Jane Austen’s ‘Sanditon,’ ‘Howards End’ Among Titles Due on Disc and Digital From PBS in February

The Jane Austen series “Sanditon” and a miniseries of the classic E.M. Forster novel “Howards End” are among the titles coming to disc and digital from PBS Distribution in February.

Writer-executive producer Andrew Davies completes Austen’s last piece of work — unfinished due to her death in 1817 — with the PBS “Masterpiece” series “Sanditon,” due on Blu-ray, DVD and digital Feb. 4.  Davies (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Les Misérables,” “Little Dorrit”) takes the first 11 chapters of the final Austen masterpiece and creates an epic drama. Set during the Regency Period, the story follows Tom Parker (Kris Marshall), who is obsessed with turning the sleepy seaside village of Sanditon into a fashionable health resort. He enlists the financial backing of the local, curmudgeonly wealthy widow, Lady Denham (Anne Reid). Through a mishap while traveling through the countryside, Tom and his wife Mary (Kate Ashfield) make the acquaintance of the Heywoods, a local farming family. While describing his plans for Sanditon, their eldest daughter Charlotte (Rose Williams) is intrigued and excited and Tom invites her for an extended stay at the seaside town. Upon her initial arrival, the sensible and naive Charlotte observes hypochondria, avarice and attempted seduction run amok. Lady Denham is playing matchmaker for her destitute nephew, Sir Edward (Jack Fox), who is determined to seduce Lady Denham’s ward, Clara (Lily Sacofsky), and become the primary heir to his aunt’s estate. The arrival of wealthy, mixed-race heiress Miss Lambe (Crystal Clarke), under the guardianship of Tom’s upright brother Sidney (Theo James), due to a promise he made to Lambe’s father on his deathbed, adds an interesting complication. Eligible men naturally find Miss Lambe fascinating, while Charlotte is intrigued by Sidney. Charlotte Spencer also stars as Sir Edward’s scheming sister, Esther. Even as Austen was succumbing to her fatal illness, she chose to lampoon the contemporary fad for tonics, sea water cures and other medical remedies. Undiagnosed at the time, her malady was probably Addison’s disease, which today is easily treatable. Austen died at age 41, on July 18, 1817.

“Howard’s End”

Also due Feb. 4 from “Masterpiece” on DVD and digital is the four-episode miniseries “Howards End,” starring Matthew Macfadyen, Julia Ormond, Hayley Atwell, Philippa Coulthard and Tracey Ullman. The series follows Margaret Schlegel (Atwell), an intelligent, idealistic young woman who is courted by the older Henry Wilcox (Macfadyen), a self-made conservative businessman. After his wife Ruth (Ormond) dies unexpectedly, he becomes the owner of Howards End. Meanwhile Margaret’s passionate and capricious younger sister Helen Schlegel (Coulthard) takes up the cause of Leonard Bast, a young bank clerk who falls on hard times at work and at home with his partner Jacky. In the absence of their late parents, the sisters’ loving but interfering Aunt Juley (Ullman) tries to keep the young ladies and their brother Tibby on the straight and narrow. The adaptation is written by Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the SeaGangs of New York).

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Coming Feb. 11 on DVD and digital is American Experience: McCarthy, chronicling the legacy of Joseph McCarthy’s relentless search for anyone he deemed a communist or enemy of the state. The Wisconsin Senator’s crusade is now the centerpiece of any conversation involving the government’s role in decency, democracy and ethical conduct. This witch hunt, completely free of restraint or oversight, led to the trials and imprisonment of many celebrities, Americans and immigrants. This program details the rise of McCarthy’s political life which led to his belief that there was a great conspiracy threatening America, culminating in a chilling campaign full of groundless accusations, bullying intimidation, grandiose showmanship, cruel victimization and a web of lies to keep public opinion on their side.

Due Feb. 4 on DVD and digital is Nova: Decoding da Vinci. On the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, with guidance from historian Walter Isaacson, the program pulls back the curtain to investigate what led to da Vinci’s ahead of his time, legendary successes. The program examines how his scientific studies, from dissecting humans to studying optics, led to a host of brilliant inventions, such as hang gliders, armored tanks, parachutes and many others. The program further explains how this deep scientific curiosity was behind the most captivating work of art in history, The Mona Lisa.

