Streamer DAZN Buys Eleven Sports, Expanding Live Soccer Rights Within Boxing Content Portfolio

Online sports streaming platform DAZN Sept. 27 announced it has acquired fellow London-based online TV broadcaster Eleven Sports for an undisclosed amount. The transaction affords DAZN with exclusive professional soccer league rights in Portugal and Belgium. The transaction complements the streamer’s existing live sports streaming market positions in Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain.

The deal also includes control of Eleven’s Team Whistle sports social media platform, ranked within the Top 10 U.S. media sports properties on ComScore with more than 700 million followers across its channels, and a growing distribution network that generates around five billion views per month.

Kevin Mayer

Soccer continues to drive live sports streaming among U.S. and international over-the-top video platforms. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, Paramount+, Apple TV+, Prime Video and ESPN+ all have streaming rights to various professional leagues around the world.

“This deal marks an acceleration of our strategy to diversify our offerings and leverage our fantastic sports properties and our platform into new markets and business models,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of DAZN, said in a statement.

Mayer, who helped create the Disney+ SVOD platform before moving to TikTok for a brief stint as CEO, said Team Whistle has a proven track record in monetizing short form video content.

“It will be hugely valuable…as we look to generate the maximum value from our enviable rights portfolio, creating new formats of content to reach new audiences and generate powerful incremental revenue streams,” he said.

Upon completion of the deal, Andrea Radrizzani, Eleven founder, will join DAZN’s board as an executive director supporting the DAZN’s business development.

Established in 2015, Eleven streams more than 65,000 hours of live content annually. The deal is subject to anti-trust review; as such, the completion date remains unknown. Guggenheim Partners has advised Eleven Group on this transaction.

William Castle, Samuel Fuller and Hammer Collections Headed to DVD Sept. 27 From Mill Creek

Three collections of classic films — the William Castle Adventures Collection, the Samuel Fuller Collection and the Hammer Films 12-Movie Collection — are being released on DVD Sept. 27 from Mill Creek Entertainment and Distribution Solutions.

The William Castle Adventures Collection includes four 1950s titles from director William Castle: Serpent of the Nile (1953), about the romance of Antony and Cleopatra; Charge of the Lancers (1954), set during the Crimean war and starring Paulette Goddard; The Iron Glove (1954), a story about the English throne starring Robert Stack; and The Saracen Blade (1954), set in 15th century Italy and starring Ricardo Montalban.

The Samuel Fuller Collection includes Power of the Press (1943), about the murder of a newspaper publisher during World War II (written by Fuller); Scandal Sheet (1952), about a murderous newspaper editor (based on a novel by Fuller); The Crimson Kimono (1959), about two detectives seeking a stripper’s killer in the Japanese quarter of Los Angeles (written and directed by Fuller); and Underworld U.S.A. (1961), about a teenager who vows revenge against the mobsters that murdered his father (written and directed by Fuller).

The Hammer Films 12-Movie Collection includes a dozen classic horror films: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), The Gorgon (1964), The Snorkel (1958), Never Take Candy From a Stranger (1960), The Old Dark House (1963), Scream of Fear (1961), Stop Me Before I Kill! (1961), Die! Die! My Darling (1965), The Stranglers of Bombay (1960), The Terror of the Tongs (1961) and The Pirates of Blood River (1962).

Parks: 35 Million U.S Internet Households Covet Cloud-Based Gaming Subscription Services

Internet-based video game play continues to entice consumers. New data from Parks Associates estimates that more than 35 million U.S. internet households are interested in subscribing to a cloud-based gaming service, with demand growing to nearly 39 million households by 2024.

Dallas-based Parks, which is hosting a webinar on the subject Sept. 29, reports that 78% of interested U.S. broadband households would subscribe to a cloud gaming service at $9.99 per month. The webinar aims to identify and discuss the specific factors hindering the viability of cloud gaming and its potential mainstream success at the ecosystem, network and experience levels.

