WWE YouTube Channel Reaches 40M ‘Subscribers’

World Wrestling Entertainment announced on Twitter that its YouTube channel has generated 40 million subscribers and 30 billion lifetime views.

A YouTube channel subscriber is typically generated when someone clicks to follow for free.

The channel, which essentially markets WWE pay-per-view events, branded pay-TV channels (“Raw,” “Smackdown Live”) and WWE Network subscription streaming video service, streams highlight clips, interviews and promotional PPV segments.

“Thank you to everyone that chooses to watch http://YouTube/WWE!” tweeted chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon.

WWE earlier this month disclosed that its SVOD service had topped 1.59 million paying subscribers.

RLJ Entertainment Posts $5 Million Q4 Operating Loss

AMC Networks subsidiary RLJ Entertainment posted a fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) operating loss of $5 million on revenue of $28 million. The home entertainment unit generated net income of $3.8 million on revenue of $32.7 million during the previous-year period as a separate publicly traded company.

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AMC acquired controlling interest in RLJE from BET founder Robert L. Johnson last October for $59 million – largely for its Acorn TV SVOD service and majority stake in Agatha Christie Limited. AMC reported adjusted operating income $3 million for Agatha Christie Limited during the quarter.

Indeed, Amazon Prime Video and BBC One in the United Kingdom adapted Agatha Christie’s “The ABC Murders” into an eponymous mini-series  currently streaming and starring John Malkovich as detective Hercule Poirot.

AMC said its “international and other” business segment — which includes RLJE – increased fourth quarter revenue 48.6% to $188 million, while upping operating loss $29 million to $48 million. Adjusted operating income increased 43.9% to $9 million, all compared to the prior-year period.

“The strength of our balance sheet allows us to continue to pursue smart and strategic investments that are changing our business, including our acquisition last year of RLJ Entertainment, which is meaningfully advancing our direct-to-consumer interests, a key priority as we continue to diversify our revenue and grow our business,” Josh Sapan, CEO of AMC Networks, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, AMC, which airs three of the top six dramas on ad-supported cable – “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead,” and “Better Call Saul” – reported Q4 net income of $71.8 million on revenue of $773 million. That compared to income of $145.5 million on revenue of $727 million last year.

For the fiscal year, AMC generated income of $446 million on revenue of nearly $3 billion, which compared to income of $471 million and revenue of $2.8 billion in 2017.

AVOD: Hollywood’s Rising Star

Hollywood’s VOD invasion is dominated by subscription video-on-demand (SVOD), or streaming, thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime. But while studios try to hammer out ways to make transactional VOD (TVOD) more appealing, so they can keep a bigger slice of the revenue pie, a third player is beginning to make a lot of noise in the online entertainment business.

Advertising-supported video-on-demand, or AVOD, is rapidly coming out of the shadows, gaining traction among subscription-weary consumers as mega-media companies Comcast, Viacom and Amazon enter the market.

“I think AVOD content has been a big theme to start out this year,” said Eric Berman, of online entertainment company Ellation, during the February Digital Entertainment World conference in Marina del Rey, Calif.

As 2019 dawned, AVOD announcements proliferated.

In January, Amazon’s IMDb.com website launched an ad-supported video streaming platform, IMDb Freedive. The service enables users to watch TV shows, including “Fringe,” “Heroes,” “The Bachelor” and “Without a Trace,” as well as movies such as Awakenings, Foxcatcher, Memento, Monster, Run Lola Run, The Illusionist, The Last Samurai and True Romance, among others, without purchasing a subscription. IMDb has long been the go-to industry resource for information on actors, production companies, TV shows, movies and behind-the-scenes information. Through last October, the platform had about 5.3 million titles (including episodes) and 9.3 million personalities in its database, as well as 83 million registered users. Subscription-based IMDb Pro is considered a must-have “Rolodex” for the business-side of Hollywood.

