February 2019 Arrow Video Slate Includes ‘Horror Express,’ ‘The Possessed’

The February 2019 Blu-ray slate from MVD Entertainment Group’s Arrow Video includes The Possessed, The Fifth Chord, Horror Express, Audition, Color Me Blood Red, My Name is Julia Ross and So Dark the Night.

Due Feb. 5 is The Possessed, from co-directors Luigi Bazzoni and Franco Rossellini. The film follows a novelist who investigates the disappearance of an old lover and uncovers a murder mystery. The Blu-ray includes a new 2K restoration.

Also due Feb. 5 is Bazzoni’s The Fifth Chord, starring Franco Nero and Edmund Purdom. Following in the footsteps of Dario Argento, The Fifth Chord is a stunning giallo worthy of competing with the best the maestro has to offer. The Blu-ray features a new 2K restoration and a number of special features including a new interview with Nero.

Due Feb. 12 is 1972’s Horror Express, starring horror icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The Blu-ray includes a new 2K restoration and several extras, plus an intro from fan and journalist Chris Alexander.

Also arriving Feb. 12 is Takashi Miike’s Audition.

Feb. 19 sees the arrival of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Color Me Blood Red, the final chapter in the infamous “blood trilogy.” Bonus materials include 1967’s Something Weird.

Also due Feb. 19 are a pair of mid-1940s classics from director Joseph H. Lewis: My Name is Julia Ross and So Dark the Night. The former is a Hitchcockian film noir about mistaken identity, while the latter is about a Paris detective that finds love and then suddenly disappears.

AT&T Eyeing HBO, Warner Content for AVOD Distribution

AT&T currently markets standalone over-the-top video services DirecTV Now and Watch TV — the latter offering mobile access to 30 pay-TV channels for $15 monthly and no long-term contract.

Watch TV has generated about 500,000 subscribers since its debut last June. DirecTV Now, which jettisoned more than 260,000 subs after ending promotional pricing late last year, has about 1.6 millions subs.

The telecom now appears to be considering ad-supported VOD — long a stepchild to subscription streaming VOD service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

With Amazon subsidiary IMDb.com launching a free ad-supported VOD service, Hulu’s basic SVOD plan featuring commercials, and Comcast launching AVOD for Xfinity subscribers in 2020, AT&T is pondering ad-supported distribution for select content from subsidiary WarnerMedia.

Speaking on the Jan. 30 fiscal call, CEO Randall Stephenson reiterated that companies with “very strong” IP, “deep libraries” of IP are the ones that are going to succeed over time.

He said Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara and WarnerMedia boss John Stankey have been analyzing optimal distribution channels and license opportunities for content.

Tsujihara helped craft the recent non-exclusive license extension with Netflix for “Friends,” a deal that lets WarnerMedia stream the venerable sitcom through its pending SVOD service launching later this year.

Stephenson said WarnerMedia content would be targeted toward what he called “two-sided” business models that include SVOD and AVOD.

“There’s a demand and the customers have become accustomed to advertising free subscription services,” he said. “And we think HBO and a lot of the Warner content [is] premium content will fit into that mold.”

While Stephenson didn’t reveal AVOD specifics, he said the recent acquisition of Xandr to help sell targeted digital advertising to AT&T’s 170 million mobile and broadband subscribers, underscored opportunities for advertising-supported models that help keep content (i.e. catalog) prices down, keep consumer costs down and help fund additional content acquisition and purchasing.

“Xandr is a big part of making that model work,” he said. “So, our model will be a two sided model, with a heavy subscription service, with some ad-supported elements to it as well.”

 

 

 

MoviePass Parent Schedules Second Reverse-Stock Split Vote

Helios and Matheson Analytics, parent of fiscally-challenged theatrical subscription ticket service MoviePass, Jan. 30 announced it plans to hold a special shareholder meeting March 15 in Los Angeles to vote on a second reverse stock split.

The proposed one-share-for-500 shares, which if passed would affect shareholders of record on Jan. 16, follows a previous reverse stock split (1-for-250 shares) eight months ago.

That split resulted in the HMNY stock briefly reaching $22.50 per share, before plummeting below Nasdaq’s $1 minimum threshold in less than a week. HMNY’s stock currently trades at about a penny.

The company in November canceled a vote for the second split after it couldn’t muster enough shareholder support. Apparently that sentiment has changed.

HMNY has until the summer to regain compliance or face the risk of delisting.

 

 

Warner Bros.’ Record Box Office Drives WarnerMedia’s Banner 2018

Spurred by Warner Bros.’ record $5.5 billion global box office, WarnerMedia generated more than $9.2 billion in revenue in 2018 — up nearly 7% from revenue of $8.6 billion when the company operated as Time Warner prior to the closing of AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition.

The media company comprising Warner Bros., HBO, Turner and Otter Media, posted Q4 operating income of $2.7 billion; and $5.69 billion for the year.

The company said it generated $564 million in fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) revenue from the sales of video games and home entertainment, which was down nearly 15% from revenue of $682 million in the previous-year period. For the year, revenue dropped nearly 45% to $1.08 billion from $1.93 billion in 2017.

