Hulu Launching ‘Pause Ads’ into Programming

Hulu will soon begin placing on-screen ad images when programming is put on hold.

Dubbed “pause ads,” Hulu, beginning in the second quarter, will insert “non-intrusive” images of Coke and Charmin products on select test screens after a user has paused programming for at least three seconds. The image disappears when viewing commences.

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“Our research found that consumers generally preferred ads that were subtle … and that extensive audio and video [spots] when pausing was considered disruptive,” Jeremy Hefland, VP, head of advertising platforms, wrote in a Jan. 31 blog post.

Paused Hulu programming with Charmin image/ad.

Hulu, which currently runs ads on its $5.99 subscription plan, is looking to increase margins from its 25 million subscribers. The platform co-owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast and WarnerMedia continues to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in equity losses for its corporate partners.

Hefland said the pause ad takes advantage of the “natural behavior” exhibited by viewers streaming TV. He said the ads consists of two elements: a creative image supported by contextually “relevant” messaging along with a background gradient to distinguish the ad from the content scene.

“The research so far has shown a positive response from viewers,” he wrote.

 

 

 

‘First Man’ Lands at No. 1 on Home Video Charts

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s First Man debuted at No. 1 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 Jan. 26.

A biopic of American astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, the film earned $44.9 million at the domestic box office.

First Man edged out Universal’s Halloween remake to take the top spot. The previous week’s top seller, Halloween in its second week sold 96% as many copies on the overall sales chart as the newly arrived First Man. The gap was more pronounced on the Blu-ray chart, where Halloween sold 76% as many Blu-rays as First Man.

Blu-ray accounted for 72% of First Man‘s total unit sales, compared with 58% for Halloween (down from 69% in its first week); 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray contributed 24% to First Man‘s overall tally.

Sony Pictures’ Goosebumps 2, also in its second week, slipped a spot to No. 3 on the overall chart, and was No. 10 on the Blu-ray chart.

No. 4 overall and No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart was Warner’s Smallfoot.

Another newcomer, 20th Century Fox’s The Hate U Give, debuted at No. 5 on the overall chart, but was only No. 12 on the Blu-ray chart, with 43% of its sales attributed to the HD version.

On the Blu-ray chart, Warner’s Crazy Rich Asians jumped back up to No. 4, while Fox’s The Predator rose back to No. 5.

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On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Jan. 27, First Man debuted at No. 1, pushing Halloween to No. 2.

Warner’s Night School held onto the No. 3 spot, while Goosebumps 2 slipped to No. 4, and Sony Pictures’ Venom dropped to No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 1-26-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 1-27-19
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 1-26-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 1-26-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 1-26-19

 

Amazon Ups Q4 Online Sales 13% to $39.8 Billion

Amazon Jan. 31 said it increased fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) online sales 13% to $39.8 billion from $35.3 billion during the previous-year period. Online sales include media products sold in physical (DVD/Blu-ray Disc) and digital formats, including books, games, videos and software.

Subscription revenue, which includes Prime (and Prime Video) memberships, audiobooks, e-books, digital music and other non-Amazon Web Services revenue, increased 25% to $3.95 billion, compared to $3.17 billion last year.

Other home entertainment highlights in the quarter included the launch of IMDb Freedive, an ad-supported VOD channel available in the U.S. on the IMDb website via laptop or personal computer and on all Fire TV devices.

Prime Video became available on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 in the U.S., giving Prime members with Xfinity access to thousands of additional premium shows and movies online. Additionally, Amazon launched NBA League Pass and PGA Tour Live on Prime Video Channels.

Prime members can now stream out-of-market NBA games live or on-demand with a subscription to NBA League Pass for $28.99/month or $169.99 for a Season Pass. Prime members in the U.S. can also subscribe to PGA Tour Live to watch live coverage across 28 PGA tournaments per year for $9.99/month or $64.99 per season.

Amazon Studios’ Cold War was recognized for three Academy Award nominations – Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director for Pawel Pawlikowski, and Best Cinematography for Lukasz Zal.

Amazon Studios was recognized with 10 Golden Globe Awards nominations and two wins: Rachel Brosnahan won Best Actress in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical for her performance in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” for the second year in a row and Ben Whishaw won Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television for his role in “A Very English Scandal.”