“Consumers already rely on IMDb,” said founder and CEO Col Needham. “With Freedive, they can also watch full-length movies and TV shows for free.”

Also in January, Comcast-owned NBCUniversal announced a shakeup in the executive ranks as it plans to roll out an ad-supported streaming video service in 2020. The media company, which until recently eschewed OTT video, pulling the plug on short-lived comedy streaming service Seeso, named Bonnie Hammer chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises — a position that oversees NBC Universal’s stakes in digital media outlets, including Vox, Snap and BuzzFeed. The ad-supported streaming service will be available free to Comcast Cable pay-TV subscribers in the United States and major international markets. Comcast and U.K. satellite TV subsidiary Sky will offer the service to their 52 million combined subscribers. An ad-free version also will be available for a fee. Non-Comcast Cable subs also can purchase a subscription to the service.

“Our service will be different than those presently in the market and it will be built on the company’s strengths, with NBC Universal’s content and the technology expertise, broad scale and the wide distribution of Comcast Cable and Sky,” said NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke.

In another January bombshell, less than two weeks after Amazon’s Freedive announcement, Viacom Inc., which had been on the sidelines while fellow media giants Walt Disney Co. and WarnerMedia rolled out plans for SVOD services, made its own direct-to-consumer move — in AVOD.

Viacom announced the acquisition of Los Angeles-based AVOD service Pluto TV for $340 million in cash. Pluto TV, which launched in 2013, features about 100 channels via an app that operates on 14 platforms, including Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku and PlayStation consoles.

“Pluto TV’s unique product, combined with Viacom’s brands, content, advanced advertising capabilities and global scale, creates a great opportunity for consumers, partners and Viacom,” said Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in announcing the move.

AVOD represents an opportunity in a fragmented video marketplace by offering a free alternative to subscription services, he said.

“We’ve been focused on developing a differentiated direct-to-consumer streaming service that would exploit our considerable content library and leverage our unique advertiser capabilities and relationships,” Bakish said on a Viacom fiscal call. “Pluto TV fits squarely into that strategy.”

The platform gives Viacom access to more than 12 million active monthly AVOD users and distribution on more than 30 million devices nationwide through the app. The free service will also serve as an important marketing engine to acquire and retain consumers for existing and new SVOD services such as Noggin, Comedy Central Now and newly launched Nick Hits, Bakish said, as well as offering a new space to enhance Viacom’s “addressable advertising market,” through millions of impressions per month, he said.

Bakish said Pluto TV currently sells less than 50% of this inventory.

“These are very high-quality impressions,” he said. “There’s plenty of upside here.”

The CEO said he believes AVOD will be able to extract greater margins from library content.

“We made the strategic decision two years ago to curtail the licensing of large library packages to SVOD with our streaming services in mind,” Bakish said.

Viacom plans to leverage its brand, infrastructure and capabilities to expand Pluto TV globally.

Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV, extolled the virtues of the Viacom deal, including its international reach, at the February DEW conference.

“They have world-class brands, well-known programming. They’ve got advanced advertising capabilities, and they are a global company,” he said.

Free AVOD fills an important need as “there has been a certain amount of subscription fatigue,” he said.

“The problem comes down to payment,” he said. “There are only so many services that people will pay for.”

He mentioned a survey by Ampere that found the average SVOD home subscribes to 2.8 streaming services.

“You have Netflix and Amazon Prime, and everybody else fighting for that 0.8,” he said.

A Market for Free VOD

Indeed, with a media landscape littered with SVOD leaders Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — as well as a proliferation of other subscription-based online TV services, such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV — consumers could be hitting subscription overload.

AVOD offers consumers (typically younger) an economical (i.e. free) alternative — and marketers a captive audience.

“Advertisers have a real opportunity [with AVOD] to make connections with a younger [demo] likely to have higher incomes,” said Anna Bager, EVP of industry initiatives at research firm IAB.

And marketers have taken note.