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“A variety of players are testing the cloud gaming market, as it has tremendous opportunities for recurring revenues and service expansion, provided companies can deliver a strong and positive consumer experience scalable to mainstream audiences,” Elizabeth Parks, chief media officer, said in a statement.

Dr. Dhananjay Lal, senior director of advanced R&D with Adeia, contends that cloud-based video games represent new market opportunities across the both the gaming and technology spectrums.

“Challenges around network performance, convenience for consumers, and models of monetization are hindering adoption today,” he said in a statement. “In this webinar, we break down the future development needed to make widespread adoption of cloud gaming a reality.”

JustWatch: New Disney+ Series ‘Star Wars: Andor,’ ‘Confess, Fletch’ Movie Top Weekly Streaming

The new Disney+ original series “Star Wars: Andor” topped all episodic streamed programming for the week ended Sept. 25, according to new data from JustWatch, the Berlin-based guide that tracks SVOD streaming habits of 20 million users per month across 59 markets, including the United States.

“Andor,” a prequel to the “Star Wars” spin-off movie Rogue One, follows thief-turned-Rebel spy Cassian Andor during the five years leading up to the events of the film.

The show topped NBC’s relaunch of “Quantum Leap” that streams the next day on Peacock, and the new Netflix series “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”

Paramount Pictures’ Jon Hamm crime comedy Confess, Fletch topped all feature films available on transactional VOD. The movie will begin streaming on Showtime Anytime Oct. 28. The film topped director Ti West’s X and Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick — the top-grossing theatrical release in 2022.

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Documentary ‘Cinematographer’ Headed to DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 27 From MVD and Lightyear

The documentary Cinematographer will be released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Sept. 27 from MVD Entertainment Group and Lightyear Entertainment.

A look at the art of filmmaking, the documentary include stories and clips from the making of some of the greatest films of the 1970s and 1980s. The film focuses on several men who made a huge impact on a craft that’s vital to the making of any film.

Featuring actors Donald M. Morgan, Jack Green and Owen Roizman, the film is directed by Dan Asma.

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Gravitas Ventures Hires Danielle Gasher as Senior Director of Acquisitions

Gravitas Ventures, an Anthem Sports and Entertainment company, has hired Danielle Gasher as senior director of acquisitions.

Gasher will report to CEO Nolan Gallagher and will co-lead the acquisitions department with Bill Guentzler. Gasher and Guentzler will identify titles for the Gravitas Premiere label and ongoing slate of more than 250 films a year.

Danielle Gasher

The Gravitas Premiere label will release approximately four cast-driven, high production value films per year and release them wide theatrically with significant marketing support. The first title under the Premiere label, Mack & Rita starring Diane Keaton and directed by Katie Aselton, debuted exclusively in more than 1,500 theaters in the United States and Canada on Aug. 12.  

Before joining Gravitas, Gasher held the role of VP of International Sales at Voltage Pictures. While at Voltage, Gasher reported directly to president and COO Jonathan Deckter. She worked across various cast driven titles including Last Seen Alive, starring Gerard Butler and Jaimie Alexander; The Yacht, starring Frank Grillo, Ruby Rose and Patrick Schwarzenegger; and Per Tutta La Vita (For All Life) from the producers of Perfect Strangers, one of the most remade films of all time. While at Voltage, Screen International recognized Gasher in “Future Leaders 2021: Sales and Acquisitions Executives to Watch.”

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“I couldn’t be more thrilled to join a team as innovative, reputable and entrepreneurial as Gravitas,” Gasher said in a statement. “I look forward to bringing my years of sales experience to the acquisition side of the business, especially during such an exciting time for Gravitas with the recent launch of its theatrical label, Gravitas Premiere.”

“We are excited to add such a well rounded, well liked and results oriented executive as Danielle Gasher,” Gallagher, founder and CEO of Gravitas, said in a statement. “As a global distributor her expertise and relationships will be essential in our mission to find new audiences for our filmmakers.”