Coming Feb. 11 on DVD and digital is Nova: The Violence Paradox. Violence is ubiquitous in our everyday lives. We see it in the news, in movies, on TV and video games so why do some experts say that violence is decreasing and that we’re living in the most peaceful time in history? The program addresses these questions and explores the intricacies of how violence permeates our life, psychology and everyday thoughts and actions. The program takes us through time and the human mind to investigate what impacts the violence rates and what people are doing now to reduce violence in the world.

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Finally, on Feb. 18 comes Nova: Animal Espionage on DVD and digital. With the technological advancements of the camera industry, experts and viewers get an intimate look at hard-to-view species behind closed doors during their everyday lives. Camera traps and drones, completely hidden from the animal’s view, allow viewers to get closer than ever before to animals such as whales, tigers and elusive giant armadillos. The recordings featured on this program capture everything from the unexpected to the comical.

 

Roku, Fox in Carriage Dispute Entering Super Bowl Weekend

In a first, Roku has notified its 32.3 million platform users that it might pull the Fox Channel app ahead of the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, which will be broadcast on Fox.

“Roku’s distribution agreement with Fox Corp. is set to expire on Jan. 31,” the streaming device pioneer said in a statement. “We offered Fox an extension so that Roku can continue to bring a large and valuable audience to Fox. If an agreement is not reached, we will be forced to remove Fox channels from the Roku platform.”

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Last-minute TV carriage disputes among pay-TV distributors and content holders have become customary, especially ahead of a marquee events such as the Super Bowl or NCAA March Madness. Roku has now brought the negotiation tactic to streaming video.

Fox said Roku’s last-minute strategy was a “poorly timed negotiating ploy” aimed at driving more favorable contract leverage.

“Roku’s threat to delete Fox apps from its customers’ devices is a naked effort to use its customers as pawns,” Fox said in a statement.

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On its Twitter social media app, Roku said people could still stream Fox programming through Fubo TV, Sling TV, Hulu With Live TV, and YouTube TV, among others.

“Many of these services offer a free trial,” Roku tweeted.

Roku, which ranks as the No. 1 streaming device ahead of Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Google Chromecast, reported $179 million in ad-generated platform revenue in the most-recent fiscal period.

 

DEG Europe Changes Name to DEG International

DEG Europe, The Digital Entertainment Group’s European arm, has changed its name to DEG International, reflecting digital media’s worldwide impact.

The DEGI’s studio members include Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, NBCUniversal, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Paramount Home Entertainment, Technicolor, Dolby and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. Google recently joined as the organization’s first transactional retail member.

“As the home entertainment category evolves to respond to and reflect an ever-advancing degree of consumer choice, the DEGI is increasingly providing related support to local trade organizations as well as bridging perceived gaps in territories where trade associations are absent,” Nicola Pearcey, president U.K. & EMEA Strategy and Ops at Lionsgate and DEGI co-chair, said in a statement.

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Liz Bales, CEO of DEGI and British Association of Screen Entertainment, said DEGI’s role in a changing market can’t be understated.

“In the last 12 months, the DEGE has helped to drive the development of digital growth initiatives in a range of territories, with the U.S., Nordics, Australia and Asia all building on the delivery and learnings gained through the U.K. activation of ambitious promotions like ‘Mega Movie Week’,” Bales said.

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She said partnership with DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group sister organization in the United States underscores an ability to effectively share experience in a compliance-appropriate manner – at a time when the video category is facing the practical effects of the diversification of consumer choice, and when some local markets lack the support of a trade association.

“The DEGI can act as a vital bridge in an increasingly global market,” Bales said.

Amy Jo Smith, CEO of DEG, said the U.S. market is the starting point for much of the change percolating into global markets, such as Disney+.

“One of our key priorities is to help members identify opportunity in that change and so our recently formed D2C Alliance and its International Expansion Committee will both lend support to and benefit from the global stance being taken by the DEGI,” Smith said. “We look forward to working with DEGI to help drive actionable market insights and industry best practices.”

 

George Cheeks Named New CBS Chief Executive, Replacing Joe Ianniello

As expected, ViacomCBS Jan. 31 announced that George Cheeks has been appointed president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, effective March 23, 2020. He succeeds Joe Ianniello, chairman and CEO of CBS, who will be leaving the company. Ianniello will work with the company to ensure a smooth transition.

