NBCUniversal Reportedly Considering Distributing All Movies Through Peacock After Normal Theatrical, Transactional Runs; Netflix Grabs ‘Knives Out’ Sequel

Taking a page out of the Disney over-the-top video playbook, NBCUniversal is reportedly considering diverting all future Universal Pictures releases to proprietary SVOD platform Peacock — rather than Netflix and HBO Max —  after their theatrical and transactional home entertainment runs.

Citing sources familiar with the situation, Bloomberg reports Universal’s existing distribution deals with HBO for movies such as Fast & Furious 9 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom nine months after their box office debut, and with Netflix for Illumination titles (i.e. Despicable Me, Sing), both expire at the end of this year. This would give the studio and NBCUniversal the option to channel original movies exclusively to Peacock.

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In the build-up to the launch of its own SVOD service, Disney in 2017 began holding back movies previously earmarked for Netflix distribution. Five years prior, Disney and Netflix inked a landmark agreement affording the SVOD platform exclusive access to original Disney movies — an agreement many observers say contributed to Netflix’s burgeoning appeal.

While nothing has been decided, forgoing third-party distribution could see Universal passing up hundreds of millions of dollars in annual licensing revenue for a SVOD subsidiary with 33 million account sign-ups (not subscriptions) since launching last summer.

Universal also has deals in place with exhibitors AMC Theatres and Regal that enable it to distribute movies to premium VOD as early as 17 days after their theatrical debuts, depending on box office.

At the same time, Netflix has aggressively sought to produce its own movies, including about 60 titles annually. The streamer led all studios with Oscar nominations. And HBO Max has exclusive access to Warner Bros. Pictures theatrical releases for the first 31 days.

Separately, Netflix reportedly secured sequel rights to Knives Out, the 2019 critically acclaimed ensemble murder mystery distributed by Lionsgate in a one-picture deal with Media Rights Capital, the production company behind Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Ozark.” The $400 million to $450 million deal would be the most Netflix has ever paid to license a movie. Knives Out generated $331.3 million worldwide theatrically on a budget of $40 million.

Knives Out







FuboTV Inks Deal With Marquee Sports Network for Cubs Game Coverage

FuboTV and Marquee Sports Network have entered into a carriage agreement that will bring Chicago Cubs game coverage to the live TV streaming platform in the coming weeks.

Through FuboTV, subscribers throughout the Marquee Sports Network territory will have access to all Marquee programming, including all non-nationally televised regular season Chicago Cubs games, pregame and postgame shows, exclusive content and original programming. The regional sports network (RSN) will be available in FuboTV’s basic English language channel package in the Chicago area and surrounding regions, including Indianapolis, South Bend and Des Moines.

Fans can stream FuboTV on Android and iOS smartphone and tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Android Smart TVs, Apple TV and Apple’s TV app, Chromecast, Hisense Smart TVs, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox One’s family of devices and the web.

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In addition to the Marquee Sports Network, FuboTV includes more than 50,000 live sporting events annually — many streaming in 4K. The agreement also increases FuboTV’s local coverage in Chicago, where it already carries ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Telemundo and Univision affiliates alongside national sports networks ESPN, FS1, CBS Sports Network, Big Ten Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, NFL Network and NHL Network, among others.

“We are thrilled to have FuboTV offering Marquee Sports Network to Cubs fans. FuboTV has prioritized live sports and we look forward to them carrying Cubs baseball all season long,” said Marquee Sports Network GM Mike McCarthy in a statement.

“As we kick off the hotly anticipated 2021 baseball season, fuboTV is thrilled to bring consumers Marquee Sports Network’s extensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs,” FuboTV’s SVP of content strategy and acquisition, Ben Grad said in a statement. “The addition of Marquee Sports Network to our leading sports, news and entertainment portfolio makes FuboTV a great streaming choice for Cubs fans, as well as other Chicagoans looking to cut the cord.”

“We’re excited to add Marquee Sports Network and their coverage of the Chicago Cubs to FuboTV,” FuboTV co-founder and CEO David Gandler said in a statement. “Our Fubo Gaming subsidiary is headquartered in Chicago, and the midwest market, particularly Indiana and Iowa where we recently closed market access agreements, will be a key cluster for our gaming strategy in the future.”