Prime Video Original Series, “Inside Edge” became the first Indian show from a video streaming service to be nominated for the International Emmy Awards.

Prime Video introduced localized Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu language user interfaces in India. Prime members can now stream movies titles and original series with a Hindi, Tamil, or Telugu user interface, including search, navigation, browse, and customer support.

 

Amy Poehler to Star in Comcast Xfinity Ad Campaign

Amy Poehler will star in a year-long Xfinity advertising campaign starting Feb. 4, Comcast announced.

The campaign featuring the actor, producer and director (“Parks and Recreation,” “Saturday Night Live,’ Inside Out and upcoming “Wine Country”) is called “Simple, Easy, Awesome – starring Amy Poehler” and uses her “unique sense of humor and wit to put a spotlight on the brand’s product benefits, across Xfinity Internet, Xfinity TV and Xfinity Mobile,” according to the Comcast release.

The two launch spots — “Potpourri” and “Make Yourself at Home” — will air across television, digital, mobile and radio.

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“Working with Amy has been a dream — her charm, charisma and relatability are a great fit for Xfinity and her improv skills really took our creative to another level,” said Eileen Diskin, SVP of marketing communications at Comcast, in a statement. “We’re proud to have her represent our brand and look forward to building upon our partnership with Amy throughout the year.”

“Simple, Easy, Awesome – starring Amy Poehler” brings to life the idea that you don’t have to be an expert to get the most out of technology, and the commercials put Poehler in real-life locations ranging from a family’s home to an Xfinity retail store, according to the release.

The campaign will include multiple TV spots to roll out in the coming months.

In addition to the creative content, the Comcast partnership with Poehler includes product integration into the company’s Xfinity X1 platform. Customers can say things such as “Amy is Awesome” and “Everything Amy Poehler” into the X1 voice remote and they will be taken to a special page with a curated collection of Poehler’s movies, shows, talk show appearances and more, and also will be able to unlock special voice messages from Poehler.

Xfinity has more than 30 million customer relationships across the country, according to the release, and the X1 platform includes Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video with the voice remote processing more than 700 million commands each month.

Cinedigm Bows Asian OTT Service ‘Hallypop’ on Samsung Smart TVs

Cinedigm Jan. 31 expanded its OTT video partnership with Samsung, adding Asian culture platform Hallypop and fact-focused Docurama on Samsung’s TV Plus video service.

The services join CONtv and Dove Channel, which both launched on the TV Plus platform in November 2018.

TV Plus is Samsung’s video service, which provides access to a variety of free streaming channels. It does not require a subscription fee, account set-up, or credit card info to access.

Hallypop programming includes K-Pop variety show, “Inkigayo,” featuring appearances and performances by BTS, Big Bang, Ikon, Girls Generation, and 2NE, among others; “Running Man,” pitting K-Pop and K-Drama stars against each other in reality-TV missions; interactive music series, “After School Club,” which uses social media to connect with K-Pop, including Q&A sessions, song requests, impromptu performances, and music videos, among other content.

“Cinedigm is proud to debut our newest digital-first network for the first time ever on Samsung’s TV Plus platform,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement.

Opeka said CONtv and Dove Channel have been well-received on the TV Plus platform.

“Whether it’s Hallypop’s immersive Asian culture content or Docurama’s roster of documentaries and series, our networks appeal to a broad range of tastes and interests, and offer something for everyone to enjoy,” he said.

Cinedigm recently disclosed it has more than 102,000 paid subscribers for its OTT services.

 

 

 

UltraViolet: A Lost Opportunity

I, like millions of registered UltraViolet users, received the Jan. 31 email informing me that the digital content storage locker is shuttering July 31.

My reaction: Indifference.

I, like possibly millions of other UV users, had forgotten I was even registered to the platform launched in 2011 by studios seeking to enhance ownership of packaged media in a digital era transformed by SVOD and Netflix.

Indeed, the email was the FIRST communication I ever received from the platform boasting 30 million registered users — a captive audience larger than any over-the-top video platform not named Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The missed advertising/marketing opportunities upon a segment of active movie consumers larger than the combined Comcast Cable, Sky, AT&T U-verse and Verizon Fios Video subscriber base should be a business school case study.

