Whip Media Hires Former Warner Exec Debbie Neveu

Entertainment software platform and data provider Whip Media has hired Debbie Neveu as VP of global enterprise client success.

In this newly created role, Neveu will further develop and grow the company’s content value management (CVM) platform customer relationships, including focusing on strategy, product adoption, sales assistance, and customer retention and support.

Neveu joins Whip Media with more than two decades of experience leading the accounting and financial reporting teams at some of the biggest companies in entertainment. Prior to joining Whip Media, Neveu served as the VP of accounting, financial reporting, financial systems and financial deal review at Warner Bros., where she spearheaded more than 300 deals and led the expansion of the company’s digital business into more than 130 countries. The areas of emphasis during her 15 years at Warner Bros. included the company’s digital sellthrough, VOD, PVOD, PPV and AVOD businesses. Before joining Warner Bros., Neveu served as the director of global operations at The Walt Disney Company for Disney’s interactive video gaming business.

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“Debbie’s invaluable knowledge of the entertainment industry and proven track record of success makes her an ideal fit for Whip Media,” Saj Jayasinghe, Whip Media’s SVP of global enterprise account management, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have her on board, and I know our media partners will feel the same way, too.”

“As a former client, I’ve spent years partnering with Whip Media and utilizing their CVM platform to automate, scale and streamline internal studio finance, rights and avails,” Neveu said in a statement. “Now that I am part of the Whip family, I look forward to bringing this knowledge to improve the satisfaction and success of our clients while also supporting the sales and product teams to refine and expand customer offerings.”

Forecast: Global SVOD Subscriptions to Reach 1.6 Billion by 2026

The crush of over-the-top video platforms in the U.S. and worldwide will see SVOD subscriptions increase by 491 million between 2021 and 2026 to 1.64 billion, according to new data from Digital TV Research. The London-based firm contends China and the U.S. together will account for 49% of the global sub total, down from 56% in 2021.

“China and the U.S. had a similar number of subscriptions by end-2020. Due to government pressure, China’s growth is decelerating, with 354 million subscriptions expected by 2026,” analyst Simon Murray said in a statement. “The U.S. will continue to grow, with 450 million subscriptions expected by 2026.”

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Three platforms will control nearly half the world’s SVOD subscriptions by 2026. Disney+ will be the biggest winner, with Digital TV Research estimating the platform (thanks to India) will overtake Netflix in subscriptions by 2025. Disney+ will add 140 million subs between 2021 and 2026 to bring its total to 284 million. About 121 million of Disney+ subscribers (43% of its total) in 2026 will be in 13 Asian countries under the Disney+ Hotstar brand. Netflix will add 53 million subscribers to reach 271 million subs by 2026.

Nordics a Growing SVOD Market, Despite Saturation

After the U.S. and Canada, Scandinavian countries account for the most-developed when it comes to consumer adoption of over-the-top video services. That said, new data from eMarketer suggests the region remains primed for growth.

In Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, household penetration of streaming video services tops 78%, compared with 66% across Western Europe. That said, Finland will see the largest market increase in 2021, at 7.4% year-over-year, while Sweden and Norway will approach 6% growth, and Denmark, 5% growth.

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“We expect the Nordic subscription OTT market to become even more competitive,” Brian Lau, associate forecasting analyst, said in a statement. “Established players like Netflix and Amazon are ramping up their investment in local content. Meanwhile, newer services from the U.S. and the rest of Europe, such as Disney+, HBO Max and Sky Showtime, have recently entered the picture or are preparing to do so.”

Indeed, Netflix in April announced it would open a production hub in Sweden, while Amazon jumpstarted Prime Video service in the region with the introduction of local original content. Meanwhile, Nordic Entertainment Group has reported strong paid subscriber growth for its Viaplay streaming platform.

“As competition for viewers heats up, we expect steady growth in subscription OTT service users over the coming years,” Lau wrote. “In 2022, across all the Nordic countries we track, more than three in five Internet users will watch content on those services each month. By the end of our forecast period in 2025, this will be the case for more than two-thirds of the region’s Internet users.”

Roku Expands TV Presence in Brazil

Roku has partnered with Chinese/Brazilian joint venture SEMP TCL to bring TCL Roku TV models to the Latin American country.

The SEMP Roku TV models will come integrated with Roku’s operating system and intuitive user interface, with access to more than 100,000 movies and TV series from third-party platforms such as Netflix, Globoplay, Disney+, Spotify and HBO Max. In addition, AVOD channels Pluto TV, Red Bull TV and Vix are also available. The new SEMP Roku TV models, varying in size from 32 to 50 inches, and priced from R1,949 ($358).

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Roku arrived in Brazil in 2020 and the SEMP Roku TV models are the third brand of Roku TV models to launch in the country.