HBO Max Orders True Crime Docuseries ‘The Staircase’ Starring Academy Award-Winner Colin Firth

HBO Max March 31 announced an order for “The Staircase,” an eight-episode limited series starring Oscar winner Colin Firth as American novelist Michael Peterson. The Max Original is a co-production between HBO Max and Annapurna Television.

Adapting the true crime docuseries format and various books and reports on the case, the series explores of the life of Michael Peterson, an American novelist, his sprawling North Carolina family, and the suspicious death of his wife, Kathleen Peterson. Director Antonio Campos will head six of the eight episodes.

“It is a thrill to collaborate with Antonio Campos, Maggie Cohn and Annapurna Television for the exploration of this true-life story that’s rife with dramatic revelations,” Sarah Aubrey, head of original content for HBO Max, said in a statement. “With the enormously talented Colin Firth at the center of this adaptation, the story will continue to captivate audiences with every bizarre twist and turn.”

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Campos, whose credits include Afterschool (2008), Simon Killer (2012), Christine (2016) and The Devil All the Time (2020), said the project has been in his sights since 2008.

“It’s been a long and winding road, but well worth the wait to be able to find partners like HBO Max, Annapurna, co-showrunner Maggie Cohn and the incredible Colin Firth to dramatize such a complex true-life story,” Campos said.

Nickelodeon Live-Streaming ‘Paw Patrol’ Stage Show to Preschoolers, Families

Nickelodeon March 31 announced it would live-stream “Paw Patrol Live! At Home,” an interactive streaming event targeting preschoolers April 24-25.  The virtual extravaganza includes: a 45-minute interactive stage show that puts kids at the center of the action; an opportunity to watch the show in a shared viewing room with friends and family; and an immersive pre-show area with games, videos, printable activities and more.

“As we look forward to a return to normalcy and welcoming families back to our live events, we continue to invest in innovative ways to grow our Nickelodeon Experiences business during these unprecedented times,” Amy Hyland, EVP of Nickelodeon strategy, business development and operations, said in a statement.

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The “Paw Patrol Live! At Home” show, which will be available in English and Spanish, was originally conceived for the stage by VStar Entertainment as “Paw Patrol Live! Race to the Rescue.” This reimagined production recreates a communal theater-like experience enhanced by the interactive livestream production.

Accessible immediately following ticket purchase, parents can log onto the “Race Ready Room,” a fully immersive area that features digital games, printable activity sheets, an e-shop, a Pup Pup Boogie dance-along video; a series of ‘how to’ videos to help families navigate the pre-show area and interactive show elements and more.

A fully customizable AR avatar responds to viewers’ participation via motion and sound capture, while a virtual, customizable screen overlay version of Ryder’s communication device allows guests to click on the badge of one of the members of the Paw Patrol and have their virtual pad display in the core colors of that pup. Their selected character will also speak directly to them during select moments in the show.

Purchase options include a single ticket, which allows access on one device; as well as a group ticket which includes a single ticket and three additional access codes that can be shared with friends and family, allowing guests to experience the show in a shared viewing room and communicate through a “watch together” video chat. Guests can also choose from three show times — 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET, 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET, and 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET. Additionally, beginning April 26, families who purchased a single or group access ticket will be able to log on and re-watch the show through May 2.

Netflix Streaming Blockbuster Video Doc a Boon to Last Standing Store

Netflix may have killed off Blockbuster Video, but a recent documentary on the streaming site about the legendary home video rental chain has been a boon to the last-standing branded store in the world located in Bend, Ore.

Netflix March 15 began streaming The Last Blockbuster, from filmmakers Taylor Morden and Zeke Kamm, who began their project in 2017 hoping the store would remain in business just long enough to see the finished documentary. The doc remained among Netflix’s top 10 streamed content for two weeks.

Store manager Sandi Harding in Netflix doc ‘The Last Blockbuster’

“For us to have some small part in helping the store stay open is amazing,” Morden told the Bend Bulletin. “Not a lot of documentaries actually accomplish the goal of their story.”

The Bend store began in 1992 as Pacific Video, with existing owners Ken and Debbie Tisher becoming an independent Blockbuster franchise in 2000 — the same year Netflix founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph offered to sell the their struggling by-mail disc rental company to Blockbuster for $50 million. Blockbuster, which at its peak had more than 9,000 stores as the largest video store in the world, turned them down.

