmy Award-winning “King of The Hill” exclusively to its service.

In addition, the company has locked in the exclusive post-broadcast streaming rights to Emmy-winning comedies “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy,” as well as “American Dad!,” and all episodes of library series “The Cleveland Show” and Emmy-winning “Futurama.”

Hulu is now the exclusive subscription streaming home to the largest offering of animated programming from 20th Century Fox Television, according to the service, as well as animated shows from other content partners including “South Park,” “Rick and Morty,” “Robot Chicken,” “Adventure Time.”

‘I Am Paul Walker’ Coming to Digital Nov. 30, DVD Dec. 4 From Virgil Films

Virgil Films will release I Am Paul Walker, a documentary exploring the life and legacy of the actor, on digital Nov. 30, for the five-year anniversary of his death, and on DVD Dec. 4.

I Am MLK Jr DVD Wrap

The film explores the short life of the Southern California native who cut his teeth as a child actor before breaking out in the blockbuster “Fast and Furious” movie franchise. It features interviews with those who knew him best both professionally and personally, using an extensive archive of rarely seen candid video and still photographs provided by family and friends of the late actor. I Am Paul Walker also explores Paul’s private side, including his devotion to his family, his fascination for surfing and auto racing, his passion for marine biology and sharks, his dedication to humanitarian work through his NGO Reach Out Worldwide, and his love for his daughter.

The film features interviews with Tyrese Gibson, Rob Cohen and Wayne Kramer.

Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Partner for OTT Video in India

Lionsgate India and Sony Pictures Network are partnering to kick off next week’s Diwali Festival with the launch of Lionsgate Play on the SonyLIV streaming video platform.

SonyLIV — a Mumbai-based video-on-demand service owned by Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt. Ltd. — claims to be one of the largest local broadcast-owned OTT video platforms in India in terms of viewership and consumption. It is renowned for TV series “Indian Idol” and “Kaun Banega Crorepati” (“Who Wants to Be A Millionaire”), among others and also licenses the rights to sports programming in the territory. Additionally, SonyLIV is home to fitness, original Web series and movies.

The Lionsgate Play app will launch with more than 500 hours of Starz and Lionsgate original series, including PowerVidaSweetbitterThe White QueenThe White Princess and the eagerly-anticipated The Spanish Princess, along with popular Lionsgate library titles such as CrashManhattanWildfireAre We There Yet? and Chasing Life.

The offering will be bundled within SonyLIV’s current slate of programming, significantly enhancing their premium English-language offering to customers.  Powered by a combination of Starz original programming, premium Lionsgate content and a deep library, the Lionsgate Play launch is the latest step in the continued expansion of Lionsgate and Starz platforms around the world.

Starz has launched channels in the UK, Germany, Canada, Italy, France and Spain and is part of the leading subscription video on demand (SVOD) service in the Middle East and North Africa.  Lionsgate has recently announced major content licensing agreements in Australia and Latin America.

“Our collaboration is the latest milestone in elevating our brand in India, and we’re delighted to kick off our partnership with a robust portfolio of Lionsgate and Starz programming,” Rohit Jain, managing director at Lionsgate India, said in a statement.

Sony India has a long history of distributing English-language content in the region, according to Jain.

“Consumption of English-language content is still at its early stages in this market and, with this collaboration, we’re well positioned to fulfill that latent demand,” he said.

 

 

Home Entertainment on a Roll as Consumer Spending Soars 15%

Consumer spending on home entertainment rose 15%, to an estimated $5.7 billion, in the third quarter of 2018, according to numbers released this week by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

For the first three quarters of the year, spending was at nearly $17 billion, an 11% year-over-year gain.

Digital purchases of movies, TV shows and other filmed content, known in the industry as “electronic sellthrough,” or EST, rose 18% in the quarter compared with the same quarter in the year prior, a significant uptick from the single-digit gains posted in prior years.

Consumers spent an estimated $624 million in the third quarter to buy content digitally from vendors such as Apple iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, FandangoNow, Redbox On Demand, Microsoft Movies & TV and Google Play. That’s up from $529 million in the third quarter of 2017.

Industry observers attribute at least some of the gain to the rising popularity of the multi-studio Movies Anywhere platform, which uses a cloud-based digital rights locker to allow consumers to have immediate access to their purchased content at any time, on a wide range of devices, from home theaters to mobile phones.

The EST spending gain also was driven by a 31% surge in spending on movies that played theatrically prior to their digital release, generally two weeks prior to their appearance on Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

For the year through Sept. 30, EST spending was at $1.8 billion, up more than 12% from the comparable period in 2017.

On the physical side of the business, consumer spending on discs was down 11.5% to an estimated $844 million.