“Our goal with these launches is to bring intelligent solutions to everyday life and make it even more practical for consumers to stream content on their televisions,” João Rezende, product and GTM manager for the TV, audio and video category at SEMP TCL.

Roku Bowing ‘This Old House’ SVOD Service; Announces New Episodes

Roku Sept. 30 announced that Emmy Award-winning series “This Old House” and “Ask This Old House” would premiere new seasons on Sept. 30 on The Roku Channel. For the first time in the franchise’s 43-year history, the 2021-22 season would feature 39 episodes of each show — 13 more than in previous seasons.

The new episodes will premiere on PBS as well as on an all-new dedicated premium subscription channel on The Roku Channel on Thursdays. Viewers will be able to stream new episodes for free on demand on The Roku Channel the following Mondays.

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Roku in March announced it had acquired the “This Old House” franchise, including global distribution rights, all subsidiary brands and the television production studio. From more than 200 linear channels available on The Roku Channel, “This Old House” is one of the top 20 linear channels by hours streamed from Jan. 1 to Sept. 1, according to Roku.

“Joining Roku earlier this year enabled [us] to invest more in our storied brand, which will benefit an all-new generation of home improvement enthusiasts this season and in many years to come,” Dan Suratt, VP of “This Old House” at Roku, said in a statement.

In July, the show won its 19th Emmy for “Outstanding Instructional and How-To Program” at the 48th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards.

Returning for its 43rd season, “This Old House” will kick off in Concord, Mass., with a young family who is moving from the city to a New England Cape built in 1880. The owners are hands-on renovators and want to improve upon the views of their three-acre property and make better use of their space. The This Old House cast of experts team up with the Silva Brothers to reconfigure this Revolutionary New England Cape.

“Ask This Old House” returns for its 20th season with new episodes, including general soldering techniques and how to connect water piping, how to build, install, and paint a railing for deck stairs to match the original railing, how to create a durable landscape that can withstand heavy pedestrian traffic and more. The show will feature a special 20th anniversary episode in January 2022.

Starting Oct. 12, the “This Old House” subscription VOD channel will be available on The Roku Channel in the United States. The channel channel costs $4.99 a month and will launch with a 14-day free trial.

Launching separately Oct. 13, “This Old House Classic” is a live channel on The Roku Channel featuring classic episodes dating back to 1979 and featuring original hosts Bob Vila and Steve Thomas.

Ozy Media Loses Top Journalist, Investor Amid Internal Probe

Ozy Media, the Mountain View, Calif.-based digital platform covering news, arts, culture, politics, business and sports for millennials, has hired a law firm to investigate allegations a co-founder reportedly tried to deceive Wall Street investors.

Troubles began this week following a report in The New York Times and elsewhere that claimed Ozy co-founder and chief operating officer Samir Rao impersonated a YouTube executive during a conference call earlier this year with Goldman Sachs, which was reportedly considering a $40 million investment in the company. On the call, Rao claimed Ozy content was “a great success” on YouTube.

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Following the call, Goldman Sachs declined to invest, and instead alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to media reports.

Fallout from the move has been swift. Recent high-profile hire Katherine “Katty” Kay, a former BBC anchor and correspondent, resigned Sept. 29 after just four months on the job. And key investor SV Angel announced it would sell all of its shares in the 8-year-old platform.

Former CNN host Carlos Watson, who started Ozy with Rao, told the Times that Rao had been dealing with “a mental health crisis” during the Goldman Sachs call, and had subsequently taken time off to deal with it.

In a statement, the Ozy board of directors said it “fully support[ed]” how the situation was handled, and said it would “continue to review” the company’s leadership in the coming months.

WarnerMedia Kids & Family Unit Adds Executives

WarnerMedia announced that Gloria Ponce and Sowon Sawyer have joined the company’s “kids & family” creative and programming team. Ponce, who joined the company earlier this year, has taken on the new role of senior creative executive, while Sawyer has been tapped as VP of program planning.

Both report to Amy Friedman, head of kids and family programming, with Sawyer also reporting to Meredith Gertler, EVP of content strategy and planning for HBO and HBO Max.

From left, Gloria Ponce and Sowon Sawyer

WarnerMedia Kids & Family aims to expand streaming and linear content to preschoolers and families. Ponce and Sawyer will be tasked with adding content and strategic program for the recently launched Cartoonito and ACME Night, as well as other content and programming initiatives across Max and Cartoon Network.

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“Gloria and Sowon each bring exceptional taste and diverse industry experience to the team, and they’ll be invaluable leaders as we deliver inclusive content to kids and families wherever they watch,” Freedman said in a statement.

In her new role, Ponce oversees the creative development of live-action original content across ages 6-11 and family audiences. She currently has more than 15 shows in development for Max and Cartoon Network, with an emphasis on Latino-focused programming.

