Pluto TV Streaming First Episode of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ For Free

Pluto TV, the ad-supported VOD service owned by ViacomCBS, has begun streaming the first episode of CBS All Access original series “Star Trek: Picard,” starring Patrick Stewart.

In a social media tweet announcing the promotion, Pluto will stream the episode continuously for 24 hours, followed by subsequent episodes, “Star Trek Picard, Invasion of the Body Snatchers” on Jan. 31; “Star Trek Picard, The Giver” on Feb. 1; “Star Trek Picard, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus” on Feb. 2; “Star Trek Picard, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear” on Feb. 3; “Star Trek Picard, The Librarian: King Solomon’s Mines” on Feb. 4, “Star Trek Picard, The Librarian III” on Feb. 5. All broadcasts stream at 8 p.m. local time with advertising.

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CBS has cited “Star Trek: Picard” for jumpstarting record All Access subscriptions in January. The series launched on Jan. 23.

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The first episode of “Picard” is also available for free on YouTube.

French Online TV Service Molotov Tops Netflix With 10 Million Subs

Upstart French online TV service Molotov says it has more than 10 million subscribers since launching three years ago. The platform has quietly passed Netflix (6 million subs) and was recently selected to join the French Tech 120 index for promising start-up companies headed by the French government.

Founded by JeanDavid Blanc and Pierre Lescure, who separately started AlloCiné and Canal+, Molotov in 2019 saw a 63% increase in time spent on the platform and an 82% increase in subscriptions. Noteworthy numbers considering France has been slow to accept OTT video distribution.

Molotov begins 2020 as the over-the-top video leader in France with nearly 30,000 titles updated daily from more than 170 publishers and channels, Molotov is constantly expanding its content offer.

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The service recently inked license agreements with ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia’s Turner property, Adult Swim, information (Altice / NextRadioTV, RT France), sport ( Sport in France), and integrated ethnic channels from Africa and the Maghreb (Northwest Africa).

Molotov operates a “Gamer Zone” dedicated to video game enthusiasts, with the platform expanding in the coming weeks with the integration of local, regional and foreign channels, documentaries and related content.

Molotov also enables third-party content holders to monetize programming through software tools such as “SmartPaywall” (for publishers offering paid content) and “SmartAdServing” (intended for publishers serving advertising ).

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In a statement, the platform said “Molotov’s selection illustrates the relevance of its service and the expectations that surround it, its dimension beneficial to French society and its development prospects.”


Analyst: Amazon Fire TV Users Prefer Streaming Netflix

Amazon Fire TV and Roku continue to spearhead the streaming media device market in the United States and select foreign markets. New data from Ampere Analysis contends Roku has a key leadership position in both the U.S. and in Canada — although Amazon is “hot on Roku’s heels” in both countries.

While Fire TV is the leading device in many of Amazon’s retail markets and has a market share of over 40% in both Germany and Japan, it still trails Roku in the U.S. Indeed, among domestic Fire TV users, the slight majority prefer to stream Netflix than Prime Video.

Ownership of Google Chromecast is high in the Nordics and Netherlands, which lack any serious Amazon retail presence. Google has over 50% market share in Netherlands and Denmark.

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Device owners show subtle differences in the streaming services they rely on, reflecting device owner strategies, interfaces and the products they promote.

Although Netflix is still the key service for Fire TV owners in the U.S., Amazon device homes are more likely to subscribe to Prime Video and HBO Now compared to Roku device owners.

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By contrast, Roku device owners show a slight skew towards Hulu and Netflix compared to Fire TV households.

Finally, Sweden tops all countries for household streaming media device penetration at 55%. That compares to Denmark, the U.K. and U.S. at 51% household penetration.

“More than any other sector, the streaming adapter market is a competitive battleground for companies with wildly different strategic imperatives — ranging from Amazon and the support which Fire TV provides for its retail operations, Apple and its high-end device ecosystem, Google and its advertising businesses, and Roku and its mix of monetization mechanisms,” Minal Modha, consumer research lead at Ampere Analysis, said in a statement.


Verizon Lost 222,000 Fios TV Subs in 2019

Verizon Communications Jan. 30 disclosed it lost 222,000 Fios TV subscribers in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2019. The telecom lost 51,000 subs in the fourth quarter to end the year with more than 4.2 million pay-TV subs, compared with more than 4.4 million subs at the end of 2018.

