‘Home Fires,’ More ‘Walter Presents’ Series Among Titles Coming to PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in November

The period drama “Masterpiece: Home Fires,” the Australian drama series “RFDS: Royal Flying Doctor Service” and more “Walter Presents” series are among the titles heading to the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in November.

The subscription rate for the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel is $5.99 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription.

Two seasons of the series “Home Fires,” based on the novel Jambusters, start streaming Nov. 7. The series opens in August 1939. War with Germany is all but certain, and the citizens of the isolated village of Great Paxford are each facing it in their own way. Men of fighting age are mostly enlisting or waiting to be called. Some of the women are joining the female military services; others already have essential jobs, such as farming; and still others are planning to “dig for victory,” planting gardens to reduce the need for food imports. Since German submarines will be attacking merchant ships, any task that adds to the nation’s self-sufficiency is vital. Frances (Samantha Bond, “Downton Abbey”), whose husband owns a local factory, believes that the Women’s Institute has an important role to play. Joyce (Francesca Annis, “Reckless”), the longtime president of the institute, vehemently disagrees and proposes suspending activities until the war is over. So begins a quarrel that mirrors the fragmentation affecting the wider world. In Great Paxford, this crisis ends up cementing the friendships of a group of women who have their own personal troubles, but who now have a shared mission that will lead them to their finest hour.

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Eight episodes of the drama “RFDS: Royal Flying Doctor Service” start streaming Nov. 11. Based on real-life stories and filmed on location in and around Broken Hill, this series captures the beauty and brutality of Australia’s vast center where doctors, nurses, pilots and support staff of the RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service) negotiate the unique challenges of emergency retrievals across some of the most inhospitable places in the country. The series opens with a doctor escaping her past and joining the Royal Flying Doctor Service on a day in which a catastrophic emergency retrieval hits the team personally. Together they will deal with the fallout, while continuing their highly skilled work, fighting the clock and the elements to save people having the worst day of their lives.

Season two of “Walter Presents: The Defence” begins streaming Nov. 19. The Polish series adapted from a renowned crime-thriller novel follows the courageous and rebellious lawyer Joanna Chyłka as she fights for her clients till the bitter end. Season two sees Chyłka go head-to-head with murderers, gangsters, the police and even her own law firm.  After a double murder, Chyłka is assigned to defend the son of a well-known businessman, however he refuses to say a word to anyone.

Other titles coming to the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in November include “Masterpiece: Dark Angel,” “The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes” seasons one and two, “Walter Presents: A Different View,” “Walter Presents: Madame K,” “Walter Presents: Sisters 1968” and “Walter Presents: The Empress.”

Study: Black Audiences Increasingly Cutting the Cord

Black audiences are increasingly opting to cut the cord, a new Horowitz study finds.

Though Black households were shedding cable at a slower rate as compared to the overall market, Horowitz data shows that over the past four years, MVPD penetration among Black households has declined from 88% in 2017 to 61% in 2021 — a 25% decrease. Among Black consumers who are cord-cutters, half have cut the cord within the past three years.

In 2018, 69% of Black households were “content omnivores,” a term Horowitz coined in 2017 to describe households who are the hungriest for content and therefore pay for traditional MVPD services as well as a variety of streaming services to access all the content they want.

In this year’s study, only one in three (33%) Black households are content omnivores; almost four in 10 rely on combinations of streaming services, digital antennas, and/or vMVPD services to access TV content (one in four rely only on traditional MVPD services and do not stream at all).

Income and age play important roles in platform choices, according to Horowitz. Black households with lower incomes are less likely to subscribe to traditional MVPDs, and 80% of Black cord-cutters believe that they are saving at least a decent amount after having done so. Older Black TV content viewers are more likely to subscribe to MVPD services (65% among those 50-plus) and to use antennas (28% among those 50-plus) than younger Black TV content viewers (57% and 12% each, respectively).

Despite shedding the MVPD cord, there is still interest in many of the features of the multichannel experience. For example, 64% of Black TV content viewers say that they enjoy flipping through channels, and the study finds that Black TV content viewers still highly value live television, local broadcast news, national news and sports content — the mainstays of traditional providers.

Culturally relevant content is also in high demand among Black audiences, with 60% of Black consumers watching content geared to Black audiences at least weekly.

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“Horowitz has long asserted that Black consumers are some of the best customers for entertainment content and services,” said Adriana Waterston, Horowitz’s chief revenue officer and insights and strategy lead, in a statement. “These audiences should not be taken for granted. Many companies are late to the game, only now focusing on the Black audience in the context of BLM and new diversity mandates. To not be viewed as simply pandering, companies who hope to serve the Black audience must make meaningful and sustained investments, not just in programming and marketing, but in community outreach and support, in order to earn this valuable audience’s trust.”