But sales of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs soared 68% in the quarter from the same quarter last year “as more consumers purchased new TVs and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players equipped with the advanced technology,” according to the DEG.

Thanks to the big increase in spending on digital purchases,  total spending on  content buys was only down 1% in the quarter. This marks the first time that EST spending gains nearly offset the decline in physical media purchases.

Transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), the digital equivalent of renting a movie, also realized significant gains, with consumer spending up nearly 10% to an estimated $497 million in the quarter from the prior-year quarter. The big digital sellers of content, such as Apple iTunes, FandangoNow and Redbox On Demand, also offer consumers a lower-cost option to stream movies on a temporary basis, generally for a 48-hour period and a start time within 30 days of the transaction date.

Consumer spending on streaming subscriptions rose more than 30% in both the third quarter and the first nine months of this year, totaling an estimated $3.3 billion and $9.4 billion, respectively. The DEG report attributed these numbers to data compiled by global information provider IHS Markit.

The DEG also said more than 4.2 million 4K Ultra HD TVs were sold in the first three quarters of 2018, bringing the total number of U.S. households to more than 42 million, an increase of 80% from the prior year period. Approximately 2.3 million Ultra HD Blu-ray playback devices (both dedicated players and video game consoles) were sold through to consumers in the first nine months of the year.

Growth of 4K Ultra HD content is rapidly expanding, the DEG reported, with 392 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles available representing more than $162 million in consumer spend for the period. There are also 595 4K titles available digitally.

Dish Announces ‘Anticompetitive’ AT&T Has Pulled HBO and Cinemax From Its Services

Dish late Oct. 31 announced that AT&T had pulled HBO and Cinemax content from Dish and Sling TV subscribers, calling the move “anticompetitive.”

The Dish release states that the “AT&T-DirecTV-Time Warner mega merger has allowed the giant conglomerate to relentlessly exert power and influence over competing pay-TV providers and consumers.”

Dish announced the action came after AT&T made “untenable demands designed specifically to harm customers, particularly those in rural areas, as well as damage competing pay-TV providers.”

The U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit to block the AT&T-Time Warner lawsuit and Aug. 6 appealed the court’s decision to allow the merger. Following the merger’s approval, subsidiary WarnerMedia announced plans for a subscription streaming service.

“There were no guidelines set in place to ensure that AT&T ‘played fair’ for HBO and Cinemax subscribers, regardless of their pay-TV provider,” according to Dish.

“Plain and simple, the merger created for AT&T immense power over consumers,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish SVP of programming, in a statement. “It seems AT&T is implementing a new strategy to shut off its recently acquired content from other distributors. This may be the first of many HBO blackouts for consumers across the country. AT&T no longer has incentive to come to an agreement on behalf of consumer choice; instead, it’s been given the power to grab more money or steal away customers.”

The blackout “is exceptionally harmful to rural Americans who don’t have the same broadband access as customers living in large cities,” according to a Dish release. “Customers with sufficient internet service can substitute HBO Now, the direct-to-consumer streaming offering from HBO. The majority of DISH’s HBO subscriber base is located in rural areas with limited broadband access and likely won’t be able to watch HBO or Cinemax without a satellite connection,” the release stated.

“AT&T’s actions are a deliberate slap in the face to rural Americans,” said LeCuyer in a statement. “And furthermore, they are anticompetitive. AT&T, a company worth more than $200 billion, is intentionally punishing those who don’t have big-city broadband access, in an attempt to push customers to the only other satellite provider, its own DirecTV.”

AT&T is demanding Dish pay for a guaranteed number of subscribers, regardless of how many consumers actually want to subscribe to HBO, according to Dish.

“AT&T is stacking the deck with free-for-life offerings to wireless customers and slashed prices on streaming services, effectively trying to force Dish to subsidize HBO on AT&T’s platforms,” said LeCuyer in a statement. “This is the exact anticompetitive behavior that critics of the AT&T-Time Warner merger warned us about. Every pay-TV company should be concerned.”

“Dish would welcome binding, baseball-style arbitration to determine the fair market value of HBO and Cinemax,” the Dish release states. “During the arbitration process, AT&T would be required to restore its channels to Dish customers.”

“Rather than trying to force consumers onto their platforms, we suggest that AT&T try to achieve its financial goals through simple economics: if consumers want your product, they’ll pay for it. We hope AT&T will reconsider its demands and help us reach a swift, fair resolution,” said LeCuyer in a statement.

Dish and eligible Sling TV customers will be credited on their bill for time they do not receive HBO or Cinemax, Dish announced, adding the company is also offering customers a free preview of HDNET Movies.