Thirty million registered consumers should have been a field day for marketers considering YouTube begins monetizing third-party videos with just 1,000 subscribers — users who follow a video series for free.

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As a stack of UV digital activation movie registration cards attest, actually engaging in UV was challenging. Each studio for awhile required the laborious process of registering titles to a proprietary platform.

I remember a friend asking me the purpose of the UV card enclosed with the Blu-ray Disc case.

When I tried to explain, she rolled her eyes.

“You lost me,” she said.

That sentiment, in a nutshell, should be on UV’s gravestone.

UltraViolet, from the start, was hampered by Disney’s refusal to participate. The media giant opting instead to roll out a competing platform (Disney Movies Anywhere) that now has been embraced by Hollywood studios not named Paramount and Lionsgate, and rebranded Movies Anywhere.

Movies Anywhere claims a user base of 6 million – 20% the size of UV – and a rosy future. I’m looking forward to my first email.

 

‘A Star Is Born’ No. 3 Best Seller of All Time on FandangoNow

After its first two weeks of digital release, A Star Is Born has become the No. 3 best-selling title of all time, eclipsing 2013’s Frozen in total digital purchases on FandangoNow, Fandango’s VOD service.

Only 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle rank ahead of Bradley Cooper’s music-based drama in all-time sales.

Nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, A Star Is Born made its EST debut Jan. 15.

A Star Is Born is selling like a superhero movie on FandangoNow,” said Fandango managing editor Erik Davis in a statement. “We’ve definitely seen an Oscar bump in sales, and its continued success on digital is a testament to the film’s unforgettable music, the beautiful work of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and a classic love story that fans want to experience again and again.”

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The all-time top five sellers on FandangoNow, by units sold, are:

  1. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  2. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
  3. A Star Is Born (2018)
  4. Frozen (2013)
  5. Black Panther (2018)

Complete Series Blu-ray Set of ‘The Big C’ Coming in April From Mill Creek

The complete series set of “The Big C” is coming on Blu-ray in April from Mill Creek Entertainment.

Laura Linney stars in her Golden Globe-winning role as Cathy Jamison, a 42-year-old schoolteacher who has always played by the rules. That is, until she receives a life-changing diagnosis. Instead of giving up, Cathy decides to live it up. Nothing and no one is safe, including her self-absorbed family, her cantankerous neighbor and her smart-ass students.

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The set is also available on DVD.

Cinedigm OTT Video Channels Top 102,000 Subscribers, 2.4M AVOD Viewers

Home entertainment distributor Cinedigm announced several milestones for its portfolio of over-the-top video services – including an estimated 2.4 million monthly active ad-supported viewers and 102,000 active subscribers.

The Los Angeles-based distributor’s OTT channels, which include Dove Channel, CONtv, Docurama, CombatGo and Wham Network, offer nearly 12,000 hours of movie, television and live entertainment.

Pending services include Korean, Chinese and South East Asian pop culture network HallyPop and Bambu, offering Chinese action movies, serial dramas, romantic comedies, sci-fi, horror, as well as music and reality series to American audiences.

Cinedigm said it facilitated channel launches across 10 new distribution partners over the last two quarters, including Dish Network, Sling TV, Comcast Xfinity, Samsung TV Plus, Xumo, Pluto TV, Sinclair’s Stirr, Vizio Watch Free TV, and The Roku Channel, representing a total base of more than 126 million customers and devices.

“Our accomplishments in the last few months demonstrate Cinedigm’s vision of effectively delivering premium OTT entertainment content globally, no matter the device or business model,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement.

Opeka said the company would continue to focus on launching new channels, investing in technology, growing the user base, monetizing ad-supported offerings and expanding its footprint of addressable devices.

Indeed, Cinedigm OTT services achieved 370% year-over-year growth in ad-supported user base across linear and ad-supported VOD platforms. Achieved over 205% quarter-over-quarter growth in connected television ad-requests. Grew content library by 6,200 film and television assets – more than 116% year-over-year.

Grew total social media footprint to 857,000 followers across YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

Cinedigm also acquired ComicBlitz, a subscription digital comic service, and announced the acquisition of Viewster, a pop-culture ad-supported streaming service. These acquisitions add more than 7,100 movie, television and digital publishing assets from more than 70 content partners.