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The rest is capitalism 101. Netflix soon turned the page on packaged media, co-creating the subscription streaming VOD market with a branded Roku player. Blockbuster ceased corporate operations in 2015, while Netflix ended 2020 with more than 200 million subscribers and $25 billion in revenue.

Bend Blockbuster store manager Sandi Harding isn’t dwelling on the past. Instead, she’s trying to keep up with the renewed consumer appeal among local residents and out-of-town visitors.

“It’s a little bit crazy, but it’s a very good thing,” said Harding. “We’ll take a little crazy if it means keeping the store open.”

Content Marketplace Company Vuulr Adds Two Execs

Vuulr, a global online content marketplace for film and television rights, has added two senior film industry executives. Daniel Gagliardi will serve as SVP of business development and strategy for the Americas. Andrew Marshall joins the team as head of legal and commercial partnerships.

“Great tech on its own is not enough, its needs to be wrapped with great support from industry experts who fully understand the challenges our buyers and sellers face in their business today,” Ian McKee, Vuulr’s global CEO, said in a statement. “I’m really excited to have Daniel and Andrew onboard as we scale the business.”

Gagliardi will lead efforts to help further develop the company’s growing position as a global online content marketplace for film and television rights, using his extensive and recent experience as both a content buyer and seller.

“As the content seller who helped drive the global rollout of services like Tubi, Pluto TV, Roku, and others, I know first hand the need for quick, efficient and strategic content licensing,” Gagliardi said in a statement. “What excites me most about Vuulr is our ability to transform the business of content licensing, not only with such a large selection of content, but by also offering hyper-local/regional content to help channels and platforms of all types expand around the globe.”

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Prior to joining the Vuulr team, Gagliardi was head of content at Vudu, a Walmart company, where he was responsible for building and leading the content partnerships team. During his tenure, Vudu debuted its first original television series, its first original film, commissioned a dozen additional originals, and partnered with hundreds of content licensors, including Disney, Warner Bros., Sony, Lionsgate, MGM and Samuel Goldwyn, among others. He also worked at Lionsgate where he was VP of worldwide television and digital distribution. In this role he built and led the company’s ad-supported licensing team, forging and overseeing deals with Hulu, YouTube, Tubi, Pluto TV, Roku, Amazon and Crackle, among others.

Marshall has held positions at ESPN STAR Sports, NBCUniversal and The Walt Disney Company.

“I am excited to join Vuulr as they pioneer the transformation of distribution and acquisition,” Marshall said in a statement. “Bringing the efficiencies of doing business online is a critical success factor for the industry as it transforms and the new normals emerge. Vuulr is on the leading edge of enabling this change which brings benefits to Buyers, Sellers and Audiences.”

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Marshall brings a deep understanding of the evolving legal, regulatory commercial landscape for media and entertainment companies, gained from working at leading industry players, according to a Vuulr press release. Marshall was previously general counsel and SVP of legal and business affairs at ESPN STAR Sports and a regional counsel for all lines of business in Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia at The Walt Disney Company, with a focus on content licensing, including theatrical distribution, studio marketing and home entertainment. More recently, he was commercial director for Universal brand development, where he grew the character licensing business for NBCUniversal in Southeast Asia.

Vuulr launched in January 2019 as a global online content marketplace for film and TV rights that connects buyers with content sellers worldwide, providing both with a platform to negotiate and transact directly and securely. The company connects buyers and distributors regardless of time zone or geography, providing an opportunity to access an always-on, diverse selection of mainstream and niche content.

The Vuulr online sales platform currently features content from producers and distributors across the globe, comprising more than 23,000 titles/135,000 hours, across more than 60 genres and 70 languages. Vuulr aims to slash the cost, effort, and time involved in doing transactions for the industry, and licensing transactions on Vuulr close, on average, in 10 days, according to the company.

Samba TV Triples Data Footprint With 605 Partnership

Samba TV March 31 announced a partnership with 605, a television measurement and analytics company, that dramatically expands Samba TV’s “addressable access” to TV viewership throughout the United States. The partnership will enable precise targeting capabilities across over-the-top video streaming and linear TV audiences.

Samba TV’s addressable footprint will now exceed more than 46 million opted-in TVs globally (formerly 13.5 million), of which 28 million devices are in the U.S. across all 210 designated market areas. The partnership will enable more targeting capabilities within connected TV, as well as display and video advertising on all of the connected devices within the home.

