Roku Offering Free Premium Content on Ad-Supported Channel

The Roku Channel, the subscription streaming media device manufacturer’s ad-supported service offering users access to third-party catalog programming, Sept. 30 began showcasing select third-party premium content — for free.

In a blog post, Roku announced it is offering programming from CBS-owned Showtime, MGM-owned Epix, HISTORY, Cinedigm, and Acorn TV, among others, in an attempt to jumpstart subscriptions to third-party services.

Programming includes: “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” (SHOWTIME), “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX), “America The Story of Us” (HISTORY Vault), “Heartland” (Dove Channel), and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” (Acorn TV), and more, with no subscription or even trial required.

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“Once you’ve sampled your new favorite show, follow one-click sign-up to begin a free trial or start a subscription,” Nicole Fencel, senior manager, programming product strategy at Roku, said in statement.

The Roku Channel is upping third-party premium over-the-top video services, as well as offering more than 80,000 ad-supported movies and TV episodes, more than 35 live and linear streaming services, including kids & family entertainment. 

 

Netflix’s ‘Disenchantment’ Top Binge, ‘The Politician’ Top ‘Show on the Rise’ on TV Time Charts

Two shows from Netflix led the TV Time charts for the week ended Sept. 29. “Disenchantment” was No. 1 on the “Binge Report,” while “The Politician” led the “Shows on the Rise.”

TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program.

The second installment of “Disenchantment,” from Matt Groening (“The Simpsons,” “Futurama”), hit screens Sept. 20. The animated fantasy series geared toward adults takes place in the crumbling medieval kingdom of Dreamland and follows the misadventures of hard-drinking princess Bean, her elf companion Elfo and personal demon Luci.

“The Politician” debuted Sept. 27 and is the first series under producer Ryan Murphy’s new deal with Netflix. The comedy stars Ben Platt as Payton Hobart, a wealthy and driven high school student determined to become president of the United States. The series also features Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Lange, Zoey Deutch, Dylan McDermott and Bette Midler.

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended Sept. 29 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Disenchantment” (Netflix) — 6.31%
  2. “Elite” (Netflix) — 3.42%
  3. “Friends” (NBC) — 2.52%
  4. “13 Reasons Why” (Netflix) — 2.45%
  5. “Unbelievable” (Netflix) — 1.86%
  6. “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) — 1.58%
  7. “Lucifer” (Neflix) — 1.57%
  8. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.45%
  9. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) — 1.31%
  10. “How to Get Away With Murder” (ABC) — 1.25%

 

Top Shows on the Rise Week Ended Sept. 29 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “The Politician” (Netflix) — 99.9%
  2. “Prodigal Son” (Fox) — 99.7%
  3. “The Voice” (NBC) — 93.2%
  4. “FBI” (CBS) — 81.7%
  5. “9-1-1” (Fox) — 81.3%
  6. “A Million Little Things” (ABC) — 77.3%
  7. “New Amsterdam” (NBC) — 76.2%
  8. “Glitch” (ABC AU) — 74.2%
  9. “This Is Us” (NBC) — 72%
  10. “The Resident” (Fox) — 71.2%

Apple Bowing Original Movies Theatrically Ahead of Streaming

As Apple is spending Netflix-like billions on original programming and movies, it has no plans to emulate the SVOD pioneer with  a non-theatrical window.

The media giant reportedly plans to release original movies in theaters exclusively for three weeks ahead of any distribution on the pending Apple TV+ streaming platform.

Apple’s nod to the traditional 90-day window mirrors Amazon Studios, which released Manchester by the Sea in theaters in 2017 before streaming it on Prime Video. The movie went on to win two Oscars, including Best Actor for Casey Affleck.

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Apple is following the traditional Hollywood movie distribution playbook to better leverage cooperation from producers and directors, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the strategy.

Apple video executives include Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who report to services chief, Eddy Cue.

Netflix had planned to release big-budget mobster movie, The Irishman, from director Martin Scorsese exclusively in theaters, but negotiations between the SVOD leader and exhibitors reportedly broke down.

The streamer has steadfastly opted to stream original movies concurrently with any theatrical release — a strategy that results in boycott from most major exhibitors.

Apple’s pending theatrical strategy includes the 2020 bow of Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks, which stars Rashida Jones as a young woman reconnecting with her eccentric father (Bill Murray).

The film marks Coppola’s first collaboration with Murray since the 2003 indie drama, Lost in Translation, which earned Coppola an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

The streamer is also readying documentary, The Elephant Queen, about an elephant leading her herd across Africa.

