Netflix Hires New Consumer Products Chief

Netflix’s ongoing experimental approach to consumer products has a new boss. The SVOD pioneer hired Josh Simon, formerly VP and head of global strategy for product, design, merchandising and categories at Nike.

Simon is tasked with identifying and building plans across different lines of business in consumer products, and collaborating with Netflix’s content teams on the initial development of brand and audience strategy for consumer products.

Simon, who begins this week, replaces Christie Fleischer, who left last summer to become CEO of Benefit Cosmetics.

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Netflix’s foray into consumer products, including soft goods and merchandise related to key brands and original content, has been tepid. The service last summer had endcap displays at Target stores marketing generic merchandise items associated with the third season of original series “Stranger Things.”

The service has also bowed limited merchandise for original series “To All the Boys: P.S. I Love You” and “La Casa de Papel.”

In January, Netflix posted openings for three positions, including a retail designer, a product-development manager for soft-line goods, and a merchandise-brand-strategy coordinator.

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“We are building a consumer products division to create merchandisable products, games, books and experiences based on our robust original programming slate,” Netflix said in the posting. “Our approach promotes title awareness while also enabling our IPs to become part of the zeitgeist in the buzziest way possible.”

 

FX on Hulu Debuts

Viewers March 2 were given access to FX on Hulu, bringing together more than 40 of FX Network’s series, new original FX linear series, and FX originals that are streaming exclusively on Hulu.

Series recently added to FX on Hulu include “Nip/Tuck,” “Justified,” “Damages,” “Rescue Me,” “Thief” and “Terriers.”

March 5 Alex Garland’s (Ex MachinaAnnihilation) first television series “Devs”will be the first original series to make its debut exclusively on FX on Hulu. The limited series follows a young software engineer, Lily Chan, who investigates the secretive development division of her employer, a cutting-edge tech company based in Silicon Valley, which she believes is behind the murder of her boyfriend.

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Additional FX originals, available only on FX on Hulu, include the limited series “Mrs. America” starring Cate Blanchett (April 15), “A Teacher” starring Kate Mara (summer) and the drama series “The Old Man” starring Jeff Bridges (fall).

The FX on Hulu hub will also include streaming premieres of the new comedies “Dave” (FXX) and “Breeders” (FX), season four of “Better Things” (FX), and a new season of the comedy “Cake” (FXX). Each show will air first on their respective FX linear channel, then be available to stream the next day on FX on Hulu.

Hulu subscribers can access the hub within the Hulu app or on the Web at hulu.com/hub/fx_on_hulu.

Warner Cancels ‘Superman: Red Son’ New York Premiere Over Coronavirus Concerns

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment March 2 canceled a screening of the animated film Superman: Red Son slated for March 16 in New York over concerns regarding the spread of the COVID-19, aka coronavirus disease 2019.

Based on the DC Comics “Elseworlds” graphic novel from 2003, Red Son takes place in an alternate reality where the spaceship bearing the last survivor of Krypton crash lands in Stalinist Russia instead of rural Kansas, resulting in Superman becoming a hero of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The film features the voices of Jason Isaacs as Superman and Diedrich Bader as Lex Luthor.

The film premiered in Los Angeles Feb. 24 and was released through digital retailers Feb. 25. Warner Feb. 28 announced the New York premiere would be held March 16, the day before Red Son’s March 17 release on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD.

The first case of COVID-19 in New York City was confirmed March 1.

As of March 2, there have been about 90,000 reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 3,100 deaths from the illness — the vast majority occurring in China. Around 100 cases have been reported in the United States, with six deaths in Washington state.

“As the impact and spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, Warner Bros. is placing added emphasis on the health and welfare of its employees, talent and fans. To help minimize risk of exposure, Warner Bros. has opted to take preventative measures and cancel the New York premiere,” the studio announced.

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Warner had planned a red carpet event at New York’s Directors Guild with a screening and Q&A for members of the press, with a limited number of tickets available to the general public. The Guild theater has a capacity of 436.

Among those announced to be in attendance were executive producer Bruce Timm, director-producer Sam Liu, screenwriter J.M. DeMatteis, and castmembers Amy Acker (voice of Lois Lane), Vanessa Marshall (Wonder Woman), Roger Craig Smith (Batman) and Sasha Roiz (Hal Jordan).

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Doc ‘When Lambs Become Lions’ Due on Disc April 28 From Oscilloscope

The documentary When Lambs Become Lions will come out on Blu-ray and DVD April 28 from Oscilloscope Laboratories.