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Samba TV’s proprietary automatic content recognition technology is integrated at the chipset level with 24 Smart TV brands globally, “fingerprinting” all content that appears on the TV screen. By comparing those fingerprints to Samba TV’s global reference library of shows, commercials, movies, and games, the resulting dataset represents a global TV panel and ad schedule. Using proprietary identity resolution software at the household level, Samba TV integrates its TV data with other set-top box manufacturers for at-scale household-level targeting.

“With significant disruption in the advertising landscape … provid[ing] marketers a platform that delivers massive scale in reach, precision in targeting, and transparency into performance [is key],” Samba TV co-founder/CEO Ashwin Navin said in a statement. “Samba TV’s first-party data, augmented by this exclusive partnership … provides our customers access to a comprehensive end-to-end view into the effectiveness of advertising across all of the screens we use to watch video.”

605 offers advertising and content measurement, media planning, and optimization, and has agreed to provide Samba TV with exclusive addressable access to a subset of its viewership data.

“605 has built advanced technologies around our viewership data that allows brands to more simply and effectively reach the right audiences,” said CEO/founder Kristin Dolan. “This partnership with Samba is a positive move to further that objective.”

‘News of the World’ Debuts at No. 1 on Redbox Disc and Digital Charts

Universal Pictures’ News of the World debuted at No. 1 on the Redbox disc rental chart the week ended March 28, and also moved into the top spot on the Redbox On Demand chart for the week.

The Western stars Tom Hanks as a Civil War veteran who makes a living reading newspapers to people in frontier towns, whose travels get sidetracked when he is encounters a young white girl who had been captured and raised by Indians, and is tasked with returning her to her family. It earned $12.6 million at the domestic box office.

That pushed Universal’s The Croods: A New Age to the No. 2 spot on both charts. The DreamWorks Animation sequel had been the top disc rental for the previous two weeks.

No. 3 on both charts was Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s video game adaptation Monster Hunter.

The No. 4 title on the disc rental chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at Redbox’s more than 40,000 red kiosks, was the Redbox exclusive SAS: Red Notice, an action movie in which a British officer confronts a mercenary who has hijacked a high-speed train in the Channel Tunnel.

The No. 5 disc rental was Universal’s Promising Young Woman. The Oscar nominee was No. 4 on the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks digital rental transactions.

Warner’s The Little Things, a crime drama starring Denzel Washington, Jared Leto and Rami Malek, entered the On Demand chart at No. 5 after becoming available for premium VOD viewing March 19. It will be available for digital sellthrough April 20 and on disc May 4.

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A couple other newcomers landed on both charts as well. One was the Redbox exclusive The Seventh Day, a horror film starring Guy Pearce. It tells the story of a renowned exorcist who teams up with a rookie priest to battle demons.

Another was Lionsgate’s Hero Dog: The Journey Home, a family adventure about a blind man lost in the cold wilderness, who is aided by a brave malamute in his efforts to return to his family.

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended March 28:

  1. News of the World — Universal
  2. The Croods: A New Age — Universal/DreamWorks
  3. Monster Hunter — Sony Pictures
  4. SAS: Red Notice — Redbox
  5. Promising Young Woman — Universal
  6. The Seventh Day — Redbox
  7. Greenland — Universal/STX
  8. Soul — Disney/Pixar
  9. Hero Dog: The Journey Home — Lionsgate
  10. Breaking News in Yuba County — Warner


Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ended March 28:

  1. News of the World — Universal
  2. The Croods: A New Age — Universal/DreamWorks
  3. Monster Hunter — Sony Pictures
  4. Promising Young Woman — Universal
  5. The Little Things — Warner
  6. Fatale — Lionsgate
  7. Greenland — STX
  8. Wrong Turn (2021) — Lionsgate
  9. Hero Dog: The Journey Home — Lionsgate
  10. The Seventh Day — Redbox


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‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Remains Atop U.K. Home Entertainment Chart For Third Week

It’s a third week at No. 1 on the Official Film Chart in the U.K. for Wonder Woman 1984, with the highest sales count of any home entertainment title released this year so far.