 

Netflix Renews ‘Stranger Things’ for Fourth Season, Inks Deal With Creators the Duffer Brothers

Netflix has renewed the series “Stranger Things” for a fourth season and has signed series creators and showrunners the Duffer brothers to a multi-year film and series overall deal.

“The Duffer brothers have captivated viewers around the world with ‘Stranger Things and we’re thrilled to expand our relationship with them to bring their vivid imaginations to other film and series projects our members will love,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos in a statement. “We can’t wait to see what the Duffer brothers have in store when they step outside the world of The Upside Down.”

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The Duffer Brothers

“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our relationship with Netflix. Ted Sarandos, Cindy Holland, Brian Wright, and Matt Thunell took a huge chance on us and our show — and forever changed our lives,” said the Duffer brothers in a statement. “From our first pitch meeting to the release of ‘Stranger Things 3,’ the entire team at Netflix has been nothing short of sensational, providing us with the kind of support, guidance, and creative freedom we always dreamed about. We can’t wait to tell many more stories together — beginning, of course, with a return trip to Hawkins!”

“Stranger Things” is a Netflix Original Series about mysterious happenings in a small town. The Duffer brothers serve as executive producers on the series alongside Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen of 21 Laps Entertainment and Iain Paterson.

Kino Lorber Launches Kino Now VOD Service

Arthouse distributor Kino Lorber is launching a transactional VOD platform, Kino Now, showcasing more than 600 new releases, classics, and award-winning international films.

Titles are available for digital rental and purchase.

An additional 600 films will be added over the next several months, according to the company.

Kino Now will also offer exclusive early access to new theatrical releases, festival hits and exclusive titles not available on other streaming platforms or not yet available on home video, according to Kino Lorber.

The platform will also include special “bundle” offerings of selected hard-to-find titles as well as collections from renowned filmmakers. Collections include themes such as “Episodic Cinema,” featuring international TV series (including “Deutschland 83,” and the Emmy Award-nominated “Bad Banks”); Documentary Series & Extended Play (including Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth); Auteur Collections built around filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Lina Wertmüller and Fritz Lang; and the Pioneers of Cinema restorations of the early works of African American filmmakers and the first women filmmakers.

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The Playlist section will soon recommend personalized, specially curated selections that will be regularly updated, tied in with major international film festivals, holidays and cultural events, according to Kino Lorber.

They will also be curated around themes such as Italian, French and German cinema, Hispanic Heritage, Festival Winners & Oscar Runs, Euro Horror, Director’s Spotlights, First Films, and Staff Picks.

The site will be annually refreshed with more than 50 new theatrical releases from Kino Lorber’s first run and repertory divisions and more than 500 yearly additional titles as “festival direct” exclusives and indie art house digital premieres, according to the company.

“We’ve been leaders in building a direct to consumer business with physical media and now is the time to assert our leadership in the direct to digital space,” said Richard Lorber, president and CEO of Kino Lorber, in a statement. “Our superb library will be continually enhanced by the coming of newly acclaimed and award winning theatrical releases. We believe a younger generation of cinema lovers will embrace our collection as a kind of art house iTunes with Kino Now putting at their fingertips cinema masterworks of the past and the classics of tomorrow.”

New titles coming soon to Kino Now include Rick Alverson’s The Mountain, starring Tye Sheridan and Jeff Goldblum; Chinese auteur Bi Gan’s box office hit Long Day’s Journey into Night; Lila Avilés’ The Chambermaid (Mexico’s current official Oscar submission); Franco Rosso’s 1980s British reggae hit Babylon; and international documentaries such as Walking on Water, an intimate portrait of the artist Christo, and the climate change film Anthropocene: The Human Epoch.

Current selections include new arthouse hits such as Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini (starring Willem Dafoe), and Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s Diamantino; new restorations of repertory re-releases, such as Frank Simon’s queer drag classic The Queen; critically-acclaimed documentaries such as Alexandra Dean’s Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Matt Tyrnauer’s Studio 54, and Pamela Green’s Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché; and classics of world cinema from directors such as Jean-Luc Godard (AlphavilleThe Image Book), Jean-Pierre Melville (Bob le Flambeur), Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad), and a collection of seven films by Lina Wertmüller, the first woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director and upcoming recipient of the Academy Honorary Award.

The service is available on Roku and will be available soon on AppleTV, Amazon Fire, and more, according to Kino Lorber.

Iconic Video Store and Film Nonprofit Vidiots Relaunching in L.A.

Vidiots, the iconic L.A. video store-turned-film nonprofit, will relaunch in fall of 2020 as an expanded entertainment, social and community space with an adjacent video store in a new home at the historic Eagle Theatre in Los Angeles, according to the Vidiots Foundation.