Before joining WarnerMedia, Ponce spent three years at Netflix managing international originals for youth audiences. Previously, she worked as a creative executive in the Nickelodeon Original Movies department and later transitioned to the Latino-focused digital content studio Mitú, where she was instrumental in crafting the company’s brand identity and scripted content strategy.

Prior to joining WarnerMedia, Sawyer led scheduling strategy for SundanceTV at AMC Networks, where she was responsible for promoting audience growth and retention for SundanceTV. Previously, Sawyer worked 11 years at Nickelodeon in program planning and strategy for TeenNick, NickJr., and NickToons.

An advocate for inclusion, Sawyer also served as a founding co-chair of AMC Networks’ diversity, equity and inclusion committee, where she spearheaded the development of nine employee resource groups, served as a key advisor on corporate diversity initiatives, and developed mentorship and professional development programs.

Friedman’s executive team also includes: Kim Howitt, senior creative executive, who oversees the development of third-party animation, co-production and live-action across preschool, kids and family; Adina Pitt, whose expanded role includes leading kids and family acquisitions, co-productions, and content partnerships across both linear and streaming in the United States, and on linear in LatAm; and Joanna Rosenthal, as creative executive, WarnerMedia Kids & Family.

NFT Offering for Anthony Hopkins Film ‘Zero Contact’ Tallies Nearly $100,000

Global NFT (non-fungible token) distribution and viewing platform Vuele grossed nearly six figures with the feature film Zero Contact, according to the company.

Vuele brought in 32.86267 ETH (Ether cryptocurrency) or $93,435 with the release of 11 NFT “drops” of the thriller starring Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins. The “Platinum Edition” NFT drop alone sold for 20 ETH ($56,860).

Zero Contact is the first feature film NFT distributed by Vuele.

The “NFT drops mark an incredible new step for the feature film distribution industry as well as film collecting and fan engagement,” according to a company press release.

“In just these few short days, we’ve seen a community form around our film, enhanced fan engagement, and also proved a new revenue stream in the industry. We think this is groundbreaking,” Rick Dugdale, co-founder of Vuele and director-producer of the film, said in a statement. “Our goal was to earn the respect of the NFT space in order for us to create staying power and help blaze a new path for filmmakers. Not only is this now a proven distribution model, but we will be able to create new film financing structures moving forward.”

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Each winning NFT allows the lucky winner to be edited into the film with a personal Zero Contact shoot and edit. In addition, each winner receives signed digital artwork of the film poster, the “making of” the film, Crypto Generative Art by REMO x Dcsan and a Vuele “Golden Ticket.” The “Platinum” one of one winner also receives a walk-on role in the Zero Contact Universe.

Magnolia Selects to Stream Oscar-Nominated Doc ‘RBG’ on Oct. 5

Magnolia Selects, the subscription VOD platform, is set to stream Oscar-nominated documentary RBG, which explores the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and career, both illuminating her unique personal journey as she ascended to the nation’s highest court.

The doc, which debuts on Oct. 5, provides an inside look at one of America’s most inspiring political icons, providing audiences with a taste of the everlasting impact Ginsburg left behind, including as an unexpected pop culture figure.

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The mark the occasion, Magnolia is offering new subscribers of either one ($49.99) or two-year ($99.98) plans the opportunity to win free RBG merchandise. The first 100 subscribers during this promotion receive the  bonus gift through Nov. 20, or until supplies last.

Magnolia Pictures’ expansive catalog of critically-acclaimed indie and award-winning films, includes works from filmmakers such as Academy Award winner Alex Gibney, Academy Award winner James Marsh, Academy Award and Golden Globe Nominee Lars Von Trier, and Academy Award and BAFTA nominee Luca Guadagnino, among others.

‘Jimmy Neutron’ Complete Series Available on DVD Oct. 26

Shout! Factory on Oct. 26 will release The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: The Complete Series, a 10-DVD boxed set featuring all three seasons from the Nickelodeon animated series.

Jimmy is a genius boy who invents gadgets to improve his daily life situations with his robot dog Goddard by his side. The inventions almost always go awry leading to various mishaps for Jimmy and his best friends Carl and Sheen.

Based on the 2001 film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, the series aired on Nickelodeon from 2002 to 2006.

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The show’s voice cast includes Debi Derryberry (Toy Story, “F Is for Family”), Rob Paulsen (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Animaniacs”) and Jeffrey Garcia (Rio, Happy Feet), with guest appearances from Tim Curry, Tom Kenny, Jim Belushi, Christian Slate, Michael Clarke Duncan, Dan Castellaneta, Mel Brooks, Ving Rhames and Jay Leno.

The release features numerous bonus features, including the crossover specials with “The Fairly OddParents,” the “Jimmy Neutron” pilot episode, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and storyboards for select episodes.