Following a trend among linear TV operators also providing high-speed Internet, Verizon reported 35,000 Fios Internet net additions in the quarter, reflecting the ongoing shift from traditional linear video to over-the-top offerings.

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Verizon ended 2019 with more than 6.2 million broadband subscribers, an increase of 161,000 subs from the end of 2018.

Fios revenue remained relatively flat, primarily due to the demand for broadband offerings, offset by the impact of video subscriber losses.

Meanwhile, the telecom continues to push its legacy mobile phone business and next-generation 5G network functionality, including the launch and build-out of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network.

The company reported 852,000 wireless retail postpaid net additions in the quarter, which included 588,000 phone net additions, up 12.6% year over year, and 305,000 related connected device net additions, primarily wearables, partially offset by tablet net losses of 41,000. Postpaid smartphone net additions were 723,000.

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“Our 5G footprint continues to grow as we lead this era of transformational change by building these next-generation networks the right way,” CEO Hans Vestberg said in a statement.


Breaking Glass Pictures Sets March 10 DVD Release Date for Horror Film ‘Exit 0O’

Indie film distributor Breaking Glass Pictures has set a March 10 release date for Exit 0, a road-trip horror movie written and directed by E.B. Hughes.

The film will be available on DVD only and stars Gabe Fazio (A Star is Born, The Place Beyond the Pines), Augie Duke (Messiah, Bad Kids Go to Hell), Peter Greene (The Mask) and Federico Castellucio (“The Sopranos”).

Described as a Hitchcock and Kubrick hybrid, the film follows a young couple who set out on a weekend getaway in hopes of mending their failing relationship. However, a seemingly innocent weekend turns dark when the man discovers a videotape chronicling the events of a murder in his very own hotel room from years before.

Exit 0 won Best Director of a Narrative Feature and Best Actor at the Chain NYC Film Festival, Best Actor at the Independent Horror Movie Awards, Best Thriller Feature at the Los Angeles Film Awards, and Best Horror Film at the Crown Wood International Film Festival.

AT&T Outlines How It Will Jumpstart HBO Max Subscriptions

In the rush to validate expensive forays into proprietary over-the-top video distribution, media/tech giants such as Disney and Apple have partnered with third-party vendors and/or leaned on subsidiaries to boost subscriber retention.

HBO is no different.

During AT&T’s Jan. 29 fiscal call, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey, who is also president and COO of the telecom parent, disclosed details how company plans to support the May debut of HBO Max — the SVOD platform company executives contend is better than the competition, including Netflix.

Indeed, AT&T said it bypassed $1.2 billion in fourth-quarter ($2.8 billion in annual) revenue forgoing third-party licensing of Warner Bros. Television properties “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory,” among other shows, in advance of the Max launch.

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AT&T is going to give Max free to existing HBO subs through DirecTV and AT&T U-verse — or about 10 million consumers. The number is significant, since that’s the tally Disney said it generated in the first 24 hours after launching Disney+, assisted in part by a promotion with Verizon affording the telecom’s data subs with a free year of service.

Apple, which reportedly already has more than 33 million Apple TV+ subs, is giving a free year of service with any new purchase of an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch.

Meanwhile, the eight million HBO Now subs (currently paying the identical $14.99 Max fee) will be automatically eligible for a Max upgrade without cost provided they do not access the OTT service through third-party platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Channels, Google Chromecast or Hulu, among other devices.

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AT&T will also incentivize its “highest ARPU” wireless subscribers with promotional Max offerings, in addition to foot traffic at any of the telecom’s 5,500 branded retail locations in the U.S.

“It’s a great opportunity to improve our overall churn [subscriber retention], which we’ve seen happen from giving HBO to current unlimited [wireless] customers,” Stankey said.

“With Max, we’ll offer consumers more than twice the amount of programming for the same price as HBO today,” he added.

Stankey said going forward HBO’s 34 million domestic linear subscribers should expect to see more generalized entertainment content, including unscripted reality shows, news and sports.

“It’s an important dance and choreography [with linear TV distributors] that we have to do to get right,” he said. “And we feel we’re positioned very well to make that happen.”