Restoring the 90-year-old, 200-seat Eagle Theatre as an independent theater with state-of-the-art sound and projection (35mm and DCP), Vidiots will offer a program of repertory titles, new independents, hard-to-find gems, classics and community-driven programs. An adjacent storefront will house Vidiots’ 50,000-plus DVD, Blu-ray and rare VHS collection for rental. The location will also have a multi-purpose, second screening room for film programs, educational workshops, and special events.

Vidiots is currently fundraising and identifying Cornerstone Donors and Corporate Partners for naming rights and is also inviting First-In Founding Members. Founding Members to date include Katie Aselton and Mark Duplass, Jess Wu Calder and Keith Calder, Emily Cook, Mackenzie Davis, Rian Johnson and Karina Longworth, Phil Lord, Nate Moore, and Morgan Neville. Vidiots friend and supporter Jason Reitman is donating a 35mm projection system.

“Vidiots relaunching on the cusp of our 35th birthday is a triumph for Los Angeles film history and cements the legacy of Vidiots founders Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber as innovators in L.A. film culture,” said Vidiots executive director Maggie Mackay in a statement. “Bringing the Eagle Theatre back and providing L.A. with a long-needed new film space is thrilling. We’re deeply grateful for our valued programming partners present and future, our expert advisors, and especially our First-In Founding Members whose generosity and passionate belief in our mission have made this relaunch possible. Vidiots at the Eagle is a community space created by and for film lovers and filmmakers. We welcome and encourage everyone who believes in our mission to join us as we work towards opening in fall 2020.”

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“Los Angeles should have more movie theaters, not fewer, and Vidiots has come to give all us punch drunk film lovers another place to call home where we can roam the racks. Thank you! So grateful to be a small part of this evolving institution,” said Reitman in a statement.

“We’re thrilled that Vidiots is moving into this next chapter and that our unique library of films will once again be made available to the public, especially in this era of streaming where choices are increasingly limited,” said Vidiots founders Polinger and Tauber in a statement. “Vidiots at the Eagle Theatre is a truly exciting and ambitious plan that revolves around our commitment to archival preservation, education, and accessibility, while maintaining and growing our passionate community of film lovers.”

“When we first moved in together and merged our belongings, we became a two-VCR family — and this was in 2013,” said Longworth and Johnson in a statement. “VHS and video stores were integral to both of us becoming who we are, and we couldn’t be happier to support the evolution of Vidiots and its media library. In a world remade by streaming, it’s never been more important to preserve access to physical media for all.”

“Their efforts towards creating community and preservation made Vidiots legendary in L.A. and I’m so excited to see their philosophy and energy reincarnated in a brick-and-mortar film space on the East Side. I can’t wait to spend all my time there,” said Davis in a statement.

Recently, Vidiots launched a programming partnership with Alamo Drafthouse L.A. with the series “Tales From the Video Store.” Vidiots is currently presenting a monthly 16mm series with Projections at the Bootleg Theater. New programming partnerships with The Black List, The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, and Cinema Eye Honors will launch in late in 2019/early 2020.

Future programming and partner organizations include Art House Convergence, Film Independent, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Outfest, Oxy Arts and the Occidental Media Arts & Culture Department, Sundance Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, Women in Film, and Vidéothèque.

Vidiots was opened as an alternative video store in 1985 by L.A. natives Polinger and Tauber. For 32 years Vidiots served its community via the iconic Santa Monica storefront, which shuttered in 2017 in the wake of rising costs. With the support of Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures (which became a major donor in 2015, along with Vidiots customer Dr. Leonard Lipman), Vidiots was able to store its collection and devise an extensive plan for sustainable relaunch in a new home.

The Eagle Theatre in the 1970s

Vidiots’ new home, originally conceived as a vaudeville stage, first opened in May 1929 as The Yosemite Theatre. After a few short days, the Yosemite re-opened as an independent silent movie theater, and a year later it transitioned to sound. In 1940, The Yosemite became The Eagle Theatre. From 1976 to 1979, the theater ran as a Pussycat, part of the adult cinema chain. In 1983, The Eagle once again became a traditional independent cinema, and operated into the 1990s before becoming a series of churches.

With almost-10,000 square feet of entertainment and educational space, Vidiots will operate seven days a week and offer daily screenings and special programs, the full video store with DVD and Blu-ray rentals, concessions, and a light menu with beer and wine. The main theater (200+ seats, a stage, 35mm, DCP, and state-of-the-art sound) will host screenings and tastemaker events. A second, smaller screening and event space (approximately 50 seats with DCP projection) will host screenings, workshops, and receptions.

To make a donation and sign up for email updates, visit vidiotsfoundation.org.

