Video Games, Hardware Spearhead Record Online Black Friday Sales

Sales of soccer-themed video game FIFA 20 and NFL-based Madden 20 helped drive record online sales on post-Thanksgiving Black Friday (Nov. 29), according to new data from Adobe Analytics. The Nintendo Switch console ranked among the most-popular online purchases — as it has all year in the video game market.

Adobe said consumers spent $7.4 billion online, which trails only the all-time $7.9 billion spent a year ago on Cyber Monday. The software giant, which tracked the majority of Web retailers, is projecting $9.4 billion in online spending on Cyber Monday (Dec. 2) this year.

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Consumers tallied 39% of Black Friday e-commerce transactions and 61% of online traffic from their mobile phones.

Adobe said online Thanksgiving sales topped $4.2 billion, upped 14.5% from the previous-year period.

Regardless, of the e-commerce boom, more than 165 million people are projected to frequent retail stores from Thanksgiving through Dec. 1, according to the National Retail Federation.

“They’re making it easy for you to purchase however you want to purchase, whether it’s going into the physical store, ordering online and picking it up or ordering it online and having it shipped to you,” Sucharita Kodali, analyst at Forrester Research, said in a statement. Forrester partnered with Adobe on the data.

Rakuten TV Launches FC Barcelona Soccer Series

To soccer fans worldwide, Spain’s FC Barcelona (“Barça”) is one of the top professional clubs in the world led by Argentine’s Lionel Messi.

Rakuten TV Nov. 29 launched “Matchday: Inside FC Barcelona,” a free eight-episode reality-based program that follows the club and its players through the 2018-19 season.

Narrated by John Malkovich, the series claims to offer a “no-holds-barred” view of the club and players during a season that saw the club finish atop Spain’s La Liga as well feature prominently in the ongoing UEFA Champions League competition.

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Rakuten is a primary commercial sponsor of FC Barcelona. The series is available for free across the 42 European countries, including Japan.

Rakuten TV is a European-based VOD offering transactional access to new release movies and TV shows. It also includes an AVOD section, Rakuten TV Free, in a blend of thematic channels embracing Hollywood classics, local, exclusive and themed content.

Rakuten, headquartered in Japan, offers ecommerce in the United States. In addition to FC Barcelona, the company has partnerships with the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, Davis Cup and Spartan Race.

NRF: Half of Winter Holiday Shopping Already Started

Friday, Nov. 29 is often considered the beginning of the winter retail season with ubiquitous Black Friday specials prominent everywhere.

But new data from the National Retail Federation suggests almost half of all winter shopping has already begun — much of it driven by e-commerce.

The NRF commissioned survey found 56% of respondents had already begun their holiday shopping during the first week of November. That was up from 48% who had already started at the same point a decade ago. On average, consumers had completed 24% of their shopping, the highest level in the history of the survey and up from 16% in 2009.

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“This is further evidence that the holiday season has grown far beyond the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Matthew Shay, CEO of NRF, said in a statement. “Thanksgiving is still a hallmark of the season, and there’s billions of dollars in shopping still to come. But many consumers have already been shopping for weeks, and retailers are increasingly adapting to that.”

NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and has forecast that sales will total between $727.9 and $730.7 billion. Consumers expect to spend an average $1,047.83 — including purchases made earlier — for an increase of 4% over last year.

There are only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, down six days from last year, but NRF does not expect that to make a difference in spending given the number of people who begin shopping earlier.

“Consumers don’t wait for Thanksgiving or Black Friday anymore and neither do retailers,” said Phil Rist, EVP of strategy at Prosper Insights & Analytics, which conducted the survey for NRF. “Retailers responded this year by offering promotions earlier than ever, with some rolling out holiday deals even before Halloween.”

Pluto TV Launching 24-Hour ‘Awesomeness TV’ Channel in the U.K.

Viacom’s ad-supported video-on-demand service Pluto TV, is launching a 24-hour edition of Awesomeness TV in the United Kingdom on Dec. 6.

Pluto, which Viacom acquired earlier this year for $340 million, has become integral in Viacom’s global over-the-top video aspirations, currently offering 65 channels of content across multiple genres.

Awesomeness TV currently streams in the United States targeting Gen Z audience with reality-based programming such as “My Dream Quinceañera”  and competition-themed “DIY Dash,” among other shows.