Sales of packaged media and digital from movies and TV shows topped $1.56 billion and $416 million, respectively, in the previous-year quarter under Time Warner. WarnerMedia does not breakout home video revenue.

In 2018, Warner Bros. theatrical revenue was driven led by Ready Player One and the fourth-quarter releases Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Aquaman, the latter grossing nearly $1.1 billion at the global box office to date.

Warner Q4 revenue topped $4.5 billion and included revenue of $2.1 billion from theatrical product, $1.8 billion from television product and $564 million from video games and home entertainment. Operating expenses totaled $3.7 billion, and the operating income margin was 18.1%.

HBO revenue in the quarter reached $1.7 billion and included $1.4 billion of subscription and $259 million of content and other revenue. Operating expenses totaled $1.1 billion and the operating income margin was 37.2%.

Turner Q4 revenue reached $3.2 billion, compared to $107 million in the fourth quarter of 2017. Revenue during the quarter included $1.8 billion of subscription revenue, $1.1 billion of advertising and $219 million of content and other revenues. Operating expenses totaled $1.9 billion, compared to $59 million in the fourth quarter of 2017. Turner’s operating income margin was 40.2% compared to 44.9% in the year-ago quarter.

The increases were predominantly due to the June 2018 acquisition of Time Warner.

 

Netflix Inks Deal With ‘Blue Planet II’ Creator

Netflix has signed a multiyear overall deal with James Honeyborne, creator and executive producer of the award-winning documentary series “Blue Planet II,” to produce new nature and science series.

“James has created some of the most captivating natural history series of our time, with breathtaking sweep and vision,” Lisa Nishimura, VP of documentaries and comedy at Netflix, said in a statement. “I am thrilled that he will be working with us at Netflix, bringing his unique exploration of the wonders of the natural world to our viewers.”

Honeyborne and partner Renee Godfrey will make all their productions through their company Freeborne Media Ltd.

“Freeborne is excited to be working with Netflix and for the new creative opportunities that will arise from our partnership,” Honeyborne said in a statement. “Today, wildlife and wild places are facing unprecedented challenges. There is a pressing need to tell important, surprising and inspiring stories about our world. Working with Netflix means we can create game-changing documentaries that can reach and engage a huge global audience.”

Honeyborne’s BBC work includes the BAFTA-winning “Big Blue Live” and the Emmy-nominated series “Wild New Zealand.” He was also the series producer of “Africa.” Honeyborne, who trained as a biologist, has overseen some 35 films during his time as an executive producer at the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

Godfrey trained as an anthropologist before working on the acclaimed series “Tribe” and “Human Planet.” Her recent credits include “Enchanted Kingdom 3D,” “Wild Atlantic” and “Wild New Zealand.”

Freeborne will be based in Bristol, England.

Tubi TV AVOD Service to Spend $100+ Million on Content in 2019

Tubi TV, the advertising-based video-on-demand service, Jan. 30 announced plans to spend more than $100 million on content in 2019.

The San Francisco-based service currently features a library of more than 12,000 movies and television series from more than 200 content partners, including most major studios.

Launched in 2014, Tubi said viewership increased 430% in 2018 compared to 2017, with December generating nearly as much content streamed as all of 2017.

The company said it turned a profit in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2018, with revenue up more than 180% in 2018. More than 1,000 advertisers ran spots on Tubi, including consumer products and automotive advertisers reaching audiences via ads on movies and TV shows.

Late last year, Tubi became the third streaming service to be made available on Comcast’s X1 platform — behind Netflix and YouTube. The service plans to launch beyond the U.S. and Canada, with the first territories expected to be announced this quarter.

“In 2018, Tubi saw tremendous growth as consumers, fatigued by SVOD subscriptions and services, sought alternative entertainment choices,” CEO Farhad Massoudi said in a statement. “We will continue to use profits to make bigger bets on content, enhance the viewing experience, and continue to press ahead into new grounds in what is our core advantage: technology and data.”

 

AT&T Posts 267,000 DirecTV Now Q4 Subscriber Losses

Stop the funeral for pay-TV.

AT&T’s signature alternative — broadband-based DirecTV Now — suffered a major blow in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2018.

The telecom Jan. 30 reported that the standalone online TV service lost 267,000 subscribers compared to gains of 368,000 subs in the previous-year period. The period included 65,000 free trial subscriptions.

AT&T attributed the decline to ending the service’s $35 monthly promotional pricing.

The tally does not include WatchTV, AT&T’s recent app-based $15 online TV service, which ended the year with 500,000 subscribers.

DirecTV Now ended the year with 1.59 million subs compared to 1.15 million subs at the end of 2017.

The subscriber loss is a shot across the bow for online TV, which launched in 2015 with Dish Network’s Sling TV. Hailed as an antidote to declining pay-TV – and SVOD – online TV offered premium TV channels without long-term contract at a fraction of the price of the traditional cable bundle.

