YouTube Expands MLB Partnership with Live-Game Streaming

YouTube April 30 disclosed it has expanded its relationship with Major League Baseball that includes the right to live-stream 13 games for free during the second-half of 2019 season in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

The deal mirrors last year’s deals between MLB, Amazon and Twitter that brought the national pastime to social media and beyond the league’s MLB.tv subscription streaming service.

Google-owned YouTube’s first-ever streaming deal with MLB follows previous deals that included Google Assistant serving as the presenting sponsor of the 2018 American and National League Championship Series.

That promotion marked Google’s first-ever presenting partnership around a U.S. professional sports league’s postseason event for its voice-activated technology.

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Previously, online TV subscription service YouTube TV served as the presenting sponsor of the 2017 and 2018 World Series.

YouTube TV also partnered with MLB on a season-long sponsorship — “First Pitch” – that showcased the YouTube TV brand during the first pitches of games on MLB Network and MLB.tv, and on MLB.com and MLB social channels.

In 2017, MLB’s engagement and content strategy on YouTube generated over 1 billion views.

“From live programming morphing into a YouTube TV spot, to prominent in-stadium placements, our innovative partnership [with MLB] allowed us to build awareness for YouTube TV,” Angela Courtin, global head of YouTube TV & originals marketing, said in a statement last year.

Director John Singleton Movies Live On at Retail

Pioneering director John Singleton, who died April 29 at age 51 after suffering a stroke last week, was the first African American (and youngest) nominated for an Academy Award for 1991 seminal hit, Boyz in the Hood.

Filmed in South Central Los Angeles where Singleton grew up, the teen hood drama starred Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Regina King and Angela Bassett.

The movie, which was the acting debut for Ice Cube and Chestnut, was selected for preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress in the National Film Registry.

Singleton’s theatrical movies — spearheaded by 2 Fast 2 Furious in 2003 (Universal Pictures) — generated nearly $780 million in global ticket sales when adjusted for inflation.

2 Furious, sequel to original The Fast and the Furious (2001) was Singleton’s top-grossing international release — in addition to home entertainment seller.

The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment title featuring the late Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson, sold about $6 million combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units, according to The-Numbers.com.

Other home video releases include Four Brothers, Baby Boy, Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, Abduction and Shaft.

Four Brothers, starring Mark Wahlberg, Gibson, Andre Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund, was released on disc by Warner Home Video in 2005.

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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2012 released “The John Singleton 4-Movie Collection” combo pack on DVD featuring Higher Learning, Baby Boy, Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice.

Paramount Home Media Distribution released Singleton’s Shaft reboot, starring Samuel L. Jackson, in 2000 on DVD and later on Blu-ray Disc.

Paramount included the title in a 3-Pack titled “Samuel L. Jackson Ultimate Collection,” also featuring Coach Carter and Rules of Engagement.

Lionsgate released Abduction, starring Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins, on disc in 2012.

 John Singleton — Hollywood’s Best Film Directors from documentarian David Freydt is available on Amazon Prime Video.

HBO Announces Four Digital Releases for May 2019

HBO Home Entertainment has announced four titles available for digital download in May 2019.

Due May 6 is Native Son, the story of Bigger Thomas (Ashton Sanders), a young African-American living in Chicago who is hired as a chauffeur for affluent businessman Will Dalton (Bill Camp). As Thomas enters this seductive new world of money and power — including a precarious relationship with Dalton’s daughter, Mary (Margaret Qualley) — he faces unforeseen choices and perilous circumstances that will alter the course of his life forever. The cast also includes Nick Robinson, KiKi Layne, Elizabeth Marvel, David Alan Grier and Sanaa Lathan.

Arriving May 13 is Veep: Season 7, as well as Veep: The Complete Series. The final season of “Veep” finds Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) running for president again and facing new challenges and controversies.

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Also due May 13 is Arthur Miller: Writer, a documentary about the celebrated playwright told from the perspective of his daughter, filmmaker Rebecca Miller.

Coming May 27 is The Truth About Killer Robots, which looks at several automation cases, from a factory in Germany to a bomb-carrying police droid in Dallas, raising questions of accountability and morality. Exploring the provocative viewpoints of engineers, journalists and philosophers, the film goes beyond sensational deaths to examine more subtle but pervasive ways that robots affect humanity.