George Cheeks

Cheeks joins ViacomCBS from NBCUniversal, where he most recently served as vice chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios. In his new role, Cheeks will lead CBS-branded assets, including CBS Television Network, which encompasses CBS Entertainment, CBS News and CBS Sports, CBS Television Studios and CBS Television Stations and CBS’ first-run syndication business. He will also partner with the ViacomCBS digital organization on the CBS-branded digital assets, including CBS All Access. Cheeks will report to Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS.

“Throughout his career, George has built broad experience in broadcast and studio operations and brings a unique mix of skills – combining deep commercial expertise and industry relationships with strong creative and programming capabilities,” Bakish said in a statement. “With his finger on the pulse of culture and change and his strong grasp of strategy, brands, audiences and content monetization, George will help CBS build on its position as the most-watched broadcast network and drive results across the entire CBS portfolio.”

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Bakish praised Ianniello for his 22 years at CBS, which included stints as COO and negotiating the minefield following the ouster of previous CEO Les Moonves for inappropriate workplace behavior.

Joe Ianniello

“Thanks in no small part to his efforts, the CBS brand has a strong and loyal following across a variety of platforms – positioning it well for this important next chapter. The board and I wish Joe every success in his future endeavors,” Bakish said.

Ianniello doesn’t leave empty handed. The executive reportedly got a $100 million severance following the merger between CBS and Viacom. He got millions more as acting CEO of CBS Entertainment Group.

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“Throughout my 22-year tenure I have always said that the quality and integrity of the people of CBS are what make it great,” said Ianniello. “We have extraordinary employees at all levels of this organization, and I couldn’t be prouder of how they do their jobs day in and day out. Working with Bob, I now look forward to ensuring a smooth transition to the next phase of leadership of CBS, so that the Eye can continue to thrive, just as it has for so long.”

During his time as acting CEO, Ianniello successfully grew CBS into a global multiplatform premium content company. Prior to that as COO since 2013, he was responsible for establishing and executing company strategy across all businesses. In addition, Ianniello developed and spearheaded the company’s monetization strategy across platforms, including retransmission consent fees and reverse compensation from local television station affiliates, as well as the licensing of the CBS Corporation content around the world for digital streaming and broadband services.

He also oversaw the launch of CBS All Access, CBS’ digital subscription video on-demand and live streaming service, as well as Showtime’s “over-the-top” streaming service. He led CBS’  acquisition of Network 10 in Australia and the split-off of CBS Radio through a merger with Entercom. In addition, he led the conversion of CBS Outdoor into a real-estate investment trust, marking a first for an outdoor advertising business.

As Vice Chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios, Cheeks helped run NBCUniversal’s television studios. Previously, he served as Co-Chairman of NBC Entertainment, where he was jointly responsible for the network’s primetime, late night and scripted daytime programming – including business affairs, marketing, communications, scheduling, West Coast research and digital operations and first-run syndication.

Prior to joining NBC in 2012, Cheeks served as EVP, Business Affairs and General Counsel for Viacom Music and Entertainment Group, while also serving as Head of Standards and Practices for Viacom Media. Before that, he served in legal roles at Nickelodeon, MTV, CMT and LOGO.

 

Amazon Tops 150 Million Prime Members

Amazon on its Jan. 30 fiscal call confirmed it ended fiscal-year 2019 with 150 million Prime members worldwide. That’s a 50% surge from the last official membership disclosure of 100 million Prime members.

Prime members have access to Prime Video and other Prime features such as music and books, suggesting Prime Video now has about 17 million subs less than Netflix. Amazon also offers Prime Video as a separate standalone service.

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“We mentioned that more people joined Prime in Q4 than any other quarter before,” CFO Brian Olsavsky said on the call.

Olsavsky said the subscriber surge helped Amazon exceed its high-end revenue guidance of $86.5 billion by $900 million, including about $400 million in foreign exchange rates.

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Amazon subscription services segment revenue topped $5.2 billion in the quarter, up 32% from the previous-year period of $3.9 billion.

“What we saw was essentially very strong holiday performance from the middle of November on,” he said.

‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ Shoots to Top of Disc Sales Charts

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Zombieland: Double Tap debuted at No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Jan. 25.