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“The [SVOD] market has changed drastically, especially in the last two years,” Olivier Jollet, managing director of Pluto TV in Europe, told Variety.  “We’re seeing from the user point of view that the willingness to pay is not unlimited. People will take two, three or four services … but not 10.”

Pluto TV, with 150 content partners, features ad-supported movies: Pluto TV Movies 1 & 2and Drama, Comedy, Family, Indies, Romance, Documentaries, Thrillers, Cult Films, Horror 24/7, Action Movies, Flicks of Fury, The Asylum, and Black Cinema.

Vudu Cutting 4K Movie Pricing 50% Through Black Friday

Walmart-owned movie streaming service Vudu is offering 4K UHD movies 50% off normal pricing for 48 hours through Black Friday.

Movies in 4K UHD typically cost between $14.99 and $19.99 per title.

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The special promotion, which requires access to a 4K-compatible television, includes 222 titles, including Shazam!, John Wick 3, Bumblebee, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Venom, Long Shot and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, among others.

 

Hulu Bows $1.99 Monthly Black Friday Service Special

Hulu, Disney’s majority-owned subscription video-on-demand platform, is offering its basic streaming service with ads for $1.99 monthly for a year. The offer, which ends Dec. 2 (Cyber Monday), then converts to $5.99 monthly after 12 months. The company also offers a $11.99 monthly ad-free option.

Hulu, which at one time was co-owned by 20th Century Fox, Comcast, Time Warner and Disney, is now wholly owned by Disney following the Magical Kingdom’s purchase of Fox and buy-out of Comcast’s stake.

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The service had almost 27 million subscribers as of May 1, which was up from 25 million in the previous-year period and 15 million in 2016.

Rival Netflix ended the most-recent fiscal period with nearly 61 million domestic subscribers.

Disney also offers Hulu with ESPN+ and Disney+ for $12.99 monthly.

‘E.T.’ Friends Reunite to Market Xfinity and Sky Technology

Comcast NBCUniversal is reuniting E.T. and Elliott — iconic characters from Universal Pictures’ 1982 classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial — to market Xfinity and Sky technology.

In a short made in connection with the Comcast-owned studio, E.T. is back on earth for a surprise visit with Elliott (Henry Thomas reprising his role), who now has his own family. Although technology has changed the world since they’ve last seen each other 37 years ago, their connection and friendship remain strong.

The two-minute version of the story will debut during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC in the United States, and then the full-length, four-minute version will be immediately available at xfinity.com/ET.

The company will be featuring the film on Syfy on Thanksgiving Day and making it available on demand for Xfinity TV customers. Xfinity TV customers with X1 will be able to say “E.T. Phone Home” into their voice remote for an E.T.-themed destination. Anyone who visits a Xfinity retail location can pick up an E.T. coloring book and candy.

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“The audience is going to get everything they want out of a sequel without the messy bits that could destroy the beauty of the original and the special place it has in people’s minds and hearts. It’s really a win-win,” stated Thomas, who starred in director Steven Spielberg’s classic as the 10-year-old boy who helps a lost alien find his way home. “Looking at the storyboards, I could see exactly why Steven was really behind it, because the integrity of the story isn’t lost in this retelling.”

“More than anything, the whole story is about family,” added short director Lance Acord in a statement.

“Our goal is to show how Xfinity and Sky technology connects family, friends and loved ones, which is so important during the holidays,” said Peter Intermaggio, SVP for marketing communications, Comcast Cable. “The classic friendship between E.T. and Elliott resonates around the world, and their story became a very meaningful way to bring our company’s consumer technology to life.”

Netflix Series ‘The Witcher’ and ‘You’ Top TV Time Most Anticipated Shows Charts

Netflix dominated the list of top anticipated returning and new shows on TV Time’s December charts.

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. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

Netflix’s “The Witcher,” debuting Dec. 20, took the top spot on the anticipated new shows chart. Based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s book series of the same name, the adventure follows the story of Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) who struggles to find his place in the world where people often prove to be more wicked than beasts. Coming in at No. 2 was Netflix’s “V Wars,” about a doctor pitted against his best friend when a fast-spreading disease starts to make people crave blood. It debuts Dec. 5. Showtime took the third spot with “The L Word: Generation Q,” a sequel series that relocates to the east side of Los Angeles and follows a new, diverse generation of LGBTQ+ friends as they experience love, sex and heartbreak. Rounding out the top five anticipated new shows were Hulu’s “Reprisal” (No. 4), about a femme fatale who leads a campaign against her brother and his gang of gearheads, and new streaming entrant Apple TV+’s “Truth Be Told” (No. 5), following a true-crime podcaster (Octavia Spencer) during an investigation of a convicted serial killer.