It launched Matchpoint, an OTT platform and application framework that speeds time to market, while reducing the total operating expense for channel operators and content distributors.

 

Digital Movie Service UltraViolet Shutting Down July 31

The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) will officially shut down the UltraViolet cloud-based digital rights locker service July 31, according to a notice posted to the UltraViolet website Jan. 31.

Until then, the notice said, users can continue to access UltraViolet movies and TV shows, but only through retailers linked to their UltraViolet libraries.

The notice instructs users to verify the retailers linked to their accounts. “If your library is not currently linked to a retailer, or if you would like to link to additional participating retailers, select one or more retailers to link to your UltraViolet library.”

After the shutdown date, the notice said, “your UltraViolet library will automatically close and, in the majority of cases, your movies and TV shows will remain accessible at previously linked retailers.”

The shutdown was first reported by Variety.

UltraViolet launched in 2011 to help promote the digital sellthrough of movies and TV shows by providing an infrastructure that would allow consumers to purchase access to content (or redeem codes included with packaged media) at an online retailer but play it back through a variety of participating online retailers and compatible devices.

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The service had the support of all the major studios except for Walt Disney Studios, which established its own proprietary service, Disney Movies Anywhere. Major online retailers such as Apple iTunes and Amazon Video didn’t sign on with UV, but did join DMA, limiting UV’s functionality and fracturing the electronic sellthrough market.

UV was also plagued by user confusion over having to sign into multiple accounts in order to get it to work properly, leaving consumers unsure about what sites they needed to access to watch their content, as the UVVU.com website didn’t offer a playback viewer.

Vudu signed on with both UV and DMA, making it one of the few sites were users could find almost all of their content in one place, a fact many consumers didn’t realize due to muddled marketing efforts.

The beginning of the end for UltraViolet came in 2017, when Disney expanded DMA by adding support for 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros., and rebranded the service as Movies Anywhere, which had retail support from iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play. Movies from the participating MA studios previously redeemed through UV were converted to MA accounts by the MA-affiliated retailers.

Movies Anywhere subsequently signed FandangoNow, Microsoft Movies & TV, and Comcast’s Xfinity cable service, meaning that movies from the participating studios bought at any of MA’s retailers could be viewed on any device using apps from any of the other retailers, as well as MoviesAnywhere.com, which unlike UV offered its own playback system.

The Movies Anywhere participating studios soon began to brand their digital redemption codes using the new service. Paramount and Lionsgate did not sign on with MA and stayed UV compatible, but eventually dropped UV branding on their digital redemptions.

UV was also hampered by the rise in subscription streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, which not only blunted the studios’ push to encourage digital ownership of movies, but the TV-heavy libraries of SVOD services obscured the fact that UV’s ecosystem included support for digital ownership of television episodes, which MA has yet to provide.

Still, DECE president Wendy Aylsworth told Variety that the end of UV “doesn’t really have anything to do with Movies Anywhere,” adding that the future course of DECE is still under consideration.

Though the UV website still lists support from its original member studios (Lionsgate, Paramount, Fox, Sony, Universal and Warner, as well as HBO and BBC, plus Anchor Bay, which is now owned by Lionsgate), its retail partnership is down to Vudu, Verizon Fios, Kaleidescape and FandangoNow (which absorbed former UV signatory Flixster), as well as the studio stores of Paramount and Sony Pictures. Other former UV retailers included Target Ticket and Best Buy’s CinemaNow, both of which no longer exist. And the Sony Pictures Store website is shutting down Jan. 31, recommending users turn to Movies Anywhere or Vudu instead.

DECE has been emailing UV users to alert them of the shutdown and advise them to make sure their accounts are linked to a retailer, rather than delete their UV movie libraries. If the retailer is also a participant in Movies Anywhere, such as Vudu, users who sign up for that service and link their retail accounts will have their libraries from participating studios available through MA.

After more than seven years of service, UltraViolet has more than 30 million users, whose cloud libraries include more than 300 million movies and TV shows. Movies Anywhere after its first year reported having 6 million users with 150 million movies collected.

This notice appeared on the UltraViolet website Jan. 31.