Since 2014, online video ad sales have increased nearly 20% annually, with the online video ad market projected to experience double-digit growth by 2020. More than 37 million U.S. households watched ad-supported shows on connected TVs in 2016, according to Modi Media. Meanwhile Nielsen reports 75% of AVOD’s targeted demographic doesn’t mind ads as long as the content is free.

“It became clear to us that there is a massive group of consumers migrating their viewing to mobile and OTT but finding themselves underserved by live-TV bundles and the universe of competing paid services,” said Yelena Shkolnik of Jump Capital, a venture group backing AVOD service Tubi TV.

IAB found the largest AVOD audience segment is 18- to 34-year-old adults, including households with kids, that skews male. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of those who regularly stream video say that they watch ad-supported OTT. Moreover, 45% of streamers report they watch ad-supported OTT the most. More than half (52%) of AVOD viewers are cord-cutters or cord-shavers, with 42% citing “convenience/flexibility” and 38% citing “better content” as reasons to watch. Additionally, AVOD viewers spend less time watching cable than SVOD viewers. AVOD viewers report watching more OTT video than they did a year ago.

“The findings suggest marketers navigate their way to valuable and receptive audiences by deploying an AVOD strategy,” said Bager.

Chicago-based research firm Lab42 says U.S. consumers on average use upwards of three paid streaming services, with one of them “almost always Netflix,” according to managing partner Jonathan Pirc.

When consumers use a variety of streaming platforms, they’re committing to a piecemeal collection of monthly fees — excluding high-speed Internet service — that quickly rival the traditional cable bundle in cost, said Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo, an ad-supported live-TV/on-demand platform.

“Price-sensitive consumers are seeing [AVOD] as viable alternatives or complements to paid services — that’s probably the biggest factor about AVOD’s rising profile,” Petrie-Norris said.

AVOD and Aggregation

Many AVOD players have long been toiling in the background. Longtime AVOD pioneers Sony Crackle and Shout! TV have streamed free content to largely niche audiences for years. Aggregators, such as The Roku Channel, hope to bring new audiences to those niches through a channel format. The platform, which launched in 2017, emulates Amazon Channels, offering third-party OTT video services while upping the AVOD ante through wider content selection to a base of more than 27 million registered Roku users.

“Free content is clearly important to our users,” founder and CEO Anthony Wood wrote in a recent fiscal newsletter. Citing internal surveys, Wood said 90% of respondents singled out free content as “very important.” A similar survey found The Roku Channel factored heavily (43%) upon consumers looking to purchase a Roku device for the first time.

AVOD has become a “material source” of ad impressions and monetization, he wrote.

“Our ability to monetize this content and share the economics with content partners has proved to be a winning solution for existing channels on the platform that have syndicated their content, and for studios that can publish directly into in The Roku Channel through direct licensing or revenue sharing arrangements,” Woods wrote.

AVOD in the Spotlight

With the increased focus on AVOD, new and old players in the market are suddenly in the spotlight.

WarnerMedia, which is launching a SVOD service in Q4, is considering distributing content via “two-sided” business models that include SVOD and AVOD. Speaking on an AT&T fiscal call, CEO Randall Stephenson said the acquisition of Xandr to help sell digital advertising to AT&T’s 170 million mobile and broadband subscribers underscored opportunities for AVOD that he said would help keep content pricing and consumer acquisition costs down, while also funding content purchasing.

Last August, Irvine, Calif.-based CE manufacturer Vizio rolled out WatchFree, a proprietary ad-supported streaming video platform for its line of televisions that partnered with Pluto TV to feature action movies, black cinema, news channels, NBC News, MSNBC, Fox Sports and related fare.