The sequel to 2009’s post-apocalyptic comedy Zombieland earned $73.1 million at the domestic box office, about the same as the original.

The previous week’s top seller, Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, dropped to No. 2 on the overall sales chart and No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart.

Warner’s Joker slipped to No. 3 overall but stayed at No. 2 on the Blu-ray chart.

Another newcomer, MGM’s animated The Addams Family remake, distributed by Universal Pictures, debuted at No. 4 on both charts.

Paramount’s Gemini Man was No. 5 overall and No. 6 on the Blu-ray chart.

The newly released comedy Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, the seventh installment of Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse of connected films, was No. 6 overall and No. 5 on the Blu-ray chart.

Sony’s police drama Black and Blue debuted as the No. 8 overall seller and No. 10 on the Blu-ray chart.

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Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 68% of Zombieland: Double Tap unit sales, with the 4K Ultra HD combo pack comprising 14% of its overall total.

Jay & Silent Bob Reboot had the week’s biggest share of its total from Blu-ray, at 86%.

For Addams Family, Blu-ray accounted for 53%, and 50% for Black and Blue.

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Zombieland: Double Tap was also No. 1 on the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Jan. 26. The previous week’s top rental, Gemini Man, slipped to No. 2.

Addams Family entered the rental chart at No. 3, while Joker slipped to No. 4 and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was No. 5.

Other newcomers on the rental chart included Black and Blue at No. 6, Universal’s horror entry Countdown at No. 7, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot at No. 15, and Paramount’s I See You at No. 18.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 1-25-20
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 1-26-20
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 1-25-20
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 1-25-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 1-25-20
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 1-27-20

 

Amazon Hits a Fiscal Grand Slam With 2019 Surge

Amazon had a “prime” fourth quarter and fiscal year (ended Dec. 31, 2019) across all its business units, including subscription services. The segment, which includes annual and monthly fees associated with Prime memberships, as well as audiobook, digital video, digital music, e-book, and other non-AWS subscription services, generated more than $5.2 billion in revenue. That was up 32% from services revenue of $3.95 billion during the previous-year period.

On the home entertainment front, Amazon Original series “Hunters” will premiere on Feb. 21. Produced by Academy Award-winner Jordan Peele and starring Academy Award-winner Al Pacino, “Hunters” follows a diverse band of Nazi hunters living in 1977 New York City.

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In the quarter, Prime Video debuted several Original series and movies, including The Report, The Aeronauts, “The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Special,” The Expanse, as well as the return of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” and the final season of “The Man in the High Castle.”

Amazon Studios received eight Golden Globe Award nominations, with “Fleabag” winning Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy, as well as Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy, for Phoebe WallerBridge.

Amazon Music topped more than 55 million customers worldwide in the quarter. Collectively, in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Japan, Amazon Music customers have grown nearly 50% year-over-year; and in newer marketplaces France, Italy, Spain, and Mexico, Amazon Music customers more than doubled in 2019. Additionally, Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers grew more than 50% in 2019. •

On the streaming media device front, Fire TV now has more than 40 million active users worldwide. Amazon announced the new Fire TV Edition at CES 2020, which includes a set of tools, features, and services that make it even easier for developers, operators, device makers, and manufacturers to integrate Fire TV into their products. BMW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are among the first automakers to introduce Fire TV in their future vehicles.

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Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos lauded the results and company for the fourth quarter and fiscal-year results.

Indeed, Amazon hit it out of the park in the quarter and fiscal year. Net sales increased 21% to $87.4 billion in the quarter, compared with $72.4 billion in fourth quarter 2018. Excluding the $120 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 21% compared with fourth quarter 2018.

Operating income increased to $3.9 billion in the quarter, compared with operating income of $3.8 billion in fourth quarter 2018. Net income increased to $3.3 billion in the quarter, compared with net income of $3 billion in fourth quarter 2018.

For 2019, net sales increased 20% to $280.5 billion, compared with $232.9 billion in 2018. Excluding the $2.6 billion unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the year, net sales increased 22% compared with 2018.

Operating income increased to $14.5 billion, compared with operating income of $12.4 billion in 2018. Net income increased to $11.6 billion, or $23.01 per diluted share, compared with net income of $10.1 billion, or $20.14 per diluted share, in 2018.