NPD Group to Be Acquired by Private Equity Firm

Research provider The NPD Group announced that private equity firm Hellman & Friedman has made a binding offer and entered into an exclusive agreement to acquire the company.

Under the deal, NPD executive chairman Tod Johnson and CEO Karyn Schoenbart will retain a minority stake in the business and continue to serve on the NPD board of directors.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2021, subject to the entry into the definitive sale agreement and satisfaction of its conditions.

“As a leading source of market information and advisory services for general merchandise and foodservice, NPD is committed to helping our clients and the industries we serve achieve data-driven growth for many years to come,” said Johnson in a statement. “H&F shares our focus on long-term growth and has the resources and expertise to not only continue but also accelerate NPD’s momentum and long track record of success. Both Karyn and I are delighted to have the opportunity to partner as minority investors alongside H&F as we work in close collaboration on a long-term strategic plan and transition over time to the next generation of NPD leadership.”    

“In a period of rapid change, NPD has helped guide our clients with omnichannel data, industry expertise, and analytics to help them understand unprecedented market shifts,” said Schoenbart in a statement. “It has been exciting to play an increasingly important role in the strategies of our clients by providing insight into what is happening today and what to anticipate in the future. We expect H&F to continue our tradition of client partnership and innovation with new products, data sources, and next generation platforms to make our information even more comprehensive, accessible, and actionable.”

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“Trusted by more than 2,000 customers in 19 countries, NPD is a market leader in its categories with an outstanding value proposition for customers and retailers. Tod and Karyn have led the company to great heights, and we look forward to working closely with them to build on this strong momentum,” said Philip Hammarskjold, executive chairman of H&F, in a statement.

“Rapidly evolving consumer expectations and the growth of e-commerce are accelerating the pace of change in the retail landscape. In an environment of unknowns, the ability for companies to use omnichannel analytics to measure and improve performance is more important than ever before, and NPD is extremely well positioned to provide these critical insights to its customers and retail partners,” said Blake Kleinman, partner at H&F, in a statement.

Founded in 1966, NPD is the eighth largest market research company worldwide, with operations in the Americas, Europe, and APAC, covering more than 20 industries.

Roku Greenlights New Content Recommendation Episodes

Roku Oct. 20 announced that “Roku Recommends” will return for a new slate of episodes starting this fall. “Roku Recommends” is a fifteen-minute weekly entertainment program that uses Roku data to help streamers discover new shows and hidden gems on the branded streaming platform. Co-hosts Emmy Award-winner Maria Menounos and Andrew “Hawk” Hawkins to shine a spotlight on their Top-5 best bets and movies to stream for the week.

“If you’re like me, it’s hard to pick what to stream next,” Menounos said in a statement.

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Hawk contends the concept behind “Roku Recommends” is for the hosts to do the “dirty work” and help point viewers in the right direction when streamer-indecision hits.

For Roku, directing streamers to content helps sell advertising.

“Advertisers need a new way to reach their customers, especially as more streamers spend time in ad-free, subscription-only environments,” said Chris Bruss, Head of Roku Brand Studio.

According to Roku internal data, “Roku Recommends” has been a Top-10 VOD series by unique views on The Roku Channel since its debut in June. Seventy-one percent of “Roku Recommends” households streamed a new channel on the Roku platform after watching an episode since its debut, and according to the company’s annual streaming survey, The Streaming Decade, conducted by the National Research Group, 1 in 4 consumers are now cord cutters. Given this success, weekly recommendation segments will continue to provide a unique method for brands to reach their audiences and produce engaging, relevant and entertaining content.

Unlike sponsorships on traditional TV, marketers can use the Roku Measurement Partner Program to quantify whether their “Roku Recommends” integration reaches SVOD-only streamers, adds incremental reach to their overall video ad campaign, shifts perceptions of their brand, drives consumers into stores/websites, or moves product off the shelf.

“Roku Recommends” is a Roku Brand Studio series created in partnership with The Roku Channel team and produced by Funny Or Die. The Roku Brand Studio mission is to create advertiser-driven content built for TV streaming.

The show is available to stream for free on The Roku Channel, with new episodes every Thursday. Funny or Die’s Mike Farah, Beth Belew, and Jim Ziegler serve as executive producers.

‘Joe Bell,’ ‘Free Guy’ Top Redbox Charts

Vertical Entertainment’s Joe Bell topped Redbox’s disc rental chart the week ended Oct. 17, while Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy was the top Redbox On Demand title for the week.