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Among returning shows, Netflix took two of the top five spots. The service’s “You” topped the chart. In season two of the drama, debuting Dec. 26, the stalker moves to Los Angeles and begins to obsess over a new love interest. Netflix’s “Lost in Space,” season two of which debuts Dec. 24, took the silver. “Vikings,” the History Channel’s first original scripted series, appeared at No. 3 among returning shows, while Amazon Prime’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” with season three debuting Dec. 6, was No. 4, and Hulu’s “Marvel’s Runaways,” with season three (its last) hitting screens Dec. 13, rounded out the chart at No. 5.

 

Most Anticipated New Shows for December:

  1. “The Witcher” (Netflix) — Dec. 20
  2. “V Wars” (Netflix) — Dec. 5
  3. “The L Word: Generation Q” (Showtime) — Dec. 8
  4. “Reprisal” (Hulu) — Dec. 6
  5. “Truth Be Told” (Apple TV+) — Dec. 6

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for December:

  1. “You” (Netflix) — Dec. 26
  2. “Lost in Space” (Netflix) — Dec. 24
  3. “Vikings” (History Channel) — Dec. 4
  4. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime) — Dec. 6
  5. “Marvel’s Runaways” (Hulu) — Dec. 13

‘Mister Rogers and Making Mistakes’ Collection Due on DVD and Digital Dec. 3 From PBS

PBS Distribution will release Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Mister Rogers and Making Mistakes on DVD and digital Dec. 3.

The 30-episode collection includes segments where Mister Rogers helps children understand that everyone make mistakes from time to time. Never afraid to tackle tough subjects, he speaks openly about the topics children silently wonder and worry about, but adults often struggled to discuss. World famous pianist Andre Watts performs for Mister Rogers in the collection, and together they talk about practicing and learning from mistakes.

A biopic on Fred Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks, is currently in theaters.

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‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ ‘Jake Speed’ and Jarmusch’s ‘Limits of Control’ Coming to Blu-ray From MVD in December

Three Arrow Video titles are making their North American Blu-ray debuts from MVD Entertainment Group in December: Slaughterhouse-Five, Jake Speed and Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control.

Coming out Dec. 3 is George Roy Hill’s science-fiction classic Slaughterhouse-Five. The story about WWII soldier Billy Pilgrim and how he was abducted by aliens took home the Jury Prize at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. Author Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote the novel the book is based on, famously claimed, “I drool and cackle every time I watch that film.” Special features include a new audio commentary by author and critic Troy Howarth; new video appreciation with author and critic Kim Newman; Pilgrim’s Progress: Playing Slaughterhouse-Five, a new video interview with actor Perry King; Only on Earth: Presenting Slaughterhouse-Five, a new video interview with Rocky Lang, son of executive producer Jennings Lang, about the film’s distribution; Unstuck in Time: Documenting Slaughterhouse-Five, a new video interview with behind-the-scenes filmmaker-producer Robert Crawford Jr.; Eternally Connected: Composing Slaughterhouse-Five, a new video interview with film music historian Daniel Schweiger; the theatrical trailer; and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley.

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Also due Dec. 3 is Jake Speed, Andrew Lane’s action-adventure film in which all pulp heroes are real and Jake Speed (Wayne Crawford) is the best of the bunch. When Margaret (Karen Kopins) is captured by an evil slaver, Jake steps in to save the day. The campy 1980s adventure includes bonus features such as Paperback Wishes, a new interview with director Lane; The Hard Way Reads Better, a new interview with producer William Fay; and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys.

Finally, due Dec. 10 is Jim Jarmusch’s 2009 crime drama The Limits of Control. Isaach de Bankolé stars as a mysterious loner on a mission to complete a hit and along the way he runs into a slew of interesting characters including Paz de la Huerta, Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt and Bill Murray. Special features include An American in Europe, a new video interview with Geoff Andrew, author of Stranger Than Paradise: Maverick Film-Makers in Recent American Cinema; The Rituals of Control, a new video essay on the film by author and critic Amy Simmons; Behind Jim Jarmusch, an archival documentary on the making of the film; Untitled Landscapes, an archival featurette showcasing the film’s locations; the theatrical trailer; and a reversible sleeve featuring two choices of artwork.