Prior to joining Voltage, Gasher worked on the sales team at the Canadian sales and production outfit Double Dutch International, where she worked across various territories and sold titles such as The Doorman, starring Ruby Rose and Jean Reno; The Virtuoso, with Anthony Hopkins, Anson Mount and Abbie Cornish; and Sometimes Always Never, with Bill Nighy, Sam Riley and Alice Lowe.

Lessons From the Past

Ever since Media Play News launched in January 2018, our mission has been to look ahead and not only keep our readers up to date with the latest home entertainment news, trends and development, but also to anticipate what is to come.

That’s why we report so generously on research and data analysis that tries to make sense out of where we’re going.

And yet, from time to time, it’s healthy to take a look back. We did it in our April 2019 feature on the history of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment just as the fabled studio was being swallowed up by Disney, and, more recently, in our two-part series on 25 years of digital entertainment, which began with the March 1997 U.S. launch of DVD.

Sometimes, things come full circle. Historical articles present us with lessons we can apply to future challenges or opportunities. As the great writer and philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In our history of digital entertainment, for example, the overriding takeaway is to never let the quest for short-term profits get in the way of long-term strategy.

In this month’s feature we take a look at 10 of the most notorious failures of the home entertainment era — and each one, I hope, has a lesson of some sort. In the early 1990s, hoping to get a jump on putting movies on a five-inch disc, Philips put a lot of time and money into developing the CD-i and Video CD. But both formats were half baked and never really caught on with the public; they were smaller and more convenient than the clunky videocassette, but the quality didn’t impress. Just a few years later, the DVD delivered the much-needed “wow” factor, underscoring the fact that it’s best not to rush things.

Then there was RCA’s ill-fated SelectaVision, a 12-inch analog vinyl disc that played movies, TV shows and other filmed content. Fifteen years and $200 million in the making, the product was launched just as that other 12-inch analog vinyl disc, the music LP, was being phased out in favor of the CD.

The bad timing curse hit again a decade and a half later with the emergence of Digital VHS, the videocassette’s last stand. Digital VHS promised true high-definition content, unlike the DVD, which had launched the year before, in 1997. But with everyone but Fox pushing the digital video disc and consumers salivating at the prospect of buying new movies three months after their theatrical debut instead of only being able to rent them on VHS, Digital VHS never even had a chance.  

It could be argued that every new technology that comes along is a failed technology, since sooner or later everything becomes obsolete. But that’s not really true. VHS had a long, successful run and is what gave the home entertainment business its start. The LaserDisc allowed movie fans to buy and collect movies on an archival format long before DVD. And while DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales are a fraction of what they once were, both formats enjoyed remarkable success and are still being produced today.

The 10 “flops and follies” that are profiled in this month’s feature all had very limited lifespans, and were done in not by advancing technologies but, rather, by inherent flaws in either the product itself or in the marketing, the concept, the presentation or the timing.

AMC Theatres to Sell $1.4 Billion Worth of ‘APE Units’ in Effort to Reduce Debt

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest theatrical operator, Sept. 26 announced it plans to sell upwards of 425 million so-called “AMC Preferred Equity Units (APEs),” an alternative to common shares, to investors in an attempt to reduce its $5.4 billion debt load. The move comes as rival Regal Cinemas’ parent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as the movie theater business struggles to return to pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

AMC in August first introduced APEs as a dividend gift to leery common stock shareholders who did not want CEO Adam Aron to issue millions of new stocks that would reduce the value of existing shares. AMC said the APEs provided the company with a currency that could be used in the future, among other things, to further strengthen its balance sheet, including by paying down some of its debt and other liabilities.

AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron

The market responded with a selloff of AMC shares (and APEs), which were down more than 7% in midday trading Sept. 26.