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Yet, AT&T’s legacy U-verse pay-TV service added 12,000 subscribers, compared to a loss of 60,000 video subs last year. The distribution channel ended the year with 3.68 million subs compared to 3.63 million at the end of 2017.

The company ended the year with 14.4 million high-speed Internet subscribers, which was up a scant three-tenths of a percent from 14.35 million at the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, satellite service DirecTV lost 403,000 subscribers in the quarter – up 274% from a loss of 147,000 subs in the previous-year period.

El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV ended the year with 19.2 million subs – down 6% from 20.4 million subs at the end of 2017.

For AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, reducing the company’s $183 billion debt load following the $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner is the No. 1 goal in 2019.

“In 2018, we generated record free cash flow while investing at near-record levels,” Stephenson said in a statement. “Our dividend payout as a percent of free cash flow was 46% for the quarter and 60% for the year, allowing us to increase the dividend for the 35th consecutive year. This momentum will carry us into 2019 allowing us to continue reducing our debt while investing in the business and continuing our strong record for paying dividends.

 

Merchandising: The Retail Reign of the ‘Supermen’

Best Buy Reign of the Supermen with graphic novel.

Superman fans had a few options for picking up Warner’s new Reign of the Supermen animated movie on Blu-ray.

Target Reign of the Supermen Steelbook

Best Buy offered the new movie with copies of the graphic novel The Death of Superman upon which the movie is partly based. The chain offered the graphic novel edition at $22.99 for the Blu-ray and $32.99 for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, a $3 premium over the standard editions of the title in each format.

Target offered Reign of the Supermen in Steelbook editions. The Target Steelbook cost $29.99 for the 4K version and $19.99 for the standard Blu-ray, but is marked as sold out online and at many stores.

However, Steelbooks are typically better known as Best Buy’s path to an exclusive. Accordingly, Best Buy offered 4K UHD Blu-ray Steelbook editions of Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms at $34.99 and Lionsgate’s Hunter Killer at $32.99.

Best Buy The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Steelbook

Other promotions offered by Best Buy during the week include a two-for-$10 deal on select Fox Blu-rays, or $7.99 each; 4K Ultra HD movies starting at $9.99; select Sony Pictures titles, including Steelbooks, offered through a buy-one-get-one-free deal; and a Kingdom Hearts 3 video game tie-in touting Disney movies with the tag-line “Play your favorite characters.”

Target’s weekly ad pushed HDTVs in time for the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, the Walmart in Tustin, Calif., seems to be trying out a new arrangement of the home video section in its electronics department. The area recently unveiled a new aesthetic for its end-cap displays, complete with a yet-to-be-stocked section to be devoted to digital-edition redemption gift cards.

New home video layout at a Walmart in Tustin, Calif.

Apple iPhone Q1 Revenue Drops 15%, Services Sales Top Record $10.9 Billion

Apple Jan. 29 reported first-quarter (ended Dec. 29, 2018) revenue from the iPhone fell 15% to $52 billion from $61.1 billion during the previous-year period.

Apple attributed the lower than anticipated revenue to sluggish sales in China and emerging markets.

“We believe there are other factors broadly impacting our iPhone performance, including consumers adapting to a world with fewer carrier subsidies, U.S. dollar strength-related price increases, and some customers taking advantage of significantly reduced pricing for iPhone battery replacements,” CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

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While the downturn forced Apple to revise its fiscal guidance, the company continued to fire on all cylinders in other business segments.

Apple services revenue, which includes sales of digital movies and TV shows on iTunes and Apple TV, generated a record $10.9 billion – up nearly 20% from last year.

The segment, which also includes AppleCare, Apple Pay, licensing and other services, is on track to double in size from 2016 to 2020.

Overall, Apple posted quarterly revenue of $84.3 billion, a decline of 5% from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $4.18, up 7.5%. International sales accounted for 62% of the quarter’s revenue.

 

‘Marvel’s The Punisher,’ ‘Grace and Frankie’ Top Digital Originals Chart, Parrot Analytics Says

Netflix took the two top spots on the digital originals chart the week ended Jan. 26, fueled by new season launches, according to Parrot Analytics.

“Marvel’s The Punisher” shot up to No. 1 from No. 8 the prior week with a nearly 56% gain in average daily Demand Expressions, driven by the first full week of availability of season 2.

And “Grace and Frankie,” the comedy series starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, entered the top 10 at No. 2 from No. 15 the previous week, with an 86% spike in average daily Demand Expressions. Season 5 of the Netflix original, like the second season of “Marvel’s the Punisher,” became available for streaming on Jan. 18.

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Demand Expressions is a proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. The metric draws from 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.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

Demand for the previous week’s two chart-toppers, both from DC Universe, remained relatively flat, keeping both shows in the top five.

“Titans” slipped to No.3 from No. 1, while “Young Justice” slid to No. 5 from No. 2.

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” finished the week at No. 4, with a modest decline in demand. The previous week, demand for “Stranger Things” fell 18.6%, pulling the quirky supernatural series down to No. 3 from No. 1.

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.