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Propels Marvel Movies Up Digital Retail Charts

The $1.2 billion global theatrical opening for Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame has unsurprisingly proved to be a boon for previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

On the Apple iTunes store movie sales chart on April 29, all 22 MCU movies were among the top 60 selling titles, with No. 1 being preorders for Endgame.

Including Endgame, Marvel movies comprised six of the top 10, with 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War at No. 3, 2012’s The Avengers at No. 4, 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger at No. 6, 2008’s Iron Man at No. 7, and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron at No. 8.

The MCU movies, which collectively have grossed nearly $20 billion worldwide, typically creep back up the charts when a new installment hits theaters, particularly when it’s a sequel to one of the specific character movies (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.). Endgame, however, was positioned as a sequel to virtually every MCU movie that came before it, and the uptick in sales of previous movies was reflected in the anticipation to the latest chapter, which closes out several prominent storylines from the first 11 years of the MCU, which began in 2008 with the first Iron Man.

The effect is even apparent at the box office, where Captain Marvel, which was released in theaters in March, rose to No. 2 at the domestic box office behind Endgame

On iTunes, the weekend after Endgame hit theaters also saw 2016’s Captain America: Civil War at No. 14, 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier at No. 16, 2011’s Thor at No. 22, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy at No. 23, 2016’s Doctor Strange at No. 27, 2010’s Iron Man 2 at No. 30, 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming at No. 31, 2013’s Iron Man 3 at No. 33, preorders for Captain Marvel at No. 35, 2015’s Ant-Man at No. 38, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk at No. 39, 2013’s Thor: The Dark World at No. 40, 2018’s Ant-Man at the Wasp at No. 47, 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 at No. 50, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok at No. 51, and 2018’s Black Panther at No. 59.

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The websites of other digital retailers showed a similar effect.

The Microsoft Movies & TV store also had preorders for Endgame as its No. 1 seller on April 29. Infinity War was No. 7, the original Avengers was No. 9, Iron Man was No. 10, Age of Ultron was No. 11, Civil War was No. 12, Captain America: The First Avengers was No. 13, Winter Soldier was No. 14 and a “Captain America” trilogy collection was No. 18.

The Microsoft Top 50 also included 13 other MCU movies, plus preorders for an “Avengers” four-movie collection at No. 41.

Walmart’s Vudu had Infinity War listed first on its “Most Watched” page on April 29, while Age of Ultron and the original Avengers were listed as ninth and tenth, respectively.

On the Amazon.com Amazon Video on demand (rental) list for April 29, MCU movies comprised five of the top 10 and 10 of the top 25, led by Spider-Man: Homecoming at No. 1, Guardians of the Galaxy at No. 2 and Ant-Man at No. 3. The further titles include Captain America: The First Avenger at No. 5, Iron Man 3 at No. 6, Avengers: Age of Ultron at No. 12, Thor at No. 16, Civil War at No. 17, Winter Soldier at No. 24 and Infinity War at No. 25. (Note that Amazon’s website lists high-definition and standar-defintion sales for the same title separately).

New Taylor Swift Single, ‘ME!’ Shatters YouTube, Vevo, Amazon Streaming Video Records

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s newest single release, “ME!” from her yet unnamed seventh album, broke several female streaming video records over the weekend on YouTube, Amazon Music and Vevo.

The single features Brendon Urie of Picnic! At The Disco and Swift.

The 29-year-old performer’s music video generated 65.2 million views in 24 hours on YouTube through April 28 – breaking the 55 million mark set by Ariana Grande’s “Thank-You, Next” video released late last year.

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South Korean boy-band BTS holds the record with 74 million YouTube views for “Boy with Luv,” featuring Halsey, released on April 12.

Amazon tweeted “ME!” broke records for most first-day streams and on-demand voice requests with Alexa software than any other single debut on its music platform.

Vevo, which is operated by Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Abu Dhabi Media, said the video generated the most views in a single day since the music video platform launched 10 years ago.

Swift’s last album, “Reputation,” sold 4.5 million units worldwide across CD, LP, download, cassette and online streaming formats. The concert tour generated more than $345 million in ticket sales worldwide.

Viacom Adds Flagship Networks to Pluto TV, Announces Slate of Original Digital Programming

Viacom Inc. announced the introduction of its flagship networks to Pluto TV’s channel lineup and a new slate of original digital programming during its second-annual NewFront event at the PlayStation Theater April 29.

BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon will debut channels on ad-supported Pluto TV May 1, according to a Viacom press release, with content from Viacom’s library in three categories of branded channels: co-branded flagship channels that are curated versions of Viacom’s leading networks; signature channels with the most celebrated and diversified programming from each brand; and pop-up channels that deliver binge-worthy series in marathon-style airings, starting with MTV’s “The Hills” — in time for the revival series “The Hills: New Beginnings” premiering June 24.

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“We are thrilled to expand the Pluto TV offering with the addition of Viacom’s world-class channel brands and iconic programming. This is a major step forward in our mission of entertaining the planet,” said Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, in a statement. “Viacom has been entertaining audiences for decades with evergreen content that is bold, daring and inspires worldwide fandom. These channels are guaranteed to provide endless entertainment to both new and existing Pluto TV viewers.”

Viacom Digital Studios will produce new and returning original series around major tentpole events, linear franchises and popular digital shows from Awesomeness, BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, according to a Viacom release.

“Viacom is also teaming up with big-name stars and fan-favorite digital talent to deliver entirely new programming across Facebook, Snap, Twitter and YouTube for Viacom’s more than 880 million fans — the largest social footprint among entertainment companies,” according to the release.

The new content slate includes:

  • “How to Survive: A Break-Up,” in which Eva Gutowski stars in an AwesomenessTV scripted romantic comedy series;
  • “Black Coffee,” BET’s daily morning talk show starring Marc Lamont Hill that catches up with Black Twitter’s liveliest conversations and features interviews with celebrities, athletes, and social media stars
  • an untitled late-night show from David Spade, Comedy Central’s new late-night show hosted by Spade, which will launch show channels and publish content across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
  • “MTV No Filter: Tana Turns 21,” which follows Tana Mongeau and her crew for a behind-the-scenes look as they navigate vlog life, studio time, partying and the occasional controversy;
  • “SpongeBob Smarty Pants Game Show,”a digital game show from Nickelodeon where two SpongeBob superfans compete to win The Golden Pineapple by answering trivia questions, completing messy stunts and competing in SpongeBob-themed games.

Spotify Music Streaming Service Tops 100 Million Subs; Ups Fiscal Loss

SpotifyTechnology S.A. April 29 announced its branded music subscription streaming service reached 100 million paid subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31.

That beat the previous-year period with 75.5 million paid subs. It also nearly doubled Apple Music with 50 million subs.

Average monthly users grew 26% to 217 million (which includes free ad-supported music users), slightly lower than the company’s 215-220 million guidance range.

“Outperformance was driven by a better promotion plan in the U.S. and Canada,” founder/CEO Daniel Ek and CFO Barry McCarthy said in a statement, alluding to a 23% price reduction ($12.99 to $9.99 monthly) for the “Spotify Premium + Hulu” promotion in the U.S.

McCarthy was Netflix’s CFO from 1999 to 2010.

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Spotify launched India in late February expanding its global market footprint to 79 countries. More than 1 million users signed up for Spotify in the first week in India. The company now has more than 2 million users in India.

Regardless, the streaming service reported an operating loss of €47 million ($52.4 million) on revenue of €1.5 billion ($1.67 billion), which was up 33% from revenue of  €1.1 billion ($1.22 billion) last year.

 The service, along with Pandora, Google and Amazon Prime Music, remains embroiled in a royalty dispute with songwriters.

Last month, the Register of the Copyright Office approved upping songwriters’ royalties from music streaming services from 10.5% to 15.1%  through 2022.

It was biggest rate increase granted in CRB history, according to the National Music Publishers’ Association.

Spotify & Co. are appealing the hike, claiming it “harms music licensees and copyright owners,” among other issues. Apple Music is not appealing the ruling.

AMC Theatres, Imax Set Weekend Attendance, Box Office Records With Marvel Studios’ ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Who said the theatrical window is dead?

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor chain, and Imax April 29 announced record-setting attendance and box office revenue for Marvel Studios’ superhero epic Avengers: Endgame, which wraps up storylines for several of the franchise’s characters.

 The Disney release rewrote global weekend box office records, generating $350 million in North America ticket sales and $1.2 billion worldwide.

Endgame reportedly accounted for more than 80% of all domestic movie tickets sold over the April 28 weekend.

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AMC said the movie fueled an all-time single-day attendance record on Saturday (April 27) with more than 2.6 million tickets sold. The tally surpassed the previous single-day U.S. attendance record for AMC set during the opening weekend of Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther 14 months earlier in 2018.

