Acorn TV Launching in the U.K. on April 29

Taking a page from rival streaming video service BritBox, AMC Networks’ Acorn TV is slated to launch in the United Kingdom on April 29.

Acorn TV, which owns a majority stake in the Agatha Christie literary estate, bowed in the United States in 2011. It now claims 1 million subscribers in North America.

New subs in the U.K. will get an extended 30-day free trial for a limited time. The service will also be available on a number of devices, including Roku, Fire TV, Android and Apple mobile and Apple TV — with Amazon Channels and Apple TV Channels pending.

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Acorn TV will add new content every subsequent Monday, and all series will include English subtitles. After the free trial, Acorn TV costs £4.99 ($6.18) per month or £49.99 ($61.90) per year.

“The United Kingdom has a long-standing tradition of producing first-rate dramas and mysteries, so we’re thrilled to feature so many popular, award-winning programs in one place like ITV’s ‘Foyle’s War’ and BBC’s ‘Keeping Faith,’ as well as introduce U.K. audiences to the charming, British-produced Acorn TV Original ‘Queens of Mystery,” Matthew Graham, GM at Acorn TV, said in a statement.

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For the last nine years, Acorn TV has curated and produced a diverse mix of shows from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Scandinavia with a reported focus on older female viewers.

“We continue to greatly expand our commission and co-production slate and are extremely excited for U.K. viewers to get the opportunity to see the wonderful ‘Queens of Mystery’ filmed in the beautiful countryside of Kent as well as several other productions later this year, including Irish period mystery series ‘Dead Still’ and New Zealand thriller ‘The Sounds,’ among many others,” added Catherine Mackin, managing director, Acorn Media Enterprises, the UK-based development division for Acorn TV.

Jason Kilar: ‘The Value of VHS Was Robust’

In media interviews following his April 1 hiring announcement, Jason Kilar, former founding CEO of Hulu and new boss at WarnerMedia Entertainment, said the next 10 years matter more for him than the previous 85 years. Kilar, who helped start Hulu in 2007, left the streaming service in 2013 to start an ad-supported video platform called Vessel, which was shuttered in 2016.

“I actually believe this isn’t about WarnerMedia; it’s as much about Disney and NBCUniversal and others,” Kilar told Variety. “I actually think these companies are going to look so different within the next decade out of necessity and out of opportunity.”

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Strong words for a newcomer working for a company whose name and content library are all about legacy. But, then, the 48-year-old Kilar’s career has largely focused on emerging technology within the entertainment space.

Kilar, who begins his position on May 1, was also instrumental in launching Hulu Plus, which enabled viewers to pay extra to gain access to the most recently televised episodes in addition all episodes from every past season.

“We are still in the early innings of customers worldwide starting to watch content on demand,” Kilar said. “Under the hood from a tech standpoint, it’s very important to get that right, invest in it. Those are the two very important things.”

Kilar joins WarnerMedia as it readies the May launch of HBO Max during a global virus pandemic when domestic unemployment claims skyrocket and household discretionary spending comes to a halt. Kilar believes the lower cost of digital distribution bodes well during economic turbulence.

“The tech is hard to do but once you get it right, the cost of distribution in a tech environment like digital, is that variable costs are so small it allows you to go global,” he said.

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At the same time, Kilar said he respects the value of existing distribution channels, calling the expedited release of some theatrical releases into retail channels a “necessity” due to theaters shutting down worldwide.

In an interesting note, Kilar said his early days at Amazon included melding existing video technology with e-commerce.

“I wrote the business plan for Amazon getting into the video retail business,” he said. “VHS. Everyone wrote off the VHS business when the DVD showed up on the scene, but the value of VHS business was incredibly robust.”

Indeed, Amazon reportedly only stopped selling VHS titles in 2019, transferring ASIN#’s (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) applied to VHS to related DVDs or Blu-ray Discs.

FandangoNow Offering Digital Rental Preorders on ‘Trolls World Tour’ With Additional Discount on Other DreamWorks Titles

FandangoNow, the transactional video-on-demand service from Fandango, is for the first time offering preorders for digital rental of Trolls World Tour, debuting digitally April 10.

Also, those who preorder the rental of the film can rent or buy a number of DreamWorks Animation films available on FandangoNow at 50% off the regular price, including the original Trolls. The preorder offer is valid until April 9, and those who preorder the title can enjoy the DreamWorks Animation film discounts through April 17.

“We’re looking forward to working together with DreamWorks Animation on this first-of-its-kind event where housebound film fans can gather around the couch for the highly-anticipated debut of a new movie directly from the studio,” said Cameron Douglas, head of FandangoNow, in a statement. “We’re also pleased to offer an extra incentive where families can watch as many DreamWorks Animation movies available on FandangoNow as they like at a major discount, while getting ready for the April 10 home debut of Trolls World Tour.”