San Francisco-based Tubi TV, which bowed in 2014 as an ad-supported VOD platform with more than 9,000 movies and television shows from Warner Bros., Fox, MGM, Lionsgate and Paramount, among others, has boasted monthly audience growth of more than 1,000% since 2016, and recently announced availability on Comcast Xfinity X1, in addition to Android and iOS mobile devices, and on OTT devices such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Sony, PlayStation 4, Samsung and Amazon Fire TV. Users can also watch online at TubiTV.com. The platform announced viewership increased 430% in 2018 from 2017, with December generating nearly as much content streamed as in all of 2017. It also announced it had turned a profit in the fourth quarter, with revenue up more than 180% in 2018. More than 1,000 advertisers ran spots on Tubi, including consumer products and automotive advertisers, according to the company. Tubi in January announced plans to spend more than $100 million on content in 2019. The service currently features a library of more than 12,000 movies and television series from more than 200 content partners, including most major studios.

“In 2018, Tubi saw tremendous growth as consumers, fatigued by SVOD subscriptions and services, sought alternative entertainment choices,” said founder and CEO Farhad Massoudi. “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.”

Original Content

While AVOD features largely catalog content, the market is eyeing original fare to compete with SVOD, but it remains to be seen if AVOD can compete with the enormous content funding its SVOD competitors have.

“There’s a big conundrum in the AVOD model,” said Popsugar Studios’ David Grant at the DEW conference in February. “Somehow the content has to be created.”

“When is the AVOD system going to be able to fund the creation of television-sized content?” he asked.

To help pay for original content, Sony is looking to sell a minority stake in its AVOD service Crackle. In a memo to staff last summer, Mike Hopkins, chairman of TV production at Sony, called the service a “tremendously valuable asset.”

“With the right partner — one that could bring additional content, users or leverage existing assets for advertising and promotion — we feel we can expand Crackle’s audience and significantly increase revenue,” Hopkins wrote.

Crackle has scored online hits with original series “The Art of More” and Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” — the latter now operating under the more-lucrative Netflix umbrella.

IMDb Jan. 16 announced the premiere of “UnMade,” an original series that follows comedians as they share plots, inspirations and stories for projects that are not listed on IMDb, because they were never produced. In each episode, celebrity comedians remember projects they penned before they were famous — and, spoiler alert — Hollywood missed out on some winners. These ambitious yet sometimes misguided scripts are given a second chance and brought to life via a team of actors and a professional production crew. The first three episodes feature Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers), Kristen Schaal (“Last Man on Earth”) and Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) sharing ideas. Future guests include Nick Cannon, Bobby Moynihan, Tig Notaro, Paul Rust, Reggie Watts and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

“UnMade provides fans with a comedic new perspective on how the industry works, and why certain projects get made … or don’t,” said Steve Bernstein, GM of IMDb Video.

The series stays true to IMDb’s niche audience and follows previous original series, such as “The IMDb Show,” “So Far,” “No Small Parts” and “Casting Calls.”

“We offer even more original videos for our customers to dive deeper into the stories that shape the industry,” Bernstein said.

Shout! TV’s original programming includes “Backlot,” featuring trade show coverage, interviews with filmmakers and industry experts. “Why We Loved It” explores in-depth analysis on the cult appeal of a range of genres, including vampires, horror, superheroes, comedians and post-apocalyptic antiheroes (i.e. Mad Max).

Star or Supporting Player

While AVOD may be the newest star in the online entertainment landscape, it remains to be seen if it will be as big a draw as SVOD. Michael Pachter, digital media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, is unsure about the AVOD hype, saying he doubts it will threaten Netflix and supplant the SVOD ecosystem. He considers the distribution channel largely supplemental to SVOD.

“I’m sure that there are people who can’t afford Netflix who will watch AVOD, and there are a handful of subscribers who will defect from Netflix, but most subscribers appreciate the unique content available only on [SVOD] and will remain subscribers so long as there is fresh content,” Pachter said.

‘Piercing’ on Blu-ray and DVD March 12

The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Content Group releases the horror thriller Piercing on Blu-ray and DVD March 12. The film is available now digitally and on demand.

Written and directed by Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother), based on Ryû Murakami’s novel about a playful psycho-thriller game of cat-and-mouse, the twisted love story involves a man who seeks out an unsuspecting stranger to help him purge the dark torments of his past, but his plan goes awry when he encounters a woman with plans of her own.