Racking up 72,000 sales in the week following its release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K UHD on March 22, Wonder Woman 1984 holds onto its top chart position, while a collection of the original Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984 debuted at No. 2.

The 1989 superhero classic Batman entered the chart for the first time ever at No. 3, with the Tim Burton-directed superhero movie flying into the top five following the release of a new Titans of Cult Steelbook.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Spider-Man: Far From Home held on at No. 4, as venerable classic Dawn of the Dead stumbled onto the chart for the second time at No. 5. Warner’s Joker drops four to No. 6, as Trolls World Tour climbs three to No. 7, and Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame lands at No. 8.

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Other big re-entries onto the chart come from Sony Pictures’ Blade Runner 2049 (No. 9) which zoomed back into the Top 10 following a 4K Steelbook release, and Warner’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters at No. 10, which enjoyed a fresh resurgence as fans gear up to watch its sequel, Godzilla vs. Kong, which will be available for home rental from April 1 in the U.K.

The Official Film Chart Top 10 – March 31, 2021

Last Week Previous Week Title Studio
1 1 Wonder Woman 1984 Warner
2 New Wonder Woman/WW84 Warner
3 New Batman Warner
4 4 Spider-Man: Far From Home Sony Pictures
5 Return Dawn of the Dead Second Sight
6 2 Joker Warner
7 10 Trolls World Tour DreamWorks Animation
8 5 Avengers: Endgame Disney/Marvel
9 Return Blade Runner 2049 Sony Pictures
10 Return Godzilla: King of the Monsters Warner

© Official Charts Company 2021

Disney+ Tops 50% of Indian SVOD Subscriber Market

In the lucrative — and booming — Indian subscription streaming VOD market, Disney+ is beating industry veterans Netflix and Amazon Prime Video handily. New data from London-based research firm Omdia (formerly IHS Markit) finds the service accounted for 50% of all SVOD subs in India in 2020. India represents 30% of Disney’s 100+ million SVOD subs globally.

Online video subs revenue grew 142% primarily due to the global pandemic, with revenue rising from $265 million in 2019 to $639 million at the end of 2020. Disney+ Hotstar and Netflix accounted for 78% of the total online video subscription market revenue.

Disney acquired Indian digital platform Hotstar through its $71.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox assets two years ago.

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Over the past year, Disney+ Hotstar has tripled its subscriber base from 8 million to 25.6 million. This growth is partly down to the bundling of Disney+ and Hotstar, as well as the postponement of the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket from April to September as well as competitive pricing plans and exclusive rights to foreign content such as “Game of Thrones.”

Netflix India also grew its subscription base significantly, rising to 4.4 million, up from 2.4 million in 2019.

“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth rate of an already dynamic and robust OTT market,” analyst Constantinos Papavassilopoulos said in a statement. “The basic elements that will propel the market to further growth in the near future are already there: very affordable mobile broadband prices, high penetration of smart-phones, a population eager to consume more content, an ever-growing investment in Indian originals and a plethora of choices with more than 40 OTT services operating in the country.”

Indeed, India is a market obsessed with mobile access to media. The world’s No. 2 population has more than 1.1 billion cellphone subscribers. Omdia says 82% of Indian online video services are accessed through smartphones, with only 39% accessing content through dedicated TV apps.

Disney+ Hotstar offers three content packages. The VIP plan (INR 399 per year) offers dubbed local language content, while Premium (INR 299 per month) offers both English and dubbed version of content. In terms of device access, the VIP plan only allows its subs to watch on one screen in HD while Premium plan allows subscribers to watch on two screens simultaneously in Full HD.

Separately, India was the launch site for Netflix’s first mobile-only SVOD plan, while Amazon bowed a $1.20 priced Prime Video plan. Lionsgate launched a branded SVOD service in India, dubbed Lionsgate Play, to go along with its Starz Arabia streaming service.

In 2021, Amazon and Netflix will continue their large investment in original Indian content, with the two services set to invest around $340 million, representing 52% of the total content investment. Omdia expects that close to 400 original titles (mostly series) will be produced this year by foreign and local Indian OTT services.

By offering affordable streaming plans and partnering with large telecoms such as Jio Reliance, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India, Omdia expects that mobile-only SVOD subscriptions will continue to grow over the next couple of years. However, these plans face increased challenges from traditional pay-TV services, which are aggregating OTT video with their core linear TV service.