Trolls World Tour, the sequel to 2016’s Trolls, features the return of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden and many more in their original roles. Fans can find an exclusive clip here.

Weekly Unemployment Claims Double to Record 6.6 Million

In another stunning statistic due to the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, a record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the week ended March 28, according to new data from the Department of Labor. The figure doubled the previous record of 3.3 million claims filed through March 21.

The Labor department said the tally marked “the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series.”

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Claims are being filed across all industries, including entertainment, retail, hospitality and service.

The previous week’s level was revised up by 24,000 from 3,283,000 to 3,307,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,612,000, an increase of 1,607,750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 6,000 from 998,250 to 1,004,250.

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Apple Letting Some Video Services Bypass 30% App Store Fee

Apple has begun exempting select third-party streaming video services from paying a 30% App Store fee, or “Apple tax,” as SVODs such as Netflix characterize the surcharge.

Apple has long maintained that third-party services generating subscriptions through its iOS operating system be subjected to the fee. Now, it is letting Amazon Prime Video, Altice One and Canal+ skip paying it.

“Apple has an established program for premium subscription video entertainment providers to offer a variety of customer benefits — including integration with the Apple TV app, AirPlay 2 support, tvOS apps, universal search, Siri support and, where applicable, single or zero sign-on,” Apple said in a statement, first reported by The Verge. “On qualifying premium video entertainment apps such as Prime Video, Altice One and Canal+, customers have the option to buy or rent movies and TV shows using the payment method tied to their existing video subscription.”

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The inclusion of French-based Canal+ is noteworthy considering Apple was recently fined $1.2 billion by French antitrust officials. Music streaming service Spotify currently has an antitrust lawsuit against Apple pending before the European Union.

The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission under President Trump have ramped up investigations of media/tech companies suspected of violating antitrust guidelines.

Indeed, Netflix reportedly advises iOS users to subscribe to its SVOD platform outside the App Store. Apple, in turn, has cut the fee in half to 15% to some services who members maintain subscriptions through the App Store for more than a year.

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Disney Parks Donates 100,000 N95 Masks, 150,000 Rain Ponchos to Healthcare Workers

With its amusement parks shuttered, The Walt Disney Co. April 1 announced it is giving healthcare workers in California, New York and Florida access to 100,000 N95 masks and 150,000 rain ponchos.

“Disney Parks has a longstanding history of helping hospitals and communities, dating back to the 1930s, when Walt, himself, took Disney characters and animators on outreach visits,” Disney said in a blog post. “Sharing the magic of Disney continues today through contributions, collaborating with nonprofit organizations, in-kind gifts and employee volunteerism.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Charles Redding, MedShare CEO. “We have to find ways to pool our resources and work together to help the healthcare workers who are doing their very best to treat patients and contain COVID-19. We appreciate Disney partnering with us to support hospitals and healthcare workers on the frontlines.”

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With all 12 of its branded theme parks closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Disney said since the beginning of March, its Parks segment has given nearly $3 million in in-kind donations benefiting communities around the globe.

“These are some of the ways Disney brings positive, lasting change to communities around the world,” the media giant said.

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‘Bush: Live in Tampa’ Due April 24 in Blu-ray-DVD-CD Combo Pack From MVD

The concert film Bush: Live in Tampa will come out in a special edition package that includes a Blu-ray Disc, DVD and audio CD from MVD Entertainment Group and Cleopatra Entertainment.

Led by guitarist/vocalist Gavin Rossdale, alt rockers Bush were the first post-Nirvana British band to hit it big in America.

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Performing to a sold-out crowd of 10,000 diehard fans at the MidFlorida Amphitheater in Tampa during their 2019 Altimate Tour, Bush put on a 90-minute concert that was filmed in 4K UHD with 15 cameras to capture the show from every angle. Produced by award-winning producer Barry Summers of Rock Fuel Media, the concert features the band’s biggest hits including “Machinehead,” “Glycerine,” “Comedown,” “Swallowed,” “Everything Zen” and their newest hit song “Bullet Holes” from the John Wick 3 soundtrack.

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Other tracks include “The Chemicals Between Us,” “This Is War,” “The Sound of Water,” “Body,” “The Disease of Dancing Cats” and “Little Things.”

WarnerMedia Hires Ex-Hulu Boss Jason Kilar as CEO

WarnerMedia Entertainment April 1 named Jason Kilar as its CEO. Kilar, former founding CEO of Hulu, begins his position on May 1, reporting to AT&T COO John Stankey.

Kilar’s resume involving streaming video will be key as WarnerMedia, whose assets include Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, launches HBO Max in May. He ran Hulu from 2007 to 2013.

Indeed, with Max the cornerstone of WarnerMedia’s distribution focus in the near term as theatrical remains shuttered due to the coronavirus, Kilar’s experience launching Hulu will be key.