Season 10 of ‘Shameless’ on DVD May 12

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the 10th season of Showtime’s “Shameless” on DVD May 12 (order date April 7). The season will also be available through digital retailers Feb. 25 on standard-definition and high-definition.

Based on the long-running British series of the same name, the irreverent and humorous “Shameless” focuses on the misadventures of a large low-income family getting by on Chicago’s South Side. Season 10 finds the Gallaghers adjusting to life without Fiona (following Emmy Rossum’s departure from the series at the end of season nine). Patriarch Frank (William H. Macy) enconters an old friend, Debbie (Emma Kenney) rules over the household with an iron fist, and Lip (Jeremy Allen White) and Tami (Kate Miner) navigate the difficulties of taking care of their newborn. Cameron Monaghan also returns to the show as Ian, rekindling the “Gallavich” romance with longtime love Mickey (Noel Fisher).

The cast also includes Ethan Cutkosky, Shanola Hampton, Steve Howey and Christian Isaiah.

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The Shameless: The Complete Tenth Season DVD will include all 12 episodes and deleted scenes.

Even in its 10th season, “Shameless” ranks as one of the highest rated shows in all demos on Showtime, which has renewed the series for an 11th and final season to air later this year.

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Netflix Dropping Disc References in Fiscal Statements

Netflix hasn’t been shy about distancing itself from its DVD by-mail rental legacy. The SVOD pioneer characterizes itself first and foremost as a digital movie/TV content producer/distributor.

In the company’s 10K filling on Jan. 29, Netflix disclosed that beginning in 2020 it would no longer reference DVD in select financial statements such as the “consolidated statements of cash flows” and “consolidated balance sheets.”

In a reclassification of financial statements, the amortization of DVD content assets is now considered “other non-cash items” within “cash flows from operating activities.” In addition, cash flows from the acquisition of DVD content assets have been downsized to “change in other assets” within “cash flows from investing activities.”

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In the “consolidated balance sheets,” DVD content assets have been relegated to “other non-current assets,” and DVD content liabilities have been reclassified from “current content liabilities” and “non-current content liabilities” to “accrued expenses and other liabilities” and “other non-current liabilities,” respectively.

Disc rental revenue in 2019 was $300 million, down from $400 million in 2018 and $500 million in 2017. More than 2 million Netflix subscribers still rent DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies.

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Finally, Netflix will no longer separate contribution profit (loss) for domestic streaming, international streaming and domestic DVD, claiming its “chief operating decision maker” (CEO Reed Hastings) no longer reviews the data independently — due in part because Netflix increasingly obtains multi-territory or global rights for streaming content. Hastings apparently now focuses on the company’s global operating margin as the primary measure of profitability and basis for allocation of resources.


Chinese Drama ‘The Climbers’ Coming to Digital and Blu-ray Feb. 25 From Well Go

The Chinese mountain-climbing drama The Climbers will come out on digital and Blu-ray Feb. 25 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Based on a true story, The Climbers is a cinematic retelling of the first Chinese climbers to summit Mount Everest — the first ever to do so from the North Ridge. Well-known as the most challenging side of the mountain, the perilous journey takes its toll on the mountaineers, physically and mentally, forcing them to make life or death decisions at every turn.

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The film is directed by  Daniel Lee (Three Kingdoms, 14 Blades) and stars Wu Jing (Wandering Earth, Wolf Warrior 2) and Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Grandmaster), and with a special guest appearance from Jackie Chan.

MMA Doc ‘El Viejo’ Coming on Digital Feb. 25 From Virgil

The documentary El Viejo will be released on digital HD Feb. 25 from Virgil Films and Entertainment.

The film follows a 51-year-old retired wrestling coach, Thom Ortiz, who doesn’t let age derail his dreams of becoming a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Against all odds, he uses unconventional means to juggle the challenges of health, fatherhood, career and training to compete in a sport that’s dominated by younger athletes.

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Directed by Matthew Hickney and written by Shane Ellison, the documentary won Best Documentary Feature at the Festigious International Film Festival Los Angeles, Best Arizona Feature at the Arcosanti International Film Carnivale, the Gold Medal for Best Featurette at the Global Independent Film Awards, and was a winner at the Los Angeles Film Awards.

El Viejo from El Viejo on Vimeo.