Joe Bell, which earned $1.4 million at the domestic box office, stars Mark Wahlberg as a father who takes a road trip to bond with his gay son, who is being bullied at school. The film wasn’t be released on Blu-ray Disc or DVD until Oct. 19, but was available early at Redbox kiosks. It was No. 8 on the digital list.

Free Guy, which stars Ryan Reynolds as a bank teller who learns he is a video game character, earned $120.8 million at the domestic box office. While the film was released on disc Oct. 12, it isn’t available for rent at Redbox kiosks. It was No. 7 on the digital chart a week earlier.

Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga slipped to No. 2 on both the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks digital VOD and sellthrough transactions, and the disc rental chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at Redbox’s more than 40,000 red kiosks.

The No. 3 title on the disc rental chart was Warner’s Space Jam: A New Legacy, followed by Universal’s The Forever Purge at No. 4, and Sony Pictures’ Escape Room: Tournament of Champions at No. 5.

On the Redbox On Demand chart, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions was No. 3 and The Forever Purge was No. 4. No. 5 was Paramount’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.

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Other newcomers to the disc rental chart include Lionsgate’s Survive the Game, with Bruce Willis, at No. 6, and The Green Knight at No. 9. Also, appearing at No. 7 was the Nicolas Cage starrer Pig from Decal, available at Redbox kiosks several weeks prior to its wide Blu-ray and DVD release.

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow, from Disney, fell to No. 8 on the disc rental chart.

Paramount’s animated Paw Patrol: The Movie landed at No. 10 on the digital chart.

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended Oct. 17:

  1. Joe Bell — Vertical
  2. F9: The Fast Saga — Universal
  3. Space Jam: A New Legacy — Warner
  4. The Forever Purge — Universal
  5. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions — Sony Pictures
  6. Survive the Game — Lionsgate
  7. Pig — Decal
  8. Black Widow — Disney/Marvel
  9. The Green Knight — Lionsgate
  10. The Boss Baby: Family Business — Universal/DreamWorks

 

Top Digital (VOD + Sellthrough), Redbox On Demand, Week Ended Oct. 17:

  1. Free Guy — Disney/20th Century
  2. F9: The Fast Saga — Universal
  3. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions — Sony Pictures
  4. The Forever Purge — Universal
  5. Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins — Paramount
  6. The Addams Family 2 — MGM
  7. Halloween (2018) — Universal
  8. Joe Bell — Vertical
  9. The Boss Baby: Family Business — Universal/DreamWorks
  10. Paw Patrol: The Movie — Paramount

 

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Verizon Adds Q3 Broadband Subs, Loses Video

Verizon Oct. 20 revealed it lost 68,000 video subscribers in the third quarter, ended Sept. 30, to finish the period with 3.6 million Fios TV subs. That compared with a loss of 61,000 video subs in the previous-year period. Over the past nine months, Verizon has lost 212,000 pay-TV subs, down from 226,000 subs during the previous-year period. Year-over-year, Fios TV lost 284,000 subs.

Offsetting the pay-TV losses: broadband, or the high-speed internet required to deliver streaming video the “last mile” into consumer homes.

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Verizon, along with Comcast, AT&T and others, is one of the largest ISPs in the country. The telecom said it added 98,000 broadband subs in the quarter, down from 139,000 additions in the previous-year period. The company ended the period with almost 6.5 million broadband subs, up from 6.1 million last year. Over the past nine months, Verizon has added 288,000 high-speed internet subs, compared with a gain of 208,000 subs during the previous-year period.

“We are seeing strong demand for connectivity across our consumer and business segments as our…network quality and unique partnerships are resonating with both new and existing customers,” Chief Financial Officer Matt Ellis said in a statement.

Universal’s ‘F9: The Fast Saga’ Speeds to No. 1 on U.K. Home Entertainment Chart

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s F9: The Fast Saga sped to No. 1 on the Official Film Chart in the U.K. for the weekly retail period ended Oct. 20. The actioner made the move thanks to its release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, which helped it outsell the chart’s Top 5 in combined unit sales.

As a result, Disney’s Jungle Cruise was denied a second week at the top, dropping to No. 2. Twentieth Century Film’s Free Guy finished No. 3, while catalog James Bond title Spectre finished No. 4, and Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow ended the week at No. 5. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s original Venom moved up five spots to No. 6.

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The week’s highest new entry is M. Night Shyamalan thriller Old (Universal), which entered the chart at No. 7 on digital downloads only. A family vacation is turned into a nightmare when they head to a secluded beach for the day, only to discover it is causing them to age rapidly, reducing their entire lives into a single day.