The cast includes Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska and Laia Costa.


CFO: WarnerMedia Asset Better Than Expected; Disney Eyeing AT&T’s Hulu Stake

A day after a federal appeals court ruled in favor of AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, resulting in the creation of WarnerMedia, CFO John Stephens said ownership of the parent to Warner Bros., HBO and Turner has been a fiscal home run.

“It’s turned out to be an asset that may be better than we expected. And we expected a lot,” Stephens told an investor group.

Speaking Feb. 27 at the Morgan Stanley technology, media and telecom conference in San Francisco, Stephens attempted to shoot down media speculation that layoffs and additional cost cutting would occur following the court’s decision.

“We’ve been very careful to set up a separate operating unit [with WarnerMedia] that’s a lot like Time Warner,” he said. “We wanted to protect the culture, we [didn’t] want a finance bean counter from a telephone company go in to what is a tremendously good asset.”

Stephens said results over the past nine months at WarnerMedia have been “consistently” good. They continue to generate cash, they continue to generate value, produce some great-value content.

“The performance of the people at Time Warner … I couldn’t be more pleased with,” he said.

Indeed, through Feb. 24, Warner Bros., led by Aquaman and Clint Eastwood’s The Mule, continues to top all studios at the domestic box office with 22.4% market share and $313.4 million in revenue, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.

“They continue to generate cash, they continue to generate value … produce some great-value content,” Stephens said. “Sharing that really high-quality content is important.”

From a M&A perspective, he said supply-side integration, marketing, data analytics would be combined without infringing upon WarnerMedia’s culture.

“They [had] a CFO [Howard Averill] and we have a CFO. Those kinds of head-counting synergies have been achieved,” Stephens said.

Stephens said he expects the final season of “Game of Thrones” to drive HBO Now subscribership. He said AT&T is considering putting HBO on unlimited mobile wireless packages – with the increased revenue used to fund additional content spend.

“There’s benefits there that can fund some of those things,” Stephens said. “We want to have that same kind of [‘Thrones’] excitement year round.”

Separately, Disney is reportedly in discussions with AT&T to acquire its 10% stake in Hulu. When combined with Fox’s 30% interest, Disney could control 70% of the SVOD and online TV platform, along with Comcast’s 30% stake.





Paramount Mining TV Production Gold

Paramount Pictures is in the midst of a turnaround that pledges fiscal-year 2019 (ending Sept. 30) profitability for the first time since 2015.

While the vaunted studio improved first-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) operating income by $40 million — its eighth consecutive quarter of improvement — due the theatrical performance of Bumblebee and Instant Family, a key profit driver was television content production.

Television revenue in the quarter ballooned 84% year-over-year driven by the release of Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Berlin Station,” on Epix, the recent greenlight for a third season of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” on Amazon Prime Video, and production of Netflix series “Maniac” and “13 Reasons Why,”among others.

Studio boss Jim Gianopulos contends the agreement with Netflix and other streaming services replicates past industry practices around “movie-of-the-week” productions for broadcast TV.

“The difference, of course, is that the quality of these films is much higher, making these relationships even more valuable,” Gianopulos said last November when announcing an agreement with Netflix to produce original movies for the streaming service.

To Bob Bakish, CEO of corporate parent Viacom, Paramount’s renewed success underscores a case study driven by new management.

Speaking Feb. 26 at the Morgan Stanley technology, media & telecom confab in San Francisco, the executive’s comments coincided with the promotion of Dan Cohen to president of worldwide home entertainment & television distribution.

Cohen’s priority will be television production, a business Bakish said didn’t exist at Paramount four years ago. The unit generated $400 million in revenue in 2018 — and is expected to grow 50% to $600 million in 2019.

“It’s not about delivering shows, it’s about delivering hits,” Bakish said.