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“Our team led by Bob Greenblatt, Ann Sarnoff, Gerhard Zeller and Jeff Zucker has done an amazing job establishing our brands as leaders in the hearts  and minds of consumers,” Stankey said in a statement. “Adding Jason to the talented WarnerMedia family as we launch HBO Max in May gives us the right management to strategically position our leading portfolio of brands, world-class talent and rich library of intellectual property for future growth.”

Kilar, 48, was CEO of Hulu from its launch in 2007 until 2013. Before that, he held several leadership positions at Amazon from 1997 to 2006, including SVP of Worldwide Application Software.

His voluntary departure from Hulu surprised analysts, including Richard Greenfield, now with Lightshed Partners. “He’s done an amazing job!” Greenfield wrote at the time.

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Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce “assumed” Kilar would stay at Hulu during the transition, while portfolio manager Larry Haverty thought Kilar could move on to “bigger things.”

Instead, Kilar launched video streaming service Vessel, a wannabe YouTube service, which enabled viewers for a $3 monthly fee, exclusive access to new videos 72 hours before they were released in other channels. Vessel was acquired by Verizon, which shuttered the platform in 2016.

Additionally, Kilar served as a board member at DreamWorks Animation (2013-16) and Univision Communications (2016-20). He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and business from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Conviva: Global Streaming Video Up 20% During Pandemic

At a time when society has never been more digitally connected, countries around the globe are imploring their people to be socially distant. But in the age of connectedness, with options for news, entertainment, and friendships at the press of a button, the sacrifices are not nearly as harsh, according to new data from Conviva.

The coronavirus has had immediate impacts on consumption patterns and engagement across streaming and social media, with marked differences in the past month alone.

Conviva analyzed global streaming data from a 21-day period between March 3 and March 23, comparing the seven days ending March 23 with two weeks prior.

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Streaming skyrocketed on a global scale, increasing more than 20% compared to the previous two-week period, with North America streaming up nearly 27% in the same time period.

Primetime TV consumption shifted earlier as viewers watched throughout the day, rather than just during the evening hours. Daytime viewing jumped nearly 40% as compared to two weeks prior.

For better or worse, Facebook remains a leading platform for local news video registering the largest increase in viewing over the past 30 days, with an increase of 118% in average views per video and total video views up 247%.

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Twitter led social media engagement with 150%increase in average engagements per video for global news accounts and 196% increase in average engagements per video for local news accounts in the United States.]

“Television has long been a way to connect — a plugged-in friend when one might otherwise feel disconnected,” read the report. “In these dire times, we’ve seen many turning to their old friend in new ways. Staying home means tuning in — to get informed, pass the time, and stay connected.”

Conviva said the pandemic has offered a worldwide “reset” on the way people relate to each other.

“People will perhaps see their face-to-face relationships in a new light, but our ability to remain connected via social media is likely valued now more than ever,” the report said. “In the best of times, streaming and social media add value to our daily lives. In this moment, the choice of information or distraction is a welcome one. But either is the correct choice for those of us following the moral imperative to stay home.”

‘1917’ Tops Redbox Disc Rentals; ‘Jumanji’ Remains Atop On Demand List

Universal Pictures’ 1917 took over the No. 1 spot on the Redbox kiosk disc rental chart the week ended March 29. The Redbox disc rental chart tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red kiosks.

The previous week’s top disc rental, Sony Pictures’ adventure sequel Jumanji: The Next Level, slipped to No. 2 on that chart, but did remain at No. 1 on the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks digital transactions, including both electronic sellthrough and streaming rentals.

The On Demand chart had 1917 at No. 2.

Fox’s Spies in Disguise slipped to No. 3 on both charts.

Sony Pictures’ new version of The Grudge debuted at No. 4 on the disc chart and No. 5 on the digital chart.

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Warner’s Just Mercy was No. 4 on the On Demand chart.

Lionsgate’s Knives Out dropped to No. 5 on the disc chart in its fifth week, and took the No. 6 spot on the digital chart.

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended March 29:

  1. 1917 — Universal
  2. Jumanji: The Next Level — Sony Pictures
  3. Spies in Disguise — Fox
  4. The Grudge (2020) — Sony Pictures
  5. Knives Out — Lionsgate
  6. Charlie’s Angels (2019) — Sony Pictures
  7. Uncut Gems — Lionsgate
  8. Richard Jewell — Warner
  9. Bombshell — Lionsgate
  10. Midway (2019) — Lionsgate


Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ended March 29:

  1. Jumanji: The Next Level — Sony Pictures
  2. 1917 — Universal
  3. Spies in Disguise — Fox
  4. Just Mercy — Warner
  5. The Grudge (2020) — Sony Pictures
  6. Knives Out — Lionsgate
  7. The Invisible Man (2020) — Universal
  8. Ford v Ferrari — Fox
  9. Contagion — Warner
  10. Uncut Gems — A24


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