“Prime members watched double the hours of original movies and TV shows on Prime Video this quarter compared to last year, and Amazon Originals received a record 88 nominations and 26 wins at major awards shows,” Bezos said in a statement. “A huge thank you to teams across Amazon for their dedicated work to build, innovate, and deliver for customers this [winter] holiday.”

NAB Show to Bow ‘Streaming Experience’ Content Showcase

The NAB Show is introducing The Streaming Experience, a new content showcase curated by streaming and online video expert Dan Rayburn that will feature more than 50 OTT platforms and streaming devices.

The showcase, which will give NAB Show attendees a first-hand look at the latest streaming video services, according to organizers, will be located in the Central Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center and is open to all registered attendees during exhibit hours starting April 19.

The NAB Show takes place in Las Vegas April 18-22.

A living-room setting will allow attendees the opportunity to test OTT services side-by-side to compare content, video quality, ad formats, playback features and delivery methods. The Streaming Experience will feature hardware from Amazon, Apple, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, LG, TCL and Samsung. Streaming services on display will include Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Disney+, Hulu, NBC Sports, Netflix and YouTube TV, among others. New services from HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi may also be showcased, dependent on their launch dates, according to organizers.

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“Streaming is a major focus of the 2020 NAB Show, and the new Streaming Experience is the largest showcase of its kind in the industry,” said NAB EVP of conventions and business operations Chris Brown in a statement. “We are excited for attendees to join their industry peers in this living room environment and experience nearly every live and on-demand streaming service on the market today.”

Additional details of the Streaming Experience, including renderings of the new space, can be found here.

 

‘Norm of the North: Family Vacation’ Travels to Digital and DVD Feb. 25 From Lionsgate

The animated feature Norm of the North: Family Vacation arrives on digital, DVD, and on demand Feb. 25 from Lionsgate.

From writers Alec Sokolow (Toy Story, Cheaper by the Dozen, Garfield: The Movie), Elie Choufany (TV’s “Arabs in Space”), and director Anthony Bell (Alpha and Omega, The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania!), Norm of the North: Family Vacation stars Andy Toth, Brian Drummond, Cole Howard, James Higuchi, Jennifer Cameron, Jonathan Holmes, Lee Tockar, Lisa Durupt and Paul Dobson.

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In this next installment in the series, overwhelmed by his kingly duties, Norm struggles to make time for both his kingdom and his family. When his crown is mysteriously stolen in the dead of the night, Norm must embark on an epic journey — disguised as a family vacation. Norm sets out to track down the thief and find his crown and learns the valuable lesson that by working together as a family, nothing is impossible.

‘Katy Keene’ Top New, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Top Returning Shows on February TV Time Anticipation Charts

The CW’s “Katy Keene” was the top anticipated new show and NBC’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” was the top anticipated returning show on the TV Time Charts for February.

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.

Top anticipated new show “Katy Keene,” debuting Feb. 6, is a spinoff of “Riverdale” based on the Archie Comics character.

Netflix’s “Locke & Key,” debuting Feb. 7, took the silver among anticipated new shows, while Amazon Prime’s “Hunters,” hitting screens Feb. 21, got the bronze. “Locke & Key” is a mystery series based on the comic books. “Hunters,” from executive producer Jordan Peele, stars Al Pacino in a story of Nazi hunters in 1977 New York.

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Among returning shows, coming in No. 2 behind the NBC comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” returning for its seventh season Feb. 6, was Showtime’s long-running thriller “Homeland,” the eighth and final season of which debuts Feb. 9. Netflix’s drug cartel drama “Narcos: Mexico,” returning for its second season Feb. 13, came in at No. 3.

 

Most Anticipated New Shows for February:

  1. “Katy Keene” (The CW) — Feb. 6
  2. “Locke & Key” (Netflix) — Feb. 7
  3. “Hunters” (Amazon Prime) — Feb. 21
  4. “For Life” (ABC) — Feb. 11
  5. “Briarpatch” (USA) — Feb. 6

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for February:

  1. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) — Feb. 6
  2. “Homeland” (Showtime) — Feb. 9
  3. “Narcos: Mexico” (Netflix) — Feb. 13
  4. “The Sinner” (USA) — Feb. 6
  5. “Good Girls” (NBC) — Feb. 16