Viacom Has Global Plans for Pluto TV

On the heels of its $340 million acquisition of Pluto TV, Viacom plans to expand the ad-supported streaming video service globally, featuring the media company’s proprietary content-producing brands, including MTV, Paramount, Comedy Central, BET and Nickelodeon, among others, CEO Bob Bakish told an investor group.

The free streaming service with more than 100 channels launched operations in Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom at the end of 2018.

Speaking Feb. 26 at the Morgan Stanley technology, media & telecom confab in San Francisco, Bakish said Viacom’s decision in 2016 to pull back bulk content distribution through third-party digital channels was a double-edged sword.

“We kind of took it on chin for two years with respect to distribution revenue when we weren’t doing those kinds of deals,” Bakish said, adding that the content backlog presents distribution options for Pluto TV going forward.

The executive said Viacom generates upwards of 13 million monthly users to digital products that include Nickelodeon’s Noggin streaming service, in addition to platforms surrounding Comedy Central and BET.

Viacom also plans to market over-the-top distribution to its linear pay-TV business partners.

“This is a global opportunity,” Bakish said. “It’s going to accelerate our strategy on multiple dimensions. We see a very material opportunity there.”

At the same time, the executive said digital distribution has been hampered by the traditional pay-TV ecosystem, existing distribution agreements and related monetization opportunities.

“We don’t have a demand problem, we have a supply problem,” Bakish said.

The executive contends Pluto TV offers Viacom’s brands and advertisers a very “attractive” demographic that he claims are “essentially” not tethered to traditional pay-TV.

In addition, Bakish contends Pluto’s ad-inventory is 50% unsold due in part to a “nascent” ad force he said didn’t have access to Viacom’s portfolio of national brands and global marketers.

“They didn’t have those kinds of relationships,” he said. “[Now, they’ve] got access to money they never saw before. [Pluto TV] looks like television to advertisers.”


Warner’s ‘A Star Is Born’ Shoots to No. 1 on Redbox Charts

It may have picked up just one Academy Award (Best Original Song) from its eight nominations, but A Star Is Born triumphed on both Redbox charts the week leading up to the Oscar ceremony Feb. 24.

Warner’s 2018 update of the classic film story landed at No. 1 on both the Redbox kiosk chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red vending machines, and the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), both electronic sellthrough (EST) and streaming, the week ended Feb. 24.

The film, which earned $210.9 million at the box office and debuted on disc Feb. 19, stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga — both nominated for Oscars for their performances — as two musicians who come together on stage and in life in a complex journey through the beauty and heartbreak of a relationship struggling to survive.

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Four other new releases appeared on the Redbox disc chart for the week. Lionsgate’s Robin Hood, another retelling of a classic story, starring Taron Egerton as Robin Hood and Jamie Foxx as Little John, debuted at No. 2. Paramount Pictures’ Overlord, a story produced by J.J. Abrams about a team of American paratroopers who encounter Nazi super-soldiers, entered the chart at No. 4. Lionsgate’s Backtrace, an action thriller starring Sylvester Stallone, debuted at No. 8. And 20th Century Fox’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? — which earned three Oscar noms, for Best Actress (Melissa McCarthy), Best Supporting Actor (Richard E. Grant) and Best Adapted Screenplay — entered the disc chart at No. 10.

Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which won all but one of the five Oscars for which it was nominated, including Best Actor for Rami Malek, finished its second week in disc release at No. 3, falling from No. 1.

On the digital chart, Bohemian Rhapsody fell one spot to No. 2, behind A Star Is Born, which shot up the chart from No. 10 the previous week. Robin Hood took the third spot, followed by Paramount’s Tyler Perry comedy Nobody’s Fool at No. 4 (from No. 2 the previous week), Overlord at No. 5 and Can You Ever Forgive Me? at No. 6.

Interestingly, two titles released in the fall of last year appeared on the digital chart. Sony Pictures’ Nov. 13 release Searching, which stars John Cho as a distraught father who sifts through his missing daughter’s digital footprint determined to find her, appeared at No. 9. And Universal Pictures’ Sept. 25 release Skyscraper, an actioner starring Dwayne Johnson, came in at No. 10.


Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended Feb. 24:

  1. A Star Is Born (2018) (New) — Warner
  2. Robin Hood (2018) (New) — Lionsgate
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody — Fox
  4. Overlord (New) — Paramount
  5. The Grinch — Universal
  6. Nobody’s Fool — Paramount
  7. Widows — Fox
  8. Backtrace (New) — Lionsgate
  9. The Girl in the Spider’s Web — Sony
  10. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (New) — Fox


Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ended Feb. 24:

  1. A Star Is Born (2018) — Warner
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody — Fox
  3. Robin Hood (2018) — Lionsgate
  4. Nobody’s Fool — Paramount
  5. Overlord — Paramount
  6. Can You Ever Forgive Me? — Fox
  7. The Grinch — Universal
  8. Widows — Fox
  9. Searching — Sony
  10. Skyscraper — Universal

BritBox SVOD Service Heading Home

Following the successful launch of a British-themed subscription streaming video service in the United States, the creators of BritBox are planning to bow the platform in the United Kingdom.

The BBC and ITV Feb. 26 said they are working out the legalities, anticipating that other partners will be added to the service. Both companies said they would speak to regulators and the wider industry about their proposals.

While neither the BBC or ITV would disclose pricing for the service, launch is planned for the second half of 2019. Consumers can pre-register for the service at www.BritBox.co.uk.

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BritBox U.K. would claim to have the biggest collection of British content available on any streaming service, in addition to original content specifically created for the streaming service.

“I am really pleased that ITV and the BBC are at the concluding stage of discussions to launch a new streaming service,” Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, said in a statement. “BritBox will be the home for the best of British creativity – celebrating the best of the past, the best of today and investing in new British originated content in the future.

The BBC and ITV launched BritBox in the United States in 2017, with the service recently topping 500,000 subscribers. The tally is significant considering British-themed SVOD competitors include AMC Networks’ Acorn TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

There is no shortage of SVOD service in the U.K., with both Netflix and Amazon well established. Data from the Broadcasters Audience Research Board found that more than 12 million households have at least one SVOD service – with annual growth in homes with any SVOD service at 20%. That percentage increases to 32% with 4 million homes having more than one subscription.

ITV claims 43% of all connected homes in the U.K. are interested in subscribing to a SVOD service featuring British content. This percentage increases to over 50% in homes with a Netflix subscription.

“It’s an exciting time for the viewing public,” said BBC director general Tony Hall.



Best Buy Q4 Entertainment Sales Growth Cools, Profit Up

Best Buy Feb. 27 reported a 2.7% increase in fourth quarter (ended Feb. 2) entertainment comparable store sales, which was down from a 16.8% increase during the previous-year period.

The entertainment segment, which includes DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software, generated 10% ($1.34 billion) of Best Buy’s $13.4 billion in domestic revenue. That compared to $1.39 billion (10%) during the previous-year period.

Internationally, same-store entertainment sales dropped 2.5% compared to a 11% increase last year. Entertainment represented 9% ($117 million) of international revenue, compared to $123 million (9%) last year.

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Overall, the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer reported $735 million in profit, which was up from $364 million in net income during the previous-year period. Revenue dipped less than 4% to $14.8 billion compared to $15.3 billion last year.

The company generated comparable sales growth across multiple categories, with the largest drivers being wearables, appliances, smart home and gaming. These drivers were partially offset by a decline in the mobile phone category.

Indeed, Best Buy closed 257 branded mobile and 12 large format stores in 2018.

“We are very proud of the financial results we have just delivered,” CEO Hubert Joly said in a statement. “For the fourth quarter, we reported a 3% increase in our comparable sales, on top of 9% comparable sales growth last year. For the full year, our comparable sales grew 4.8% and our [earnings per share] increased more than 20%.”