Regardless, AMC said that “from time to time” it would issue of up to a maximum of 425 million APE units. The number of units sold would reflect the total number of APEs currently authorized, less a portion held back for equity awards under existing, or if approved by stockholders, future equity incentive plans.

The plan is designed to provide significant flexibility to AMC in achieving its fiscal goals over time.

In a note, Alicia Reese with Wedbush Securities in Portland, Ore., said Aron remains a smooth negotiator with shareholders.

“It was a nice way to get around their investors, who weren’t going to let them issue more shares to raise more cash,” Reese wrote.

Gaming IP a Hot Commodity, According to Ampere Analysis Study

The number of adaptations of video game-based intellectual property (IP) by the TV and movie industries has been growing consistently over the past two decades, with 20 to 25 movies and TV series now released per year based on games, according to a new study by Ampere Analysis. The proportion of TV series in particular is increasing over time. 

An increasing proportion of these releases are attributable to subscription VOD platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon, which have been responsible for a number of original releases in the past five years, according to Ampere.

Historically, most franchise building across video and games sectors has focused on entertainment IP being adapted into spin-off games. In fact, over a 40-year period more than 2,000 games were released based on existing entertainment IP — movies, live-action or animated TV series and anime content. In the early 2000s, there were typically just a small handful of major adaptations based on video games, such as movies based on the “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Resident Evil” and “Pokémon” franchises.

However, since the early 2010s, the volume of game adaptations into TV shows and movies has been rising, peaking in 2016. Examples include the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movies and the “Arcane” animated TV series based on “League of Legends.”

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This boom in game adaptations has occurred during a period in which spending on film and TV content is at an all-time high, but a lot of revenue (especially box office) is concentrated around a small number of franchises. These are mostly owned by the major studios, leaving SVOD platforms searching for new sources of inspiration. At the same time, there has been an explosion of valuable original IP in the game world, through games such as “Roblox,” “League of Legends,” “Fortnite” and “Minecraft.”

Several high-profile game adaptations have performed very well recently, Ampere noted. These include “Arcane,” which remained in the Netflix top 10 for six consecutive weeks, and Uncharted (Sony), which grossed more than $400 million at the box office globally.

“From a cinematic viewpoint, studios recognize the value of utilizing gaming IP and brand recognition with pre-existing fan bases,” Ampere Analysis research manager Lottie Towler said in a statement. “SVOD platforms meanwhile also see it as an opportunity to create new original-based TV franchises, that differentiate them from competitors in an increasingly competitive market.”

Quality of content based on games has been rising, too, which in turn helps to increase the potential audience, Ampere noted. Since 2017, titles have been both higher-rated overall and critics’ ratings are reaching parity with audience ratings, implying a marked increase in overall quality without sacrificing audience enjoyment.

“We expect further growth in cross-format IP, particularly generated from games, and there is a consistent upward trend in game adaptations,” Towler said in a statement. “Of the 118 commissioned titles tracked since Q4 2018, just over half (63) are yet to be released, meaning the number of game adaptations available to consumers is only going to increase.”

‘Munsters’ at Marineland DVD Coming in October From MPI Media Group

MPI Media Group on Oct. 4 will release on DVD Marineland Carnival With the Munsters TV Cast Members & More Lost Treasures, a compilation of rare shows from the 1960s sitcom about a monster family living in a suburban neighborhood.

The collection features long-lost television appearances featuring the Munster family —Fred Gwynne (Herman), Yvonne De Carlo (Lily), Al Lewis (Grandpa), Pat Priest (Marilyn) and Butch Patrick (Eddie).

Included is the hour-long “Marineland Carnival 1965” special; a 1966 full-color “Munsters”-themed “episode” with Herman on “The Danny Kaye Show,” additional rare skits and vintage talk show interviews with “The Munsters” TV stars, an all-new featurette (Munster Memories) with Butch Patrick, hit music from the New Christy Minstrels, and guest appearances by Edie Adams, Joey Bishop and others.

The DVD will carry a suggested retail price of $19.98.