AMC said it set a new single-day domestic food and beverage revenue record April 26 of more than $13 million. That record lasted less than 24 hours before it was shattered April 27 with more than $15 million sold.

Indeed, a record-number 19 AMC locations were open around-the-clock from Thursday morning through Sunday night. The 63,000 Avengers: Endgame showtimes over the weekend topped by 16,000 the previous record for a single movie on opening weekend.

The chain put a weekend-record nearly 11 million tickets on sale from Thursday through Sunday for the movie. Demand was so strong that AMC added more than 5,000 showtimes.

Meanwhile, Imax Corp. announced Avengers: Endgame set a new all-time worldwide opening weekend record grossing approximately $91.5 million, surpassing previous record holder Star Wars: The Force Awakens by 92%.

Endgame was the second Hollywood film to ever be shot entirely with Imax cameras.

In China, Imax set an opening five-day record with $42.4 million, surpassing its previous record by 65% and outperforming the entire Imax China run of Avengers: Infinity War.

In addition, Imax set 50 opening weekend territory records, including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, India, Taiwan, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. The film is scheduled to open in additional territories, including Russia on April 29.

In North America, Endgame grossed $26.5 million in Imax, surpassing the opening of Avengers: Infinity War by 14% and marking Imax’s second-highest-grossing domestic opening weekend ever. The high-definition format reported hundreds of sellout screenings across its domestic network with the chain representing 21 of the film’s top 25 North America engagements.

“Like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, our decade-long relationship with Marvel has only strengthened over time with each film creating a deeper connection between these beloved characters and Imax audiences worldwide,” Imax CEO Richard Gelfond said in a statement.

Walmart Teases One-Day Shipping

The shipping delivery war took another turn after Walmart went to social media to hint it would match Amazon’s decision to switch from free two-day shipping for Prime members to one-day deliveries.

“One-day free shipping … without a membership fee. Now THAT would be groundbreaking. Stay tuned,” Walmart tweeted April 26 the day after Amazon disclosed it would spend upwards of $800 million upgrading internal and external shipping capacity for one-day shipments.

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Amazon charges $119 annually for its Prime membership, which includes free access to movies and TV shows on Amazon Prime Video, music on Prime Music and two-hour delivery (for a fee) for Prime Now store deliveries, among other features.

Amazon’s announcement had a ripple effect on retail stocks, sending Walmart and Target shares down 1.9% and 5.7%, respectively, in April 26 trading.

The switch is expected to put added pressure on big box retailers such as Best Buy, Office Depot and Dick’s Sporting Goods, among others.

MoviePass Rival Sinemia Ceases Operations

Sinemia, the MoviePass competitor offering subscribers access to theatrical screenings for a $4.99 monthly fee, has ceased operations about a year after launching.

The Los Angeles-based service had attempted to piggyback on the initial success of MoviePass affording subscribers daily access to a theatrical screening for flat $9.95 monthly fee.

“Today, with a heavy heart, we’re announcing that Sinemia is closing its doors and ending operations in the U.S. effective immediately,” the service wrote April 25 on its website.

Launched by Turkish native Rifat Oguz, Sinemia sought to circumvent loss-leader pricing through up-front annual billing with revenue sharing with exhibitors.

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The service offered a two-ticket plan priced at $6.99 monthly (also billed annually); $9.99 for two tickets, including 3D, 4D and Imax formats; and $14.99 for three tickets, including 3D, 4D, Imax formats.

The strategy differed from MoviePass, which has attempted to circumvent exhibitors through a populous approach — with disastrous fiscal results.

The service’s parent, Helios Matheson Analytics, had its stock delisted by Nasdaq after investors fled MoviePass following tens of millions of dollars in quarterly losses due to an unsustainable business model, uncooperative exhibitors and frequent user policy changes, among other issues.

MoviePass reportedly has little more than 200,000 subscribers after once topping 3 million.

Meanwhile, AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest exhibitor, launched its own subscription service, AMC Stubs A-List, which earlier this year reached 700,000 subs paying $20 monthly fee.

Sinemia alluded to A-List for its decision to shut down.

“We are all witnessing that the future of moviegoing is evolving through movie ticket subscriptions,” Sinemia said. “However, we didn’t see a path to sustainability as an independent movie ticket subscription service in the face of competition from movie theaters as they build their own subscriptions. Thanks to the cost advantage and cross-sell opportunities, movie theaters will be prominent in the movie ticket subscription economy.”