The documentary follows a small-time ivory dealer in the Kenyan bush who fights to stay on top while forces mobilize to destroy his trade. When he propositions his younger cousin, a conflicted wildlife ranger who hasn’t been paid in months, they both see a possible lifeline. The plummeting elephant population in Africa has captured the attention of the world, and as the government cracks down, both poachers and rangers face their own existential crises — what is the value of elephant life relative to human life? Can we understand these hunters who will risk death, arrest, and the moral outrage of the world to provide for their families?

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Director Jon Kasbe followed the compelling subjects of the documentary over a three-year period for a visually arresting look at the perspectives and motives of the people at the epicenter of this conservation crisis.

The film won Best Editing, Documentary, at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Special Jury Award at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival and was an official selection at the Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival, Zurich Film Festival, Camerimage International Film Festival and San Diego International Film Festival.

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Special features include an interview with Kasbe, the Zurick Film Festival trip and the theatrical trailer.

Government: 71% of Aussies Use SVOD Services

There’s a reason Netflix is booming down under. New data from the Australian Communications and Media Authority suggests 71% of Australian households with a television subscribed to at least one SVOD service in 2019.

Netflix, which help launch the Aussie SVOD market in 2015, had about 11.5 million subscribers in the country last summer, up 17.6% from the previous-year period. The leading Australian-owned SVOD is the Nine Entertainment Company owned Stan, which has about 2.9 million subs, up 43.2%.

ACMA said 10% Australian households had four or more SVOD services in the home in 2019, up from 4% in 2017. Overall, 83% of Australian online users said they streamed viewing paid or ad-supported video content in the past six months.

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“Australians are using their fixed Internet connections for data-hungry applications such as video streaming and are spending more time watching content online,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said in a statement.

O’Loughlin said online video and use of smart devices is escalating as high-speed networks create new markets for innovative services across the Australian economy.

“It’s clear that Australians have embraced technology, which is helping drive demand for faster Internet,” she said.

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The government agency said Australians downloaded almost six million terabytes of data over the three-month period last summer, enough to watch about 2.2 billion hours of HD video. Of that data, more than 88% was downloaded through fixed Internet services.

About 50% adult Aussies use a smart device other than a computer, tablet or mobile phone to connect to the Internet.

 

Trans World Entertainment’s Bruce Eisenberg Departs After 27 Years

Trans World Entertainment March 2 announced the departure of Bruce Eisenberg, EVP of real estate, effective immediately.

Eisenberg, who had been with the corporate parent of the f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) home entertainment retail chain for nearly 27 years, saw his position eliminated following the $10 million sale of f.y.e. to the parent of Sunrise Records in Canada and HMV Records in the United Kingdom.

Per a regulatory filing, Eisenberg is set to receive more than $300,000 in so-called “golden parachute” compensation. His annual compensation had been $425,000. CEO Mike Feurer is on tap to receive more than $1 million in compensation should his position be eliminated.

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The 200 mall-based f.y.e. locations across the country reported an operating loss of $21.5 million, with revenue down 14.7% to $40.8 million in the most-recent fiscal period. Comparable store sales declined 5.2% — the drop largely buttressed by gains in collectables revenue.

Trans World Entertainment had warned in regulatory filings that its continued operation as a company was in doubt without deleveraging some of assets.

The company is now focused on its Etailz.com e-commerce subsidiary, based in Spokane, Wash., which has been losing money. TWEC recently took out a $25 million loan to shore up the subsidiary’s finances.

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Netflix’s ‘I Am Not Okay With This’ Tops TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “I Am Not Okay With This” was the top rising show and the top binge show on the TV Time charts for the week ended March 1.

The coming-of-age dramedy debuted on the service Feb. 26. It follows a teenage girl who’s navigating the trials and tribulations of high school while dealing with the complexities of her family, her budding sexuality, and mysterious superpowers just beginning to awaken. From the director and executive producer of “The End of the F***ing World” Jonathan Entwistle and the producers of “Stranger Things,” the series is based on the Charles Forsman graphic novel.

Perennial favorite “Friends” came in at No. 2 on the binge chart while Netflix’s comic book-based “Locke & Key,” which hit screens Feb. 7, took the bronze.

No. 2 on the “Shows on the Rise” chart was the Netflix docu-series “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.” The true crime series, which debuted Feb. 26, chronicles the circumstances around the death of an abused 8-year-old.  Another Netflix docu-series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” season two of which hit screens Feb. 28, landed at No. 3.