Universal’s The Croods: A New Age dropped to No. 8, while LeBron James teaming up with the Tune Squad to save his son in Warner Bros. Pictures’ nostalgic sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy, finished No. 9 on just digital download sales.

Finally, Bond catalog title Skyfall dropped three spots to finish at No. 10.

The Official Film Chart Top 10 – Oct. 20, 2021

Last Week Position Movie Distributor
4 1 F9: THE FAST SAGA UNIVERSAL PICTURES
1 2 JUNGLE CRUISE WALT DISNEY
2 3 FREE GUY 20TH CENTURY FOX HE
3 4 SPECTRE MGM
5 5 BLACK WIDOW MARVEL FILMS
11 6 VENOM SONY PICTURES HE
NEW 7 OLD UNIVERSAL PICTURES
6 8 THE CROODS – A NEW AGE UNIVERSAL PICTURES
NEW 9 SPACE JAM – A NEW LEGACY WARNER HOME VIDEO
7 10 SKYFALL MGM

© Official Charts Company 2021

Vizio Expands Curated Content Channels

Vizio Oct. 20 announced a slate of new content available through its branded “Features” offering, including a series of custom-curated channels on the CE manufacturer’s ad-supported “WatchFree+” streaming video service.

The Irvine, Calif.-based company’s “Features” concept aims to leverage its first party, opted-in viewership data and home screen targeting capabilities to deliver personalized content to viewers via free ad-supported channels, movies, and shows across the VIZIO SmartCast operating system.

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On the heels of Vizio’s first curated offerings, “Fork & Flight” and “Investigation,” the company is expanding to include a wider selection of content genres. Themes and programming are selected based on what viewers have shown the greatest interest in across millions of SmartCast devices. The result is a curated experience that allows viewers to quickly and easily find content they want.

“‘Features’ is a good business model for Vizio because it solves problems for viewers, advertisers and content partners alike,” Steve DeMain, VP engagement, said in a statement.

In the coming months, channel updates on home & DIY, holidays, live concerts, nature-scape programming, among others, will be rolled out.

For content creators and media companies, curated channels offer an additional distribution touchpoint across for AVOD/free ad-supported TV viewers, while creating an additional revenue stream, and even more insight into what content resonates best with viewers.

“Our programming strategy delivers more of what our viewers love across multiple genres,” DeMain said. “And by developing these passionate audiences, we are not only building great sponsorship opportunities for brands, but we are also helping our content partners generate new revenue.”

Merchandising: New Exclusives for ‘Injustice’ and a Slew of Steelbooks

Warner’s Injustice got a few retail exclusives Oct. 19, while Best Buy had a slew of Steelbook editions for some of the week’s new releases.

Walmart’s ‘Injustice’ DVD

For Injustice, the latest direct-to-video animated superhero movie based on DC Comcis characters, Walmart offered a $14.96 DVD edition, as the title was widely released only on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD discs.

Best Buy offered a Steelbook edition of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack of Injustice.

Other Best Buy Steelbooks new for the week included Paramount’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at $34.99; Universal’s Old 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at 34.99; a re-release of Lionsgate Apocalypse Now 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at $19.99; and a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of 1996 horror film Scream, from Paramount, for $25.99.

Best Buy’s ‘Scream’ 4K Steelbook

Target for the week offered a sale of up to 30% off Halloween books and movies.

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Ted Sarandos Said He ‘Screwed Up’ on Transgender Debate

Netflix c0-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos says he “screwed up” handling the controversy regarding stand-up comic Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special “The Closer” — now streaming on the SVOD platform.

Chappelle, who has a long-term contract with Netflix, drew criticism from LGBTQ groups over comments he made regarding transgender people, remarks some observers — including Netflix’s transgender employees — viewed as hurtful and discriminatory.

The streamer’s trans employee resource group has a planned Oct. 20 virtual walkout in protest.

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In an Oct. 19 media interview, Sarandos said he should have realized that initial comments supporting freedom of speech and “artistic expression” could hurt some people.

“I 100% believe that content on screen can have impact in the real world, positive and negative,” he said. “I should have first and foremost acknowledged in those [company memos] that a group of our employees were in pain, and they were really feeling hurt from a business decision that we made.”

Sarandos said the internal memos, one of which was leaked to the media resulting in the firing of the Netflix employee who leaked it, were clumsily handled. That said, the CCO said there were no plans to pull Chappelle’s special (which ranks No. 3 on the platform), arguing there would always be content on Netflix that would offend some audiences.

“We’re deeply committed to the culture of transparency [within Netflix],” Sarandos said. “It also depends upon a great deal of trust with our employees that we continue to secure, but we don’t plan on changing any of our internal operations around that.”