Well Go to Bow Chinese Horror Films ‘The Lingering’ and ‘Legend of the Demon Cat’ on Disc in October

The Chinese horror films The Lingering and The Legend of the Demon Cat are coming to disc from Well Go USA Entertainment in October.

In The Lingering, due Oct. 15 on Blu-ray and DVD, Dawa and his mother spend a terrifying night alone in the basement after being tormented by a strange and dangerous presence. Years after his mom’s death, Dawa is forced to return, again facing the presence that once tortured him as a child. The film comes from the writer of the martial arts franchise “IP Man.”

The Legend of the Demon Cat, coming on Blu-ray Oct. 29, is a horror fantasy about a poet and monk who join forces to investigate a demonic cat who has possessed a general’s wife and is wreaking havoc on the imperial court. The investigation takes an unexpected twist, leading the pair to unravel a mystery behind a decades-old death of a legendary and beautiful courtesan. The film is directed by Kaige Chen  (Farewell My Concubine) and written by Hui-Ling Wang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) with Kaige Chen based on the novel by Baku Yumemakura.

Disney’s ESPN+ Streaming Service Soon Home to German Bundesliga Soccer

Disney-owned sports subscription streaming video service, ESPN+, will become in 2020 the U.S. home for the Bundesliga, Germany’s top professional soccer league.

Launched last year, ESPN+ costs $5 monthly, or $50 annually, featuring sports and related content not available on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, ESPN Classic and ESPN News.

“With a strong connection to the American soccer community, a growing audience in the U.S. and some of the most well-known clubs and players in the world, the addition of the Bundesliga further cements ESPN+ as a must-have for any soccer fan,” Russell Wolf, EVP and GM, ESPN+, said in a statement.

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The Bundesliga joins an extensive lineup of soccer on ESPN+ that features over 2,000 top football matches per year from around the world, including exclusive coverage in the US of Italy’s Serie A, the UEFA Nations League, England’s FA Cup and EFL, MLS, the Dutch Eredivisie and more.

Robert Klein, CEO of Bundesliga International, said the deal underscores that Germany continues to be an important source of talent for U.S. national soccer teams.

“With ESPN+, we’re excited to take fans on their journey in the lead up to their home World Cup in 2026,” Klein said.

The service is also streaming 22 matches of the West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup of Nations, which began Sept. 28  from the Stade Lat Dior in Thies, Senegal.

 

YouTube TV Now Available on Amazon Fire TV Devices

Google-owned YouTube TV Sept. 30 announced it is now available on Amazon Fire TV streaming media devices.

The $49.99 (monthly) online TV service’s app is embedded in the Fire TV Stick (2nd Gen), Fire TV Stick 4K, all-new Fire TV Cube, all Toshiba, Insignia, Element, and Westinghouse Fire TV Edition smart TVs and previous generation Fire TV devices including Fire TV Cube (1st Gen), Fire TV (2nd Gen), Fire TV (3rd Gen — Pendant Design). The YouTube TV app is not compatible with Fire TV Stick (1st Gen) and Fire TV (1st Gen).

“The YouTube TV app brings 70+ channels of live sports, breaking news, must-see shows and movies from major broadcast and popular cable networks to the big screen,” Michael Polin, Fire TV product marketing, wrote in a blog post.

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New Online TV Service ‘Vidgo’ Launches in the U.S.

A new subscription-based online TV service has quietly launched in the United States.

Dubbed “Vidgo,” the introductory priced $14.99 service, which is available across all connected devices, features live access to more than 48 channels, including A&E, American Heroes, Animal Planet, Aspire, beIN Sports, BET, Cheddar, CMT, CMT Music, Cooking Channel, Curiosity Stream, Destination America, Discovery Channel, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY, Comedy Central, FYI, Game Show Network, Hallmark, Hallmark Drama, HGTV, History, Investigation Discovery, Inspiration, Law & Crime, Lifetime, Lifetime Movies, Motor Trend, Motorsports Network, MTV, MTV2, MTV Classic, Nickelodeon, Nick Toons, Oprah Winfrey Network, Pac 12 Network, Paramount, Science Channel, Stadium, Teen Nick, TLC, Travel Channel, TV Land, Viceland, VH1, Velocity and UP, among others.

A separate $24.95 monthly Spanish-language “Latino Mas” plan is available as well.

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Based in Atlanta, Vidgo recently inked a partnership with Kiswe Mobile to better track mobile audiences as well as gather “strategic resources” to help it deliver live and social streaming of sports, entertainment, family and Latino programming.

Vidgo joins a crowded market looking to compete and sustain the traditional pay-TV  business model online.

Competitors include Dish Network’s Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, AT&T TV Now, YouTube TV, Sony Crackle and Shout! Factory TV, among others.