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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 service. 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 network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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 Top Binge Shows Week Ended March 1 by Share of Binges:

  1. “I Am Not Okay With This” (Netflix) — 4.97%
  2. “Friends” (NBC) — 2.08%
  3. “Locke & Key” (Netflix) — 1.99%
  4. “Altered Carbon” (Netflix) — 1.90%
  5. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) — 1.70%
  6. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.57%
  7. “Vikings” (History) — 1.53%
  8. “Sex Education” (Netflix) — 1.53%
  9. “Riverdale” (The CW) — 1.35%
  10. “Love Is Blind” (Netflix) — 1.25%

 

Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended March 1 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “I Am Not Okay With This” (Netflix) — 100%
  2. “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” (Netflix) — 99.9%
  3. “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” (Netflix) — 94.2%
  4. “Altered Carbon” (Netflix) — 94.1%
  5. “The Voice” (NBC) — 93.7%
  6. “Almost Family” (Fox) — 89.5%
  7. “Better Call Saul” (AMC) — 86.7%
  8. “The Rookie” (ABC) — 85.7%
  9. “Hunters” (Amazon) — 79.2%
  10. “SEAL Team” (CBS) — 78.3%

Pluto TV Bows New Features, Marketing Campaign

ViacomCBS-owned AVOD service Pluto TV March 2 announced the rollout of a new features and the company’s largest ever consumer marketing campaign with the tagline: “Drop In. It’s Free.”

The product upgrade, Project Venetia, delivers new features and design changes.

“Today marks another major step for Pluto TV in its mission to entertain the planet,” Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Project Venetia makes it even easier for viewers to find and enjoy their favorite streaming TV programming. And with our new brand campaign, we’re communicating the core value proposition of Pluto TV and inviting everyone to visit a bold new world of television. As our new tagline promises, you can drop in anytime and start watching hundreds of channels on any device, all for free.”

The “Drop In” campaign, launched March 2, features a 30-second commercial on late-nite programming, an out-of-home campaign in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Minneapolis and Houston, connected-TV and streaming-audio takeovers, digital and social activations, and in-theater advertising.

The parallel development of a new interface design and brand campaign includes a new logo. The new identity is rolling out across platform, on-air and marketing touchpoints over the coming weeks.

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Project Venetia is currently live on Apple, Vizio, and Roku devices with staged releases across other devices, including Android and Amazon Fire TV, and more features rolling out over the coming months.  Newly launched features include new linear and improved on-demand user experience designs featuring categories of content, the ability to put favorite channels at the top of the guide, a watch list, and a “Watch Now” button that pops up when a desired title is available.

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Pluto TV has more than 22 million monthly viewers in the United States, and offers more than 250 channels of live, linear, lean-back programming and thousands of on-demand titles streaming on all major mobile, web and connected TV devices.  Pluto TV is also live in territories throughout Europe, with Latin America launching at the end of March.

Pluto TV. Drop in. It’s free. Full 30 from Pluto TV on Vimeo.

Pluto TV. Drop in. It’s Free. Couch from Pluto TV on Vimeo.

Pluto TV. Drop in. It’s free. Woman from Pluto TV on Vimeo.

Pluto TV: Drop in. It’s free. Security from Pluto TV on Vimeo.

 

Season One of ‘Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation’ Flying to DVD April 14 From Lionsgate

Season one of The History Channel’s nonfiction series “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation” arrives on DVD April 14 from Lionsgate.

Executive produced by and featuring Tom DeLonge, former Blink-182 lead guitarist and co-founder of To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science, the series follows a team of investigators and former government insiders as they gather testimony from military eyewitnesses and uncover tangible evidence to build a compelling case to answer the question: Do UFOs truly exist and do they pose a threat to U.S. National Security?

The two-disc set Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation: Season 1 features a look at newly authenticated evidence and footage and interviews from eyewitnesses and former military personnel who have never spoken out before. Each episode discloses information about the efforts being made to change government policy surrounding the phenomena. The series presents never before heard testimony from former and active-duty military who have had first-hand accounts with these unidentified aircraft, urging the public to ask questions and look for answers.

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‘Xavier Riddle and The Secret Museum: Meet Xavier’ Due on DVD and Digital March 17 From PBS

Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: Meet Xavier will be released on DVD and digital March 17 from PBS Distribution.

It’s the first DVD release for the new series which follows the adventures of Xavier, his sister Yadina, and their friend Brad as they solve problems that come their way with the help of a “secret museum.” The museum is a portal that sends the friends back in time to meet real-life heroes when they were kids, who help them solve their problems.

“Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum” debuted on PBS KIDS in November 2019. The series is based on the children’s book series Ordinary People Change the World by New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos and is designed to teach kids about influential historical figures and living heroes and some of the key experiences that shaped their lives, while emphasizing important social emotional concepts and positive character traits such as courage, resilience, and commitment to setting and accomplishing goals.

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In the three-episode Meet Xavier, Xavier, Yadina and Brad meet Marie Curie in the episode “I Am Marie Curie.” She shows Brad that he should always follow his dreams. In the episode “I Am George Washington Carver,” Xavier learns how important plant life is and why we need to take care of the earth. And in “I Am Charles Dickens,” the writer shows Yadina that she doesn’t need new toys because her imagination can be just as fun.